Devour Tours co-founders and Spain experts Lauren Aloise and James Blick have something new to share: a nine-day cultural and culinary journey through Southern Spain. Read on to learn about Devour Andalusia: A Delicious Journey Through Southern Spain, and to find out more about your two top-notch guides!
We asked James and Lauren a few questions about the upcoming Devour Andalusia trip. Keep reading to learn more about this dynamic duo and the once-in-a-lifetime journey they have planned. (And don’t miss the exclusive video at the end of this post!)
What makes you the perfect duo?
James: Like all great duos, Lauren and I work well together because we are similar in just the right ways, and different in just the right ways. While our interests in Spain and Spanish food overlap in so many ways, I’d say that Lauren is more the expert on certain Spanish ingredients and recipes (and she certainly cooks more than me!), while I’m deeply drawn to the culture and history behind Spanish food, and how local dishes and local eating customs reflect the fascinating history and culture of this country.
Andalusia is particularly incredible in this way—the blend of ethnicities and religions (Romans, Christians, Muslims and Jews) who have lived here over the centuries has created a melting pot of culture and cuisine that is full of richness, secrets and wonderful complexity. So whether we’re running Devour Tours, designing tours, or leading tours, I think our unique interests and styles combine to create a really compelling and complete whole.
Lauren: James and I really complement one another—on the one hand we think very much alike, but our skills differ ever so slightly, making us a great combination for planning tours and, of course, guiding them too! James is obsessed with Spain’s history and culture, and is always reading something fascinating. I love this country’s culture and history as well, but you’re more likely to find me reading a cookbook and playing around in the kitchen in my free time!
How does this tour differ from ones you’ve done in the past?
James: Until now we’ve focused on half-day and full-day experiences, so this is the first time we’re connecting multiple days together. But it’s been something we’ve been discussing for a long time, and meticulously planning for months. In a way, it’s something we’ve been working towards for the last five years!
I like to think of our tours as stories, and we can tell a story over three hours, or we can tell a story over nine days. And so this is the first time we’re telling that longer story—and as someone with a journalistic, writing and filmmaking background, I’m really excited about how much that allows us to go really deep into what Andalusia is all about. It’s a little like moving from short films to feature films!
Lauren: Finally I have the chance to bring people outside of the city, as if I were taking my own friends or family on my dream trip. A multi-day tour allows the time to explore at a really good pace—not too fast and not too slow. We’re able to mix culture, history, food and wine with walking, talking and sightseeing. I am so excited to show people the parts of Spain I’ve fallen in love with, and introduce them to my food-making friends along the way.
Why the region of Andalusia?
James: Well, it may sound a little trite, but Andalusia is a truly magical part of the world. It’s so ancient and yet, at the same time, so gastronomically and culturally alive right now. It’s the region of Spain where so much of what we think of as modern Spain and modern Spanish food really took shape. Wine, olive oil, tapas, flamenco—this is the cradle of all those things. And so by diving into Andalusia, we’re really going back to the source, back to the beginning.
The upshot is we can tell a story that will help people truly understand not just the region, but the entire country. Also, Lauren and I have both spent a lot of time in Andalusia and each have a deep connection to the place. In the end, it was an easy choice for our first multi-day trip.
Lauren: Andalusia is the first place I ever visited in Spain (Granada), and will always hold a special place in my heart. I later spent years living in Seville and finally Cadiz, before moving to Madrid. This tour is the chance for me to show people the region that I fell head over heels in love with—quirks and all! I feel like I’ll be showing people around my second home, and that will add a layer of richness to this experience that is hard to find.
Apart from my personal connection to the area, Andalusia is a food lover’s dream come true. We’ll be having some truly unique experiences, such as visiting one of the oldest sherry bodegas in the world, and meeting the family making some of the area’s best organic acorn-fed Iberian ham. These farms and wineries are staples of Andalusia, and experiencing them will allow people to really connect to the region.
This isn’t just a food tour—what are some other aspects of the experience?
James: While all our tours are food tours in name, really they’re cultural experiences. What that means is that while we’ll be eating A LOT of delicious food during our nine days in Andalusia, we’ll also be using food as a window into the culture, history and people of the region. So when we visit Montefrío to see how cured Spanish ham is made, we’ll discover the story of the family who make this incredible ham and also discover why ham is so central to the Spanish diet (it has something to do with the Spanish Inquisition!).
And of course, we’ll also be exploring several of Andalusia’s key cultural sites—the spectacular cathedral in Seville, one of the largest in the world and the resting place of Christopher Columbus (well, part of him…); the gorgeous mosque in Cordoba that’s over a millennia years old. But for me, I don’t see a huge difference between a leg of ham and a massive Spanish Cathedral. I know that sounds a little odd—but both feed into the same story about the history and identity of this country. Food, culture, history, people—it’s all part of the same web!
Lauren: It’s true that the tour may sound like we will be eating and drinking all day long, but I promise that’s not the case! There are plenty of other highlights, such as historic walking tours, sightseeing walks, live music performances and free time for shopping and relaxing. I think the tour is the perfect pace, and though we will eat and drink very well, it will never be too much. We believe strongly in quality over quantity and will be highlighting some of the best-quality places and products in all of Spain!
What are you most excited about for this tour?
James: One of things that I love about our day tours is that although you only spend a few hours with a group, you really do bond with them. Because people bond when they eat together—and that is especially true in Spain, given we share food and eat family-style. So I am really looking forward to the even deeper connection Lauren and I are going to be able to create with our guests during the nine days.
We want to understand their interests and their curiosities and we want to shape the experience so that they get the most out of it. Ultimately, I’m most excited to see how our guests’ understanding and appreciation of Andalusia grow over the nine days.
Lauren: I can’t wait to see people’s reactions. It’s such a joy to be there when people taste their first bite of jamón ibérico de bellota, take their first sip of true sherry wine, or try their first taste of extra virgin olive oil straight from the source. These food moments are moments that changed my own life and how I eat, and I look forward to sharing them with others.
What do you hope people with get out of this journey?
James: I hope they leave Spain having obviously tasted new flavours and re-appreciated some old ones they may have previously left by the wayside (sherry!). And following on from that, I want our guests to understand more deeply the ingredients, dishes, people and forces that have made Spain the unique place it is today. I’m excited about the conversations we’re going to have over lunch and dinner about our experiences that day.
The beauty of travelling in a small group is you’re experiencing everything with like-minded individuals. It’s so stimulating! In the end, I want people to walk away from this trip—whether they’ve been to Spain before or this is their first time—by seeing the country with fresh eyes. And with a strong desire to return and keep exploring it!
Lauren: I hope they leave with amazing memories and deep connections to the region. I think that in only nine days we will be able to give people a connection to Spain that usually takes a lot longer to foster. Our tour truly is a journey—and on a journey people learn new things, meet new people, and see the world through new eyes. I hope this trip will be transformative for our guests, and hopefully will inspire people to recreate Spanish cuisine back home in their own kitchens! Cooking is a way of keeping the trip going long after it ends.
Join Lauren and James on this adventure by booking our newest tour, Devour Andalusia: A Delicious Journey Through Southern Spain! You’ll have the opportunity to experience nine days of Andalusia’s rich culture and delicious cuisine!
Want to know more? Then watch this video to learn the story behind Devour Tours.
Brianne Garrett is a lover of storytelling in all of its forms. Interning with Devour Tours during her Madrid study abroad experience allowed her to continue this pursuit, where she had the opportunity to merge her love of journalism with her passion for food, wine and Spanish culture. Currently, at the New York-based Wine Spectator, she continues to write about all things wine and food. Brianne has also written for a variety of publications such as Chowhound, CNET, USA TODAY, and is an alumna of Boston University. You can check out her work at briannegarrett.com.