As a global tour operator, we are committed to operating every one of our trips in a way that respects and benefits local people, their culture and economy, while minimising our impact on the natural environment.
We travel in small groups – on this trip the maximum group size is 12 passengers – which means we can support small, locally-owned and family-run hotels. Whenever possible we use public transport to minimise our carbon footprint, and on this journey you will travel primarily by train but on occasion by public buses. We explore the countryside of the Loire by bicycle, we sightsee by kayak on the Dordogne River and there’s an optional day trip to Tangier in Morocco, for which we travel by ferry. If you choose to take a day trip from San Sebastian to nearby Bilbao, we recommend taking the local bus. There is just one journey which involves a private transfer, from Luchon in the French Pyrenees to San Sebastian.
Your tour leader will recommend authentic local bistros, taverns, markets and other eating places where you can sample locally-sourced produce and regional specialities and eat alongside locals. For example, you’ll be able to try an authentic paella in the Las Arenas area of Valencia and when we visit Southern Spain, which is famed for its tapas, you can eat a number of small dishes in a series of different bars which is a good way to support a number of small businesses. This same principle applies in San Sebastian, where the small plates are known as pinxtos. We also enjoy a tasting of locally-grown wines in Bordeaux.
On this trip, we visit Ronda which is home to Spain’s oldest bullring. Although bullfighting is a significant part of Spanish culture and history, its practice is contrary to our responsible travel philosophy and we do not support or attend bullfights, or encourage passengers to do so. However, there is a museum which explains some of the sport’s history and customs and people are free to visit it if they wish to gain some cultural understanding of the practice.
There are a number of churches and cathedrals that we can visit on this trip, for example the cathedral in Valencia which is claimed to be the home of the Holy Grail, the chalice that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. We will ask passengers to dress respectfully if they wish to enter, covering their knees and shoulders and avoiding skimpy tops. This is just one of the responsible travel guidelines that we provide to passengers on our website and while travelling with us, to ensure that they respect local customs and cultural differences.
This tour is operated on a carbon neutral basis. We have managed to reduce the emissions to just 351kg of CO2 per passenger, and we offset these by making contributions to a range of internationally accredited renewable energy projects in destinations where we travel. After a three-year process, we were proud to become a carbon neutral company in 2010 and we have an ongoing programme to measure, reduce and offset the carbon emissions from our offices, stores and trips. We also offer passengers who book their flight through us the option to offset those emissions. To date, we have offset more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
As a tour company, our responsibilities don’t stop when our tours end. In 2002, we established a charitable foundation so that our passengers and staff could support grassroots community projects around the world. To date, it has raised over £2million for over 75 projects involved with health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, and environmental and wildlife protection. We match every donation made by passengers and pay the administration costs, so every penny that is donated goes to a good cause.