Darley Newman with John Consterdine, the owner of Manchester Taxi Tours, outside of Salford Lads Club, famous for its use on The Smiths album cover “The Queen is Dead."
A chocolate making workshop in Belgium with Georges Doutrelepont.
Filming with the real life Calendar Girls, the subjects of a 2003 movie starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, in Northern England.
Getting ready to take fly like a superhero, head first, down Europe’s fastest zip line at Zip World in Wales while filming for Travels with Darley.
Darley and Chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre in the gardens of his Michelin two-star restaurant L'air du temps, where his Korean and Belgian roots influence his cooking style.
Darley filming in the Snowdonia Mountains in Wales.
The Host of 'Travels with Darley' on Trekking across Europe
ET: For a relaxing vacation of your own, what might be two countries or regions you'd prefer in Europe, and why?
DN: Italy and France. I studied abroad in Florence and love the mix of great food and wine with fascinating history, art and shopping. I recently went back with girlfriends, rented an apartment, and we ate our way through Tuscany, taking a Vespa tour and attending a friend's wedding. It was a wonderful way to recharge. Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily are also tops on my list for Italy travel.
Spain is another place I love, because I adore the food, historic architecture and general vibe. Seville is one of my favorite cities to literally get lost and wander, stopping in tapas bars and stumbling upon pretty churches and distinctive neighborhoods. I studied abroad in Salamanca, living with a family to better my Spanish, and fell in love with Spain.
ET: What do you like best about Europe in general, and why?
DN: I love that so many of the cities and towns are so walkable and accessible. You don’t need a car. I love how the food is so fresh and flavorful, even the most basic dishes, and historic architecture mixes with beautiful countryside and beaches. I like that in many places, people value time spent around the table and time spent together. There’s so much to love.
ET: So many people feel their country is the friendliest. Which county have you found to be the most hospitable and can you give some examples of their hospitality?
DN: Ireland may top the list for hospitality. Even traveling solo, you can pop into a pub, coffee house or restaurant and make friends as you get tips on where the locals recommend you travel. I love the Irish word craic, which refers to fun. On my visits to Ireland, including one where I drove around most of the country, I found people to generally be fun-loving, welcoming and friendly. A smile goes a long way!
ET: What are your recommendations when traveling to Europe as far as when to go?
DN: When to go depends on what your vacation goals might be and your budget. Do you want to have an active summer vacation, riding horses or hiking in Ireland or do you want to ski the Alps of Switzerland? Europe really is a year-round destination, but it can be nice to avoid the crowds. I’ve been to Iceland twice in late May and early June, when the weather can be chilly, but nice, and you can get good travel deals. Italy is wonderful in the summer, but can be busy and warm. Look at mid-September to March, avoiding the Christmas season for the best rates. Europe is always nice in the summer, but can be great in the fall, winter and early spring, too, so consider these times for your travels. We recently went to Great Britain at the end of October and still caught the changing leaves in the Lake District and had generally good weather for our trip.
Darley Newman and Olivier Pitance of Adventures Dinant kayak to a castle in “Belgium: Castles, Cities & Countryside,” a Travels with Darley TV episode on PBS.
ET: You've done some "adventure traveling." What have you done, and where would you recommend people go for something out of the ordinary?
DN: Riding Icelandic horses is certainly a great and more unusual vacation. The Icelandic horses are shorter, but very strong and have been bred to traverse the craggy lava landscapes, so you can truly get off the beaten path and into nature. It’s also nice to hang out with the folks who lead the riding tours, many of whom are farmers and horse owners and will give you insight into Icelandic culture. Whether you go for a day or take a multi-day riding vacation, this is a cool experience.
Surfing in Ireland is also an unexpected experience that will earn you bragging rights. Bundoran is one of the top European surf spots, and there are several surf schools where you can take lessons. You’ll want a wetsuit for those North Atlantic waters! I was a little chilly during my lessons. I got up a few times, but also fell a lot.
Consider rail biking in Belgium. This adventure is available in Wallonia and will have you pedaling along old railroad tracks. We went from Falaën to Maredsous Abbey, a Benedictine monastery where you can relax and dine on cheese made at the abbey, and beer. We also kayaked to a castle along the Lesse River near Dinant, which can be active and peaceful, depending on where you are on the river.
Europe has lots of places to mix adventure with history, cuisine and culture, making for a diverse adventure.
ET: Where can you go in Europe to find the best horse trails with knock-out scenery?
Horseback riding along Ireland’s Ring of Kerry while filming for Emmy-winning Equitrekking.
DN: Ireland’s Ring of Kerry in Killarney is one of the most beautiful places to ride, and the Irish horses are a pleasure. The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales has awesome scenery—think of that iconic verdant patchwork countryside and dramatic mountains that you can climb to take in the views. Scotland’s Highlands are particularly picturesque and travelers can ride strong Highland Ponies into the Highlands at places like Blair Castle. Donana National Park in Southern Spain has wonderful beaches for riding, a dream for many. These are just a few!
Filming snowmobiling on a glacier in Iceland for Equitrekking.
ET: What is the most exciting part of doing Travels With Darley for you?
DN: What’s wonderful about Travels with Darley is that we truly take a deeper dive into a place through the locals, and they always show and tell something unexpected and fascinating. It’s exciting to cover such a wide variety of locations and experiences—everything from food, adventure travel, great museums and outstanding road trips to urban locations to natural areas. I’m constantly challenged with new things to learn and share, and I love the stories we’re documenting.
Darley on location with Welsh farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, who has a popular BBC TV show and is an advocate of locally sourced, sustainable food in Wales.
From Gareth Wyn Jones, a farmer in Wales with a true passion for his culture and life on this gorgeous coastal farm, to Manchester’s John Consterdine, who leads taxi tours in his black cab and is an expert on the music scene in Manchester, a city that gave birth to The Smiths, Joy Division and other iconic bands, we’re loving our travels with the locals.
ET: Last, Belgium is a great country for food. What can "gourmets'" expect to find there if they haven't traveled to Belgium before?
DN: Belgium is a small country that’s a food lover’s haven. There are some really top restaurants, and foodies will also love hunting for the best waffles, fries and mussels. The beer is fantastic, too, and there are distilleries around the country that you can tour.
Many people are surprised by Liege waffles, which are sugary, chewy waffles that are ovular and unevenly shaped. More embellished versions may be grilled with strawberries, rhubarb or other fruits. Sunday is market day in Liege, and gourmets may want to stroll La Batte, the oldest and largest market in Belgium, where produce, cheese and fresh food abound. I would then walk over to Curtius Brasserie to sample Belgian craft beers.
We filmed and dined at the very best restaurant we’ve ever experienced (this includes our Emmy-winning director of photography who also has worked on top cooking shows), L’Air du Temps with Chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre. Well deserving of its two Michelin stars, this restaurant outside of Namur uses local ingredients, many of which are grown in the gardens right on the property, and mixes Degeimbre’s Korean and Belgian background. Every dish is inventive, eye-pleasing and tasty.
For more information, go to Darley's web site at www.travelswithdarley.com.