In May 2015, Aegean Odyssey sailed from Istanbul to Venice. Managing Director Jos Dewing likens his experience to Rick Stein’s latest culinary broadcast, BBC’s ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ as he visited this extraordinary part of the world.

Last night I got home in time to catch part of Rick Stein’s latest culinary broadcast, BBC’s ‘From Venice to Istanbul’. The show has somewhat captured our attention at the office as it practically follows in the wake of arguably, one of our signature cruises, the oh so nearly eponymous – albeit reversed – Istanbul to Venice itinerary.

Bougainvillea flowering on a side street in Preveza

Bougainvillea flowering on a side street in Preveza © Jos Dewing

In fact, I happened to be on a segment of Venice to Istanbul cruise in May this year when one of the ports of call was Preveza, which is where Rick was headed when I walked in on the show.

Preveza is without doubt a port that wears two hats for the curious traveller. Firstly, our included morning excursion took us on a journey through the gorgeously-scenic landscapes and countryside of North West Greece. These regions are truly the very foundations of ancient Greek history.

We actually followed the same route as Rick, through a fascinating ancient Necropolis, a word derived from the Ancient Greek, literally meaning “city of the dead”. This macabre theme continued as we crossed the famous bridge over the Aracthos River, a place still haunted – locals believe – by the wife of its engineer who sacrificed her into its very foundations, a mythical offering to guarantee its success!

Bridge over the Aracthos River

Bridge over the Aracthos River. © Jos Dewing

Our ultimate destination on this tour is the former capital of the Byzantine province of Epirus, Arta. Arta is quintessentially Voyages to Antiquity as a destination, dominated by a towering medieval fortress and home to the very finest examples of Byzantine churches.

Our guide Maria is truly exceptional in her knowledge of the area, its history and cultures, all clearly explained with a contemporary narrative as well.

Byzantine Necropolis on the road to Arta

Byzantine Necropolis on the road to Arta.  © Jos Dewing

On our return to the port and ship we rejoin Rick Stein’s experience of Preveza and welcome the side to Voyages to Antiquity cruises people may not be so familiar with.

In the TV show Rick likens Preveza to Padstow and I can see the point he makes. I personally adore Padstow, yes it is a tourist attraction and holiday destination, but it is also a wonderfully authentic working harbour and to me, the jewel in the Cornish crown. Padstow conjures up wonderful flavours in my mind, the freshest seafood, steamed samphire and dressed crab, and Preveza inspires similar culinary memories, with its own specialities of course.

Local Greek Seafood fresh from the Sea. © Jos Dewing

Local Greek seafood fresh from the sea © Jos Dewing

Maria, our guide in the morning, has recommended a local restaurant to experience the best of Preveza. It is off the beaten track, a place where the locals eat and a number of our passengers have also discovered this hidden gem.

The signature dish is the local prawns, cooked just as they do on the show, a splash of local ouzo underpinning the flavour and accompanied by a wonderfully- flavoursome local salad, where the tomatoes are stars in their own right.

We have time to explore the port and dine at leisure in our own time. We have had a morning of discovery and learned so much about this area of Greece, followed by an afternoon of truly getting to grips with the local culture and cuisine.

This is what makes Voyages to Antiquity so special to me – a morning of fascinating local history and exploration washed down with an afternoon of exploration on foot, with time to discover the modern day charms of the place, too.

On a final note, if you do happen to read this blog, Rick, we would love you to come back to these places one day and show us your culinary talents on board Aegean Odyssey.

The Terrace Cafe, where our passengers usually have lunch on board Aegean Odyssey

The Terrace Cafe, where our passengers usually have lunch on board Aegean Odyssey

Follow Jos Dewing on Twitter @cruisejos.

Voyages to Antiquity will be featuring a similar itinerary, this time from Rome to Istanbul, in July 2016:

July 17, 2016 – A Voyage to Byzantium