Where to go in October for food and drink
Whether it’s sipping cups of tea in Darjeeling, India, nibbling (read: devouring) cheese at a French market or truffle tasting in Italy, travellers will find plenty of ways to fill empty bellies in October.
If you like to pair delicious dishes with amazing destinations then lay your napkins on your lap and prepare to feast on these foodie adventures...
C’est délicieux in Lyon, France
Lyon is known for its many restaurants serving fantastic, high-quality food. These range from Michelin-starred spots creating nouvelle cuisine (a cooking style invented here) to traditional Lyonnais bouchons (family bistros) serving calves’ feet and tripe sausage. Elite chefs are tripping over each other down the ancient traboules (passages built to shelter silk-weavers). There are markets overflowing with Bresse chickens, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid mushrooms, world-class cheeses and all sorts of offal. And there are traditional charcuteries, fromageries, chocolatiers, boulangeries...
Plus, the Rhône Valley vineyards are on the doorstep. October is a great time for autumn produce and wine touring. Its cooler temperatures (10-18°C; 50-64°F) aren’t a problem if you’re inside eating, or taking a class at one of Lyon’s cookery schools. Movie buffs should also visit the Institut Lumière, which honors the local brothers who invented cinematography; the Lumière Festival is held in October.
- Trip plan: Allow three to four days for sightseeing (Old Town, Saone River cruise, galleries) and eating.
- Need to know: Many markets, including Les Halles, are closed on Mondays.
- Other months: Apr–May: warming, blooming; Jun–Aug: warmest, busiest; Sep–Oct: cooling, harvest; Nov–Mar: chilly.
Wake up and smell the Tempranillo in Rioja, Spain
The northern Spanish region of La Rioja somehow crams around 1200 wineries into its small proportions. Vineyards stripe the craggy Ebro River Valley, flourishing amid traces of past settlers – from neolithic to Moorish to medieval sites. It’s a slow-paced, history-rich place to get a drink. Come in autumn and La Rioja will be in the festive flurry of harvest, the air thick with fermenting fruit, the vines crisping to golden umber.
Tastings are a must. There are venerable chateau-style wineries clustered around Haro, in the Rioja Alta; Rioja Alavesa is more contemporary – architects such as Gehry and Calatrava have designed wineries here. Logroño, La Rioja’s capital, is packed with bars serving cheap, tasty pinchos (tapas), making it the ideal place to soak up the booze.
- Trip plan: Loop La Rioja. Visit Haro’s bodegas, head east to Briones’ castle and do a pinchos crawl along Logroño’s Calle del Laurel. On the return, stop at medieval Laguardia, below the Sierra de Cantabria; Calatrava’s wave-like Ysios winery is nearby.
- Need to know: The nearest airport to Haro is Bilbao, 81 miles (130km) north.
- Other months: Apr–May: green; Jun: warm, Haro’s ‘wine war’; Jul–Aug: hot; Sep–Oct: warm, harvest; Nov–Mar: cold, stark, crisp.
Visit Darjeeling, India, for clear mountain views and a tasty cup of tea
In the early 19th century, Darjeeling was the health-boosting hill station of choice for the Raj-era elite. It remains a refreshing escape from the hot plains of West Bengal, and can still be reached by the narrow-gauge Toy Train that’s been puffing up to the town since the 1880s. People flock to Darjeeling to eat scones in colonial-throwback hotels and take tours of the leafy tea plantations before sipping a cuppa – said to be the ‘champagne of tea’.
Mainly, though, people come for the views: a sweep of high Himalaya, including Kanchenjunga (the planet’s third-highest peak). A crisp, clear October day is a good time to ensure perfect panoramas, or to hit the trails. Hiking along the Singalila Ridge offers even more heart-soaring vistas: from the summit of Sandakphu, you can gaze at four of the world’s loftiest mountains, including Mt Everest itself.
- Trip plan: Fly from Kolkata to northern Bagdogra. Visit the Buddhist monasteries at Rumtek and Pemayangtse, as well as Darjeeling. Singalila Ridge hikes begin at Manebhanjan, 31 miles (50km) from Darjeeling.
- Need to know: Overnight sleeper trains run from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri, departure station for the Toy Train.
- Other months: Mar–Apr & Sep–Nov: cool, clear; Dec–Feb: cold; May–Aug: wet.
The fungi are fabulous in Piedmont, Italy
Bordered by France and Switzerland, the northwestern region of Piedmont sits beneath the Alps and a little apart from the rest of Italy. It doesn’t draw the same crowds as Tuscany, yet has similarly sylvan countryside, hilltop towns and foodie-ness. This is especially true in autumn when Piedmont’s wild mushrooms abound, its red Nebbiolo grapes are harvested and its white truffles – the world’s most expensive fungi – come into season. Other specialities include excellent beef, Arborio rice and cheeses (try crumbly Castelmagno).
Head to Alba, a cluster of medieval towers and baroque and Renaissance palaces. It has splendid restaurants and is fun in October: it has a truffle festival and a donkey version of nearby Asti’s high-brow Palio horse race. Also venture into the forested Langhe hills to join a truffle hunt and visit tiny cantinas to taste the region’s Barbaresco and Barolo wines.
- Trip planner: Fly to Turin, visit the city’s museums and churches, then head to rural Piedmont. A hire car is handy for reaching smaller villages. Allow a week.
- Need to know: Alba is 39 miles (65km) south of Turin; Asti and Alba have train stations.
- Other months: Apr–May: warming, quiet; Jun–Aug: very hot; Sep–Nov: warm, harvest; Dec–Mar: cold, skiing.