Years ago visiting a foreign place and being invited into a local’s home for a lovingly-prepared meal – an exchange of conversation and a first-hand look into the local life – was a revolutionary concept. Enter Be My Guest, the original local travel experience, born from the concept of enabling human connections between locals of the destinations we visit and our guests.
The First Be My Guest Experience: Sorrento, Italy
Be My Guest began in 2009, at the Esposito family lemon farm in Sorrento, Italy. The Esposito sisters welcomed guests into their home for an evening of talking and learning, over a home-cooked meal and taste of the homegrown limoncello. With the scent of lemons hanging heavy in the air, they ate, drank, laughed, and both hosts and guests loved it.
The Esposito sisters very quickly became the highlight of the entire trip, with guests raving about the experience and buying bottles of the homegrown limoncello to take home with them.
Speaking of her experience as a Be My Guest host, Mamma Esposito said, “It was the finest achievement of my life.”
Sadly, the Esposito sisters have passed on, but they leave us with traditions and moments we’ll remember forever.
Bringing A Human Touch to Guided Travel
After the success of the first Be My Guest in Italy, the search began for more memorable hosts and exclusive local experiences, across Europe and beyond. Similar to the first experience at the Esposito family farm, many Be My Guest experiences have been created from personal relationships and local connections in each country.
It is the hosts that make Be My Guest experiences so special and memorable. No matter where you are in the world, every host has a unique story to tell, whether it’s the noble keeper of a rural French farm or the friendly Scotsman who shares his legendary tales of ancient Scotland.
More than a local dining experience
Over the years Be My Guest has become much more than local dining experiences. Not only are you viewing a destination from a local’s lens, but you learn about their craft, their way of life, and their family heritage. After a Be My Guest experience, you’re guaranteed to take home powerful memories of the sights, scents, tastes, and stories you heard while sharing laughs with your host and fellow guests.
Trips with Be My Guest Experiences
Meet locals around the world and be invited into their homes and lives for a taste of their culture and world.
Be My Guest experiences have been as much about enriching the lives of the hosts, as they are about entertaining the guests. With 81% of Be My Guest experiences being family-run and multi-generational, guests will directly make a difference to these people by providing a source of income and preserving the local customs and heritage.
Additionally, the majority of Be My Guest experiences take place outside the major cities in small, regional communities – therefore spreading the tourism out of the hubs and combatting over-tourism.
Be My Guest Around the World
In Scandinavia, enjoy dinner with the Øvre-Eide family on their livestock farm in Norway dating back to the 1500s. In Ireland, join Catherine Fulvio, a local Irish cooking icon, and discover her three-generation historic family home. Catherine has written four cookbooks, won Cookbook of the Year in Ireland, and created three cooking series. In Japan, learn about and meet the Ama— translated to “women of the sea”, who’ve free-dived into the icy waters off the coast of Japan in search of oysters, pearls, abalone, sea cucumbers, and seaweed for thousands of years.
Be My Guest in Scotland: Ledard Farm, Loch Ard
In the heart of the Trossachs, on Scotland’s first National Park, you’ll find the historic 300-acre Ledard Farm on the shores of Loch Ard, surrounded by the majestic slopes of Ben Lomond and Ben Venue. Dating back to 1474, the farm is now home to three generations of the Wood Family.
Fergus Wood, head of the Wood family and Ledard Farm, was hoping to hand his farm over to his children but understood that there might be a need to diversify. “Everyone wants to hand their farm over to their family,” Fergus supposes; however, children might not want to take over the farm, “they want to be IT experts or lawyers or accounts, or whatever they want to be.”
To keep the farm in the family and maintain their heritage, Fergus and his oldest son Gregor partnered up and branched into tourism. “It’s all part and parcel of what we’re about, welcoming people onto our farm, and giving them the opportunity to meet a Scottish farming family in their home.”
The oldest building on the property was built in 1587. Right behind this building, the friendly Scotsman is proud to show off a hydroelectric turbine taking water down from the mountain that rises above the farm. Ledard also utilizes 109 solar panels.
“We’re an ancient farm with old buildings, the buildings we use for our visitors are of a vintage of 1604, at the same time the electricity in them is coming from a solar skin, so renewable energy is a big part of our diversification, ” Fergus says. Guests dine under these solar-powered lights in the historical MacGregors Barn.
As for dinner, “It’s very traditional fare, lamb is always the main course – as you would expect from a sheep farm.” It kicks off with a lentil broth, a classic farmer's soup according to Fergus, and finishes with the Scottish dessert Cranachan [prounounced: kranəkən]. Cranachan brings together many ingredients that Scotland is known for whiskey, homemade shortbread, and raspberries layered together with cream.
Home to the Scottish Sheepdog School, Ledard Farm trains and keeps Border Collies. “My number one dog is called Jess,” Fergus says fondly. Guests meet Jess and learn about the work she and her fellow sheepdogs perform on the farm. “You can’t gather sheep without sheepdogs, it’s physically impossible, so our dogs are very important to us. There’s a very strong relationship between man and dog.”
Along with Fergus, his youngest son and wife help train and care for the dogs. “It’s very much a family business, that’s how we set it up, that’s how we hope it will continue, welcoming people to the farm is very big part of that. We’ll give our guests all the history and a wee bit of music.”
From the history of the farm and country to renewable energy, Fergus enjoys sharing and conversing with his guests. “We hope we send them off that they’ve got a much better understanding of what Scotland’s about. We’ve got a country of great history, but a forward-looking country… We’re not just talking about the history and the past, we’re talking about future.”
Be My Guest in France, Chateau L’Etape Gourmand, Villandry
Meet Madame Beatrice de Monferrier, the owner of the farm-to-table restaurant and estate Chateau L’Etape Gourmand, on a Be My Guest experience that will take you back in time to 17th-century France.
Many of our guests tell us their most memorable vacation experiences are those “pinch me” moments — the instant you find yourself in a place with intriguing people you may never have come to know on your own. As you walk down the country lane toward the famous Chateau L’Etape Gourmade, you’ll hear a melodious voice call out “Bonjour. Bienvenue dans ma maison et ma ferme” (“Hello and welcome to my house and my farm”). You can feel you’re about to experience a real hidden treasure.
Beatrice, as she asks everyone to call her, is the gracious and welcoming owner of a magnificent 17th-century estate in Villandry, France.
“This is a farm and our buildings are very old. From the 17th century. I think it’s a joy for everyone to forget big towns,” Beatrice says. “Together with my daughter Alexandra, we work the land. We have 17 hectares. We have animals; many boarders like our chickens, goats, sheep, and ducks. And, of course, the restaurant. When you visit, I think what is very special is you arrive into a very rural atmosphere of France. You will see our everyday life. I think that is very important because it’s very rare.”
Visiting Chateau L’Etape Gourmade and meeting Beatrice is one of the exclusive Be My Guest experiences on our Best of France trip.
“I make my own cheese. But as you know I am getting younger and younger every year and I can’t make as much cheese. Now I just make my cheese only for Trafalgar guests,” laughs Beatrice.
During your visit to Chateau L’Etape Gourmand, you’ll enjoy a three-course Tourangelle dinner accompanied by local wines. “In France, we always welcome our guests with a glass of wine in hand and say ‘sante’!”
But perhaps the most memorable part of your experience is getting to know Beatrice herself. “I think the experience you will like is that we treat you like friends. We talk together. We explain what is important for you to understand when you come here,” Beatrice says. “It’s a very friendly atmosphere. I really feel happy because you arrive and you give life to those buildings which I love. This is very important for me.”
“I think our visitors are happy when they come because they talk a lot. And they give me lots of kisses,” she adds, with a smile.