I once went to south-west Germany with the sole intention of eating a Black Forest gateau. My first trip to Japan was in pursuit of a particular kind of rice. I love a bit of monomaniacal travel. The most extreme example of a singular pursuit? The time I flew nearly a thousand miles to visit a butcher's shop.
The trip was at the suggestion of the chef Theo Randall, from London's InterContinental hotel. We were talking about meat, and he said: "Let's go and see Dario". Dario Ceccini has a shop-cum-restaurant in the hilltop village of Panzano, outside Greve in Chianti. It's a non-stop carnivore party. All day and night, Dario blasts out AC/DC, dishes out charcuterie and red wine, carves up joints and grills them. It's a performance, and Dario's butcher's shop brings tourists to a village that's otherwise very easy to miss on the route between Florence and Siena.
But mostly it brings chefs and foodies. "Anyone who knows about Tuscan wine and food," says Theo, "sees it as an epicentre." So we flew to Pisa, had a blast of Dario, then hung out with his favourite maker of Chianti Classico, Giovanni Manetti of Fontodi, a thoughtful man much dedicated to preserving traditional agriculture in the region.
And, as the hours went by and the levels of iron and vitamin B12 in my system reached record levels, I learned more about Tuscany than in half a dozen previous trips to Florence and Pisa.
There is a name for this phenomenon: long-tail tourism. Long-tail theory argues that the internet has allowed us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue and indulge our very individual tastes. The "short head" before the long tail is the mass market/mass interest stuff: so in music, you'll have Beyoncé at the head and Mongolian throat singing at the far end of the tail.
In between, independent tour operators are piling in, while "experiential" is the travel buzzword on everyone's lips. On the Trip4Real site I can go to a leather workshop in Madrid, or have creative canal-side cocktails in London. And Ukraine might not be top of your bucket list: but Political Tours will take you there in July and introduce you to "pro-Russian and pro-Maidan groups".
You can see how long-tail theory has revolutionised travel. Sure, the big, fat, short head still offers countless beach holidays in Spain, and villa rentals in Florida. But travel has become immeasurably more individual and arcane since the days when we used to buy our holidays at Lunn Poly.
So, someone, somewhere, must be able to satisfy my urge to discover the Kondaritika-speaking lathmakers of the Zagarochoria.
I didn't make up those last words: the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor mentions them in his book on the Peloponnese. I don't know what a lathmaker is, I've no idea how you speak Kondaritika, nor any idea where Zagarochoria is. But it sounds like a brilliant idea for a trip.
Mark Jones is editorial director of British Airways' 'High Life' and Best Western's 'Do Not Disturb' magazinesReuse content