Greg goes native. It’s a problem. When he packs his bags for Africa, you know he’s hoping to spend 3 months with no shoes on. When he heads out on the road, we have to cut off his credit cards after a while to make him come back. He likes to slip the knot. The way Greg travels is the way he goes about the rest of his life—a persuasive mixture of the serious and the playful. We’re wary of sending him on research trips, because chances are quite high that we will have to go looking for him, and eventually track him down in Havana, where he’s holed up as the trombone player in a backstreet dance band. He really gets into it.
Jack has more hobbies than fingers and toes. We stopped counting at 20, right after he told us he’d purchased an easel and beret. Good thing he lives in Paris. For a man so enamoured by cooking with goose fat and garlic it’s odd that he’s so spry. Perhaps it’s the regimen of capoeira, cycling, drumming, dancing, and rock climbing? Or maybe the mental gymnastics of self-taught database development? The only thing we know for sure is that when Jack’s in the room it buzzes with energy.
If Cait ever left the travel business (a tragedy we don’t even like to consider), she could easily make it as a private investigator. The Google queen of 58 Stewart, she can find anything (and anyone) you need to know in three clicks or less. She may appear quiet, but listen intently and you’ll hear the whirr of her brain cataloguing piles of intricate safari detail for our Africa trips. Sharp as a San Bushman’s spear and attentive as a clan of meerkats, Cait is not escaping us to join the PI industry anytime soon.
Born in New York, Rudston grew up in Italy and South Africa, spent his first few Trufflepig years in Paris, and has now escaped back to Italy again. As a result, we’re convinced he has a Bourne/Bond-style briefcase of currencies and passports hidden away in a safe somewhere. Never mind that he may or may not have Sicilian “connections”, he’s quite open about his Colosseum-sized expertise in Italy. If you’re dreaming of pizzas (or granitas, truffles, castles, Chianti, Alfa Romeos, espresso, and perhaps a volcano for good measure), we have your international man of mystery on speed dial.
Anton has been working in travel since the original formation of the Perito Moreno Glacier. His personal conquests of South America put Magellan to shame, and while it’s Carnival and blue-footed boobies that he knows best, he also has a back pocket (and suitcase) full of other widespread know-how. Traditional Indian flower market? Anton can take you there. Seeking a cliffside break in Big Sur? Just ask Lynch. Volcano walking in Iceland? You should meet Antoniyk Lynchbjornsson. Both humble and sly, our South American specialist is based out of his rainy homeland of London, but he is frequently enticed across the sea by as little as an empanada or two.
There’s only one person we know who can effectively lasso together a Trip Piglet with one hand, while booking 643 South American hotel arrangements with the other. Known as The Wrangler, Wrangles, and occasionally Wrangledog (said in the most affectionate way possible), Victoria is a Jill-of-all-trades who knows exactly where to find everything in the office, even when it seems lost among Charlie’s
junk priceless antiques. All of this is without even mentioning that she’s the super-organized Robin to Anton’s Batman. Robin never gets as much credit as he really deserves.
It is said that when Dan visited the Silverback gorillas of Rwanda, they immediately embraced him as one of their troop, then groomed him and fed him some bamboo. That’s just an ancient African legend, but we believe it. This man is our very own in-house Bear Grylls… but more menacing. And much taller. He has charged elephants, stared down lions, and (understandably) shrieked like a little girl when a hippo came after his canoe. When the apocalypse eventually comes, he will be the esteemed and courageous leader we follow to safety. And what kind of person would you rather have planning your safari in a strange land?
For every great Euro Bureau, there is a task master behind the scenes in Toronto fitting all the pieces together—or is that just how it works in these parts? Melissa is a lover of cupcakes who can be reduced to tears by a baby sloth video, but when we get right down to it she’s also an Italian speaker who can nail down a flaky French concierge like nobody’s business. And then get us a discount and extra amenities. She has enthusiasm and pluck in spades, and that’s important when you’re coordinating trips with the most energetic man in France. Not least of all, we’re always pleased to keep her baked goods here on Canadian soil where they belong. Eat your heart out, Parisian croissants.
Mike’s Swiss ancestry doesn’t remain concealed for long. Between his penchant for chocolate and his skill for keeping all the details running like clockwork, that second passport is no big surprise. What is a surprise (and quite a pleasant one at that) is hiring an Asia Trip Planner who also happens to have a hidden skill for tech support up his sleeve. Mike can tell you the difference between cao lau and banh bao equally as well as between DROM and EPROM. He knows his ao tu than from his sampot chang kben, and his satisfied clients from his… oh wait, that’s right. He doesn’t have any unsatisfied clients. Much like a Swiss army knife, Mike is always there with the tools you need at any given moment. And that makes for some very smooth travelling indeed.
It stands to reason that the guy who taught James Bond to dance flamenco has a knack for moving. But long before he schooled Pierce Brosnan in a ‘Sevillanas’ (good luck trying those steps at home), Sebastian was finding his feet all over the world. Raised between Colorado and Chile (where both of his parents come from), he ditched a post-grad career in academia for a year of guitar playing in Spain. Naturally, this evolved into an enthusiasm for mastering Arabic and several years spent in Morocco, where he owned a small hotel. Now back in Jerez (Spain), Sebastian keeps to the beat of his adopted home and strums up brilliant itineraries like the multi-linguist virtuoso that he is.
Our quant queen, Caitlin (aka CJ), is the eclectic sum of some curious qualities. She loathes cotton batting (you know, the fluffy stuff you find at the top of pill bottles), but loves floor hockey (and pirouetting between passes). She’s terrified of becoming a pack rat and doesn’t collect anything. But if she had “more money than she knew what to do with”, she’d know exactly what to do—collect houses in Italy, Japan, Australia, Canada, and the Turks & Caicos. She has a penchant for Country & Western music, but would rather square up a balance sheet than square dance. Where next for our number ninja? She’s itching to travel to Greece and Spain, but will likely head to Hong Kong to visit her sister.
Angelica is the oil that keeps Asia’s gears running like clockwork. With her patchwork background (Japanese, Brazilian and Ukrainian to name a few), she’s perfectly suited for the myriad tasks of booking suites on the Cote d’Azur, overwater villas in Cambodia, and everything in between. Armed with a rapier wit, she’s often quiet for long stretches before casually busting out a joke that has us all in tears. We truly think Angelica has two souls, one ancient and one current. She’s equally comfortable quoting Ramesses or Taylor Swift, and somehow manages to make it all make sense.
Having grown up on the US rodeo circuit and after spending years travelling to exotic locations all over the world, there was simply no chance Yvonne would content herself with vanilla corporate life. And so, almost inevitably, in the late 90’s she traded her cubicle and casual fridays for Africa, and never looked back. She’s done everything from moving horses across the USA in cargo planes to driving damn near every inch of road south of the Sahara, happy sleeping on the side of the road in Malawi or in the plushest safari camps in Botswana, and anything and everywhere in between. It’s safe to say she knows what she’s on about and can connect the dots with a precision and flair that is a marvel to behold. When it comes to planning the perfect safari (or if you have questions about horses) we can think of few better.
Simon has criss-crossed L’Hexagone more times than the Tour de France, which is the perfect analogy for a man who on a normal day will run several miles before breakfast, swim a hundred lengths at lunch, and ride his bike home after work (over a mountain). Clearly this father of three is eating his spinach. But while he’s a mere triathlete on the weekends, in his work life Simon has mastered even more disciplines, from bike mechanic to sommelier, hotelier to barge-pilot, chalet manager to his current (and long may it last) role as Trufflepig’s Gallic gargantuan, our lead France planner.
Claire may be French originally, but the reason we pinched her from her Guatemalan mountain hideout to come to Burgundy and run our European Operations was not for her Gallic rigidity of mind. This is a woman who can get things done, and from the dunes of the Sahara to the outlying Orkneys, Claire is our Euro dynamo supremo, our plate-spinner extraordinaire. Having grown up in a handful of cities across the hexagon, her destiny from the get-go had globetrotter stamped all over it, and the speed with which she’s moved around the world is matched only with the speed with which she speaks one of her many languages. She blushes at the label super mum, but then attends to the mountain of detail in her Trufflepig role, her two active kids and her own general good living with a mastery and poise that would be the envy of any circus juggler.
Kathleen is our in-house modern-day Renaissance Woman: deeply cultured and profoundly cross-cultural, knowledgeable going on downright inflammable (an occupational hazard for very bright sparks), and fiendishly versatile in her encyclopaedic expertise and range. Before joining Trufflepig she lived as a recluse in a 15th-century Tuscan marble/ivory tower, concocting her very own trip-planning Da Vinci Code (local legend has it the tower’s loggia was built of ingeniously cantilevered strands of fettucine pasta cooked really really al dente…). After years spent pouring over regional blue-prints, Machiavellian maps and arcane atlasses she knows her stoccafisso from her strozzapreti, and can distinguish between priestly-Papal Guelphs and cod-piece-wearing Ghibellines in her sleep (yes, like all genii with overtaxed brains, she loves a siesta — particularly after lavish five-course Italian lunches). Following on stints back in Colorado and Toronto, Kathleen recently made her triumphant return to the Olde Continent, and now deploys her travel-wizardry from our offices in Beaune; her top-secret quasi-druidic trip-planning formulae never fail to work their magic and cast their spell, cooking up perfect decoctions of Sicilian splendour tempered with Amalfitan astonishment, splashes of Val d’Orcia verve and voguish Venetian voga, and corrective doses of Roman romance and Florentine furbizia.
Most weekends you’ll find Claudia at the cottage in Ontario, planning trips and sweating it out in the wood-fired sauna, which is a bit farther afield from her hometown of Dresden, where Claudia, grew-up behind the Iron Curtain. She’s ever grateful that “pesky wall” fell before her growing desire for travel could cause problems with the Secret Police. We’re extremely grateful too otherwise she may have missed finding her future husband in that Ecuadorian prison, only to follow him to Canada, which ultimately led our favourite German adventurer/philosopher to Trufflepig HQ. Armed with a simple mantra of “travel is freedom,” paired with her weekly tradition of Sausage Wednesdays, her love of cheese and her natural appreciation of efficiency—we’ve one heck of an intrepid trip-planning maestro that the central and eastern European hinterlands deserve. Turns out it’s also the realm Claudia’s always been drawn to in the first place – so yes we agree, “travel is freedom”.
Carola is to South America what maté is to to the Argies: necessary, calming, with a full flavour and an arresting accent. She hails from Chile’s fine capital, Santiago and although she knows more about her homeland than anyone else we have yet come across, her travels have taken her far beyond the Andean spine, the length and breadth of Latin America, for which she is our on-the-ground snout (other companies call them planners). Previous existences saw her working as a hiking guide in the wilds of Patagonia, and the region remains her true passion, to the extent that Carola’s idea of a good time is to run 50km of trail across the empty steppes in an afternoon, and come in with her characteristic grin on her face. But the loneliness of the long distance runner be damned, Carola’s cheer and socialibility plays second fiddle only to her photographic skills.
Our charismatic Europe Coordinator Zoe is a traveller, a wearer of fine thrifted clothing, an eclectic music fan, a connoisseur of all things veggie (especially tacos), and a rocket powered addition to our trip planning machine in the Old Continent. We’ve tried but failed to phase her since her arrival at Trufflepig, and the biggest problem she presents is the need for us to continually increase the challenges. Wrangler, writer, coordinator and quarterback, she’s learning the trip planning craft from the ground up.
Don’t be fooled by the sweet demeanour and the tidy appearance – Meghan roars like a lion. If ever there were a front-line role at Trufflepig, booking all the hotels in Europe and North Africa is it, but if ever there was someone you can hand an important task over to with total confidence, Meghan is her. A competitive swimmer of yesteryear, and still the most fiercely competitive ping pong pugilist (be sure to wear a helmet if you find yourself on the other side of her table), when she’s not chasing down errant hoteliers, Miss Starr can be found sunning at her cottage or cuddling her canine companions. And if they gave out black belts for shopping, Meghan would be the Bruce Lee of retail-ia.
Dom is Trufflepig HQ’s youngest person but surprise grown-up, a ying and yang combo to keep us on our toes. Ask her what she would do with a million dollars, and you’ll probably find most of it smartly invested in various mutual funds and stocks – with perhaps a certain amount left aside for a cocktail-fueled trip to the Seychelles with her farm of adopted cats and dogs. Dom runs our social media (the rest of us are too luddite to understand it) but commands our full attention with stats and targets and a refusal not to be taken seriously. She’s earned her nomiker – the Dom-inator – by mastering the tools, tricks and techniques that mean a job that took us a week takes her a wink – she keeps the Pig ticking. If you need a recommendation for a new TV show, or the next up-and-coming trap artist, or want to conspire about anything from Big Pharma to flouride, Dom is your go-to. Musical, humourous, outgoing and creative, Dom brings a lot to the Trufflepig farm. Just don’t run out of coffee.
After 12 years of flying by the seat of our pants (yes, pigs can fly), and by the time our Europe team was large enough for a proper game of 6-a-side, it was time to go pro, and we didn’t hesitate to call on the experience, wit, capability and good humour of Anne Zakula to whip us into shape. It’s a good thing she’s calm under pressure, because to manage a stable of snorting, hoof-stomping thoroughbred planners such as this (without a horse-whip and syringe of tranquiliser) takes some serious people skills, the patience of buddha, and to have travelled the length and breadth of Europe like only Napoloen or perhaps the Rolling Stones have done before. Indeed, there are few countries Anne hasn’t run trips through, but for someone who’s seen it all before, that’s some remarkably fresh enthusiasm in the door every single morning.
Meredith has squeezed a great deal into her three-plus-something decades on the earth. After escaping her native Minneapolis, she’s somehow had time to live in Germany, Italy, France and the Dominican Republic – not forgetting Canada of course – and to travel far, far wider than that. She’s not only learnt French, Spanish and Italian (and I mean really learnt them – she can swear and enthuse and cajole and discuss politics and order coffee like a native), but she’s understood that language is only half the battle, so she’s learnt to dance the salsa, the tarantella and the tango. Oh, and she’s raised 3 kids, too. There is that minor detail. Perhaps that’s why she’s so in touch with her inner-child. In fact, she recently wondered if she was ‘too whacky for Trufflepig’. Please. That’ll be the day. We hired Meredith to plan trips in Italy, where a strong sense of playfulness and childlike enthusiasm is hard-wired into the culture. Serious playfulness? Thoughtfully childlike? It’s a winning oxymoron that Meredith has right under control.
After spending a childhood in the Netherlands plotting her departure for warmer climes from the back of a rain-soaked bicycle on the way to school (and a couple of university degrees), and via a decade-long diversion in Paris working for the OECD, IEA and UNEP, Jacoline finally landed in Greece in 1998, with a toddler, a one-month old baby, a Greek husband, and a determination never to go back to an office job. So began her adventure discovering the best small hotels of Greece, starting with a handwritten list of 10 characterful little places, and growing to three exemplary books, hundreds of hotels and a superb website which makes clear that there are very few stretches of the country’s 13,000km of coastline she’s not checked out. Yes, Jacoline literally wrote the book on it, and we admired her trip planning nous from afar for many years before timing, serendipity and sheer good Greek luck allowed for Trufflepig to entice her in to the fold, to benefit from her superior understanding of and love for her adopted country in all its whim and wonder.