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Our Team

our fabulous travel experts and local aficionados have been hand picked from around the globe.

SHARRON HICKMAN

FOUNDER EXCLUSIVE TOURS NZ

TOUR DIRECTOR/HOSTESS BREATHTAKING NEW ZEALAND

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After a successful career as a Draftswoman and Interior Decorator Sharron Hickman had a career change and in 1990 when she established Exclusive Tours Limited.    

New Zealand tours that Sharron plans and guides revolve around learning and discovery experiences.   Sharron is always on the lookout for new places to visit, impromptu stops, interesting people to meet, activities that get travellers outside their comfort zones etc.   She proudly says that the possibilities are endless in New Zealand!     As someone once said of her itineraries – “It is not what is included in the itineraries that make the difference – it the things that are not included in the itineraries that make the tours so different and exciting.”

Experience the difference with Sharron.

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FRANCESCA PAPI

FOUNDER FANTASTIC FLORENCE

TOUR GUIDE FLORENCE - ITALY

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Francesca is Florentine born and has been a private tour guide of Florence since 2008. After completing studies in Modern cultures and languages she originally worked on cruise ships until she decided that the time of restless traveling was over, and settled for her love of her hometown Florence and wanted others to see this beautiful city through the eyes of a local.

Francesca is always seeking to improve her knowledge and in the off season attends refresher courses to upgrade her quality of service. The last ones were on scientific museums, Florentine baroque painters, XX century art, medieval architecture in Tuscany, and the XIX century and the period when Florence was Italy’s capital city. There’s so much to know! This year she is attending History of Florence courses at the University of Florence to get her second degree in History. Francesca speaks English, Spanish, German and Italian (of course!). And because she enjoys a challenge she has just started a Hebrew Language course.

“I love being with people and getting to know other cultures and different customs. I am a passionate traveller. I think that traveling is always a mind-opening and enriching experience. I have a true passion for history, especially the history of my city. I believe that it is always possible to learn from the past. I am addicted to the Medici family saga, I love good wine, “croccantino” gelato (a crunchy cream…yummy!), and I am a real foodie… How could it be different living in Italy? You will go back home knowing that you will always have a friend in Florence!”

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Kate Magic

Raw Foods Expert

Raw Foods Workshops - Italy

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Joining our Italy tour, Kate is a globally renowned raw foods expert. Widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the movement in Europe, she is creative director of RawLiving.eu and author of three best-selling raw recipe books. Kate has been teaching for over 15 years, and in that time travelled to over 20 countries spreading the raw gospel. Her classes are loved for their unique blend of hands-on practical kitchen tips combined with a liberal dose of magical inspiration, that will leave you fired up to take your wellness journey to the next level. 

Kate will be giving a 3-hour gourmet raw foods workshop. We will also be indulging in a delicious private 5 course dinner party prepared by Kate herself.

Each lady who embarks on our tour to Italy will take a slice of goodness home to enjoy long after our rejuvenating experience. A copy of Kate’s recipe book “Raw Magic” will be given to each guest. 

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KIRSTEN RØDSGAARD-MATHIESEN

Founder Mad Frog Productions

Tour Hostess/Guide & Journalist - New Zealand

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Kirsten is a multi-lingual cosmopolitan born and raised near Copenhagen, Denmark. Since her early teens she’s been exploring the world and has lived in London, Paris, Sevilla and New York. In 2002 she moved to New Zealand.

Kirsten has a B.A. in Journalism and has mainly worked in TV & print media. She is the author of Denmark’s bestselling guide book to New Zealand, as well as the awardwinning book on New Zealand wine, Passion, Pinot & Savvy.

In 2005 she added tour directing and guiding to her C.V. and hasn’t looked back since. She thoroughly enjoys sharing her vast knowledge of New Zealand with quality-seeking travellers. And although her favourite country is New Zealand, she also regularly leads group tours in other amazing countries like Australia, Japan and the USA.

Kirsten speaks English, Danish, French & Spanish and lives in sunny Nelson with her Kiwi husband. Her interests include art, architecture, design, reading, walking, swimming, food & wine, movies and writing scrabble, card games.

 

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Fani Lopez

Tour Curator and Hostess

Iceland and France

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Fani is Spanish born, living in France and working abroad… you could say she certainly makes the most of her passport. Fani is incredibly passionate about nature and traveling. Having studied Geology and Environment, this inspired her travel through 20 countries across four different continents. These are just some of the reasons why five years ago, Fani decided to develop a professional career helping people to discover magical places.

During your journey Fani will show why you Iceland is known as the land of Ice and Fire. Volcanoes and glaciers carving this untamed land, making the landscapes unreal. Fani likes to treat her groups like a big family; you will share experiences, laughs, moments of tranquillity and heart pumping activities.

“I am delighted to be your tour leader in Iceland and France!!

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MARINA AND STEFANIA (Mother & Daughter)

Owners 'Gioia Di Vivere Cooking School - Tuscany'

Vegan Chefs - Italy

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Marina and Stefania, mother and daughter, are the owners of ‘Gioia di Vivere Cooking School’ a no profit cultural association set in a warm and traditional tuscan farm surrounded by nature in Lucca town. Marina is a 40 years experienced chef of healthy and organic cuisine. From 1976 she studied vegetarian cooking techniques and few years later macrobiotic cuisine with Michio Kushi. Then Marina run three restaurants in three different italian cities. In 1992 she opened her cooking school Gioia di Vivere to teach the healthiest way to cook ingredients and how food significantly affects our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. From 20 years she focused on healthy vegan cuisine.

From 10 years Stefania is an official chef tutor in their cooking school. She became a popular foodblogger in 2014 with her blog cucinaconstefania.com, different from other foodblog, because it has no recipes but only suggestions for an happy dairy-free & vegan lifestyle. In 2015 after a long trip in New York and a food workshop in Firenze she began to promote Gioia di Vivere’s vegan classes in english version. In their cooking school only organic, seasonal, whole, balanced, fresh and delicious food exist and students learn the secrets of italian recipes in an healty balanced vegan version.

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Chelsea Gilson

Tour Curator and Hostess

MOROCCO AND PERU

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Chelsea was raised on a small piece of farmland right near Plymouth, MA. Whilst always adventurous, her passion for travel didn’t develop until college when a friend convinced her to study abroad. There, in Granada, Spain, she fell in love with the world and exploring other cultures. Each weekend they would take a trip to another city in Europe and always felt like her eyes couldn’t open wide enough to take it all in.

Returning to college, Chelsea finished a double major in Psychology and Spanish while starting a hobby travel blog to recount stories from Europe. After graduation, she moved west to California to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Chelsea has worked in casting, as an agent, as an actress.. but best of all, as a travel host! Hosting a road trip show for Weather Channel, a fun show for Travel Channel, and a few independent projects through South and Latin America.

Simultaneously, the blog had started a life of its own and she began consulting other companies and creating content for a number of publications and sites. When Chelsea isn’t traveling independently, she works on mastering new yoga moves and hiking with her two dogs.

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Natascia Leonardis

Co-Founder Willow & Blair

Tour Curator - Jordan and United Arab Emirates

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Willow & Blair is a creation of our co-founder Natascia’s insatiable wanderlust. 

After completing her studies in HR and receiving a Bachelor of Engineering degree, Natascia realized a life in the corporate world wasn’t for het and a growing hunger and yearning to explore was born. Her years of solo trips and stepping foot in all 7 continents have all challenged and enlightened her and inspired her to share her passions with the world.

Yet, she soon discovered that her travels were enhanced and her experiences amplified when she was in the presence of like-minded women with whom she could grow and reflect.

Being born into a family whose love for travel was infectious was the foundation of a partnership between Natascia and her mother, Teresa. Together, they created a platform enabling women to embark on exclusive adventures and cultural journeys together.

Natascia has skilfully hand picked our tour hostesses from all around the world. Each of these women are globe trotting experts who are elated to share their passions for impactful travel with you. 

 

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Rania Anwar

Tour Hostess

Jordan

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Rania is a Jordanian licensed tour guide and program director.

Rania is one of a very few female guides in Jordan. Rania loves her country and is a true host for Jordan.

Fascinated as well with the history, culture, religion and traditions, that gave her the passion to introduce it to her travelers. Beside talking about women’s empowerment
and rights in the Jordanian society.

Rania also showed a lot of interest with Cruise Ship Line and started several specialized courses to be a program director and tour leader in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

What motivates Rania is that she likes meeting people from different cultures, to build a bridge of love and create the atmosphere of peace among people and lighting the spot and giving her travelers an experience with locals.

Rania is presence is delightful to be around, she loves to make others laugh and feel like they are part of her own family.

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TERESA GRASSO

CO-FOUNDER WILLOW & BLAIR

ACCOUNTS AND STRATEGY

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Teresa is Natascia’s mother and the foundation and guiding inspiration for the company. She is actively involved in the operations of the company alongside Natascia and brings significant life experiences to the creation of all of Willow & Blair’s tours.

Teresa and her husband Tony are the proud parents of 3 wonderful children. Along with all the love and adoration they could possibly bestow, they also made it a point to share the world’s beauty with their children by giving them the gift of travel from a very young age. It was their belief in the cultural riches of travel that ensured their children experienced various traditions and customs from all corners of the globe.

Teresa focuses on helping to create memorable experiences at Willow & Blair based on “good old fashioned travel”. She has embarked on many travels in her lifetime, most of which were undertaken before the time of social media, so she truly understands the importance of living in the moment and capturing the heart and soul of each location. She also understands the ever-changing circumstances and challenges women encounter throughout their lives.

Her maturity along with her philosophy of immersing herself in local cultures, has helped form Willow and Blair’s vision of providing meaningful tours that resonate with women around the world. Using this understanding to help establish a women-only travel company was a natural evolution for Teresa and has enabled her to meld her passion with her experience, to produce a masterpiece of travel for women all over the world.

 

 

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Jordan Ashley

Founder of Souljourn Yoga

Yoga Instructor - India

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Jordan Ashley is the founder of Souljourn Yoga Foundation a non-profit dedicated to raising funds and awareness for girls education in developing countries through global yoga retreats.

Drawing on her experience of journalism, travel, and being a full time yoga teacher, she created Souljourn Yoga as an avenue for the practitioner who wants more than just “down dog” and to expand the need for equal education across the globe.

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Alyce Biddle

Community Manager, My Name is Kumar

Yoga Instructor - India

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Alyce has lived and worked in different countries around the world, including Mexico and India, she now calls the Northern UK city of Sheffield home. She has worked for the organisation My Name is Kumar – which works to educate children and empower begging communities in Tamil Nadu – since 2016, after spending time in India with the charity following the completion of her Yoga Teacher Training.

Since then she has worked alongside children and their families in order to increase access to education and alleviate the effects of poverty. She also teaches yoga part-time in Sheffield and is working on ways to bring the practice of yoga to groups of people who might not otherwise get to experience it. She finds joy in hiking, long distance cycling and communal vegan cooking.

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