Academic Trips & Language Classes
The Alliance Française, 101 bd. Raspail, Paris 75006 (www.alliancefr.org; tel. 01-42-84-90-00), is a nonprofit French-language teaching organization with a network of 1,040 establishments in 136 countries. The school in Paris is open all year; 3-week courses range from 100€ to 314€.
Just outside Nice, the Institut de Francais, 23 av. Général-Leclerc, Villefranche-sur-Mer 06230 (www.institutdefrancais.com; tel. 04-93-01-88-44), offers highly acclaimed month-long French immersion courses. Each day includes 8 hr. of lessons, plus breakfast and lunch taken together with professors. Prices range from 3,260€ to 3,930€.
A clearinghouse for information on French-language schools is Lingua Service Worldwide (www.linguaserviceworldwide.com; tel. 800/394-5327). Its programs are available in many cities throughout France. Cost ranges from around $200 to close to $6,000 per week, depending on the city, the school, and accommodation.
Active Vacations -- Bourgogne Escapades (www.bourgogne-escapades.com; tel. 06-26-97-01-70) offers a variety of activity holidays in Burgundy including walking (occasionally accompanied by donkeys), cycling, sailing, wine tours, and golf. In the Beaune area, Dilivoyage (www.dilivoyage.com; tel. 03-80-24-24-82) specializes in short breaks on the themes of wine tourism, local heritage, and family fun.
Exodus Travels (www.exodustravels.com; tel. 844/227-9087) offer adventure travel around France from white water rafting to Alpine hiking. Their six-night Trekking in the French Pyrenees trip costs $1,700.
Barge Cruises -- Before the advent of rail, many crops, building supplies, raw materials, and finished products were barged through France on a series of rivers, canals, and estuaries. Many of these waterways retain their old-fashioned locks and pumps, allowing shallow-draft boats easy access through idyllic countryside.
European Waterways (www.europeanwaterways.com; tel. 877/879-8808) operates cruises departing from all around France plus traditional barge hire. Trips include a seven-night tour from Marseille up the Canal du Midi to rural Provence. Fares start for this voyage start at 4,110€ per person (based on double occupancy) including bike tours, vineyards visits, and all meals and drinks.
Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com; tel. 800/304-9616) leads one-week tours from Paris through Normandy, with stops in Rouen and at the D-Day beaches, through the wine country of Bordeaux and St-Emilion, and along the Rhône, taking in Arles and Avignon en route. For double occupancy, prices start at $1,356.
The luxury hotel La Cueillette (www.lacueillette.com; tel. 03-80-20-62-80), located in Meursault, Burgundy, offers well-being stays of 3 to 5 nights which include bike rides through the vineyards and spa treatments using products from their own grape-based Fruitithérapie range.
For serious Provençal pampering just outside of Gordes, the five-star Les Bories Hotel & Spa (www.hotellesbories.com, tel. 04-90-72-00-51) offers two- to five-day treatment programs at their on-site spa, La Maison d’Ennea. Facials, massages, and wraps use locally sourced essential oils, such as lavender and sweet orange.
Plenty of excellent yoga and meditation retreats are dispersed around the country. A few popular places include Les Passesroses (www.passeroses.com), set inside a Charentaise longere, or longhouse, northeast of Bordeaux, and LuxYoga (www.luxyoga.com), based in a rambling Provence villa above the French Riviera, which serves gluten-free, organic meals based on Ayurvedic principles.
Food & Wine Trips
The famous/infamous Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846–1935) taught the Edwardians how to eat. Today the Hôtel Ritz maintains the Ecole Ritz Escoffier, 15 pl. Vendôme, Paris 75001 (www.ritzescoffier.com; tel. 01-43-16-30-50), with culinary, cocktail, and pastry workshops, as well as professional-level courses and lessons for kids.
Established in 1895, Le Cordon Bleu, 8 rue Léon Delhomme, 75015 Paris (www.cordonbleu.edu; tel. 01-53-68-22-50), is the most famous French cooking school, where Julia Child learned to perfect her pâté brisée and mousse au chocolat. The best-known courses last nine months and cost 28,850€, including equipment and uniform, after which you are awarded a certificate. Many enthusiasts prefer a less intense immersion, opting for a two-day bread-making workshop (from 470€) or a 1- to 2-hr. demonstration class (from 40€).
Less formal but equally enjoyable are the cooking classes offered by La Cuisine Paris, 80 quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004 (www.lacuisineparis.com; tel. 01-40-51-78-18), a friendly school set up by a Franco-American team. It organizes small classes by professional chefs in both French and English, including the popular French Macaron Class. Prices range from 69€ for a 2-hr. soufflé lesson to 99€ for a 3-hr. poultry cooking class. Alternatively, Les Caves du Louvre (www.cavesdulouvre.com; tel. 01-40-28-13-11) offers English guided tours of former royal wine cellars (32€ including a dégustation of three wines). Plus, serious oenophiles can create their own wines in one of the workshops (75€).
At Home with Patricia Wells (www.patriciawells.com) is a Paris- and Provence-based cooking school taught by Patricia Wells, cookbook author and famed former restaurant critic for the “International Herald Tribune.” The extremely popular five-day classes are limited to either seven students (in Paris) or 10 students (in Provence) and cost $6,000 (accommodation not included).
Les Petits Farcis (www.petitsfarcis.com), run by Cordon Bleu–trained Canadian chef Rosa Jackson, offers tours of Nice’s colorful produce market, followed by daylong gourmet cooking sessions. Prices begin at 195€ per person and include a four-course lunch with wine.
In Burgundy, L’Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne (www.ecoledesvins-bourgogne.com; tel. 03-80-26-35-10) in Beaune has courses ranging from 2 hr. to 12 days for both novices and experts to learn about the region’s wines. Or explore the market in Beaune on Wednesday or Saturday morning with American chef Marjorie Taylor and The Cook’s Atelier (www.thecooksatelier.com; tel. 06-84-83-16-18), before preparing and eating your lunch in her chic 16th-century kitchen.
Bordovino (www.bordovino.com) is a specialist in wine tourism in the Bordeaux area, offering everything from 2-hr. intensive tasting classes (45€), to an all-day bike trip to St-Emilion and nearby vineyards (145€). Also in Bordeaux, Wine Cab (www.wine-cab.com) conducts behind-the-scenes tours around the city’s top vineyards from the back of a decommissioned London black cab. The fleet of three former taxis ply the narrow lanes of the Médoc and St-Emilion, with tasting tours starting at 500€ for three persons. Uncorked Wine Tours (www.uncorkedwinetours.com; tel. 06-50-04-28-84) offer a wide range of options for getting the inside route into Bordeaux châteaux, courtesy of friendly Irish owner Caroline Matthews. Nationwide wine specialist Arblaster & Clarke (www.arblasterandclarke.com; tel. 888/479-6040), operate tours from Alsace to the Loire Valley, including a 3-day Champagne tour for $1,095.
Bike Tours -- Some of the best cycling tours of France are offered by Butterfield & Robinson (www.butterfield.com; tel. 866/551-9090), which offers some 20 trips through most scenic parts of France. Rides range from a gentle peddle among the Loire’s châteaux or skirting Burgundy’s legendary vineyards, to a more challenging exploration of the D-Day beaches. Prices start at $3,295 per person, with luxury accommodation and gourmet meals thrown in.
Cycling for Softies (www.cycling-for-softies.co.uk; tel. 020-7471-7760 in the U.K.) is ideal for easygoing travelers with little cycling experience. Tours cover most of France. Prices vary according to type of tour (both self-guided and small groups are available); buffet breakfasts and gourmet dinners are included.
Fat Tire Bike Tours (http://paris.fattirebiketours.com; tel. 01-56-58-10-54) offers a 4-hr. day or night tour of Paris by bike; adult tickets cost 35€. It also organizes cycling tours of Versailles and Giverny.
4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie (www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com; tel. 08-00-80-06-31) offers chauffeur-driven themed rides around Paris and Versailles in its colorful fleet of Citroën 2CV. Tours for three start at 60€ per person for a 1.5-hr. tour. The fewer people in the car, the more expensive the tour. Or tour Paris in an original 1970s Combi Van, with Combi Paris (www.combi.paris; tel. 06-95-94-39-77). Depending on the time of day you’ll sample breakfast, lunch, or champagne from carefully selected bakeries or winemakers. A 3-hr. tour costs 350€ for up to seven passengers. For small group travel look no further than award-winning agency France Off The Beaten Path (www.traveloffthebeatenpath.com; tel. 877/846-2831), which operate cozy cooking, cultural, and wine tours in Provence, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.
Paris is a dream come true for shopaholics. Chic Shopping Paris (www.chicshoppingparis.com; tel. 06-77-65-08-01) offers tours designed to give visitors a behind-the-scenes shopping experience. Themed tours include “Chic Consignment” and “Unique Boutique.” All of the standard tours are 4 to 4.5 hr. and start at 100€ per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.