Academic Trips & Language ClassesThe 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; three-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 hours of lessons, plus breakfast and lunch taken together with professors. Prices range from 2,910€ to 3,520€.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 breaks. 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.
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.
Go Barging (www.gobarging.com; [tel] 800/394-8630) operates 6-night river cruises departing from Paris along the River Seine, as well as trips through Burgundy, the Canal du Midi, Alsace-Lorraine, the Loire Valley, Gascony, Bordeaux, Champagne and Provence. Fares range from 3,360€ to 5,500€ per person (double occupancy) including all meals and drinks.
Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com; [tel] 800/304-9616) leads 1-week tours from Paris through Normandy, with stops in Rouen and at the D-Day beaches, through the wine country of Bordeaux and Saint-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 2- to 5-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.
There are plenty of excellent yoga and meditation retreats dotted around the country. A few popular places include Les Passesroses (www.passeroses.com) northeast of Bordeaux; Dévi Yoga Retreats (www.deviyogaretreats.com) across the South of France; Kaliyoga/France (www.kaliyoga.com) in Provence’s Luberon; and LuxYoga (www.luxyoga.com) on the French Riviera.
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 place 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. The school reopened in 2014 after 2 years of renovations; further details can be found online.
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 briséeand mousse au chocolat.The best-known courses last 10 weeks and cost 8,950€, after which you are awarded a certificate. While you could spend up to a year here and earn a prestigious diploma, many enthusiasts prefer a less intense immersion, opting for a 4-day workshop (from 940€) or a 1- to 2-hour demonstration class (from 45€).
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 offers small classes by professional chefs in both French and English, including the popular French Macaron Class. Prices range from 65€ for 2 hours to 150€ for 4 hours.
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 5-day classes are limited to either 7 students (in Paris) or 10 students (in Provence) and cost $5,500 (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 hours 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. La Cuisine de Madeleine (www.lacuisinedemadeleine.fr; [tel] 03-80-31-72-75) in Dijon offers a wide range of short cookery courses in English including how to make mustard and pain d’épice.
Bordovino (www.bordovino.com) is a specialist in wine tourism in the Bordeaux area, offering everything from 2-hour intensive tasting classes (45€), to an all-day bike trip to St-Emilion and nearby vineyards (145€), to 2- and 3-day all-inclusive trip packages (starting from 250€ per person).
Bike Tours -- Some of the best cycling tours of France are offered by VBT (www.vbt.com; [tel] 800/245-3868), which offers trips in six of the 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 $2,495 per person, with airfare packages also available.
Cycling for Softies (www.cycling-for-softies.co.uk; [tel] 44/161-248-8282) 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-hour day or night tour of Paris by bike in English; adult tickets cost 30€. It also organizes cycling tours of Versailles and Giverny.
Bus Tours -- Most larger cities in France offer hop-on, hop-off bus tours, ideal for scoping out the lay of the land. See specific chapters for details.
Chauffeured Tours -- 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie (www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com; [tel] 08-00-80-06-31) offers chauffeur-driven themed rides around Paris in its colorful fleet of Citroën 2CV. Tours for three start at 10€ per person for 15 minutes and 60€ per person for a 1[bf]1/2-hour tour. The fewer people in the car, the more expensive the tour.
Shopping Tours -- 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 and Cheap and Arts and Antiques. All of the standard tours are 4 to 4[bf]1/2 hours 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.