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You will embark with Le Calabash on a culinary tour throughout France that will introduce you to a world of new flavors and techniques. You will gain new skills during your hands-on cooking classes that will enable you to follow your own flair and imagination back home. Throughout this authentic food tour of some of the most enchanting places in France you will have the opportunity to develop your culinary skills and also sample some of the best French dishes.
You will spend your nights in different locations in France. Le Calabash strives to ensure you have comfort, service, and attention to detail second to none during your stay.
During your stay in Yzeures-sur-Creuse in the Loire Vally, you will be housed in one of the following two accommodations, depending on the availability:
This is a charming 18th century coach inn, just three minutes from Le Calabash. It has been renovated to the most modern standards of comfort to provide one of the region's finest hotels. However, the owners have ensured it has retained its charm and character.
Set in the small tranquil French village of Yzeures sur Creuse on the river Creuse in the Loire Valley, it overlooks the village square and church, which includes a 15th century shrine and the museum of ‘Mado Robin,’ France’s famous opera soprano as this is where she was born.
The beamed bedrooms are all of a superior standard and decorated in period style, with en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and flat screen TV. The bar and lounge offer a comfortable area to relax with a grand fireplace. You can also enjoy the calm of one of the two picturesque gardens with a glass of Loire wine.
If you enjoy the outdoors, there is a swimming pool and a tennis court, and you are provided with canoes to explore either the Creuse or Gartempe Rivers, or discover the area by bicycle on the numerous cycle routes which are also provided. You are on the doorsteps of the Brenne, famous for its bird life, lakes and endless walks.
This charming, four-star hotel is situated in the center of the pretty spa town of La Roche Posay. The hotel with its imposing Belle Epoque façade, surrounded by its rose garden and pivoineraie, thermal pool, and a large terrace with linden trees creates a unique and exceptional place in the village.
Completely renovated in a chic country spirit with a hint of a “British touch”, it offers tasteful large hotel rooms and suites where each room has its own identity; wood, amaranth, coriander, and green countryside. The exterior has kept its Art Nouveau charm with its architectural frieze.
The hotel offers a relaxing pool and bathing area where guests can soak up the French sunshine. Inside, there is an atmosphere of peace and authenticity with the solid wood floors and fireplace in the lobby. It is comfortable with character and charm. Les Loges du Parc four-star hotel is part of the prestigious Châteaux and Hôtels Collection (Alain Ducasse Group).
Meet your hosts, Alison, Sidney, and Rebekah at 10:30 a.m. at Charles de Gaulle Airport. You will then make your way to Normandy where you begin your culinary tour de France in the picturesque village of Camembert.
A soft, creamy, surface-ripened cow milk cheese, Camembert is a true symbol of France. In just two centuries it has become so familiar that it is now considered part of France's national gastronomic heritage. A local speciality that is also very popular beyond borders, it is paradoxically the epitome of French refinement.
In 1791 during the French revolution and just a short distance from here in Beaumoncel manor, Camembert was born out of an encounter between a cantankerous priest and Marie Harel, a farmer living in the Auge.
In the heart of the village of Camembert a late 18th - early 19th century building has been restored to become home to the Maison de Camembert. It offers a showcase for the most emblematic of French cheeses and pays tribute to Marie Harel in the historic place in which this great saga began.
At 2 p.m. this afternoon you will visit the Maison du Camembert, where you will be able to discover its museum in an authentic 18th century farmhouse and taste the different types of the Camembert cheese.
At 4 p.m. you will visit a family domaine of over 30 hectares where they have been making Normandy’s famous Cider, Pommeau, and Calvados for many years. You will enjoy a tasting paired with local cheese, charcuterie, and pâtisserie.
Later you will make your way further up to the coast where you will check into your hotel in the picturesque town of Bayeux.
Tonight enjoy a French dinner in the restaurant of the hotel at 8 p.m.
After breakfast at 9 a.m., you will visit Omaha Beach, one of the Normandy landing beaches during the Second World War.
Omaha Beach was the most intensely fought after beach on D-Day on June 6th 1944. Omaha Beach is six miles wide, the largest of all the five beaches. The whole of the beach at Omaha is overlooked by cliffs which made attacking the area very difficult. The Americans were given the task of doing just this. Many of the soldiers drowned during the approach from ships offshore or were killed by defending fire from German troops placed on heights surrounding the beach.
By nightfall, the Americans had gained a hold on the beach and its immediate hinterland. They suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha - and this is mainly why the attack is remembered today. It is easy to overlook the fact that despite the casualties, 34,000 troops had landed by the end of the day on this blooded beach.
You will also visit the The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944.
This is the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
You will then be spending the afternoon at the renowned Mont Saint Michel where you will also have lunch. This is one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights. Set in the mesmerizing bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, the island draws the eye from great distances. Mont Saint Michel has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. It is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Dinner will be at 8 p.m. in a 16th century building in the heart of Bayeux.
After an early breakfast at 8 a.m., it is time to leave for Le Calabash, Alison and Sidney’s cooking school set in the Loire Valley, the heart of France’s finest food region. You will enjoy hands-on cooking classes with award-winning chefs in a pleasant and peaceful hamlet.
Arrive in the Loire Valley by noon, in time to enjoy a brasserie-type lunch in the local restaurant.
This afternoon you will master Pâte à Choux, which is the basic recipe for several French classics. Today you will prepare a gastronomic take on the eclair and profiterole, as well as fillings to impress
You will also learn how to master one of Le Calabash’s renowned ice creams.
Tonight you dine at 7:30 p.m. with the Bonds' friend, Michelin-starred Jacky Dallay at the renowned Promenade Restaurant in Le Petit Pressigny.
After a traditional French breakfast at 9:30 a.m., Sidney will share with you how to take seasonal fruits of the sea and create a traditional plateau de fruits de mer. This is a three storey extravaganza accompanied by a variety of sauces and dips that can be enjoyed around the table for dinner tonight.
Enjoy from 1 p.m. a seasonal French buffet for lunch in the orchard.
Depart at 2 p.m. for Villandry where you will have the morning to explore the Château and its outstanding gardens.
The Château of Villandry is the last of the great châteaux of the Loire built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. The sober elegance of its architecture combined with the charm of its outstanding gardens make this one of the jewels of world heritage.
The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century. Acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I, a new château was constructed around the original 14th century keep where King Philip II of France once met Richard I of England to discuss peace.
It is also known for its beautiful gardens. During the French Revolution the property was confiscated and in the early 19th century, Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his brother Jérôme Bonaparte. Its famous Renaissance gardens include a water garden, ornamental flower gardens, and vegetable gardens. These are laid out in formal patterns created with low box hedges.
In 1934, Château de Villandry was designated a Monument historique. Like all the other Châteaux of the Loire Valley, it is a World Heritage Site.
You will enjoy a wine tasting session in Chinon at 5 p.m., and tonight at 8 p.m. there will be a chocolate and wine pairing session, followed by dinner.
You will begin your day with an early morning coffee at Le Calabash before departing for Tours market, one of the finest in France. Visit Tours' best bakery to choose your breakfast pastries which you will enjoy in a little market coffee shop. This morning, you will explore both the indoor Les Halles food market and the twice weekly outdoor market.
Visit the old town which clusters around Place Plumereau; its old houses restored to their former glory. Today this is the place for pavement cafes and people watching in the summer, but you will also stroll the smaller, narrow streets like Rue Briconnet and you will step back into the historic medieval city.
To the south, you will find a Romanesque basilica, the Cloitre de St-Martin and the new Basilique de St-Martin. You are in the place which was once on the great pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. St-Martin was a soldier who became bishop of Tours in the 4th century and helped spread Christianity throughout France. His remains, rediscovered in 1860, are now in the crypt of the new Basilique.
The other old part, the cathedral quarter, on the other side of the main Rue Nationale, is dominated by the Cathédrale St-Gatien, a flamboyant Gothic building with 12th century decorated stonework covering the outside. Inside, the highlights are the 16th century tomb of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne’s two children, and the stained glass.
For lunch, you will enjoy a traditional French meal at Le Calabash, prepared by Alison.
From 2 p.m., Alison will share with you her passion for creating and preparing one of the world’s most sought-after classics, the macaron, on which she has put her own stamp:
The class finishes in the afternoon to allow you to rest or take a last walk down to the river and prepare for your last evening in the Loire Valley.
At 7:30 tonight you will have a glass of the local Vouvray sparkling wine and attend the certificate presentation. This will be followed by Sidney’s lamb dish in the summer orchard around the fire.
After the traditional French breakfast at 8:30 a.m., you will depart and drive to Saint Emilion.
You will have lunch at 1 p.m. in Saint Emilion at one of its oldest restaurants dating back to 1848, followed by a stroll through the streets of this World Heritage town.
Saint Émilion’s history goes back to prehistoric times and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint Émilion as early as the second century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine.
The town was named after the monk Émilion, a travelling confessor who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area.
This afternoon you will visit Les Cordeliers, a preserved 14th Century cloister, based in the heart of this picturesque World Heritage Site. This spectacular site also includes gardens and a network of underground cellars and passages where superior sparkling wines have been produced since 1892. A guided tour of all the underground cellars and passages is the perfect way to learn all about the history of Les Cordeliers and get to know about the traditional wine making techniques.
This trip to the heart of Saint Emilion will be followed by a wine tasting on the patio or in the leafy garden.
You will then head into the city of Bordeaux to check into your hotel. Tonight, you will dine at a Michelin star restaurant from 7:30 p.m.
After breakfast at 9 a.m., you will make your way to Dune du Pilat. At 117 meters at its highest point, this is the tallest sand dune in Europe. At the top, a gorgeous panorama over the bay, the ocean, and endless pine forests will reward you for your efforts.
You will have lunch on site, overlooking the beach, then drive to Lège-Cap Ferret to sample fresh oysters at a local oyster farm, for which this area is famous. Meet the oyster producer and learn more about the traditional methods of oyster cultivation while enjoying a complimentary tasting of fresh Arcachon oysters accompanied by a glass of local white wine.
Finally, head back to the hotel where you will be free to make your own plans for the evening. Of course, Le Calabash will be on hand to help you with your restaurant choices. Dinner is for your own account tonight.
At 8 a.m. after breakfast, you will head to the medieval town of Carcassonne. Occupied since the Neolithic, Carcassonne is located in the Aude plain between two great axes of circulation linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea, and the Massif Central to the Pyrénées. Its strategic importance was quickly recognized by the Romans who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire, and was later taken over in the fifth century by the Visigoths who founded the city.
Also thriving as a trading post due to its location, it saw many rulers who successively built up its fortifications, until its military significance was greatly reduced by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.
Lunch will be on site, in a traditional French brasserie. You will then have the early afternoon to discover this beautiful town, before heading off to Avignon in Provence.
At 7:30 p.m. you will have a French dinner in one of Avignon’s best restaurants, and enjoy local ingredients.
After breakfast at 9 a.m., head to Château le Bois to enjoy a walk through the stunning lavender fields. You will also be able to purchase home-made products made with lavender from the fields you will be visiting.
You will visit a producer of local olive oil where you will enjoy a lunch on the terrace under the Provençale sun.
This afternoon, you will go back through history in the medieval town of Avignon which is known as an UNESCO world heritage site. You will discover the ‘Palais de Papes’ from the 12th century, the Cathedral of Avignon, and the famous Pont d’Avignon.
Leave this historical town and make your way to Nice la Belle, the beautiful city of Nice. Check into your hotel and freshen up before enjoying the famous Moules et Frites on the outstanding Mediterranean seafront on the Promenade des Anglais.
After breakfast at 9:30 a.m., you will be taken on an exclusive visit of the Niçoise markets with Michelin star South African chef, Jan Hendrick, where you will discover fresh local seafood and seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Lunch today will be at Jan’s Michelin-starred restaurant. This afternoon you are free to stroll around the city, do some shopping, have a drink on the famous Promenade des Anglais, or simply relax and enjoy the beach.
This evening you are free to make your own plans for dinner; Le Calabash will of course give you any advice you need, but dinner is for your own account tonight.
After a fairly early start for breakfast at 8 a.m., you will depart for one of France’s major cities for French cuisine, Lyon.
You will have lunch at a Bouchon, a famous type of restaurant where you eat French specialities from only fresh local produce. This type of restaurant only exists in Lyon - it is extremely traditional and very famous. Here you can have local dishes such as sausages, duck pâté, or roast pork, along with local wines
In the afternoon, you will visit the famous market Les Halles of Lyon with Sidney, who will take you through the market and give you an in-depth description of all the local produce. You may want to take the oppurtunity to buy some of the praliné rouge to take home with you, one of Lyon’s specialities.
The rest of the day you are free to explore. Lyon is a walker’s dream, so take your time and amble through the alleys and streets discovering its speciality and gourmet food shops and restaurants. Dinner is for your own account tonight.
Depart after breakfast at 9:30 a.m. for Le Cité du Chocolat, home of the best chocolate in the world, Valrhona. After a guided tour, you will enjoy a chocolate tasting session.
Lunch today will be in a local crêperie. This afternoon, you will be visiting the Beaujolais region, famous for its wines. Here you will visit a a family-owned domaine where the owners will guide you through their vineyard and wine caves, and you will finish with some wine tasting.
At 7.30 p.m. tonight, you will dine at Paul Bocuse’s renowned three Michelin star restaurant. Paul Bocuse is the king of chefs and chef of kings. He holds his three Michelin Stars since 1965 and is known as one of the greatest chefs in the world.
You will depart early after breakfast at 8 a.m. to the City of Lights, Paris.
You will have lunch on arrival at a well-known French brasserie that serves regional specialities in a Belle Epoque atmosphere. Then it is time to visit Rue Montmartre, home to Paris’ kitchen and chef shops, where you can purchase some of the small pastry and kitchen pieces of equipment you may need to prepare your meals back home.
Before checking into your hotel, you will take part in a cheese and wine tasting workshop in a 17th century cave.
At 8 p.m. tonight you dine on the Bâteaux Croisères on the river Seine, where you will enjoy a glass of champagne whilst discovering Paris’ renowned monuments.
After a leisurely breakfast, you will meet your guide at 10:30 a.m. The guide will be taking you on an exclusive food tour through Paris’ best pastry, chocolate, charcuterie, and cheese shops. At the end of this tour, you will enjoy lunch with all of these specialties, whilst being told about the history and stories behind them.
The afternoon is yours to enjoy Paris and its many treasures.
For your last evening together, you will have your farewell dinner at 8 p.m. at the famous Le Train Bleu where you will reminisce on your culinary adventure through France together and make a toast to all those wonderful memories!
After breakfast it is time to say farewell.
Alison is an award-winning chef, with many years of international experience. After meeting her future husband in Swaziland, they have cooked together, including for several heads of state, among which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Richard Attenbourgh, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Cher, Sylvester Stallone, U2, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton. Alison has won recognition by major food guides and has won medals internationally. Alison and Sidney like to introduce exotic flavors to traditional French cooking, and give personal attention to all guests.
Sidney is an award-winning chef, with many years of international experience. Since meeting his future wife in Swaziland, they have cooked together, including for several heads of state, among which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince William, as well for celebrities like Madonna, Cher, and Sylvester Stallone. Apart from the recognition of major food guides, Sidney has won international medals. Sidney was Captain of The British Craft Guild Team for 2000/2001 when they achieved a record medal total.
This food tour will take place in various locations throughout France, namely Normandy (with Camembert, Bayeux, Omaha Beach, Mont Saint Michel), the Loire Valley (with Yzeures-sur-Creuse, Villandry, and Tours), Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, Dune du Pilat, Carcassonne, Provence (with Avignon and Château le Bois), Nice, Lyon, Valrhona, and Paris.
Daily breakfasts, lunches, and selected wines with meals are included in the price, as are most dinners. There are no dinners included on days seven, ten, and eleven - Le Calabash will of course give you any advice you need with choosing a restaurant. There will be plenty of cheese, oyster, wine and chocolate tasting sessions throughout this 15-day food tour.
The culinary holiday ends with a farewell dinner on day 14, at Alison and Sidney’s favorite restaurant in Paris, Le Train Bleu, where you will reminisce together on your culinary adventure through France and make a toast to all those wonderful memories!
There will be some free afternoons during the tour when you can engage in optional activities.
On day 10 in Nice you will have some free time in the afternoon to stroll around the city, do some shopping, have a drink on the famous Promenade des Anglais,
or simply relax and enjoy the beach.
On day 11, you can go shopping at Les Halles of Lyon; keep an eye out on the praline rouge, one of the local specialties. The rest of the day you are free to explore. Lyon is a walker’s dream, so take your time and amble through the alleys and streets, discovering its specialty and gourmet food shops and restaurants.
On day 13 in Paris, you can visit Rue Montmartre, home to Paris’ kitchen and chef shops, where you can purchase some of the small pastry and kitchen pieces of equipment you may need to prepare your meals back home.
On day 14, the afternoon is yours to enjoy Paris and its many treasures.
Le Calabash can provide you with a list of treatments in advance, so that you can choose the one you would like beforehand and they will book it for you for an additional cost. Please note that if cancelled, the treatment is non refundable.
Please book your flight to arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Transfer from the airport is included. Le Calabash will pick you up from the airport.
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