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At Le Calabash, you embark on a French culinary vacation that will open new doors to flavors, techniques, and skills that will enable you to follow your own flair and imagination. The only qualifications needed are a love for food and the desire to lean about cooking. The course provides hands-on opportunity to develop your culinary skills in a practical and supportive learning environment, be on vacation in the most beautiful surroundings, and get the chance to make new friends.
Le Calabash strives to ensure you have comfort, service, and attention to detail second to none during your stay. You will be staying 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).
Arrive after lunch, check in, and settle into your accommodation. At 7 p.m. there will be a welcome champagne cocktail and the opportunity to meet and get to know your fellow 'Culinary Adventurers', followed by Alison and Sidney’s ‘Taste of the Loire Valley’ buffet in the “Old Stable” at Le Calabash.
After a traditional French breakfast served at 9 a.m., you will start your morning cooking classes. Today you will be taught hands-on some of Le Calabash’s most popular dishes. Two of the dishes you will be taught are Gold Medal dishes that appear in the ‘Le Calabash A Culinary Adventure' cookery book. These dishes are simplified and easy for you to prepare back home in your own kitchen. You will learn the following:
During all your classes you will be exposed to accompaniment or side dish preparation as well.
For lunch, you will enjoy a dish you prepared this morning with Alison and Sidney’s favorite French artisanal cheese and freshly baked bread. After, your journey into the pastry kitchen begins.
This afternoon, Alison shares 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 will finish at 5 p.m. and you will have leisure time until dinner. At 7:30 p.m. you will enjoy a dinner demonstration with Alison and Sidney.
This morning at 4 a.m., the fish delivery arrived off the boats that came in late last night at the Atlantic port of La Rochelle, a two-hour drive from le Calabash. You will be taught the best catch for each season and how to identify your fish and how to ensure it is fresh. The day will include techniques of preparing your fish.
For lunch, you enjoy one of the dishes you prepared this morning. Then at 3.30 p.m. you have free time until dinner. You can relax or explore the area this afternoon, cycle, walk along the river, play boules in the village square, or why not spoil yourself to a relaxing massage, or spa treatment at La Roche Posay’s renowned spa? You could also visit the picturesque town Angles sur Anglin or go to le Grand Pressigny.
At 7 p.m. you return to Le Calabash for a tasting of Loire Valley wines and French chocolates. Chocolate is the confectionery match to wine. Perhaps this is because the process of making chocolate is very similar to wine. Both cocoa beans and wine are fermented with the very same type of yeast. No wonder there are so many wine and chocolate lovers! Then enjoy dinner at le Calabash.
Depart for the historical city Tours and its fine food market. 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.
This afternoon you will explore the chocolates and couvertures of the world as well as learn the art of chocolate work, which will include tempering, ganache and moulding, Alison’s Mousse au Chocolate and hands-on participation in a chocolate creation that is designed to impress.
At 5:30 p.m., relax and spend your free time until dinner. Tonight at 7:30 p.m., you will be taken to a fine dining experience.
At 8:30 a.m., enjoy a traditional French breakfast. Then, at 9:30 a.m. you depart for Chateau Chenonceau where you have the morning to explore Chenonceau at your leisure.
Property of the Crown, then royal residence, Chenonceau Castle is an exceptional site, not only because of its original design, the richness of its collections, its furniture and its decorations, but also because of its destiny, was loved, administrated and protected by women, who were all extraordinary and who, for the most part have marked history. For the historical background, the “Château des Dames” was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, and successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers then Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau was protected from the hardship of the revolution by Madame Dupin.
Enjoy lunch in Chenonceau at 12:30 p.m. You will have lunch in the charming Orangerie restaurant set in the gardens of Château Chenonceau. Head back to le Calabash after lunch where you will master choux pastry and participate in a fun hands-on cooking class of profiteroles, tuiles and sugar garnishes.
You will enjoy a seasonal dish for dinner tonight at 7 p.m.
Enjoy a traditional French breakfast, then get your hands on the following
Next, you will have lunch in the orchard, followed by Sidney’s smoke, fire and spice creations.
At 7:30 p.m., you will sip some champagne and be presented your certificate. For your farewell dinner tonight, you will take part in Sidney’s Zulu barbecue, “A Taste of Africa”. This will include recipes from Sidney’s childhood, which he will share with you:
After the traditional French breakfast, it is time to leave. Departure takes place by 11 a.m.
The classes are limited to eight, which allows Alison and Sidney to give personal attention to all guests. Alison and Sidney are award-winning chefs with many years of international experience. They take traditional French cooking and introduce exotic flavours and traditions from around the world to create an exciting culinary adventure. You will leave Le Calabash with a new-found confidence and enthusiasm, impatient to return to your own kitchen to experiment with your skills.
This vacation will take place in the Loire Valley, in France. Le Calabash Petit Conservatoire de la Cuisine is located on the river Creuse in the heart of the Indre et Loire region, set in a small French hamlet on the edge of the local forest. The region is home to the finest goat’s cheese producers and wine-making has been deeply rooted here for centuries. This area is simply known as France’s ‘Bread Basket’.
The Touraine is without question the home of the European Renaissance which brought with it a rich and diverse culinary history and depth. Set in a small hamlet surrounded by fields of sunflowers, rapeseed, wheat, and corn on the edge of the local forests, the school is also close to the river and quaint little villages which you can stroll or cycle through.
Le Calabash shares the Loire Valley and its culinary and cultural heritage with you, using only the finest and freshest ingredients available seasonally.
Daily breakfasts are included in the price, as are the welcome champagne cocktail and buffet on day one, lunches and dinners on days two, three, four, five, and six.
The breakfasts are usually traditional French meals, except for the one on day four, when you will have pastries for breakfast instead. For lunch, you will have artisanal cheese and freshly baked bread on day two, and a traditional French lunch on day four. On day five, you will enjoy for lunch the dishes you prepared that morning. Finally, for the farewell dinner on day six you will have a Zulu barbecue.
On day five, there will also be a tasting of Loire Valley wines and French chocolates. Three glasses of selected wine will complement the meals.
You will have a free afternoon on Tuesday, when you can relax, walk along the river, cycle around the area, or book a treatment at the local spa. You can also visit the picturesque town Angles sur Anglin, or go to le Grand Pressigny.
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.
You can also book your flight to arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) or at Paris Orly Airport (ORY). Both airports are within an hour and a half by train to Chatellerault, Tours, and Poitiers stations where Le Calabash can pick you up upon request and transfer you to your ‘Culinary Adventure’. Transfer from Chatellerault will not be charged. Transfers form Poitiers can be arranged for the price of 45 EUR.
Please book your flight to arrive at Poitiers-Biard Airport (PIS) in Poitiers, or at Tours Val de Loire Airport (TUF) in Tours. Le Calabash can pick you up from the train stations there upon request and transfer you to your ‘Culinary Adventure’.
Please take the Eurostar, then the highly reliable TGV. There are two ways to get here. The TGV runs three trains per day directly from Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle Airport to Le Calabash which is an hour and a half away.
You can take the Eurostar from the UK and change platforms at Lille for the TGV to Tours (note the station name is ‘Saint-Pierre des corps’) or Poitiers. Le Calabash is approximately an hour from either city. You can also take Eurostar to Paris, Gare du Nord, and then a bit of sightseeing perhaps before catching the TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Chatellerault, a short 20 minute drive from Le Calabash.