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The new flavors, techniques, and skills that you will learn during your French culinary vacation at Le Calabash will enable you to follow your own flair and imagination back home on Christmas day. All you need to bring to the class is a love for food and the desire to learn about cooking. The course provides a supportive learning environment with plenty of hands-on opportunities to develop your culinary skills, as well as the chance to be on vacation in some of the most beautiful surroundings.
You will spend five nights in the Loire Valley, and three nights in Paris. Le Calabash strives to ensure you have comfort, service, and attention to detail second to none during your stay.
During your stay in the Loire Valley, 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).
Arrive after lunch, check in, and settle into your accommodation. At 7:30 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’ dinner in the old stable at Le Calabash.
After a traditional French breakfast it is time to visit the local goat cheese farm. Here you will where you will get to meet the producer, and taste and experience what is known as the best goat cheese in the world, St Maures AOC.
When returning from the goat’s cheese farm, you will use the cheese purchased to prepare two Le Calabash classics:
For lunch, you will enjoy what you have cooked in the morning. In the afternoon, you will prepare one of Le Calabash's most popular dishes:
Dinner is also included.
After the traditional French breakfast, today you will enter Alison’s world of desserts and pastry, where she will share with you her passion for creating and preparing some of the world’s most sought-after classics, on which she has put her own stamp; these include:
After lunch, you will be taught the best catch for each season, how to identify your fish and how to ensure it is fresh. Dishes will include:
The class finishes at 5:30 p.m. and you will have leisure time until dinner. Tonight, Alison and Sidney take you to dinner to their friend, Michelin star Jacky Dallay, at the renowned Promenade Restaurant in Le Petit Pressigny.
After the traditional French breakfast, you will learn to make festive croquembouche with nougatine, a wonderful table centerpiece for your Christmas lunch.
After lunch, you will visit Chateau Chenonceau to experience its décor at this festive time of the year. You will have the early afternoon 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. The castle was loved, administrated, and protected by women, who were all extraordinary and who, for the most part, have marked history.
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.
Tonight you will have dinner in Amboise. The royal Château at Amboise was confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, when it became a favored royal residence and was extensively rebuilt. King Charles VIII died at the château in 1498 after hitting his head on a door lintel. Here you can also visit the chapel in which Leonardo de Vinci is buried.
After the traditional French breakfast, you will depart and spend the morning in Tours, where you can enjoy Les Halles food market and do a little sightseeing. You will visit the best bakery in Tours 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 can also stroll the smaller, narrow streets like Rue Briconnet and 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 prepare and learn how to make and present a spectacular centerpiece, called Bûche de Noël, for your Christmas table. Bûche de Noël is the traditional dessert served near Christmas in France; its name originally referred to the Yule log itself, and was transferred to the dessert only after this custom had fallen out of use, presumably during the first half of the 20th century.
For dinner tonight, the Bond family will be your hosts for the Le Calabash approach to a festive table.
After the traditional French breakfast, you will prepare a trio of festive macarons using:
After lunch, you will depart for Paris, check into the hotel, and settle into your room.
Tonight you can enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Christmas market along the Champs Elysees, just a short walk from your hotel. Here you can also partake in the Street Food and have a glass of Mulled wine.
Dinner is for your own account tonight
After the traditional French breakfast, you will visit Rue Montmartre, home to Paris’s Kitchen and chef shops where you can purchase some of the small pastry and kitchen pieces of equipment you may need to prepare your festive meal back home on Christmas day.
You will have lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, a Parisian institution that is situated in Les Halles area. Au Pied de Cochon is also highly regarded for its setting, typical of leading Parisian brasseries, and its huge terrace overlooking a pedestrian street with a view of the Saint-Eustache Church.
This afternoon, you will visit the Christmas market at Place de la Trocadero with its Chalets selling artisan Christmas gifts and decorations. Here stands the Eiffel Tower which is adorned with its golden covering that sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour whilst its beacon shines over Paris, the City of Lights.
Tonight your adventure continues with champagne and the show at Le Moulin Rouge! Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.
Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club's decor still contains much of the romance of fin de siècle France.
You will have breakfast at 8:45 a.m., then go to the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps to indulge in a little time on your own to do some last chance Christmas shopping. Visit Marche ‘L’Estaminet’ des Enfants Rouges in the heart of Le Marais where you will have the choice of many places for a light lunch. Le Marais is the closest you will get to the feel of medieval Paris and has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other area in Paris.
This afternoon, the Bonds will share with you a few of Paris’ unknown and secret little shopping streets with small boutique-styled shops where the locals do their festive and day to day shopping.
There will be a farewell dinner at Alison and Sidney’s favorite dinner restaurant in Paris, Le Train Bleu.
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 flavors 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.
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 vacation will take place in the Loire Valley and in Paris, 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 and three glasses of selected wine with meals are included in the price, as are most lunches and dinners. There is no dinner included on day six, and no lunch on day eigth.
The culinary holiday begins with a welcome champagne cocktail and buffet on day one, and ends with a farewell dinner on day eigth at Alison and Sidney’s favorite restaurant in Paris, Le Train Bleu.
You will have a free afternoon on your third day, when you can relax, walk along the river, cycle around the Yzeures-sur-Creuse 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.
In Paris, you can go last-minute Christmas shopping at the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. On Rue Montmartre, home to Paris’ kitchen and chef shops, you can choose to purchase some of the small pastry and kitchen pieces of equipment you may need to prepare your festive meal back home on Christmas day.
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 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’.
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’.
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.
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