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9 Days Cooking Holiday for Women in the Loire Valley and in Paris, France

Lady's Only France Cooking Vacations

Embark with Le Calabash 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 learn about cooking. The course provides hands-on opportunities to develop your culinary skills in a practical and supportive learning environment, be on vacation in the most beautiful surroundings, and get a chance to make new friends.

Meet the instructors

Alison & Sidney
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  • 7 days cooking classes
  • Qualified and award-winning chefs
  • Culinary and cultural day-tour in Paris
  • Cheese farm visit and wine and chocolate tasting session
  • Visits to Chateau Chenonceau and the spa with use of the facilities
  • Visit to the local market and cultural tour of Tours
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Daily delicious meals


7 days with instruction in English
Spoken languages: Afrikaans, French, English
The maximum participants in the group is 8
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You will spend six nights in Yzeures-sur-Creuse and two 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 Yzeures-sur-Creuse, you will be housed in one of the following two accommodations, depending on the availability:

Relais Manor House

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.

Les Loges du Parc

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).


Day 1, Wednesday (September 5, 2018)

Arrival after lunch and check in and settle into your accommodation.

19:00 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.

Day 2, Tuesday (September 6, 2018)

09:00 traditional French breakfast

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 and appeared 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.

  • The art of butchering, cooking and working with poultry and duck
  • Fricasse of Guinea fowl with Morrels and a Touraine sauce
  • Seasonal duck dish
  • Pommes fondantes, dauphinoises and seasonal vegetable dish.

For lunch, you will enjoy a dish you prepared this morning with Alison and Sidney’s favorite French artisan cheese and freshly baked bread. After, your journey into the pastry kitchen begins.

In the afternoon, Alison shares her take on a Trio of Gourmet Brûlées. This is not the normal Brûlee class, but rather a hands on class on how to create stunning desserts using brûlee as the main focus on your plate.

17:00 Leisure time until dinner.

19:30 you will enjoy a dinner demonstration by both Alison and Sidney.

Day 3, Thursday (September 7, 2018)

08.30 traditional French breakfast.

09.30 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.

At 12:30, you will have lunch in the charming Orangerie restaurant set in the gardens of Château Chenonceau. After lunch, you will head back to Le Calabash, where you will participate in a hands-on cooking class of ice-cream and Alison’s mousse au chocolat. At 7 p.m. you will enjoy a seasonal dish for dinner.

At 19:00 enjoy a seasonal dish for dinner.

Day 4, Friday (September 8, 2018)

Depart for the historical city of 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. You will visit the old town which clusters around place Plumereau; its old houses restored to their former glory. This is the place for pavement cafes and people watching in the summer but 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’re 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 fourth century and helped spread Christianity through 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.

You will enjoy a traditional French lunch at le Calabash, prepared by Alison.

At 14.00 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.

  • Exotic chocolate macaron
  • Seasonal macaron creation
  • Taking the macaron on a contemporary journey into the future.

17.30 leisure time until dinner

At 19.30 you will dine with the Bond’s friend at a Michelin Starred Restaurant.

Day 5, Saturday (September 9, 2018)

This morning at 04:00, 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. Fish will include hands on tuition of;

  • Sidney’s “smoke, fire and spice” fruits of the sea creation
  • Preparing and working with Mussels, fresh from our Atlantic coast.
  • Preparing a seasonal Fish course using our Fresh Ocean catch of The Day.

For lunch, you will enjoy our dishes we prepared this morning.

15:30 leisure time till 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 19:00, you will 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!

Day 6, Sunday (September 10, 2017)

Traditional French breakfast.

After Breakfast you will visit local Goats Cheese farm and producer where you will taste and experience what is known as the best goat’s cheese in the world, St Maures AOC.

When you return from the goat’s cheese farm, you are exposed to the art of Soufflé and preparing a few of Sidney’s favourites using Goats cheese.

Cheese soufflé

Soufflé grand marnier

Sidney’s hands of French bread making

Lunch in the Orchard

This afternoon, Alison’s shares her dessert of the moment, during a hands on cooking class. Using local and fresh ingredients, Alison will guide you through preparing a dessert to impress even the most discerning guest.

You will also assist Sidney in preparing for tonight’s Zulu BBQ and learn to prepare some of the most exotic dishes from the African continent.

19:30 certificate presentation and champagne

For farewell dinner tonight you will take part in Sidney’s Zulu BBQ “A Taste of Africa”. Will include recipes from Sidney’s childhood which he will share with you.

Mozambique chicken Peri Peri

Chakalaka sauce

Lamb samosas

Durban vegetable bhajis

Putu pap

Sidney’s childhood nanny, Edith’s Fruit Chutney

Day 7, Monday (September 11, 2017)

08:00 early departure after breakfast to the City of Lights, Paris.

13.00 lunch at Au Pied de Cochon situated in Les Halles area and is a Parisian institution. 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 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 meals back home.

You check in to the hotel where you can settle in. Dinner is for your own account.

Day 8, Tuesday (September 12, 2018)

10.30 after a leisurely breakfast you will meet the guide who will be taking you on an exclusive food tour, through Paris’s best pastry, chocolate, charcuterie and cheese shops. At the end of this tour you will enjoy a lunch with these specialities whilst being told about the history and stories behind them. The afternoon is yours to enjoy Paris.

20.00 on the last evening you will have the farewell dinner at the famous Le Train Bleu where you will reminisce on the Culinary Adventure through France together and make a toast to all those wonderful memories!

Day 9, Wednesday (September 13, 2018)

Departures after breakfast.

Included excursions

  • Day trip to the city of Tours with the old town and Place Plumereau
  • Exclusive guided food tour through Paris’ best pastry, chocolate, charcuterie, and cheese shops
  • Trip to a local spa with possibility of using the facilities
  • Visit and dine at the famous Le Train Bleu, a restaurant decorated in Belle Époque styles and that has many parts featuring on the list of historical monuments
  • Visit and shop at Les Halles food market
  • Visit Rue Montmartre, home to Paris’ kitchen and chef shops
  • Visit the Cathedral Saint Gatien
  • Visit the local Sainte Maures Goat's Cheese Farm
  • Visit to a 17th century cave in Paris for a cheese and wine tasting workshop
  • Visit to Château Chenonceau


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 both Yzeures-sur-Creuse and 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 Thursday (as it is replaced by a tasting of Loire Valley wines and French chocolates) and on Saturday, and no lunch on Saturday (there will be a cheese and wine tasting workshop instead).

The culinary holiday begins with a welcome champagne cocktail and buffet on day one; the farewell dinner will be held on day six, before leaving for Paris, and it consists of Sidney’s Zulu barbecue. There will also be one last dinner on Sunday, at Alison and Sidney’s favorite restaurant in Paris, Le Train Bleu.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

Things to do (optional)

You will have free afternoons on Monday, Wednesday, and on Thursday, 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.

While visiting Rue Montmartre, you can purchase some of the small pastry and kitchen pieces of equipment you may need to prepare your meals back home.

On Sunday, you can also take an optional walk around the Marais and enjoy its many boutiques, bars, and gardens.

Spa treatments

Entrance into the local spa and use of the facilities are included in the price. This excludes specialized spa treatments.

Moreover, 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.

What's included

  • 2 days trip to Paris
  • 3 glasses of selected wine with the meals
  • 6 lunches and six dinners
  • 7 days cooking classes
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Daily breakfasts
  • Day trip to the city of Tours and Place Plumereau
  • Entrance into the spa for use of the facilities
  • Exclusive guided food tour through Paris
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Personalized apron and recipe folder
  • Transport for all activities in the itinerary
  • Visit and shop at Les Halles food market
  • Visit to Château Chenonceau and the Cathedral Saint Gatien
  • Visit to the local Sainte Maures Goat's Cheese Farm
  • Wine and chocolate tasting session
  • Wine and cheese tasting workshop

What's not included

  • Additional nights’ accommodation
  • Drinks that are personally ordered or excess wine consumed at meals
  • Laundry
  • Optional excursions or meals
  • Personal expenses
  • Phone calls
  • Specialized spa treatments
  • Transport from and to airport or station

How to get there

Arrival by airplane

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’.

Arrival by train

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.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 100% of the total price.
  • The deposit is fully refundable if the booking is cancelled before the arrival date.
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