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Stories from our groups of women traveling to France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland. Plus info and travel tips about the countries we travel to.

Archive for the ‘Cultural tours to France’

What is fun to do in Provence, part 2

October 09, 2012 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Provence 2 Comments →

I continue my serie of pictures with what guests in my group do in Provence.

During their downtime, Cathy and Sandra like to rest and have a glass of wine:


Kaye prefers to just watch the world go by…


…while Carol spend her free time painting and making postcards:


But what are Kay and Susan doing? Nobody have seen them in awhile. Finally we got a phone call from Susan asking what is the name of the hotel we are staying at. What???? Where are they? They actually went to town, the town of Saint Remy, for some shopping and to buy a pizza for dinner. They walked back with their pizza, and walked and walked but didn’t find the hotel.


They finally stopped in another hotel and told them that they were lost. The gracious owner from the other hotel asked them what hotel they were looking for but they didn’t remember the hotel’s name…..They told the lady that the hotel had 2 swimming pools, the food was excellent and the garden very beautiful!!!! Well, that didn’t really help the owner to locate the hotel. They also told her they were part of Jackie’s group. I wish I would be so popular that the enitre town would know who Jackie is….The owner showed them a brochure with different hotels but they couldn’t find it.

Kay was concern….Not about  getting lost but she was worried her pizza would be cold! They finally asked the woman if they could use the wifi connection there and they called us to get the name of the hotel. So they walked and walked till they made  it home with ……a cold pizza.


Besides a cold pizza, the story has an happy ending. They made it back before dark.

What is the most fun in Provence?

October 08, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Provence 1 Comment →

On the trip, everyone has different interests. Lupe visited every church. When she could…because some of the doors were quite huge and heavy, too heavy for Lupe’s muscles:


Laurie preferred to go up and down the stairs:


Really, I mean it, she likes stairs:


Judy and Megan preferred to explore the culinary flavors of French food like lavender ice cream:


But Judy also liked to paint some wonderful watercolors:


And you? What would you like to do when you come to Provence with French Escapade?

We got invited into a French home

October 07, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Women 2 Comments →

It is not everyday that you travel to France and get invited into someone’s home. When you travel to France in a small group with French Escapade, you do.

Our guide, Jackie, had a surprise for us. She invited us into her house in France. Valerie, her friend was our host and had prepared a wonderful lunch for us.


Smoked salmon, rice salad with tuna and beans, hams, tomatoes and mozzarella, corn bread, cereal bread, walnut bread and of course wine. Here, Lupe, Susan and Kaye:


From L to R: Judy, Valerie (our host in the back), Carol, Laurie and Cathy:


Sandra and her mother Kaye:


Christine and her daughter Megan:


The other surprise was the celebration of Carol and Lupe’s birthdays. Valerie had bought some pastries made by the chocolate maker we visited in the morning. Delicious!!!!!




Here is our entire group with our host Valerie (front  right).


It was such a wonderful event and really unexpected. Make sure you go on a French Escapade tour to France to experience the same.

Light show on Bourget Lake in the Alps

October 06, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary No Comments →

Two days ago I mentioned the surprise I had for the group. It was a dinner and light show on the lake. Here are some pictures of the incredible event:

Here is the picture of the boat during the day. We went on the boat at night.


Here is a picture of Lupe and Laurie at dinner on the boat:


Below are Carol and Cathy on the deck watching the show (well, laughing first!!!):

on boat

The cliffs of the wild coast of the Bourget Lake were lit up by the boat to give an amazing  show. Everything in music….Just sensational!


Today, we went to see a chocolate maker in La Cote St Andre in the Isere department of France. Pierre Jouvenal created the first chocolate museum in France, in 1996.



He explained everything about the history of chocolate, the biology of the cocoa tree, the difference between bad and good chocolate made of 100% cocoa butter.

Kaye and Susan bought candies made out of white chocolate and strawberry, the new specialty from the chocolate maker. Susan bought so much chocolate that Pierre asked her if she was going to open a store in the US!!!

choco3Here is our group with Pierre:


But where is Lupe? She is not here? She was still inside the shop and Pierre has already locked the door of the museum, ready to go home. Luckily, Laurie, her roommate on the trip, noticed that Lupe was missing. I guess, it could be worse than being locked in a chocolate store….

Find out about our culture tours to France, Spain, Switzerland and Belgium on

Sun, pottery and walnut oil in the French Alps

October 05, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Women No Comments →

Yesterday, the surprise was a boat ride  with dinner on the Bourget lake. It was also Lupe’s birthday. There was someone else celebrating his birthday, the pilot’s father.


Her came to congratulate Lupe, took a picture of both of them and asked Lupe for her email so he could send her the picture. Nice way to get someone’s contact info. Just kidding!!!  The guy was really friendly and said he loved America.

Today, we went to Chanaz. It is the cuter village in Savoie (in my opinion).

There is a canal going through the village, going from the Rhone river to the Bourget lake, the biggest natural lake in France:


The village is from the medieval time but they have now built very cute wooden houses on the water. You can rent them for holidays. I think I might, they were too cute and in my favorite village…


Before visiting the 19th century mill where walnut oil is made, we stopped in a little cute pottery. The new design of the pottery maker was inspired by the drwings of her 10 years old daughter. She called her new collection “sales gosses”, meaning “mischievous kids”. Kaye felt in love with the design and couldn’t resist her shopping temptation:


The other Kaye and her daughter Sandra felt for for mugs with a different design. It is not made in China but made in Chanaz !


If it was not pottery, it was tea with wonderful exotic flavors, or candies or, of course, the walnut oil that we bought (it is hidden in the orange plastic bags that everyone is carrying):



This morning, we were in Annecy, the little Venice of the Alps: more water and more canals:




Here is the entire group. From L to R: Sandra, Lupe, Kaye, Susan, Carol, Laurie, Kaye, Christine, Judy (you can only se her hair…),  Megan and Cathy.

It was market day so we got a chance to taste all the specialties from Savoie: cheese, salami, honey, …



The weather was very nice. Another wonderful day.

If you too want to share a wonderful experience with French Escapade, check our tours at

Cheese tasting in the French Alps

October 04, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Women No Comments →

Yesterday, a new group has arrived. This time a bit bigger: 11 people. I know it is still a small group but usually I take 8 so it is bigger.

We are staying in the charming town of Aix les Bains, by the Bourget lake. A real feeling of vacation.

Today, we went to Haute-Savoie in the town of Thones to visit a cheese factory. They make raclette, abondance, tomme de savoie and reblochon cheese. The cow in Haute Savoie are mostly the Abondance type. How do you recognize an Abondance cow? She wears sunglasses. Really, she has a brown stain around her eyes:


We had a chance to see the cheese being made then went to the cellar to see how long and how the cheeses age:


We saw a movie about the making of the reblochon and the unique story of how this cheese got its name that means “double milking”  and then …did the tasting of course, everything served with Savoie white wine:




In the afternoon, we went to the biggest ski resort in the world: Chamonix.

Did I take pictures of Mont Blanc? of the glacier? of the “Aiguille du midi”? Well, not exaclty. I took a picture of Mont Blanc but not the mountain but a pastry. Here it is, next to some other ones that are worth being in the picture as well:


Tonight, I have a surprise for the group so I can’t tell you what it will be!!!!!

To join us on our tours to the French Alps, Belgium Provence, Swizterland or Spain, check our site at

Lavender, lavender and more lavender in Provence

June 25, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Nature, Painting tours to France, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women, painting workshops 2 Comments →

Our new group of painters has arrived. The teacher is Sonja Hamilton. This is her fifth trip with us. She taught twice in the French Alps, once in Belgium, last year in Switzerland and now in Provence.

Here she is in the middle of the lavender.


If you read my blog, you saw pictures of red poppies in May. Now the red poppies are gone and the lavender is starting.


From Left to Right: Jan, Cathy, Barbara, Diane, Sonja, Linda H, Linda P, and Diane.

The lavender was all around Roussillon, the ochre village. All the houses are painted with ochre so they are red. It is a very unique village.


The most adventurous, who were able to survive the heat, walked the ochre trail. Roussillon has the biggest ochre vein in the world, up to 15 feet. Sonja said that it also has the finest ochre.

The whole group bought some ochre pigment to make paint tomorrow. Apparentely, it is a slow process. Everyone will make her own paint and use it to paint a skech from …..Roussillon of course.

Here is a picture of the lunch bags Sonja made for everyone, with her paintings of Provence on them. Very nice.


Stay tuned for more, tomorrow!

Oh, if you want to join us next year, Sonja will teach again a plein-air workshop in Provence end of June when the lavender is there and there is only one spot left!!!!!!!!! Check our site at

So much fun in Provence, by Donna

June 24, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Women No Comments →

Another post form Donna, one of our guests in Provence:

Greetings – It’s hard to believe that we’ve just finished Day 5! Each day has been filled with discovery and delight. I expected Provence to be great, but Jac from has made it special and unforgettable. I am astounded when I look back and see all that we’ve done – today we went to the market in Isle sur la Sorgue (wonderful) and then to Rossillon (beautiful village and ochre!):


It’s been unusually warm, but everyone is having a great time.

Tomorrow is another full day -Can’t wait :-)

Bulls, Van Gogh and champagne in Provence

June 23, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women No Comments →

From Donna, one of our guests on the Provence tour :

Greetings – its hard to believe that our time with Jac in Provence is almost over. Today was magical. We started with a bull safari in Camargue.




Then we lunched in the quaint village of les Baux:


and spent the afternoon in St. Remy at Mausole where Van Gogh was treated.

Despite traffic enroute to Camargue, this was a 12 star day. Its been unseasonably warm this week, but today was cooler and much more enjoyable. Sadly, Jac does not control the weather, otherwise it would be perfect! Great balance of group time and time on your own. I am so happy I’m here.
I could go on with details about the planned events, but it’s the small (and not so small) surprises that have made this trip so special (like celebrating Bobbie’s birthday with champagne and apple pie in the middle of Provence.


Don’t read about my memories and impressions – visit and make your own! I’m traveling alone but haven’t been lonely or uncomfortable once. Au revoir!

Join our tours to Provence, check our site at

Provence with my new group of women

June 19, 2012 By: guest Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women 1 Comment →

From Donna, one of our guests on the tour to Provence.

Greetings – so far, my 2 days in Provence have been wonderful.  Travel day was tiring, but that is to be expected (I suggest arriving a day early to adjust; airport hotel would be fine).  The accommodations are quite nice and our rooms are spacious, especially by French standards. The food served has been very good.

Today we were out and about – visiting a farm, harvesting ingredients for our menu (salad, ratatouille and fresh peach sorbet) and cooked everything. We toured and tasted wines and a surprise excursion to a chocolatier shop). Looking forward to the rest of the tour!

group bobbieFrom Left to Right: Jackie, Deb, Donna, Maggie, Bobbie, Sharon and Margaret.

Check all our tours to Provence and other countries.

French Escapade videos

March 20, 2010 By: jgrandchamps Category: Belgian Escapades, Cultural Tours to Belgium, Cultural tours to France, Painting tours to France, Tours in Italy, painting workshops No Comments →

Last year, we decided to make videos to show what our tours really are about. Whether about our painting trips or our cultural trips, we hope they convey our philosophy of travel.

Thank you to all of our guests who have participated in giving testimonials. We were not able to insert all of them in the video but we really appreciate your enthusiasm and time.

Here are 2 videos (1. our general tours / 2. our painting tours in Belgium)

Video 1


Video 2

We also offer painting tours in France and in Switzerland. For more information about all our destinations, check

My winter in California

February 03, 2010 By: jgrandchamps Category: Belgian Escapades, Cultural Tours to Belgium, Cultural tours to France, Painting tours to France, Provence, Tours in Italy, painting workshops No Comments →

I love my job because it offers a great variety of tasks: my favorite one being leading the tours, of course, because I enjoy interacting with my guests, sharing their joy and showing them wonderful new places.


However, most of my tours happening between May and October, many people often wonder what I do then. No, I do not sit and relax for 6 months ! It is in fact when I have to do the toughest part of my job: marketing, selling and organizing.

However, having started my company 6 years ago, it becomes easier and easier: I have solid contacts and partners, and “word-of-mouth” makes wonders ! Right now, my cooking tour is really successful and Belgium is getting more interest than the past years . Belgium 2010 is  a cultural tour with an optional  writing workshop. My new tour in Tuscany  is getting filled. As for Provence and the painting workshops, they remain the greatest hits !


For more information and availabilities about all our tours in 2010, check

Picture info. 1. Visit of a ranch in Camargue / Provence 2. Picture by Jan Hagan

No more business for Lacroix

December 01, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Art, Cultural tours to France, French news, Paris, Provence No Comments →

Designer Christian Lacroix was born in 1951 in Arles, Provence, and his fashion shows and collections were often inspired by Camargue colors, gypsies and corridas.


              lacroix1    lacroix       lacroix2  

He opened his own fashion design business in 1987, sponsored by French luxury company Louis Vuiton Moet Hennessy. He became internationally successful right away, and later diversified his business by creating a line of perfume, linen, table ware and accessories. He even participated in designing of the interior of the Mediterranean TGV.

However , financial difficulties appeared in 2005, and today, the company was officially closed when no potential buyer showed up to make an offer to buy the famous brand name.

More shopping (wine and chocolate) in Provence

October 16, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence 2 Comments →

Cindy, you have no idea how right you are. We had to visit a supermarket today so that Hope & Pam, as well as Rosa and also Sarah could buy some extra luggage to carry home all their shopping!!!

We started the day by drinking wine!!!! Well, visit of Chateau Neuf du Pape village and of course visit of a cellar before the tasting of three Chateu Neuf du Pape wine, The very famous Cote du Rhone.

Linda, Sarah and Sue are very serious abut the swirling, an important step in the tasting.


A bottle in the US is at least $80 when it is only 30 euros here (about $45). Everyone bought as much as they could which is three bottles per person. Hope and Pam maxed out.


After all this wine, we needed some food. Sarah was wondering how she will finish her “little” salad.


After lunch a little dessert was needed. Why not some chocolate tasting? We met with Stephane, the chocolate maker at Castellain in Chateau Neuf du Pape for a little demonstration on how to make chocolate. We kept asking him questions and therefore got many more samples that we were supposed to.


Not sure the group will appreciate this picture on the Internet but I couldn’t resist.

Join us next year on this great trip to Provence. Sign up before Oct 30th and get $150 off.

Click here to see the details of the trip.

Buying the specialities of Provence

October 15, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence No Comments →

What are the specialties? Here are some of the specialties our group bought during their excursion in Provence :

Lavender of course: Fine Lavender is from Provence while the Lavandin can be found anywhere in the world. Everyone in the group bought  and bought and bought some lavender products, from soap to essential oils to hand lotion or shower gel. I think the 2 big winners (I mean buyers) were Linda and Hope.



But Lavender is not all. Today in “Les Baux de Provence” everyone rushed into the cookie store. The first reason was maybe to warm up since it was so windy out there but then everyone felt for the cookies. The nougat is of course the specialty of Montelimar in Provence. Prepared in Montelimar since the 17th century, the nougat combines artfully honey, sugar, egg white, vanilla, almond and pistachio nut in a recipe kept secret…. Its velvety frosting is due to the azymous bread in which the dough cooks.

“Calissons” is the specialty from Aix en Provence. Calissons are white diamond-shaped sweetmeats, made from ground almonds and candied fruits. it is a white cookie with an almond paste inside. Calissons were first prepared in Aix en Provence during the 15th century, and its name is said to come from the expression : Di Calin Soun, which means in the dialect : “they are a stroke”…

Not sure what Lynne and Pam bought but they seem very happy about it:



But there is more than food. What about the “Santons of Provence” From the 19th century, the Santonniers of Provence (santons manufacturers) started to introduce the village people of Provence in the nativity scene: the Water Carrier, the Lavender Lady, the Shepperd, the Cheese Maker but also the Bush Ranger or the Gossiper ! All of them are now part of the traditional Provençal crèche.

large santons from Provence

Rosa was very interested by the tiny ones but did she have time to buy them? She wasted her time at the restaurant for lunch and missed the “Santon Museum” in les Baux de Provence.


Tomorrow, we are going to Chateau Neuf du Pape for wine tasting and chocolate tasting, so there will be more shopping. Stay tuned!!!

Visit our complete itinerary at