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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 ‘"How to" Tips’

My 5 top info about spring 2009 in Brussels, Belgium

April 17, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: "How to" Tips, Art, Belgian Escapades, Belgian news, Brussels, Cultural Tours to Belgium, Women 2 Comments →


                           Jackie, your travel guide and specialist about Belgium, France and California

                                                                         (see bottom  of article for latest trip discounts)

  • The new Magritte museum is opening soon! On June 2, its doors will open on the magic world of the most famous Belgian surrealist painter. Located next to the Art Museum on Place Royale in Brussels, and not to be confused with the former Magritte museum, located in the painter’s home. While the old one focuses on the artist’s life, the new one will exhibit some 170 paintings by Magritte. Not to be missed! Tickets are for sale online.


  • The royal greenhouse of Laeken are only open to the public in spring. This year, you will be able to admire the huge collection of rare plants in the superb 19th century greenhouses designed by Balat from Friday, April 17 to May 10 (closed on Mondays). It is a short window and therefore a privilege to enter this magical  space located in the King’ s palace gardens.


  • The Foundation for Architecture is presenting its 2009 exhibition " the Time of the Boutiques" , from booths to ebay, ongoing until October 18, 2009. You will be immersed in the experience of window-shopping through ages. The foundation is located rue de l’ Hermitage, 105 – Brussels 1050. Closed on Mondays.


  • On Saturday, May 16, 2009, you will be able to join the Belgian Gay Pride March in Brussels, with around 20,000 people walking the Streets of the Belgian capital. The parade is free and starts at 2 pm at the Bourse. It will end with the Rainbow Party at the Ancienne Belgique.


  • Brussels public transportation are varied and convenient: 5 train stations, an easy train access to the airport and a great subway network in addition to a large bus and tram network. On April 4 , 2009, new metro lines were added.

Practical info: the Brussels subways (Metro)  run from 5am to 1am / Trains are every 7 minutes / a single ticket costs 1.70 euros  and a Day pass 4.50 euros / a 3-Day pass 9.50 euros.


To and from the airport, trains run every 15 minutes (Central station, Bruxelles Midi, Airport station located  in the basement – level – 1)

And because Belgians are unpredictable, watch this video taken at the Antwerp train station on March 23.  Public transport can be art!"



So to all of you who will be in Belgium this spring, enjoy!

If you want to join us on our August tour of Belgium with a special 50% off discount, check our website . It is a women-only 8-day trip in Wallonia and the  Flanders in a small group of 8, escorted by bilingual guides with a real knowledge of the country. I will be there!


All pictures were taken on French Escapade tours in Belgium.

Top restaurants in France : New Stars in 2009 Michelin Guide

March 08, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: "How to" Tips, Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, French news, Paris No Comments →


This year was a very special year for the new Michelin guide, as it was its 100th edition. The first one was issued in 1900 (no issues during the 2 World Wars and in 1921) as a promotional brochure for the Michelin tires) and it is therefore the oldest European gastronomy guide. In the first editions it only mentioned addresses of car mechanics. The first restaurants  only appeared in 1920. It is now a prestigious hotel and restaurant guide covering over 20 countries and published in several languages. Over 30 millions guides were sold over all. Many city guides are now also published, Tokyo being the city with the most starred restaurants.

This year’s  edition can also be purchased in a collector box or on your i-Phone. This year’s edition only added one  new 3-star restaurant among the 548 happy few to receive stars, and of course, others have lost the prestigious award.


Too much pressure?

Many chefs have recently quit the painful race   because of  overwhelming  pressure. Celebrated chef Marc Veyrat who received 3 stars for his restaurant “l’Auberge de l’Eridan” by the Annecy lake in Veyrier-du-Lac (French Alps), declined his nomination this year. A few months ago, chef Olivier Roellinger even closed his 3-star restaurant, “Maison de Bricourt” in Cancale, Brittany. These are just a few examples that show the infernal moral and physical tension bearing on these top professionals whose business highly depends on the red  guide to succeed or not. When chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, some said it could be related to the rumour that he was about to lose one of his 3 stars.

Another criticism consists in tagging the guide of conservatism and of favoring traditional cuisine. For the fans of the guide, however, the biggest problems will be to manage to make a reservation in one of these starred restaurants. Indeed, the 548 awarded establishments attract gourmet clients from all over the world and are difficult to access.



Our selection among the new establishments in the 2009 edition:

*** star restaurants = 26 restaurants in this category (only  1  new one)

  • Chef Eric Frechon , “Le Bristol”, Paris 8eme.

** star restaurants: 73 restaurants (9 new ones)

* star restaurant:   449 restaurants (63 new ones )

+ 527 bib gourmands = good value for money (meals under $45).

Clickable useful links:



The winners: Eric Frechon, Gordon Ramsay and the Auberge Basque team.

8 of my favourite things to do in and around San Francisco

February 13, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: "How to" Tips, San Francisco, Tours in California No Comments →


  san francisco   nobhill

   2 views of the city in February: one from Corona Heights and the other from Nobhill .

San Francisco is an endless source of entertainments: top-notch shows, fine dining experiences, national events and amazing places to discover. Open any tourist information guides or surf the net, and you will find tons of things to do in San Francisco. But do they tell you  everything ? Not really!

Many delighful places are well-kept secrets by locals. If you want to discover the city and its surroundings in depth, it  means that you really have a “French Escapade” spirit: travelling to meet locals and  get authentic experiences .

Of course, when I have guests in San Francisco, they always get a thorough tour of the city, with all the historical background they can handle: they cannot leave without  seeing the Golden Gate bridge, walking on the Piers, strolling in Chinatown, biking in the Golden Gate park or going to a show.

But that wouldn’t be enough to feel like you have had a unique experience. So follow me!

 IMG_6673      IMG_6672

                  Jackie, your San Francisco guide on French Escapade Tours in California.

Here are some of our favourite special outings:

  • Spend an afternoon at the Kabuki bathhouse in Japan Town: the ambiance is utterly relaxing, the massages exquisite and the whole atmosphere will regenerate your energy for weeks ! Great staff too!
  • Cross the Bay Bridge for a Soul food experience in Oakland; a few blocks away from the London’s Square, you will find Nellie’s soul food restaurant. Good food, very nice welcoming staff .
  • Attend a sing-along show at the Castro theater. Not only the place is a unique architectural building (read post from February 2, 2009) but the audience at the Castro theater (both adults and children) are wonderful! Their interaction with the movies in sing-alongs is a source of a real pleasure. I never want to miss a show!
  • Visit my favourite giftshop, far away from main tourist traps. It is located at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge, at the end of Crissy Fields, out of reach of big chartered buses. They serve snacks and coffee, have many picnic tables around the shop with a breathtaling view of the bridge and the city.
  • For a good little urban hike, I suggest walking from the Castro district all the way up to Corona Heights. Great view of the city and the financial district! Then, if you have the right itinerary, you will be able to walk down flights of stairs, along beautiful gardens and hide-away mansions.
  • Our second favorite hike is along the cliffs between  Lincoln Park and the Presidio, with spectacular  views of the Golden Gate bridge and the Pacific ocean. Very gentle hike all the way to China Beach.
  • If you want to discover Chinatown with a genuine flavour, avoid Grant Avenue and walk up Stockton instead, along the well-stocked grocery stalls displaying the weirdest roots. Do not hesitate to visit a Chinese herb stores offering  the wildest drugs meticulously sorted out in im pressive rows of drawers and jars. A visit at the Chinese cookie factory can also be a fun experience.

    oranges   IMG_6687

                          Some goods displayed at a Chinese grocery store in Broadway

  • I could go on and on, but I will finish this top-8 chart, with Pacific Grove, a wonderful place to escape the busy city life. My friends Carmen and Candice introduced me to this peaceful town next to Monterey, and if you are looking for a perfect hide-away, that’s a great place to go to !

    IMG_6545 IMG_6543

                         Inns along the coast in Pacific Grove, with romantic view on the ocean.

Useful links:


Photo credits: French Escapade (except for the 2 pictures about the Castro Theater)

5 tips from Valerie on how to feel French when living in America

August 04, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: "How to" Tips, Customs and Traditions, Valerie's corner: News from France No Comments →

Of course, if you have attended Feel French 101 by going on one of our tours, you know that first, you should eat cheese after dinner and not before, slice cheese according to its shape and most of all, drink your cafe in a bowl for breakfast and not in a cup or a mug.
Here are 5 tips to make you feel French when living America.
1. Throw away that Grey Poupon mustard that is everything but French and switch to Maille, which is available at any supermarket.
2. If you want to keep up on what is going on in France and if you know some French, watch the daily French news report that everybody watches in france at 8pm. Of course, you can watch it at any time on the web at
3. When you think cookies, think Le Petit Ecolier by LU, and even better, get Petit Beurre cookies, also by LU, and dip them in your cup of coffee. Divine!
4. All French people have a picnic knife, often including a bottle opener. Their favorite brands: Opinel, made in the French Alps, or Laguiole, made in Aveyron. This brand is more upscale.
5. I know you are not going to like this one: do not drink wine outside meals !!!! One glass right before a meal is acceptable, as an aperitif … and ony if you add half an inch of Creme de cassis in it, to make a Kir!

laguiole.jpg Here is the famous Laguiole knife!