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Archive for the ‘Provence’

Cooking sessions in Provence continue with chocolate

October 11, 2013 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Women 2 Comments →

I know you are all waiting for the chocolate but before that, there is more.

We went with the owner of our hotel and the chef to the supermarket to buy the veggies for our cooking session. Pierre, the owner, explained the local produces you can find at this local store:

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Jutta, with the green shirt, was very attentive. Jutta is probably our A student on the trip. Lani and Cathy, on the other end, would probably not get a A. They were much more …dissipated.

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At least they are having fun and that is what matters. Below is a picture of the whole group with the chef Yvan (below to the L and the owner Pierre):

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Back at the hotel, we started our cooking session. Yvan taught us easy recipes to reproduce, that involved pistou (=provencal version of pesto), tapenade, lamb, veggie tart, tian of veggies (a version of ratatouille), mashed potatoes with raw garlic (and gallons of olive oil in it!!!!) and for dessert, a “fondant au chocolat” (chocolate lava cake).


As you can see, in the back, Jutta is watching very carefully and taking notes. I told you she was our A student.

We aslo went in the herb garden with “kilted” chef….Yes our chef wears the kilt (see pic below) and I couldn’t answer Lani’s question. Does he wear it the “real” way meaning the scottish way, without anything under???

Kyle was following him, not because of the kilt-I think- but because she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to taste some samples from the garden. When it comes to picking up herb and tasting and smelling, Kyle is the A student.


Lunch was served in the garden.


Kathy had a different question, not about the kilt but about the the pot. What does it have a hole in the tip?


Lani suggested it was to avoid dripping and Kyle, who also gets a A for google searching, confirmed the hypothesis.

What about the chocolate pastries? Well, we did make a chocolate lava cake but I forgot to take a picture. Tomorrow, we will go to see a pastry chef who will teach us how to prepare some fine chocolate desserts.

Too see the whole itinerary of this cooking and food trip to Provence, click here.

Olive oil tasting and truffle hunt in Provence

October 09, 2013 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Women 3 Comments →

French regulations demand that the origin of the olive oil must appear on the bottle. Look closely. At times, such info appears in mouse type. The FR5 sleuths embarrassed one shady vendor at a market in Aix-en-Provence who was selling olive oil from Spain.

Take the generic phrase “a product of the European Union” that appears on the back-of-the-bottle label of the popular French supermarket brand Puget. Origin of this olive oil: Spain.

So if you want to make sure the olive oil is from France, you should go and see Andre in Gordes, Provence. That is what we did on our food trip. Andre built his beautiful shop in 2003 and started to produce olive oil.


We started the visit with a walk in the olive orchards. We learned everything about the olive tree, the harvest technique by hand and the process to produce the oil: extra virgin first cold press of course.


We then tasted the different oils Andre produces: AOC or tradition olive oil but also basil, rosemary and truffle olive oil. But that is not all: toasts with different tapenades and of course some rose wine.


Kathy, from our group, felt very comfortable with Andre…


Kathy is the “trouble maker” in the group. You will see what happened to her in the afternoon.

After lunch we went truffle hunting. Of course, we needed a dog. We went with Robert, truffle hunter and his dog, truffle hunting under the white oaks in the forest of Gordes. Kita, the dog, was excellent and found 5 truflles in the 3 different areas we visited.


After the hunt, we were invited by Robert to eat truffle toast in his house. He served us toasts with butter, fleur de sel de Camargue, sliced truffles and olive oil. It was simply delicious. He also served us two different types of white wine.


Kathy, again, decided to double the slices of truffle on the toasts. So she removed the slice from one toast and put it on another one. She started to pile up all the toasts from where she had removed the truffles. She finally tried to hide them but doing so, she spilt her glass of wine on the table and on Jutta’s pants…Robert had to take care of it.


I think Kathy should be voted out of the truffle farm too!!! Just kidding. We all love her.

It is actually a very nice group and everyone is getting along great. More adventure to come on our food and cooking tour to Provence.

Testimonials from the painters on the watercolor workshop to Provence

June 29, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

Margie:“Jackie has gone above and beyond in making this trip wonderful in every way. The picnic lunches, finding charming villages where we can paint, and organizing each day and driving the huge van so expertly around the narrow streets and hairpin turns.The trip was more than I ever imagined a watercolor workshop would be, and Provence a joy to behold. Thank you, Jackie.”


Sandy: “How can I ever thank you for such a wonderful trip…you are so special. I am delighted to have met you and have had this wonderful chance to experience Provence. Love, Sandy”. (me, Jackie, on the left and Sandy on the right):


Lin: “What can I possibly say to express my my gratitude for such an excellent trip. Thank you for your professionalism and organization and most of all, your smile.” Lin (the dog ate her buttons):


This is a picture of Lin. She met a little French girl who wanted to paint so Lin gave her some brushes and paint. They painted together for a little while. That was very sweet.


And to end this beautiful week, a picture from the terrace, taken 5 min ago:


Van Gogh in Provence

June 29, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops 1 Comment →

Sonja, the teacher on this watercolor workshop to Provence and I (we look just alike with our bags: those are made by Sonja for a previous trip, it shows the countries we both worked in together).


Picture from the cloister at the Mausole de St Paul in St Remy de Provence:


Margie picked the right color for her outfit, matching the painting from Van Gogh: starry night. IMG_1331

This is the back of the Mausole de St Paul that became a hospital where Van Gogh was treated for dementia the last year of his life. When we were there, the lavender was blooming. A real treat!


The garden is such a quiet and meditative place that it was an inspiration for the painters.


Well, not everyone was inspired apparently. Linda preferred to talk to me about solving all the problems in the world!


On the last day, everyone took it easy and decided to work on their paintings from the week. Sonja helped each of them individually so that their painting became a master piece (or almost!).

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While everyone had already started to work, I was still relaxing on the terrace, having breakfast. It is hard not to start dreaming with such a view in front of me!


Sandy was not a painter but she helped me a lot to prepare the picnic, making it look nice. That is art too.

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It was a fabulous trip. Next year, Sonja Hamilton is coming back to teach on my trips, a watercolor workshop in Spain. Hope you join us!

Birds singing, olive tree wood sculptures, flowers …it is Provence!

June 28, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops 1 Comment →

Before heading off to Gordes, the beautiful but busy village in Luberon, I drove everyone to a quiet and beautiful village, Joucas. I discovered it yesterday, driving around looking for charming and quiet villages and when I found it, I knew I would bring my group of painters there.


Everyone loved it. You could hear the birds singing, one of the villagers playing the piano, watching an older lady watering each flower pot in this street with a water can, filling it up at the fountain. It is like being 100 years back.


Sonja gave a demo on how to sketch from front to back. Some watched and listened while others wanted to do their own painting.



Something unique about this village: sculptures made out of olive tree wood, all over the village.



Lin loved the sculptures and went to talk to the artist. She watched him work. He does the wood part while his wife makes the clay that goes in the sculpture. Pretty amazing.

During that time, I went to the supermarket to buy fresh food for the picnic: avocados, mushrooms, tomatoes but also a wonderful lemon chicken, tapenade, goose liver pate, veggie quiche, eggplant mousse, red pepers filled with tuna, juicy melons, etc..


After lunch, we went for olive oil tasting: rosemary, basil, truffle olive oil…all made right there at the olive mill where we had lunch.


Here is a little joke about outfits: Margie (with the blue visor) with a shirt BEFORE wash  and Linda with the shirt AFTER wash (color passed). However, Linda wears the pants before wash and Margie after wash (shrunk).


Well, I will stop my post on that note before it becomes too silly.

If you too want to have fun on a painting trip to Provence, check

Making paint from pigment in Roussillon

June 27, 2013 By: jgrandchamps Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

Like promised yesterday and the day before, here is the post about the artists making their paint.

Yesterday, they bought their natural pigment (ochre) in Roussillon. Today, they are making paint. The key ingredients are: a candy (that has gum arabic in it) and distilled water. You boil the water and then add the gum until it gets dissolved. Once it is all liquid, just add the pigment and …voila!


In the picture above, you can also see a brush that each student had made with rubber.



Here are some of the work from the students: their assignment was to paint something from Roussillon. Since everything is red, orange or yellow in Roussillon (the houses in the village of Roussillon are painted with ochre that is why you have that shade of color), that is the perfect thing to paint with ochre.



Some people “cheated” and used blue, which is a synthetic pigment.


IMG_1293Having an ipad is very useful for artists.

They worked for a few hours and were only interrupted for lunch. I did go shopping while they were working and bought fresh products. Then I prepared a tomato-mozzarella-basil salad, a mushrooms-carrots-spinach-arugola salad, a beat salad, roasted chicken (ok, yes I didn’t prepare it, I bought it but still, I had to cut it into pieces). They were also different kinds of bread, a cheese board with brie and blue cheese and strawberries.


In the afternoon, everyone did their own thing: some continued their paintings, Dick went outside to paint the courtyard, some went for a walk in the village and some walked by their bed and it grabbed them they said !!!! So they disappeared for one hour!


That didn’t stop Sonja from working and demonstrating. Here is the demo from the afternoon.


Busy day for everyone. Tomorrow, off we go to a different village !

Keep reading.

Watercolor workshop with Sonja Hamilton in Provence

June 25, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

This Sunday, I picked up a new group at the train station. Bigger group: 10 people. They are here for a watercolor workshop let by a watercolor artist from Auburn,  Sonja Hamilton SWA.

It is Sonja’s sixth trip with us. Some of the people on the tour, Jim and Linda, follow her everywhere and are on their fourth trip with Sonja and me. They have already signed up for the watercolor workshop to Spain with Sonja and French Escapade for Sept 2014.


Jim and Linda showing what they have received: a French Escapade visor from me and some special gifts from Sonja: Sonja always paint little vignettes from Provence ahead of time and put them on gifts for people. The vignettes represent places the participants will discover during their trip. She gave Linda a scarf with a painting of poppies and to Jim, a brush holder painted with lavender fields.


All the other participants also received a French Escapade visor from me and a light back pack (lunch bag) from one of her painting on it:: Dick and his wife Sandy have the Abbey of Senanque and lavender fields.


Judith (to the Left) has received Van Gogh’s irises, Brooke (middle) a house from Oppede le Vieux village and Margie (right), a cute window from a house in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.


Lin has received bag with lavender field.


Meg has the entire hilltop village of Gordes painted on her back pack.

Here is the entire group with their gift, Sonja is in the front. Her bag has a map of Europe with all the countries her and me (French Escapade) gave watercolor workshops in.


We had our first dinner together at the villa les volets bleus where we are staying for the week.


From L to R: Linda, Jum, Brooke, Sonja, Judith, Dick, Sandy, Margie, Lyn, Meg. Tomorrow, the blog will be about them making their own paint from scratch (the “scratch is actually the natural ochre from Roussillon, the finest ochre in the world).

Stay tuned.

You can be fashionable while painting in Provence

June 23, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops 3 Comments →

Bobbi, one of my guests on this painting trip to Provence is the fashionable one: everyday, she wore a different colorful outfit and a different one in the evening. Not only that, she had a necklace that went with each…A total of 14 outfits and 14 necklaces for the week in Provence…



Even while painting, she stayed fashionable.


She bought this necklace here in Provence, at the little market in Venasque. She was my jewelry coach and made me buy the same one.


But she was not the only fashionable one…Ghislaine wore her pearls every day, even while painting!



Betsy was the scarf queen. She had almost one different each day but she had about 50 different ways to tigh it.



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She taught Lynn and the rest of the group one of her magic ways to tigh the scarf.


During this fashion show, the others were concentrating on their painting: Holly, Lori, Patrish and Josephine.




Well, it is not really true. I just didn’t have pictures of them dressed up. Lori even bought a nice red dress and necklace for belly dancing and Holly bought  large “French” trousers. But I didn’t think of taking a picture.

The group has now left. Today I am picking up a new group at the TGV train station in Avignon: watercolorists.

Stay tuned.

Lavender, red poppies, olive tree and Van Gogh: we got it all !

June 19, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

I am not going to bore you with more pictures of people painting. So, here are a few pictures of what we are seeing on our tour. These pictures were taken in the garden located at the Mausole de St Paul in St Remy de Provence, which is the hospital where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life. Most of his famous paintings like the irises, starry night, etc…were done here.


It is still too early to have the lavender in bloom but it is starting.


Everyone took close up pictures of the red poppies.


The hôpital is still in use. It is only for women who are in distress. The therapy used is art therapy. All these paintings and sculptures were done by the patients.


The patient’s paintings were for sale so Holly and Betsy looked though them to see which ones to buy.


I decided to add a picture of Ghislaine painting since she was not in my series of pictures the first day. The olive trees she is painting are the same ones Van Gogh painted years ago (you can recognize the trunks of the trees on his paintings).


By the way, the group has been there for 3 days and they are already fluent in French, able to read the Figaro magazine. Amazing!

You too can do this. Check our list of tours in France, Belgium and Spain. In addition to painting tours, we also offer cultural and cooking tours.

Painting Gordes: a big challenge

June 18, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, Women, painting workshops 2 Comments →

Who says life is easy? Who says that being on vacation is a piece of cake? Today, the painters on the oil painting workshop to Provence have been confronted to a big challenge: painting the hilltop village of Gordes.


Here is Lynn Gertenbach’s painting in progress (Lynn is the teacher on this trip).

For the students, it was more of a struggle.


Bobbi and Betsy found a shady part but to get there they had to be a bit of a climber.


Holly was even more adventurous. After climbing, she went down a wall to be in the middle of a field with flowers. All the tourists coming to Gordes took pictures of her. She is going to be in pictures all over the world.


From Left to Right, Josephine’s easel (sorry Josephine, you are hidden behind Ghislaine), Ghislaine, Lynn (standing up), Lori and Patrish. They didn’t feel like climbing to paint. Besides, they like to paint a street going down towards Gordes to make it even more dramatic so they chose another spot by the side of a non busy road.


Oh, I do have a picture of Josephine. I can stand behind Josephine and she doesn’t hear me because she listens to her iPod.


Lori is advertising for me because she is wearing the “French Escapade” visor I gave each of them. You can tell by her smile that even though it was not easy to paint all those medieval houses, it was still fun.

But the trip is not all about painting. We went to an olive oil factory and the owner, Andre, gave us a tour of the factory explaining how he makes olive oil.


Then, the best part, was the tasting:  plain olive oil, basil olive oil, truffle olive oil and rosemary olive oil. Even though everyone’s suitcase was already heavy when they arrive, everyone bought the oil. How can you resist such a great first cold press, extra virgin fresh olive oil?


So far, it has been a wonderful trip. The group is great, very funny and everyone is getting along.

Great weather, great food, handsome people, what else can you dream of?

Oil painting in the cute village of Venasque

June 17, 2013 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, painting workshops No Comments →

On the first day of our oil painting workshop, we stayed at the house or in our village of Venasque.


Here is Patrish painting from the courtyard.


Lori is doing a sketch before starting her painting.


Josephine chose to paint a little street in the village. She got help from the teacher, Lynn. Lynn is actually painting on Josephine’s painting to add some shadows to it.


Holly and Betsy, all equipped with their aprons, are painting an arch way, the unique entrance to the village back in the medieval time.


Bobbie is not painting, but prefers to chat. Ok, don’t listen to me (or should I say don’t believe what I write) because Bobbie did paint but here we were ready to go out for dinner.

But where is the last student? Ghislaine?? Actually Ghislaine took a nap while everyone was painting so I don’t have a pic because I didn’t dare to go to her bedroom just to take a picture!!! Anyhow, she is allowed to sleep while everyone paints because she is the fast painter in the group and usually does 2 paintings while the others do one.


Tomorrow, we are going to an amazing place: Gordes. Here is a picture of it (and me but that is less important, although….) so it will make you want to read more tomorrow to see what everyone painted there.

Stay tuned.

Dancing the night away in Provence

June 16, 2013 By: guest Category: Art, Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, Women, painting workshops 1 Comment →

Lynn Gertenbach, an oil painter from South California, has arrived with her students for a week long in Provence.

Luckily, the weather is wonderful, even quite hot. Until last week, it had been chilly in France, even here in Provence, which is very unusual. But now the sun is here and the sky is blue.

We are staying a week long at the same location, la maison aux volets bleus, in Venasque, a charming village in the Luberon.


Here is the group at dinner:


From L to R: Ghislaine, Holly, Betsy, Bobbie, Lynn, Patrish, Josephine and Lori.

After dinner, we had a great surprise. The little tiny village had a special festivity planned: a latin night. There was a DJ playing not only salsa, rumba and merengue but also some disco, hip pop, etc…

Eight of us went to check it out (while Patrish decided to stay at the hotel and read). The minute we got there, Holly and her mother Betsy went on the dance floor and never left it.


Holly and Betsy danced all night long…

Well, the dance floor was gravels since we were on an outside parking lot. Lori, Josephine, Ghislaine, Bobbie, Lynn and I joined them. Luckily, the DJ taught us the moves for all the latin dances so it became sort of a line dance. There were 4-year-old kids dancing the night away as well as older people. Some were really excellent some were just trying out but the most important is that everyone had a blast.


We called it a night around 11PM. Nice start for our week.

To follow the full itinerary of our painting week in Provence, check our site

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?

Cooking with famous chefs in Provence

September 29, 2012 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Jac's Travel diary, Provence No Comments →

Today we spent the day in Cavaillon, the “melon” town.

After going to the market and finding out how to recognize fresh veggies, ripe pears and sweet melons, we went back to jJ Prevot’s restaurant and starting to cook.


The chef, Jean-Jacques Prevot, is the melon specialist. He is famous for all his recipe with melon.


We mad a melon flower with a losbster sauce for starter (served with ham):



We had lunch in the fancy restaurant run by Jean Jacques Prevot and his daugther Sandra Rose:

The day before we went to La Mirande, five star hotel in Avignon. The class was given by the famous chef Jean-Claude Altamyer and his assistant Sevrine. Our guest, Colleen, have been busy smashing the shell from the lobster to make the lobster bisque:
I don’t know if it was Colleen’s touch but the lobster bisque was out of this world.
Laurie was the one who cut the guinea fowl’s head off with a big knife. She was so fast and hit so hard that you can’t see the knife on the picture but you can see the chef being scared of her:
The setting in a medieval kitchen was like living a dream:
Nancy had a great idea. She brought an indelible pencil to have the chefs sign all the aprons:
It was an incredible week with a very fun group.
From L to R: Anita, Nancy, Stephanie, Colleen, Sherri, Diane, Laurie and Donna.