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Archive for the ‘Travel notes from our guests’

Will you stay in Provence for the weather or for ….

September 27, 2012 By: guest Category: Cooking trip Provence, Food and Recipe, Jac's Travel diary, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women No Comments →

What will be your reason to decide to live in Provence? The sunshine 300 days a year? The lavender? The olives? The nougat? The potteries? The art? or ….?

Well, Sherri M., one of our guests on the cooking tour for women in Provence has another reason for living here:

Sherri M. says:

“No cooking expedition to France would be complete without an exploration of that most precious of “mushrooms”
known as the diamond of the kitchen- the truffle. While many amateur cooks visiting France would be content to purchase truffle pieces or truffle oilat Fauchon or Hediard, we were fortunate to go on a truffle hunt in Gordes with Robert Florent, a third generation truffle hunter, and his son.

Our hunt took us in search of summer or white truffles, but Mssr. Florent educated us about winter or black truffles as well. We learned about truffles from the region, from Perigord, and the less desirable truffles from China. We now know how truffle oil is made, what truffle products to avoid at the grocery, and how to store and use fresh truffles.

truffThis is not Sherri but Diane holding the truffle found by Robert’s dog.

tourrettecavage 014

(Sherri continues..): For me, it was love at first sight, or should I say at first bite. The unique flavor of summer truffles, which we tried thanks to the hospitality of Mssr. Florent who welcomed us into his home and served us savory truffle canapes, and winter truffles which I’ve been privileged to taste in the past, had made me dreaming about relocating to Provence and marrying the charming and entertaining Mssr. Florent :)!”


Here is a picture of Sherri cooking while dreaming of the truffle man!!!!!!


Truly amazing Van Gogh show in Les Baux de Provence

September 12, 2012 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, Women, painting workshops No Comments →

Part 2 of the testimonials from our guests on the Provence painting workshop:

“We had an awesome “surprise” today. After spending part of the day painting ( and knitting ) at the hospital in St. Remy, Jackie took our group to carrieres-lumieres (quarry of lights) to see a wonderful presentation of Van Gogh and Gauguin paintings. They are illuminated on the walls of a former limestone quarry. Tres magnifique! “


“The art of Van Gogh and Gauguin displayed in the “carrieres-lumieres (quarry of lights)” was very inspirational, especially with the music of Brahms and Pavarotti. I was so moved, I almost start crying.”


“It was amazing.You felt like you were in the painting, you were part of the art, it was all around you, even on the floor”.


‘When I first got in, I was disoriented because of the the images on the floor moving under my feet. Then I got used to it and it was fabulous. It affected all your senses: your vision, your motion, your hearing,… I had never seen anything like that”.

Below is a picture of the quarry without the show so you have an idea of the size of the walls.


Besides having fun, people have been painting as well. Yes, really!!! Tomorrow, I will post some pics of people “at work”….

More info about our tours to France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland at

Impressions from our guests on the painting workshop in Provence.

September 11, 2012 By: guest Category: Jac's Travel diary, Painting tours to France, Provence, Travel notes from our guests, painting workshops 1 Comment →

Today I asked people of the group to give their impressions of the trip. Here is a summary of what they said:


“What I liked in Gordes was to be able to find a quiet private and shady spot to sketch large shapes across from where I was sitting. It was very relaxing.”

“The view from the cliff in Gordes was spectacular and nobody fell off.”


“The abbey of Senanque was most inspiring and so quiet. I saw very interesting people like 3 nuns from India on a retreat. Their white habits stood out so much from the surrounding background.”


The carrieres-lumieres (quarry of lights) and the abbey have some similarities: it gave the same feeling of quietness and inspiration They were both cathedrals in different ways.”

“I painted a fruit market today and I was doing great until a truck came and parked between me and the market. He said he will only stay 5 min but he stayed 20 min so I never finished my painting. Nevertheless, I loved painting there and many people peeked over my shoulder to see what I was doing. Everyone was very friendly.”


‘It has been such a wonderful experience! The colors and the light here in Provence blow my mind.”

“This group is fantastic and I am glad I came on the trip and I am glad Bobbie and Carol came and I am glad Joanne is teaching, she is such an inspirational joy.”


“Everyone is doing wonderful work and it is hard to do when you are on the go. I am amazed on how everyone is doing her maximum.”


“I am taking tons of pictures to get a feeling of the place and be able to paint big paintings when I go home.”

“Today I bought a very powerful painting, made by a patient of the asylum where Van Gogh stayed. I am very excited about this painting. I just don’t know how I will get it home!”

“Since I have been here, I have felt more aware of the French culture and the friendliness of French people. I was moved when I heard a mother singing to her child  yesterday in the park. Some Americans think French people do not like us. It is so untrue. They are so friendly to us.”

“In this tiny village of Venasque where we are staying, we feel part of a family. Martine and Jerome, our hosts, are great. They make me feel at home, a guest in their home. Their meals are gourmet delicious. I am so happy to be here!”.


“Our daily picnics prepared by Jackie are fabulous. Jackie is such a wonderful driver, she is so calm and precious, she knows so much history, she is so cute and delightful as a guide, a real pleasure.”

Join us on a painting workshop next year, either in Provence or in Spain or Belgium. Check our painting tours here.

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

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.

A colourful night in Roussillon, Provence by Rima

June 28, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Jac's Travel diary, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →


Travel notes from one of our guests on a French Escapade tour to Provence.

“Bonjour everyone!

Yesterday we went to Rousillon and walked among ochre rocks jutting magestically out of the mountains- similar to Colorado red rocks. Beautiful, horizontal colors of yellows and light purples and of course this wonderful reddish/orange color. Needless to say, our shoes were covered lightly with the colored sand, but easy to brush off. The colors were amazing and we were there at evening light. Had a great dinner together at a Bistro. The waitress was very efficient and was running all over the place as it was a bustling scene. Great food!

Today. we went out to dinner in a small village called Goult, at a restaurant that is owned and run by 2 women. Jac found this restaurant but had never eaten there. So we were the guinea pigs and it turned out to be delightful. Excellent food!

Swallows flying over head all over the place.


Having a blast taking a million pictures- the lighting is excellent and the scenery is to die for. I am still taking my window and door series.

Anyway, this morning we went to a bull farm. There is a certain kind of bull that is raised in this area that is used for a bull race type of sport. The bull is NOT killed. In fact there are these ribbons on the horms that the torero has to pull, in a certain order, within 15 minutes. The bulls are only allowed to “play” once a month. Most of the “toreros” do this for fun and not for major money but they are required to do special schooling. We saw how they round up the bulls and select  a bull out of the herd. There are special “guardian” cowboys on special small white horses- there were 3 today, who rounded up and separated the bulls for us. We were on a tractor drawn bed watching. The bulls are not allowed to see people up without being on horses as to not get used to people. They were magnificent. As were the riders on their horse.


This afternoon we went to a village off of the Mediterean sea (Les Saintes Maries de la Mer). There was a church with a black Madonna, and it’s an area that is know for its gypsy population as well as a destination for many tourists. We had fun shopping and having lunch. The weather was great. ”

All  for now.


Rima and Karen

If you want to join us on a tour to Provence for women at 40% off, check and sign up now for October.

Chateau Neuf du Pape Wine and Chocolate

October 24, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Food and Recipe, Provence, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Travel notes from Michelle, one of our guests on the tour to Provence.

“Today, we were off to wine tasting (Chateau Neuf du Pape wine), then chocolate tasting.  What a yummy combination!  We have learned so much about the French culture just by hearing about how wine is made.  We had lunch in a small French village called Chateau Neuf du Pape; it almost feels like the back lot of a Disney tour.  It’s absolutely amazing!

Michelle, Kathy, the oenologist, Jeannie, Sandy, Sue and Pat at the winery of Chateau Neuf du Pape.


After lunch, onto the Bernard Castelain candy making tour.  Their chocolate was ranked #1 in Gourmet Magazines 2007 magazine.  Just as a point of reference,  Ghirardelli was ranked last, and even Hershey ranked above Ghirardelli.  Just excellent!

We saw our first rainbow in France; we would definitely travel with our tour leader Jacques again…she is wonderful, as is Valerie.”

Amazing Roussillon, the ochre trail

October 23, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Nature, Provence, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Travel notes from Michelle L, Rhode Island, one of our guests on the tour to Provence.

“Began the day with yet another excellent breakfast prepared by Phillipe and Viviane (the proprietors at the hotel).  Then, we went to an olive oil factory and learned how olive oil is made.  It’s amazing, we take so much for granted.  We just pour the olive oil on our bread without thinking about the trees, the tending of the soil, the harvesting etc.  We should all be more grateful and aware of the labor that goes into each bite of food.

Then, onto Roussillon, a beautiful old village a top a stone ledge. Kathy and I bought paint pigment; then we all went onto the ochre trail.  It was bold reds and golds, much like Bryce Canyon without the spires.  Absolutely beautiful!

Then, if that was not enough, onto the nougat factory.  We learned how nougat was made, had plenty of samples :-)

Back at the guesthouse, I (Mitch) had the most wonderful, luxurious massage of my life.  What a wonderful trip; new places, new friends, new ways to be.”

Our first day in Provence with French Escapade

October 22, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Provence, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Travel notes from Michelle, one of our guests on the tour to Provence.

“Today, the six members of our party spent our first day together.  Kathy and Mitch, Pat and Sandy, Susan and Jeannie spent the morning in the Avignon marketplace.  It was spectacular!   Second hand European clothes were wonderful; beautiful soaps, lotions, linens and to top it off….a parade went by!

We spent the afternoon in the Palace of the Popes.  There was a beautiful carousel in the middle of the square, and nearly all of us bought jewelry from a man who made original silver pieces…one of a kind.

Back at the guesthouse in the Luberon, we had a most delicious dinner beginning with salad greens, then 3-day marinated beef stew.  It was so soft and tender, you just lay your fork on the beef to cut it.

Jackie (we call her Jacques) and Valerie are wonderful.  Our rooms are all different, each more charming than the next.  We’re loving this trip.

(How lucky we are to be spending such a magical time in fabulous France with such wonderful women. We are so fortunate to experience the wonders of France and the new friendships we are forming. The wonders we see before us each day are an experience in itself but the frosting on the cake is to be with women who are kind, friendly, warm and most of all——fun. We are truly rich). We should be thankful for what we have each and every day…” Michelle

Kathy and Susan’s stay in Paris after their trip to Provence

October 09, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Paris, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Today I decided to post the diary from Susan and Kathy who were our guests in Provence. They went to Paris on their own afterwards while Eppie adn Joan went to La Cote d’Azur and Italy. Tomorrow, I will post their comment about Italy.

From Susan and Kathy, Castro Valley, California.

We had a great time in Paris.  Our apartment was just as it was described—and with the 10 or so pictures we saw of the apartment, there were no surprises–except a pleasant one–we even had a bathtub!  We were never more than a 10 min metro ride from anything.

We spent Sunday at Versailles where they were having a special musical fountain display in the gardens—which meant they turned on the fountains and piped in classical music.  It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed it immensely.  Then on the way home, we stopped at the Eiffel Tower and saw it in all its night time glory–sparkles and all.  Yes, we had to go to the top!  The rest of the week was filled to the brim and we saw everything we had intended to see.  Thursday afternoon the weather turned very cold and by Friday AM, we were ready to leave Paris in a pouring rain.  It is good to be home—–Joan and Eppie–are you ready to come home yet?

Thank you all for a wonderful time in Provence.  We enjoyed being with you all and the memories will last a life time.  Jac and Valerie—you two rock!!”"


Here is a picture of Kathy and Susan in Provence

kathy and susan

Visit of Monaco

October 08, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

From Joan D. diary, one of our guests who traveled with us to Provence before heading towards the Cote d’Azur.

Still in Monaco. It only takes 30 minutes to drive by and point out many landmarks. It also helps you understand the lay of the land. We knew after taking this tour that it’d be cool to head back to M-C after we toured the area around the Palace. We went to the Cathedral of Monaco where Grace Kelly married her Prince. (They are now buried there side-by-side)  We found this entire area – the hilltop overlooking the city- very beautiful and clean and wall-to-wall history.

We then took advantage of Monaco’s FREE city bus service and rode over to Monte-Carlo. By the way, there is 1 police officer per every 60 people in Monaco and thousands of surveillance cameras throughout the Principality, so as they told us on the tour train, “smile, you’re having your picture taken”. Sure enough, we didn’t see any gang types, beggars, gypsies, tramps or thieves. In Monte-Carlo I had to try my hand in the glamorous Casino, (as in Casino Royale). I played slots because you have to pay and get a line of credit just to walk into the ‘betting parlors’. I put my 20€ in the poker machine and doubled it when I got 4 kings. I cashed out and STRUTTED out a winner!

Eppie and I then walked next door to do a little (very little) shopping and then dined at Cafe du Paris, where I splurged and used my winnings to enjoy a glass of pink champagne. My overall impression of Monaco; it was more urban than I had thought it would be. Still, many parts were beautiful, scenic. I could live there. Apparently I am not alone in this thought as only a very small % of residents are native to Monaco. The weather is nice, the economy is strong, the streets are safe and clean and there’s lots of dogs. Oh, and there’s gambling and public transportation is free. What’s not to like?!  One more observation about France in general: we noticed on numerous occasions that VERY young kids (3,4,5,6) are just walking around without obvious adult supervision. Out of concern we’d watch the child to see if it was lost or wandering and sure enough, eventually an adult would come over and claim them. You never see a dog off a leash or without supervision, but kids we’d see running a block ahead of their parents. Funny in a peculiar way.
So back to Nice for the night and then we’re off to Italy on Monday.

From Nice to Monaco

October 07, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Still from Joan’s diary, one of our guests on the Provence trip in October.

“It was with an enormous amount of anticipation on my part that we headed off to Monaco. While I woke up early, (giddy with excitement no doubt) mon ami Epifania slept until 10:30! By the time we were out of the room it was 11:30.

We walked a couple of blocks down the street alongside the water to the well known Hotel Negresco. We had thought about doing brunch until the 54€ price tag made us think again. We decided to save the € and the calories and went into a brasserie for tapas and cafe au lait. Then we made the 20 min walk to the Nice Ville train station and caught the local to Monaco.

Upon arriving, one could be impressed that the train station is new, sleek and built into the rock of the hillside overlooking downtown Monaco and its harbor. We walked from there to the Oceanographic Museum, no small feat. About 2.5 miles, the last 1/3 of which was up the hill on which the Princes Palace is located. But what a view! At the Oceanographic Museum you can get on the little tour trains that take you all around Monaco and Monte-Carlo. More tomorrow….”

Joan D. San Jose, California

From Avignon with French Escapade to Nice

October 05, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

Still from Joan’s diary D. from San Jose, California, one of our guests on our trip to Provence.

It was with mixed emotions that we said our goodbyes at the train station in Avignon. We had such a wonderful time and have stored away so many fun memories of Provence.

Thanks again Jackie and Valerie for everything. Check their site to travel to France at

Now we leave Provence and travel east through the Cote du Azur to Nice. Nice (pronounced Neece) is 3 hours east of Avignon by train – we traveled through Marseilles, Toulon, Cannes and Antibes to name a few. We followed the shore most of the way once we hit Marseille, so the views were great. When we arrived in Nice we could tell immediately that we were back in a big city. What a crowd! We grabbed a cab to our hotel ( Le Meridian) which, to our delight, is across the street from the Mediterranean. We learned to our extreme dismay that cabs to Monaco, which is about 13 miles away, cost 80€, which = $120.00. I’m not sure how to say HOLY CRAP in French, but I was ready to look it up. Since it was already 4:30 pm we decided to stay in Nice for the evening and take a train to Monaco/Monte-Carlo for 4€ the next day. And I’m so glad we did.

We strolled down the promenade (you do that in France, stroll. In San Jose you walk, in New York you hustle, in Texas you mosey, in France – you stroll ) So we stroll past some high-end shops and then some not-so-high-end shops until we arrived in an area that was clearly gearing up for a busy Saturday night. It was like a pedestrian boulevard with many restaurants and sidewalk cafes. We ate early by european standards-7:30 is usually the earliest restaurants begin serving. But that is when the staff is charming and friendly and takes time to describe things. Its been my observation that usually each waiter has about 12 tables, so after 8:30 when the place fills up you rarely see them.

So while we’re sitting at this cafe having dinner we can see vendors and shoppers and people walking their dogs all filling up the street. By the time it 9:00 the place is beginning to bustle. Eppie and I started to walk (strolling doesn’t work off your dinner, but walking does) all around without paying particular attention to where we were as long as there was a lot of light and lots of people. We end up hiking up into an old section of town, up a hill on very narrow streets with a lot of young people hanging out in these hole in the wall pubs and bars. It reminded me of Monmartre. We followed someone who was walking his dog as far up as we could go, there was either a castle or a church up at the top but whatever it was it was closed. We got a little nervous – the streets became as narrow as hallways and they were crowded with pub crawlers.

We finally made our way back to a very large plaza that had a crowd standing around one end. We sauntered over and discover a young man, probably mid 20’s, had rolled a piano onto the plaza and was playing these concertos and sonatas beautifully. It was awesome. Of course people were filling his tip jar. It was very nice – here we were watching the result of thousands of euros worth of piano lessons for the amount of a small tip. Soon after this concert was over we headed back to the hotel and called it a day. Tomorrow – Monaco

The Castle in les Baux de Provence

October 01, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Provence, Travel notes from our guests No Comments →

From Kathy and Susan, 2 of our guests on our tour to Provence with French Escapade.

Hi all–tonight is our last night in Provence and the gods are sad.  After a week of beautiful weather, we returned to our farmhouse about 4 pm, sat ouside and talked with a few people and then it started to cloud over.  Now it is raining quite hard and thunder and lightening right over the hotel—-quite spectacular.  It is about 6pm now, Susan will have a massage at 7pm and then to dinner at 8.  Last night we had dinner here also and had duck–it was delicious—-what a tough life!!

Today we went to the Alpilles (small alps) to a quarry which has an underground light and music display of Van Gogh paintings projected onto huge slabs of stone.  It was pretty neat.  Then onto the medievel village of les Baux de Provence which is perched on the side of a rock mountain with the remains of a medievel castle topping it.  They have displays of catapults which was very impressive and the medievel knight giving the demo was really cute and quite funny.  The view down into the valley was awesome with its patchwork quilt design of olive tree orchards and grapevines.  Lots of shopping or just sitting and people watching.


It will be a sad day tomorrow to be leaving this wonderful place.

Love to all. Kathy and Susan, Casto Valley, California.