Vivats! Guests enjoy a traditional European dinner, based on the local cuisine.
Afternoons at the market are a highlight of any getaway!
Fields of Lavender in Provence, France. Photos provided courtesy: Jackie Grandchamps
was ten years old during WWII. She continues, “Because we’re such a small group, this woman is happy to invite us into her house. She makes coffee and such, and she tells us the story of how the Americans saved her life back during the war. Usually at the end of the trip, people say their favorite part was a moment like this.”
wild black bulls, raised for the Race Camarguaise. (In France, the bulls are not killed in the arenas!) “This farmer demonstrates how he herds the bulls with trained horses,” Jackie explains. “And he does not make money to tour people, he makes money racing bulls. So it’s very down-to-earth: my travelers always love the outhouse on his ranch!”
A similar opportunity takes place during one of the trips to France: In Provence, French Escapade travelers are welcomed into the home of a lesbian couple who recently bought a winery there just outside of town. Unlike a tour in Napa Valley, for instance, this experience brings travelers directly into the women’s living room and kitchen. “One of the women is French Canadian,” Jackie says, “and one is French. They truly enjoy meeting the guests. We go out into the vineyards and sample the grapes; we taste the wine. Everyone shares stories about themselves and we just get to know each other, so it’s a combination of enjoying the wine and also making friends. It’s more intimate.”
The quality of travel experiences is diverse and uncommon, to say the least. “It’s about the culture,” Jackie comments, “but mostly my trips are about meeting people. When we tour a castle, for example, we schedule a guide who meets us and talks about the basics... but they also tell stories about the castle and its history and its surroundings. They make it more lively, more real.”
A visit to Provence with French Escapade, however, also allows for many of the more traditional regional highlights: leisurely hours spent in the Provencal marketplace, an afternoon exploring the expansive lavender fields and the opportunity to savor the masterpieces in museums featuring Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Degas and many others. One day brings a visit to the famed Pont du Gard, the 2000-year-old bridge pictured on every Euro. The group learns the basic architectural details about how such a mighty structure could have been raised without mortar -in just five years- and how it has withstood the test of time. Yet another afternoon brings the adventure of a jeep safari in Camargue, where a local farmer invites the group onto his ranch to see rice fields and a herd of
Truly, her guests actively participate in the culture – through the food, through the wine, through the history, through nature, through the variety of rich experiences. Visiting France or Belgium with French Escapade is to see, hear, taste, touch and feel the destination firsthand.
A typical excursion with French Escapade begins with the arrival at your destination and a sumptuous welcoming reception. Accommodations are most often provided by small, luxury guesthouses or traditional inns, or sometimes by Jackie and her partner, Valerie, at their fully restored 19th-century French country home. Certain itineraries include home-cooked meals by Valerie, with regional menus prepared to correspond with the travel adventures of the day. “If we went to the south,” Jackie explains, “Valerie cooks a meal typical from that village or that region to enhance the guests’ experience. Food,” she smiles, “is a big part of the trip!” “A European dinner,” she goes on to