Paris and the French Countryside
April 8 -18, 2019
B- Breakfast, L-Lunch, D- Dinner
Monday, April 8 - Arrive in Paris - Welcome Seine Dinner Cruise (D)
Arrive in Paris and transfer to your hotel. You will have some to time to relax or explore before meeting in the hotel lobby at 5:00 pm to begin your tour. Enjoy a lovely gourmet dinner and enchanting city lights while cruising down the Seine for our welcome dinner.
Tuesday, April 9 – Walking Foodie Tour; Macaron Class (B,L)
After breakfast we will meet our guide for a private walking food tour in upscale Saint-Germain, where you will be exploring some of the tiniest and most special food shops in this gastronomically-gifted neighborhood. This afternoon we will enjoy a private cooking class to learn what it takes to produce the celebrated French macaron, a combination of crisp meringue and creamy filling, using the legendary recipe of French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. These sweet treats were made famous by the Ladurée pastry shop, which has been producing the confection since 1930. Each macaron is comprised of two delicate meringue cookies that sandwich a flavorful creamy filling, and today they can be found in any pastry shop in Paris and throughout France.
Wednesday, April 10 – Free Day in Paris; Michelin Star Dinner (B,D)
Today you have free time to explore the city. Visit the sights that are most interesting to you, and afterwards we will meet for dinner to celebrate our last evening in Paris. We will have dinner at the lovely Michelin star Relais - Louis XIII restaurant. Located very close to the Seine, this old house located in historical Paris takes us back to Louis XIII's day. In an ancient building on the site where Louis XIII was crowned back in 1610, this acclaimed restaurant pays homage not only to the monarch, but to traditional French cuisine at its most illustrious.
Thursday, April 11 – Giverny; Normandy – (B, D)
After breakfast we’ll be driving to Giverny to visit the home and gardens of Claude Monet. For over 40 years, until his death in 1926 , Giverny was his home , his site of creation and his masterpiece . A world of senses, of colors and of memories, the house in which the artist and his family lived notably contains his studio-sitting room and his exceptional collection of Japanese prints. The gardens are composed of the Clos Normand, with its flowerbeds, and the Water Garden, planted with oriental vegetation and weeping willows, its Japanese bridge painted green and its waterlilies. The Water Garden boasts a stunning array of flowers and willow trees. It was here, facing this very pond that Claude Monet painted his famous Nymphéas (Water Lilies), which you can see on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. Monet actually grew the flowers himself. He was a gardener as well as an artist, arranging his gardens by using his creative eye. The small green bridge, peony bushes and bamboo plants all demonstrate the love Monet had for Japan. The garden really bursts with color and light, something which Monet loved to recreate in his paintings. Outside of the house, lining the pathways beneath the metal arches, flowers bloom in the garden known as the Clos Normand. Daffodils, irises, peonies, nasturtiums, roses and narcissuses are just a few of the many beautiful flowers that fill these flower beds with color. Spring is definitely the best time to visit!
The town is lovely for taking a stroll, dotted with charming country houses that rival Monet’s. Giverny also remains the home of many modern-day Impressionist artists who have set up their own small private galleries, such as Claude Cambour, Florence Ramier and Christophe Demarez, all of whom are located on the same road as the Claude Monet Foundation.
After spending the morning visiting the house and grounds we will have time to explore the town and have some lunch before heading to our destination in the countryside south-west of Cherbourg.
We will be staying in a charming country home called La Blonderie. Here you will be immersed in the French countryside and experience the expert culinary teaching of Sinead Wilde, our hostess and owner of Wilde Kitchen. In addition to several classes in the succulent art of cooking traditional French dishes like poulet Vallée d’Auge and teurgoule – respectively, chicken with cream and apples, and the Norman version of rice pudding – your stay will include outings to local markets and restaurants. You also get to visit an organic cider distillery and cook a full meal in the centuries-old bread oven of a neighboring farm.
After our arrival at La Blonderie you will have time to relax a little and explore your surroundings. The first taste of Normandy follows for supper in the form of a Norman cheeseboard with salad, crusty bread, pastries, and wine or some locally produced organic cider.
Friday, April 12 – Local Market Visit; Cooking Class; Maison du Biscuit (B,L)
We begin the day with a fresh French breakfast followed by a trip to the local farmer’s market in Les Pieux where we’ll stock up on fresh produce for our morning cookery class. Upon returning to La Blonderie we will be taught classic cooking techniques by preparing a delightful lunch from the fresh ingredients we acquired at the market. This afternoon is a visit to La Maison du Biscuit, épicerie fine where wonderful gifts and souvenirs may be purchased as well as spices, herbs, salts, sardines, teas and more. This gourmet store has been described as ‘Disneyland for foodies’, prepare to be ‘wowed’!
Saturday, April 13 – Mont -Saint -Michel – (B)
Following breakfast we will be heading out for the day to drive down the beautiful, rugged coastline for a guided visit of Mont- Saint -Michel. This island abbey of Mont St-Michel, one of the top pilgrimage sites of Christendom through the ages, floats like a mirage on the horizon, just off the Norman coast of France. For more than a thousand years, its distant silhouette has sent pilgrims' spirits soaring…and it does the same today. For centuries, devout Christians endeavored to make a great pilgrimage once in their lifetimes. If they couldn't afford Rome, Jerusalem, or Santiago de Compostela, they came here, earning the same religious merits. This rock — a small mountain forming an island — was even more isolated by the bay's dangerous quicksand, disorienting fog, and mythic tides. Pilgrims crossed the mudflat to the island quickly and carefully, knowing that the sea swept in "at the speed of a galloping horse." The shallow bay it sits in stretches from Normandy to Brittany, fed by the Couesnon River — which marks the historic border between the two lands. Brittany and Normandy have long vied for Mont St-Michel, and the river used to pass on the other side of the abbey, making it part of Brittany. Today Mont St-Michel is just barely — but thoroughly — part of Normandy.
On our return we will stop in the village of Granville, the charming home town of Christian Dior, where we can tour the Dior museum have a light supper then return to our “home” in Benoistville.
Sunday, April 14 – Bayeux Tapestry; Barfleur; Cherbourg (B, D)
Another day of exploration awaits you! We begin with a visit to Bayeux; home of the famous Bayeux Tapestry. A unique artifact of its kind, the Bayeux Tapestry is embroidery of wool yarn on woven linen, made in the 11th Century. It is 76 yards long and 1.6 feet high, and recounts the tale of the conquest of England on 14th October 1066, led by William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy. As we continue our journey, our next stop, known for its mussels and oysters, is Barfleur, named one of the most beautiful villages of France. First occupied by Vikings, Barfleur knew a prestigious era in the eleventh century when the village became the official port from where the dukes of Normandy and the British sovereigns embarked to return to England. However, in 1346, King Edward III ravaged the region and Barfleur was ransacked and destroyed, thus beginning of the Hundred Years War.
Today, fishing remains one of the centers of activity of the small town which only has about 650 inhabitants. It has retained an authentic charm, with its many granite houses, covered with Schist from the 16th to the 19th century.
Our evening continues with another spectacular dining experience at a local Michelin star restaurant; Le Pily in Cherbourg.
Monday, April 15 – Cooking Class; Picnic; Bread making in Boulangerie (B,L,D)
Serious food preparation is required for the afternoon cookery course. A unique foodie adventure awaits you. A full meal is prepared and cooked in an authentic boulangerie oven (bread oven). We will relax this afternoon with a picnic lunch or plat du jour in a local restaurant.
This afternoon try your hand at bread making in the boulangerie, where we’ll also cook the evening meal (prepared in morning) in this original way – a serious treat for lovers of history, terroir, tradition and food.
Tuesday, April 16 – Market; Cooking Class; Cider Distillery (B,L)
Enjoy your fresh breakfast and then we are off to Bricquebec, a beautiful medieval town, for the weekly market where we’ll absorb the ambience, pick up some fresh produce for our lunch and sample whatever we’re offered before our cookery session.
After our cooking class and lunch we will visit Le Père Mahieu Ciderie where the best of Normandy’s organic apples are transformed into the most delicious drinks in the forms of cider, pommeau, calvados and apple juice. After a guided tour of the distillary and a walk up to the orchards (weather permitting) we sample the various ciders, calvados, pommeau and apple juice.
Tonight’s dinner will be as recommended by our host in the nearby towns and villages.
Wednesday, April 17 – Depart Normandy; Paris (B,D)
Alas, after our last breakfast at La Blonderie, we say goodbye to our lovely host and begin the return trip to Paris. Once in Paris we will check into our hotel, relax a bit then meet together for our Farewell Dinner, where we will toast the City of Lights and our memorable time in the French Countryside!
Thursday, April 18 – Return Home (B)
Today we say au revoir to gay Paris and return home.