Whether you are a lover of the arts, an aspiring writer or a foodie, here are some small, group tours that will reflect your personal passions.
By Stacia Friedman
Claude Monet’s home and garden in Giverny, a side-trip on the Paris Arts & Pleasures Tour. Photo byAriane Cauderlier. . . . . . . . . . . . .
There are two kinds of travelers. Those who want to see new places. And those who want to immerse themselves in new experiences. Whether you are a lover of the arts, an aspiring writer or a foodie, we want to introduce you to small, group tours that reflect your personal passions and interests from Paris to the Aegean. Designed for the sophisticated traveler seeking to venture beyond the tourist path.
Discover the Real Paris
Imagine having a best friend in Paris who has access to the private ateliers, studios and kitchens of the city’s best chef’s, perfumers and artists. As well as insider knowledge of authentic family-run restaurants, museums, galleries and shops. That is what you get when you take Marilyn MacGregor’s Paris Arts & Pleasures Tour.
“I think of it as a tour for the five senses,” said MacGregor, an American artist and French art historian who lived in Paris for ten years and now maintains a vacation home in the Loire Valley. “We stay on the Left Bank at Hotel de Sevres and start with a tour of the Luxembourg Gardens. We skip the lines at the Louvre and focus on contemporary art museums and galleries, as well as the historic Gobelins Tapestry Museum,” said MacGregor who offers a side-trip to Monet’s garden in Giverny. For those interested in French cuisine (and who isn’t?), there is a cooking class in Montmartre, including a visit to a street market where a chef will show you how to select and prepare the freshest seasonal ingredients.
This isn’t your typical cookie cutter tour. No tour buses. You will take public transportation like un vrai Parisien. The itinerary will reflect your personal preferences. You are free to dine with the group at night or venture off on your own, explore nightlife and attend concerts. MacGregor provides a reading list in advance.
MacGregor also offers escorted art tours of Spain and can arrange chateau rentals in Burgundy and the Loire Valley for small groups. In addition to leading art tours, MacGregor hosts a blog about art and displays her artwork at www.artsmarttalk.com.
“This workshop is designed to give you confidence sketching wherever you are, gazing at a street scene in a medieval town or the way the light grazes the trunk of an olive tree,” said Shari Blaukopf who leads one of the Tuscan watercolor tours. “We’ll work spontaneously, and I’ll show you how to keep your watercolor sketches fresh and colorful. Each day will start with a short demo and end with a critique, hopefully while sitting in a shady courtyard with a glass of wine in hand. You’ll have plenty of individual attention as we work on value studies, composition and capturing the essence of a place.”
Kirah Van Sickle, who leads groups working in all mediums, introduces participants to techniques that, “…build brush confidence and achieve bold, fresh and loose results.” She combines traditional and contemporary approaches and provides personal guidance all along the way. “With Tuscany as our inspiration, we will explore a myriad of journal sketching and alla prima painting techniques,” said Van Sickle.
From your arrival in Florence, you will journey to an estate in the Chianti countryside. Amid the olive groves, vineyards and ancient villages, you will find no shortage of artistic inspiration. Then it’s on to Certaldo, a 13th century hill town and San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The final destination is Siena where you will view the breathtaking artistry of Michelangelo, Donatello and Bernini. Along the way, you will savor the famous Tuscan cuisine, wines and gelato.
Upcoming tours: Watercolor Workshop in Tuscany, June 1-8, 2020; Check the French Escapade website for other European tours.
The seaport of Palamós on the Costa Brava. Photo by Ilya Burlaki. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cook in Barcelona
Why buy fish in a market when you can buy it from the fishermen? That’s the attitude of Cooking in Barcelona, a hands-on cooking tour focusing on the cuisine of the Catalan Region. Also hosted by French Escapade.
Starting in Barcelona, you will venture north along the Costa Brava, to the picturesque fishing village of Palamós to attend a fish auction open only to chefs, followed by a cooking demonstration by a fisherman-chef. In Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dali, you will take in the surrealistic art, a wine tasting and visit the Ripoli School of Culinary Arts where you will cook inside a wine cellar.
In the Empordà region, you will cook along with the chef in a restaurant and prepare a three-course meal, to be savored with local wines. Returning to Barcelona, you will dine on gourmet tapas in the home of a chef. The following day, your chef will accompany you to the famous Boqueria Market where you will learn about Catalan delicacies and how to prepare them. Your final day in Barcelona will include a tour of the city’s famous art and architecture, ending with dinner at a gourmet Michelin-rated restaurant. $3,490 excluding airfare.
Andros, island in the Greek Cyclades archipelago. Photo by Discover Greece. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Write in Greece
Create your own mythology at the Aegean Arts Circle Writing Workshop on the Greek Cycladic Island of Andros. From your private balcony overlooking the deep blue Aegean Sea, new writing will emerge with the support of small workshops and freshly prepared meals. In this inspiring location, nurturing workshop leaders will offer feedback and help you achieve your writing goals.
Andros is a serene island with little tourism, making it an ideal place to slow down and focus on your writing. The workshops are intensive and provide a trusting space for published and aspiring writers.
Workshop leader Kathryn “Kitsi” Watterson is an award-winning journalist and the author of nine books, three of which are New York Times’ Notable Books. She has taught creative writing at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Upcoming Writing Workshop: May 27–June 6, and June 13–23, 2020. The fee is $2,800, excluding airfare. Fees include a single, air-conditioned room, breakfast and one other meal per day, ferry tickets from Andros to Athens and workshop tuition.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
Stacia Friedman is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes for regional and national publications.
You may enjoy other NYCitywoman stories by Stacia Friedman