Tired Of French Tourist Traps? Try A Cooking Vacation In Southwestern France

In the “Foodie’s Field Trip to France” Aurélie Brown guides you through a less-well-trod area of France, the Midi-Pyrenees. French-born and bred, she is a culinary travel expert, descendant of four generations of chefs and bakers, currently living in Chicago, and charmingly bilingual.

After the first night at the Hotel des Beaux Arts in the historic heart of the dynamic city of Toulouse on the Garonne River, your small group (8 maximum) will move deeper into the country to a luxurious 13th-century stone house in a hilltop village in the department of Ariège.

On the border of Spain, with the great spiky Pyrenees mountain range as backdrop, the Midi-Pyrenees is an area characterized by magnificent architecture, medieval villages, river valleys, rolling farmlands, and food that is fabulous as only the French can deliver. Ultimate perk of this trip: Aurélie will introduce you to the beloved local chef with 30 years experience tucked under his apron, Jean-François Martin who will open up his restaurant’s kitchen to teach you a trick or two about his exquisitely healthy “market” cuisine during hands-on classes.

A visit to the Marché Victor Hugo, one of the largest indoor food markets in France with over 100 shops, offers mounds of farm-fresh produce. Aurélie will also lead you through an unmarked door, upstairs, where five small and very lively restaurants serve the freshest food in Toulouse.  Set side by side, lunch-goers must walk through each one, checking the large chalkboard menus of specialties to get to the right one – and she knows which one that is!  The menu stars here are home-cooked cassoulet (a slow-cooked stew of white beans, sausages and duck or goose confit) and Mediterranean-style grilled fish.

More perks: A gourmet picnic in a picturesque vineyard. Visits to local artisanal bakers andles fromagers.  Endless photo opps in the little old villages with their half-timbered arcades, the Canal du Midi, and visit the 6th c. Roman-built medieval fortress city of Carcassonne (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

Foodie Alert: Travel to Japan With All-Star Chef David Bouley

Chef David Bouley, James Beard Award-winner, is offering a rather scrumptious way for you to see Japan. It’s an exclusive adventure to see, taste, smell and feel the country focusing on its unique cuisine.  Award-winning  Asia Transpacific Journeys has just announced a one-shot itinerary March 4-13, 2013, in collaboration with Food & Wine Magazine.

With insights and access that only Chef Bouley and Food & Wine can offer, this tour promises first-class exposure to the best of Japan:  meet craftsmen, enjoy tea ceremonies, art, shopping, temples and shrines for nine days. On the journey, Bouley will introduce and explore this

“rich culture full of health, passion and detail,” and one, he feels, “will give greater quality-of-life choices when participants return home to the West.”

Explore TokyoNagano and Kyoto as culinary insiders in super-duper first class style all the way.


… an early morning Tokyo outing to the Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan’s largest and busiest, featuring the famously frenzied really early morning Tuna Auction.  A private cooking class to be co-hosted by a Japanese chef and Chef Bouley at Ecole Tsuji Tokyo, Japan’s top culinary school. Bullet train to Matsumoto in Nagano, the Japanese Alps. Visit the exotic Daio Wasabi Nojo (herb) farm, largest and most beautiful in the country.  Hang out, sip a sake and bottle-it-yourself in a brewery. Then bullet back to Kyoto and to the world-renown 400-year old ultimate Japanese inn, the Tawaraya Ryokan, home of the original “who’s who” of celeb guest books, and near the Nishiki food market, 135 intensely colorful shops crowded into two snaking small blocks. Geisha farewell dinner in Kyoto.

The price of $10,995.00 per person, double basis is hefty but this is a trip not to be missed—even if you’ve already been.

Whisk around the World

Small classes, great chefs, and almost everywhere around the world — Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, South America, India, and the U.S. – cooking schools make for delicious cultural immersions.  Sign up for a cooking school and make friends, explore local markets, discover delicious and unique local produce: wines, cheeses, and antiques (of course). Explore tiny towns and neighborhoods… and even learn a culinary trick or two. The Shaw Guide to Cooking Schools is a dizzyingly encyclopedic treasure trove of precise and valuable information on who, what, where, and when, plus career ideas.

The excellent, extraordinary website is easy to navigate.  To research and select the right recreational cooking school as a vacation-destination, please click http://cookforfun.shawguides.com/


Here’s a chance to transform your boring old self into a:

  • Brew Master
  • Archaeologist
  • Part of a Pit Crew
  • Chocolatier
  • Sports Announcer
  • Wine Maker
  • Innkeeper
  • Cheese Maker
  • Fishing Outfitter
  • Alpaca Rancher
  • Dog Trainer
  • Sword Maker
  • Pro Gardener

… or try out any number of other dream jobs for 2-3 risk-free days and under the trained eye of an expert-mentor in VocationVacations ®, a unique work-travel program that offers over 70 professional experiences with over 170 expert mentors. This is not a tag-along look-see. All VocationVacations are hands-on, feet-in, and shoulder-to-the-wheel.

For example, click on Alpaca Rancher – and for two days you’ll learn the ropes in Grants Pass, Oregon soaking up info in a one-on-one mentorship with a professional Alpaca Rancher. $849 per person

Or, click on Dude Rancher and hang for 3 days with the owner of K Diamond K Guest Ranch in Republic, Washington. $1349 per person

Or how about: Learning to be a Tour Guide from Jeff Alexander in Denver, Colorado for 2 days. $849.

The founder, Brian Kurth, developed “VocationVacations Career Mentorship Experiences” a couple of years ago and it caught on almost immediately. The program is so unusual and so rewarding, that it has become the subject of a 13-part TV series on the Travel Channel.  Click: http://vocationvacations.com or call them in Portland at 503-720-4282.