Not everyone can be Julia Child and live in France to get to know the culture and the food, but guest can get a Julia-esque taste of France with French Escapade.
Jacqueline “Jackie” Grandchamps, owner and tour guide of French Escapade, has been taking women on a truly unique French adventure to get to know the culture for the past eight years.
“It’s really about having an experience,” says Jackie, 45, who enjoys showing guests’ France’s “authentic culture.” She often takes guests into only French speaking areas to explore art and culture, food and wine – including cooking French cuisine.
Originally from Belgium, Jackie, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and is a former cancer researcher at Stanford University, decided to follow her passion and her feet to travel. So, in 2004 she followed her wandering heart by beginning to invite women to explore France in a more intimate way. It was her vision to specially designed trips where guests stay in family-owned French bed and breakfasts and get a true sense of French culture and the people away from the hustle and bustle of famed tourist attractions and metropolitans. Jackie also brings guests to local business not on the well-worn tourist path.
The adventure only grew from there as guests are often invited into French people’s homes where Jackie or her partner in business and life, Valerie Sans, help guests communicate by translating if they have trouble speaking or understanding the conversation, she says.
Valerie, 46, is a chef who lives in Rhone-Alps region of France, who has a fondness for Americans and Europeans as well as an understanding of the culture. She holds a master’s degree in British and American history and literature and is a former Fulbright teacher who taught in the United States. Aside from cooking, she assists Jackie with ensuring each trip is authentic to the French experience.
“The fact that I’m from Belgium and my partner is from France, we know people who live there,” says Jackie sharing story about a woman who is a survivor of World War II who invites guests to her home for coffee and tells them stories about the war.
She’s very grateful American’s saved her village, Jackie says.
Jackie takes small groups of women, on average about eight in each tour, as guests to France up 12 times a year, averaging two weeklong vacations a month starting in the spring and wrapping up just before winter, she says. Most of the women who go on French Escapade’s vacations enjoy traveling, but don’t want to travel alone, she adds.
Often times the women enjoy their vacations with French Escapades so much that nearly half of all her guests return for other trips, says Jackie, who makes the trips personal catering to guests’ diets and other needs.
Over the years French Escapade has expanded beyond France’s borders to offering excursions to Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland, and California, USA, where Jackie’s office is based three months out of the year.
French Escapade vacations generally cost around $3,000 or more – excluding the airfare – which is bought separately from the trip – and include nearly all meals, lodging, and transportation. Sometimes deals can be caught by keeping an eye on the website.
Looking for your own French experience?, visit French Escapade.