September 12 – 20, 2016 (Completed)
September 23 – October 1, 2016 (Completed)
October 9 – 17, 2017 (4 openings)
Daily Itinerary Description
Day 1: Bienvenue! Welcome to Paris, France “The City of Lights.” You will be collected from the airport or train station by a private chauffeur and driven to your private apartment in the prestigious neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. There, you will be personally greeted & welcomed by a member of your apartment staff. Check in is usually late in the afternoon, but you will be let in to store your luggage and have a brief tour of the apartment. I will collect you at your apartment and, depending on the time of your arrival, we will do a neighborhood orientation to locate the ATM machine, pharmacy, boulangerie and patisserie. In order to help you get familiar with the bus and metro, we will utilize public transport on the way by a special welcome lunch at a quintessential Parisian bistro, where President Obama & the First Lady dined a few years ago. The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure to unwind and settle in at your own pace. A fun way to sight-see and monument-hop is with the Big Bus Paris (hop on/hop off open bus tour; formerly Les Cars Rouges) ~ this is an excellent “opener” to the city, and is relaxing enough to be enjoyed on your very first day ~ the upper deck is recommended for its sweeping views of Paris, putting you at the level of the beautiful buildings and trees, and conveniently shielded from cars & traffic; your ticket is valid for two consecutive days starting the day you board the bus. Free afternoon & evening. (L)
Day 2: Outdoor Market Tour & Picnic, Cooking Dinner Party. This morning, visit the outdoor market frequented by locals, the Marché Raspail in Saint Germain des Près. Witness a tremendous array of delicious fare, including abundant fish, cheese, meats, and exquisite produce. Choose from among the finest delicacies in Europe for our cooking dinner; and select various tapenades, patés, fruit, and cheese, along with a rotisserie chicken for our picnic lunch at nearby Jardins de Luxembourg, the most beautiful park in Paris. Built in 1625 as a royal residence for Marie de Medici, mother of Louis XIII, the Luxembourg Palace is now home to the French Senate. Enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure. Meet at the main apartment tonight for a cooking dinner party led by me, Chef Karen. Cooking is optional ~ you may arrive at 7:00pm to join in the cooking; or, if you prefer, arrive at 8:00pm, so as to maximize sight-seeing – this is YOUR trip, so you are encouraged do as you wish. We will plan to begin eating at 8:30pm. Please note: Dinner includes a 3-course menu with a glass of wine as a starter and one paired with the main dish. If you wish to have more wine, you are welcome to BYOB. Free half day. (L, D)
Day 3: Private Impressionist Museum Tour; Intro to Paris Tour; Neighborhood Bistro. This morning, relish a 2-hour privately guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay. Enjoy and understand this particularly rich period of French art, with historical background and the human stories of famous artists. You will see elegant portraits and nudes from the Second Empire, which can be compared to the works of the Realists and Impressionists who rejected this style to paint views of modern life. Understand why these beautiful Impressionist works were ridiculed in their day, and how artists such as Van Gogh and Gauguin paved the way for modern art. You will see masterpieces by Renoir, Monet and Manet, but also Rodin’s sculptures and the fascinating model of the Paris Opera House. Following the Orsay tour, you have the option to join me for an Introduction to Paris Tour as we cross the Passerelle de Solferino for a pedestrian walk into the Tuileries garden to behold the sweeping view of the Voie Triomphale, from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde, the Avenue des Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe in the distance and Le Grande Arche de La Défense beyond. Optional group lunch in the 1st arrondissement. Dine together in an authentic neighborhood bistro this evening unknown to tourists. Free half day. (D)
Day 4: Bakery Tour & Tasting, Private Louvre tour. This morning, discover the inner workings of a traditional French bakery located on a famous pedestrian street in the 17th arrondissement. During a 1-hour privately guided tour & tasting, the boulanger will invite you into the kitchen – into the heart of the boulangiere to share with you his most treasured baguette recipe, 100% natural and traditional, passed down through generations. The baguette is at the heart of French daily life. This baker has his own special signature, which makes his baguette unique; all of its secrets will be revealed to you, from the mixing of the dough, the kneading, the shaping, the decorating, and the baking of the baguette in special baguette ovens. Conclude the tour with a tasting of several products. In addition, you will be provided with a baguette and a croissant “to go”. The bakery has lovely lunch items ranging from savory quiches to hearty salads, perfect for an optional picnic together in nearby elegant Parc Monceau, one of Paris’ most beautiful parks, less known by tourists. This evening, delight in a 2-hour privately guided tour highlighting the fabulous collections of the Musée du Louvre; witness how the building evolved from a mighty castle to the main palace of the kings of France, to the marvelous museum it is today with its splendid modern glass pyramid as an entrance. You will be led through the vast and beautiful building to see world famous masterpieces of sculpture, painting, objets d’art, jewelry, and some splendidly decorated rooms. The tour includes the Venus de Milo, the newly restored Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Sphinx, the crown Jewels, masterpieces of French and Italian painting, and of course, the Mona Lisa. Free half day.
Day 5: A Day of Bubbly. A full day outing in a private air-conditioned minivan awaits you today to discover the region of Champagne. Begin the journey in the city of Reims ~ capital of the Champagne region. Delight in a 1-hour privately guided “Discover Tour” at a prestigious world-renowned Champagne House dating from the 1700s. Visit the chalk cellars, the most extensive in the region, and discover the different steps involved in the Champagne process, as well as the history of the House. Today, the company is co-owner of the largest luxury goods group in the world, Moët-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), and holds a Royal Warrant to supply champagne to Queen Elizabeth II of England. Complete the tour with a comparative tasting between the 2004 vintage and a non-vintage, highlighting the importance of aging, as well as the difference between vintage and non-vintage. Behold the impressive Reims cathedral, the gothic splendor where many French kings have been crowned, and then take a scenic drive down into the Marne Valley to the charming village of Avize in the heart of the “Côte des Blancs” area renowned since the 18th century for its balanced wines, classified as Grand Cru. Savor lunch at a magnificently renovated neo-classical mansion where the chef prepares menus for under twenty people in an intimate setting, akin to dining in a family house. Succumb to the inspiration of the chef, as there is no pre-set menu. The daily menu is full of intuition and character, emphasizing local produce, ingenuity and sourcing from producers. Following lunch, make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Dom Pierre Pérignon, housed in the abbey church of the quaint, picturesque village of Hautvillers. Conclude your visit to the region with at a small grower-producer family estate established in 1929 in the tiny village of Romery. I came to know about this estate through my father-in-law who orders their non-vintage Brut Rosé by the case; it flows generously at every family gathering, not just celebratory events, such as weddings, but also at birthdays, holiday dinners, and average run-of-the-mill dinner parties with friends. The visit includes tasting of both the Blanc des Blancs and the beloved Brut Rosé. Please note: Lunch includes a 3-course menu and coffee; alcoholic beverages not included (you are welcome to order wine or champagne at your own cost.) (L)
Day 6: Historical Chocolate Walking & Tasting Tour. Late afternoon, relish a 2-hour privately guided chocolate walking tour. Find out about the history of chocolate, and how Paris is the capital of dark chocolate. Visit a variety of superb chocolatiers (master chocolate makers) on this enjoyable walk, mixing history and intriguing anecdotes with chocolate tastings. Learn to select, taste, and appreciate quality chocolate. This tour will give you some good ideas, and introduce you to some secret addresses. Free half day & free evening.
Day 7: Monet’s House & Gardens. Savor the morning as you wish. Travel by train this afternoon to the Norman town of Vernon, and catch the shuttle to the village of Giverny to discover Monet’s House & Gardens. Delight in a 1.25-hour privately guided tour beginning in Monet’s gardens; cross the Japanese bridge that was painted over several days at different times, and stroll around the pond with the celebrated water lilies that inspired the master of Impressionism. Visit the Clos normand, the gorgeous blooming flower garden, and discover how Monet himself designed it by applying his skills for painting to gardening. Monet’s house is exactly as it was during his time, with the studio-sitting room, the bedrooms of Claude and Alice, the yellow dining room with its surprising collection of Japanese woodblocks, and the kitchen decorated with blue tiles. Learn how Monet transformed the home into his own style. Details about Monet’s family life in this very place will enable you to step back into the 19th century. Please note: Because of the small rooms, it is not possible for the guide to accompany us inside Monet’s home; explanations will be given outside, then we will visit the house on our own. Following the visit of the house, you will have a half-hour of free time to linger in the gardens, explore the gift shop, wander the tiny hamlet, or visit the sleek Impressionist Museum across the street. Return to Paris by train, arriving Gare St. Lazare at 7:45PM. Free half day.
Day 8: Private Dinner with French Chef in a stylish Parisian Home. Enjoy a free full day to savor Paris the way you wish. Tonight, enjoy a rare opportunity to savor a gourmet meal prepared by a French chef in the home of a native Parisian. Your hostess Véronique, born and raised in St. Germain des Près, will give insight into Parisian life and impress us with her refined table decoration. Her home is located in a chic neighborhood of Paris (her next door neighbor is a world-famous French fashion designer). Our esteemed chef will prepare a traditional 4-course gourmet meal, which will delight your eye and palate. Please note: Dinner includes appetizers with champagne, 4-course menu with 2 glasses of wine, followed by coffee, if desired. Should you wish you enjoy more wine with your meal, you are welcome to BYOB. Free full day. (D)
Day 9: “Au Revoir.” Your private pre-reserved chauffeur will collect you to take you to the airport or train station. As they say in French, “Bon retour et Merci” (“Have a good return and THANK YOU!”)
Note: Free time is incorporated into the itinerary so that you may enjoy Paris at your own pace. “Free half day” is defined as a minimum of 5 hours on your own; “Free full day” is defined as a minimum of 8 hours on your own. “Free evening” means you are on your own after 6:00pm.