T+L Reports: French Lessons
Published: May 2009
In response to a new appetite for hands-on travel experiences, niche courses have been popping up across France like champignons in a fall field (we even found an expert to take you hunting for mushrooms). At these six top spots—ateliers, boutiques, farms—world-class authorities offer intimate instruction in everything from monogramming to fragrances. No language skills required.
PERFUME IN PARIS La Grande Boutique de l'Artisan Parfumeur (2 Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny, 1st Arr.; 33-1/44-88-27-50; $107 per class) spills its secrets during three-hour lectures held weekly in the salon of the French fragrance house's new Paris boutique. Learn the history and theory of perfume composition before playing games that put your olfactory memory to the test. Not far from "school" is the Grand Hôtel Intercontinental (2 Rue Scribe, 8th Arr., 33-1/40-07-32-32; www.paris.intercontintental.com; doubles from $452).
BREAD BAKING IN EBREUIL Retired master boulanger Christian Boutonnet (Chavagnat; 33-4/70-90-73-56; membres.lycos.fr/chavagnat; two days with one night's lodging for two from $402) shares 28 years of knowledge in two- to four- day classes in the Auvergne region. You name the bread (rye, raisin, brioche), and Boutonnet ensures that you can make it. Some sessions include lessons in charcuterie and mushroom picking.
PORCELAIN PAINTING IN LIMOGES In the capital of French porcelain, third-generation ceramist Françoise Villegoureix (34 Rue Gallieni; 33-5/55-79-04-04; two days with a double room in the Hôtel Jeanne-d'Arc, from $126 per person) conducts courses in the art of decorating "blanks"—a white soup tureen, say, or a platter. Villegoureix also engages her students with historical narrative and a field trip to the city's Musée National de la Porcelaine.
EMBROIDERY IN ROCHEFORT A vaunted institution often hired by haute-couture houses, Les Ateliers du Bégonia d'Or (67 Ave. Charles de Gaulle, Rochefort; 33-5/46-87-59-36; $130 per day), in the Poitou-Charentes region, offers by-the-book courses in embellishing household linens, from cocktail napkins to table runners. With classes limited to three participants, personalized instruction is guaranteed. Pack only your thimble—the school furnishes everything else. Stay on the banks of the Charentes River at La Corderie Royale (Rue Audebert, 33-5/46-99-35-35; doubles from $81).
MOSAIC IN SAINT-GÉNARD Veteran artist Christian Sicault (Puy Berland; 33-5/49-27-20-43; www.christian-sicault.com; six days with lunch, $508) teaches the patient craft of mosaic—assembling chips of marble, granite, and Venetian glass into patterns and images. Sicault uses techniques and motifs from classical Rome. Book a room at Annie Baillargeau's guesthouse in Coubortiges (33-5/49-29-95-13; doubles from $44).
RAKUIN LAGORCE Brigitte Moron (Poterie des Riailles; 33-4/75-37-13-06; www.moron.com.fr; five half-days, $192 per person) is known to dealers and gallery owners as a distinguished practitioner of the ancient Japanese ceramic craft that results in a crackled or lustrous metallic surface. Moron welcomes aspiring potters to her Languedoc studio. For comfortable lodgings, try Domaine de Chaussy (33-4/75-93-99-66; www.domainedechaussy.com; doubles from $45).