Nothing is more exciting for those who love to cook than to visit the elaborate gardens and fertile farms dedicated to vegetable and fruit growing and the markets overflowing with their incredible produce . These places are the sources of our gastronomic pleasures and resemble kaleidoscopes of color and fragrances waiting to be picked.
From April to October we offer tours of the extraordinary kitchen and herb gardens of Paris, Normandy and the Loire Valley. We will explore the elaborate potagers of the great royal chateaux, the serene and symbolic ones of the medieval abbeys, the charming and meticulate ones of the great manor homes and the organic ones of country farms.
Even Paris is filled with miniature orchards and vegetable gardens! Each tour offers a real opportunity to see fabulous collections of lovingly grown foods and to gain insight into how the French turned the simple growing of fruits and vegetables into a high form of art.
Our visits and tours of French kitchen gardens and markets are the fruit of our life-long passion for kitchen gardening and French history and architecture. The small groups we organize will get a unique insider's look into the gardens as we often will have the chateau's owners or gardeners participating in the visits .
In addition to set date visits departing from Paris, delectable garden tours can be organized on a date of your choice for a group of three or more persons to the gardens of your choice. In June and September special 4-day trips to garden festivals in the Loire Valley have been planned ( see calender)
The Paris, Normandy or Loire Valley Kitchen garden tours take a full day. Three and five day personalized tours are possible by prior reservation for a true Kitchen garden extravaganza!
I. South of Paris : Le Chateau de St Jean de Beauregard
This is one of France's prettiest kitchen gardens, lovingly restored by its current owners, Mr and Madame de Curiel. The potager has kept a sense of beauty, intimacy and gracefulness that is literally enchanting whatever the season of your visit. Two of France's most highly -acclaimed plant shows take place here in Spring and autumn .
II.West of Paris
The Potager du Roi (the King's kitchen garden), Located across the street from the Chateau is one of the historically most interesting kitchen gardens ever. Home to intense horticultural research and invention, this school remains up to this day a center for learning. Still subsisting are pear trees over two hundred years old in a vast variety of topiary forms. The vegetable garden is organically maintained.
For all-day trips to Versailles we will also be able to visit Marie Antoinette's hamlet
with its charming little vegetable and herb garden, the market of Versailles and perhaps a bit of time to stroll the gardens or visit the chateau .During the months of July, August and September certain dates will offer the possibility of dinner and a fabulous water show in the evenings in the park of the chateau
III. North of Paris
The Potager des Princes
is the regal newly-restored kitchen garden of the Chateau de Chantilly . Its original design by the famous garden designer of the 17th century Le Notre had been lost until Yves Bienaime bought the land in 1990 and after painstaking research was able to redo much of it as in times past. The vegetable garden is full of cutting flowers as was the custom in France long ago.
III- Potagers of Paris
Le Potager de Bagatelle
I. Potagers by the Sea
Three gardens - first we will visit two very different examples of potagers, both on the grounds of beautiful 17th century chateaux: Miromesnil - traditionally Norman in its delicate combination of vegetables and flowers and also birthplace of 19th century writer Guy de Maupassant and the other, Bosmelet, a contemporary rainbow potager designed by one of France's most famous garden designers. We will also visit an organic teaching garden, attached to a beautiful country home , the Manoir de Fay.
Jardin du Chateau du Miromesnil
on the grounds of this beautiful 17th century chateaux of Miromesnil is a lovely potager - traditionally Norman in its delicate combination of vegetables and flowers . This chateaux is also birthplace of 19th century writer Guy de Maupassant .
Jardin du Chateau de Bosmelet
The potager at the Château de Bosmelet, an 18th-century edifice located in the rolling hills of upper Normandy, is not simply a vegetable garden. The garden which is the creation of famous landscape architects Louis Benech, helped by the owners Robert and Laurence Mallet, is called a rainbow garden as it is divided into four sections each dedicated to one color: sapphire blue, amber (yellows through orange), garnet red, and ivory white.
Robert is passionate about Japanese culture and cuisine, which he learned while working in Japan. An entire garden dedicate solely to japanese vegetables has been created which is another unique feature of this brilliant garden
Jardin du Manoir de Fay
II. Potagers by the Seine
An absolutely marvellous tour which shows two vastly different gardens , that of the St Georges Abbey and the extraordinary newly- opened garden and kitchens of the Chateau de Champ de Bataille. This tour includes an exclusive personal visit of the chateau , including the private apartments. During one week-end in the month of June we not only visit the garden but also attend in the chateau courtyard an exceptional open-air opera performance .
Jardin du Chateau du Champs de Bataille
The St Georges Abbey garden
The gardens of this abbey were restored according to the 17th-century plans and offer to the visitor a beautiful example of a monastic garden in which the kitchen garden combined fruits, flowers, herbs and flowers. The panoramas of the Seine Valley that one can see from this garden are very impressive and add to the ethereal nature of the place.
I. Chateau de Villandry - undoubtedly the world's most famous Kitchen garden - an extraordinary garden of geometry and symbolism that will take your breath away. On the week-end of the 3rd and 4th of July, participants will attend at Villandry the spectacular " Night of a Thousand Lights " and on the 27th and 28th of September the famous "Days of the Kitchen Garden" also at Villandry.
II. Chateau de Valmer - the Renaisance Chateau de Valmer where the making of wine and the growing of hundreds of kinds of vegetables and fruits in a gloriously beautiful and totally organic fashion make for a great stop for all gourmets. The owners , as well as the head gardener are passionate and welcoming and make this visit a very special one!
III. Chateau de la Bourdaisiere- home of Prince Louis de Broglie, where his creation, the national tomato conservatory, is located with its 600 varieties of what is sometimes called the apple of love. On the 13th and 14th of September visits we will attend here the 10th annual "Festival of the Tomato, Savours and Tastes"
IV. Chateau de Rivau - The 12 gardens evoke the wonderful stories and legends that literature has provided. This pleasant walk, Gargantua's Kitchen Garden, the Enchanted Forest, the Flowery Meadow, the Delightful Border, the Lovers Wood, the Landscape Balcony, the Cassinina, the Orchard of Paradise, the Petit Poucet's Path and the Secret Garden, are many illustrations of themes from fairytale imagination.
VI. Chateau de la Chatonniere
Hidden away in a secluded valley are the remarkable gardens of La Chatonniere - a series of eleven enchanting terraced gardens. each varying in style and atmosphere. One is struck with admiration by the beauty of the designs, the colors of the leaf-shaped vegetable garden, the patterns of the live willow woven pergolas, and the heady perfume of the 4000 planted roses.
In Paris, weekly trips to food markets are a way of life - a place to socialize and seek out amazing high quality foods. For us it is also a classroom to learn what to look for when choosing produce and to get a feel of the seasonality in food offerings. A market in May looks totally different than the same in October.
We will visit the organic Raspail market every Sunday morning, the organic Batignolles on Saturdays and when classes are offered on Asian, Middle eastern or indian cuisines - we go to the markets where you will really think you have left Paris for another continent . These visits are experiences redolent of spices and perfumes you will not wish to forget.