By Rachel Werner
Tour France through a true foodie’s eyes—and palate—by joining an Experience in Paris trip. Two Madison-area women will show you the way. Fox World Travel group vacations manager Denise Pedersen and Wisconsin-based chef and author Susan Holding created the annual group excursions to offer an authentic taste of Holding’s French inspiration for her cookbook “The Little French Bakery” and pastry school of the same name in North Freedom.
“We’re tapping into the culinary side of travel,” Pedersen says. “Guests can expect to have the journey of a lifetime viewing cooking demos at Le Cordon Bleu where Susan studied and visiting a selection of her favorite chefs and food emporiums around the city.”
Pedersen also points out their groups are more incognito, capped at 20 participants, providing access to smaller markets, cafés and restaurants that simply can’t accommodate larger tours.
“The trip to Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny was another highlight and the visit to the Bastille outdoor market is a must. Susan guides you through the stands of produce, meat, seafood and cheeses introducing you to uniquely French cuisine,” says past attendee Sharon Bradish. “I also enjoyed being at the Cordon Bleu. As a recently retired teacher, I later had the opportunity to share my photos with the world language classes at my former high school in Columbus. The students were very curious and asked a lot of questions about what the chef was doing in my photos.”
Holding is equally passionate about preserving the “experiential” feel of their organized jaunt since, for her, it’s a natural extension of the ambiance and focus areas of the pastry classes she offers in Wisconsin. “I’d spent several years bringing France to my students. Then in 2015, I decided to act on my dream of taking a handful to Paris,” she says.
And the intimate vibe Holding and Pedersen cultivated has carried over from one year to the next. Reedsburg resident Katherine E. Campbell says, “I went on the first trip in October 2015 and again in October 2016. I love Paris and all there is to do. Some of the activities were structured with the group, but there was still plenty of time to explore on our own.”
Madison food aficionado Suz Harms says the excursion is full of unforgettable moments from start from start to finish. “The Little French Bakery team curated for me the best of Paris. “Le Cordon Bleu immersion, the hotel nestled on one of Paris’ epicurean squares, Place de la Madeleine and the constant culinary delights all allowed me to experience Paris through Susan Holding’s eyes,” she reflects. “The night bike tour of Paris was thrilling and breathtaking. Not a day goes by in six months that I don’t pine to be back, living the lifestyle I got to lead that week.”
Join Pedersen and Holding for the 2017 Experience in Paris Oct. 22-29. foxworldtravel.com/group-tours.
Can’t pop over to the continent with Holding and Pedersen this October? Then, take a class at The Little French Bakery in North Freedom. With the following classes on tap, baking like a Parisian is one dream easier to come by. thelittlefrenchbakery.com.
June 3: Intro to Bread Baking
June 4: Macaroons
July 8: French Tarts
July 9: Croissants and Pain au Chocolat