Photo: Equestrian Escapes
Jean-Pierre, who formerly led the kitchen at the groundbreaking Bay Area restaurant Chez Panisse, is one of the world’s most venerated chefs.
Click here to see the hotels >
So when the couple welcome visitors to their home in Bordeaux twice a year for a week of cooking instruction and cultural concentration, it is something special.
“We want it to be a full immersion into French life,” says Denise. And it is — the kind from which guests come away knowing how to roll chocolate truffles or spit-roast a duck.
What the Moullés seem to have perfected is the art of the educational vacation. Though common to think of leisure travel as an opportunity for relaxation and exploration, how-to trips introduce a third element: the development of a new passion or skill, whether it be surfing, painting, riding a horse or learning a language.
Guests at Two Bordelais, for example, stay in private homes and gather throughout the day for lessons, excursions and, of course, memorable meals. Jean-Pierre, without a sous-chef or middleman, teaches guests to cook for a few hours a day in either the professional kitchen at nearby Château la Louvière or in his personal kitchen at their home, a 17th-century restoration set on a vineyard.
The endeavours go beyond cooking. At the Tuscan Photo Workshop (TPW), seasoned photographers and total neophytes come together for a few weeks of shoots, critiques and family meals in the Italian countryside. For the more experienced, the intensive is a way to dose a vacation with structure and enrichment; for first-timers, it is a comprehensive introduction to the art.
“It’s so easy to take a picture now,” says Sally Gall, a longtime instructor at TPW. “But people want to learn what makes a good picture, and this is a wonderful way to do it. Because you get intense access to seven teachers and 100 photographers, all shooting somewhere between four and 10 hours a day, the exposure is just much wider than you’d get taking a regular class.”
Similarly, at the Lamborghini Academy in Bologna, Italy, students come from all over the world to spend a few days learning to drive some of the world’s best high-performance cars. By the end of the course, they are racing around the famed Autodromo Imola—proof that these types of getaways can lead to big things. Here are our favourites.
More articles from Departures:
- Amazing Private Safaris
- Under-the-Radar Cultural Destinations
- America’s Most Extraordinary Summer Vacations
- Vacations In Dangerous Places
- Best Luxury Adventure Tours
This story was originally published by Departures.
Learning to paint doesn't require a spectacular view, but on Gozo, a small Mediterranean island near Malta, the view comes with the course.
The Authentic Adventures painting workshop here takes a group of painters (usually about 10 per cohort) around the island over the course of a week, painting the sights and receiving demonstrations and personal instruction from one of the company's four tutors.
The days tend to be casual and idyllic, picnicking at ancient hillside chapels, exploring the local market and painting the Mediterranean Sea before diving in.
From $1,800 for 7 nights
Luxury surf company Tropicsurf operates a number of high-end excursions, but none more extravagant than its collaboration with Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa. Guests stay in floating bungalows located on the sand or over the water itself.
The Australia-based outfit dedicates a boat, a guide and equipment to participants (board valet included) and provides private instruction that caters to beginners and pros alike. Participants can hit the water multiple times a day, and the resort's surf locations offer everything from gentle swells to thundering racetrack waves. Anyone who tires of surfing can sail, kayak, fish, snorkel or visit the Four Seasons Spa.
Accommodations, from $1,024 (plus $233 transfer fee); beginner lessons, $110 per hour; intermediate private lessons, $250 per half-day; advanced surfing, $160 per half-day, including guide and boat
Who hasn't fantasized about getting behind the wheel of a powerful racing car and executing a roaring 360-degree turn? At the Lamborghini Academy in Bologna, Italy, students of the Track Driving Academy get to do just that on the Autodromo Imola, one of the world's legendary counter-clockwise tracks.
Drivers receive one-on-one coaching in a range of Lamborghinis, from the Gallardo to the Aventador LP 700-4, learning the ins and outs of the cars as well as racing techniques. The instruction culminates with an advanced race simulation on the Imola.
From $3,800 for 2 nights
The prospect of learning a new language can conjure images of stuffy classrooms and outdated textbooks. But Coeur de France, where classes take place at a 16th-century château and vineyard in Sancerre, France, is different. Courses last anywhere from one to eight weeks and focus on full cultural immersion, regardless of a student's proficiency level.
Participants spend a few hours in the classroom a day before embarking on extracurricular activities designed to test and strengthen their new skills -- like dropping by the local cheese shop to sample the offerings or visiting nearby châteaux and wineries with an instructor. Students can stay on-site in opulent, classically styled lodgings (think Louis XVI) or rent one of several available apartments or cottages in the nearby village.
Private tutorial, from $1,000 a week; housing, from $900 a week
Deer Valley is one of only three remaining mountains in the United States that ban snowboarders, which makes it a perfect safe haven for new skiers. Less energy spent avoiding boarders means more spent on getting down the mountain -- and at nearly 10,000 feet it is quite a mountain, with slopes as varied and strikingly beautiful as they come.
Deer Valley Resort offers top-quality private instruction, with options for half- or full-day classes, customised lessons and even adaptive instruction for those with disabilities. Full-day private students get the benefit of Dartfish video analysis, which analyses form and technique using freeze-frame technology and a SimulCam that allows skiers to compare their form with that of experts.
Full-day private lessons, from $775; customised lessons, from $170 an hour (not including lift ticket or accommodation)
Maya Tulum is legendary in the yoga world for being one of the premiere locations to combine practice and pleasure. The resort offers 11 different kinds of yoga, from powerful ashtanga vinyasa to sunrise meditation sessions.
The resort regularly hosts retreats led by notable visiting yogis, which are good options for those who need a more rigorous or structured lesson plan. Guests stay in beachfront cabanas or villas, eat vegetarian meals or fresh fish and have access to an array of spa treatments. There are several ancient ruins nearby that make for day trips, though few visitors may want to tear themselves away from Maya's yoga, spa and white sand.
From $170 a night
It is hard to find more rarefied, crystal-clear waters than at Le Taha'a, a five-star resort located on a tiny French Polynesian islet accessible only by boat or helicopter. Guests stay in bungalows suspended over the ocean and reap the rewards of the resort's dive centre, which provides top-of-the-line equipment and private instruction.
Beginners can get certified, making initial underwater forays in the resort's lagoon, while more experienced divers explore nearby coral reefs, shipwrecks and submerged caverns. For those who feel like taking it easy, the resort has one of the world's best sites for snorkelling: the Coral Garden, which offers the opportunity to get up close with a spectacular array of coral colonies and tropical fish.
From $700 a night
Jerez, nestled in the heart of Andalusia, is one of Spain's lesser-visited cities. But locals know that the town is the capital of two abiding national loves: sherry and horses.
Equestrian Escapes leads luxury horseback-riding trips all over the world, but the week to spend is the one in Jerez, led by an acclaimed former professor at the Royal Riding School Jerez. Guests receive individualized instruction, riding through the vineyards and out into the countryside to picnic, visit bodegas and horse farms and (naturally) indulge in sherry tastings with local winemakers.
From $1,600 for 7 nights
There are few better introductions to the art of French cooking than an invitation into the kitchen with Jean-Pierre Moullé, who was the head chef at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters's renowned restaurant in Berkeley, California, for 20 years.
Twice a year Moullé and his wife, Denise, welcome just six to eight people to their home in Bordeaux, where Denise's family owns seven world-renowned châteaux. Guests enjoy a week of private cooking lessons with Jean-Pierre; trips to nearby wineries, markets and farms with Denise (who knows all the right people and places); and -- no surprise -- lots of incredible meals.
From $4,000 for 6 days
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.