2023 End-Season Tour Missive


That’s A Wrap – With Gratitude and a Heartfelt Thank you!


Dear Adventurers, Friends, and Family,


As the vibrant autumn leaves fall across the French countryside, we bid adieu to another enchanting season of “France Off the Beaten Path Tours.” We can’t help but look back with hearts full of gratitude and fond memories. This season was extraordinary as we embarked on new adventures with fresh faces and welcomed back many returning guests.


The thrill of introducing our favorite French regions to our new travelers brought a burst of energy to our journeys. The laughter, the camaraderie, and the shared excitement reminded us why we love what we do. It was a pleasure to introduce you to the hidden gems, local flavors, and untold stories of the places we cherish.


But what also equally warmed our hearts were the reunions with our returning guests. Your loyalty and trust have become the bedrock of our tours. To see familiar faces year after year, hear stories of your past adventures, and share new ones with us was a delight that words can hardly express. It’s like traveling with dear friends, and we cherish each moment spent in your company.


Together, we explored the heart and soul of our favorite regions of France, shared heartwarming moments with local French friends, savored delicious cuisine, marveled at breathtaking landscapes, and delved into the fun and intriguing side of French history and beautiful French culture. Whether it was a bustling market in Provence, magical castles in the Loire Valley and their salacious stories, discovering bubbles in Champagne, or traditions and beautiful vineyards of Bordeaux, we shared these unforgettable experiences with new and old friends alike.


The bonds formed during our tours, the shared moments, and the laughter that echoed throughout the season created a tapestry of memories we’ll carry with us forever. We’re grateful for the trust you place in us and for your passion for adventure.


Now, as the leaves turn to gold and France’s secrets reveal themselves, we again thank you for joining us this past year, and we look to next season with renewed excitement to journey through our favorite regions of France. We look forward to welcoming you to experience hidden gems and untold tales.





September 2023 Loire Valley tour during cooking a home and dinner with local friends.

In this special “wrap-up the year” edition, I fondly look back at some of the captivating shared experiences as we stepped into our time machine, whisking you away to the past. Those of you who traveled with me through the Loire Valley this season enjoyed a magical journey into the past when the Valois family of kings reigned. Influential women such as Anne de Beaujeu, Marguerite de Valois, Marie de Cleves, Charlotte de Sauve, and Gabriele d’Estrées took center stage during my storytelling.


While there tends to be a focus in the Loire Valley to talk mainly about the men in power, their acts, and how they influenced the French kingdom during the Renaissance when the presence of the royal court in the Loire Valley flourished, my excitement for the region lies in sharing the secrets and salacious untold stories about the powerful women who shaped France during this pivotal period of French history. Marked by intrigue, war, and cultural flourishing, women of the 15-17th centuries navigated the complex political landscape of Europe, leaving a notable mark on France’s future.


With tremendous excitement, I revealed Anne de Beaujeu as a pioneering figure of the late 15th century. As the eldest daughter of King Louis XI and Charlotte of Savoy, Anne emerged as a remarkable woman whose wisdom and determination helped shape the destiny of the French monarchy. During an era marked by political turbulence and power struggles, Anne de Beaujeu’s intelligence and composure stood out. She stepped into a role unusual for a woman of her time. With her younger brother, Charles VIII, ascending to the throne at the young age of thirteen, Anne became the de facto ruler of France for seven years. Her regency, often referred to as “the Madam’s Regency,” was a testament to her remarkable abilities. She skillfully navigated the treacherous waters of court politics, making shrewd alliances and decisions that stabilized the French monarchy. Her leadership was marked by diplomatic acumen and a firm hand in maintaining royal authority. She was considered the most powerful woman in Europe. Her reign and regency underscored that intelligence, determination, and leadership know no gender.


I also exposed the trials and tribulations of women like Marguerite de Valois, whom I wrote about in one of my previous missives this year. She took to the royal stage gracefully during the reign of her three brothers (Francis II, Charles IX, and Henri III). While her salons became breeding grounds for ideas, and her influence transcended politics, her life was marred by numerous failed love affairs, disinheritance, imprisonment, incest, and periods of poverty.


Those who traveled with me in the Loire Valley were also privy to stories of many other influential, lesser-known women who lived lives of luxury and privilege, not simply as mistresses but as favorites of French kings. It always feels like home when I talk about the women of this historical period. They’re the essential ingredients to beautifully illustrate this crazy ride through centuries of French history. So many lesser-known yet influential women stood by my side figuratively all season as I divulged new and intriguing stories that made learning about the past fun and refreshing.


From Marie de Cleves, a literary icon and favorite whose physical beauty alone psychologically paralyzed a King, to her contemporary Charlotte de Sauve, guests could conceptualize women’s influence over royal men as the stories unfolded. Through scandal and seduction, Charlotte de Sauve’s involvement in the complex web of love affairs with four royal men, two of whom became king, rivaling even the most dramatic soap operas, once more exemplified tales of love, deception, and ambition. Last but certainly not least, another of my favorite women, Gabriele d’Estrées, King Henry IV’s beloved favorite, arrived at the French court during the reign of Henri III’s brother Charles IX when the future Henri IV was still only King of Navarre. She became the apple of his eye long before his ascension to the French throne. She was a crucial figure in the French court, wielding unparalleled influence over Henri IV’s decisions despite her nickname, “The Trash Duchesse.” Her relationship with the king, her beauty, and her traumatic death continue to captivate historians and romantics alike.


Not only the physical beauty of each of these women but also their intellect carved a path to holding the ultimate place of power at the French court. Each season, our Loire Valley tours welcome guests to walk in the footsteps of these and many other remarkable women and the royal men they influenced. During every Loire Valley tour, we explore châteaux, charming villages, and untold stories that encapsulate the spirit of the Valois and early Bourbon eras while combining activities and time at home with my local friends, prominent chefs, winemakers, and artisans of the region.



Before we part ways until my next missive, it’s with profound sadness that we decided to postpone our highly anticipated November 2023 Egypt tour. Recent unrest in the Middle East led us to make this difficult decision. We understand the immense disappointment and frustration accompanying this postponement of a long-awaited adventure. The anticipation of exploring the wonders of Egypt and the land of the Pharaohs through the eyes of our Egyptian friends and family sparked excitement and dreams of an experience unlike any other. The pyramids, the Nile, the ancient temples – these were to be the backdrop for your own extraordinary stories. However, in times of turbulence and uncertainty, we must prioritize guest safety and well-being. Like so many around the world, our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by this tragic situation.

2024 Tour Dates & Prices…

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Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to keep updated when we post photos and videos. Beginning in May, my friend and fellow guide Summer and I will resume filming for our YouTube channel, “FrenchDish.” And if you haven’t had a chance to watch the videos we published over the past two years, please join us by clicking through to our channel to have a look and subscribe. FrenchDish – https://www.youtube.com/@frenchdish


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