Cooking, Tasting Your Way Through France

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Visitors can explore the markets, vineyards and hidden restaurants of France in rural and urban settings on a culinary holiday, Sept. 12 to 23. The trip begins in the village of Montolieu, located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Here, in one of the largest wine-producing areas in France, the group will stay six days.

In addition to daily outings, guests will have time to shop antique bookstores, ride horses and swim in the two rivers bordering the town.

Each day's excursion will focus on a particular epicurean delight, such as the local products--honey, olives and goat cheeses--found in the markets of medieval Carcassonne. In Toulouse, a guided tour of the fish and vegetable emporium, Les Halles, will be followed by lunch in a traditional market restaurant. A trip to Collioure, the seaside town where Matisse and Picasso painted, will include a visit to the vineyards.

One morning will be spent gathering herbs, fruits and flowers, with a tour of the Abbey of Villelongue and its garden. Guests will hunt for mushrooms in the ancient forests of Colbert, then enjoy lessons on how to prepare wild foods in such dishes as mushroom souffle and lavender ice cream.

Then it's off to Paris for four days. Participants will stay in the Hotel Louvre Montana, one block from the Louvre, and cruise on the Seine River through the heart of Paris and underneath the Bastille on Canal St. Martin.

Cost: $3,300 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, air fare between Paris and Toulouse, transfers, guided excursions to the various markets, hotel accommodations, all breakfasts, four lunches and seven dinners. The tour is limited to 10 people.

Contact: Anne Block of Take My Mother Please; telephone (323) 737-2200.

France: More Food

A two-week tour of southwest France that combines cooking and sightseeing is being offered Oct. 1 to 15. The trip includes eight hands-on cooking classes. Participants will eat dinners in various styles of restaurants, hear lectures on French culinary traditions and visit vineyards, cheese factories, plum orchards and duck farms.

Cost: $2,100 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations at Chateau Le Temples near Bordeaux, breakfast and dinner daily, most lunches, all transfers and sightseeing excursions. Air fare to Bordeaux is extra.

Contact: Mary Bakke, Maison de Marie, 768 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428; tel. (800) 549-3164.

Oman: Ancient Finds

Border Discoveries' "Arabia Felix" 14-day tour of Oman features a day trip in the great "empty quarter" of Arabia, treading in the footsteps of early desert explorers. The tour also includes a stay at the Bustan Palace Hotel (an Omani royal palace), a beachfront resort stay on the Indian Ocean, tours of the capital city of Muscat and an excursion to the Hajar Mountain range in the north, as well as the southern region of Dhofar and Oman's coastline.

Upcoming tours are Oct. 24 to Nov. 6 and March 13 to 25.

Cost: $3,061 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, daily breakfast and some other meals, ground transportation and sightseeing. Tours are limited to 18 participants. Air fare to Oman is extra.

Contact: Border Discoveries; tel. (703) 356-2826, Internet http://www.borderdisc.com.

Turkey: Yachting

TRAX World Tours of Englewood, Colo., is offering a series of 15-day tours to Turkey featuring a five-day yacht cruise along the Turquoise Coast. The next departure is Oct. 2. Also included are stops in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Perga and Ephesus.

Cost: from $2,975 per person, double occupancy, including deluxe accommodations, most meals, local guides and all entrance fees. Air fare is extra.

Contact: TRAX World Tours; tel. (888) 340-8729, Internet http://www.traxtours.com.

Costa Rica: Crafts

One-week crafts classes set amid the culture of rural Costa Rica are available from the Monteverde Studios of the Arts. The Monday-to-Friday courses, available on various dates during the year, include papier-ma^che, weaving, leather work, painting, pine-needle basketry, dance, nature photography and Costa Rican cookery.

Cost: $457 to $565 for instruction (excluding lab charges), six nights' lodging at the Trapp Family Lodge and daily breakfast and dinner. Air fare is extra. Transfers from the San Jose airport can be arranged, and there also is a twice-daily bus from the city to Monteverde. Class size is limited.

Contact: Monteverde Studios of the Arts; tel. (800) 370-3331.

Wyoming: Yellowstone

Visit Yellowstone National Park in winter when the crowds are gone and most of the roads are closed. Two dates are available: Feb. 28 to March 3 or March 6 to 11. Guests will stay in Jackson and at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Touring throughout the park is aboard heated, track-driven snow-coaches. The trip is escorted, and hosts can help guests with renting snowmobiles, cross-country skis or snowshoes.

Cost: $975 for five days ($1,075 for six-day package) per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare to Salt Lake City with ground connections to the park, hotels, some meals and sightseeing.

Contact: Main Street Tours, 1751 W. Torrance Blvd., Suite N, Torrance, CA 90501; tel. (800) 300-6246.

Spain: History

An educational tour of Spain runs from Nov. 5 to 14. It includes historical sights and overnight stays in Madrid, Seville, Costa del Sol and Granada. There will also be visits to Cordoba and Gibraltar. The focus of this trip is to reunite people with their geographic and familial origins through social, artistic and architectural aspects of Spain.

Cost: $1,495 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, hotels, breakfasts, some meals, guides and transfers. Arrangements can be made to visit other parts of Spain or Portugal.

Contact: Doreen Adams, Lido Travel, 3404 Via Lido, Newport Beach, CA 92663; tel. (800) 843-6679.

Indiana: Football

Witness the intense rivalry between Notre Dame and USC on a trip to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and attend an Irish/Trojan football game on Oct. 16. Guests will spend three nights in South Bend and tour the campus, enjoy a football luncheon and pep rally, visit the Football Hall of Fame and attend a postgame dinner.

Cost: $950 per person, double occupancy, including air fare between Los Angeles and Chicago, bus from O'Hare to South Bend, lodging, game tickets, sightseeing and some meals.

Contact: Jim Gillis, co-chairman of Notre Dame Alumni Assn.; tel. (818) 769-3812 or (818) 505-1097.

Australia: Aboriginal Art

Explore an ancient culture that's still alive on an 18-day tour of four Australian states and territories: Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Guests will tour Melbourne and attend a performance at the Victorian Arts Center.

Also planned: visits to Aboriginal art galleries, a day in South Australia's wine country, the Aboriginal Cultural Institute and Museum in Adelaide and a sunrise tour of Ayers Rock. In Alice Springs, guests take a camel ride to dinner. Next, they visit Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, with a one-night stay at a deluxe safari camp.

Cost: from $5,700 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare between Los Angeles and Sydney, domestic flights within Australia, 15 nights' accommodations, sightseeing, transfers and some meals.

Contact: ATS Tours' Down Under Specialists; tel. (800) 423-2880.

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with cruise lines, travel agents or tour operators.

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