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TOURS & CRUISES

Cooking, Tasting Your Way Through France

July 18, 1999|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | 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.

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