It may seem odd to learn French cooking in Oxford, England, but, then, the chef is French. Cooking enthusiasts can take daily classes and then spend afternoons and evenings touring London. Tops in Travel of Santa Monica is offering the tour weekly from October through April. Guests will stay at a luxury English manor hotel.
Cost: $2,400 per person, including accommodations, cooking classes, meals and wine. Not included: air fare to London, airport transfers, sightseeing costs and theater tickets.
Contact: Tops in Travel, 1409 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90402; telephone (310) 393-3791 (ask for Helga or Lisa).
More England: Baking
For those who prefer yeast and dough, there is a "Baker's Tour of Britain" April 9 to 23. Participants will visit specialty bakers in England and Wales who will perform demonstrations and give lectures on many traditional breads, cakes and puddings. Guests will learn how to bake Christmas puddings, brioche-like Sally Lunn, North Staffordshire oatcakes, fruity Welsh bara brith and other treats. A day to visit the Duchy Home Farm, Prince Charles' farm near his Highgrove estate, will include a lecture on organic farming and a visit to a mill that grinds organic wheat.
Sites and towns visited include Buxton, Stratford-on-Avon, Cardiff, Bath, Hay-on-Wye, Salisbury Cathedral and Dylan Thomas' Boathouse. Guests will also be given ample free time in each town. Once in London, guests will tour the city on their own.
Cost: $2,800 per person, double occupancy, including motor-coach transportation, hotel accommodations, breakfast daily, nine dinners and entrance fees. Air fare is not included. Tour and fare will be booked through a travel agency.
Contact: Kit Williams; tel. (562) 438-6387.
William Geffrey, a lecturer and specialist in Asian cultures and president of the advisory group to the Center for Pacific Asian Studies in Sacramento, will lead a 13-day tour to Thailand from Nov. 17 to 29. The tour will visit the archeological sites of Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, tribal villages in northwest Thailand and the Golden Triangle area, the popular towns of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Bangkok.
Among the highlights: a dinner and floor show at the Oriental Hotel's Sala Riim Naam in Bangkok; a tour into a Burmese market town and a Shan village; a boat stop at a small Laotian island in the Mekong River. At Mae Hong Son, near the northwest border with Burma, elephants will take participants through a portion of jungle before they board long-tailed boats for a trip to the village of the long-necked women of the Padong people.
Cost: $3,259 per person, double occupancy, including international air fare from the West Coast, domestic flights in Thailand, luxury hotels, daily full buffet breakfast, numerous lunches and dinners, air-conditioned ground transport and entrance fees.
Contact: Asia Small Group Tours, 7715 Rio Barco Way, Sacramento, CA 95821; tel. (800) 424- 9639.
Experience up-close encounters with African elephants on Natural Habitat Adventures' 10-day "Great Elephant Herds" safari Nov. 3 to 12. Botswana's Chobe National Park is home to one of the largest populations of elephants in the world--50,000--while Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park, with 30,000 elephants in a smaller area, has the world's most concentrated population. On daily game drives, travelers may encounter mothers and their young, solitary males and giant herds gathering at water holes.
Guests will stay at Elephant Camp, a 35,000-acre, privately owned wildlife estate. Travelers can enjoy elephant-back safaris and share in the daily lives of the tuskers, including picnicking with them on the estate, grooming, feeding or swimming with them. Elephant Camp accommodates only eight guests in four thatched chalets. Other accommodations on the trip include lodges and luxury permanent tented camps with full beds and bedding and private toilet and shower facilities.
Cost: $5,495 per person, double occupancy, including all transportation and transfers within Africa, meals, accommodations, park fees and guides. Air fare is extra.
Contact: Natural Habitat Adventures, 2945 Center Green Court, Boulder, CO 80301; tel. (800) 543-8917.
Skip the turkey dinner preparation and dishwashing for a "Thanksgiving in Colonial Mexico" trip Nov. 18 for 12 days.
Escorted tours include Guadalajara, Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, the Sauza agave fields and tequila factory, and Guanajuato.
A complete Thanksgiving dinner will be served in San Miguel.
Cost: $995 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, two meals daily, seats at Ballet Folklorico de Guadalajara and sightseeing. Air fare is extra.
Contact: Global Adventures, 350 N. El Camino Real, No. 36, Encinitas, CA 92024; tel. (800) 347-9468.
Costa Rica: Yoga