Paris attractions: Learn to cook with Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse has just opened a school for non-professional cooks in Paris. The dripping-with-stars chef, who directs restaurants in the Plaza Athénée, the Eiffel Tower, and the luxurious tax haven of Monaco, is now willing to share his secrets with any rube who's ready to pay.
"And pay they will," was my first thought upon learning about these classes. I assumed that the good chef would be funding his pension with this Ecole de Cuisine. In reality, the tuition is hardly stratospheric—€165 ($231) for a half-day and €280 ($392) for a full day. I'm not saying that's cheap, but three hours with one of the world's top chefs (or his underlings) will cost you less than what some expats charge to march you around their neighborhood.
Those who want (and are willing to pay more for) a course in English should consider the Promenades Gourmandes. For ten years, Paule Caillat has been teaching French cooking to English-speakers. Half-day classes include a market tour, hands-on instruction, and a three course lunch for €260 ($364). Warning: the tricked-out kitchen of her new Marais apartment will make you seethe with jealousy, and she may have to forcibly remove you from the shiny red Lacanche stove.
If you can understand a little French, some of the most affordable classes are offered by the Atelier des Chefs. A wide variety of courses are put on every day in locations across the city. Prices are a steal: €72 ($101) for two hours and €36 ($50) for one hour. Their best buy is the 'formule dejeuner'—a lunchtime special that teaches you how to cook (and eat!) something in less than thirty minutes for €17 ($24). These classes are very popular with locals, but you can reserve your place online up to four weeks in advance.
On the other end of the price scale, David Lebovitz is organizing a week-long Gastronomic Adventure that's making me wish I had an extra "five large" lying around. His week includes a class and market tour with Paule Caillat, dinner with Alex Lobrano and a signed copy of his excellent book Hungry for Paris, a day-trip to the chocolate mecca of Bernachon in Lyon, dinner at the underground restaurant Hidden Kitchen, a multi-course wine tasting lesson, and more. It's hardly cheap—€3,450 ($4,835) for seven days—but that price includes six nights in a four-star Paris hotel with all breakfasts, five lunches, four dinners, first-class train travel, plus guides and local transit. Compare that with the five day course from fellow foodie Patricia Wells—$5,000 with no accommodation included—and it seems like good value for the money. (Hey, David: Do you need any dishwashers?)
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Destination: Food (2009) We asked the world's best chefs, food writers, cooking-show hosts, and specialty-food purveyors where they love to eat. The answers are all over the map (literally!), and each is worth a trip.
Tel Aviv's birthday party is coming to New York City
If you aren't able to make a trip to Israel this summer, a Central Park simulation may fill the void—free of charge. On Sunday, June 21, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., an artificial beachfront will be featured at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park for the Tel Aviv Beach Party, celebrating the first Hebrew city's first hundred years. Expect to find Israeli bands and DJs, games like matkot (beach paddleball), traditional Israeli foods such as shawarma and falafel, and 1,300 square feet of sand. Free, except for food. No tickets are necessary. To get to Manhattan's Central Park Mall, find 72nd Street if you're coming from the West Side, and 69th and 72nd Streets if you're coming from the East Side. The event is wheelchair accessible and open to all ages. In Israel itself, Tel Aviv's centennial celebrations will take place primarily during its Blue Festival from June 17–18 at the recently-renovated parks and ports of Yafo, Israel, just south of the city. The Blue Festival will launch the Yafo Slopes, a new park connecting the sea with the city, and the newly renovated Yafo Port. Some quick background on the event: The actual anniversary is April 11, but it's more fun to celebrate during the warm weather. Tel Aviv was the first modern Hebrew city, though it obviously predated the birth of the state of Israel. —David Cumming RELATED For an idea of what the beach in NYC will look like, check out Vienna's version of Tel Aviv Beach.
This weekend: The fish will fly on Catalina Island
Catalina Island, 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, plays host to thousands of flying fish every May through September. To celebrate these finned friends, the island is throwing the second annual Flying Fish Festival this weekend. Festivities begin Thursday and last through Sunday, with lots of family-friendly fare. The schedule includes a street fair with theater performances, a professional sand sculpture display, touch tanks with local specimens, and all kinds of competitions: a kayak relay race, a sling shot competition, and peddle boat races. The four-day feat is capped off with a parade on Sunday. If you want to get up close to the flying fish, take a nighttime boat tour. The fish, which can soar 30 feet in the air for distances up to a fourth of a mile, are often seen best in the dark, lured by lights from the boat. Catalina Island, at 76 square miles, is a summer vacation destination for Californians. Fun fact: William Wrigley Jr. (of chewing gum fame) bought the island in 1919 sight unseen—based on reports of how lovely it is. With rocky hills and blue waters, Catalina has an almost Mediterranean feel. Visit catalinachamber.com or call 866/772-9592 for more info. Most activities free. Boat tours are $21 for adults and $16 for kids; reservations recommended.
3 bold new summer thrills for '09
Opening this summer: America's highest glass ledge, the world's fastest roller coaster, and the world's longest zipline. America's Highest SkydeckImagine walking on air—1,353 feet high that is. Well, starting in June, you'll be able to do just that at Sears Tower (soon to be re-named Willis Tower) in Chicago. In a few weeks, the tallest building in the U.S. will debut The Ledge, a set of sturdy glass boxes extending more than 4 feet from the Skydeck on the 103rd floor. Admission to The Ledge is included in the price for a General Admission ticket for the Skydeck, which is open year-round, including holidays. For the best shot at beating the crowds, go after 5 p.m. and buy your ticket online, says a representative. Summer hours are from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Summer tickets cost $15 for adults and $10.50 for kids ages 3-11 without the audio tour, The Ledge, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312/875-9696) —David Cumming The World's Fastest Roller Coaster Opening this July in Nürburg, in central Germany: The Ring Racer, a monster that can high-tail it to 135 mph in under three seconds. The coaster is near Nürburgring, an auto racetrack that has long been considered one of the world's toughest (Jackie Stewart famously called it "The Green Hell"), but its new Ring Racer coaster, slated to open in July, promises to give you that Formula 1 feeling without the hazards of spinouts, diesel fumes, or cranky pit crewmembers. Once it opens, it will take home the trophy for fastest roller coaster in the world (nosing out its nearest competitor, previous record holder Kingda Ka, at Six Flags in New Jersey, by about 6 mph). When the crazy 75-second ride is over, you'll be pulling up parallel to the track's actual Grand Prix finish line. Take that, Ricky Bobby. (adults about $26, nuerburgring.de, 011-49/2691-3020) —Mike Iveson The World's Longest Zip Line Fly across the sheer cliffs of Eagle Canyon with Thunder Bay's new zip line—the longest in the world. The zip line, which opens in June, spans a half mile across the center of the canyon. Visitors must pay an entrance fee as well as extra for the zip line. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, and from mid-April to mid-November. Pricing is not yet available for the new zip line, according to park managers. (eaglecanyonadventures.ca, 275 Valley Road, Dorion, Ontario, 807/857-1475) —David Cumming EARLIER How to see a space shuttle launch live
Worth reading: Travel along the Buddhist Circuit
Some of our favorite items from around the Web this week: One couple finds enlightenment on a journey around the Buddhist Circuit, four sacred sites in southern Nepal and northern India. [The New York Times] Mexico's rough few months—financial crisis, drug violence, and swine flu—means deals for travelers through this summer and fall. [CNN] Taking the kids on a vacation this summer? Check out this list of kid-friendly travel gear. [Gadling] The world's first five-star hotel beside a Formula One racetrack is nearing the finish line in Dubai (where else?). [HotelChatter] Henry Moore at the Atlanta Botanical Garden: The largest outdoor display of the British sculptor's work in the U.S., with 20 sculptures. [Design Public] For more travel blogs, go to Alltop.