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Honeymoon & Travel

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Beach Vacation

When Donna Jacobsen, Managing Director and Travel Specialist at Equality Travel, began working in the travel industry, it was because she had become bored with her previous career. "After I graduated with an accounting degree," Donna explains, "my sister graduated from a travel and tourism business school. She got a job in a travel agency just opening in New York City, and they needed an accountant." Donna applied and got the position, but it wasn't long before she was making contacts with the clients too. "After a while I got involved with clients and the travel side of the business and began to explore the options of doing both.  I have successfully been in the travel industry for 36 years."

Most of those years have been with Entertainment Travel, parent company for Equality Travel. That umbrella, specializing in travel arrangements for bands, TV and film personalities, and professional sports teams, was no stranger to niche subsidiaries, though, as they had already established their Destinations Galore and Honeymoons Galore divisions.

Equality Travel, now just one year old and serving the LGBT population, has been an additional successful venture. "We have prided ourselves with niche marketing at our parent company, Entertainment Travel; the right personnel and changes in marriage equality laws opened many new doors for us," Donna says.

But she adds that in all of their divisions catering to marriage-bound clients, the goal for those clients is the same. "The bottom line," Donna explains, "is that couples are looking for that dream vacation, that once-in-a-lifetime wedding. Planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation is very satisfying.  Our staff gets to know the couple and helps makes their travel dreams come true."

Increasingly, those travel dreams include very distant destination weddings. "We are getting more requests for destination weddings," Donna explains, "because couples are thinking that if they're going to spend $50,000 on a local wedding, they'd rather have a smaller destination wedding, combining the wedding ceremony and honeymoon. She points out that there can also be additional savings when the wedding, reception, and honeymoon are booked together. "When that is done, many venues will throw in the wedding at no cost," she says.

She says that destination weddings can be small, and she books many with just the immediate family. She provides an example using one trending destination wedding spot. "For instance, a family all flies to Florida for the wedding, but then the couple, alone, flies on to the Bahamas or Aruba for their honeymoon."

But she says there are much larger destination weddings too, with guests numbering in the hundreds. "For example, I've flown in 150 people and everybody comes to the wedding. It takes more than a year for the planning, with the couple sending out "save the date" cards in advance. So now, instead of going on vacation, relatives and friends make that wedding their annual vacation."
She adds that there are times when the couple pays for their guests, or a portion of their trip. "You might have a couple doing a destination wedding and they're going to pay for just the immediate family and wedding party. But some couples pay a percentage for other guests, with the remainder of the cost paid by the guest."

Regardless of the wedding size, there is almost always a honeymoon to follow, and Donna says she is booking more adventure-types of trips. "Some couples don't want to sit on the beach and sip piña coladas for a week," she explains. She adds that she has set up a number of safaris, and trips to the Galapagos Islands, which include hiking opportunities.

But, she adds that romance is still in. "I think romance will always be a big part of the honeymoon and destination wedding experience. We do some adventure wedding destinations, but not too many because people still like strolling on the beach and candlelight dinners. It's all those intimate romantic moments couples want to have when they start their new life together. Romance is still priority, the top of the list in what couples are looking for." She adds that this also applies to couples who have already been together for 20 or 30 years. "They didn't get to have that romantic honeymoon, they still want it, and they can do that now."

Regardless of the size of the wedding, Donna says there are places couples want to go. "Hawaii, Mexico, and Europe still remain top choices. Italy is big, especially Rome and she has sent couples to Barcelona, Spain." One of her recent couples also visited Thailand, and Tahiti and Fiji are popular, but London is perhaps the most popular destination for Equality Travel couples. "London, as far as Europe goes, is a top seller," Donna explains. "Same-sex marriage is legal there."Scenic Hike

And "acceptance" is an important factor. "For my LGBT couples, one step I take is finding them a place where they will be comfortable, safe, and welcome. A place where they can walk down the street holding hands. That's the main thing I can do for our same-sex couples, to send them some place they can be safe, comfortable and accepted."

The bottom line to every wedding and honeymoon trip she plans, however, is the couple's comments on the success of their trip. "Upon a couple's return from a trip that we have planned, hearing all the positive feedback is wonderful."

Part of that success, Donna explains, is planning ahead, and she advises couples to contact her very early. "Couples planning a destination wedding and honeymoon, or both, should try to contact us at least six months ahead of their event." She says that many couples contact her 12 to 18 months ahead, and that's even better. "But if a couple calls and says they're getting married in 45 days, we will, of course, plan something for them."

Donna finds that her trips are so successful that couples return from their destination weddings and honeymoons, then call her again and again for annual vacations. For that reason, Equality Travel is planning a way to reward such travelers, the VIP Travel Club, so clients can earn points toward free services such as massages, dinners, and even airline flights. "We are working on a way to reward our clients and their referrals," Donna says.

With all that she does--weddings trips, honeymoons, vacations, and more—there is never a dull moment. "I love working with every couple at the most exciting time of their lives. Planning for the future and helping them to plan the perfect vacation comes naturally to me." Now beginning year 37in the travel business, Donna says, "I still love it." Not once has she been bored.

(Contact Donna Jacobsen at: Equality Travel 610.706.0984/ 917.763.8978/ donna@equalitytravel.net.)


Susan Hart Hellman is a California-based freelance magazine writer, and author of the first in her series of murder mysteries, Catch ‘n Release: The Game.  To contact Susan and for more information please visit www.susanharthellman.com.

 Catch 'n Release: The Game


Your Visit to Gay-friendly India!

Monday, 12 November 2012
Written by Published in Honeymoon & Travel

India is famous for its rich heritage, unique traditions, diverse culture and ancient civilization.  It has preserved its cultural heritage in various forms:  magnificent palaces, havelis, temples, mosques and churches, spicy and delicious cuisine, and many colorful and lively festivals.  India has it all, making it one of the most popular cultural destinations of the world, and is becoming a favorite hotspot for gay & lesbian couples seeking an exotic and unique travel experience!

You & your partner can visit some of the most world-renowned sites including the Taj Mahal, immerse yourself in the culture by staying with a local family, indulge in fabulous cuisine or the urban scene, tour like an adventurer through the jungle or at the foot of the Himalayas.

Enjoy this introduction to the beautiful country of India, thanks to our friends at Pink Escapes!

It is said you can eat more varieties of cuisine in India than the rest of the world all together! The delicious Indian recipes, as rich and diverse as its civilization, have been passed on through generations by word of mouth. The range varies from region to region, from the taste, to the color, texture and aroma.

Cuisine & Culture tours are a new trend, featuring celebrity chefs, regional delicacies and personalized culinary adventures.  Not only do you dine and imbibe extremely well but also learn about aspects of food creation and cooking. There are memorable visits to interesting markets (spice & vegetable), private homes and the best restaurants, making the journey a gastronome’s delight! Go fishing with a Goan fisherman in a seaside village, and then return to his home for a cooking demo and a meal with his family. Meet a plantation owner in famed Darjeeling, who creates a special blend of tea just for you. A sumptuous experience awaits you, an Experience to Love!


Indian textiles are based on India's intricate social structure and a lifestyle based on rituals, ceremonies, music and festivals. It is truly an adventure to visit various tribes throughout the country - in small isolated communities they have preserved their distinct way of life and their traditions are reflected in ther textiles and fabrics.  

Textile tours create a rich weave that reflects India as a land of acumen, charm and passion providing a kaleidoscope to the world's most ancient civilization. From the rich brocades of Benares to the jewel like mirror work of Gujarat; from block prints to tie and dye fabrics of Rajasthan; from phulkari embroidery in Punjab to chikan work in Lucknow; from rich Kanjeevarams in the South to Ikat from Orissa; from the tribal warrior blankets of Nagaland to Batiks; from pashminas to tribal rugs from nomads in Kashmir. Undertake this truly inspiring sojourn and witness the hidden techniques of the master weavers and embroiderers that has been handed down through generations.


Surrounded by water on three sides and with more than 7500 km of coastline, India is home to an amazing array of beaches. These tropical beaches offer a picture perfect combination of sun, sand and sea, ideal for destination weddings, honeymoons or simply a romantic getaway.

Some of the beach destinations of India, such as Kerala, Goa, Andaman & Nicobar and theLakshadweep Islands, are famous for their pristine beauty.  Up North are the Himalayas, which in the local language mean ‘Abode of Snow’. Some of the world's major river systems arise in the Himalayas and their combined drainage basins are home to some 3 billion people (almost half of the Earth's population). Being the seventh largest county in the world with a very diverse topography, India offers some extremely breathtaking nature journeys. Rejuvenate in the exquisiteness of Darjeeling and Gangtok or escape in the snow capped mountains, relax on the beaches or lose yourself midst the exotic greenery of the dense forests.


India is home to nearly 70% of the world's bio-diversity and sprinkled with more than 80 national parks and 440 wildlife sanctuaries, a dream come true for wild-life enthusiasts. India houses 5 (UNESCO) Natural sites, that are a must see. A wildlife experience to India takes you through dense wild jungles and brings you face to face with tigers, elephants and rhinos trampling their way through the tall grasses. Take a jungle safari (Jeep or Elephant), experience the thrill of facing a leopard or photograph colorful birds s, all at one breathtaking destination.


The Indian subcontinent’s extremely varied topography offers a heart-thumping variety of adventure experiences: trekking, rafting, fishing, cycling, safaris (camel, jeep, and elephant), joy rides (tonga, tuk-tuk or rickshaws) and winter skiing, to name a few. Andaman, Nicobar and theLakshadweep Islands are a world class eco-tourism destination with tremendous potential for adventure and water sports like trekking, island camping, snorkeling, scuba diving and more. Whether it is hiking in the Himalayas, rafting in Rishikesh, driving to Leh in an SUV, a camel safari in the desert, sky ballooning, ethno tourism, overland travel, camping in the dunes, whatever you choose, thrilling and memorable experiences await throughout the exotic land of India!


Learn about Hinduism, one of the oldest world religions, which traces its history back almost 6000 years to the Indus Valley civilization.  Or witness the teachings of its more recent 15th century offshoot, Sikhism. Most Indian religions believe that our purpose in life is to realize that we are part of God, so that we can leave this plane of existence and rejoin God, thus achieving inner peace.

Don’t be surprised if you spot a nude monk walking down the street with sandalwood powder smeared on his head—he might be a Jain monk. Learn about Jainism and its mythological origins. Buddhism, one of the world's major religions, originated in India, from where it spread far and wide and continues to do so. Holy sites abound on the subcontinent and your travel itinerary can be based on a number of places of pilgrimage, or you can concentrate on a single region or religion. Travel the footsteps of the Buddha; attend an 11 day Vipassana camp; take a dip in the Ganges in the holy city of Varanasi; experience the sublime at the Golden Temple; admire the architecture of the Jain temples in Ranakpur; gain knowledge from a master in a private session on a boat cruise at sunrise… your preference is the guide.


Those in love with big cities and their pulsating swift life have several options for a super experience: Mumbai, the city that never sleeps; Delhi, where the private party culture takes a leap; Young and Peppy Bangalore; must-visit Kolkata, traditional yet wild; Hyderabad, the city of the Nizams; Chennai, its beach to console.
An ideal day might include a short city and shopping tour, time to explore the cuisine and visits to art galleries or theatres. In the early evening enjoy a relaxation massage by a Gay therapist, before you & your partner hit a private party or a gay bar with your host. It couldn’t get better even in your dreams!


India is a shopper’s paradise, with a fascinating blend of choices. There is an endless array of flea markets, colorful bazaars, handicraft lanes and hidden shops, as well as modern malls and Indian designer boutiques. Everything is possible- tailormade suits or dresses; you canorder a bed spread, quilt, table cover or cushion to your patterns and specifications; commission a traditional piece of jewelry for your partner or ask the weavers to weave a carpet of your dreams. Consider antiques, tribal arts, miniature paintings, sculptures, spices, tea… the list is endless. All you must have is a VISA (both kinds), some money for the inevitable street shopping and ample room to take it home (or plan to ship).


Cultural immersion tours allow you to personally experience the traditions and customs of individual families, as you are welcomed into their private homes, schools and small businesses. You'll gain an unforgettable inside-view of the world's most diverse country and a much deeper understanding of Indian people. Special activities for children can be organized by your travel guide, as well as appropriate fun-filled destinations and hotels to brighten the experience for your child:  puppet shows, bird watching, junior chef and block printing, museums, hikes and viewing the wildlife are just a few highlights.


Getting married according to Indian traditions involves many fascinating and exciting features. Picture this... a procession with dancers and drummers in colorful clothes, wedding singers, red carpets, an elaborately decorated stage, vibrantly adorned elephants (or a horse-drawn chariot) on which your partner arrives, fireworks, a warm welcome for attending friends and family... the list is as exciting as it is unlimited. Indian weddings are known for their glamour, flamboyance and fanfare.  Or, there are myriad options for your romantic renewal of vows - traditional rituals, live musical recitals, serene settings, flowers and fragrance... a great way to celebrate and strengthen your relationship. 

Honeymooning in India is unforgettable! Aside from India’s palm fringed golden sand beaches and snow covered mountains, the islands provide many other breathtaking secluded locations to enjoy a romantic honeymoon or to celebrate your love on a romantic getaway. Drown in each other and your passionate love! Whether you prefer to cruise in the backwaters of Kerala, chill in the private beach huts of Goa, take a private yacht to the secluded beaches of the Andaman Islands, get lost in the hustle-bustle of Rajasthan or catch a private helicopter to view the Taj Mahal by moonlight, the magical journey of your choice is always possible.


India offers endless opportunities to create the travel experience of your dreams! 

Choose from an array of options to suit your interests and lifestyle, leave the rest to the travel designers at Pink Escapes (based in New Delhi) who will tailor make a wonderful and unforgettable escapade. An Experience to Love and remember forever! 

Address: B-29 Shivalik, New Delhi, 110017, India

More about Us: www.pinkescapes.in

Contact Us: info@pinkescapes.in

Talk to Us: +91 9990003043




Hand in hand with your partner… venture by train through woodland forests and breathtaking overlooks to the heart of the French Alps, taking in a view of Montblanc, the highest peak in Europe.  Brave the gondola ride down into the glacier of Mer de Glace, where the ice is stunningly blue and an amazing exhibit of ice sculptures await you.


Leisurely wander through the narrow medieval roadways of Bruges – Belgium’s quaint ‘Venice of the North.’  Surround yourself with the history of landmark stone buildings erected during the Renaissance and the simple wonder of the Flemish windmills at the outskirts of the village.  Stroll along one of many picturesque canals, taking in views witnessed by travelers for centuries.


Indulge in the art of dining, European-style, while enjoying leisurely conversation and sampling a variety of French cheeses after the main course and before dessert.  Familiarize yourself with local wines, Belgian beers, breads and delectable hand-made chocolates...  Escape!


These are the quaint and inviting excursions that come to mind for many gay & lesbian travelers, as they consider a trip to la Republique Francaise or to the countryside of Belgium.  Yet imagine enjoying these moments not so much as a tourist, but as a visitor immersing him or herself for a week or two in the culture and activities of everyday locals.  Imagine experiencing Europe as a native.


This is the travel concept offered by Jackie Grandchamps, a Belgian scientist now living in the San Francisco area, who realized in 2003 that her love of travel was indeed her true passion.  “Don’t be a tourist, be our guest,” is the tagline she chose for her business:  French Escapade.


“With every trip, the common point is that we’re looking to give an authentic travel experience to people,” Jackie explains.  “I don’t like to say that I offer tours.  –People get the idea they’ll be on a big bus, with scheduled activities.  We don’t do that.  We limit our groups to eight people, many of them gay and oftentimes lesbian-only groups, and although I do have an itinerary and I do have a minivan,” she says jokingly, “...we’re able to provide flexibility and a truly unique experience where our guests actually meet locals and get a taste of the everyday culture, firsthand.”


A highlight for many who travel with Jackie is the opportunity to visit with European residents in their own homes.  “For example,” Jackie says, “during our trips we don’t tend to visit a lot of museums, but in Belgium one of the itineraries does include a visit to a museum dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge.  Afterward we stroll through a nearby cemetery where many of the Americans are buried...”  Several years ago, Jackie had a chance meeting with a woman in the area who was ten years old during WWII.  She continues, “Because we’re such a small group, this woman is happy to invite us into her house.  She makes coffee and such, and she tells us the story of how the Americans saved her life back during the war.  Usually at the end of the trip, people say their favorite part was a moment like this.”


A similar opportunity takes place during one of the trips to France:  In Provence, French Escapade travelers are welcomed into the home of a lesbian couple who recently bought a winery there just outside of town.  Unlike a tour in Napa Valley, for instance, this experience brings travelers directly into the women’s living room and kitchen.  “One of the women is French Canadian,” Jackie says, “and one is French.  They truly enjoy meeting the guests.  We go out into the vineyards and sample the grapes; we taste the wine.  Everyone shares stories about themselves and we just get to know each other, so it’s a combination of enjoying the wine and also making friends.  It’s more intimate.”


A visit to Provence with French Escapade, however, also allows for many of the more traditional regional highlights:  leisurely hours spent in the Provencal marketplace, an afternoon exploring the expansive lavender fields and the opportunity to savor the masterpieces in museums featuring Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Degas and many others.  One day brings a visit to the famed Pont du Gard, the 2000-year-old bridge pictured on every Euro.  The group learns the basic architectural details about how such a mighty structure could have been raised without mortar -in just five years- and how it has withstood the test of time.


Yet another afternoon brings the adventure of a jeep safari in Camargue, where a local farmer invites the group onto his ranch to see rice fields and a herd of wild black bulls, raised for the Race Camarguaise.  (In France, the bulls are not killed in the arenas!)  “This farmer demonstrates how he herds the bulls with trained horses,” Jackie explains.  “And he does not make money to tour people, he makes money racing bulls.  So it’s very down-to-earth:  my travelers always love the outhouse on his ranch!”


The quality of travel experiences is diverse and uncommon, to say the least.  “It’s about the culture,” Jackie comments, “but mostly my trips are about meeting people.  When we tour a castle, for example, we schedule a guide who meets us and talks about the basics... but they also tell stories about the castle and its history and its surroundings.  They make it more lively, more real.”  Truly, her guests actively participate in the culture – through the food, through the wine, through the history, through nature, through the variety of rich experiences.  Visiting France or Belgium with French Escapade is to see, hear, taste, touch and feel the destination firsthand.


A typical excursion with French Escapade begins with the arrival at your destination and a sumptuous welcoming reception.  Accommodations are most often provided by small, luxury guesthouses or traditional inns, or sometimes by Jackie and her partner, Valerie, at their fully restored 19th-century French country home.  Certain itineraries include home-cooked meals by Valerie, with regional menus prepared to correspond to the travel adventures of the day.  “If we went to the south,” Jackie explains, “Valerie cooks a meal typical from that village or that region to enhance the guests’ experience.  Food,” she smiles, “is a big part of the trip!”


“A European dinner,” she goes on to say,” is three to four courses and lasts about three hours, from 7-10pm most nights.  So we play games, we talk.”  During trips to France, she and Valerie make sure that four different types of cheeses are served at each dinner, so their guests have the chance to sample an array of regional flavors.  “There are more than 500 types of cheeses in France,” Jackie adds.  “So after an eight-day trip, you’ve tasted at least thirty of them.  And these are all cheeses you cannot get in the United States.”  She teaches guests the proper way to slice the French cheeses; each night a different person slices for the group.  Wine selections are offered to best complement the culinary experience.  “Cheese,” Jackie adds, “is a big part of every dinner!”


Delectable Sample Menus from French Escapade:

Provence Day

Aperitif/ Hors d’oeuvres:

Rose wine (Côtes de Provence) with tapenade toasts (olive and anchovy paste)

Goat cheese salad (mache) with honey (Picodon cheese from Provence and lavender honey)

Ratatouille and garlic chicken (vegetable stew from Provence)

Cheese board: 3 types of local goat cheese flavored with pepper, apricot and chives

Fruit sherbet with raspberries (local fruit)
Wines: Red Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape (Côtes du Rhone) / Rosé wine (Tavel) / Clairette de Die (Dessert wine)

French Alps Day

Aperitif / Hors d’Oeuvres:

White wine from Savoy (Roussette) with  small slices of Pâté en Croûte (pâté pie)


9-vegetable soup served with cream and chives
Raclette: cheese melt over several types of meat and vegetables
Baked apple with chestnut paste

Wines: Red wine from Savoy (Mondeuse) / white from Savoy ( Abymes)


Trips with French Escapade range in cost from $2400-$3400 per person, and include accommodations, many and sometimes all of the breakfasts and dinners, activity fees and transportation throughout the 7-14 day excursion.  The cost does not include airfare.


Many itineraries are centered around particular interests, such as regional destinations or writing, painting, cooking or golfing getaways.  Artists and authors are booked in advance to offer workshops and ongoing assistance as travelers find themselves inspired at corner cafes or toting an easel and brushes along the footpaths of St Remy de Provence in the footsteps of Van Gogh.


“Travelers pay a deposit up front of $600,” Jackie says, “basically so I can count on the fact that they are committed to the trip.  I can then set up installments so that their entire fee is paid three months prior to departure.”  Once guests initially commit to a particular itinerary and travel date, Jackie sends along a packet of helpful information:  resources about travel agents, insurance and currency exchange and an overview of typical regional weather, what to consider bringing along, and an outline concerning the activities and accommodations.


Groups vary, in that sometimes an entire family may book a trip… or a few friends may vacation together and find themselves in a group with another couple and perhaps a single traveler as well.  Oftentimes, Jackie finds that her niche is providing the single person or couple an opportunity to travel within a small group, thus enjoying the inherent benefits:  lower costs, visiting Europe in the company of a guide familiar with the area and fluent with the language, seeing the sights within the security of a group that is intimate enough to offer flexibility but large enough to provide a sense of camaraderie.Recently Jackie booked a trip for a group of women who were all related but whose husbands were not interested in the adventure.  “So eight of the women in the family -a grandmother, daughter, cousins- all got together to go to Europe,” Jackie recounts.  “But generally we offer trips for women-only, gays and lesbians, gay men only and some that are available for everyone.  60-70% turn out to be women-only.”  Many on the guest-list are returning clients, she says.


When asked about the issues concerning gays and lesbians, as they travel through small villages and stroll through rural Europe, Jackie offers, “Belgium is a country where you can marry legally, so Belgium is very liberal.  Except if you really go into the deep countryside, but they’re not homophobic.  They just might think it is a little strange to see two women holding hands.  In France, the metropolitan areas like Paris are quite liberal, of course, but we don’t tend to visit those areas; we focus on the countryside.  But we really have never had any problems.  Once, at a castle,” she recalls, “a guide there spent the morning with us and she asked why the group was mostly women…  I told her it was a trip for lesbians and she happily suggested that we go to the nearby town for lunch and visit a particular restaurant – it was owned by two gay guys.”


The travel experience Jackie wishes to provide is not necessarily a visit to the tourist hotspots.  As she emphasizes, her goal is to allow her guests to participate in the everyday culture as they explore the landscape and history.  “Bruges,” she points out, “is a favorite with all the travelers.  Not so much because it’s gay-friendly, but because it’s quaint and wonderful.”


She adds, “Most of the time, as an American traveling abroad, you can go by yourself or with your family to Paris or to the other big cities.  But traveling in the countryside becomes more complicated.  That is the niche we offer at French Escapade.”


One of Jackie’s favorite travel moments took place unexpectedly, during a trip in which a lesbian couple happened to be celebrating their 25th anniversary.  “We didn’t know about it prior,” Jackie explains, “and they saw this vintage car one day –a Deux Cheveux, which exists only in France.  One of the women said, ‘Oh I love this car!  It’s one of my dreams to drive one!’”  Discovering it was the couple’s anniversary, Jackie and Valerie planned to make a cake and organize a sweet celebration, but then Valerie realized she knew someone who owned a Deux Cheveux.  “So,” Jackie continues, “we borrowed the car and we decorated it with balloons and a sign that said ‘Deux Cheveux are for Lovers…’  The American women couldn’t drive in France of course, so Valerie drove them…  Then all of our guests wanted a ride too, so everyone switched off with my little minivan following along behind.”  She smiles brightly, remembering, “Everyone who was on that trip even now (seven years later) says that this was their best souvenir.”


Since 2003, Jackie Grandchamps has been offering a multitude of travelers unique and joyful excursions through French Escapade.  For several years, she was certain her business would focus entirely on trips to France.  Ultimately it was the travelers themselves who changed her mind.  Recalls Jackie, “The guests would tell me that they loved their trips; it was like traveling with friends and not touring…  They’d say, ‘But we want to come back with you and visit other countries.’”  After several requests, she added trips to her native Belgium.  And soon she plans to book a group for Italy, specifically Tuscany.


“I’m reluctant,” she comments, “because I don’t speak Italian.  But I’m going to hire a guide and I want to keep my returning clients happy, so I’m branching out.  I will tell the local guide exactly what I want:  cooking in Tuscany, not in a school but in someone’s home…”


Also now available are excursions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, where Jackie resides for six months during the year.  Travelers may choose from a variety of trips, from customized visits to the National Parks or Napa Valley, to a behind-the-scenes adventure through the City by the Bay where the gay rights movement gained such momentum.


2010 will also spotlight a trip to Senegal, an area to which Jackie has traveled herself many times over.  “I love Africa,” she says.  “And in Senegal they speak French.  Also it is not like Kenya or Tanzania, where Americans commonly tour.  Senegal is not a tourist-type country.  So it remains authentic.”  In keeping with her vision, Jackie chose the destination to provide a cultural experience for her travel guests.  “This will be a trip for women-only.  And we are going to meet Senegalese women – one day they are going to teach us African dances, one day we are going to cook with the locals.  One day we are going to a school and we’ll meet teachers who are women... we’ll visit the market and buy supplies and take them back to the school...  We will meet a panel of Senegal women sharing their life stories.  It will be amazing.”


Several years ago, a family of seven journeyed to Europe on a trip through French Escapade.  As the holiday ended, they were saddened at the departure and told Jackie, ‘We came here as a family of seven, now we’ve become a family of nine.’  Leaving Jackie and Valerie behind left them particularly sorry to end the beautiful trip.


This tender sentiment sums up the experience available to travelers who choose a vacation with Jackie Grandchamps, who stays in touch with her clients for months and often years after the trip is over.  “Who I work with,” she says, “are people who want to discover a new culture.  I offer the opportunity of an authentic experience, so that they will not be a tourist but a guest.”

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