Join Phil Cousineau and Mort Rosenblum to discover the literary, cultural, and epicurean heart of Paris on this 8-day journey to the City of Light and Lights.
Stroll back in time down the cobblestone streets of Montmartre where Van Gogh painted and Piaf sang, stop for un café at Les Deux Magots to see if you can still overhear Sartre and de Beauvoir. Then step into the present-day with inspiring discussions on a teak boat docked on the Seine and a talk from Le Monde chief correspondent Rémy Ourdan. At Shakespeare & Co meet Sylvia, the daughter of founder George Whitman, and at Chartres be guided by labyrinth expert Malcolm Miller. Enjoy croissants, escargots, couscous, falafels, and market-fresh produce as you feed your body as well as your soul. Your tour leader Phil Cousineau and guest host Mort Rosenblum will share their extensive personal knowledge of Paris with you on this not-to-be-missed tour. READ MORE
Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 30 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”
As tour leader, Phil Cousineau provides pilgrims with a wealth of knowledge, revealing a fascination for history and myth, as well as humour and skilled inclusive leadership. Sue Robertson, Sydney, Australia
The world’s favourite city has evolved since Hemingway, but the spirit he captured in a few words remains: “Wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Phil Cousineau and Mort Rosenblum, who have each written about Parisian intimacies since the 1970s, team up with world-class ambience director Jeannette Hermann for a rare taste of this magnificent place. They combine art, literature, and cuisine with a look at current events that shape today’s world disorder.
We start at Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore by Notre Dame that George Whitman opened a century ago, with a talk by his daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman, who has expanded the venerable hole-in-a-wall into a literati wonderland. We take you to Club 61, where top journalists passing through Paris hang out on breaks from covering mayhem across the globe.
At the Louvre, Phil sheds light on what happened to the Venus de Milo’s arms. At La Grande Mosquée de Paris, over a splendid couscous lunch, Mort debunks irrational fears of Islam. After each day’s ramble in the tracks of Baudelaire, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, and so many others from the Parisian past and present, we lead a lively discussion in such heartbeat cafés as Le Procope, opened in 1686, Les Deux Magots, where Sartre and de Beauvoir debated Camus, and the legendary brasserie and Art Deco masterpiece, La Coupole, patronized by Josephine Baker and her pet cougar, the chanteuse and muse Kiki de Montparnasse, Picasso, and Maurice Chevalier.
On a day trip to Chartres we will thread the glorious 12th century labyrinth with Malcolm Miller, who has been guiding pilgrims there for the last fifty years. Our visit to Montmartre will be an exercise in flânerie, the Parisian art of wandering serendipitously, as we explore the birthplace of the bohemian movement, where Picasso, Susan Valadon, and Van Gogh painted, and the music of Erik Satie, Edith Piaf, Django Reinhardt filled the wine-scented air. Our farewell dinner will be a two and a half hour cruise down the Seine, on Le Calife, a candle-lit Art Deco boat.
Phil has probed every cranny of Paris since his days as resident writer at Shakespeare and Company, absorbing two millennia of the city’s spirit and soul. Mort came to Paris in 1977 as Associated Press bureau chief, then editor of the International Herald Tribune. Now he works from an old teak boat on the Seine, where we gather for lively discussions. Jeannette Hermann has produced original travel experiences in Paris and around the world since the 1980s and will co-ordinate the daily events as the tour's ambience director.
By the end of trip, it will be plain why Audrey Hepburn had it right: “Paris is always a good idea."
Mon, May 21
Arrive Paris; Welcome Reception & Dinner (D)Read more
On arrival in Paris, you will check into your hotel – the Hotel de L’Empereur. This small, boutique hotel is conveniently located in the 7th arrondissement near the gold-domed L’Hôtel des Invalides, the shopping street rue Cler, the Eiffel Tower, Rodin museum, metro stops and buses, and both have a very helpful staff, attentive to all your needs.
Meet your fellow guests at a 6pm Welcome Champagne Reception and delve into the adventures planned for the days ahead. For a classic French dinner, it’s a 20-minute walk into the St. Germaine area to the oldest restaurant in Paris, La Petite Chaise. Choose from all the traditional French entrées, plats and desserts, including foie gras, escargots, magret de canard, and crème brulée.
End your evening with an optional late night coffee chat at the nearby legendary Café Deux Magots or Café Flores, where Sartres, de Beauvoir, and Camus worked. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Tue, May 22
Shakespeare and Company; Latin Quarter art and literary tour (B, L)Read more
Visit Shakespeare and Company and spend the morning with Sylvia (seen in photo in the black and white dress!), the daughter of founder George Whitman, sharing the history and lore of this legendary literary Paris bookshop, where Phil was Writer in Residence for four months in the late 1980s and again in the early 1990s. Watch show clips of George from a documentary Phil shot in 1997.
Follow this with an art and literary walking tour through the Latin Quarter, stopping at sites associated with Napoleon, Dante, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Matisse and Monet, Picasso, and Coco Chanel. We will also walk to the Sorbonne, Luxembourg Gardens, the Beat Hotel, where Kerouac and Ginsberg crashed, and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, site of medieval fairs and the Existentialist cafés.
Lunch at a local Saint Germain bistro. After lunch, enjoy free time or an optional walk to the Île Saint-Louis to see the Hôtel de Lauzun, where poet Charles Baudelaire lived and wrote Les Fleurs du mal, and the house where sculptress Camille Claudel worked – and maybe indulge at the delectable Glacier Berthillon ice cream parlour.
Late night optional chat at a nearby Café in the 7th arrondissement. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Wed, May 23
Art is Food, Food is Art (B, L)Read more
Walk to the bustling Wednesday Alma market where you may rub shoulders with some of the best chefs in Paris shopping for that night’s menu. Stroll down the aisles of fromageries, boulangeries, charcuteries, poissonniers, boucheries and local producers choosing items for today’s picnic lunch.
Walk along the Seine to Mort’s 140-year old teak boat docked next to the Tuileries Gardens. Discuss the role of art in French history, and learn about the secret history of the Louvre, including the unknown story of the discovery and journey of the Venus de Milo from the Greek islands to Paris to become one of the most famous statues in the world. Enjoy a Parisian lunch and watch as the world floats by on the Seine.
After lunch walk through the Tuileries to the Louvre. View the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa with Phil, then the rest of the afternoon free to explore the museum on your own.
This evening join us for an optional jazz club crawl to the Caveau de la Huchette, founded in 1949. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Thu, May 24
The Power and History of Media in Paris (B, L)Read more
Mort Rosenblum shows you another side of Paris. Meet with CNN correspondent Jim Bittermann, who works from studios overlooking the Champs-Élysées. Like Mort, he has spent decades covering major news across the globe. Discuss with them the state of today’s world: politics, terrorism, environment, and news media.
You’ll visit the Institut du Monde Arabe, a world-renowned centre of Arabic culture, literature, and history. Then you’ll have a couscous lunch in the splendid La Grande Mosquée de Paris, with its elaborate tile, woodwork, and 110-foot high minaret. North African specialties are served on brass trays under cedar arches, with Oriental music in the air.
During World War II, the mosque secretly sheltered a number of Jews, providing them with food, water, and fake Muslim birth certificates.
Free time after lunch for optional hammam.
Meet again for an early evening at Club 61, a crossroads for journalists in between wars and big breaking stories. Sit down with Le Monde chief correspondent and filmmaker Rémy Ourdan to talk about his experiences covering strife from Bosnia to the Mexican border. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/mbzt
Fri, May 25
Chartres and the Labyrinth (B)Read more
Take a morning 1.5-hour train ride to the town of Chartres and walk the 12th century labyrinth in the nave of this famous Gothic Cathedral.
Usually covered by chairs, the Cathedral now opens the labyrinth on Fridays so people can experience the deeply contemplative practice of following the meandering path toward a centre – and back out again. Originally thought to symbolize the path of the soul through life, labyrinths were built in the naves of over 30 cathedrals in Europe in the 1100s. Now only three labyrinths remain in France: Chartres, Amiens, and St. Quinten.
Tour this impressive and recently restored Gothic cathedral with Malcolm Miller, the resident British expert and prolific author who has studied the windows and sculptures for over 50 years calling the cathedral “a library of glass and stone.” (Note that if Malcolm is unable to guide us today Phil will step in.)
Try the many varieties of crêpes served at the popular local restaurant accompanied by the dry and sweet ciders of Normandy. After lunch explore this medieval town with winding cobblestone streets and fascinating history. Return to Paris.
Optional evening late night conversation at Café Le Select in Montparnasse. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Sat, May 26
Flâneur day (B)Read more
Leave your hotel mid-morning to discover Montmartre, a village all its own on a hilltop overlooking Paris. From the Abbesses metro you arrive to a spectacular view, in front of Sacré-Coeur Cathedral by funicular.
Hilly with small winding streets, Montmartre is like no other arrondissement in Paris and has long embraced artists and literary lights of the times. Visit the Dali museum, Sacré-Coeur, Place de Ternes, the home of Van Gogh’s brother, and the street corner where Maurice Chevalier discovered the great chanteuse Edith Piaf, of La Vie en rose fame, and the Moulin Rouge where she sang, fitting in a simple baguette lunch on the way.
Then wind your way down the hill to the Hotel Terras and its spectacular rooftop terrace for some refreshment and another panoramic view of Paris (at own expense).
Free evening with an optional visit to Au Lapin Agile, the oldest cabaret in Paris, founded in 1860, and immortalized in Picasso’s painting of the same name. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/David McSpadden
Sun, May 27
Le Marais (B, L) Read more
Eat a light breakfast as we are off to Le Marais and to the best falafels in town, hoping to arrive early before the crowds descend. As Le Marais is also the Jewish quarter many businesses close on Saturday. Special permissions allow Marais shops and businesses to open on Sunday making it the busiest arrondissement today alive with people, street theatre, and music.
After lunch enjoy the atmosphere, stopping at the recently renovated Musée Picasso, the Place de Vosges and Victor Hugo’s studio. See the small standing desk where he wrote Les Misérables, among other masterpieces, with only a quill pen and no delete, cut, and paste options.
End the afternoon at a local wine bar with light fare (at own expense).
This evening, enjoy an optional concert at Sainte-Chapelle, one of the architectural gems of Paris with 15 Gothic style stained glass windows. Sainte-Chapelle was originally built in 1241 to house the precious relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, brought back from the Crusades by Saint Louis. Recently renovated and relics now resting in a museum, Sainte-Chapelle now offers classical concerts on the weekends. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Briséis
Mon, May 28
Père Lachaise Cemetery; Dinner Cruise (B, D)Read more
Morning metro to Père Lachaise Cemetery where Paris luminaries are laid to rest including Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Dom Perignon, Colette, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and perhaps the most visited of them all, Jim Morrison, the lead singer for The Doors.
Afternoon is free to finish shopping and odds and ends.
Tonight’s Farewell Dinner is a cruise aboard Le Calife, a small, charming, Art Deco boat with wonderful ambience. Depart the quai at 8:15pm for a 2.5-hour cruise on the Seine, passing the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and the warm glow of Paris as seen from the famous river. (Overnight in Paris at the Hotel de L’Empereur or similar)
Tue, May 29
Depart Paris for flights home (B)Read more
At your final breakfast of this journey, say a fond au revoir to the City of Light and Lights and your newfound friends and tour leaders. Transfer to airport for flights home.
(B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner)
Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to conditions beyond our control.
Passion for Paris with Phil Cousineau
May 21 - 29, 2018
8 nights accommodation in a 3-star boutique hotel
Arrival and departure transfers
Breakfast daily, 5 lunches
1 Welcome Champagne Reception & Welcome Dinner at La Petite Chaise restaurant
1 Farewell Dinner Cruise aboard Le Calife
Entrance fees to all sites noted on itinerary
Transportation to all sites as per itinerary
Services of local tour escort Jeannette Hermann
Travel with author & filmmaker Phil Cousineau
Talks and tours with reporter, author & educator Mort Rosenblum
Meet and listen to Sylvia Beach Whitman, daughter of founder George Whitman, at Shakespeare and Company
Tour of Chartres labyrinth with Malcolm Miller
Meet with CNN correspondent Jim Bittermann and Le Monde chief correspondent and filmmaker Rémy Ourdan
Authentic cultural and epicurean experiences
Discussions about the current political landscape in France as well as its literary, musical, and cultural history
Tour Does Not Include:
Airfare to and from Paris, France
Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
Meals and drinks not specified
Cost to obtain valid passport
Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls
Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary