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Hands-on Paris

Sometimes it's not enough to see the sights, shop the boutiques, and sample the regional delicacies: there is the compulsion to really immerse yourself. Taking part in some of Paris's quintessential experiences will allow you to learn more about French culture, and you'll get to meet and mingle with locals and like-minded travelers, creating a far more enriching trip to Paris, whether it's your first or 40th visit! Below are some experiences that we recommend.

Food

Nothing is more French than fine wine and gourmet cuisine. So why not enjoy them hands-on, with cooking classes to perfect your magret de canard (duck breast) or to master the art of the soufflé. There are many options, from full-day courses in a Parisian home (in English) that include a market tour to quick lunch lessons with the locals where everyone dines together afterward. In English, except as noted: Paule Caillat's Promenades Gourmandes (01–48–04–56–84 www.promenadesgourmandes.com). Cook'n with Class (01–42–55–70–59 www.cooknwithclass.com/).Marguerite's Elegant Home Cooking (01–42–04–74–00 www.elegantcooking.com). La Cuisine (01–40–51–78–18 www.lacuisineparis.com), classes in French and English, overlooking the Seine. Atéliers des Chefs (www.atelierdeschefs.com), group classes in French.

Wine

And it's no secret that appreciating your wine is greatly enhanced when you know what you're drinking and where it came from. Wine-tasting classes range from fun and casual lessons in English for beginners to more formal dégustations of the finest vintages by seasoned sommeliers. There's something to fit all budgets and experience levels. O-Château (01–44–73–97–80, 0–800–801–148 toll-free in France www.o-chateau.com) does wine-tasting lessons in English, vineyard tours, and Champagne cruises on the Seine. Legrand Filles & Fils (01–42–60–07–12 www.caves-legrand.com) conducts Tuesday night Soirées Dégustation with a bilingual presentation of carefully chosen wines. Wine Dinners (01–41–83–80–46 www.wine-dinners.com) is a French group hosted by bilingual François Audouze; it organizes gourmet meals (in Michelin-starred restaurants) with a selection of 10 wines.

21st-Century Salons

Parisian salons—where a select group of connoisseurs gathered in a private home to discuss the artistic, literary, political, and philosophical ideas of the time—flourished in past centuries. They're back, in English, and open to anyone who calls to reserve a place. It's an experience not to be missed, and a great way to meet interesting people. Jim Haynes (01–43–27–17–67) hosts an international crowd for Sunday night dinner: informal "standing room only" affairs in his converted artist atelier. BuffeTime = Talktime (01–43–25–86–55 www.meetup.com/TalkTime/) is a weekly language gathering hosted in a Quartier Latin home by Michael and Veronique. Guests enjoy a buffet dinner while mingling, with half the evening reserved for French conversation, the other half in another language (usually English). Une artiste à table (unartistealatable.blogspot.com) is a private gourmet gathering where participants dine in the company of a local artist to discuss their work in Paris.

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