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6 Ways to learn something new on vacation

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, Canada covering a wide range of topics for several online lifestyle publications. She is a regular contributor for SheKnows, covering travel, style, relationships, health and ...

Travel to learn

A vacation doesn't just have to be about total relaxation. Sitting by the pool, hitting the beach or heading to the spa are all worthwhile holiday experiences, but it can also be fun to learn something new while you're away. From surf schools to cooking classes abroad, we search out some of the best travel-to-learn opportunities.

Gourmet cooking in France

Travel to learn

Flavours of France is a boutique travel company set up last year to provide a unique culinary travel experience in France. In particular, short cooking and wine-tasting breaks in the town of La Rochelle and city of Lyon. A professionally trained French chef guides guests in cooking some delicious regional dishes and also teaches other useful techniques such as knife skills and food presentation. The classes are easy to access by air, rail or car, and there is plenty to see and do during free time in the surrounding areas. Lyon is the food capital of France and La Rochelle, being by the coast, is famous for its fresh seafood, making these ideal spots to learn about French cuisine.


Learn about life in Tuscany

Travel to learn

Tuscany: Garden to the Table is a six-day course that explores the heart of what Tuscany has to offer: beautiful scenery, elegant villas and gardens and delicious local food and wine. The course includes private visits to gardens and villas in the Florence and Siena area and several meals catered with local Tuscan produce and wine. Participants also learn about pairing food and wine in the cantina of one of the oldest castles in Tuscany. The course is designed to let people bring home a bit of the Tuscan lifestyle to enjoy in their everyday lives. Tours are limited to 20 people and participants are taken through several stunning villas and gardens throughout the six culture- and culinary-packed days. Nancy Leszczynski's knowledge of horticulture and gardens, Catherine Goodrich's expertise in Italian art and cultural history combined with their love of eating Tuscan food and drinking exquisite wines insures participants a memorable and unique experience.


Birding in Puerto Rico

Travel to learn

Guests at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico can get firsthand knowledge of avian life in the area from local experts. The activity is led by the property's on-site biologist who leads guests throughout the resort and into the maritime forest for the best instructional birding experience in the entire Caribbean. The 583-acre resort actually has a private bird sanctuary, and the resort is the Caribbean’s first-ever certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary. Nestled between the lush El Yunque rainforest and the Espiritu Santo River, the area is home to pelicans, West Indian whistling ducks, many species of songbirds and more. The resort also provides habitat for the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, as well as plant life, including Maria trees, palm trees, and golden leather ferns.


Elephant driving in Thailand

Travel to learn

Seeing elephents from afar or at a zoo is one thing, but what about riding one through the jungle? Mahout Training at Four Seasons Resort Golden Triangle lets guests learn the art of caring for driving elephants on their own elephant trek in northern Thailand. Accompanied by the elephant's own mahout, guests learn the basic commands needed to drive an elephant, a skill they will have an opportunity to practice on an exploration of the Thai jungle. Three- or four-night packages will have participants trekking elephants through lush jungle and spectacular mountain trails, and then unwinding in luxury tented accommodations, which feature stunning views of the surrounding landscape.


Flower arranging in Spain

Travel to learn

Learn the art of flower arranging at Hotel Arts Barcelona with the property's in-house florist Donna Stain. The esteemed floral designer teaches guests how to put together several different flower arrangements and then gives them a chance to create their own to take home. Participants will pick up practical ideas and expert tips that they can use for their own arrangements. Classes run four times a year, March 9, May 25, Oct. 26 and Dec. 14 for 2013.


Surfing in California

Travel to learn

If you’ve ever wanted to learn to surf, now's your chance. Surf's up at The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach, California. The resort offers two-night learn-to-surf packages that include surf lessons for two from Shell Beach Surf Shop (located just a block from the resort). Each wave-filled day starts with a hearty breakfast and then guests learn to surf from some of the best instructors on the West Coast. After a long day of practice, unwind with a local bottle of wine while watching the sun set over the picturesque Pacific Ocean.

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