French Escapade Team

Jackie Grandchamps, PhD; Founder and Owner

“I wanted to make my dream come true by sharing my love of traveling and giving people the opportunity to really experience a different culture. Instead of the traditional ‘tourist’ sightseeing trips, I wanted to immerse very small groups of people in the culture, and make them experience another way of life. That’s how French Escapade was born in 2003.

I was then approached by art teachers who wanted such an experience incorporated in a painting workshop so that their students could discover a different culture and paint on the same tour. Our first painting tour took place in 2005.

I have welcomed about 100 teachers, 2,000 guests, and run more than 200 tours. When traveling with French Escapade, you are not a tourist, you are our guest. That is why I have  made many new friends since 2003.”

With a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, Jacqueline Grandchamps came from Belgium to the United States in 1995 to conduct cancer research at Stanford University. But her heart has always been in traveling — in Europe, the United States, Africa and Asia. She created French Escapade with Valerie Sans in 2003 and now splits her time between living in the San Francisco Bay Area and leading the tours in Europe.

Her passions: socializing/ dancing/ gardening and all racket sports (tennis, ping-pong and now pickleball).

Valerie Sans, Co-Founder

“Traveling has always been essential in my life and when Jackie and I felt ready for a career change, designing authentic travel experiences seemed the right thing to do. French Escapade was then born to propose an alternative to regular tourist routines. Passion has always been at the core of our business adventure, and when we later on added painting holidays to our tour offers, I couldn’t be happier being an art lover myself.

I am very proud to offer the best travel experience to our guests. How? By welcoming our guests as friends, pampering them as much as I can, hosting wonderful artists and selecting memorable painting sites. Each workshop nourishes me as another wonderful human experience.”

Valerie Sans is a French native who lives in California, but still spends a few months a year in Europe. With a master’s degree in British & American History and Literature and being a former Fulbright teacher in the US, she is equally comfortable with American and European ways of life.

Valerie is our tour manager who makes sure your stay is an authentic experience. She mainly acts behind the scene, but she also attends a few tours for general organization purposes.

Her passions: books/ history/ cooking

Marie Ginier-Gillet, Tour Leader

“When I got the opportunity to work with French Escapade as a tour leader in 2016, I was delighted as I love travelling and meeting new people.  My previous career was in law and I was happy to leave my office work to be outside with painters in amazing places. I love meeting people from different part of the world so we can exchange about the culture. I am looking forward to adding new locations to my palette!”

Marie was born in the French Alps near Grenoble where she still lives with her husband. She has been a lawyer for over 25 years. Marie has been working with French Escapade for 8 years. French native, she also speaks English and is perfectly fluent in Italian, having spent years in Italy during her college years. Always eager to make your trip a wonderful adventure, Marie is a very attentive tour leader who is much appreciated by all, especially for her professional skills as well as a great sense of humor.

Her passions: reading, hiking, volunteering in local events (such as the Berlioz Festival or local historical shows). 

Heather Daines, Tour Leader

“Adventures are the best way to learn.”

“I attended my first French Escapade workshop in 2019 as a participant. I thought the combination of travel and painting tour made for a perfect adventure. Subsequently, I went on to take several more trips with French Escapade and found my passion for art, people and cultures around the world. I was ecstatic when Jackie and Valerie gave me the opportunity to become a guide for the company. Since I began working for French Escapade I have become even more impressed with the business and the care the staff has for each and every customer. Their desire to make every trip the perfect trip is unmatched. I’m happy to be associated with French Escapade and look forward to being a guide for years to come.”

Heather Daines has Associates degrees in Horticulture and Floral Design Management as well as Bachelors degree in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning. In addition to raising 4 children with her husband, Rex, she also worked independently as a Landscape Architect for many years. Heather has lived in Oregon for 30 years and currently resides in beautiful Bend, Oregon. She enjoys being a de facto tour guide for friends and family and sharing with them the natural beauty of Central Oregon.

Her passions: gardening/ painting/ the outdoors/photography.

Dana Battaglia, Tour Leader

“I love nature, the outdoors and all elements that foster inspiration and growth (creatively & personally).  After my first French Escapade tour in Costa Brava, Spain with Jackie & Valerie, I was overjoyed with the opportunity to mesh the things I love while at work….travel, nature, art, leadership, organization, and most importantly, new encounters and experiences with fellow art lovers! To sum it up, whether it be in the form of actual artworks of my own, handling “behind the scenes” logistics or leading groups of artists on adventures… I love being around creative people! So, when I was introduced to the idea of leading painting tours with French Escapade, it was a dream come true!”

A California native, now living in France, Dana has a long history with the Arts.  She began drawing and painting at an early age, and nurtured her creative spirit throughout her years at school.  She continued on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2001, as well as, completed a semester abroad at an art academy, Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy. Dana has also worked in relative creative fields, such as: Product Development/Fashion, Photo Shoot Production, Styling, Art Direction and Art Instruction.

Her passions: hiking/jewelry making/art

Vicky Dangerfield, Tour Leader

My passion in life are people. From a young age, I was always curious about people and saw them as an open book I wanted to read. Born to a Catalan mother and English father, I was fortunately and immediately subjected to languages. The perfect marriage between people and languages, was to study tourism and public relations. Attracted to the world of travel, I relocated to London after my first twenty-five years in beautiful Barcelona. In 2009, I took a leap of faith and joined my now beloved husband on the other side of the pond, in San Francisco where I became a city guide.

I have had the pleasure to know Jackie and Valerie since 2019. When Jackie reached out to me to join this team of Super ladies, I had no hesitation in doing so. Being a new member of this venture, I will have the opportunity to travel and to experience a more profound and meaningful relationship with the travellers. Very much looking forward to it!!”

Vicky has a degree from a private Barcelona college in Tourism and Public Relations. She graduated from ITMI (International Tour Management Institute) in 2009. She has also been a member of the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild since 2012.

She is fluent in English, Catalan, Spanish, French and Italian.

Her passions: cinema/sharing Health & Wellness products (little side hustle my husband & I have), and our pet turtle.

Silvia Ruiz, Tour Leader

Learning languages and traveling have defined me ever since I left my small Catalan hometown at 18. Since then, I have lived in Germany, Austria, Madrid, and Barcelona, where I was delighted to interact with an international community I now miss in my new Catalan “grown-up” life. As soon as I got to work for French Escapade, it thrilled me to see that I was again able to reconnect with my former multicultural past –only with an enhanced experience! I am eager to explore all of French Escapade’s destinations and broaden my worldview by interacting with their beautiful and creative course participants”.

 Sílvia works 75% of her time as a freelance translator and 25% as an adjunct lecturer at the Faculty of Translation and Language Sciences of the Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona. In the summertime, when classes are over, she re-balances her decreased workload by working as a tour guide in Barcelona. She then offers private tours to (mostly) American travellers, whom she loves to show Barcelona’s most unknown spots and local restaurants.

 She speaks Catalan, Spanish, English, German and French.

Her passions: reading, trivia quizzes and discovering alternative, more local ways of life.

Linda Baxley, Tour Leader

“Learning keeps me young and one of the best ways to learn is to explore new things, places and people.  My first trip with French Escapade was eye-opening because it took place in my home state of California.   I learned that there are always new places to discover, whether in your own backyard (so to speak) or to countries I had only previously read about.  Add to that the new “sight” one gains whenever looking at a locale to paint, and it is easy to see why  French Escapade became part of my continuing growth.  I was delighted when Jackie and Valerie offered me the chance to help others in their pursuit of learning and exploration.”

Linda is a native Californian and spent her earlier life as a lawyer, litigating patent disputes primarily in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years.  As a “recovering attorney” and now an empty-nester, Linda took up watercolor painting in an effort to learn patience and the art of letting loose (the water does what it wants to do).  She is now applying her organization skills, as well as her past experiences as a tour guide (from college), a teacher (from her years as both a lawyer and as a volunteer), and a shuttle driver (long story), to help share her growth mindset with others.

Her passions:  drawing/painting, volunteering, traveling (she is in a competition with her husband and kids to see who will be the first to visit all seven continents), cooking, pickleball (this is a new one) and her family.

Mariona Esteba, Tour Leader

“When I first heard of French Escapade, I had the feeling that it was made for me. I am a caring person who enjoys all kinds of creation, and a tour leader committed to providing enriching encounters. I am passionate about sharing and learning from other cultures, and my love for traveling has always been a motivator. I am very grateful to be in their team as a new member.”

Mariona has a BFA from the University of Barcelona and a Postgraduate Degree in Cultural Management, and has been sharing her Catalan culture to Americans since 2003. She currently lives in the Empordà region near the sea, with her husband and their 2 boys, enjoying their lives surrounded by nature, a friendly community, and their Art studio, all in the same place.

She speaks Catalan, Spanish, English and French.

Her passions: exploring new surroundings, sharing a good meal, reading, singing and being outdoors.

Vee Marzullo, Tour Leader

“Three days into my first workshop as a guest with French Escapade, I wanted to join their team. I love painting and drawing and have attended many workshops around the US and Europe. I try to travel the world, with my husband, our teenage twins, and alone as much as possible. I thrive on discovering new cultures and people from anywhere and everywhere. So, assisting guests for FE is the perfect job for me and allows me to combine and share my passions.

I am excited to team-up with another fun leader to pamper our guests and our art teachers. My aim is to help them build a memorable experience and lasting friendships”.

Vee was born in Paris, France, grew-up in Africa, started her career in London, England and lived there for 15 years until she met her American husband who brought her to Philadelphia, USA a little over 20 years ago.

Vee spent her career in the financial industry organizing events, complex travels and doing graphic design and decided to retire early to focus her time on her family and herself.

Her passions: reading, outdoor adventures, music, movies, and animals.

Cristine Traber, Tour Leader

Since an early age I have been obsessed with French culture; the architecture, the fashion, the food, the language, and the history.  This passion has led me to several trips during my teenage years to France with French family exchange programs, as well as a path to getting my Architectural Masters degrees from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was the closest thing in the United States to France.

As a zealous sketcher and painter, I was very drawn to French Escapade program as a participant and I still think of it as a bucket list trip that exceeded all my expectations.

Cristine currently lives in Seattle, Washington as a practicing architect and avid amateur artist.  She has lived in all corners of the United States and definitely prefers the sunnier parts. Traveling throughout Europe is essential to Cristine’s free time.

Her passions: While home in Seattle, Cristine enjoys hiking with her German Shepherd, Greta, working in her garden, sketching and watercoloring, and reading about far off places and exotic experiences.

French Escapade LLC | 2389 Blackpool Place | San Leandro, CA 94577 | 510-483-5713 |
California Seller of Travel Licence-CST #: 2091909-40
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