About Us – Our Team
About Us – Our Team
“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 experience a different culture and paint on the same tour. Our first painting tour was in 2005.
Since then, I have welcomed about 50 teachers, 1,200 guests, and run more than 120 tours. I still love it. With us, you are not a tourist, you are our guest and therefore I have made over 1,000 new friends.”
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/ Tennis
“Traveling has always been essential in my life and when Jackie and I felt ready for a career change, designing authentic travel experiences seem 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
“I was born in Catalonia, Spain and I opened my own guide business in Besalu, my hometown in 2010. I am keen on history and art, and love to share this passion with people. I live in Hamburg, Germany at the moment, but I have also lived in Belgium and France, so I regard myself as a true European. I can speak Catalan, Spanish, English, French and German.
I have always worked as a tour guide but I think it is important to have new challenges. So when Jackie offered me to join the French Escapade team, I gladly jumped in to take a step further. I like to meet new people so this job is a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world and show them a new culture.”
Natalia Verges has a master degree in Art History and also in Visual Arts and Education from Spain. She is a very talented tour guide eager to share her knowledge of European history and art. She leads groups with energy, confidence and a big smile. She is much appreciated by our guests. We are very fortunate to have her in our team.
Her passions: History/ Food/ Cats
“I became a tour leader in 2013, after a wonderful trip to Morocco, where my local guides inspired me to start a new career in tourism. I love meeting new people, talking about my country (France), my passion (Italy) and finding out about other ways of life. In my job, I try to make everything as smooth as possible for our guests. Their comfort, safety and happiness are my goals.”
Marie Ginier-Gillet was born and still lives in the French Alps with her family, in a small medieval town. After living for a while in Italy, she became an attorney for 15 years. She later on decided to change her career and is now a free lance tour leader. She has been working with French Escapade since 2014. She is a very competent tour leader whose sense of humor is very much appreciated by all. Her attention to everybody’s well-being is amazing.
Her passions: Italy/ Rugby/ Horses (she is a talented horse-rider who acts in historical shows).