“When I think of France, there’s just familiar faces and beautiful people all over that I know… no part of it is really foreign. It’s almost all home,” explains Elizabeth New Seitz in her warm Texan drawl. The French professor and entrepreneur has spent the last fourteen years introducing Americans to the “passion of her life,” a little country called France.
Seitz started learning French at a young age, and fell in love with it during a semester in Aix-en-Provence (or “Aix-en-vacances” as she says the students referred to it). After graduating from Vanderbilt with a major in French, a chance encounter with a former professor led her to her “calling,” of sharing French language and culture with the world. After locking in a PhD in French and a stint in corporate America using French in a business context, she asked herself, “How am I going to share French, but on my own terms?”
French Affaires was born. In 2007, she started the travel company as a way of curating niche vacation experiences for small groups of visitors looking to explore the best France has to offer. Beautiful old hotels, private chateau visits, wine and Armagnac tastings, and delicious French dinners are all part of the package, with fun and unique experiences tied in, like cocktail parties where you might learn how to properly tie a scarf à la française courtesy of representatives from Petrusse.
Her high-end regional tours spotlight specific regions of France, so you might spend 7-8 days exploring the character, food, and language of Aix-en-Provence, Burgundy, Normandy, or even Paris. These Culture Trips cost between $4,500-$6,500 (double occupancy), with an average of 12-18 guests per trip. She also offers Culinary Journeys, which run about $2,500-$3,500 for 4 days, and are centered around a region’s food. The 2-week Language and Culture Immersion program in Aix-en-Provence is what she calls a “semester abroad for busy adults,” costing an average of $5,000, with meals, outings, and language classes included. And there are even special tours just for antiquing fans! The groups are small enough to cover a lot of ground, but large enough to meet new people “all united around this love of France,” creating a “ripple effect community” that extends out into the broader world as visitors make friends over the course of their stay.
Seitz is always adding more regions to the repertoire, and says that a number of repeat customers have come back again and again, trying to do their own “Tour of France” over the years. “I loved encouraging people to go into this gorgeous language, this gorgeous culture, all the things we know that make France so interesting and fantastic,” she adds.
“My two goals with French Affaires have been to have people experience France on the ground with me, or with me helping them plan their own trip… and also with Americans particularly, to bring France to the U.S. through culture talks, language classes, and events to experience France.” The latter of which has been much more important during COVID-19, as Seitz has had to postpone trips and focus on virtual events centered on language, culture, and food, in ways that make France accessible from a distance.
Upcoming French Affaires trips include a Southwest France Photography Tour from September 30 through October 7, 2021; Fall in Southwest France from October 6 through October 15, 2021; and 2022 tours of Corsica, the Basque country, the Loire Valley, Brittany, and Provence. So if you’re ready to shake off those lockdown blues, sign up quick, because it’s time for a fête and, as Seitz reminds us, “France is always a celebration.”