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Dining with Friends in Paris

August 26, 2016 @ 3:30 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Personal preparation of mojitos

Back in 2005, we enjoyed the trip of a lifetime, one that we will forever be grateful to have experienced.  After spending a few weeks in Paris, we raced westward through the countryside on the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux for the deuxième étage (the second stage) of our adventure.  The sky was gray, the fields gold, stripped of their wheat and strewn with newly-rolled haystacks.

Our life in Paris and environs has been plentiful, filled with friends, new experiences, everyday chores and an unending newness to each day.  Last night, we hosted our friends at Aux Trois Oliviers, a bright, down-to-earth but tasteful avant-garde restaurant near Palais Royale.  Voila, one Olivier tells us.  We must begin with the best Mojito in Paris.  A Cuban drink, it is.  We watch, as he places fresh mint and lime wedges in small glasses, then crushes them with a pestle.  Rum and champagne come next…

Leo’s fish is a work of art, complete with head.  Philippe and I have our pots of stew, full of aromas and each steaming pot enough for four.  Mine is a Provençal dish a bit like bœuf bourguignon.  Once again I notice that you bring the ‘party’ with you … or not.  In this warm intimate restaurant, the couple next to us sat like stones, neither smiling, talking nor even eating their dinners.  We bantered with our hosts and felt very much at home, as if indeed, we were guests at the family table.

Poisson Aux Trois Oliviers

And that is a lesson that returns to us over and over again, at home and abroad.  Take your joy with you and spread it around.  We’ve seen many beautiful sights, but it is the people we meet that add the authentic dimension to our travel.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift

 

Rouen – Where the Seine is “Main Street”

August 23, 2016 @ 12:40 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Cafés in Rouen’s historic town centre – ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Normandie/J-C Demais

Rouen lures visitors with a mix of joy and sorrow, architectural heritage, art, museums and compelling cuisine. Just 70 miles northwest of Paris, Rouen gives off a contemporary hum in the midst of spectacular Gothic designs and enchanting timbered houses.

Wander through the popular port city on the Seine, and you’ll discover decades-old evidence of the pounding Rouen suffered during World War II. Though we preferred to stay a few days, Rouen makes an easy day trip from Paris – just an hour by the A13 highway or from the Paris-Saint Lazare train station.

Forgive my always diving into food, but it IS France! This capitol of Normandy boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants, distinct regional fare (with a bow to Canard a la Rouennaise on most menus), creamy fish stews, lovely local cheeses and the popular Calvados apple cider. We particularly relished our meal at Les Maraîchers – one of the oldest on the Place du Vieux Marche, where the market gardeners sold their vegetables. It is a delightfully warm, old-style bistro, a mix of old posters and family photos, decorated pitchers and aged mirrors.

The Rouen Cathedral was a natural starting point for us. Claude Monet’s renowned paintings featured the cathedral façade that is particularly famous for the highest spire in France. Over time, the Allied bombings and fierce storms caused significant damage, but the Gothic cathedral is still among the most beautiful in France. Some 13th-century windows are still decorated with the special cobalt blue known as “the blue from Chartres”.  Our next stop was Saint-Ouen, the Gothic Benedictine abbey where Joan of Arc was sentenced to death in 1431, and even larger than the Rouen cathedral.

Rouen’s hand-made pottery from 18th century to today – © ATOUT FRANCE/Hervé Le Gac

Time for art with a wonderful visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts, featuring exceptional 15th to 20th century works of art from Rubens, Caravaggio, Poussin, Corot and an entire area devoted to the works of Géricault. Several of Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces of the Rouen Cathedral were on display.

Local color and personality always appeal to us, so we wandered along “Little Venice” – Rue Eau de Robec – so named by Flaubert for the small stream that runs through the archways and street. A tiny side street, it was the perfect spot for a quiet glass of wine and a little exploration of the antique shops. In fact, I was able to satisfy my love of pottery, as so many wonderful old plates were available.

It was simply wonderful to absorb the many flavors of Rouen – the riverside and orange-tinted dusk, the ancient churches and transparent skies. In fact, as much as any feature of Rouen, it is the mystical, changing light of the city that has attracted painters, writers and visitors… like us!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift

  

Weekend in the heart of Côte de Beaune

August 22, 2016 @ 3:25 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan

The pastoral grounds of Hostellerie de Levernois

Paris always tangles us in her magnetic appeal, but now and then it’s time to run for the country for a quiet weekend break.  Come with us today (or plan for your next visit); as we wander to the heart of Burgundy, where the wine is rare and the people warm!  For your convenience, you can make the trip in less than two hours by train.

Allow me to recommend an extraordinary indulgence – a memorable stay at the 5-star Hostellerie de Levernois in the heart of the Côte de Beaune.  A longstanding member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, this gorgeous bourgeois house is situated on the edge of a golf course in an 11-acre park setting.

The quiet, intimate estate includes several room and suite selections as well as exceptional dining – an ideal base for exploring the intriguing wine country of Burgundy.  Imagine lunch at the charming Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau on the river, before exploring area vineyards and tasting rooms.  Let’s take advantage of the bicycles available to guests to explore the area; and at the end of the day, we’ll enjoy a glass of wine on our private terrace.

A few geographic and historic details explain the relatively small size of Burgundy’s internationally-acclaimed wine appellations.   Twenty-five million years ago – yes, a little difficult to fathom – this land shifted, re-arranging layers of limestone and soil. That’s why grapes along the 40-mile stretch in Burgundy yield several different wines.  The many individual soils in the area produce unique flavors for the treasured wines produced.

Delightful bistrot on the river

Prior to the French Revolution, the viniculture of Burgundy had been concentrated among large monastic estates.  First, the revolution divided them, and they were further reduced in size under the Napoleonic law that required equal distribution of property to heirs.

Don’t hesitate to ask your host for recommended sites to explore along the Côte de Beaune, where some of the finest dry white wines in the world are produced-  such as  Corton Charlemagne and le Montrachet.  You will discover lovely villages, historic castles and fantastic Burgundian cuisine to complement the  area wines.

The Pommard, Meursault and Chassagne Montrachet castles are handsome examples of the “Clos” wall-enclosed estates.  Visit the Château de Chorey-les-Beaune for a mix of 13th to 17th century architectural styles, where you discover the Germain family’s distinguished wines served in fine restaurants throughout the world.

If you enjoy wandering and wine tasting, this option offers a perfect getaway in the beautiful countryside of Burgundy!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Franco-American Hopes for Tomorrow

July 27, 2016 @ 8:05 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Breakfast in America near the Sorbonne – for great breakfasts, burgers (including French Mustard!) and movie memorabilia

The high-profile violence in France over the past year prompts some to declare a doomed future for this magnificent country.  In truth, years ago even a taxi driver in Paris lamented the school shootings we were … and are … experiencing in America.  How easily we can slip into a fatalistic outlook about France and about America.  Let’s choose, instead, to celebrate all we have meant to one another and all that we hope for tomorrow.  Just a few of the many thoughts one could express follow.

We are all cognizant of broad-brush misconceptions on “both sides of the pond.”  That the French hate Americans.  That Americans are arrogant.  The French are rude.  Americans are loud, brazen.  Within the comfortable confines of our insular thinking, we are wary of customs, work ethics and world views that are different from our own.

In these trying times, it is especially important to remember our strong common historical, financial and cultural bonds.  The French support of the American Revolution enabled America to gain independence.  France fashioned its Republic after our own constitution with Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité as cornerstones of the rights of man.  Our capitol was designed in 1791 by Pierre L’Enfant.   The biggest gift of all – our beloved Statue of Liberty.  And not for one moment do the French forget the support and sacrifices of America during two World Wars.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we offer unique experiences and a boundless treasure of values to share.  American culture permeates France – our music, books, movies, and television (except for the emphasis on violence).  The French have embraced everything from McDonald’s and Levis to Disneyland® Paris and Starbucks – in the land of cafés, where coffee is the social bracer!  Three Breakfast in America cafés attract huge crowds in their left and right bank locations.

Americans embrace croissants and crepes, chic fashion, French fabrics and many of those distinctly French expressions – rendezvous, soiree, esprit de corps and more.  In the world of medicine alone, remember that blood transfusions, pasteurization, the stethoscope and understanding of radioactivity all started with the French

Cafe de France, Winter Park, FL – one of thousands of American restaurants devoted to French cuisine

In our comparative youth, America has enjoyed decades of growth and innovation, power and progress.  The French admire our entrepreneurial spirit and envision the frontier history that spawned such a vibrant people.  The youth of France take to American cowboys, blue jeans and the infamous hamburger and long to mimic our ways and visit our country.

Yet, in a country with an aging population, a deep reverence for culture and a demonstrable social conscience; the French fear diluting their unique heritage.  They reject the “my work is my life” notion and continue to fight for the balanced life – with strikes, marches and measures we have only begun to discover with the “Occupy” movements and, ironically, some of the rude and crude tactics on the political front.  France manages to blend unimaginable history, art and architecture with innovative technology and a universally-admired flair for style.  Their people couple intense pride and bureaucratic ways of thinking with joie de vivre and reverence for family.

France and America have much to be proud of, but we have everything to gain from looking toward one another with an appreciation of our differences and with a coordinated partnership to protect the ideals we all cherish.  I particularly love a piece written for Travel and Leisure by Richard Reeves, a Senior Lecturer at the Annenberg School.  In “An American in Paris”, he wrote,

“We speak with an air of detachment, even distrust, of the pursuit of happiness.  The French just    go ahead with it – and they’ve organized a country and a great city to make sure they catch what they’re chasing.”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift