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Add Van Gogh to Your Paris Trip

day trip Paris france

The tiny ville that inspired Van Gogh – © ATOUT FRANCE/Martine Prunevieille

If you are lucky enough to be in Paris … or planning to visit soon … just 17 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming little commune on the banks of the Oise River.  This quaint ville attracted Vincent van Gogh and other famous Impressionist artists destined to translate their surroundings into cherished art.

A pleasant day trip from Paris, you will find your journey centered more on mood and imagination than on history.  Catch the 10 a.m. direct train from Paris’ Gare du Nord, and in just 30 minutes you’ll discover a window into the world of Van Gogh, to see the sights he painted in a whirl of artistic expression in the last two months of his life.

I’m not a videographer, but this charming video offers a ‘walking tour’ and specific ‘how-to-go’ information in a quaint and helpful presentation.  As always, double-check specific travel details should schedules and prices change.

The tortured and talented artist moved to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, though he felt the good doctor in a worse condition than his own.  Nonetheless, they were friends and, in an ironic twist of fate, Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” brought nearly the highest auction price of all of his paintings.

The artist was prolific in Auvers, where he produced many of his best-known works – The Church at Auvers, Thatched Cottages by a Hill, Wheat Field with Crows and more. A couple of standard stops include the handsome Chateau d’Auvers that pays homage to Impressionist painters and the Absinthe Museum that evokes the mystique of the potent green liquid that was Van Gogh’s favorite.  To this day, rumors swirl about the so-called mind-altering spirit nicknamed “The Green Fairy.”

Even your visit to Van Gogh’s tiny attic is an understated experience, more in keeping with the bare solitude of an artist than an orchestrated emphasis on historic significance.

Day trip Paris France

Hotel de Ville by Van Gogh

The genuine Auvers experience is less about museum visits and more about immersing yourself in a time and place that inspired the genius of many painters.  Stroll along the river and through the village to see and feel the scenes that inspired the Impressionist paintings.  Wander past the church to the famed wheat field and hillside cemetery where Theo and Vincent Van Gogh are buried.

Before your return to Paris, enjoy a lazy, memorable lunch at Van Gogh’s Auberge Ravoux, where the chef partners with local farmers and muses of yesteryear to create the traditional French cuisine of Van Gogh’s era.  In the middle of the wayside tavern atmosphere, you will cement your experience with one more facet of the life and spirit of the Impressionist colony.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2019, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

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

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Hôtel de Crillon – Paris Reopens!

Paris Luxury

Set on Place Concord, Hôtel de Crillon

The renowned Hôtel de Crillon, next door to the American Embassy in Paris, has finally completed a four-year renovation! Always considered to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the hotel steps forward with a classically subdued mix of 18th-Century elegance and refined, contemporary comfort – including the central air conditioning that many of us consider essential today.

Certainly the Crillon had not fallen into musty disrepair, but catering to those who likely spend the equivalent of a mortgage payment on a night’s stay requires a discerning makeover now and then.  No less than 700 people tackled this renovation at a cost undisclosed by representatives of the Saudi Prince who has owned the hotel since 2010.

paris hotels

Just one of Hotel Crillon’s signature suites

Changes range from the addition of an indoor pool looking up to a garden, more accessible dining and bar areas, intimate lobby nooks and an overall atmosphere of visiting the manor of an ever-so-well-to-do friend in the heart of Paris. I look forward to stepping through her hallowed doors, as I did over 20 years ago.  And THAT is a story worth telling!

During my first visit to Paris, my good friend demonstrated her indefatigable ‘the world is my oyster’ style – a style, I might add, that can leave me quaking! Dressed for a casual walk and a bit sodden with the Paris mist, she insisted we duck into the Crillon for a glance about and a visit to the restroom and gift shop. I balked at the thought with the feeling that such a visit would equal attending an upscale event in jeans and tennis shoes.

Quite the view from the Suite Bernstein

No, no, my friend assured me, and we entered … with her darling dog in the lead. A uniformed gentleman nodded with an appropriate smile (I think the dear man rather enjoyed seeing ‘regular people’ entering the distinguished address!) We traversed the marble foyer and descended elegant stairs to the toilette. Then, we enjoyed moments of hushed French-style conversation with the gracious attendant in the gift shop, as we looked among porcelain keepsakes, sumptuous leather goods and feather-light silk scarves. Despite my initial misgivings, the experience was delightful and the welcoming staff as hospitable as the signature service of the hotel would lead a guest to expect.

I later heard about a tourist who had the same thought to take a peek inside, perhaps a good ten years after our adventure.  As this lady approached the door, a guard at the front explained that only hotel guests could enter in order to protect the privacy of their guests.  I really don’t know if that is the case today, but I feel certain my friend would have the ‘new keys to the Crillon’.

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved



A Passion for Travel … and France!

Why travel is important

Paris laid back in September

My son surprised me with his declaration that one of the reasons he loves me  is  “… because you have such a passion for France. I wish I felt that passion for a place.”  I think many of us have felt a certain envy of those who are immersed and enriched by their love of a place, an art form, a hobby … any of those interests that brighten our lives.

I realize that travel … and France specifically … has uplifted and transformed me and allowed me to leave behind some difficult days of youth, significant losses, career responsibilities and the never-ending challenge of raising children!   With travel I could embrace a new world, entirely apart from all of that, a chance to escape the cage and fly.  I believe that captures one of the most important reasons to travel – to immerse yourself in another place that draws you into its charming circle and allows you to emerge with new appreciation for the unique world around you.

Montmartre Paris France

Dinner with a view!

I had enjoyed three trips to France, when I met my future husband in the States. After many years as a widow, I was blessed beyond imagination to find this phenomenal man who shared my love of travel. We honeymooned in Paris. We traveled for an entire summer in France. I wrote the following at the end of that lovely summer:

The calm after the tourist storm (on the road in August) is welcome. We stay again in our chosen Montmartre apartment, where Sacré-Cœur attracts legions of tourists; but the population has rapidly decreased with the end of vacations. Fewer families on the street, fewer shops closed, more locals about makes for the ‘normal’ rhythm of the city we enjoy.

I dashed ‘one more time’ to the fabric stores. How do you choose from all the incredible fabrics? I touch them. I look at their sheen in the light. The Louvre? Fantastic, but the fabrics and chocolates and people in phone booths are as interesting, though less historic.

Last night we climbed ‘the mountain’ (Montmartre) to have a simple dinner at a sidewalk café just at the base of Sacre Coeur. We enjoyed a delightful waitress with an appealingly mixed French-Italian accent.  When we walked to the steps of the cathedral, as always there was a crowd gathered, a mix of tourists living out their last night of Paris vacation and locals taking advantage of enjoying this last warmth and freedom,  before serious work and cold weather arrived.

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Homeward bound 

Our timing was perfect to see the Eiffel Tower perform its light show, as it does for ten minutes at the top of every hour through midnight. We will ALWAYS relish this trip, this experience. Who would ever have dreamed it possible?

So there you have but one vignette that underscores the value and enrichment of travel. Within some realistic boundaries,  set aside travel fears and budget constraints and allow yourself this freedom to discover.  Whether you choose France or Colorado or any point in between, you will be refreshed and anxious to plan your next trip.


Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

The Promise of Paris – New E-book

I know, I know.  I said I would launch on Monday in honor of Labor Day in France … but I’m kind of like that kid who can’t wait to give you your present 3 days before your birthday!  And then there’s the tendency of everyone to check out Facebook on the weekend.  In any case …. here ’tis!  I welcome your feedback!

By popular request, Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris E-book (pdf)

is now available!

3 Things You’ll Love about This E-book:

Easy-access, helpful planning guides and resource links 

Specific accommodation, dining, sightseeing and shopping information – computer and mobile device access, printable pdf – hyperlinks to dynamic Paris resources – Paris Tourist Office, Currency conversion, museums++

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris

Author Sandra Sheridan

Concrete tips & authentic information – delivered with warmth & humor!

Neighborhoods, cafes, flea markets, markets and fun excursions with captivating anecdotes
and real-life experiences – even wedding ideas – fabulous photos to whet your appetite for Paris

Inspires you to set aside your fears and take action!

The author eases the angst of travel planning and ignites your hunger for Paris. Every word is designed to move you from dreaming of a Paris trip to making it a reality to cherish for a lifetime.

$6.95 Easy-access e-book – File will be e-mailed to you

Top Customer Reviews
The Promise of Paris

A super informative book!  For some years now I have been making the trip to Paris & staying at “My Little Home in Paris” in the Latin Quarter.  I came across your amazing book, while staying at the apartment …and just wanted to tell you what a super informative book it is.   Having been to so many of these places, I feel you have captured them to perfection.  Thank you again for the wonderful book on Paris.
Paris comes off the page and into the heart in this gem of a travel book
 After reading The Promise of Paris, I was ready to abandon tasks at hand and board a plane for France. This charming volume provides the first-time visitor, as well as the most experienced traveler to Paris, insight into off-the-tourist-beat places to eat, shop, sight-see and museum-visit. For the arm chair traveler, the intriguing photos of people, buildings and items on display in shops make owning a copy of the book worthwhile.
Erase any fears or hesitation ….Manages to erase any fears or hesitations you may have about visiting Paris – language barriers, negotiating the metro, where to eat, where to stay, etc. – and provides you with just the right amount of information needed – down-to-earth and easy to digest and embrace.  She helps you feel ‘at home’ in Paris, before your trip has begun! Most of all, she invites you to have your own experience, to discover the Paris of your dreams….Inspires you to take the plunge, make the trip, and discover for yourself the magic of Paris that keeps calling her back.
Easy to read – this book will prepare you for Paris  This book will prepare you for Paris, so that you can blend in like a long-term resident instead of a tourist. It is like a good Parisian friend meeting you for coffee at a sidewalk cafe – effortless and amusing way to brush up on the City of Lights.
Fresh and original! Just what the world needs: another Paris guidebook!  Sandra Sheridan’s book is NOT a guide book, nor does it pretend to be.  It’s fresh and original and motivates and inspires those who have always dreamed of seeing Paris but keep putting it off, or who have been meaning to return ‘one day’ … to do it!  I was struck by the honesty of the book – or should I say of its author.
Accompany the author on her frolics through Paris Through her exuberance for everything French, the author invites you to accompany her on her frolics through Paris.  Her book weaves and wanders with great delight through the narrow cobblestone streets and the grand avenues of the 20 districts that make up Paris, taking a ‘wrong’ turn and finding yourself happily lost in paradise.  Discover quiet, hidden neighborhoods close to the bustle of the city, art, architecture, artisanal crafts, monuments, museums, history, culture, cuisine, practical info and tons of ambiance, spiced with captivating anecdotes straight from the heart.


Paperback still available and on sale in connection with the E-book launch.
Paris France travel
Special Sale:$14.95 (+tax & $3 shipping)  Signed copy

Paperback print on demand – 128 pages – allow 10 days for shipping.

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!

Auguste Rodin – in Paris and Meudon

Auguste Rodin Museum in Paris France

Grand windows, soft light and Rodin’s masterful works

I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need. ~ Auguste Rodin

Sculpture draws me, as if it wraps a silk scarf about my waist and tugs ever so gently, until I come into the fold. Naturally, Musée Rodin topped my initial list of things to do and see in Paris. But this museum eluded me. First visit – closed. Second visit – a minor ‘strike’. Third visit – a friend’s wallet went missing, before we ever arrived.

Finally, I was able to step into the mansion and through the gardens. The museum is housed in the magnificent 18th-century hôtel particulier known today as Hôtel Biron. Officially opened in 1919, the museum and all of Rodin’s works in plaster, marble, bronze and stone, as well as all of his drawings were given by Rodin to the French nation. What a miracle of time and preservation to be able to see the alabaster marble figures, to fathom the birth of sculpture from sketches and paintings.

And, then, to walk among the garden figures – the shy and shame-filled figures of Adam and Eve, the Gates of Hell and – bien sur! – The Thinker. My husband and I retraced my original steps during a recent visit. Time had taken no edge from the spectacular beauty of Rodin’s works, but we did notice the march of time and tourists over patched parquet floors and well-worn walls.

Paris musee rodin

Pleasant moments in the garden cafe

We were delighted to see that a 16-million Euro restoration took place from 2012 to 2015, restoring the lovely mansion, opening new visiting rooms and renewing the museography of Rodin’s collections.  One of the most exciting changes was the redesign of its interior to reveal the creative development of Rodin’s work and that of some of his contemporaries, including Camille Claudel.  Visitors now literally see can trace the works’ movement from plaster to completion in bronze or marble.  For the first time, we see the sculptor’s genius evolve.

Villa des Brillants, Auguste Rodin's home in Meudon

Villa des Brillants, Meudon

On our return to Paris, we definitely will spend a morning at this lovely museum and end our visit with lunch in the garden.  Just imagine – the wonder of visiting Rodin’s enchanting home, immersing yourself in his work, wandering through the sculpture garden and lingering over lunch like privileged guests.

Sadly, there are no more extended evening hours, but no problem.  We would not miss this precious experience.  We also look to add to our experience with  the discovery of The Villa des Brillants, Rodin’s Meudon residence and studios, where he lived with and later married Rose Beurret. They are buried here in Meudon, their tomb dominated by an imposing, full-size copy of The Thinker.

I really can’t help but compare the cost of this dual experience of museums – 13 Euros per person ($13.83) to the cost in Orlando for a movie or museum.  Incomparable – and one of the many reasons Paris spoils us!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Easter in Paris? – American Churches

Paris France

American Church in Paris on quai d’Orsay

Throughout the Christian faith, Good Friday marks a somber beginning to a weekend that ends in hope and lily-filled celebrations on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, church bells throughout France fall silent from Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday. With much of the French populace Roman Catholic, all of the cities, towns and villages have a church – many with a bell.   As Easter approaches, the somber reflection on Christ’s crucifixion and death is reflected in the quiet, and French parents tell their children – in fun – that the chimes have flown to Rome to see the Pope.

Easter Sunday – voila!  The celebrations of the Resurrection begin with the joyous pealing of the bells throughout the country. Lilies adorn the church, and Christians gather to rejoice that Christ ‘is risen indeed’.

One of many things we plan for our next trip to Paris is attending the American Church in Paris. The church offers a phenomenal gathering place for people of many denominations and interests. They offer traditional and contemporary liturgical services and host a number of specific interest groups. One, Bloom Where You are Planted, helps English-speaking newcomers settle in to their new life in Paris. Part of the church’s stated mission is “…to provide a place of English language worship in the American Protestant tradition, and to engage in ministries and services that enrich the lives of residents and visitors in Paris.

The first American church established outside of the United States, the ACP dates to 1814; though its official charter and sanctuary were established in 1857. Since 1931, the church has welcomed worshippers to the quai d’Orsay location along the Seine.

Not too far away on Avenue George V, the American Cathedral in Paris is a center of worship for English-speakers abroad. Permanent parishioners total about 400 and their numbers swell considerably with students, tourists and business persons in Paris on shorter-term assignments.

Appropriately, the Cathedral was consecrated on Thanksgiving Day in 1886, but its roots go back further to the days when American Episcopalians gathered for worship in the 1830s. The Cathedral serves as the “mother church” for the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Wherever you and your family will celebrate this season of renewal and joy, we wish you Peace and Hope for the days that lie ahead.

href=””>We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Picard Gourmet Frozen Food

Paris frozen foods

A surprising and vast collection of frozen foods

Vraiment, leave it to the French to offer decidedly upscale choices in frozen food.  Several times we have walked past these Parisian stores with a mere glance in their direction, apparently without enough curiosity to take a closer look. I’m talking about Picard Les Surgelés, and I must steal a phrase from someone else who penned a word or two about this chain.  They likened the store to a cryogenics laboratory – not, mind you, that I’ve been to such a lab – and the reference seems to capture the cool exterior, relative lack of color, fluorescent lighting and refrigerated cases along the walls.

Then someone in our delightful “France Fanatics” Facebook group, stepped out with the question: “Has anyone else who travels to France found Picard great in a pinch, or am I alone on this?”  As with every other French-related question in this 2,000-member group of Francophiles, candid and enthusiastic responses poured through Mr. Zuckerberg’s gates.

The comments ranged from ‘very good products’ and ‘In the US, the closest thing … is probably Trader Joes’ to ‘the French homemaker’s best friend’ and ‘Everything was delicious!’  As I probed further, I found that the company was founded in 1906, is headquartered in Fontainebleau, and now has 1,000 stores in France and has expanded to Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Sweden.

So why all the excitement?  How are they different from Marie Callender, Stouffer’s or other prominent frozen food brands in the United States?  Well, I think the dominant differences are quite impressive – like raising their très haute offerings well beyond mac ‘n cheese and chicken pot pies to include an enticing collection of French recipes as well as fresh-frozen, unenchanced ingredients like fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry.

Picard frozen foods of france

Chicken and asparagus – delicieux!

Let’s try a sampling, shall we?  How about Basque chicken or a savory potato-ham-Emmentaler cheese dish, saumon en croute or barbeque ribs?  Add lovely desserts – even coffee éclairs, starters and even some essentials like minced shallots, chopped herbes and a variety of sauces from Thai curry to beurre blanc.  With over 1,200 products, the range is pretty magnificent and even downright exotic – peeled chestnuts and pumpkin purée, to name a couple.

Especially appealing is the care that goes into production and distribution. Tapping into the deeply-rooted food culture of France, Picard stays close to farmers and other food producers to tap high quality sources – fully 67% of their products originate in France, where pesticide and fertilizer use is strictly limited.  Production standards are precise and rigorous; and the company controls every aspect of production, ensuring adherence to required temperatures and avoiding the need for additives and preservatives.

Shoppers utilize large, insulated bags to maintain those proper temperatures en route to their homes.  Not surprisingly, the French ranked Picard their favorite brand a couple of years ago, and it fails to be a well-guarded secret that Picard is well represented at many dinner parties.

I’m convinced.  Next trip, for the occasional at-home meal, we’ll stop in at Picard Surgelés.  I imagine we will start with the molten chocolate cake, apparently quite the favorite with over two million purchased per year!

 We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Place Contrescarpe – Paris Latin Quarter

Members of our delightful “France Fanatics” group on Facebook recently asked me about our favorite Paris vacation apartment rental.  A fellow renter (whom we never have met) had written to compliment my book that she found in staying at the same apartment.  When I posted her lovely comments, others wanted to know the secret of our “Home in Paris”.

We often stay at a lovely vacation rental property in the Latin Quarter.  A charming two-room flat on an ancient pedestrian passageway, our chosen home lies very close to the bustling and always entertaining Place Contrescarpe.

This square remains one of our favorite spots in Paris, a small intersection at the top of rue Mouffetard with a mix of bakeries and grocers (alimentaires), restaurants and ice cream shops.  We park ourselves at a café terrace in the sun to enjoy a morning coffee and croissant and watch the students hustle by, the shopkeepers sweep their walkways and place their pastries just so in the window display.

We love the sensation of being in our own little neighborhood.  Each day, we walk past the same store owners and waiters, the dog-walking lady and the young gentleman taking his daughter to school.

And each afternoon, we see the same elder man sitting in a doorway overlooking Contrescarpe, a bottle of wine at his side and an ongoing ‘story’ he shares with the world “in general”.  He doesn’t expect anyone to engage him in conversation.  He isn’t begging or being a nuisance or any such thing. He simply has staked out his place and set his ‘podium’ from which to say his piece. Perhaps, we shall do the same one day…particularly with a good bottle of wine at hand!

We have enjoyed stays in hotels and, when our apartment is not available, stays in other vacation rentals.  Nothing seems to touch “Our Little Home in Paris” for being our personal sanctuary, as we enjoy our favorite city.

And these few paragraphs barely scratch the surface of one square in one neighborhood in Paris.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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Père-Lachaise – A Sense of Place and Time

The ornate tombs of Père-Lachaise

Our approach differed, as we planned our outing to Père-Lachaise.  My husband read about the most famous cemetery in Paris and told me, “According to the author of this book about the cemetery, ‘The French cultivate death as stately, a final performance….’ ”  He rattled off the names of philosophers and musicians, poets and statesmen, bankers and revolutionaries.  “Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Balzac, Chopin, Jim Morrison and Isadora Duncan.”

I was absorbed by the lives represented, the stories that lay beneath the sculptures that honor their lives or demonstrate the depth of the grief of those left behind.  I wondered, “If we could cultivate their collective talent, and discard their misdeeds and misfortunes….”  Who knows?

These were our perspectives, as we began to tread lightly through the avenues of loss and remembrance.  The famed and unknown lay in proximity, their lives entwined in death, as they may have been in life.

So many impressions wash over us.  The sun casts shadows over the graves of past heroes and ancient bards.  The intrusive sounds of current city life drift over the high walls that encircle Père-Lachaise, the automobiles and sirens and cell-phone encumbered walkers.

They begin to fade, replaced by the soothing sounds of birds from the trees above, as we wind our way to the interior.  Visitors point and whisper in quiet conversations. We overhear a tour guide noting the life and accomplishments of Frederic Chopin to her small group.

Each grave tells its own story, touching every joy and sorrow man has known.  The grave of an infant who lived for six days rests next to his father who lived sixty years.  Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein rest together with a shared tombstone.   Collections of grave sites and memorials to bravery reflect the grief and losses of all the wars and revolutions that have touched Paris and the world beyond.

I am drawn to the flowing sculptures, sad guardians of the dead.  One majestic statue depicts a woman defeated, her aged marble head in her hands.  Another reveals a serene matriarch, hands in lap, her simple shawl draped around her shoulders, as if calmly watching over those who have joined her and those who will follow through the years.

France remembers you

Finally, we are stilled by the stark simplicity of one war memorial.  We stood before a white monument with a small child posed, reaching upwards to write her sweet inscription on a broad expanse of marble.  “France souviens-toi.”  “France remembers you.”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Parisian Cafe Moments

Paris cafe life

Intimate brasserie near Jardin du Luxembourg

Many of you know that I completed a dream goal last year in publishing Fired Up for France:  The Promise of ParisAbove all, I wanted to inspire others to throw caution to the wind and take the plunge to visit – for the first or umpteenth time – the most captivating city in the world.  Yes, my personal opinion but one seemingly held by millions of others.

In a series of vignettes and enticing photos, I sought to capture the essence of a city that lures you around every corner – with a window display or a street musician, with a myriad of architectural details or a soothing garden path, with a simple café moment or a stunning ballet performance.  Paris holds enough tantalizing sights, sounds and experiences to whirl you about for your entire visit, but part of the magic lies with the people.  Residents and visitors alike seem to come alive in The City of Light, sharing moments and greetings in a world that seems to exist to encourage their wellbeing and outright joy.

Paris cafes

Warm hospitality along rue Mouffetard

And so, I sit on my porch on a sunny day in Florida sharing pleasant memories with you, while admittedly I do so to mentally transport myself back to those cherished moments.  Though we have enjoyed many areas of Paris, we have particularly relished the Latin Quarter and its environs.

Our best friends live quite near The Panthéon; so we have wandered with them along the worn paths of the Jardin du Luxembourg, where hundreds of people raise their faces to the sun from a simple green chair overlooking the Medici fountain or the grand Luxembourg Palace.   Children dash about, while nannies or moms watch over them.  One gentleman reads a book; another flirts with his girlfriend.

Paris cafes

Another Latin Quarter cafe with our friend, Philippe

We step across the boulevard to take in the café life that mirrors the same kind of individual and group pleasures – that little table with coffee and croissant from which you watch the world pass or the full table sharing a pichet of wine while enjoying quiet conversation.  Café life offers some of the most peaceful moments and enduring memories of your visit, so much so that you must tailor your budget to allow plenty of time to explore their magic.

We hope 2017 finds you along the Seine, visiting the markets, listening to the street guitarist and gathering your favorite collection of Paris cafés.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Joyeux Nöel!

Bordeaux France

Christmas greetings from Chateau Vieux Mougnac in Bordeaux

Added a few notes to a previous post, but our message is the same – to convey our heartfelt wishes for a tender and joyful holiday!

We were so fortunate to spend our very first Christmas (as a married couple) in Paris.  Away from family and friends and on our lune de miel, we wrapped the city around us and bid “Joyeux Nöel” to strangers on street corners.  That is the wonder and warmth of the season – so many differences disappear, and kind greetings are shared.

Today, we spoke with our dear friends in Paris, who will be enjoying a toast with new visitors to their charming vacation rental.  We know, as do they, that miles and a rather large ocean may separate us this season; but we all are one in remembering special times and embracing the hope of so many more in the future (bises a Sandy & Philippe!).  Those thoughts are precisely the ones that drive all of us to laughter and tears during the holidays – all of those precious friends and family with whom we have shared up-down-and-all-around times!  History seems not only resurrected but redefined during these annual celebrations.

This year, we have been pretty organized without a mad rush toward the big gift-giving day.  Yet, don’t we always ‘manufacture’ some last minute things to do?  One more stocking stuffer.  A candy cane. A treasure that jumps to the front of your consciousness with a bold prod – “You MUST get this for ‘x’!”  I suppose if I went out in search of a Bûche de Noël at this late moment, I would be denied my wish.  C’est  la vie.  [Covered that wish this year – we are making our own!]

Paris Christmas

Honeymooning in Paris!

We will gather with family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, enjoy the innocence of children at church, the delight of family gathered for brunch and two hearty grandsons tearing through gifts with a ton of joy and excitement!

We sincerely wish you the warmest thoughts of the season.  Whatever joys and sorrows, victories or defeats you may have encountered during this past year; we imagine a cloak of warmth and peace wraps around you and yours during your holiday celebrations and throughout the coming year.

Joyeux Nöel!

Bernardaud – Fine Holiday Gifts

Votivelight - delicate porcelain from Bernardaud

Scenes of the Seine in Paris, Bernardaud

Oui – the season has arrived, and naturally I gravitate to French gifts.  Here, I ‘dust off” my thoughts on a delightful selection of gifts for any age, gender or interest.

One of my favorite wedding gifts came from my Matron of Honor.  Understanding our profound love of France and in keeping with our French-themed wedding, she presented us with an incredibly delicate Bernardaud Votivelight candle themed with scenes of the Seine in Paris.

The Bernardaud mystique extends back to the birth of French porcelain in 1768.  A villager from  Saint-Yrieix La Perche near Limoges discovered a soft, white clay that later would be identified as kaolin.  This magnificent substance is critical to fine china for its resiliency, durability and flawless iridescent translucency.  Voila!  Her discovery gave birth to the French – particularly Limoges – porcelain.

Toward the end of the 19th century, a workshop apprentice, Léonard Bernardaud, so distinguished himself among fellow porcelain workers, that he would become a partner in the company, as would his sons.  Today we owe the exceptional beauty and craftsmanship of their products to the tenacious resolve and creativity of the Bernardauds.

Bernardaud porcelain

Bernardaud – stunning craftsmanship and color

Our beautiful votivelight is but one of an appealing collection produced by Bernardaud and available in fine department stores and Bernardaud boutiques.

So there you have a delightful idea for gift-giving this season.  Head for Neiman-Marcus or Bloomingdale’s or take a look on line to discover where you might purchase that special gift for a friend or family member.
We’d love to hear from you!

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

French Photo Holiday Gifts

A chance photo while wandering the streets of Paris France

An elegant sight, while wandering the streets of Paris

If you’re staring at catalogues or wandering through stores to find that “perfect” gift for friends or family, STOP! Think about going personal with a gift from your own memorable travels in France.

I have done just that many times in the past, and it gives me great pleasure to see my photo of a quaint, festooned wedding car in Bordeaux hanging right there in my son’s entryway… or the elegant Hotel de Ville photo from Blois in our own home. Whether you want to make one of your own memories indelible or share stunning sights with others, a framed photo from your own collection makes an excellent, personalized gift.

The good news is that American Frame makes the process so easy. Choose a few of the photos you might want to print and frame. Go to the frame company site and begin the process of choosing frames, mats – even double mats! I have never seen such a user-friendly site. You will upload your photos, choose mats and frames and be able to see them with light or dark mats, metal or wood frames, ornate or simple frame designs. You can even change the color of the wall on which the framed photo will hang!

Overlooking the River Cher from Chenonceau Castle in France

Musing by the Cher at Chenonceau

Sometimes, simple thoughtful gifts provide far more pleasure than those break-the-wallet lavish ones. We hope you are stress-free in your preparations for the holidays!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Mastering Space, Saving Energy in Paris

The mirror expands the space in “My Little Home in Paris”

Anyone who has stayed in a tiny Parisian hotel room or dined at a 16-seat cafe understands the lack of available space in this spectacular capital city.  Every inch of space is important – the little entry alcove, the corner at the curve of the stairs, the stairwell itself.

Perhaps a comparison to American spaces will provide perspective.  A one-bedroom apartment in the United States  often includes 600 to 800 square feet – huge by Paris standards, where that space would equate to a 3- or 4-room apartment.

Our friends in Paris bought a studio for a small vacation rental – small being the operative word here!  At 21 square meters (225 square feet), “My Little Home in Paris” has a very comfortable, full-size bathroom with tub, a small kitchen and a little study, or half-room that serves as wardrobe, office or sleep space for the one with the short straw (futon for the night)!  How in the world do they do it, especially given the ancient building with a lovely little fireplace that can’t be removed?

Let’s start with the kitchen, where a high-tech water/radiator heater was installed behind the faux wall above the sink – quite the space saver.  The gas heater keeps a small reservoir of heated water, programmable to use energy when it’s the cheapest.  As soon as hot water is used, it is replenished with the heater’s quick recovery system.  A two-burner gas stovetop and microwave handle almost any cooking needs, save a Thanksgiving turkey.  Curtained shelves hold everything else from pans and teapots to coffee makers and spices.

Water heater above the sink

A comfortable sofa bed is the key to space savings in the living room, as is a small, round drop leaf table in front of the bright window. A lovely old mirror above the fireplace adds elegance, visual depth and light, and – voila – the small, flat-screen TV on the wall delivers CNN and France 24 without prejudice!  (Oh my – I just noticed I keep using the words “small” and “little” – can’t be avoided on this topic!)

In the half room, a desk under the window offers free computer and wifi connections and free internet phone.  Bookshelves above hold every imaginable tour book, museum guide and restaurant menus.  A large cupboard has plenty of space for hanging and folded clothes and supplies.

That’s just one example of the clever use of space in a small Paris apartment.  Older apartments with soaring ceilings make use of a sleeping loft to remove the bed from the main living areas.  Circular stairwells are also popular, as are some unusual appliance combinations to cater to “western” notions of comfort – combination stove/dishwasher or clothes washer set beneath your bathroom sink. One studio apartment cleverly disguised the kitchen behind lovely armoire doors that covered a generous space set in the end wall of the living room. You name it – the French have thought of ways to be comfortable without excess space.

Favorite Cafe, Ile Saint-Louis

Favorite Cafe, Ile Saint-Louis

Tiny cafes also demonstrate resourcefulness.  Along rue Mouffetard, a tarte salon welcomes some 9 or 10 customers at a time, while others walking along the street order their quiche to go.  The fact that the fresh tartes sit in an enticing window display probably doubles their daily sales.  Dine inside, and you’ll see how deftly your server assembles your order.  She cuts your chosen tarte from the window display to take to the draped kitchen in the back – one that looked to be the size of a large closet.  She returns the warmed quiche to the front, adds salad and your drink from a small refrigerator next to the window.  Dirty dishes go back to the kitchen, where it sounds like they might be immediately washed by hand for future customers.

A similarly small cafe on elegant Ile Saint-Louis handled service in much the same way, but with one important distinction.  They had the benefit of a dumbwaiter that would silently carry steaming tagliatelle and crisp galettes upward to customers, while whisking away dirty dishes to the cavern below.

In a city that continues to thrive in the face of growing populations, Paris demonstrates an uncanny appreciation for space and energy.  Schools double as voting sites.  Little autos, such as Smart cars, outnumber larger vehicles, and the city Velib system makes bike-riding popular.  Building entries have timed lighting for you to activate to avoid energy drain, and you can choose your drying cycles in the Laundromat to run in 10-minute segments.

In the United States, the economic downturn has brought about changes in thinking about spending and living.  We have been enamored with big spaces and special-occasion rooms, with large cars and more appliances than we know how to conquer.  Perhaps, we should look to Paris for inspiration.


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

“Astonishing Images of Paris”

Gaston Barret’s Watercolor of Contrescarpe

I resurrect this article, as it features a delightful discovery of Paris paintings and an interesting story to accompany that surprise.

A few years ago, we enjoyed dinner with a longstanding friend and her husband at their attractive home.  Not surprisingly for a woman of many interests, she had some delightful artifacts and art.  Knowing our love of France, she shared an unusual book with us – a gift to her uncle that ultimately came into her possession.

The beautiful volume was a limited edition of “Astonishing Images of Paris”, and included a striking collection of Aquarelles (watercolors) de Gaston Barret.  She allowed me to borrow the book, and I looked through the remarkable illustrations time and again.

With a little research, I discovered that Barret (1910–1991) had illustrated Marcel Pagnol’s play, Topaze with eighteen colored aquarelle etchings.  He also illustrated Pagnol’s Marius, as well as works of Gustave Flaubert, Jean de la Fontaine, Maurice Genevoix and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – definitely an impressive collection of authors!

Barret’s Montmartre

I had told our friend that I would share the results of my research with her.  We were amused, when I discovered a ‘sassier’ side of Barret.

In 1951 Monsieur Barret created several erotic prints for Justine ou les Maleurs de la Vertu – The Misfortunes of Virtue by Marquis de Sade.  Interestingly, the Marquis published several versions in the late 18th century; but Napoleon Bonaparte called Justine “the most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination” and immediately ordered the arrest of Sade, who spent the last 13 years of his life in prison.  Barret’s illustrations surfaced in the later publication during the more permissive era of the late 1960’s.

And so we travel from sophisticated old acquaintances and lovely illustrations of Paris to skeletons spilling from the closet.  What an interesting journey!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Holiday shopping? Please take a moment to browse through my book – maybe the perfect, personalized gift for friend or family?

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Marseille – Chaos and Charisma!

Cafe Jeannot overlooking Vieux Port

Along 35 miles of Mediterranean coast, Marseille is transforming itself into quite the jewel of Provence – a mix of old world charm and contemporary growth.  On the one hand, you discover quaint little fishing ports and sherbet-colored buildings; on the other the brand new tramway and futuristic buildings.  To the south are the dramatic “calanques”, wild rocky cliffs and inlets, where the mountains meet the sea.

Panier, Marseille’s Old Town, was where Greeks settled in 600 BC, founding the city of Massalia.  The imprint of immigration shows through the over 100 villages that make up the city; where Italians and Corsicans, North Africans and South Americans now share the French city in an eclectic mix of culture, cuisine and custom.  Add the ambitious transformation project called   Euroméditerranée – the largest urban renovation project in Europe – and you have a city embracing its past, while headed firmly toward the future.

For a stunning view and instant understanding of the complex maze of Marseille, make your way to Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.  Beautifully restored and topped with a graceful, gilded statue of “Our Lady”, the cathedral is perched high on a hill overlooking the whole city.  In addition to colorful, Byzantine mosaic domes, the interior includes an interesting collection of ex votos (votive offerings), primarily model boats left by sailors grateful for surviving treacherous seas and dangerous pirates.

Fishing and pleasure boats fill the old port

Every day the old port hums with its traditional fish market, where the fresh catch of the day will become tonight’s bouillabaisse – hearty fish stew.  The Vieux Port is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch and more discovery.  Try the upstairs terrace of Chez Jeannot for good regional cuisine and a wonderful view of the old fishing port and colorful boats.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Planning a trip to Paris? I hope you will take a moment to browse through … and order … my book filled with practical information, stunning color photographs and appealing vignettes!

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Museum Gifts from France

Paris France art

Along the Seine – Paris original watercolor

Hard to believe that the holidays … and gift giving season … once again have arrived. And I plead guilty to my dual nature in fully applauding ABC News’ “Made in America” segments, while I search through for ‘just the right’ gift from France for my loved ones. No apologies here, as I support job-creating American enterprises as well as artisan-supporting French products.

If French-themed art appeals to you, I invite you to browse our original watercolors, where a variety of colorful and whimsical paintings evoke French scenes.  I also recommend a delightful shopping site for those unable to comb the shops of French villages and cities for holiday gifts.  The Boutiques de musées offers a wide variety of French-oriented products directly from the many national museums they represent.  Whether your budget is large or small, you can find a simple magnet or an elaborate piece of jewelry that reproduces some of the finest art in the world.

Sculpture of Etienne Meurice The Bather of Falconet Paris Museum

The Bather of Falconet – reproduction of Étienne Meurice sculpture

How about a refined replica of “The Bather of Falconet” by Étienne Meurice?  Exquisite choices range from handsome coffee-table art books to an enchanting fresco reproduction of Raphael’s “La Belle Jardiniére” or a set of Arabesque dessert plates.

Children are not forgotten in the boutique offerings either with a variety of calendars, puzzles, model kits and books – even an “Animals of the World” game for the entire family.

Family game from Boutiques de musees France

Family game from the Boutique

Closer to home and without the burden of international postage, My French Neighbor offers an enticing selection of home decor and bath items, as well as a wonderful selection of gourmet foods.  Whether you shop abroad or in your local or on-line French shop, we hope you round out your Christmas list with memorable gifts that embrace the spirit of France.

We’d love to hear from you!

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


Dining with Friends in Paris

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!

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

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Rouen – Where the Seine is “Main Street”

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:

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Benjamin Franklin – Mission in France

 Paris Print shows Benjamin Franklin standing with a man and a woman outside building.

The Reception of Benjamin Franklin in France – by Charles Brothers, ©1847

As we celebrate Independence Day, how appropriate to remember how dependent we were on the help of others to gain our own freedom.  Through the years France has given America far more than the Statue of Liberty.  In fact, the Revolutionary War would have been a lost cause, without the financial and military aid that Benjamin Franklin almost singlehandedly secured from the French.

A perspective of that time demonstrates the brilliance of Franklin’s diplomatic success.  America was made up of a fledgling group of colonies sick of “taxation without representation”.  England and France were the superpowers of Europe, each a monarchy but separated in general beliefs and forms of government.

England’s parliamentary form of government allowed some representation by commoners.  France’s monarchy left absolute power to the king; who presided over a world of idle luxury, while the average French person lived in abject poverty.  That’s a little too reminiscent of some of the world today!

Benjamin Franklin – Enter Stage Left

In December, 1776, Franklin arrived in Paris to a city of narrow streets, open sewers and homeless, starving people. In Tuileries Garden mansions, the upper classes gathered for soirées in opulent fashions and elaborate wigs.  The scenario could hardly have been comfortable for Franklin, who cherished the democratic beliefs of the Americans and might easily have championed the cause of poor French peasants.

But Benjamin Franklin understood his mission.  He could not insult the French court from who he sought aid. Instead, he dressed in humble style and exhibited his extraordinary intellect.  He learned French and spent all of his time with intellectuals and members of the upper class.

Can you imagine how enthralled they were with this scientific and literary man from New England, this printer, inventor and politician?  The aristocracy embraced Benjamin Franklin as the embodiment of New World Enlightenment.  His remarkable political and persuasive talents led one scholar to proclaim Franklin “the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time.”

And it was due to his success that French financial support for the war would aid America in the American Revolution.  Through Franklin’s skilled negotiation, the French signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Colonies in 1778.  America received continuing military, financial and political aid French that helped the colonies win the War for Independence.

One man understood and accomplished his mission, and our Nation was born.  One can only hope that American politicians one day will again set aside personal and party agendas, in order to provide the genuine leadership and accomplish the vital missions before us.

Happy 4th of July!

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:

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Flea Market – Marché aux Puces, Paris

Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Copper and brass, baskets and buckets – Marché aux Puces

Often the brocante or flea market rivals the most famous of Paris museums for fascinating and historic objets d’art, and this flea market offers the most abundant selections in the city.  Paris’s most famous flea market groups hundreds of open stalls and shops in the 18th arrondissement selling every imaginable object, from grand vintage antiques and elaborate costume jewelry to simple home décor accessories and toy collectibles.   Once  is never enough, when it comes to visiting this renowned Marché!

Unfortunately, first you have to endure somewhat of a running of the gauntlet along avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt, as you thread your way through stalls of touristy, cheap clothing, shoes and trinkets.  Voila! – arrive at rue des Rosiers, turn left, and you will begin your real discovery tour.

Monday is one of the best days to visit, as the crowds are less and the bargains better.  Set aside worries about getting ‘stung’ by bad deals.

You will discover so many appealing stalls and fascinating treasures.  One offers only unusual vintage costumes and clothing.  You’ll see, perhaps, a charming felt hat of soft turquoise and imagine the glowing face that wore this lovely chapeau.  Or a whole stall of antique brass and copper, another of under-sized oil paintings.

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment, Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment

For a top experience, dress comfortably, speak French, linger over goods that interest you and show your respect for items; and you’ll begin to have success negotiating with dealers.  Take time for lunch at one of the little cafes in the market.  You will enjoy watching fellow flea market visitors, as they work their way through a ‘yellow brick road’ of treasures.

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

The Rhythm of Rennes

Historic Rennes against a background of contemporary architecture

We like to remind people about the rhythms of France – they are important!  No gas for sale in Amboise on Sunday (forget the drive in the country).  The rue Mouffetard is closed on Monday (new plan for dinner).  As it turned out, Rennes saved us from our worst faux pas regarding rhythms.

August is the penultimate time for travel in France.  The French head to the country or sea or other favorite holiday spot, and the entire world seems to head for France during the summer.

We were in the Loire Valley and decided to go to the Saint-Nazaire area to spend some time on the Atlantic Coast.  That’s no small drive to begin with, but I was in one of my “linger along the way” moods; so it was late in the afternoon, when we began to look for a place to stay.  Every hotel we passed along the coast had the unforgiving sign – “complet” (No vacancy).  Sigh.  We were beginning to realize the error of our ways.

We drove north to Guérande, a charming medieval town, and headed straight for the Office of Tourism.  “Yes, there is a vacancy”, they told us.  The price was over $300 per night.  Time to hit the road again –  on the national roads, into the villages.  The “rhythm” was killing us.  Roadside motels, “complet”.  Villages tucked in for the night.  We gave up hope and took to the autoroute toward Rennes.

We arrived near midnight and followed the signs to “Centre Ville”, the town center with, we hoped, the greatest chance for success.  That’s when the rhythm of Rennes, the capital of Brittany, saved us.  We drove into a melee of sorts; a major soccer match had just ended.  People were partying well into the night throughout the city center.  We spotted a hotel and crossed our fingers.  Two rooms left.  We took very little time to say, “Oui!”

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

France River Cruise for Your List?

Cruise France

Viking River Cruise stateroom with your own veranda

Not that our Bucket List isn’t crammed full, but really – a river cruise anywhere in France seems a “must”.  During a recent visit with our French friends, they described several river journeys that sounded pretty heavenly.  We do know ourselves well enough to realize the smaller boats would be more appealing.

If you don’t know, the “Bucket List” term was inspired by the movie of the same name.  The main stars fashioned a list of things they wanted to do, before they ‘kicked the bucket’…like skydiving, driving a Shelby Mustang and dining at the Chevre d’Or overlooking the Mediterranean.

All things considered, we think a Viking River Cruise through France might be a nice addition. In the so-called “long and short of it”, there is a short cruise from Paris through Normandy and a rather indulgent 15-day excursion that extends that particular cruise to take you to Avignon, Arles and beyond.  Naturally that’s not the extent of cruise offerings.  You can go from Paris to Lyon or Zurich or go west to cruise around the Bordeaux wine region on the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde Rivers.

The accolades for the Viking cruises are noteworthy.  National Geographic, for one, features Viking in their “The 10 Best of Everything” awards.  In 2012, Viking launched six new longships earning significant praise from Cruise Critic Editors.  Viking exceeds expectations with state-of-the-art engineering, balcony cabins, suites and expansive, atrium-style common areas.  Add more than 175 years of cruise experience and carefully-planned itineraries, and you understand the allure.

So back to our Bucket List addition, we might as well go all out with the combo cruise that runs, in essence, the length of France. Viking combines a Normandy adventure with cruises through the southern regions of Burgundy and Provence and visits to Avignon, Arles and Lyon.  Can you imagine a more delightful itinerary? Touches of Monet and Van Gogh. Cuisines of Lyon and Avignon. Cobblestone streets and soaring Gothic architecture. And the magnificent sights of Paris need no description.

Tournon France

Scenic Tournon

I can allow my imagination to take hold, picturing a spacious stateroom, outside – of course – with our own balcony. They have thought of everything – spacious observation lounges and bars with panoramic windows. Wireless internet service, boutique and library.

Talented chefs present a cuisine of fresh, seasonal local vegetables, regional specialties and menus adapted to your tastes. From pleasant and complete breakfast choices to a five-course dinner, we shall be well prepared for active days and pleasant evenings.

Though we tend to strike out on our own and avoid set tours, we believe the Viking experience might be quite worthy of the “Bucket List”.

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

A Clear Vision of France

Sylvie’s vineyard near Saint-Émilion

I originally wrote this after cataract surgery a couple of years ago – thus the “clever”, play-on-words title.  With no pun, though, I still enjoy very clear memories and ‘visions’ of France.

Paris … of course!  Wandering along the Seine, stopping to watch the bateau pass or the father and son snuggled together along the quai.  Finding the perfect sidewalk café for a warm coffee on a cool day.

Provence … those fields of lavender come immediately to mind … and cobbled lanes, charming shops, the bleat of sheep from our pique-nique spot.

Cote d’Azur … magnificent expanses of every imaginable shade of blue, parasol pines and red cliffs reaching into the sea.  No wonder writers, artists, rich and poor flocked to this grand arena of beauty!

The Alps … grand and glorious, bald in some areas, forested in others.  The sound of a cowbell on a lone, stray cow up the hill.  Flowers everywhere and tantalizing tartiflettes.

I comb through memories and photos, and the scenes instantly appear – the beauty, the calm, the color, the people – all of it. And always the natural sights appeal – those with water and mountains, rivers and vineyards – so inviting.

Wishing you a wonderful trip to France in the near future!

Seeing … and dipping my toes in the Medterranean!

Enjoying an afternoon along the Seine

Doing my Julie Andrews thing in the beautiful Alps

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

France, The World, in 1932

U.S.S. Leviathan's elegant lobby to the main saloon

One of the elegant lobbies of the U.S.S. Leviathan

With all of our world concerns about territorial conflicts, economic and labor issues, slow TSA lines and government leadership; we need only look back to a time when France … and the world … coped with all of those problems and far more – a ‘re-visit’ to an earlier post.

Sometimes we imagine a place, person or event without the context of time. My father returned from a year in France on the U.S.S. Leviathan in 1932. I have imagined him living with his parents on Avenue Charles Floquet, within a whisper of Le Tour Eiffel. I have imagined the voyage over the Atlantic, his belongings carefully packed in the yellow leather steam trunk I remember.

But I never really thought about the ‘world’ then, the news and events, the character of Paris in 1931 and 1932. I simply had a vague notion that it was between the two “Great Wars”; that life was good for him and my grandparents, who were anchored in Paris (poor things!), while my grandfather worked to expand Hobart Manufacturing exports.

Until I researched, I didn’t realize the mix of events that took place in May, 1932. Three weeks before my father’s departure; French President Paul Doumer had been assassinated in Paris, and Albert Lebrun became the new President a few days later.

At the same time, Pearl Buck received the Pulitzer Prize for Good Earth; the body of Charles Lindbergh’s kidnapped young son was discovered in Hopewell, New Jersey; and Amelia Earhart completed the 1st transatlantic solo flight by a woman. In Paris, Chanel introduced an elegant new line of fine jewelry inspired by falling meteors and constellations – what else?

chanel_necklace paris france 1932

Chanel’s falling star? 1932, Paris

The Prohibition was still in force in America (mais oui – why else would my father have escaped to France as a young student!). The Depression that gripped much of the world was late coming to France. Not until 1932 did French exports and tourist stays decline rapidly, while unemployment and industrial production plummeted. Economic problems were compounded by France refusing to follow the lead of Britain, the U.S. and Germany in relinquishing the gold standard.

And the stirrings of war crept across the horizon. A so-called renegade army in Japan attacked China. The Nazi Party won the largest number of votes in Germany but failed to gain a majority. In the next few years, the landscape of Europe would be engulfed in battle once again.

Soon after my father’s crossing on the Leviathan, this largest and fastest vessel in the American merchant marine would be retired and ultimately sold, like so many of the U.S. liners that failed to achieve profits. In fact, during her 21 years of service, it is said that the Leviathan carried over 250,000 passengers without ever earning a profit. But, speaking of perspective, I would surely have enjoyed one of those voyages!

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

Artisans in Saint-Emilion

Bordeaux area of France

Saint-Emilion textile creations

They’re just like you and me, you know. Nurture our dreams. Develop our talents. Talk it up with friends … and go for it!

We wandered into just such a dream shop in Saint-Emilion. The bright colors and shimmering fabrics drew our attention – soft drapes and enchanting table linens that flaunted their originality. A few moments with the friendly ladies in the shop disclosed their adventure.

Three homemakers with energy, talent and drive opened this shop, tapping their own love for beautiful textiles. They work from home. They sell their enchanting goods just down the steep, cobbled lane from the macaron shop.

A delightful moment and memory for us, a cherished dream come true for them! And you must know that every time we think of that lovely town, we remember our momentary friends and hope they are flourishing.

Bordeaux shops

Color, texture and joie!

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Paris Boutique Showcases French Artisans

French artisans

Stunning Vlum jewelry at Talents boutique

Years ago, I went to an art supply/frame shop and selected the kind of frame I wanted. Then came the question.

“Are you an artist?”

I knew the question aimed at some kind of discount for artists, and I didn’t want to misrepresent myself.

“Well, I do paint.”

“Then you are an artist!”

And there you go – in the instant of the young man’s proclamation, I became an artist. Officially. I should be embarrassed to admit that I left the shop murmuring to myself, “Then you are an artist!”

Believe it or not, though, this little missive is not about my artistic bent, but about French artisans. Take a little imaginary trip with me for a moment.

You are an artist, filled with perhaps multi-generational skills, with the vision and talent to produce stunning textiles or sculpture or jewelry or glassware. Scattered about your atelier are works in progress awaiting your finishing touches.

Do you think you also would be equally capable of marketing your goods? Of mapping out a business plan? Of choosing the right outlets for your creative genius? Doubtful. The same deft hand that gilds a sparkling vase or elegant necklace does not necessarily have the time, inclination or know-how to present his/her creations to the world.

Talents, Paris

Tableware and decorative arts abound

Voila! Therein lies the origins of Ateliers d’Art, founded nearly 150 years ago to defend the common interests of ceramists and glassmakers. Since then, the organization has grown to include sophisticated merchandising and ongoing support for artisans from many disciplines.

Here’s the good news for those traveling to Paris. In 2001, Ateliers d’Art opened their first Talents artisan boutique at 26 Avenue Niel near L’Etoile in Paris. The boutique showcases a delightful collection of limited editions and decorative objects – tableware, lighting, furniture, jewelry and more.

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Aix – Fresh from the Farm

Vibrant marketplace colors, Aix-en-Provence

Don’t we all love marchés?

Filled with ambient warmth, there’s an abundance of food, flowers and friendship in the marketplaces of cities and hamlets throughout the country.  In a riot of color, vegetables and flowers compete for best in class.  Potatoes and tomatoes and thick, strong leeks pave the way to exotic white asparagus, petite radishes, raspberries, and melons – the selection is endless.  Rotisseries fill the air with roasting chickens, and the line is several deep to purchase just-the-right cheese.

Imagine a simple butter-salt-pepper addition to slow-steamed vegetables!  Or dollops of crème fraiche over black raspberries from the French countryside.  This day in Aix-en-Provence, naturally we pick a flavorful Gruyère de Comté to enjoy with our artisan bread.  It’s really no surprise that we talk of dinner, while eating our lunch!

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“Fête du Travail” – Labor Day

We happened to be in La Samaritaine, when workers protested the closure of this historic Paris department store.

Today I share an earlier article about Labor Day in France – “Fête du Travail”.  Celebrated on May 1st, the events of the day carry more traditions and purpose than America’s Labor Day.  Often the occasion for lively labor demonstrations; today in France, there is considerable unrest and blatant anger about the pending changes to labor law.  Unfortunately where some may seek peaceful protest, others ‘highjack’ such events to transform them into destructive clashes between protesters and police.

So what changes would you notice?  As in the United States, it is a public holiday – businesses and stores close, as do banks and post offices.  Usually public transportation schedules differ on Labor Day, due to traffic disruptions arising out of the many parades and demonstrations organized by worker’s organizations.

Mind you, these can be very colorful and expressive with banners, balloons and signs, but the demonstrations have serious intent to underscore worker demands and rights.  We happened to be in Paris, when it seemed every teacher in France had taken to the streets.  Demonstrators also support general human rights and underscore current social concerns.

The “green man” – a revered Parisian worker – he keeps our city clean!

One charming tradition – giving lily of the valley bouquets to loved ones – seemingly dates back to King Charles IX of France.  It is said that he received a gift of lilies of the valley on May 1, 1561, and made it his tradition every year thereafter, to present the same flowers to every lady of his court.

In French cities, individuals and trade organizations sell bouquets on the street on May 1, but French families in the countryside rise early to follow the tradition of picking lily of the valley flowers in the woods.

Muguet – Lily of the Valley

The primary differences between French and American labor laws involve legal working hours and paid leaves.  One welcome benefit Americans would enjoy is the five weeks of paid vacation to which French employees are entitled.  They also receive extra days off in lieu of pay, if they accrue a certain amount of overtime.  Maternity and paternity leaves allow mothers no less than 16 weeks of paid leave; and fathers may take 11 days paid leave within 4 months of the child’s birth.  [This may have changed or be subject to change, but you can well imagine a worker’s outcry at disruption of these benefits.]

I rather suspect that our American celebrations in September will find families and friends gathered for cookouts with a few avid shoppers hitting Labor Day sales.  I think I’d rather gather my bouquet and grab a seat at an outdoor café to watch the parades pass by….while appreciating the diligent work of the “green men”.
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Two Unique Paths – Cézanne & Verne

musee-jules-verne-jules-verne-museum-Nantes France

The Jules Verne in Nantes

A little musing today about famous French men who followed their own dreams.  I suppose parents run the gamut in guiding their children in career directions.  The child’s interest.  Financial rewards.  Respected professions.  Family traditions.  Two renowned French men (among many others, I’m sure) disregarded their fathers’ guidance to seek entirely different career paths than those desired by well-intentioned Dad.

Paul Cézanne, for example, initially followed his doctor father’s wishes by attending the University of Aix law school from 1859 to 1861, but he also continued with drawing lessons. Ultimately, with the encouragement of his friend Emile Zola, Cézanne left Aix-en-Provence in 1861 to pursue painting in Paris. His prolific body of work casts an affirmative final vote in favor of the son’s interests and wishes.

Who else chose to turn his back on father’s plan for his life? Like Napoleon, his name appears everywhere in France, on streets and museums, on statues and restaurants. And that man is Jules Verne, the renowned French writer, who pioneered the science fiction genre.  Many of Verne’s traveler tales included inventions considered far ahead of his time. Through his life of writing, he completed 54 major novels about life in the future.

Verne’s fascination with the sea began early in the sea port of Nantes, where he was born. Though he later was caught and returned, he even ran away at one point to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship. Bowing to his father’s vision, Jules Verne studied law in Paris, where he also discovered theatre. After finding that his son had published a play and left his legal studies, his father cut him off and forced Verne to earn his way by selling his written works.

After intense study in geology, engineering and astronomy; Verne expanded on the inventions he had seen and imagined future inventions. In his novels, he created a world that really would not come to fruition until the twentieth century.

La Maison_de_jules_verne, Amiens France

Jules Verne’s home in Amiens, 1882-1900

He introduced the idea of long voyages by air in his first novel (1863), “Five Weeks in a Balloon”.  Well before anyone could imagine space travel and moon landings, Verne wrote “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1866. His predictive writings really were uncanny, such locating the l splashdown point in his novel just a few miles from the actual site of Apollo 8’s splashdown.  The launch point of the moon capsule also was close to Cape Canaveral. And he learned … or imagined that from visiting Parisian libraries to study science and engineering?

How about the fact that his capsule included three astronauts – two Americans and one Frenchman? Verne seemed to mix powerful doses of knowledge and imagination to produce an astounding number of on-target, futuristic novels. And we haven’t even touched “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, “Robur the Conqueror” or the acclaimed “Around the World in 80 days”.

Who is to say how he might have fared as a lawyer, had he listened to his father? We do know that Jules Verne died in 1905, a very popular and rich man and one who has mesmerized readers throughout their ‘journeys’ with him.  There’s certainly no mystery to the presence of his name throughout France.

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Maugham’s Villa to the ‘Bucket List’!

Somerset Maugham's Villa

Breakfast by the Mediterranean

I really need to get moving on the fulfillment of my many “Bucket List” desires.  Heaven knows, a visit to Maugham’s Villa is a wonderful addition and, no doubt, would inspire more writing!  Now a boutique hotel, Somerset Maugham’s former villa on the French Riviera overlooks the enchanting Bay of Saint Tropez.

Movies, television, and – mais oui – books whisk us to that era of the 1920s and 1930s along the Riviera.  ‘Twas an age of inspiration for writers, artists and party hosts – probably the latter stimulated the former!  To learn more about this fabulous Villa Mauresque – along the Cote d’Azur.


Bay of Saint Tropez

Villa on the Cote d’Azur

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Dining Al Fresco in Aix-en-Provence

Aix en Provence, France

Dining al fresco with background music

I would not hesitate to strongly recommend a visit to Aix-en-Provence – one of our favorite cities in France.  Walk in the footsteps of Cezanne, wander the city to enjoy the many fountains in “The City of Water” and take in the festive marketplace and  wonderful cafes.  Choose a real people-watching gem along the expansive main thoroughfare – Cours Mirabeau – or pick your way through appealing little lanes, until you come upon a series of outdoor bistros and cafes.

We stayed a few nights and were able to chose a few cafes for the pleasure of gallettes, salads and little pichets of wine, Italian fare, croissant and coffee breakfasts – every choice a pleasure!  We especially loved sharing the outdoor dining with pleasant background music from the strolling guitarist.  Is it any wonder that it’s so easy to fall into the 2-hour lunch rhythm?

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Adventurous Driving in France

Overlooking Lac Saint-Croix and the Verdon Gorge

Oh the wonder of being naïve!  You can jump on into the water with the belief you will somehow float.  And so it is with driving in France.  I have complete confidence in my driving capabilities, and it’s not like I’ll be driving on the “wrong” side of the road like the Brits!

Don’t be intimidated by driving in France, but I do suggest you  check out a few “signs” and rules of the road.  For example, any notion you might have about negotiating rond-points (roundabouts) should be shelved.  Take the time to learn about this particular non-logical highway ballet.  No, we never had an accident; but an irate La Poste driver purposefully honked at us, as we intruded on his territory.

When my daughter and I were driving around Provence and the Hautes-Alpes, we did experience a couple of adventurous moments.  We enjoyed a picnic along the shores of Lac Saint-Croix, before driving up to the Route de Napoleon overlooking the Verdon Gorge.  Let us say that the road became very interesting with twists, turns and overhanging rocks that made us mentally duck.  As we approached a petite tunnel, we did not know what a blue and white road sign indicated.  In one of those hmmmmm… moments, I simply guessed that the narrow tunnel required us to honk the horn in warning to oncoming drivers.  We made it through the tunnel without incident.

Hmm – What does that sign say?

Driving anywhere outside of your own comfort zone presents challenges that are magnified in a foreign country.  In Lyon, my husband offered us quite an eventful 5 minutes, when he turned into a bus-only lane.  To correct himself, he made a quick right, only to discover we were going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Who’s to criticize?  I did the same thing in Amboise – correction, almost did the same thing.  I began a left turn in Amboise only to face a lady driver simply wagging her finger at me to warn me off.  I could imagine a sort of tsk-tsk to go along with her gesture.

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Paris Views – From the Musée d’Orsay

Paris France museums

Rooftop View from Musee D’Orsay

As one who loves sculpture, I find the Musée D’Orsay the perfect place to satisfy that passion.  Privileged visitors enter a virtual garden of sculptures that flow through the historic museum.

Once the Orsay railway station, the building itself is a work of art dating to 1900.  Beneath soaring ceilings and the lovely gold station clock, quiet visitors wander from a graceful, reclining nymph to Benjamin Spence’s “The Angel’s Whisper” to Rodin’s “Winter” and “The Bronze Age” – the collection is seemingly endless.

So many moments to be still, to absorb the history and culture, to appreciate one of so many treasures of Paris.

We finish our visit with a rooftop view across the Seine to the Tuilleries Gardens.  Paris – there is no city like her!

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Breathtaking sights!

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Paris Awakening – Spring

Decorating the lawns of Le Tour Eiffel

Decorating the lawns of Le Tour Eiffel

Unlike in Paris, Spring arrives in Florida with a bit of modesty. If you look carefully, azaleas bloom in a variety of colors – though, frankly, they’re quite confused these days with so few cool-to-cold days. Oaks take on a brilliant green. In our little porch garden, bold red geraniums join yellow pansies and deep purple petunias. Jasmine shoots up our little iron trellis – topped with a lovely fleur-de-lis – gaining so many inches each day. I appreciate all of these little signs of Spring, BUT……


Memories of Spring in Paris abound. Bold tulips along the paths surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Clusters of brightly-colored little bouquets around the Trocadero. Flower stalls filled to the brim, and the delight of children sailing their boats in the fountains of the Tuileries.

Paris sailboats

Sailing into Spring at the Tuileries – Paris

It’s the season of renewal, and … here in Florida or there in Paris … I appreciate and embrace the world’s ‘new coat of paint’. I wish for the same renewal in the hearts of the people, who have suffered at the hands of those who don’t understand the beauty of a flower or the blessing of peace.
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Julia’s Lasting Love of France

La Couronne Restaurant, Rouen

I always seem to be on the lookout for something new to create in the kitchen, and there’s one natural choice that always inspires.

Her raison d’être emerged in Rouen over a memorable meal at France’s oldest restaurant, La Couronne.  It was 1948, and Julia Child had never been to Europe and had little knowledge of French cuisine.  Her husband Paul was far more cosmopolitan, fluent in French and apparently had exceptional taste in restaurants.  He was en route to take up his position with the American Embassy in Paris, when he and Julia stopped for that life-changing lunch.  Later, Julia would recall that meal with precision, ultimately concluding, “It was the most exciting meal of my life.”

In reading about her memoir, My Life in France, I realize how much I have in common with Julia Child.  Well, there are a few disparities.  I’m five feet tall, have only mastered a rather grand cheese soufflé and quiche Lorraine and first visited France far later than Julia.

She was a rather awkward looking 6-foot-2-inch woman of 36 who wrote in her diary, “I am sadly an ordinary person . . . with talents I do not use.”  Her husband Paul and France changed all of that, and as we all know, she would become America’s grande dame of French cooking and reach such iconic fame, that she would leave her entire Cambridge kitchen to the Smithsonian.

Written with her husband’s great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, Julia’s memoir sheds particular light on her all-encompassing love of France; in fact one reviewer describes her book as “an affectionate merci for all that France gave her.”

Julia’s kitchen in Provence

Through her experiences in France, she evolved from that “ordinary” woman with unused talents to one who embraced life, who loved France, who relished French cuisine.  “Oh, how I adored sweet and natural France, with its human warmth, wonderful smells, graciousness, coziness and freedom of spirit.”  And that is precisely what I have in common with Madame Child.

From her Left Bank apartment, Paul guided her to grocers, butchers and markets; so she could begin to explore French cooking.  We have gathered our colorful vegetables in the Mouffetard market, purchased cheese and flowers in Amboise, gathered our rôti chicken and potatoes for a delightful meal “at home” in France. Of course, Julia would go on to graduate from the École du Cordon Bleu, while I would dabble at my first Soupe à L’oignon Gratinée in our vacation rental kitchen in the Loire Valley.

The Childs built a stone house, “La Pitchoune” (The Little Thing) in the quiet Provençal hamlet of Plascassier, a typical village with a school, post office, bakery and a church – the 17th-century Church of Saint-Pancrace and Saint-Donat.  It held other surprises, though, with a great collection of wine at the local garage and succulent roast chickens sold out of a tiny “broom cupboard”.

Just as we have walked among the sweet scents of Provence, have picked up our morning croissants at a village patisserie about the size of our guest room; I can imagine Julia enjoying the smell of jasmine, produced locally for the perfume industry in Grasse.  I can imagine her chatting with the postmaster and travelling to local markets to find all of the fresh ingredients for her next repast.

Julia referred to France as her spiritual homeland, and about the memory of that first special lunch, she said, “And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite — toujours bon appétit!”

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Alain Vagh – Salernes Potter

Swirling designs and vibrant color

Thinking today of our journies into the appealing clay country north of the Cote d’Azur, so I share an older post about a very talented French ceramiste.

We introduce the talent and whimsy of a renowned Salernes potter, Alain Vagh.  I had the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Vagh and his engaging wife, Jacotte, during my first trip to France, and that was 15 years ago!

My friend and I had happened into Mr. Vagh’s boutique on rue des Fossés St Bernard in Paris, where a blaze of rainbow colors splashed over ceramic tiles, vases and pots.  We were planning a trip to the South of France, so the manager suggested we stop in Salernes to meet the potter and tour his atelier.

It was a memorable trip and meeting.  Jacotte offered a warm welcome and personally guided us through the show and production rooms, even inviting us to see their home above the workshop.  Their home is spacious and warmly-decorated, very traditional…except, perhaps, for the over-sized turquoise ceramic “A” on the living room wall – certainly, a nice touch for a potter’s abode.

A “garden” of Alain Vagh pots

Alain Vagh is one of 15 or so potters in Salernes, who takes advantage of the exceptional red clay deposits of the region.  He weaves enticing forms and fanciful humor to produce stunning tiled floors and baths … as well as a tiled grand piano, a car and a fully-tiled refrigerator.

Presumably his creativity knows no bounds, and he has no fear of unconventional designs.  Beneath each and every creation, you recognize his mastery of the techniques of terracotta and enameling and the quality of his production.  Each tile is sun dried, and then carefully wood fired in the kiln.  Alain also works with lava stone from France’s ancient Massif Central volcanic region.

Vibrant tiles in the showroom

His showroom is like a color palette gone wild, with les petits pavés (the small paving stones) in every imaginable hue and shape, from little trapezoids that lock together “just so” to traditional squares in relief, allowing designs that flow freely.  I have a few treasured pieces of those tiles; and should I somehow win the lottery, I would invest in an Alain Vagh kitchen or bath for days and days of sunlit enjoyment.

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Leap Year in France

Café in the sun with leap year news

A lively tradition blesses La Presse fans in France tomorrow.  On that rare day – February 29 – newsstands throughout France will carry a lively broadsheet that is only published every four years – you guessed it – on leap day.

La Bougie du Sapeur – “Soldier’s Candle” – is welcomed by readers who understand that they won’t be looking at hackneyed articles.  After all, when you only publish every four years; your mind is fresh, and news is noteworthy, particularly if you have a great sense of humor.  Sapper, by the way, was a character in an old French comic book, one of the fated few born on the 29th of February.  In the continued vein of wry humor, the publication offers subscriptions at the rate of € 100 per century – obviously appealing to the optimist with a serendipitous streak!

The editor and publisher of La Bougie du Sapeur has no problem finding humor in the news; indicating you don’t have to work at being funny, because life is full of humor.  Honestly, all any of us needs to do to discover the truth of that is to look at daily headlines.  There’s always a buffoon out there doing something ridiculous!

So today in France, we can imagine hundreds (actually about 150,000) French men and women, seated at their petite café table with café au lait before them thumbing through La Bougie du Sapeur.  They’ll not be reading about the news with which they’ve long grown tired.  No, they’ll be reading the fresh humor that is only available to them every four years.  Rather like an aged wine or cognac, I would think.

We wish we were there to enjoy the moment, perhaps in a café on Ile Saint-Louis.
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Safe and Secure in Paris

Our apartment entry on Ile Saint-Louis

Revisiting today some information and advice that is as relevant now as it was in 2012.   Hope you are busy planning your next trip to Paris!

We are among those people who are not overly concerned with safety and security, at home or while traveling.  Certainly, we lock the doors of our home and vehicle and at least have a general awareness of the people around us, particularly at night in parking lots.

In Paris, though, we noticed some very solid safety and security measures, we usually don’t see in place in America.  Banks, for example, often have two locked entry doors separated by about 3 feet.  You are buzzed in to that space, and only when the exterior door closes does the interior door open.  That seems an effective way to assure oversight of people entering the bank.  The same buzzing takes place on exit, so it would be no simple matter to try to rob a bank and make a quick escape.  Not, mind you, that we were ‘casing’ the institutions with any such thought in mind.

Many apartment entries also employ exterior and interior doors, as an added measure of security.  Normally, you enter your electronic door code at the general entrance to your apartment building.  This allows you access to the mail and trash areas.  A second interior door also has a locking device; you hold your card up to the device to open the door.  Of course, the third and final entry is your individual front door.

When we rented a vacation apartment on Ile Saint-Louis, our entry door was very heavy and sophisticated.   If we turned the key once, a single steel bolt engaged to lock the door.  A second turn of the key engaged two more bolts at the top and bottom of the door.  Iron clad, we thought!  We also wondered how emergency personnel can access such a door, but rather imagine the apartment concierge or building manager must supply access codes or mechanisms for emergency cases.

In terms of general safety in Paris, we’ve never really felt insecure – perhaps, just watchful of our luggage, shopping bag and purses.  We did learn an uncomfortable lesson on our last visit.  My husband had just purchased a carnet of metro tickets, and we rode a rather steep, narrow escalator up to the street level.  En route, a few ‘hurried’ metro users hustled past us.  As we stepped from the escalator, almost immediately my husband realized his wallet was missing from his back pocket.  Naturally, we immediately checked back at the ticket place to no avail.

Fortunately, he kept one type of credit card in his wallet, another in a small, separate card carrier.  Still, it was very inconvenient making transatlantic calls to banks and credit card companies.  He no longer carries said wallet in his back pocket (lesson learned!), and we travel with a list of all credit card phone and account numbers.

Good to be cautious in crowds

We still don’t walk around with furrowed brows and suspicious glances at those around us.  It is wise to be careful in metros, RER’s and busy tourist areas; where thieves are more likely to work in groups to find an opportunity with a weary or distracted tourist.

For some specific safety tips for Paris travel, the Foreign Study website offers complete information.  Our parting advice – exercise a certain degree of caution, but embrace Paris the city with abandon!

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And some charming French gifts ….

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And some charming French gifts ….

Chance Moment by the Panthéon

Pantheon Latin Quarter Paris

Isabeau d’Abzac spectacular paper sculpture

Just as I do with memories, now and then I sift back through posts to linger over words and moments that have held special meaning.  And so it is today.  This delightful ‘chance moment’ not only crowned an already wonderful day, it has stayed with me – the wonderful pieces of art simply there for our wonder and enjoyment.  I hope you find those kinds of gifts and moments today and every day….

Planned events. Chance moments. It was the latter that found me walking with my friend around the Panthéon in Paris, when a sign or sight caught our eye – what appeared to be a lamp on the sidewalk. Before we knew it, a friendly young lady invited us inside to an extraordinary exhibit in the “Marie du Vème – salle Capitant”. It was the occasion of an exhibit that focused on six artists working with paper – “intentionpapier” – women who “sow the molecules of lightness of being before metamorphosing into fireflies.”

I’m one of those who try everything and master nothing, so I embrace and appreciate those who specialize and reap the rewards of their hard work. This exhibit evoked sighs and exclamations around every corner!

Designed by Isabeau d’Abzac, delicate ballerinas were regal and playful at the same time, stepping this way and that in their paper skirts. Some served as lamps that would undoubtedly stimulate conversation in any room. If one were in my home, I’m sure I would feel as if a friend watched over me. Whether dressed in color or in red or yellow, they simply dazzle in the elegant Mayor’s domain. Isabeau’s paper sculptures are in private collections in Paris, Geneva, Bilbao and beyond.

Isabeau d'Abzac

Featured in Art & Decoration

On the walls, handsome decorative panels by Elisabeth Loesch echo the art nouveau era – so inviting in their intricate designs and subtle colors. Her unique pieces blend wood inlaid with paper and partially painted in god and silver leaf to create stunning works of art.

Our day has been entirely transformed with the beauty of our ‘chance moment’.

Pantheon Paris exhibit

Elisabeth Loesch panel

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Guimard’s Historic Art Nouveau – Paris

Guimard's Entrance to Le Castel Béranger

Stunning Guimard doorway

I love the museums of Paris … and the rest of France, but I don’t need them.  Down this path and around that corner, I find one visual feast after another – a charming door, a flower-covered trellis, a stunning window, the ever-enticing Seine.

And real works of art adorn so many buildings!  After an enjoyable Sunday brunch at a friend’s apartment in the 16th arrondisement, we wandered around the corner for an incredible visual treat – Le Castel Béranger, an apartment building designed by Hector Guimard. While the architect’s fanciful wrought iron designs accent many of the building’s features, this front entrance demonstrates his distinct, swirling designs.

Largely considered the father of the French Art Nouveau architectural movement, Guimard designed the pioneering ornate entrances to Paris Metro stations. Only 86 of the original 180 wrought iron signs remain and are being restored with care.

After rampant modernization in the 1960’s and early 70’s eliminated many of the nouveau signs, all of Guimard’s entrances were declared historic monuments in 1978. We can now look forward to seeing the renewed Metro signs throughout Paris and feel a sense of gratitude for the wisdom of those who recognized and redeemed these historic structures.

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Touches of Shangri-La in Paris

Five star hotel, Paris

Shangri-La dining in Paris

Oh, let us dream a little.  We love Paris.  We plan to take a trip … soon.  Shall we plan to visit the home of a Bonaparte relative?  Don’t be too hasty or negative with your reply!

The fictional Shangri-La emerged in Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel by James Hilton; but there is a real Shangri-La in Paris – one every bit as appealing as Hilton’s harmonious valley.  Said to be “a royal reception in the legendary city of lights”, the Shangri-La Hotel once was home to Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, proving absolutely that rank indeed has its privilege.

In our favorite city, with a multitude of fine hotel offerings, the Shangri-La Hotel represents a beacon of refined style with an attentive staff that mirrors their good taste in serving guests.  Reflecting European Empire taste with subdued ecru, blue and white décor; the hotel is beautifully appointed with a stunning mix of textures and custom furnishings.

Paris France

Deluxe rooms with view of the Eiffel Tower

And I didn’t even mention the spectacular views of the Seine and Le Tour Eiffel.  Paris obviously enjoys quite a number of five-star hotels, and the Shangri-La well deserves its ranking among the best.  When the weekend approaches, isn’t it delightful to imagine remarkably beautiful places?

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“>A little boutique of French gifts………

Exploring Magnificent Paris

the charm of Paris France

Joie de vivre, Place Contrescarpe, Paris!

Nearly twenty years ago, I enjoyed my first trip to Paris and other parts of France. Love at first sight!  It’s that simple.  

Naturally sharing that beauty with my children was my burning desire.  I even went so far as to concoct a “when I die” scenario that would have them carry my ashes to Paris and casually anoint my favorite places – by the Seine and on Ile Saint-Louis, in the Jardin des Plantes and by the Eiffel Tower.  I’m sure they would have enjoyed following my directives!

Fortunately I remain on this earth, if for no other reason than to spread the wonder of Paris and her environs. I did just that in my book – Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris,  written in the hope that others would make their dreams of Paris happen.  I also have managed to introduce my favorite city to my daughter and am still working on my son.  How can you not want to share the most magnificent sights of your life with your precious children?

Paris Tour Eiffel

Nothing like your first view of the Eiffel Tower

My daughter and I set out on our adventure in March of 2000 – imagine the wonder of a brand new century in the City of Light. We filled our time with my very special friend in Paris, our hostess/tour guide/partner in laughter and crime.  We reveled in the sights, sounds and smells along rue Mouffetard; where the flowers, vegetables, cheeses and chocolates represented every color of the rainbow.  Just after Christmas this year, she served me wine in the glass that was given to her at L’Ecluse wine bar – boatloads of laughter and joie de vivre was ours that evening!

During our too-short trip, I cherished seeing Paris through her eyes – the astounding Eiffel Tower, the Ferris wheel along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, lunch at my favorite crêperie and dinner at Le Soufflé, charming boutiques and museums. You who have enjoyed the feast of Paris understand only too well that memorable sights greet you around each and every corner.  Even getting drenched in a sudden rain storm after our bateau ride on the Seine was a memory to tuck away.

If you are doing the “should-I-or-shouldn’t-I” dance in planning for your next trip to Paris, might I be so bold to suggest you get on with it? Others might counsel you to “smell the flowers along the way”.  I add “… in Paris” to that recommendation.

I also can offer a suggestion for a charming, comfortable and hospitable vacation rental right in the heart of the Latin Quarter – our very favorite place in Paris to stay. If you take the time to read some of the guest comments, you will readily understand the warm welcome and ultra-convenient furnishings that await you.

Stop dreaming and start traveling, my friends!
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Take a peek! … a few charming French gifts!

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Maxim’s de Paris – Gifts Galore!

Paris restaurants

The classic Maxim’s restaurant on rue Royale, Paris

Voila! The major gift-giving season of the year has just embraced us, before scooting out the door. Nonetheless, the entire experience made me think of the pleasure we take in shopping for gifts in France. Probably the surest rule of thumb for me is “I love it”, thus someone else will surely enjoy our gift.

In Paris, our foremost gift mecca is the delightful Maxim’s de Paris on rue Royale. Yes … of course you’re familiar with the legendary, regal restaurant that has welcomed ‘everyone who is anyone’ since its inception in 1893. But just a couple of doors away, their inviting boutique entices you to discover gifts for nearly every friend and family member on your list.

From extravagant gift collections tastefully tucked into an elegant, old-style hat box to handsome tins of candies, chocolates, biscuits, coffee, tea and cocoa; the boutique provides a panorama of gifts and price ranges in a very welcoming atmosphere. Naturally the tasteful packaging adds to the appeal with colorful tins for almost every gift. Maxim’s porcelain items also are available, from a simple sugar dish or espresso set to trays and bon-bon dishes. With stores now located throughout France and in Monaco, you needn’t be limited to the Paris location … but it always will hold the top spot for us!

Maxims of Paris gifts

Tins of coffee, tea, sweets and more

Beyond this appealing boutique, we also enjoy shopping in museum shops, where a lovely selection of books, prints and artistic treasures awaits. Wandering through the Marais reveals an entire buffet of quaint and artsy stores for everything from chic tee shirts to leather goods and gifts for the table and home.

As we all know from the season just tucked behind us, hunting for ideal gifts for those special people in our lives offers joys and challenges. I guarantee you will have more fun combing the streets of Paris than anywhere else in the world.

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Joyeux Noël

Christmas past along the Champs Elysées

We look forward to this magical day….church at 4:30, preparing the Christmas Eve meal, sneaking about to get stockings ready and gifts under the tree.  Everyone we love is in our hearts, those on this earth and those in heaven, those nearby and those too far away.  Our hearts reach out to hug each and every family member and friend.

And, by the way, if you haven’t seen the wonderful film “Joyeux Noël”, make it a point to watch this incredible movie.  It takes place on Christmas during World War I, when French, Scottish and German troops huddle in their snowy trenches.  It is then that the love and magic of Christmas touches each and every one of them.

We wish you a joyous season and a heartfelt “Joyeux Noël”.

Happy Holidays and beautiful memories to all of our fellow Francophiles!



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Capture French Memories on a Wreath

A natural hand-crafted wreath with mementos from Provence France

Small beginnings of big memories of Provence

Tis the season for wreaths, so this makes an ideal time for you to launch a special project that will grow through the months ahead.  Create a charming wreath for year-round use for yourself or for a friend by capturing the best of France in a “Memory Wreath”.  I launched my first wreath, when my children had passed the toddler stage; and I wanted to recreate some of those very special moments.

Our wreath quickly took flight with diecast cars and blue Smurfs, little teapots and sparkly hair clips.  Each year, I was able to add one or two mementos of our lives.

Since those initial efforts, I have focused on my fondness for France, including some of the best memories of travel or life in France.  Look over my wreaths (which I have given to family and friends), and you will discover an Opera ticket, a little street magnet from Paris, a miniature wine bottle from Provence, a silver spoon and – bien sur – a miniature Eiffel Tower.  Perhaps you even have some ribbon or one of those lovely accents shopkeepers add to your gift wrapping.

Memory wreath - a touch of provence

Whimsical details – antique demitasse spoon, Van Gogh magnet and fabric from Provence

The possibilities are endless, and I can promise you years of enjoyment for you, your family and friends!

Happy Holidays and beautiful memories to all of our fellow Francophiles!



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Farewell to a Fine Tradition

The elegant charm of Pierre Deux

I suppose I am “under the 8 ball” in my timing – 5 days til Christmas? – but I wanted to re-cycle this post from 4 years ago.  Each year, as I pull out our lovely Pierre Deux ornaments, I think of artisans with abundant talent who failed on the business front.  Read on for the story, and I pray you are enjoying the holiday season!

This year we were not able to continue our tradition of purchasing Christmas decorations from Pierre Deux, noted fabric designer and source of fine French furniture, décor and dinnerware.  Sadly, the company ceased to exist in June of 2011, closing the doors to their 23 stores in 13 states and eliminating their e-tail operations.  Current economic conditions continue to impact the artisan and handcrafted luxury product arena that we hold dear.  In fact, we’ve recently learned that some leading manufacturers of fine French pottery and crystal have cut back their U.S. distribution centers.

As a point of reference, we began LuxeEuro LLC in 2005, with the intent of supporting artisans and promoting cultural awareness between America and France.  If you recall, relations between our countries were stressed; when France did not obediently follow or support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  During that time we met with artisans of leather products, handcrafted jewelry, home décor products and fashion accessories in the sincere hope of extending markets and customers for craftsmen.  Again, sadly, the timing simply wasn’t right; and the exchange rates and shipping costs could not support the business, as the economy turned downward.

But our interest and passion remains. One organization that has promoted artisans since 1868 is Ateliers d’Art de France.  Through their more than 140 years of existence, they have evolved from a trade association defending craftsmen’s interests to an ever-evolving, dynamic organization promoting exceptional artists at international shows and in four boutiques and workshops in Paris.

Talents Boutique – rue Niel

Under the name of “Talents”, Ateliers d’Art de France created the boutiques to showcase the fine workmanship of over 300 craftsmen – fashion accessories and jewelry, tableware, furnishings, lighting and custom-ordered works of art.  The shops are located near l’Etoile on Avenue Niel, near Opera on rue Scribe and in the Marais on rue de Thorigny.  A visit to any or all delivers a wonderful gallery-like experience with some of the finest artistry available in France.  Each boutique presents a different mood to reveal the skills, excellence and designs of glassblowers, potters, mosaicists, coppersmiths and more.

And so, we encourage you to support French and American artists, those who practice centuries-old craftsmanship and those who stretch the boundaries of contemporary imagination.

Happy Holidays and beautiful memories to all of our fellow Francophiles!



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Paris Lune de Miel

Paris lune de miel

Paris Wedding Postcard

December 2003, Paris. Allow me, s’il vous plait, to share some magic with you. We married on December 20 in a beautiful ceremony at The Vinoy overlooking the water in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our dear friends from Paris participated in our wedding, reading the lessons in French and English. Sprigs of lavender welcomed each luncheon guest, and our trés authentique croque-em-bouche wedding cake crowned the festivities. And what awaited us was Paris.

The next day, we were off to the City of Light for our lune de miel, where we would enjoy a residential stay in our friends’ apartment – imagine, our first time in Paris together and our own little nest from which to explore. Memory seems like a fickle traveler. Just when you want to go directly to a place, the rascal takes you on a detour; and the further away from the original adventure, the more interesting highlights emerge.

Bien sur, we made a few mistakes along the way. I remember those. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle and whisked right through Customs and out into the terminal. Wait. Our luggage. Whoops! In our excitement, we simply had walked right by the baggage area … but a little saint awaited us. An airport worker simply let us back through a door to the baggage area and helped us to avoid a bureaucratic nightmare in trying to retrieve our luggage.

And en route to our apartment destination in the Latin Quarter, I told the taxi driver the boulevard name and the number – “dix-sept”. So proud was I to be negotiating the language! Only the number really was “seize” – 16 – on the opposite side of 6, heavily-traveled lanes. No problem. The driver simply owned the street in his deft U-turn maneuver. Voila! We arrived at our flat in Paris!

Prior to this magnificent honeymoon adventure, I had visited Paris 3 times with my last visit 3 years earlier; while Leo only had dipped his toes in the capital for a brief afternoon on a whirlwind tour with his sister. So here we were –newly married, gloriously happy, bundled up in the re-a-a-l-l-y cold, December air with me as the primary guide with minimal language skills. I promise you, ne c’est pas une problem! Our delightful hosts would not return to their apartment until New Years’ Day, so we really were on our own.

This is where that fickle memory skips across time, like a lightly-loaded paintbrush that touches down for a little swipe here and there, leaving a hazy impression; but that’s okay. I don’t want to write a novel, nor do you want to read one!

On our first outing I wanted us to dine at Aux Bon Coin, a charming little café a few blocks from the apartment. “I’m sure it’s just over here – down this street – well……….there! Voila!” Closed. Just a little air went out of my balloon. I was proud to have found it but disappointed not to be able to enjoy the warm hospitality and authentic French cuisine I had enjoyed in the past. Plan B – that funny little restaurant on the boulevard, where the floor is literally a sand-filled beach. C’est trés unique and touted as a place to enjoy cuisine from the Seychelles!

Paris Christmas

Children’s play area, Bastille, Paris

Skipping along to other specific memories – Christmas Eve. We stood by a window ledge along the street, so I could transfer items from my old, broken-handled purse to my newly-purchased bag. A young man rounded the corner and greeted us with “Joyeux Noel”. So sweet and firmly attached to my memory bank.

We bundled up for daily walks through the Marais, to the Place des Vosges, along the canal to Bastille, taking in the colorful Christmas decorations and happy residents. A big, garish chicken for the children’s holiday attraction? Mais oui! Le French – Le Coq!

Christmas Day we ventured out to Centre Pompidou and wound our way through the modern exhibits. As we sat on a bench before a massive, detailed painting, it dawned on my husband – all of those little drawings that were part of the large painting were, shall we say, erotic entanglements. Guess you really DO have to study art!

New Year’s Eve was the ultimate crown in our honeymoon – one of the few planned events of our trip. Friends had gifted us with tickets to the Opéra Garnier for a ballet performance, and the occasion was one of the most elegant and memorable of our lives. Tucked away in our resplendent opera box beneath the magnificent Marc Chagall ceiling, we were immersed in a dream. There are no words to fit the experience. The charming couple next to us from northern France, champagne at intermission, wandering the streets with thousands and thousands along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées awaiting the Eiffel Tower’s ‘announcement’ of 2004.

Paris Opera

Opera Garnier, New Year’s Eve

As we near our 12th Anniversary and the beginning of a bright New Year, we cherish every one of those memories. And hopefully, the coming year will find us along the streets of Paris again … meeting our friends for dinner, stopping at a bench along the Seine, joining the sing-a-long at the bottom of rue Mouffetard on Sunday morning. Thank you Paris. Merci beaucoup!

And we wish Happy Holidays and beautiful memories to all of our fellow Francophiles!



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France – Le Bonheur Ultime!

I’m waxing poetic today; so if you’re immersed in left-brain sensibilities, you might want to read the Wall Street Journal. You see, I’m taking a trip this morning with Isak Dinesen, a trip to France via her Africa, a trip through her embrace of the land, the people and life itself. A captivating author, I never tire of her writing. But my journey is to France, a mental wandering with no need for luggage or passports or airport delays.

Loire Valley, France

Magnificent breakfast view of Chateau Chambord

Ms. Dinesen wrote: “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

And my soliloquy translates to France: If I know a song of France, of the markets and the cityscapes of Paris and Lyon, of the Provençal hills and winding roads along the sea, of the artisans yielding the skill of generations, does France know a song of me? Will the water along the Seine reflect a color I have worn, or the children name a sailboat in the Tuileries for me, or a sliver of the moon shine with the joy I have felt in Normandy, or will the glistening cloak of night over the Loire valley tell my story?

Alas, I am not Isak, though she always will be one of my favorite authors. She immersed herself in Africa; we chose France. She carried her civilized Limoges and white gloves to live among the Masai. We chose a simple tablecloth and basket to picnic along the coast.

She also wrote: “Up in this air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.”

Paris France

Raclettes and fondue in a cozy cafe

We have felt ‘where we ought to be’ … on a terrace overlooking Château de Chambord in the morning light … in the lush garden of a huge but gentle man outside of Amboise …  among the rainbow of fruits and vegetables in the marketplace along rue Mouffetard.

Yet, topping all of the glorious sights and scents of France, the quiet murmur of shared friendship trumps everything else. Dinner on a cold night in a warm bistro. Melting raclettes and savory fondue, pichets of wine and the familiar sound of an accordionist meandering among the guests. Sharing this with our Parisian friends – le bonheur ultime!

Paris raclettes

Warm food & friendship in Paris

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Rendant Grâce – Give Thanks!

Paris kitchens France

Petite cuisine in our favorite Parisian rental

We are creatures of tradition, if not habit. Working back in my mind through many years, I believe I have been away from home for only one Thanksgiving.  Then, I visited friends in Canada, who already had celebrated their Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October; and to boot, I’m not sure my children ever forgave my shocking absence!

Thinking about being in Paris for Thanksgiving set me on this road, so to begin with, the French don’t celebrate our revered holiday … per se. They launched a new tradition, though, four years ago in September – Fête de la Gastronomie.  The curator of the initial gala, Sophie Mise, explained accurately:  “…gastronomy is so very omnipresent that we had almost forgotten to celebrate it!”

So there’s the first ‘kink’ in traditional Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris. But hold on.  If any city in the world can play empathetic host, it is the City of Light.  Besides, the burgeoning numbers of American expats in Paris boost the demand curve considerably.  (Our government doesn’t track the numbers, but one columnist guessed about 50,000).

For the potential self-prepared Thanksgiving feast, many butchers and even some outdoor markets sell turkeys. That’s not an absolute, so I would arrange my bird purchase in advance. Then there are a couple of specialty shops – Real McCoy’s in the 7th and Thanksgiving (yes – the actual store name) in the 4th, where you can find our American oddities, like fresh yams and brown sugar and cranberry sauce.

Then there’s the business of oven size. The largest oven in any of our prior vacation rentals was a range/oven/dishwasher combo with a decidedly shallow oven space – tall enough, perhaps, to manage a well-endowed pigeon but no match for a plump turkey. And, before you question my sanity about that appliance combo, I not only wouldn’t make it up, I couldn’t in my wildest imagination!  Such is the drive to manage small spaces in Paris!

Paris France thanksgiving

Joe Allen in Paris … a la New York

Frankly, if we were fortunate enough to walk the streets of Paris this Thanksgiving, we would simplify life and make reservations at Joe Allen Paris in the 1st arrondissement.

As long as we are daydreaming, I might see if they would deliver our piping hot Thanksgiving meal to a bench along the River Seine. Plenty to give thanks for with that scenario!
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One Butterfly Landing … in Paris

Paris moments

A quiet moment in Les Tuileries

In his often-amusing book: Secrets of Successful Fiction, author Robert Newton Peck addresses the business of ‘zeroing in’ by suggesting the budding novelist look through an empty toilet paper roll in a chapter entitled “Look Through a Toot-ta-Do”.  Really, he offers brilliant advice that invites writers to skip the lush, sprawling beauty of the meadow in favor of “… one butterfly landing on one bluet.”

That sage counsel underscores the brilliance of famed French photographer Robert Doisneau, the undisputed master of capturing the mood, the people and the life of Paris. In endless ways, he demonstrated the fatigue of a worker at the bar at day’s end or the capricious joy of children cycling before the Eiffel Tower.

By no means do I compare our photos to Monsieur Doisneau; but when I look back over the many moments we captured on film in Paris, I see one of the world’s most magnificent and appealing cities come to life in small, singular moments.

Meandering through Les Tuileries, we relish the sight of children sailing their boats in the fountain, of a lone woman enjoying silent moments with her book in hand, the quixotic fashion model sipping her coffee ever so carefully in order to preserve her elaborate make-up. And those are just the human touches to the sprawling gardens, statues and backdrops of stunning architecture.

Paris by the Seine

Lone butterfly by the Seine

An afternoon along the Champ de Mars? More of the same without anything being duplicated.  The pigeons pick their way among students enjoying a picnic; a charming young lady seemingly awaits her ‘chariot’ or, rather, awaits a donkey to pull her little cart.  Under every tree, down every path visitors and residents add everyday color to the majesty of the Eiffel Tower that rises above them.

On a somber note, the utter defeat of an old, homeless man stands in shocking contrast to the joyous carousel behind him. Yet, we are uplifted again by the sight of a father and son by the Seine.

Beyond the spectacular sights we discover around every corner of the City of Light, Paris offers abundant moments of humanity. We stop.  We watch.  We pull pieces from our fresh-from-the-bakery baguette, and we find ourselves immersed in this mystique-filled mix of life.  Sitting on a bench by the Seine at dusk, a lone musician pulls out his trumpet beneath the bridge and begins his tune.  He is but one among many unique butterflies landing in Paris.

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French Copper and Cookbooks

French copper cookware

Lovely cookware at E. DEHILLERIN in Paris

My grandparents lived in Paris for seven years before World War II and among the no-doubt vast array of experiences and collections, I most remember my grandmother’s gorgeous Mauviel copper pans. Made all the more beautiful with age, the pots not only shone with beauty but served ideally in exceptional meal preparation. Didn’t hurt that she had a maid to handle the sometimes tedious business of cleaning the copper!

That reminds of a lovely Jacque Pépin show, in which he explained the magic use of the copper bowl in whipping up egg whites for your favorite soufflé or meringue – “The metal interacts with the egg whites to make them more stable, as they take on air.” Hand beating is his preference, when he begins with rapid beating and slows to lift the whites that have begun to set up … without touching the bowl a lot.

Isn’t it the perfect moment to tell you that my favorite chef has a new book out? Mais oui!  Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen underscores one of the reasons I am drawn to this special chef. Probably the most important ingredient in his magnificent meal preparation is his love of family and friends and the intimate occasions for sharing special meals together. I have watched him on television with his daughter, granddaughter and a special friend here and there. Without exception, he refers to the delight he takes in the warmth of shared meals.

French cookbooks

The ever delightful Jacques Pépin

His new book includes a wide variety of recipes (200 in all), and even shares how to raise a child who will eat almost anything. I can say from experience, my mother accomplished just that with three exceptions: Brussel sprouts, shrimp creole and liver. No thank you. Period.

Time and again, I have given Monsieur Pepin’s lovely cookbooks to friends, daughters and daughters in law; so you can be sure the same will be true this holiday season.

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Piano Vache Jazz Bar – Paris

Paris Jazz Bar

Latin Quarter’s Le Piano Vache

The surprise I promised yesterday? A wonderful little jazz bar that sits in the shadow of the Panthéon in Paris’ Latin Quarter. Just around the corner from that grand edifice at rue Laplace, Piano Vache (oui – Piano Cow!) has entertained customers for 25 years with the appealing promise:

« Ici le bar est roi et la convivialité est Reine. »  (Here the bar is King and the friendliness is Queen).

And that promise doesn’t even taken into account the ultra-reasonable prices (no cover and a modest increase in drink prices during shows) and the excellent music. Every Monday, for example, the Rodolphe Raffalli Gypsy Jazz trio from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Paris music, France

Lively jazz/music bar in the Latin Quarter

Just judge for yourself from these two You Tube videos, the first tapping the ambiance and both oozing with musical talent.



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Latin Quarter Morning – Paris

Paris markets

rue Mouffetard market, Latin Quarter

Bon week-end à vous!

I have enjoyed a lovely beginning to mine. I savored a long pre-dawn phone conversation with my friend in Paris, where she described a dark, rainy morning in the Latin Quarter.  So, as she sipped her coffee and I did the same in Orlando, we shared our news and plans… which are not so very different except for a musical treat … more tomorrow on that!

I will get in my car to run my errands, drive to the grocery store, choose among thousands of products and, yes, some fresh fruit and produce and perhaps a rotisserie chicken. We have the pleasure of shopping here in Orlando at Publix, a very nice supermarket with a strong customer focus.

Paris cafe, Latin Quarter

Café at the bottom of Mouffetard

BUT….yes – all caps….my friend will walk out of her door for a few short blocks to begin her descent through the Saturday market along rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter.

Since they will be dining with friends in the evening, her focus will be on tantalizing desserts to bring; though she will likely pop in to say hello to Fred in the wine shop and stop at the fromagerie for a wedge or two of cheese. She will pass by the sizzling rotisseries filled with plump chickens and potatoes roasting in their juices. Gorgeous fruit and vegetables will invite her attention as will very appealing floral bouquets.

Latin Quarter bakery, Paris

Saine Saveurs patisserie-boulangerie

I know my friend. She will stop for another coffee, perhaps at the bottom of Mouffetard at Cave la Bourgogne, where she can enjoy the fountain view and people watching from an outdoor table.

Voila…then across the street to Saine Saveurs, a wonderful bakery, where we purchase our Galette des Rois to celebrate the New Year.

I would far prefer my friend’s experience, bien sur! No problem. On my own ordinary shopping trip, I will select a little bouquet and fresh croissants to enjoy a vicarious French experience.

Wishing you a Bon Week-end!
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The Spectacular Art of Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Paris Passerelle des Arts by Mbzt – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Today I thought about the many fabulous Paris museums – grand and petite – that we have had the privilege and pleasure to visit. From the monumental Louvre to the petite Musée Rodin, any visitor may relish some of the world’s finest art treasures in the City of Light.

As always though, my thoughts wandered directly to the art of the entire city – in the gardens, supporting building columns, gracing bridges and soaring upward in grand old department stores. One tiny memory surfaced, when my dear friend led me like a gently-tethered pet to catch glimpses of grandeur in her adopted city.

Paris 5-star hotel

Stunning L’Hotel Staircase

During an evening walk, we crossed Pont des Arts headed directly toward the magnificent gilded cupola of the Institut de France. Stunning enough, I would say, but no. My friend said, “We need to duck around here to the hotel where Oscar Wilde lived.”

I needed no prompting, as we worked our way behind the Institut to rue des Beaux Arts and stepped into one of the most charming venues of Paris. Before extolling the hotel’s virtues, I have to share the moment of beauty that seared itself indelibly in my memory – the six-story staircase that winds like an elegant serpent upward to the twenty rooms above in such a quietly spectacular manner.

L'Hotel, Paris

Oscar Wilde’s apartment view

How hard can it be to take in such a visual feast and imagine the moments enjoyed here by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace and Salvador Dali? Yes, I would very much welcome my husband and I adding our names to that esteemed guest register!

Fortunately, genuine connoisseurs understand the subtle blend of opulent and understated. L’Hotel is one such place, a timeless jewel – the smallest, 5-star hotel in Paris. The name itself speaks volumes – a simple, refined statement for a far-from-ordinary hotel.

Left Bank Paris hotels

Chambre, L’Hotel, Paris

In this case, pictures are well worth thousands of words, so step through the hotel with me to take in the venue that has presented privileged Paris visitors with stellar hospitality for over two centuries. And, by the way, regardless of room rates, I love the fact that L’Hotel doesn’t quibble over details, offering a complimentary continental breakfast.

Is it any wonder that Oscar Wilde, claiming to ‘live above his means’, chose to live out his days at L’Hotel at the end of the 19th century?
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French Train Travel – 1914

Paris rail travel

On of many tourist posters for Chemin de Fer du Nord

This morning I ‘time’ traveled to France in the year 1914. Yes, that is the marvel of a vivid imagination and the ability to travel in your mind – no steamer trunks or wardrobe decisions, no prolonged airport waits or security checks. I browsed through a little, long-ago Christmas gift from our daughter and off I went.

The gift? An ancient Chemin de Fer du Nord train schedule from “Ete 1914” offering “6 Services Rapides entre Paris et Londres”. What a lovely little jewel, complete with train schedules and ticket prices, maps and advertising for everything from banks and crêperies to hotels and sea-bathing resorts.

Just imagine this era, later coined “La Belle Epoque”, when France reveled in cultural and scientific vitality, when soldiers in handsome red trousers stepped through clean, tree-lined streets, and the magnificent Galeries Lafayette opened its flagship department store on Boulevard Haussmann.

Mediterranean France rail

Posters touting sea-bathing destinations

Cars were in abundance in motoring Paris, from the dominant Peugeot and Renault to the elitist Delaunay-Belleville (provider of limousines for Tsar Nicholas of Russia). France also excelled in aviation, with Bleriot and Roland Garros who crossed the English Channel and the Mediterranean.

Indeed, the machine was transforming the world, and art and culture were mirroring this modern world from the likes of cubist Pablo Picasso and the commercial poster artist and typeface designer Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, decidedly influenced by Surrealism and Cubism.

Which, of course, brings us back to the railroad and The Compagnie de Chemin de fer du Nord, originally an industrialist transportation venture under the leadership of Baron James de Rothschild. In addition to the charming and informative little schedule/guide I have in hand, the Compangnie promoted itself with now renowned tourist posters touting the travel ease and destinations of the Chemin de Fer du Nord. Some of these magnificent images now grace the halls of MOMA and The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Chemin du Nord, France

Pre World War I railroad map

Despite all of the good times, grandeur and dynamic progress of the time; a huge shadow was looming and one that was not lost on those who enjoyed these days. The very summer for which my booklet was produced saw the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and the onset of the first Great War.

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The Liberation of Paris Celebrated

Paris WWII

Paris liberated – August 25, 1944

Interesting that just one day prior to the day Paris was liberated (August 25), I finished reading The Cost of Courage, the recently-published book about the prolonged involvement of a bourgeois Catholic family in the French Resistance during World War II. In the book, history abounds, and the author tells the true story that weaves one family’s ordeal with the day-to-day trials of a populace forced to live under Nazi rule for over four years. As much as anything else, I appreciate closing the cover with even a small understanding of the challenges, decisions and complexities of this time in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world.

And so tomorrow, the French, and Parisians in particular, remember the blessings of liberation by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. As an incessantly impatient person (and that quality, they say, is one that can’t be remedied), I absolutely cannot imagine the lengthy occupation, the fear, deprivation, loss and self-doubt. In America, through all of our wars, sacrifices and horrible losses; “we the people” have not had to face the occupation of our land by foreign powers.

paris france

Along the quais of the Seine

Tomorrow, I plan imaginary walks through my favorite places in Paris – through the Latin Quarter and along the quais of the Seine. Up to the lawns of Sacre Cœur that overlook this gorgeous city. To the Champ de Mars and the Tuileries, where I can see the everyday life of children and boule players and elder couples walking arm in arm.

I am grateful for the armies that liberated Paris and for the wisdom of German General Dietrich von Choltitz, who did not want to be known as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light”. A sweeping tip of the hat to all of our French friends, as they celebrate the joy of freedom and  remember the losses of the Second Great War.
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Nina – the songstress and storyteller

Those life circles continue, of course, to whirl about us.  Three years ago I wrote this tribute to Nina Simone and also included the piece in my recently-published book – Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris.  And now for those fortunate folks who will be in Paris in early September, the annual Jazz à la Villette Festival will pay homage to this iconic jazz and blues musician.

France has long embraced American music and musicians, particularly African American performers.  Following both World Wars, many black musicians moved to France to enjoy life as a “privileged minority”; where they were encouraged by the opportunities to work, the relative lack of racism and the embrace of their talent by French audiences.  One notable musician to make France her home was Nina Simone.

Please bear with me, as I trace an unusual story about the way strands of life interconnect.  Though years and miles apart, the pieces of this story form a circle that is both intriguing and astonishing; a story in which music, North Carolina and France come together to create a fascinating vignette.

Let’s begin with a visit to Tryon, North Carolina, “The Friendliest Town in the South.”  I lived in Tryon during my early school years amongst a visual feast of dogwood trees, rolling hills and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.  It wasn’t until I was doing research for a novel, that I discovered that this little resort town of 1,500 was the birthplace of the brilliant jazz singer, Nina Simone, and a frequent haven for F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Small world indeed!

Fast forward to Florida, when I was a teenager enthralled with some of the great music my parents always had around us.  Before I moved on to embrace jazz and blues, pop and rock ‘n roll; I enjoyed a steady diet of Porter and Gershwin, Sinatra and Judy Garland.  One recording in particular grasped my heart and imagination – Nina Simone’s original “I Loves You Porgy”.

Perhaps a bit of her background will help unveil the pure, plaintive talent she radiates in that original recording, her first Top Ten classic hit in 1959. She was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon in 1933, the daughter of a Methodist minister and a father who was a handyman and preacher himself.  She played the piano by ear from the age of three, later displaying her talent in her mother’s church.  She was able to study classical music with a local Englishwoman and came to develop a love of Bach, Chopin, Schubert and Beethoven.

After taking her senior year at Julliard in New York City, she began to play clubs and added singing to her repertoire. She also coined her performing name – “Nina” (little one in Spanish) and “Simone” for the French actress.

It was from that strong foundation and from a life marked with considerable ups and downs that she would become an iconic American musician, the “High Priestess of Soul”.  The French word “griot” – West African storyteller – captures her style of musical perfection, pure emotion and improvisation.  She would weave together the delicate notes of her piano, the soul-felt lyrics and ‘on the fly’ intros and ad lib lyrics that somehow perfected the scene.  The results are extraordinary, heartbreaking, seductive and exhilarating.  She simply takes you exactly where you need to be to feel the story she tells.

Her adopted home, Carry-le-Rout

Nina spent much of 70’s and 80’s in North Africa and Europe, living for a while in Paris in 1978, and settled in Carry-le-Rout, near Aix-en-Provence in Southern France.  She died there in April of 2003.  In a 1969 interview, Nina Simone said:

“There’s no other purpose, so far as I’m concerned, for us except to reflect the times, the situations around us and the things we’re able to say through our art, the things that millions of people can’t say….and, of course, those of us who are lucky leave a legacy so that when we’re dead, we also live on.”

This talented songbird left quite a legacy, composing over 500 songs and recording nearly 60 albums.  Her spirit surely lives on, as present in the cool air over the Blue Ridge Mountains as in her adopted home in Provence.

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Choice French Museums & Historic Sites

Cafe Caumont Aix en Provence

Café Caumont terrace dining

Seasoned travelers to France are well aware of cultural icons like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay of Paris, but a new Aix-en-Provence museum brings to mind an entire family of museums and historic sites that should move to the top of your French ‘bucket list’. After hundreds of years and countless uses, the Hôtel de Caumont Arts Centre opened in Aix in May of this year under the abiding care of Culturespaces.

This highly-successful and valued organization lends a professional approach to the production and management of prestigious monuments, museums and historic sites. With the Aix museum, the celebrated list continues to provide exceptional venues devoted to the general public and with particular emphasis on youth. Entrusted to Culturespaces by public entities and local authorities, the organization now manages the following locations:


  • Paris – Jacquemart-André Museum (since 1996)
  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (since 1992)
  • Beaulieu sur Mer – Greek Villa Kérylos (since 2001)
  • Orange – Roman Theatre, Art and History Museum (since 2002)
  • Les Baux de Provence – Château des Baux de Provence, Carrières de Lumières (since 1993)
  • Nîmes – Arena, the Square House, the Magne Tower (since 2006)
  • Mulhouse – Cité de l’Automobile, (since 1999)
  • Mulhouse – Cité du Train (since 2005)

Honestly, this range of offerings should inspire an enterprising tour guide to take in the whole lot – from the colorful caves of Les Baux de Provence to the regal Rothschild estate overlooking the Mediterranean! Yes, the organization sets out with a site steeped in cultural and historic value; but they add so much value with exacting restoration, professional management, informational websites, on-site tea rooms and cafes and a wealth of programs intended to reach youth and underserved populations. One of my own favorite touches is the inclusion of what we would think of as a gift shop but understatedly named, The Book and Culture Shop.

New Art Center in Aix-en-Provence

The Book and Culture Shop

Originally the mansion of aristocratic families in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Hôtel de Caumont Arts Centre kicks off its’ reopening with a stunning exhibition of the work of Gionvanni Antonio Canal, one of the foremost painters of Venice. The venue offers an ideal fit, having been built during Canaletto’s time; and visitors can even enjoy a prolonged stay with dinner at the Lounge Caumont (open until 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, with no reservations taken). Imagine dining as an aristocrat in this magnificent setting!

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Serendipity – Trés Chic French Gifts

Paris France gifts

Hammer in style with Pylones special designs!

How can we choose a favorite activity in Paris? Dining, sidewalk cafes, shopping, wandering cobbled lanes and sitting on a bench in an appealing park? Every sight, sound and scent seals a memory. There is a particularly serendipitous shopping adventure we enjoy. We head for Pylones – créateur d’objets à Paris – on Île Saint-Louis (or elsewhere – they’re all over Paris!) Without fail, we discover whimsical gifts of bold color and make-you-smile designs.

We also love discovering the latest design or ‘gizmo’ fad, and our ever-traveling sister returned with a delightful gift that only recently flooded the stores and restaurants of Paris – The Ice bag®. Oui – simply a clever and colorful ice bag that’s a bit beyond the imagination of those of us who consistently request ice in France.
Once again, imagination jumps to the forefront and completely transforms the traditional ice bucket with a trendy and colorful PVC bag that quickly chills and easily travels. And of course good ideas only grow better, when you introduce a range of bold colors, leather-like handles and bags customized to the restaurant or hotel that has adopted the new craze.

The Ice bag®. France

“World” collection of trendy Ice Bags

Yes, it’s a bit early to think about holiday shopping but not too early to file away some ideas. After, of course, you add the purchase of my autographed book to your gift list, you might enjoy spreading the delight of trendy French gifts for friends and family. I see they already are available on leading e-tail sites, so have fun!



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Elegant Lodging – Saint Emilion

France luxury lodging Saint Emilion

Enchanting Logis de la Cadène in the heart of Saint Emilion

When we first happened upon Saint Emilion, we were at the beginning of a summer-long trek through France – oui, the dream of a lifetime!  Since we were new at this business of being footloose in France, complete with car and assorted maps; we wanted to secure a base from which to roam for our first couple of nights.  Turns out that our charming B&B was over 30 miles north of Bordeaux in a serene setting but fairly far removed from towns and villages. Somehow when you are wandering the countryside of a foreign country in an unfamiliar car with maps of all scales, everything seems further than it is in reality.  C’est la vie!

Nonetheless, we took off in our trusted Peugeot and roamed westerly to Blaye (but missed the ferry over the Gironde to the Medoc area).  In our wandering spirit, we then discovered a lovely wine cave to the East – Château Vieux Mougnac.   After a purely delightful visit and tasting with the personable owner, we ventured less than ten miles south to discover Saint Emilion. Voilà– Shangri-La awaited, and we now are determined to return for a few days.

Some places lend themselves well to multiple day trips for a sampling of adjacent villages; but, as we soon discovered, Saint Emilion offers a commanding variety of sights, shops, scents and dining.  While charming choices in vineyard settings are within a short distance, we want to wander at will in the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage medieval city.

Medieval Saint Emilion France

Relaxed elegance – Saint Emilion

Though a lavish option beyond some of the very habitable 2- and 3-star options, one lodging choice erases budget thoughts with overwhelming charm.  As you carefully work your way down a steep, cobblestone lane, the Logis de la Cadène whispers an enchanted welcome.  The wisteria-covered arbor of the outdoor dining terrace suggests the relaxed elegance that welcomes guests.

Originally founded (in 1848) as a restaurant, Logis de la Cadène was purchased in 2013 by the Boüard de Laforest family of the nearby Château Angélus Domaine.  Located on a tiny square in the center of medieval Saint Emilion, the exceptional family-run restaurant and boutique hotel offer private, residential comfort with memorable gourmet offerings and attractively appointed rooms.  Within the year, the Maison du Logis de la Cadène annex will add five new rooms.

Saint Emilion France shopping

Exceptional artisan textiles of Saint Emilion

I can’t imagine a more inviting center from which to indulge every curiosity about shopping, dining and historic sights.  I think we will start with the beautiful little artisan shops nearby and work our way … and our appetite  … to a cozy crêperie for lunch and a lovely glass of Saint-Emilion wine – bien sur!



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Paris Flowers

Floweers of Paris France

From Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris

Mais oui! Of course I could not complete my book – Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – without a page or so about the world of flowers in Paris! During my first trip to Paris, the buds began to peek from the soil in a promise that would soon be fulfilled. Along the Champ de Mars … in Les Tuileries … in the gardens of Luxembourg and along the Seine, flowers signaled the end of winter with unabashed pride and beauty.

Naturally the florist shops and lively open-air markets followed suit, offering up stunning arrays of color, size and shape. As always French artisans … to include, bien sur, fleuristes … offer creative touches that turn a beautiful bouquet into living, artistic masterpiece. With a turn of dried reed or the addition of a whimsical frond, the floral arranger delivers a very personal message. Naturally you couldn’t chose a more appropriate gift for an arriving friend or luncheon host!

While nothing surpasses the floral views from a bench near the Eiffel Tower, my favorite shop – and that of many Parisians – is that of Patrick Alain on Ile Saint-Louis. Imagine the pleasure of working with flowers each and every day!

Paris France flowers

Parisian balconies filled with flowers







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The Many Meanings of “Time”

Kids sailing their boats in the fountains of the Tuileries, Paris

Kids sailing their boats in the fountains of the Tuileries

I love languages, and I have a gift for them – an ear that grasps accents and allows me to reproduce the sounds.  Ironically, I majored in Spanish and Latin American Area Studies in college.  Had I only known how deep my love of France and French would develop!

Today, I’m thinking of “time” – as in le bon temps (the good times) and mille fois (thousand times) in French.  And we ask for the time of day or wish others a good time.  I think of our precious times in France, of exploring the marvelous cities, villages and countryside.  Little moments slide into the mind, like the time we saw children under the summer sun sailing their boats in the fountains of the Tuileries.

Time is such a fickle thing, one day rushing like a river swollen with melting mountain snow and another limping along ever so slowly.  We realized that France Daily Photo reached its’ four-year anniversary  last month, and – heaven forbid – we neither popped the champagne nor created a drum roll.  It has been our pleasure to share so many wonderful stories and vignettes about our beloved France, to gather a community of Francophiles who revel in all things French.   And we always welcome your comments  and suggestions, and we thank you for your interest and friendship.

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French Masters of Art Nouveau

Nancy france art nouveau

Emile Gallé writing desk

A couple of months ago, I extolled the virtues of Reims; where the massive destruction during World War I yielded reconstruction that transformed the city into the Art Deco capital of today.  If Reims is the capital, Nancy – to the East – is close behind and with a decidedly ironic art history.  Louis XV bequeathed to the deposed King of Poland (his father-in-law) the Lorraine region, and the “king without a kingdom” set out to link the old and new cities of Nancy in a move that brought about significant Art Nouveau style.

Moving forward a few hundred years, we in Central Florida are fortunate to access a special exhibition – Lifelines—Forms and Themes of Art Nouveau – at the renowned Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.  No, don’t be put off by that title, because the museum not only showcases the most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany but the work of numerous French artists

As a sophomore at Rollins College, I was privileged to work for the college President – Hugh McKean – who had studied art at Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall in Long Island.  Mr. McKean and his wife, artist Jeanette Genius McKean, were singularly responsible for gathering the magnificent Tiffany collection we enjoy in Winter Park today.

With all of that history aside, the phenomenal Art Noveau exhibition runs through September of 2016 and includes the works of two outstanding French artists – Emile Gallé of Nancy and Clément Massier of Golfe-Juan.  Accomplished in glass and wood creations, Gallé looked to nature and literature for inspiration and often carved or sealed a poetic sentence in his vases.  His works dating to the late 1800’s included fern, orchid and insect motifs.  His work is quite at home with that of Tiffany in his creative visual treatment of glass.

Art Nouveau, France

Clément Massier lustre-glazed pottery vase

Clément Massier was born into a ceramist family and ultimately relocated his portion of the family business to Golfe-Juan, France, where his pottery evoked a Hispano-Moresque influence with iridescent silver and copper oxide glazes.  Without fail, he attracted an international clientele in his Mediterranean showroom.

Both artists contributed that wonderful “French touch” in an era of redefined design and rich natural images.  Hopefully readers from the Central Florida area will be able to attend the exhibit.  The rest, I’m afraid, will have to go to France for a first-hand look!

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Une Nuit de Joie – Paris

Paris France wine bars

Enchanting L’Ecluse wine bars, Paris

Finally I celebrated Paris with my daughter. After two solo trips in which I had immersed myself in this lovely city and country, I gifted an airline ticket to my daughter and off we went.

On our first night, our good friend had a gift for us – tickets to a concert at a theatre on Avenue des Champs Élysées. Another friend joined us, and the four of us we made our way to spectacular front-row seats. Imagine the thrill of attending a concert in the heart of The City of Light!

Onto the stage stepped an attractive Dean Martin-style crooner dressed in a subtle medium gray, tailored suit and surrounded by femmes in chiffon-y, floating dresses of the same color. Not to demean the lovely gift of concert tickets, by the third song we realized that the style of music matched the color scheme – grey, flat and colorless. As soon as a break occurred, we headed for the exit.

Now, here is when we made lemonade of lemons … or rather wine of grapes. Off we went to an intimate little wine bar – L’Ecluse in the 6th arrondissement. With no less than five locations in Paris, L’Ecluse enjoys a sparkling reputation for friendly service and exceptional wine collections. Over a plate of savory cheeses from Camembert and Tomme Laïous to Roquefort and nun-inspired Trappe Echourgnac, we inhaled delicate white wines from the Médoc and Pomerol regions as well as Saint Émilion.

French cheeses and wine

Savory French cheeses and crisp, white wine

Our ‘hen party’ joie de vivre even exceeded the delightful libations, bubbling over to adjacent tables to become the center of one of the happiest settings of Paris that evening.

“What are you celebrating?” a person from the next table asked.

“Joie de vivre, mais oui!”

Were we timid? Did any language barrier mar the evening? Did we worry about being Americans in Paris, when there was ill will between our countries?

Non. Non. Et non.

I find that French people gravitate to Americans – especially those who adore France. That evening – from the charming waiter to the L’Ecluse customers – their curiosity was sated by a table full of women who celebrated life, friendship and abundant good will.

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A Grey Side of Paris

Paris clochards

Joy and hopelessness – Abbesses, Paris

I usually write about all of the bright, beautiful charm of Paris.  Bien sur!  Each corner holds some enchanting sight, sound or aroma.  Today, though, I am remembering a different reality – that of homelessness and hopelessness – and offering a small suggestion for action.

Clochard is French slang for a ‘sans domicile fixe’ – a homeless person in France.  I first saw a group of clochards under the Pont de Sully, while walking along the river quai with my friend.  She told me they were clochards – homeless but harmless.  Indeed, when we walked by, a couple of them wished us a pleasant “Bonjour Mesdames”.

You will see them throughout the city, though, on the street or a bench or huddled against the cold on a Metro grid, where hot air rises to warm them.  Often under the renowned bridges of Paris; they gather as if in a village, with meager belongings, pieces of cardboard and soiled sleeping bags that help to lessen the damp concrete in the night.

If you were to talk to each, the stories would vary.  Joblessness – prolonged with the condition of “sleeping rough”.  Addiction – cheap French wine becomes a friend.   The reasons are universal, as understandable in France as in any city of the world.

But there is a difference in France – a lack of judgment.  Homelessness doesn’t carry the same stigma.  The police don’t bother them, but patrol to check on their wellbeing.  Begging isn’t criminalized.  The politicians, without success, look for solutions.   According to a Sciences Po sociologist, “Paris is seen as an extremely tolerant city and generous in its offer of aid and social protection.”   In fact one poll found 75% of French people in solidarity with the homeless population.

The last time we were in Paris, the weather chilled to the bone, unusually so for early April.  In those conditions, you can’t help noticing the huddled bodies on the sidewalk, in a corner, beneath a bridge.  As we prepared to leave, we packed up several clean items of clothing – a raincoat, a pair of shoes, a couple of sweaters and jeans – nothing enormous but perhaps a small help.  In the evening, we took the bag down to the street to the lovely little church – Saint- Louis en L’Île.  A priest was greeting parishioners near the door, and we handed him the bag.  He looked inside, smiled and said, “Merci.”

Ours was a small gesture, but I was heartened to learn about a young lawyer in an affluent neighborhood in Paris.  An older Romanian woman in his neighborhood attracted the young attorney’s attention.

Angry and frustrated, Joël Catherin made the first of many cardboard signs:  “I could be your grandmother.”  That sign made a difference, and people who might otherwise have passed an “I’m hungry” sign gave more generously, spoke to the woman and offered other assistance.  Perhaps the sign’s simplicity made people see the human face of suffering and impacted the way people view others.

Suffering makes us uncomfortable.  The beggar even can scare us; but whether we are in Paris or New York or Orlando or Topeka, we can offer the same kind of empathy and whatever assistance we can to those who suffer in homelessness and more often, in hopelessness.

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Vivre Ensemble La Musique

Paris music festival

Celebrating Fete de la Musique – 2015

Living together. The theme for the 2015 Fête de la Musique no doubt reflected the somber Charlie Hebdo catastrophe as well as the ongoing economic and social challenges all of France … and the world faces. And how apropos to remind everyone during a delightful night of free music, this national holiday celebration that has spread throughout the world, that we live together and should strive to do so with the same harmony we enjoy in music.

This joie de vivre and celebration of culture highlight just one area of the gazillion attributes I love about France. I can’t help but think of Field of Dreams, the movie from which the famous line comes: “If you build it, they will come”.

When, the Ministry of Culture and Communication initiated la Fête back in 1982, they accomplished precisely that goal. They chose the night of the summer solstice to celebrate the expression and dynamics of musical life in offering “music everywhere and the concert nowhere”.

Hosting that first holiday of music 34 years ago, Paris created its own “Field of Dreams”, when people throughout the City of Light came together in the streets to rejoice in an entire night of free music. And did you know that one underlying reason for creating this monumental event was the study that five million people – one out of two children in France – played a musical instrument? That first celebration and each to follow opened the gates to professional and amateur musicians to perform for all of the people, regardless of age or social condition … and to do so “without lucrative purpose”. In this profiteering age, you have to love those sensibilities!

Paris music festival

Place Dauphine – dining with chamber music!

Is it any surprise that the Fête de la Musique not only became one of the greatest French cultural events but spread to nearly all corners of the earth? The celebration now takes place in Luxembourg, Italy, Peru, Mexico, New York and beyond.

We remember well this night of magic in Paris; when chamber musicians filled Place Dauphine near our sidewalk table, as we dined. And Indians in full ceremonial dress performed in front of Notre Dame, and seemingly every little corner and quai offered a unique musical presentation. Somehow, when the night is filled with music, the heart is filled with joy.

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La Charité-sur-Loire

La Charitie France

La Charité-sur-Loire

A few days ago, I set out to highlight this Burgundy region retreat; but I wandered down my Lady of Water, Lady of Windows trail. Well, I’m back to tell you that any waterside town appeals to me overlooking the enticing River Loire. That setting endears the petite La Charité-sur-Loire, where less than 10,000 residents enjoy an idyllic location and a devotion to books, not to mention a rich historic legacy. Add the self-proclaimed “south of the rain and north of the heat” descriptive, and you may look forward to a moderate climate in which to enjoy all of the advantages of this charming village.

Visitors relish the charm of the medieval town on the banks of the Loire, where traditional boulangeries, cafés, wine shops and dynamic weekly market provide an appealing environment for this Villes des Livres (City of Books). Imagine wandering about to explore the antiquarian bookstores with ancient documents, books, maps and more. Poised in the heart of La Charité-sur-Loire, between the river banks and the priory, the Book Town enjoys an intriguing history.

Book fair in La Charite sur Loire

Marche aux Livres

About 20 years ago, a Parisian book dealer came to settle in the village and created the Old Books and Papers Fair, which not only enjoyed immediate success but prompted other booksellers to locate in the historic village center. The revitalized area now has transformed into a center of interest known and revered across France. Beyond book fairs and markets, Book Town regularly hosts professionals from binders and calligraphers to typographers and graphic artists with talent-building workshops offered through the year.

Stepping back much farther in time, the village dates to the 7th century and is located along the renowned Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route that guided Europeans to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. The generous welcome of pilgrims by local Cluny monks prompted a change in name from the original Seyr to La Charité-sur- Loire. The village is centered on the UNESCO World Heritage 12th century Cluniac priory church of Notre Dame and the adjacent Benedictine Park features remnants of the old cloister walls and ruins of an 11th-century Romanesque church. The park regularly hosts music festivals throughout the year.

Doesn’t it sound like an ideal weekend getaway to wander in the parks, through book stores and boutiques, to stop by the river for a picnic and to slip into an authentic French restaurant at days end? Merveilleux!
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France – Water & Window Views!

Amboise France

Sunset picnic by the Loire

We have a tourism book from Aix-en-Provence that simply refers to the city as “Town of Water, Town of Art. Somehow that declaration of ‘who we are’ makes me reflect on my own persona. Perhaps I would be “Lady of Water, Lady of Windows”, as I am instantly drawn to water and thrive on windows and views.

Just writing that takes me away to so many moments in France … to the vivid blues of the Mediterranean – I remember the first moment I set my feet in those lovely waters and clasped my hands in wonder and delight. To the slow and lazy summer movement of the Loire River in Amboise, as we indulged in a wonderful, sunset picnic with friends. To Lake Annecy – so fresh, clear and cool beneath the mountain peaks in the background. To enchanting walks along the Saône River in Lyon, where so many Vieux Lyon restaurants whispered invitations to dine. To the deep blue water beyond the beaches of Normandy, where the sea-air filled our hotel room and multi-national flags waved in the breeze off the English Channel. And I haven’t even mentioned the Seine – all of those lovely walks and wine-and-cheese moments.

Lyon France

Along the Saone in Lyon

And window views, how readily they flow through my memory. Our second-floor vacation home bedroom opened onto the countryside near Château Chenonceau, where the whoosh of a hot-air balloon announced the ascent of gorgeous multi-colored balloons in the morning. And from our window in a charming chambre d’hote north of Bordeaux, we watched cows swishing their tails through the meadow grass. In Paris, high above rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, we overlooked a playground filled with the sounds and sights of young children at play.

You would be surprised to know that I began this little article with thoughts of sharing yet another town I have discovered east of Bourges, partially an island and partially on the banks of the Seine. I guess that story will have to wait a couple of days. Wishing you a Bon Dimanche!

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The Indelible Ink of Paris

Seine, Paris France

Taking in Notre Dame with my little friend in Paris

A touch of nostalgia today – only natural I suppose, as I’ve recently published Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris.  After weeks and weeks of pouring over memories and memoirs, photos and keepsakes; Paris simply is ever present.  But for those of us who have had the pleasure of visiting and coming to know The City of Light, that presence is always so, isn’t it?

I first stepped on a plane – destination Charles de Gaulle, Paris – nearly twenty years ago.  Really?  Or was it yesterday?  My life has had enough significant hurdles not to dampen optimism but also not to quite believe, until what is hoped for is right in front of me.   Soon though I landed in Paris, and my long-held dream turned to magnificent reality.

My friend had arranged for a taxi to take me directly to her apartment, so there I was whisking along the boulevards of Paris on a crisp, Valentine’s Day morning with no less than Bowie and “Put on your red shoes and dance” on the radio.  Perfection!

Paris gardens

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

For the next four weeks (aside from three weekend getaways I’ll share later), Paris drenched me in beauty – usually figuratively.  Sometimes, though grey, wet skies wrapped us in the questionable aroma of wet wool, as we wandered  day or night, sun or rain.

We  shopped in quaint markets and purchased just- the-right cheese from the fromagerie.   We added freshly-made pasta and bright, crisp vegetables to entertain friends for a light dinner.  Oh, and did I forget to mention the artisan bread and Sancerre wine?  And all of that was just a moment or so ‘at home’ with good music, great conversation and the constant presence of fresh flowers from rue Mouffetard.

We joined friends for a gourmet meal in an ancient restaurant.  We lunched at little crêperies and sipped enormously expensive drinks at Hemingway haunts.  And of course we bowed to Parisian museums and monuments, as taken with picnics on the lawn beneath the Eiffel Tower as with photos from the higher levels of The Iron Lady.

Those were the days before my wonderful, point-and-shoot-to-your-heart’s-content digital camera.  While that photo collection can’t compare to  my contemporary warehouse of French photographs, the memories are every bit as strong.

Elysee Palace, Paris

Midnight at the Palace, Paris

At any given moment, I can close my eyes and see that oddly-shaped old building, the little cobbled courtyard, the flowers suspended from a shop’s raftered ceiling.  I can see the little girl with her pink cheeks and purple beret skipping about Jardin des Plantes and the laughing eyes of the policeman behind the Élysée Palace.  (Well, of course, we stopped to say hello.  He told us he was guarding the President, and I countered with, “Oh, is Bill here?”  Nothing quite like a hearty laugh with the gendarmes at midnight in Paris!)

And that is the lasting influence of this magnificent city.  Paris is the indelible ink that marks the visitor for all time, offering so many sweet moments to walk with you through the rest of your life.

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French Cuisine – The Ideal Pantry

Paris fromagerie

Shopping for French cheese

I have a dear friend, Jan, who not only combines loving support with good old common sense but happens to be a gourmet cook with a real flair for hospitality. I can imagine her with one foot in the grave preparing an imaginative feast for her own wake!   Jan recently “introduced” me to Rachel Khoo, Le Cordon Bleu graduate and host of BBC’s “The Little Paris Kitchen”.

A London transplant, Rachel works from her own tiny kitchen in Paris offering everything from shopping Paris markets and introducing other home chefs to sharing recipes and cooking hints for Croque Madame muffins, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolat and so much more.

I particularly appreciate her “Perfect Pantry” recommendations for the French cook and afterwards offer an amusing little vignette from one of our “there’s nothing to eat” moments.

Butter and Oils: Butter – the irreplaceable foundation for so many things; flavorless canola or vegetable oils, olive oil and special nut oils – hazelnut and walnut (trop cher!)

Vinegars: White and red wine vinegars and sherry vinegar for salads, vegetables and general cooking

Chicken Broth: Canned or boxed low-sodium broth (I regularly freeze 1-cup containers of broth for easy use.)

Dried Herbs, Mustard: Essential to French cooking – dried bay leaves, thyme, herbes de Provence; Dijon mustard for flavor-packed vinaigrettes!

Onion, celery and garlic: De rigeur for many basic French … and “American” stocks and soups – carrot, shallot and leek make flavorful additions, as well. Without fail, I add several if not all, when I boil chicken or roast beef.

Canned Tomatoes and Lentils: Canned tomatoes – far better than often tasteless fresh – whole, canned plum tomatoes; dried beans and lentils for the more devoted cook

Rice: French cuisine traditionally uses long-grain, white rice for cooking.

Cheese: A veritable feast of French cheeses and some good American choices, as well – Gruyère, Emmentaler, Cheddars, Swiss and Parmesan.

Brandy and cooking wine: The perfect touch for deglazing and enhancing the browned juices from sautéed meats, poultry and fish. Brandies and liqueurs also liven decadent desserts and sauces.

Souffle - french recipe

A French favorite in our house!

Now on that evening I mentioned, when the cupboard seemed bare; there at least was milk, butter, eggs and cheese. Voila – instead of desperation scrambled eggs, we enjoyed a fluffy cheese soufflé!

Rachel Khoo has gone well beyond her initial cookbook and television show to launch international shows, more books, six-course dinners and cooking workshops around the world. And it all started with “The Little Paris Kitchen”. I hope my Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris bears just a percentile of Ms. Khoo’s success!

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France Today – Excellent & Absorbing!

French magazine

France Today magazine – from Paris to Provence

You may have seen an article I previously wrote in praise of this excellent magazine – France Today.  My June/July issue arrived yesterday – always a positive experience!  If you are not familiar with this publication, let me give you a brief tour.

The current issue, for example, ranges from a feature on Napoléon’s Paris to colorful articles about Brittany & The Pyrénées.  As always, the magazine offers mini tours of art and culture, travel  destinations, food and wine and real estate.

In particular, I enjoy the quality and content of France Today with fine paper and printing and exceptional photographs.  Anything that brings me a few steps closer to France I enjoy; but this publication takes me away, teaches, entertains and absorbs me.

I especially enjoyed “Modern Montgolfiers – Ballooning in the spectacular Auvergne” for two distinctly different reasons.  When we first journeyed to the Auvergne region, the area was unfamiliar to us. I booked a room in advance at a little inn at Puy de Dôme and off we went.

Hmmm.  This is a gorgeous, verdant region, where 80 dormant volcanoes contribute to a spectacular landscape.  We kept seeing Puy de Dôme signs and finally pulled up at the entrance to a park?  But where exactly was our inn?

Puy de Dome France

Stunning landscape of the Auvergne

I was mistaken about the dome – not a town but a large, volcanic dome and department name for the region.  So it goes, you know when you are adventurers armed with dispassionate maps and little else!

After a few calls, we finished our roam through the countryside and ended up at our little inn at Saint-Gervais-d’Auvergne, a petite commune of about 1,500 people.  Unfortunately we didn’t experience the splendor you see in the France Today article; but the hospitality was excellent, and we shall return again!

I also enjoyed the balloon concept, as we had another unusual experience – this time just down the road from the lovely Château de Chenonceau.  We stayed in a lovely vacation rental in the quiet countryside – quiet until a very strange noise awoke us one morning.  Voila!  It was the sound of two hot air balloons rising, rising outside of our window to enjoy a little journey over the Loire Valley.  Can you imagine?  Ballooning in either region would offer a visual masterpiece!

Balloons in France

Awakened by montgolfiers – Chenonceau

I’ve barely touched on the rich fabric of articles that will entertain you, but I think it’s readily apparent that the magazine has the distinct capability of transporting you to all sorts of wonderful locations in France!

Accolades to the editorial staff for delivering an interesting and balanced variety of articles, excellent copywriting and high quality of production.  Thank you for bringing us one more vehicle for indulging our love of France.

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Selfie Interview: The Promise of Paris

Seine, Paris

I just love my little fisherman in Paris!

Often when I see interviews on television, I wish I were  the interviewer.  I’d love to ask the questions that get beneath a person’s veneer, personality, accomplishments … or wrongdoings.

Well, I haven’t done anything wrong, but I would love to bare more about the process of writing Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris.  And since Barbara Walters hasn’t phoned yet,  I introduce the next craze to sweep the world – the Selfie Interview.

Imagine it!  Replacing the many inane outdo-your-buddy selfie photos, the Selfie Interview will include real ‘meat and bones’ information and personal insights – all of those things you wish people would ask that you want to share.

Now allow me to introduce you to my faux interviewer, Mireille, a French woman with exceptional style, a sense of humor and a particular fondness for Clicquot.  I have allowed her five questions; in that I am busy autographing books, and you haven’t all day to indulge in this new craze.  Voila!

Mireille:  Many people love Paris and, it seems, a virtual army of Francophiles have written about our City of Light.  Why did you add your name to this long list; why did you write your Promise of Paris book?

Sandra:  The most compelling reason is to transform a dreamer into a doer.  I used to be one of those who always longed for Paris; and when I finally took the leap and made my first visit, the experience changed my life, added a dimension that nothing else in life could take from me.

Without fail, I hear those wistful statements, “Oh, I hope one day to go.  Maybe some day I can see Paris.”  And usually those longings are held by women and men approaching their 40’s and older – people who work hard, who love their families, who fulfill commitments and somehow don’t think they can be smart enough, or selfish enough or devil-may-care enough to set aside their doubts, change their goals and make Paris a reality.

Paris museums

View from the top of Musee D’Orsay

Mireille:  Well that is lofty and charming, but do you really think you are qualified either in the human motivation arena or Paris tourism front to lead the charge for these timid dreamers?  And what about those who have already visited Paris.  Why should they read your book?

Sandra:  Good questions Mireille, however barbed they might be.  I am neither a “Life Coach”, as they’re titled today, nor a psychoanalyst.  I DO, however, have experience in procrastinating.  I know exactly what it’s like to be afraid of such an investment in money, time and hope.  By a long shot, I am not a tour expert, and my book is not an “A to Z” definitive treatise on Paris.   What I do bring to the table is my own voice, my own fresh experiences, my own passion for simple and sophisticated moments in Paris.  With a blend of memoirs, recommendations, humor and practical advice; I believe I scratch the surface enough to excite the first-time or tenth-time visitor.  And, by the way, that counts as two questions, so on to question four please.

Mireille:  What were the most difficult challenges in completing your book?

Sandra:     Oh, I can reel off several immediately.  Narrowing the focus.  Choosing what to cover and what to omit.  Asking myself is this fun,  funny or inane?  Organizing and fact-checking … again and again.  I can be quite shy and private, so absolutely the most difficult challenge was overcoming self-doubt and criticism and letting the book unfold.

Mireille:  Last question then.  What to you makes Paris so special?

Sandra:  Well that’s a zinger that could take a week to answer, but let me give it a try.  Several things come together in Paris that simply fill my heart.  The appealing architecture.  The gorgeous passages and parks.  Coffee in the sun at a sidewalk café by the river.  The entertainer on this corner or on that bridge.  The window displays and amazing creativity.  The celebration of heritage and innate neighborliness. The flowers.  The quiet smiles and “bonjours”.  No one day is ever the same, and I absolutely love the ever-changing nature of the city.  Finally, there’s always the Seine that draws me back time after time, day or night.  My best friend lives in Paris … and I am very jealous of her dog, who sees with a different heart but lives his life out in Paris each and every day.

I welcome your comments and special requests.  Please click on your order preference below … and merci beaucoup!

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Novel Set in WWII France

Normandy france

Approaching the Northern coast of France

Though not planned, on this Memorial Day I have just finished Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-Prize winning All the Light We Cannot See. Set in occupied France leading up to, during and after World War II; the author immerses you in the lives of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose lives ultimately come together with a gentleness that belies the inhumanity of the times. I’m not a book critic, but several elements in the novel attract me.

In particular the initial and end setting takes place by the Jardin des Plantes in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Because one of the main characters is blind, the author painstakingly provides details about the neighborhood, details that are critical navigation points that help a blind girl find her way from her apartment to the place of her father’s work at the Museum of Natural History. They walk along the graveled garden paths, where I have spent quiet moments watching nannies and grannies looking after their young charges. They climb to the gazebo on the hill that stands against the sky. They walk to the Gare d’Austerlitz, as we have done so many times. Don’t we always embrace the familiar?

But I get away from the centerpiece. The timeline begins with the dropping of leaflets on Saint Malo – Allied leaflets warning of bombs to come, warning residents to go to the country. The novel wraps itself before and after those dates in a wrenching but beautiful story of the people and places and divisive horror of World War II.

WWII France, Normandy

American cemetery in Normandy

So much of the novel is rich with detail, with the intricacies of each person’s talent or chosen path or imposed route in life. While I always have had an interest in World War II, due in part to the active participation of two favorite uncles, I find new stories and viewpoints continue to emerge from the mountains of books, documentaries and movies that try to make some sense or at least some historic preservation of this insane blight on the world.

I do come away from All the Light We Cannot See with a new perspective of those in Europe, whose lives were entangled with World War I, with the aftermath of poverty and anger and building rage that would lead to World War II and that aftermath. So many lives knew little but the approach to war, the constant deprivation, the devastation and the horrible lasting consequences. Like a constant pool of eddies, those circumstances whirled their lives pulling them this way and that with little leeway for choosing a plan for life.

Remembering those who served and those who suffered.

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Au Lys D’Argent – Paris Salon de Thé

Dining in Paris

Au Lys d’Argent on Ile Saint-Louis

Managing expectations? I’m not sure what to call my thought process, but I decided I would introduce one of my favorite little hideaways on Ile Saint-Louis in Paris. I have plenty to say about Au Lys D’Argent, but I thought I’d see what some of those infamous on-line reviewers would have to say.

The majority really liked my little salon de thé, found good value, good service and an appealing atmosphere. Mais oui – some naysayers stepped forward to grump and groan about the tiny restroom down the steps, the cramped dining area, the noise, service and food. I come away from those kinds of comments quite happy that I neither live next door to nor work with the complainers.

Now that I have that out of the way, I can tell you that I discovered my jewel on the island way back in 1997. One afternoon I was in search of a little hideaway for absorbing my day in Paris, for journaling and for a few quiet moments to cement the whole unfathomable concept that I was in Paris finding my own places and spaces with no fear of being lost … or found!  Au Lys was the perfect answer that day. I was tucked away in my own little space by the window; where I could see passersby, as I enjoyed my delicate and delicious Nutella crêpe. I ate. I sketched and made notes. I watched the gentle pace of life on the island. And I finally asked, in my timid French, for “l ’addition s’il vous plait”.

Paris France travel

Pre-order today at Paris Book 

No trip to Paris would be complete without a pleasurable visit to my favorite salon. I have been there with my husband, our friends, our daughter and many times quite alone in my wonderful refuge. Allow me to introduce you to my haven – a petite salon with perhaps ten tables on two levels with high ceilings and a broad front window overlooking rue Saint-Louis en l’ Île. Simple artwork, books and occasional bric-a-brac adorn vivid goldenrod yellow walls, and a buffet showcases an assortment of cakes and pastries. Floor-to-ceiling drapes of rich, chocolate brown silk flow from either side of the wide doorway to the small interior room.  (The drapes changed, as you can see, according to the wear and whim of the owner!)

Primarily the owner waits on you, as he has done so with us for the past 18 years. As to the two people who complained in their review about unfriendly service, the owner is neither your best friend nor does he feel compelled to sally forth with, “Hello. I am Philippe, and I will be your server today.” And for the ones who felt the salon was cramped and the downstairs toilet unacceptable, please be reminded that this is Paris. Space is short. Tables are close together. And bathrooms normally are located downstairs…in this case down tiny curving stairs that prompted my 6’2” husband to descend with care. Can we all join the chorus – “So what!”

I don’t mean to be caustic, but I love Paris, and I accept and appreciate the differences. I hope you will do the same, and please do visit Au Lys d’Argent. They will welcome you, assure a pleasant experience and hopefully meet your expectations.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Update – Preorder The Promise of Paris

Paris France travel

Enchanting anecdotes, practical recommendations

Bonjour dear friends – Everyone has been so warm and welcoming about my new book, and we have had several requests for ordering information.  We expect to have our first shipment on soon after June 1.

For our France Fanatics and France Daily Photo friends, we are accepting pre-orders that will include signed copies and a gift of handsome Euro-style notecards.  Your order will be shipped, as soon as we are in receipt of our shipment.

Just click on Paris Book here or on the menu above.  Thanks again for your enthusiastic support and acceptance!  And for those who did not read my announcement, see below.

Fait!   Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris. My book is finished, and this child of my heart is a thing of beauty. Really. Filled with enchanting images in vivid color, The Promise… showcases the endless charms of Paris. I originally thought to go the pragmatic black-and-white route, reasoning ….cheaper, better for … for … for whom exactly, I finally asked. The truth is when you are amassing a battalion to wage war against procrastination on deciding to go or not to go to Paris; the black-and-white route is about as enticing to the hungry target as a grey worm over a healthy, plump shrimp!

I have wrung my hands and pounded my psyche with questions. Do you think you are Frommer or Rick Steves? No. I do not. Oh, so you think you’re Robert Doisneau? No, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t taken some amazing photos in Paris. Neither one book nor one photo tells the story of Paris, least of all mine. The Promise of Paris is an accolade and an invitation to join the ranks of those who have been fortunate enough, and often daring enough, to walk along the cobblestones by the River Seine.

I hope you will love it as I do. I hope you will embrace the passion I barely conveyed. And the labor, labor of love that drove the entire book. But how can I speak of labor on finishing this book with all of my faculties (well most of them) and in good health with a sleek computer, high-speed internet and efficient printer to aid my cause?

I need only think of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s completion of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to understand that I know nothing, nothing of work. The victim of locked-in syndrome following a stroke, he wrote the entire book by moving his left eyelid in response to an alphabet arranged according to the frequency of use of the letters.

And I know anything of work?

With the hope that I have created an empty space that can only be filled with my book, I will keep you posted on availability.  You may purchase today through e-store … or pre-order through the “Paris Book” on the above menu.

À bientôt …
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Being “Present” in Paris

Paris France Seine

Always wonderful sights along the Seine

Perhaps not everyone would agree; but when I am in France, I leave my “nit-picky complainer” at home.  Oh, I don’t mean I am stoic about aching feet or the sudden, claustrophobic heat of the Metro.  No, I just don’t notice little things that might annoy me at home, because the Parisian feast before me is so appealing!

A scene at an outdoor table on Place Contrescarpe in the Latin Quarter brought that whole thought process to mind.  With my journal ever ready, I was enjoying an early morning chocolat chaud and croissant at Delma’s.  My observations readily made their way into my journal.

“Two Americans are sitting next to me with a breakfast spread that challenges the tiny table – juice, coffee, eggs, croissants, tiny toast sticks, salt, pepper, jam and butter.”  Given their conversation (yes, of course I eavesdropped!), I assumed they were mother and daughter, and I certainly recognized the American breakfast spread that is atypical of the French.

breakfast in Paris France

American breakfast, Paris table

“The girl is describing her roommate, the annoying habit she has of putting the hot plate on the highest power and burning everything she cooks.  ‘She eats fish sticks a lot.’  Oh my dear, I want to say.  You are in the most fantastic city in the world, enjoying – I would hope – a meal that would feed many here for an entire day; and your conversation centers on roomie’s hot plate habits?  Jaded, are you, to all of the lovely little things around you?  Did you notice that darling little girl walking with her father, covered from head to toe, her arms outstretched, as if all of the layers of clothing prevented her from lowering her arms?”

Paris musicians

Save your coins for Paris musicians!

One can only imagine that this young woman might have the privilege of going to school for a time in Paris.  And perhaps her mom is having a ‘check-up on her daughter’ visit.  In that scenario I wouldn’t imagine spill-all stories of romantic liaisons or wee-hour partying along rue de Rivoli, but I would be very disappointed in my daughter’s mundane observations.

Have you walked along the Seine at all hours and at every opportunity?  Have you smiled at the stolen kiss you saw on the steps down to the quai?  Have you stopped to enjoy the entertainer on the bridge and slipped a coin or two into his case?  Have you been a little confused and had to guess, when ordering a ham sandwich at a bakery and being asked what type of ham?  (Not quite as simple as in the states!)  Have you washed your clothes and spread them along the heaters and from the doorways to dry without a thought of that large washer and dryer at home?  It’s a bit like camping, you know, where the conveniences and space may be less but the self-sufficiency and charm are great.

All of that rambling is to say that those little scenes erase some of the momentary irritations you have at home… and they should.  In Paris a uniquely appealing universe greets you at every corner.  Choose to embrace all of those experiences and let the little stuff slide!

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Overcome French Language Issues!

Lyon and Le mont dor france

Friendly pharmacists in France!

My French vocabulary is decent.  My verb conjugation, however, leaves something to be desired and makes me wonder if I sound:  a) like a charming American making her best effort or b) like an illiterate bumpkin whose courageous effort falls way short of the goal.   For those of you whose language skills may deter you from venturing into the French countryside, I say, “So what?  Go!”

Naturally, I have a couple of interesting stories to accompany those statements.  In early August, after roaming around the West and South regions of France, we parked ourselves in Lyon for a couple of nights.  Over the previous few days, my husband had developed a ring-looking rash on his inner thigh.  I thought it looked like old-fashioned ringworm – we had, after all, been in the fields, farms and general countryside.  And it seemed to be spreading.

Hmmm.  We need advice.  Hmmm.  This situation calls for more than everyday French.  We walked to a nearby pharmacy, where I tried to explain this “cercle, rouge….oui, ici”, and I pointed to the site of the problem.   Too difficult, this conversation.  We called our friend in Paris and had him explain the problem to the pharmacist.  “Ah.  Oui.”  The pharmacist recommended a cream, and we were on our way.

A few days later, we arrived in Le Mont Dore.  No, that town was not chosen by design but definitely by a wandering sort of journey.  The cream had not solved the problem.  We sought another pharmacist (in this much smaller town, by the way), who recommended we see the local doctor.  Bien.

Loire Valley France

Negotiating the laundry in Amboise

This rather straightforward female doctor heard.  She examined.  She conquered.  Apparently there is a kind of insect – usually descending on the countryside in August – that causes this kind of rash.  Voila!  Prescription in hand; we go back to the pharmacy, get the medicine and apply as directed.  All’s well that ends well!

Another unique situation occurred during our stay in Amboise in the Loire Valley.  We found a ‘laverie’ – a laundry center to wash our clothes and were quite proud at negotiating our way through the machine directions and coins required.

There we sat amongst a congenial group – part French-speaking, part English.  The London
bombings had just occurred, so the latter group was abuzz with that occurrence.  When we checked the washer to transfer our laundry to the dryer, the door would not open.  We tried and tried.  The washer door would not open.

Hmmm.  This is a problem.  Our clothes are held hostage.  What do we do?  After a few minutes, we finally spotted a phone number on a posted sign.  Here we go again, I thought.  Again, this is not an occasion for every day, stumbling French.

A man answered the phone.  “Bonjour,” I began.  (Good start, don’t you think?)

“Je suis Americaine et  c’est une problem avec la maquine de la laverie. »  Phew.  I think that was good enough.

“ I speak English, “ he said.  WOW (or was it whew!), I thought.

He and his wife quickly came to the laundromat, and she explained to me that sometimes ‘the wire from the bra gets into the machine’.  In the meantime, my husband was watching her husband fix the machines and saw the teetering plyers drop.  Uh oh.  Suddenly the electricity to the whole place was kaput.  Even the entry/exit door would not open, because – mais oui – it was electronically controlled.  Now WE were hostages!

Well folks, everything ended well.  Electricity on.  Clothes dry.  An adventure shared in Amboise by a bunch of strangers and a pleasant business owner.  So all of this is to say, don’t worry.  You can make it through anything, anywhere in France.  The people are jewels…and you will figure out how to communicate.

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Mary Ellen Shops Paris!

Paris discount shopping

Designer handbags at Reciproque in Paris

Mary Ellen is in Paris.  Mary Ellen loves to shop … with bargains in sight and budget in mind.  So c’mon, Mary Ellen.  Slip on comfortable shoes, load up with Euros and head over to rue de la Pompe in the 16th arrondissement.  There you will discover the largest luxury consignment shop in Paris!

Step into the Reciproque treasure sanctum to find haute couture fashion – shoes, accessories, hand bags, evening wear and costume jewelry.  All the merchandise is fresh and of high quality.

But, what about John?  He’ll find similar bargains with brand name sports and leisure wear, shoes and accessories.

I’ll meet you over in the antique/curio section – Reciproque offers 7 boutiques and well over 7,000 square feet – where paintings and Art Deco and jewelry and who-knows what will whet my appetite for French treasure hunting.  Indeed, the 16th is the fashion bargain ‘capital’ of the capital.

Paris Designers at discount prices

Gifts and home décor treasures

Catherine Max is another outlet for fashion designers and upscale home accessories, with merchandise from well-known brands as well as emerging fashionistas.  You must be a member at this shop – just 20 Euros – and security guards will check your bags and keep crowds of avid shoppers in line!

Knowing Mary Ellen’s penchant for style, she will find just the ‘je ne sais quoi’ to beguile friends on her return home.

“Just a little item I picked up in Paris,” she will respond, as they beg to know where she found that chic little jacket.

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Jazz It Up! – Caveau in Paris

Jazz in Paris France

Caveau de la Huchette, Paris

Jazz + Paris = beyond description.  Of course, you needn’t stretch one bit to imagine jazz in Paris, host to some of the world’s quintessential performers.  The City of Light has embraced Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Josephine Baker … just to scratch the proverbial surface.

And one long-running jazz club remains to this day along the ancient rue de la Huchette just a block from the Seine.   We met friends at Caveau de la Huchette one evening for one of our most memorable nights in Paris.  This Latin Quarter jazz club is one of the oldest with over a half century of entertainment tucked into the inner sanctum.

Through the front doors, a small bar and a few tables greet you, but the best is yet to come.  Carefully stepping down twisting, stone steps, we arrive in the musical cellar – indeed a cave that dates back well before 1551, when it was said to be the meeting place of the” Rosicrucians ” and the ” Templers ” – now that’s an exotic heritage and one that seems to seep around you, as you step into this ‘temple of Jazz’.

Paris Jazz

Enjoy jazz in an ancient cave of Paris

The bohemian atmosphere cannot help but transport you to earlier eras – when the first jazz in Paris arrived at the caveau, where G.I.’s introduced swing and be-bop, and the music to this day engenders lively dancing and nights of fun.  During our inspired evening, one song sticks in the mind – Youssou N’Dour’s passionate “Seven Seconds”.  Obviously this is a venue that finds exceptional performers dropping in during the wee small hours.  As the band performed the song, a young man joined the singer on stage to mesmerize everyone in the audience.  On and on they harmonized, absorbing every nuance of passion in the song, bouncing off one another as musicians are inclined to do – simply incredible!

When we left, we expected the city to be in quiet mode, but Place Saint-Michel was alive with diners and revelers well beyond two a.m.  We did manage that evening to roll up the sidewalks of the City of Light, no doubt inspired by the magic we had enjoyed.  This was one occasion that awareness of taxis … or the lack thereof … might have been handy.  Can’t complain, though, because we walked through the streets of Paris for over an hour enjoying the pools of light on old cobblestone lanes and the more hushed atmosphere of neighborhoods tucked well away from Saint-Michel.

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Jewelry Artisans from Paris to Provence

Marie’s workshop in Auriol

In a world driven by assembly-line production, we discover creativity from the country, where céramiste Marie Pastorelli delivers the style of Paris with the colors of Provence.  Marie is as warm and authentic as the extraordinary ceramic jewelry she creates.

She is an independent artisan who lives and works in the small Provencal commune of Auriol, France, near Nimes.  (In the “breaking news” department, Marie just wrote to tell us she is now living in Nimes.)  In the middle of her career, Marie purchased a home, where she added a new atelier (studio) on site – a place to blend everyday life with her inspired work.  Her ceramic designs are dynamic, elegant and colorful, a stunning mix of vibrant enamels and precious metals.

Marie’s contemporary designs

Marie began her career as a ceramist in 1992, after studying fine arts at the Art School of Digne les Bains, France.  Each of her individual creations and matching sets of jewelry blends sculptural beauty and organic fusions of color.  In addition to participating in international trade fairs, Marie offers her work through select retailers and at the Atelier d’Arts boutique in Paris.

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Changing Patterns – May in France

May holidays in France

Parks, the Seine – all wonderful in Paris in May

Tomorrow, France kicks off the lively, if out of sync, month of May with Fête du travail (Labor Day). Passionate demonstrations and parades, often organized by trade groups or agenda-driven folks, may thwart your movements with the closure of streets and interrupted transportation. Tourists might do well to plan ahead, as they discover the closure of many businesses, restaurants, markets and offices.   One cultural pleasantry, though, is the sale of little nosegays of lilies of the valley (muguets), a tradition that finds adults and children alike offering the flowers along the streets. The gift of muguets bestows your wish for happiness and good fortune with the arrival of spring.

Labor Day merely marks the beginning of a month full of holidays, celebrations and off-kilter rhythm for Paris and the rest of the country. Four official holidays in May tend to rock the normal ebb and flow of life, and residents often take to the parks and further afield to second homes for extended weekends. The next holiday is May 8 – an important day of remembrance – Fête de la Victoire (Victory in Europe Day). Marking the date of Germany’s unconditional surrender and the end of World War II in Europe, this day is equally solemn and celebratory … so, so many losses and such joy at rediscovered freedom.

Holiday in France

Fountains in the sun

The last two public holidays are associated with religious celebrations – May 17, Ascension Day – “le jeudi de l’Ascension” – and May 28, Pentecost. Despite the separation of church and state enacted in 1905, these traditional Catholic holidays remain. Marking the Ascension of Christ 40 days following His death, the day combines religious celebrations and a traditional feast of spring foods from young lamb, asparagus and avocados to mushroom soups, citrus and apricots. Sounds refreshing and delightful, doesn’t it? And speaking of food, one French saying for l ’Ascension is: “On mange groseilles et mouton.” (On the Ascension, we eat gooseberry and mutton.)

Finally, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte) round out the holiday festivities and formal respites (Monday also is a national holiday). All told, the May holidays foretell the special weather to come, the seasons of growth and harvest, the summer holidays and all good things that follow the winter.

Tourists might expect museum and bank closures and changes to the ‘normal schedule’, but you also may celebrate the delightful weather and sense of wellbeing the French are happy to welcome. Walk by the river, gather your muguets, enjoy the evenings and find your little place in one of the parks – tout merveilleux!

And by the way, one last day to celebrate is Mother’s Day, the last Sunday in May. That’s the time mothers are revered, pampered, gifted and adored with poems and flowers. Parfait!

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Art Deco Capital – Reims

la villa douceReims – the foremost city of the Champagne-Ardenne region. The coronation city of the kings of France – from Louis VIII to Charles X, 25 kings were crowned in Reims. Of the large towns of France, the one that suffered the greatest amount of destruction in World War I – fully 80% of the historic city was destroyed in German bombings. Yet, that devastating blow defined a new Reims, as intense reconstruction transformed the city into a laboratory of French architecture and, ultimately, the Art Deco capital it is today.

During this period between the two ‘great’ wars, Art Deco followed on the heels of the heavily ornamental Art Nouveau style, replacing that enthusiastic decorative art period with more of a purist geometric style. No, folks, I am neither an art nor architecture historian, so I won’t attempt to define all of the characteristics Art Deco represents. A few elements, though, include semi-circular openings, elongated octagons – an abundance of angular, symmetrical geometric forms in window framing, roof lines, elegant facades and ironwork.

Reims delights us with several major buildings of the 1920’s, from the Carnegie library and Saint-Nicaise Church to Villa Douce – the hotel particulier that is now home to the President of the University of Reims and frequent site of musical concerts. This Villa, built in 1929 by André Douce, was manufactured from reinforced concrete and red brick and includes an immense and quite stunning staircase with steel hand railings.

France Champagne Country

Art Deco in Reims

Partially funded by Americans, the reconstruction of the entire city emphasized a geometric plan with broad boulevards that would accommodate the anticipated popularity of the automobile. Art Deco architecture spreads through the city showcasing stained-glass windows, exceptional wrought ironwork, canted angles, Ionic capitals and ceramics.

Beyond the Villa Douce, one of the most remarkable buildings is the Waïda bakery and tearoom adorned with bright mosaics, elegant burr wood paneling and inlaid pictures of meal times and dishes. Perhaps you might top off your afternoon with a glass of wine at the renowned Café du Palais, under the protection of a glass roof designed by Jacques Simon.

Now a mere 45 minutes from Paris by the TGV Est, art, history and champagne enthusiasts will enjoy all of Reims; and Art Deco aficionados will appreciate the architectural tour now offered by the Office of Tourism.

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Toasting Châlons-en-Champagne

France Champagne country

Châlons-en-Champagne – Notre Dame en Vaux Church

Champagne country.  I think of Shirley Valentine, one of my all-time favorite films and characters.  Shirley was talking to the wall, you see.  I think all of us can imagine a moment or two, when we felt the wall might listen better than people.

“Do you know what I’d like to do, Wall? I’d like to drink a glass of wine in the country where the grape was grown. Sitting by the sea, just sipping wine and watching the sun go down.” — Shirley Valentine

Now that’s a girl after my own heart … yet, I shall one-up Shirley.  I’d like to drink a glass of champagne by a river in France, and I know just the place to enjoy that moment.   During our planned trip to Champagne country, Châlons-en-Champagne definitely makes the itinerary.  Referred to as “Little Venice” and sometimes, perhaps more fittingly as “Sparkling Venice”, the lovely small city enjoys an interweaving of canals and rivers – the Marne, Nau and Mau.

As the capital of the Marne department and the Champagne-Ardenne region in northeast France, Châlons-en-Champagne embraces renowned architecture – including the remarkable The Notre-Dame-en-Vaux Church – half-timbered houses, lovely gardens and one of the oldest museums of France.  Combine the city’s religious and historic heritage with the natural riverfront benefits, and you have a city well worth toasting!

Jos. Perrier Champagne

Renowned champagne houses of the region

The Romanesque and Gothic Notre Dame church is a UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compestela.  As well the church enjoys pride of ownership of a 56-bell carillon, one of Europe’s largest.

Now, turning back to my original Shirley thought, the city also is home to the prestigious Joseph Perrier Champagne House.  “Perrier, Madame?  Mais oui!”  Overlooking the Marne River, the Perrier vineyards naturally include the three traditional champagne grapes – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay – and, hopefully, a little spot along the river for a genuinely pleasurable taste of this classic champagne.

If not, no problem.  We’ll find a shady spot, where the river and bubbly can flow together.  Along the way, we might also take one of the barge excursions on the Mau and Nau Rivers that follow silent tunnels under the heart of Châlons.  We also will escape to the Jards, as the local gardens dating back to the 16th century are called.    The large, small and English Jards spread across raised walkways to keep the Marne at bay.  Interestingly, the horrid storm of December 1999 that decimated many of the oldest trees of France uprooted many of the city’s trees.  Over a five-year period, the city restored trees and shrubs to those garden areas.

In spite of Châlons-en-Champagne’s Capital status, the city really is small by comparison to Reims.  We plan to move along for a stay there or in Epernay, as we enjoy more champagne … and talk to more walls!  Le joie de vivre!

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Annecy: Magnificent Alpine City

Lake Annecy, France

View of Lake Annecy from the “Champs de Mars”

Annecy is simply breathtaking.  We snaked our way down a curving road to crystal-clear Lake Annecy set against a spectacular backdrop of Alpine peaks.

Once in the city, we looked over the lake from the shade of centuries-old trees in the “Champ de Mars” – a cool and inviting lakefront park and gathering place for residents and visitors.  The second largest lake in France … and the cleanest in Europe … Lake Annecy has been fed by small mountain rivers through the past 18,000 years.  With many restrictions and regulations, they are devoted to keeping it that way!

The turquoise lake spreads over 14 miles below the Tournette Mountain soaring in the background.  Boats dot the lake; tiny birds practice their diving skills, and lazy swans entertain visitors along the canals that lead to the lake.

The scene is one that begs you to simply sit for a while and watch the sailors and swimmers and folks lazing under the trees on a warm summer day.

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Fascinating Secrets of Lyon

Lyon France traboules

Vieux Lyon riverfront – Atout France/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

A silk scarf and a bottle of wine. What could they have in common?

We look to the traboules of Lyon for their shared history, where these ‘hidden’ passageways are noble tributes to the resilience of mankind. Through the centuries, in fact, the traboules have served many purposes from passageways for water transport, silk workers, World War II resistance members and tourists. Though the historic traboules might warrant a full-length book, today we’ll focus on the silk workers.

Dating as far back as the 4th century, the traboules of Lyon originally helped move water from the banks of the river Saône to the residents of Veille Lyon. Chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, this Renaissance district of Old Lyon developed primarily through the 15th and 16th centuries and included a maze of narrow alleys and remarkable courtyards. Over time the traboules continue to symbolize a virtual labyrinth of history and protection from the elements. Even today in-the-know residents may easily avoid crowds and inclement weather by winding through the passageways of Vieux Lyon and the Croix-Rousse districts.

historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

Let’s slip to the 18th century, when textiles – particularly silk – had begun to define Lyon’s industrial profile. Known as canuts, the nearly 30,000 silk weavers lived in the working-class areas of Croix-Rousse; where the huge Jacquard looms were located. The traboules, then, became fast, protected passageways for delivering bolts of silk to the city markets on Presqu’île peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers.

The hard economic times of late 1831 and the swing of silk prices from merchant to merchant prompted one of Europe’s first uprisings of the Industrial revolution. The outcry of oppressed silk workers resulted in the canut revolts in Lyon, when workers wanted fixed piecework tariffs. When negotiations failed and many of the large manufacturers refused the fixed rates, the workers amassed in the traboules and worked their way to the city center. Initially they gained a bloody victory, but King Louis-Philippe soon dispatched his 20,000-strong army to retake Lyon.

The seeds had been sown, and three years later salary cuts provoked a second insurrection – also defeated. In 1848 a third uprising arose over despicable working conditions. Authorities, though, crossed the ultimate line with their determination and actions to cut alcohol consumption among workers. They dictated that a carafe of wine would contain less wine at the same price. Imagine! This definitely was not in keeping with the ideals of the French Revolution!

In one of Lyon’s most famous and complex traboule courtyards – the Cour des Voraces – the incensed workers gathered to rightfully claim the full-size of their wine carafes. Now we return to your glass of wine and silk scarf … had you any idea! Imagine further how well the secret passageways served the Resistance fighters of World War II. For another day, that story easily rivals the plight of the silk workers.

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French-Style Easter Celebrations

Oops! Little chocolate mice are eating the eggs in this window display

Mais oui!  The French have been preparing for Easter.  Chocolate chickens, eggs, bells and fish – yes fish – have long adorned window displays.  Today, children wake to look for lovely decorated eggs placed in the nests they prepared in their gardens.

Only Alsace incorporates Easter bunnies into their celebrations; other regions include bells and fish, the latter called “’Poisson d’Avri” (April Fish).  The fish appears on April Fool’s Day, when children stick a paper fish on every adult possible.  To cap the day, families will gather for a feast of traditional lamb stew.  One memorable sight – large chocolate roosters – sure to please those little ones (not to mention grown-ups with a passion for chocolate).

May everyone celebrating Easter and Passover enjoy the peace and renewal of the season and an especially joyous gathering with loved ones.



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“Bucket List” Lodging – Champagne Region

Les Crayeres

The stunning former Pommery mansion

Instead of “R&D”, I engage in considerable “Research & Planning“, when developing our travel plans – feeds my curiosity and whets my appetite for discovering the area under study.  Previously, I noted transportation options in mapping out a weekend getaway from Paris with our friends.  Destination:  Champagne country.  This magnificent land of gentle hills and soft Champagne bubbles delivers a delightful balance of history, stunning architecture, lively tasting rooms and sprawling landscapes.

Where to stay uncovers myriad choices accompanied by tough decisions.  I tend toward moderate pricing – neither too basic nor too grand – that allows for lots of pleasant dining and de rigeur shopping.  The lodging selections in the Champagne region range from lifetime-memory-bucket-list estates and Relais & Chateaux luxury properties to mid-range hotels and vacation rental or B&B options.  One of my mantras – you can’t , make good decisions without all the information needed, so let’s take a quick look at the high-end possibilities and follow in a later posting with the moderate selections.

Epernay champagne region

La Briqueterie’s tranquil setting outside Epernay

With several villages and cities from which to choose, I think the most appealing and appropriate accommodations may be the deciding factor in determining our ‘home base’ for the weekend.  Two stellar properties, naturally with Michelin-starred fine dining, lead the bucket-list options: Les Crayères,  the former Pommery family mansion turned boutique hotel in Reims, and La Briqueterie, also a 5-star luxury property in the countryside on the outskirts of Epernay.

Champagne Ardennes region of France

Fine dining at Les Crayeres

The former sits directly across the street from the Pommery champagne house and offers a stunning selection of 20 rooms in a tranquil garden setting.  One package for two people offered by Les Crayères includes accommodation for 1 night, continental breakfast and dinner for 2 in their gourmet Le Parc or Brasserie Le Jarden restaurants for 400 to 500 Euros.

La Briqueterie, located just outside the smaller Epernay town, presents 40, individually-decorated rooms ranging from 25 to 60 m², with rates from 210 to 480 Euros.  Both properties exude elegance and would live up to any discerning guest’s expectations.

If this is indeed your dream weekend, simply imagine strolling in the vast Pommery gardens or in the peaceful La Briqueterie setting in the heart of the Champagne vineyards.  Could life be better, one must wonder!

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Planning Your Champagne Tour

Champagne region of France

Verzenay mill in the Champagne vineyards – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

One side trip scheme for our next adventure in France involves a long weekend jaunt from Paris to Champagne country with our good friends.  Working on that one escapade entails a rather sizeable amount of research and, possibly, makes me realize why some still choose travel agents in planning their trips.  Certainly an experienced agent offers a real value for those who haven’t the time or inclination to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

I fall into a different category, though, because the anticipation, research and even some of the angst become part of my overall experience.   So many choices, so much delight!

Taking the train eastward is a given, and Rail Europe – the perfect partner.  Assuming the plan remains simple; I find the 1 hour-fifteen-minute trip runs $56 – $84 round trip.  For such a short journey, I would choose the less expensive economy rate.  I can live without first-class comfort for a little over an hour!

Right away this process leads me to think about other possible train trips during our 3-week stay.  A week in Provence, perhaps?  That could mean a TGV ticket to Avignon.  A day trip to Chartres?   A weekend in Bruges?  Oh the many choices one has, when planning a trip!  The real point here is comprehensive research and planning, because multi-day and even multi-country passes purchased in advance of your trip offer considerable savings.

Troyes, Epernay, Reims France

The St Jean district in Troyes – shaped like a champagne cork, when seen from the air – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

Back to our original plan, we might well want to rent a car to explore the Champagne region with our friends, taking in not only Epernay but Reims and Troyes, as well.  The area offers spectacular scenery, interesting Champagne tours and lots of riverside views for a picnic stop.  Euro Railways offers a combo program – France Rail’n Drive – but it really pays to compare.   For example, they offer a 2-day car rental and 2-day first class train tickets at $333 per person for a compact car.  Included are:   2 days of limitless train trips, unlimited mileage and basic liability, four categories of car and pick-up, drop-off in different cities inside the country where you rent the car.  You also have 30 days to complete your trip.

Let’s look at our original train ticket – $56 per person round trip between Paris and Epernay.  Add two days of car rental – a 4-door Peugeot, for example – would run $99 with liability coverage…  and that’s not per person.   Overall, then, the same 2-day rail and 2-day car trip would cost $56/person for rail and $25/person (sharing the cost) for the car rental.  No, please don’t hold me either to the rates nor the math (!), but clearly the trip for four to travel to Epernay, explore the region for two days via rental car and return by train to Paris would cost no more than $110/person for first class.

Two main points to take away from this mini-planning ‘epistle’:  look at your whole trip to see if multiple train treks might be part of your itinerary and research train and car options to get the best price with the greatest latitude.  While you’re at it, enjoy the whole trip preparation process!

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Cruising to Le Havre

Menus from the S.S. Leviathan

Today, let’s indulge in a bit of nostalgia, harkening back to days that required taking a ship when traveling to France.  It’s a bit of a personal story, and the photos don’t reflect the beauty of France … but highlighting this bygone era stimulates the imagination.

The lovely, etched menus to the left are from the S.S. Leviathan, more precisely from a crossing of the Atlantic from New York to France in May of 1932.  The privileged passenger was my father (though he was not yet my father then), who was en route to join his parents in France.

At that time (and for a total of seven years), my grandfather led the charge to open European markets for  Hobart Manufacturing products (a la commercial kitchen machines and Kitchen Aid).  Presumably my father was to study at the Sorbonne; but from the stories I’ve heard, he more likely set out to emulate the lifestyles of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

The menus themselves are interesting, shedding light on days of luxurious cruising during a time, when that was the only choice for travel between America and Europe.  Each is printed on nice stock with sophisticated etchings of Brussels, Berlin and beyond imprinted on the covers.

On the inside left of the menu, a “Vegetable Dinner” is offered to those with special dietary needs;  and to the right is the more expansive Dinner menu.  I find the extravagant and extensive offerings quite interesting.

Hors D’Œuvres ranged from Celery en Branche to Beluga Caviar Glace.  Soups – Consomme Belle-Fermière, Crème Clementine and cold consommé Madrilene in Cup (Cold).  Choices for fish, entrees and roasts ranged from Filet of Turbot, Souchette and Crêpinettes de Foie-Gras Princesse to Braised Long Island Duckling Normande and Baked Wiltshire Ham with Champagne Sauce.

On and on the menu goes to list offerings from the grill, vegetables and salads (Lyonnnaise and Steamed Patna Rice anyone?) and the crowning dessert jewels.  Of the many delicacies on that list, I might have chosen Savarin aux Fraises … or Parfait St. Marlin and Biscuit Glacé.

Arriving at Le Havre, France, 16 June 1934, taken by a “New York Times” Paris Bureau photographer.

Finally, on the back of the menu, the Musical Program noted works of Brosch, Ganne’s Violin and Cello Duo, a Strauss waltz and Heber’s “Bachinage”.  Quite the sailing adventure, I would imagine.  I remember seeing my father’s yellow leather steamer trunk and so wish I had understood then how nice it would have been to preserve that treasure.  Such is hindsight!

The Leviathan’s history is equally interesting, a German ship – originally S.S. Vaterland – that became the world’s largest ship, when completed in 1914.  But alas, after only a few trips, the ship arrived at New York just as World War I broke out.  Unable to safely return through British-dominated seas, the ship stayed immobile in a New Jersey terminal; until the U.S. entered the war, seized and refitted the ship for the U.S. Navy.

Several years later, in April of 1922, the S.S. Leviathan became the “queen” of our merchant fleet, refitted to serve American tastes and set into trans-Atlantic service.  Unfortunate, isn’t it, that we live in such a hurried world today that neither time nor financial constraints make this mode of travel the viable option of yesteryear.

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French Markets – Food, Culture, Artisans

Saint-Raphael Market, France

Scented artisan soaps at the Saint-Raphael marché

The marchés of France deliver far more than fresh farm vegetables and wedges of cheese.  From   neighborhood markets of the cities to weekly village markets across the land; the traditional open-air marché offers a mix of culture, artisan ingenuity, local specialties and the abundant yield of the land.

These markets did not evolve as a quaint lure for tourists.  They have been a tradition since the Middle Ages, offering a delightful bounty of farm-to-table produce, artisan sausages and breads, aged cheeses, flowers and scented soaps.

Half the fun of marché shopping involves mixing with locals to discover many of the delicacies they cherish.  Each market differs with one serving up savory pork and chicken a la rotisserie, while another includes local crafts, bric-à-brac and regional wines.

Naturally, cities have larger markets held more frequently than those in smaller towns and villages.  You need only look on city and village websites to discover where and when markets are held.

For example, Saint Raphael on the Mediterranean has a food-plus market on Place de la République and Place Victor Hugo, in the old town, every morning except Monday.  We found some exquisitely-scented soaps, vibrant Provençal baskets and even Italian knits in the market along the Mediterranean.

The Amboise market bordering the Loire River teems with handcrafted trays, flowers galore and wonderful, savory cheeses.  Did I forget the bread?  Plenty of that too, as well as local wine.  The aromas alone will have you stopping under a riverside tree to enjoy some of your purchases.

Provencal market in Salernes

Provencal market in Salernes

Aix-en-Provence offers exceptional choices for market shopping.  The main markets take place every day except Wednesday and Sunday.  It’s a lavish event by the Palais de Justice with fresh produce, food and flea-market items. Flower markets can be found on the Place de Verdun and Place des Prêcheurs, by the Sainte-Madeleine church, where wildly colorful flowers and sweet scents envelop you!  Just check the local tourism website to confirm dates, places and times.

Do you wonder about Paris marchés?  They are plentiful, delightful and deserve their own special praise.  To add a distinct cultural note to your French trip, plan ahead to add French market memories to your itinerary

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Limoges – City of Porcelain

Hôtel de Ville, Limoges

When we arrived in Limoges in the Limousin region of France, we certainly were familiar with the renowned name in china but had no concept of the character of the city.  I am the proud owner of my grandmother’s Haviland Limoges, that I imagine her using to entertain friends and business associates in the apartment she shared with my grandfather in Paris.  After finding a hotel and checking with the Office of Tourism, we wandered without any real purpose or destination … always a great way to discover!

We turned to the right, then left and down a path and found ourselves by the Vienne River and the grassy remains of the town ramparts.  Ultimately, we discovered the exceptionally beautiful Hôtel de Ville, a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Leclerc, also the architect of Trianon and the Palace of Versailles.

In the center of the stately façade is a clock with the image of Limoges and two figures that represent the goldsmith and enamellist.  The sight was breathtaking with a  blend of complex design and excellent craftsmanship.

Place de la Motte, Limoges

We soon discovered our favorite spot at the whimsical though historic Place de la Motte.  By the expansive Les Halles central market, we lunched beneath a canopy of canvas umbrellas.  The remarkable “trompe l’oeil” paintings across from us transformed buildings with flat, expressionless lines.  Under the artist’s brush, the buildings came to life, wholly transformed with windows and shutters and alcoves that simply did not exist – as intriguing as it was entertaining.  Naturally, we had to return that evening for dessert and coffee!

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At Rest in Père Lachaise

Charlotte in eternal rest by her brother

Yesterday our Parisian friends buried a cherished family member among the narrow lanes of Père Lachaise. Several years ago, I visited the cemetery for the first time.  Cobbled lanes and lovely  statues, delicate wrought iron and towering trees were lasting impressions.

This lovely lady caught my eye, so serene and at peace she seemed in her eternal rest. She died in 1905, and her name was Charlotte Amélie Hermine of the Lardin de Musset family, the sister of Alfred de Musset.  I would learn later that her brother was a famous, or in some circles infamous, French poet and writer.  Charlotte Amélie became the eternal neighbor of her brother, tucked behind his tomb in Paris.

Today I remember the 8th anniversary of the death of a treasured friend.  Her son and daughter and a ‘world of friends’ remain behind to spread her cheer, her gentle spirit and the love of life that set her aglow.

I hope you take this one day … and many others … to feel grateful for your life,  your friends and family.  Say one kind word to that testy cashier or waitress or attendant, and you will spread some sunlight in his or her life.

Wishing you a wonderful Wednesday!

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The Mystique of Vieux Lyon

Wandering through passageways in Vieux Lyon

As newcomers to this fabulous city, we were fortunate to make an acquaintance with a native, who knew every twist and turn in Vieux Lyon.  Our new friend guided us through his turf, introducing us to exceptional bistros, boutiques and secret little passageways in the old city.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is steeped in history with centuries-old ties to Rome. The Old Town area of Saint-Jean and the Croix-Rousse area offer stunning examples of Renaissance and Roman architecture.

Throughout Vieux Lyon, fascinating traboules – secret passages – thread their way between houses and tiny streets, passages that were once a salvation for silk merchants en route to work and, more famously, a protective route for resistance members to elude German soldiers. Lyon was so important to the resistance movement, that General Charles DeGaulle in 1944 declared Lyon the “Capital of the Resistance.”

We walk along and suddenly, our friend pushes through an ordinary door.  With our guide, we find our way from “here to there” along passages we would never have known existed. They open on to large courtyards and dimly-lit halls, around corners and across cobblestones.  They are quiet, holding perhaps only the silent whispers of those who walked their corridors in the past.  And that was just one fascinating discovery in one of France’s most enchanting cities.


historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

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The Restored Musée Rodin – Paris

Musée Rodin Paris

The exquisite gardens of the Musée Rodin

If you owned a Cézanne or Van Gogh painting, you would want to display your treasure in the best possible light. The same would hold true of an appealing, historic work of sculpture.

Thus, when we last visited the Musée Rodin in Paris, we were concerned to see patched parquet floors and woodwork falling into disrepair. Mind you those blemishes did not detract from the magnificent works and serene gardens!

Fortunately the foresight and funding came together to restore the enchanting 18th-century Hôtel Biron that is home to the Musée Rodin in Paris. For the past three years, work on Rodin’s museography and his elegant home has restored and improved the magnificent museum. Unlike the Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay, this home to the astounding Rodin collection provides an intimate setting and charming gardens right in the center of Paris. Astounding, isn’t it that such a tranquil homestead and greenspace could be a stone’s throw from Les Invalides in the bustling 7th arrondissement?

Rodin Museum in Paris

18th-century Hôtel Biron

As the museum ‘wears a new coat’ and conforms to contemporary security and accessibility norms, displays still include The Kiss, The Age of Bronze, the bronze monuments in the garden – The Gates of Hell; the renowned Thinker and the Monument to Balzac. That roster merely scratches the surface of one of the finest museums of Paris.

The exhibition Rodin: the Laboratory of Creation will allow visitors into the mystique of the sculptor’s studio. Never exhibited works will be included among some 150 plaster and terracotta pieces taken from the storeroom for this special exhibit. The creative presentation will draw visitors into the before, will be taken from the storeroom for this special event. These pieces illustrate the advance of the sculptor’s extraordinary career. Visitors will be drawn into the core of the creative process, offering the viewpoint of Rodin’s formal thinking and the creative paths he followed.

The Thinker, Eve, Gates of Hell

A bite to eat in the shadow of “The Thinker”?

Through the process, facial expressions emerge, clothes drape perfectly-formed nudes, positions adapted – the artist continues to apply his imagination to produce the final masterpiece. The exhibit will include photographs taken in Rodin’s studios to highlight the evolutionary process of sculpting.

We can’t wait to re-visit the museum, though memories of past visits are exceptional. The spirit of Rodin seems to descend on you, as you view his works in the intimate rooms and step into a garden of magnificent bronzes. As one would expect, The Thinker looms as large in memory as it did in reality; but one of my favorite garden sculptures was Eve, head dipped in shame and stunningly beautiful.

Over lunch in the garden café, we felt that hushed respect for the combination of history and art the museum presents. We highly recommend placing the Musée Rodin at the top of your Parisian itinerary!

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Exotic Le China in Paris

Paris Le China Club

The exotic, old Shanghai feel of Le China Club

Tomorrow the Chinese will launch this “Year of the Sheep” New Year’s celebration, the zenith of cultural lore and festivities. I am not steeped in Chinese culture; but my thoughts readily propel me back to a movie-setting moment of immersion in Paris, when the Asian mystique surrounded me.

I was visiting my dearest friend in Paris, who was doing her very best to dip me into every corner of her lovely, adopted home. One evening, we headed out along the captivating streets of the city to visit a wine bar and, as always, stroll along broad avenues and small lanes for a simple evening of enjoyment and discovery.

To digress a moment, some like careful plans and all things familiar. I appreciate both, relishing those things that ‘spell home’ … but what is that over there? I always welcome the appeal of new, different, unknown. I was not to be disappointed this fine evening!

In a pleasant albeit costly routine, we often cap off our evenings with a nightcap in one or another charming little place. This particular night, while heading back to the Latin Quarter from the Bastille area, she declared we must have a drink at Le China Club.

Le China, Paris

Singapore Sling anyone?

We entered an attractive building, like so many in Paris – not remarkable on the outside but instantly appealing and mysterious on the inside. Long expanses of crisp, black-and-white tile spread through the downstairs, while vivid red walls and subtle lighting set a distinct air of an old speakeasy club of Far East persuasion. I could well imagine Bogart and Boyer tipping back at the handsome bar.

As attractive as this first floor seemed, the real treat was up the stairs to Le China Club bar. We entered a candle-lit room of soft, shiny leather sofas and black lacquer, deep red velvet, colonial wood shutters and backlit whiskey bottles.

Some say the décor indeed recalls Shanghai of the 1930s – not my personal frame of reference, but I’ve seen enough opium-den movie settings to imagine all sorts of things. In fact, that Shanghai was known as the “Paris of the Orient,” where expats and city elites enjoyed a broad range of vices.

The overall atmosphere was refined and elegant, a place where discreet mischief might take place – or even be requested, quietly, of one’s attendant.  I hastily add, that is all my own imagination. I actually can’t recall another customer, save the two of us enjoying a nightcap near Bastille.

I would not have been surprised, though, if Faye Dunaway had glided into the room in a simple satin gown …brandishing a cigarette holder, of course, and laughing in hushed amusement.

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The Vieille Bourse of Lille

Lille France Historic Sights

The Old Stock Exchange of Lille

I love the irony of memories that stick like fresh, white bread that bonds itself to the roof of your mouth.  Perhaps, that’s not quite the romantic image one would attach to prized memories, but it seems to be the nature of those little moments that somehow edge out the more grandiose, well-planned adventures.

And so it was, when we arrived in Lille at the end of France meanderings to turn in our car and escape for three days of train travel to Bruges, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.  Somehow we managed to find a parking space close to the bustling city center of Place du Général de Gaulle.  For a moment we thought we should take an umbrella, as we set out in search of the Tourism Office.

“No.  No need.”  You know how that goes.

Fifty feet into our trek, the rain started; so we ducked into a place my husband already knew quite well – the Vieille Bourse, the old stock exchange.  I was instantly enthralled with this courtyard protected by buildings dating to the mid-17th century.

In 1653, Julien Destrée accepted the challenge to build a stock exchange that not only would contend with that of any great city but would offer protection to the ever-ill Lillois bankers and merchants. Prior to the new stock exchange, trading took place – rain or shine – in open air at the Fontaine-au-Change.

Lille Fr history

Chess players beneath the arches of the inner courtyard in Lille – © Atout France/Pierre Torset

Finally fed up with constant illness, they sought the sympathy of the Magistrate.  Thanks to his efforts and the go-ahead from Philip IV, King of Spain, this gorgeous quadrangle of 24 ornately decorated, identical houses was built around an interior courtyard.

So the precise spot, where we entered the courtyard through one of four arches, was where trading took place.While I always appreciate the historic background of interesting places, I was immediately taken with the hushed life that now absorbs the courtyard and surrounding loges.  Residents and visitors mill about a small number of second-hand book stalls and florists, quietly picking their way through the offerings.

But the real attraction is the chess players.  We’ve seen them by the Seine and Eiffel Tower.  We even have been stopped by a pair of German men looking for a chess game in Paris.  Here, they say, any passer-by or tourist is welcome to play, but beware.  The current champion is one of the booksellers and no doubt has plenty of practice.

Lille France History

Lille’s Vieille Bourse

Unfortunately the rain and preparations for our whirlwind train trip prevented our seeing a great deal of Lille, so I am delighted this one spot stands clearly in my memory.  We’ll simply have to return again, so my husband can offer me the grand tour.



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Celebrate the Lemon in Menton!

Menton Lemon Festival

A tip of the lemon ….

Perhaps you are among the quarter million people packing bags for Menton, but that’s how many they are expecting for their fabulous Lemon Festival.  Akin to the Rose Bowl celebrations with plentiful floral floats, Menton’s unique extravaganza features citrus.

From mid February to early March, float builders and designers will build a host of fabulous constructions requiring 145 tons of citrus. The Sunday Corsos des Fruits d’Or (Procession of Golden Fruit Floats) is a definite highlight of the popular events, when the parade winds along the Promenade du Soleil, entertaining attendees with gorgeous floats and lively music.

The Palais de l’Europe next to the Biovès Gardens showcases a variety of exhibitions from a special Orchid Festival to an Artisan Fair that presents regional products inspired by the infamous Menton lemon – soaps, liqueurs, perfumes and more. In addition to nightly promenades and fireworks, you can take in the largest collection of citrus in Europe at the gardens of the Palais Carnolès. Apparently the enormous spread of grapefruit, clementine, kumquat and orange trees will make your local grocery display seem inconsequential!

Menton France Cote d'Azur

Nightly parades entertain

On what may seem entirely off the subject, family members recently spent nearly $100 to attend our local science center – awfully pricey for an adventure that encourages interest in the world about us. By contrast, tickets to the extravagant parades in one of the most beautiful cities in the world range in price from 8 to 17 Euros. Of course, I will ignore the fact that airline tickets, lodging and food would add substantially to those prices!

If you are one of the lucky folks to be planning a trip to the annual festival, share some photos with us. Menton in February and early March must be nothing less than delightful!

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Ooh Lah – Fashion in Paris

Paris chapeau maker

Le Grain de Sable, Paris

First, the scarf – the accessory de rigueur in Paris and preferably a gorgeous one from my favorite – Anne Touraine!  That settled, we move on to shoes, boots. Hats, gloves. Black, white. No one element, no one word captures the essence of French style. Walking along the Champs-Élysées, we saw the perfectly outfitted Madame, blue knit suit anchored with elegant black shoes and ever-so-tiny bows at the heel.

Chapeaus – hats – are another feminine device to pique your interest and attention. Cocked at just the right angle. Embellished with a touch of black lace. Overly festooned, perhaps, for the grand social occasion. Across from our favorite Salon de Thé on Île Saint-Louis, there is a tiny boutique we often visit. Le Grain de Sable (The Grain of Sand) specializes in custom chapeaus and offers a few accessories – sweater sets, jewelry, an elegant clutch or scarf.

Ile Saint Louis boutique, Paris

Winter – fall chapeaus

The proprietor always has a hat project at hand with interesting pieces of fabric and decorative ribbons and trims to try this way and that to create the current masterpiece – summer hats for the beach or a bejeweled velvet creation for a night at the opera. Each hat is entirely unique – classic, original and possibly with even a touch of humor!

As you might imagine, each time we have purchased a gift, the proprietress simply but elegantly wraps our purchase and accents it with a delicate, lacy leaf or other such ornament –a petite stylish signature of quite a pleasant shop.  The owner, Evelyne Barra, tells her interesting story on the boutique website – a story of independence and practiced creativity.

Best of all, though, visit her store, when in Paris. Le Grain is another small chapter that makes up the whole charming story of Paris!

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Cole Porter’s Paris Mansion

Paris France Properties

One of three lavish living areas

We would love to have an apartment in Paris, much less a home.  I guess it’s the old if you coulda’, you shoulda’.  As long as we are speaking of Paris property, it might interest you to know that Cole Porter’s private Parisian home was on the market for €40 million, give or take a centime or two. I don’t know if it sold, but one can only imagine what a delight it would be to simply tour the magnificent residence.

Within sight of Les Invalides, the decidedly spacious mansion includes 10 bedrooms and 6 baths. Formerly home to aristocrats and royalty, the residence dates to 1777 and the Comte de Provence, who later reigned as King Louis XVIII.

Cole Porter and his wife purchased the left-bank mansion in 1919.  Their legendary… and extravagant … parties were enjoyed by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald – naturally the stuff of legends and of movies like Midnight in Paris! Obviously those times inspired Porter, who wrote “Night and Day” and “Anything Goes” during his ‘tenure’ in the mansion.

Cole Porter's mansion in Paris France

Inspiration in Paris!

The Mansion

So now, what might €40 million deliver in the Parisian real estate market?  We would begin with three prominent living areas, a library, dining room, 5 dressing rooms and – bien sur – staff quarters! One simply couldn’t care for all of those rooms without help. The master suite is a home in its own right with a generous study, dressing room, large bath and gym.  From nearly every room in the mansion, you have a spectacular view of the ivy-clad, walled garden.

Even discussing such a magnificent place feels rather like pressing your nose against the glass of an untouchably high-priced fashion house. Our plebian tastes run far more to a sunny apartment on a quiet street in the Latin Quarter.  That’s a favorite daydreaming activity of mine….looking through properties for sale in Paris and in other parts of France.  Definitely a fun pastime!

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Friendly, Fascinating Antibes

Old Antibes, and the Mercantour peaks in the distance – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Angot

“I have never seen such a surprising thing as Antibes in front of the French Alps when the sun is falling.” – Guy de Maupassant, French Poet

My Parisian friend and I indulged in a whimsical  day of wandering around the country lanes of Provence on a chilly March day.  At one point during the journey, our paved road turned into a dirt track in the middle of a vineyard.  Yes, we looked at our map, though that was useless, and I said, “We’ll know where we’ve been, when we get where we’re going.”  C’est la vie, it’s a bit of fun to be lost anywhere in France.

At the end of the day, we checked into a quaint little hotel in Antibes and took to the streets of old town in search of a restaurant.  The same devil-may-care approach guided our evening.  Though it was off season in early March, several petite café’s were warmly lit and inviting.  How shall we choose?  We turned to see a couple walking behind us and decided that if they chose the café we just passed, we would do the same.

And oh sweet fate – it was the perfect choice for an entertaining evening.  We sat at a cozy little table next to a beautiful stone wall.  The other couple was just ahead of us, and to our right was a group of 6 or 7, engaged in lively conversation over dinner.  We learned they all were members of the family that owned the café and were very interested to discover an American in their midst.  It is as if we instantly were part of their family.  When their karaoke entertainment began, they called for the American to sing – Allez, allez Sahn-di!!  And so we sang and danced through the night with our new friends.

Cap d’Antibes and Old Antibes radiate charm among the many jewels along the Mediterranean; where maritime pines line streets that descend to the sea, and a charming lighthouse and 5th-century chapel –  Nôtre Dame des Amoureux – overlook the cape and the Baie de la Garoupe.

Several beaches serve sun worshippers and visitors who enjoy the scenic bayside along Le Chemin de Tirepoil.  That particular trail passes below the Villa Eilenroc at the tip of the peninsula.  Designed by the man who created the Opera Garnier in Paris, the grand villa and gardens are now owned by the city and open to the public to offer a captivating visit with beautiful murals, historic displays and sumptuous furnishings.

Eilen Roc Villa & Gardens

End your visit with a quiet moment in the rose garden and, perhaps, imagine the view through Greta Garbo’s eyes (she was one of many famous people to rent the villa).

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Thomas Jefferson’s Love of France

The lively market in Aix-en-Provence


Though I will never reside in the White House, I do have something in common with the historic American President Thomas Jefferson – a deep appreciation for France.  When Jefferson was Minister to France, he left Paris for an extensive trip to the South.

Over three months in 1787, he travelled in his own horse-drawn carriage and carefully examined the Canal of Languedoc that stretches from Toulouse to Agde on the Mediterranean Sea.  He travelled 25 to 30 miles per day, either walking along the shaded banks or sitting in his carriage aboard the boat that was towed along the canal.

Canal du Languedoc

In Bordeaux, he compared wines and noted the planting and pruning of the vines.  Later, he commented on his own contributions to America,  mentioning the olive plants he had sent from Marseilles to South Carolina and Georgia.   An accomplished farmer, Jefferson felt “…the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture…”

He chose to model the Virginia state capitol after the Roman temple, Maison Carrée in Nîmes and visited the ancient Pont du Gard aqueduct that dates to 19 B.C.  For the whole Jefferson story, with pleasure we recommend Thomas Jefferson’s Journey to the South of France by Roy & Alma Moore.  An excellent profile of another dominant American with strong ties to France.


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Benjamin Franklin – Diplomat in Paris

Frankllin’s home in Passy, where he conducted lightning experiments

How I wish it had been in my lifetime that my grandparents resided in Paris!  For over seven years, while my grandfather developed new markets for Hobart Manufacturing throughout Europe; they lived in a lovely apartment just a block removed from the Eiffel Tower.  But it was another American who spent the same amount of time in Paris, who produced quite different results.

In 1776 Benjamin Franklin set out to win the support of the French Court.  Nearly 70 years old at the time, Franklin had just signed the Declaration of Independence and sought the favor of France on behalf of American patriots; who were desperate for money, supplies and military support in their fight to win independence from Great Britain.

Mr. Franklin arrived at l’Hôtel de Valentinois, the beautiful estate of Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont’s at Passy along the Seine.  Just down the street from Balzac’s home on rue Raynouard; he resided at the home of the wealthy merchant, where terraced gardens linked to the Seine and offered a view of Paris in the distance.

From 1776 to 1783, Franklin applied his diplomatic genius to obtain loans, purchase war materials and coordinate shipping of the supplies.  According to Ellen Cohn, editor of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, “French support was due entirely to Franklin …. The French adored him.”

As Minister Plenipotentiary, Franklin engaged the French as a trusted professional diplomat.  His was a time-consuming venture, finding supplies and uniforms for the American army and locating convoys to ship them to America.  Congress lacked sufficient money and constantly prodded Franklin to find more funds.  With Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands already at war; Franklin felt deepening frustration over requesting loans of nations and individuals, who would be wiser to invest in their own governments, rather than in a recently-established state “across the pond”.

According to Claude-Anne Lopez, another scholar who worked on Franklin’s papers, “Franklin was active in almost every aspect of French culture …. Among his inventions was the Foreign Service – he was the pioneer. He got along with everybody…. This was his approach: ‘Make them like you. Make them your ally. We need their ships, we need their troops.’”

Historic marker at rue Raynouard and rue Singer in Paris

As a result of Franklin’s dogged persistence and affable approach, America received many of the muskets and canons that contributed to the Americans’ victory over British forces in Saratoga in October, 1777.  Some four years later, the Continental Congress again had to rely on French funding and military strength to back General Washington and his troops in Yorktown.

Ultimately the British surrendered and Monsieur Franklin threaded through complex British politics to negotiate the Treaty of Paris early in 1783.  Sadly, within a few years, France endured bankruptcy, in part caused by their support of America.  Despite the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, Franklin’s death in 1790 cast a pall over France, inspiring the National Assembly to go into a three-day mourning period for this “simple citizen from another land.”

A simple citizen?  Hardly.  Few of us could look back on our lives with the accomplishments and ceaseless interest in all things in life that inventor, diplomat and publisher Benjamin Franklin represented. And, as important, he personally initiated a friendship between France and America that will not easily be set aside amidst contemporary global disagreements.  Merci, Monsieur Franklin.

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Ten-Plus Reasons to Love France

Long lunch in the sun at a favorite cafe

Yes, it’s that numbers game, designed to grab your attention.  Needless to say, I could offer many more than ten reasons!  International Living annually releases their annual Quality of Life index, in which they rank 194 countries.  France has consistently ranked at the top of that index.

While the indicators include health, education, power and more; those of us who love France can instantly deliver dozens of reasons we cherish the country.  Begin with work-life balance and the bon vivant lifestyle.  As a tourist, perhaps you start the day with coffee, a croissant and juice in the morning and continue with a deliciously long lunch and pichet of wine at your favorite sidewalk café.  In between, there are wonderful walks among charming architectural gems, enjoying a good book in a sprawling park, taking in international art treasures for ridiculously low entry fees and shopping for fresh produce in the village or city market.

Whether you are in Paris or Provence, the French joie de vivre is comforting and contagious … not to mention the exceptional choices of bread, wine, cheese and absurdly delicious pastries.  Though ‘big box’ stores have begun to make their mark in cities and on the outskirts of villages, fortunately there are still plenty of culinary artisans to create those multi-grain breads, creamy dreamy cheeses, and oh-so-delicate pear tartes.

A ‘bon vivant’ moment in Paris!

No, I am not forgetting the resident of France, who has to work in lieu of lolling and exploring the country.  As for living in France, you need only ask those who have done so and returned to the United States.  Yes, they once again can find peanut butter and many cereal choices and a gazillion television programs to squander away their idle hours.  But they won’t have world-class health care.  They won’t enjoy a five-day hospital stay as a new mother or a five-month paid leave to nurture that little one, before returning to work.  They likely won’t have five to eight weeks of vacation or 30-something official holidays.  They certainly won’t regularly enjoy leisurely lunches and café-society conversations of an international nature.

Oh my, I’ve just begun and look at how easily I have filled the page.  And I haven’t even touched upon TGV’s and Metros and rollerblading through the streets of Paris. While economic and political challenges are felt throughout the world, France continues to demonstrate a balance of life and guiding principles that are very appealing.

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L’Esprit de Paris !

City Hall tracks Rugby World Cup progress

Revisiting an earlier post in France Daily Photo to resurrect and share warm memories!

We occasionally opt for a hotel stay in Paris but prefer having the space, kitchen conveniences and especially the neighborhood experience of staying put in one place for our holiday.  Often that locale is in the Latin Quarter near rue Mouffetard.  We enjoy the lively Parisian life that pulses through the streets, the easy access to Metro stops and the neighbors we come to know in our daily shopping and dining.

Life around rue Mouffetard thrives with the market that runs along the lower half of the street.  Almost daily, we shop among the vegetable and fruit vendors, the cheese shops and patisseries, the flower marts and colorful boutiques.

Wait.  Did we forget to mention wine?  That is a story in itself!  Meet Fred, the proprietor of Le Repaire de Bacchus – Mouffetard.   We stopped in for the first time, during a trip to Paris in 2007.  The date is significant, as France was hosting the Rugby World Cup.  No, we aren’t really rugby fans, but international sport tends to bring out a wonderful, joie-de-vivre spirit throughout the city with matches projected on mammoth screens at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) and in popular neighborhood squares.  Simply take your seat in a favorite café and be a part of the national spirit invested in the matches.

Back to Fred.  We exchanged bonjours, purchased wine and were on our way.  Later in the day, my husband realized he had left his credit card case at the wine shop.  Immediately, we returned and on seeing Fred, I held up my identical card case and said something ignorant like, “Perdu ici?”  He smiled, reached beneath the counter and said, “Voila!”

Smiles all around.  I noticed rugby paraphernalia in the store and cheered France on with “Allez France!”  Now, I speak French passably well (it helped majoring in Spanish!), so we’re able to enjoy little connections like this.  Fred became our shop of choice for the next several days.

Impromptu celebration on rue Mouffetard

One evening a few days later, we met our longstanding friend, Sandy, who has lived in the Latin Quarter for some 13 years.  At the bottom of rue Mouffetard, we watched France play Ireland in a hotly-contested match that France won 25-3 – quite the victory!  As we walked up rue Mouffetard after the match, there was quite a victory party taking place in front of Fred’s place.  He spotted us and came to offer wine.  Then, his eyebrows shot upward, and he gave Sandy a big hug.  “You know each other?” he asked, quite surprised.  “I should have guessed!.”

It was a wonderful, warm “circular” moment, one that easily rivaled Disney’s “It’s a Small World”.  So there you have it, our endorsement of the vacation rental and neighborhood sensation of enjoying a holiday as a part-time “resident”.

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Paris Thoughts – Live Long and Well

A cheerful table adds to every meal

Paris is often a thread in the fabric of my mind; but now I have managed to link snow skiing and Paris, as if they have some easily understood bond.  Be patient….. In years past, I took annual ski trips to Canada’s Laurentian Mountains.  After ten days of skiing, I returned to Florida slimmed down and full of energy.  There’s simply nothing quite as exhilarating as a real break from the routine of everyday life and lots of exercise to make you feel like a new person.

The same is true, when we visit Paris.  Suddenly we are transported to a new lifestyle,, moving  from a casual daily stroll at home to walking miles and miles, up to Montmartre and down to the Seine, up the Metro stairs and down the Champ de Mars.  Similar to walking on the beach, where the fresh sea air and beauty of the shoreline make you forget the distance, strolling along the streets of Paris offers a visual feast around every corner.  We return from our holidays feeling physically fit and emotionally fed.  Keep in mind that’s the result despite our non-stop indulgence in lovely French wines, on-the-go galettes, soufflés, quiche and d-i-v-i-n-e pastries and artisan breads.

And that leads me to French women, and how they manage to live so long and look so good.  Yes, we all know about Mireille Guiliano’s wildly successful book – French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure.   Knowing doesn’t automatically mean applying what we know, so a couple of little reminders can’t hurt.

A savory galette with ham, cheese and more

Your health, activities and eating habits have more to do with your outlook and attitude toward life than that wretched word – diet.  Start counting calories and denying yourself some distinctly pleasurable foods, and you will begin to sense an enemy within.

Particularly in America, restaurants are notorious for loading your plate with way too much food; so one way we curb overeating, whether at home or dining out, is by splitting an entrée or ordering a couple of appetizers to share.  It’s such a simple thing, but it’s very satisfying to enjoy that delicious morsel of filet mignon with a potato half and vegetable or salad.  Plenty of taste without the excesses.  And that’s the real basic for eating habits – to enjoy your favorites without overindulging.

Another fundamental is ‘setting the scene’ for dining, instead of gobbling lunch or dinner in front of the television.  Nothing makes a meal more pleasant than a pretty table and good conversation.  Naturally, if you’re eating alone, you miss out on the latter; but play some light classical music, light a candle and enjoy the meal you prepared.

And just writing those words reminds me of quite a funny dinner in our apartment.  I gazed in the refrigerator with my oh-so-lost-and-forlorn look.  “There’s nothing to eat, but I don’t want to go out.”  Voila!  I was inspired.  We DID have eggs.  We DID have milk and cheese…and butter and flour.  In less than an hour, we had the lightest, most flavorful cheese soufflé with a little side of broccoli and white wine (of COURSE, we had wine!)

While the soufflé baked to perfection, I pulled out a pretty tablecloth and linen napkins, plucked a bit of jasmine from the vine (yes, it was sticky…but pretty), lit candles and turned on music.  So we went from the destiny of a box-delivered pizza to an  inspired dinner that provoked memories of France and wonderful conversation.  An après dinner walk helped to offset the delicious meal.

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je suis désolé

Le Grand Colbert, Paris

Belle Epoque decor and armloads of flowers!

I open with a sincere apology, in that I am pressed to repeat myself with a mention of hot chocolate. Oui – chocolat chaud. It’s cold nearly everywhere in the Northern hemisphere right now, and that includes Florida; so naturally my mind wanders back to an especially cold day in Paris. We were wandering around the Vivienne passage, when our friend suggested we duck into Le Grand Colbert.

Now we know. Then we didn’t. One doesn’t merely ‘duck in’ to this surreally beautiful brasserie. One inches through the door into an inner sanctum that is warm and elegant and breathtaking. Oui, the banquette to our right is perfect. We simply hoped to warm ourselves a bit over coffee, before venturing once again along the chilled streets of our favorite city. Our experience exceeded our expectations … by far.

After reviewing the menu, we chose chocolat chaud – a nice change from café au lait, we thought. And then we had time to gaze over the Grand (indeed) Colbert.

Le Grand Colbert Paris

Globes and ornate ceilings

A flurry of Belle Epoque impressions descended. Of golden globe lamps and ornate ceilings. Of hushed warmth and shared birthday celebrations. Of etched glass screens and rich velvet curtains, that seemed to embrace and seal the brasserie from the brisk cold. Of a handsomely elegant business ‘couple’ engaged in quiet, serious conversation. Of soaring floral arrangements and the quiet glide of our ‘garcon’, as he delivered – hot chocolate? THIS is hot chocolate?

Yes, the photo tells the story best. A story of luscious, velvety chocolate and warmed milk, slender sugar packets and whipped cream and an entirely welcoming aroma. I have searched out recipes for European-style hot chocolate and found that an essential is chocolate with no less than 70 percent cocoa solids. I will try my hand at this marvelous creation, yet I know at the outset that I could never reproduce that moment, that taste, that scene.

Paris brasserie Vivienne Passage

Chocolat Chaud a Le Grand Colbert

So we look to add a repeat visit to Le Grand Colbert. We’ve heard their roasted chicken is unparalleled – golden, tender, juicy, browned and crispy with few herbs, save the earthy addition of thyme. Sounds almost as heavenly as the chocolat!

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Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!  Paris

Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!

During the holidays, it seems the entire city of Paris pays an elegant tribute to the spirit of the season.  Beloved avenues, squares and boulevards sparkle with themed decorations.  Department stores vie to out-spectacularize one another (How’s that for a new word?!)  Artistic villages suspend magical stars, and – as always – Disney marches forth with enticing family Christmas scenes.

True to tradition and form, Galeries Layfayette entertains and entices with a monster Christmas for 2014.   In a theatrical stage set, a band of mischievous monsters shake up Christmas traditions in the windows, with actor-monsters roaming in the store area… those rascals even put the Christmas tree upside down!  The Monster Christmas at Galeries Lafayette surprises and celebrates for the holiday period.

Whether BHV (the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville), Printemps or Le Bon Marche, the grand department stores present a magnificent backdrop for yuletide shopping.

Mistletoe moments in paris

Mistletoe moments along Avenue Montaigne

And let us not forget that shopping paradise along Avenue Montaigne!  As one might suspect, this prestigious venue has a romantic feature in store.  Balls of champagne-colored mistletoe beckon shoppers to share kisses and gift-giving,  in deference to the traditional ‘kiss beneath a branch of mistletoe”.

Our experience was a bit different on the famed avenue.  A rather elegant Asian couple approached us, asking that we enter one of the haut designer shops to purchase handbags for them.  It seems they had reached their shopping ‘quota’ customs-wise, and we were invited to conspire with them to complete their desired purchases in our name.  We passed, but the event made the evening memorable!

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Paris Christmas – Top 4 Things to Do

Opera Garnier's Grand Staircase

Palais Garnier – one of Paris’ most elegant sites

Each of us approaches trip planning in a different way.  Some need the security of detailed plans; others prefer a more devil-may-care approach, allowing moments to unfold.  While the latter ‘plan’ carries a certain degree of risk, the loosely-knit itinerary allows for plenty of entertainment and a few surprises.  Regular readers know, of course, that I fall into the latter group!

This Top 4 Things to Do in Paris for the Christmas season allows for some magnificent experiences, while keeping your agenda open for that spontaneous glass of wine in the Marais or ducking into that little Librarie in search of old etchings or books.  Not in any particular order, I recommend a mix of culture, couture and fantastic flea market shopping.

First, I would hasten to purchase tickets on line for a performance at the Opéra Garnier.  During the holidays a ballet production is presented in one of the most elegant venues in all of Paris.  You can easily purchase tickets on line.  You will enjoy the luxury and luminosity of innovative ballet in the refined setting of Opéra Garnier.  This particular production blends the electronic music of Thom Willems with the dynamic choreography of William Forsythe and the modern dance of Trisha Brown.  The location is central to everything – near Galeries Lafayette – so you can find an ideal spot for a little aprés Opera drink.

Also on a sophisticated but so approachable note, plan to visit the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  One of Paris’ ‘beauty marks’, the museum welcomes you home to the refined world of the former owners.  Canaletto – Guardi – “The two masters of Venice” is the current special exhibition devoted to the Venetian veduta paintings of the 18th Century.   If possible, try to go for the Saturday or Sunday brunch – quite an elegant affair held from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in The Café Jacquemart-André.  You also have the option of late-night openings during the holidays, but be sure to check the museum website for specific nights and times.

Flea markets in Paris France

Antique finds at Les Puces!

Remember now that I am just offering you a few specific recommendations, but I fully expect you to wander the city.  Bundle up for walks along the Seine and duck into a fabulous Brasserie for an unparalleled chocolat chaud.

One of our favorite streets for reeling in the grandeur of Paris is the fashion world of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Shall we drop a few names?  Hermès, Lanvin, Givenchy, Dior … only the world’s most exclusive designers set in sparkling shops amid five-star hotels.  We stopped for a carafe of wine on the street overlooking Estée Lauder – a perfect spot for watching distinctly upscale shoppers sating their appetites for finery.  You will be just around the corner from Place Concorde and the Palais de l’Élysée – official home to the French president – so you won’t lack for sightseeing opportunities.  Our most notable experience was stopping at a sidewalk cafe and looking up to see the handsome, fully-outfitted French Republican Guard marching down the street – quite a sight!

Now, we’ll dive down into the most famous of all flea markets in Paris – Les Puces (The Fleas), more formally known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen.  Dress warmly and comfortably, as you will literally comb through acres of treasures in the world’s largest antique market.  Naturally, such adventurous shopping will stimulate your appetite; so stop in at one of the flea market cafes for a breather and an excellent tureen of soup (that happened to be our lucky find on a very chilly day!)  The market’s best hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 9 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And circling back to the December chill, don’t underestimate the weather.  While it could be unseasonably mild, we experienced piercing cold and a rather surprising dust of snow on New Year’s Day.  Be prepared, plan a bit but not too much, and look forward to perhaps the most memorable holiday season of your life!

As a side note, today is our anniversary – 11 years now, begun with the best of all lune de miels … in Paris, bien sur!  A wonderful beginning and so many lovely moments in Paris and beyond!

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Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


For the Love of a Scarf in Paris

French scarf Anne Touraine

Anne Touraine silk scarves – magnifique!

The Style section of Huffington Post ran a rather precious piece by Screenwriter-Novelist-Singer Songwriter Susan Sisko Carter. The story was all about her adventure in buying a beautiful scarf in Paris. After all, as Susan explains, Parisian women “don’t wear scarves… they flaunt them.”

In the long-story-short vein, she splurged on the purchase of a delicate scarf in a color so flatteringly beautiful she needn’t even wear makeup, so said the sales lady. Down to five Euros after her purchase, she went to an ATM only to have her card gobbled up by the machine. At the urging of “an achy old Frenchman, walking an achy old basset hound”, she entered the bank and had a prolonged discussion with a teller and the manager. Finally, her card and 300-euro withdrawal will take place the following day.

With the manager’s card in hand, she turned toward the door; and the manager said,
“Your scarf….It is wonderful – Le couleur d’une bonne nuit.”french-silk-scarves-anne-touraine-paris-twill-silk-zodiac-astrological-astrology-signs-blue-white-custom_6_1024x1024

How off the chart and poetic is that lovely comment! Susan instantly felt her purchase validated, and her understanding of why French women wear scarves was seared into her spirit. Once again, it is the gift-giving season. I suggest you purchase a lovely scarf for a friend or loved one, AND look for opportunities to bestow compliments that build the spirit.

By the way, you can discover an exceptional line of stunning, authentic and finely-made silk scarves at Anne Touraine’s site, where you also will find many tips for tying and wearing your ‘jewel’.  Happy shopping to you!

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Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Nice – A Jewel on the Sea

Nice France

Breathtaking views of the harbor from a belvedere on Castle Hill- © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

“When I realized I would see that light every morning, I could not believe my happiness … I decided never to leave Nice and remained here for my almost my entire existence”.  Henri Matisse

Let’s visit the fifth largest city of France – Nice – set along the French Riviera and oozing charm!  The city for which the famous Salade Niçoise draws its’ name seems to have everything, including the good taste to allow progress and heritage to thrive side by side.  Nice combines her glorious climate and fortunate seaside setting with traditions of art, culture, history and ambient lifestyles.  At the same time, the city has evolved into an advanced technology and industrial research hub.

Of course, you must begin along the world renowned Promenade des Anglais, gracefully threading along flower-and palm-lined walkways overlooking the Baie des Anges.  The vista is a blend of stately Belle Epoque hotels, gentle beaches, and a constant flow of humanity; though as an architectural purist, I wished for fewer modern apartment buildings.  C’est la vie – there’s still plenty of beauty to go around and benches for you to watch tourists and locals taking in a seaside walk.

Beyond visiting some of Nice’s exceptional art museums, two distinct destinations for exploring are Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill).  The old city winds through ochre streets with colorful morning markets, boutique shops and wonderful cafes that offer a mix of French, Italian and North African tastes and exude the distinct aroma of olives.  Church spires, handsome doors, lacey balconies and the daily rhythm of Niçoise life make this a very special place to discover just the right spot for a fresh, olive-garnished lunch.

Enjoying Vieux Nice from your sidewalk café -© ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

For an entirely different experience, don your comfortable walking shows and make the climb of some 100 steps to the Chateau on the hill (Don’t worry – plenty of little benches for a rest along the way).  At the top, Nice and the Mediterranean spread like a postcard-perfect panoramic view.  Take a drink and snack at the little café and watch the little ones enjoying the playground park.

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Beaujolais Celebrates the New Harvest

The Latin Quarter in Paris celebrates Beaujolais Nouveau

Balloons on rue Mouffetard in Paris signal the celebration

Who doesn’t love the sound of a popping cork, and the recent celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau; as always, featured just that sound around the world.  The now 30-year-old tradition is basically a bit of a clever marketing ploy celebrating the harvest in general more than the excellence of the wine.

But who can argue with a festive celebration?  While effete wine connoisseurs shy away at home sipping their vintage wines, plenty of folks celebrate the first of the harvest.  From the region of the Gamay grapes that yield Beaujolais to the streets of New York and Paris, revelers take plenty of enjoyment from the annual festivities that take place on the third Thursday of November.  Naturally the timing is dictated by French bureaucratic decree.  The law prohibits the introduction of the light-bodied wine until that date.

This year poor spring weather put a bit of a damper on the harvest, but Beaujolais producers are quick to insist that smaller berries yield more concentrated flavor.  In the Beaujolais region, Lyonnais and Beaujeu residents literally roll out the barrels in the tradition of tasting the young wine.

Wine snobbery aside, with divisive anti-austerity swelling throughout the globe; who can forego a few joyful moments with friends – popping corks, sailing balloons, sipping le vin and reveling in the very existence of the harvest?

Beaujeu revelers in France

Beaujeu revelers in France

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A Royal Dinner in Paris

Le Soufflé, tucked away on rue Mont Thabor

Our favorite restaurant in Paris is Le Soufflé, tucked away on rue Mont Thabor, just around the corner from The Ritz.  Blink, and you will miss it, as the restaurant appears quite modest from the street.  When you enter, though, it is as if you have arrived in a lovely home with quiet décor and refined tastes, with pleasant colors, paintings and objets d′art.

We enjoyed a most unusual dining experience, during our last Le Soufflé visit.  In a terribly un-cosmopolitan move, we did not make a reservation and arrived early for dinner, by Parisian standards.  We had been shopping for gifts to take home, and decided on a whim to see if we might luck out with a spontaneous seating.  Indeed, the early hour was the only reason they were able to not only accommodate us but tuck us in a wonderful little alcove just to the right of the entrance.  Our locale was perfect – private, romantic and with a view of the whole front room of the restaurant.

Our very personable waiter recommended a lovely dry white wine and took our soufflé, salad and dessert orders.  The menu offers a wonderful array of sweet and savory soufflés, from mushroom, cheese, spinach or asparagus to the Grand Marnier finale – simply a light, flavorful combination.

Grand Marnier Soufflé

By the time a stir buzzed at the restaurant entrance, we were “best friends” with our waiter; who served, chatted and stayed discreetly nearby to attend to our needs.  Suddenly, there was commotion; when a limousine pulled up to the door, and two solemn men entered.  They huddled with the maître’d, and two tables were quickly joined together across from us.  The men disappeared to the back room, returned to the door and ushered in 5 or 6 casually-dressed young ladies.  They were seated at the long table, one in a red baseball cap with her back to the front window.  The two men took a small table to our right, one facing the door (and our table), the other facing the rear.

Our waiter arrived with a lovely soufflé dusted with sugar, and a bottle of Grand Marnier.  He pierced the soufflé and poured just the right amount of liqueur to flavor our dessert.  Then, he leaned in and told us in a hushed voice, that the young lady in the cap was a Saudi princess.  Well, that added a touch of entertainment to our evening, as we watched the festive girls enjoy their meals.  Their trim security guards sipped Coca Cola’s and kept a close eye on us and other guests.  For one who enjoys drama, it was quite fun.

While we can’t guarantee that your visit will be quite as exotic as ours, we do encourage you to make reservations for a warm and savory dining experience at Le Soufflé.  And to top your evening, step around to Place Vendome for a nightcap at The Ritz.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

“ANNE TOURAINE Paris™” Scarf – Magique!

I am the proud owner of the world’s most beautiful scarf.  It is French – mais oui!  It is delicate silk with soft, hand-rolled hems. The colors are absolutely perfect with my eyes, my hair, my skin color.

Delicate shades of blue and violet play with equally subtle sea green.  The Eiffel Tower rises through the violet mist with charcoal gray lines and shades of ecru.  Notre Dame takes on a similar look with gray and beige, pale blue tones and lightly-shaded turquoise trees.

This magnificent scarf is “Paris je t’aime” by Anne Touraine Paris™.  I have to believe that my spirit was tucked away inside of Madame Touraine, when she created this elegant design.  “je t’aime” is not my first fine scarf, and now I know it will not be my last.  I’m sure I cannot explain the transformation my écharpe bestows … but I will try.

I don’t want to be too dismissive here.  I live in a world-renowned tourist destination, but the nearby cities somehow think that makes them grown up.  They take on a bit of a smug air, as if cosmopolitan visitors somehow transform them, make them world travelers in their own right.

Simply not so, no more than my seeing a photo of the Eiffel Tower makes me understand and appreciate the bold grandeur of The Iron Lady.  It is only the experience of stepping toward Le Tour, of walking in her sprawling shadows and watching children play in her grassy surrounds that fills me with real understanding.

And that is the effect of my lovely scarf.  It is like a crown around my head, casting a special invitation to see how much the colors emphasize the color of my eyes.  Or resting softly on my shoulder.  Or rolled and entwined ‘just so’ around my neck.  This is no ordinary scarf but an object that whispers beauty and quiet elegance.

When my masterpiece arrived, I was astounded at each step of the unveiling.  Anne’s handsome, understated white and charcoal box and personalized ribbon begged me to be careful in the unwrapping.  Among the tissue folds was “Le Guide” – my own 42-page booklet complete with gorgeous photographs and scarf tying methods.

Under the final fold of crisp, white tissue was “Paris je t’aime” and a small card advising me of special care instructions to keep my scarf beautiful.  As a person with years of marketing and branding experience, I applaud the perfection of details that have gone into designing, producing and presenting Anne Touraine Paris scarves.

Nothing replaces touching the fine silk and seeing the stunning colors.  The experience reminded me of the different outcome of printing a photo on plain paper or on fine photographic paper.  The latter defines and makes possible the imprint of true colors.  And so it is with the scarves.  Photos are remarkably representative of ‘the real thing’ …… yet……….

Paris scarves

Hand-rolled hems and vivid colors – Anne Touraine Paris

I tend to be a casual person – too casual – foregoing the extra accessory that adds the perfect touch to an outfit.  Sometimes “too casual” translates to lazy.  Now, my scarf simply won’t allow this, insisting that I find the right outfit to show her off.

Forgive my indulgence in rambling on, but I have discovered one of many secrets to raising myself up and enjoying simple pleasures in life.  Merveilleux!  By all means wander through Madame Touraine’s lovely website – Anne Touraine Paris to discover her ever-expanding collection of scarves and handsome accessories!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved.



Black Friday Versus “Soldes” in France

The vintage clothing shop “Didier Ludo” in the gardens of the Palais Royal – © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

As Black Friday consumer sales tear through America with cyclonic intensity, this day in France should be relatively calm.  That’s because French shoppers must wait until January 7, 2015, for the next round of “Soldes” – one of two annual sales events that last for five or six weeks.

The second round of sales will begin sometime in late June, prior to the mass exodus for holiday sun seekers.  The state-regulated sales events begin and end on specific dates, when shoppers find significant savings for all types of goods – certainly handbags, shoes and other fashion accessories – but also for linens, home décor and even rare old books.  Large and small retailers from department stores to tiny boutiques take the opportunity to clear the way for new merchandise.

During the current economic squeeze, the government has eased rules a bit to allow retailers to hold unofficial sales between the biannual events, but these are unannounced, as well.  Shoppers simply look for “Soldes exceptionnels” or “Promotion” signs, advertising the special sales in the store windows.

When the winter sales do begin, savvy shoppers will be well prepared to shop early, dress comfortably and scour the labels and tags.  Those well-dressed fashionistas will look for heavily-slashed designer clothing racks and accessories, perhaps waiting until midway through the events for the greatest discounts.  In Paris the popular department stores like Le Bon Marche and Printemps vie with chic boutiques and designer shops to claim shoppers Euros.

Classic Printemps department store, Paris

We won’t participate in the Black Friday maelstrom in our city, but we might even consider buying a lottery ticket for the privilege of shopping in Paris during the January “Soldes”.

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Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

‘Tis the Season to Shop in France

Just one stylish boutique in Paris

Shopping for gifts in France is a pure delight any time of year, but that’s especially true during the Christmas season!  Not surprisingly, the French expression for window shopping is “leche-vitrine” – window licking, a nod to enticing displays of food, fashion and must-have treasures. Every French city and village seems to tap from a deep well of creative artisans, farm-fresh delicacies, regional wines and cherished keepsakes from every age and era.  You’ll gain equal pleasure from searching rural shops, local markets and sophisticated salons of the city.

Let’s begin with a little shopping escapade in Paris.  At the lively square surrounding Sacre Couer, artists display oils and acrylics, pastels and watercolors with every price and subject range.  You’ll also discover their talent for salesmanship, as you pass one customer after another posing for an on-the-spot portrait.

After you have explored art and souvenirs, literally step down to the base of Montmartre to shop for out-of-the-ordinary gifts.  You will find yourself in the center of the textile district with more elegant and original fabric choices than you could imagine.  Choose rich brocade for your sister’s favorite chair, or an intricate jacquard for a friend’s table.  Pleated silks, handsome tapestries, delicately jeweled fabrics and simple cotton lace panels deliver every color, texture and taste to satisfy your search.

In the Marais district, tiny boutiques and delightful brocantes provide the designer touch to purses and kitchen accessories, jewelry and hand-crafted papers.  Clothing selections present the distinct flair of French creators who are not the least bit afraid of mixing humor with rule-breaking design elements.  If your budget allows, the haute couture salons along rue St. Honore du Fauborg and Avenue Montaigne showcase Hermes and Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Christian Dior.

An eclectic mix at the local brocante (second-hand shop)

The rest of France also stands ready to answer your gift-shopping needs.  Throughout Provence in the South, think vivid color, lavender scents and fresh bee honey, olive oils, truffles and pungent mustards.  You name it, and the French have surely perfected the use of their many resources from the land.

Table linens and pottery (faience) reflect the colors of the countryside.  In local and artisan markets and in petite shops from Nimes and Aix-en-Provence to Bandol and Gordes, bright colors and designs splash across tablecloths, curtains, kitchen ware and serving pieces.  Moustiers-Sainte- Marie, Giens and Quimper (in Brittany) are among the faience and porcelain masters with designs dating to the 17th and 18th century and beyond.

Finally, there’s nothing quite like turning here and there along country roads to find the next little town or village with local products.  You can pick up precious porcelain, books, brass or lace at the small antique shop in Bracieux.  A shop in Vouvray sells antique wine glasses along with their fine table wines, and tourism offices can point the way to special artisans and shops in their distinct area.  Without question, shopping for gifts in France will offer more pleasure to you than to your fortunate gift recipients, especially when you present your unique shopping stories with your gift!

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Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Fête de la Gastronomie

Hearty cassoulets and savory soups in Paris France

Hearty cassoulets and savory soups

Thanksgiving. Thoughts run to grateful colonists tapping a bountiful harvest to celebrate a three-day feast. And today, however large or small our bounty, we gather in thanks to share a feast of turkey and stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pies and all of the sides that make up a traditional family feast.

Interesting isn’t it that only a couple of letters separate fête and feast? Let’s forget for a moment the hearty cave decorators, who spread their paintings across the Dordogne as long ago as 18,000 BC. Looking toward more modern-day France, the people and the country have hosted thousands of fêtes to celebrate religious holidays, music, art, theatre and wine harvests. There has been no shortage of celebratory fetes!

And while lovely French cuisine may well be a part of each festival, it was not until September, 2011, that France held its first Fête de la Gastronomie.  Naturally a genuine gala kicked off in Paris with the preparation of a giant cassoulet underneath the Eiffel Tower. The 2012 curator of the Fête de la Gastronomie, Sophie Mise, summed it up accurately – “…gastronomy is so very omnipresent that we had almost forgotten to celebrate it!”

French pastries, desserts in Paris

How can one choose? A taste of each!

So a new tradition was born and will be held throughout the country each year on the first day of Autumn. Chefs tap every inkling of their rebellious creativity. Schools offer special menus for students. Grand-meres prepare age-old treasures, and villages draw people into the central market to share inventive cuisine from locally-produced foods and wine. Last year, Strasbourg hosted a unique event – La Soupe des Marches – offering free mugs of soup, the recipe and the mug as a gift.

We are foremost thankful for our health, family and friends. And we are especially thankful for the many shades of France that have colored our lives.

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The Whimsy and Wonder of Montmartre

Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, home to the iconic La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, but also the guardian of whimsical art, spectacular cityscape views and delightful scenes around each corner.

We enjoyed  a month-long stay in a vacation rental at the foot of the Basilique.  We seemed to wander every lane, every endless set up steps that wind their way up to the appealing summit.  We never tired of finding our ideal, shaded spot on the Basilica’s sprawling lawn, where we could watch the visiting throngs of tourists and residents along the magnificent steps that spill down the hill.  Musicians play Mozart’s “Air”.  Living statues appear frozen in place, dressed as a jester, a sphinx or the Statue of Liberty.  Though some exacting visitors would find the scene hectic, we enjoyed the lively mix of magnificent views and lively people.

The Place du Tertre is the bustling center at the top – yes, overrun often with  tourists, but nonetheless another traditional “must see”, where artists gather to demonstrate their skill and sell their creations.  We simply don’t accept the notion that the popularity (or notoriety, as the case might be) of a place makes it off limits, too mundane to bother with.  In 20-degree weather, we have visited the square to enjoy a steaming bowl of onion soup, while watching over the chilled artists.

Chilled artists on Place du Tertre

With our extended stay on Montmartre, we came to recognize the everyday humanity that is part of the fabric of any renowned attraction, the people who populated our ‘village’.  The baker who greets each morning with the delightful aroma of fresh baked breads and a welcoming line of customers at the door.  The many fabric storekeepers, who ready their displays in hopes of a prosperous day of business – even the sad old man, who sits on the bench with his half-empty bottle of wine.  It is just another side of Paris that we relish.

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Huge Little Reasons to Travel to France

The River Seine in Paris France

Reflections along the quai of the Seine in Paris

La vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver. – Renard
Truth is more valuable, if it takes you a few years to find it.

Note:  I first wrote this post back in August 2012, but the thoughts are just as valid today; and it’s one of many reasons I am nearing completion of a book of encouragement to those who dream of travel to France.


I’d like to have a keyboard embedded in my brain, so it could capture all of the thoughts that rush at me like the force of flood waters surging against a levee. But I don’t. The thoughts whip through my mind; and when I sit down to try to edge them gently on to paper, they wander over to the ‘formula’ anteroom, the ‘rules’ parlor. No sooner do I type a word, than the grammar teacher cocks her brow and pronounces, “You can’t begin a sentence with ‘and’!”

Enough. This current flood began when I was thinking about HUGE little moments, like the time my friend called me from a distant conference to tell me about the airline ticket sale to Paris. She knew how deeply I yearned to experience France, with a passion I couldn’t seem to indulge.  It was her enormous little call that forced me over the timid lines I had drawn in my life. I bought the ticket. I boarded the plane. I arrived in Paris. I was forever changed.

I wonder what my life would have been without my trips to France.  No – “trips to France” sounds like some little chapter I might add to a diary.  I wonder what my life would have been without just “doing it”, just breaking beyond my self-limiting reticence to reward myself for living.   I have had enough dark moments in my life to want the counterbalance of bright, light joy.  And the extremes of both make me very restless with the in between. Perhaps, it’s the drama of extremes.

Paris gave me extremes. France gave me extremes. God reached down and swirled through beautiful spaces and places, but He also allowed the scared little girl to face her own internal doubts. Is that what happens, when Utopia – long sought Utopia – becomes reality, only to stand you up straight to learn the fact that you take yourself with you into the light?

Cafe chats in Paris France

Petite cafes, grande friendship

You also ‘pack’ the unresolved sorrows of yesterday, the guilt, the hopes, the insecurities. You may dangle your feet above the Seine or stare at the magnificent iron beauty of Le Tour Eiffel and enjoy floods of happiness; but you also may sip your coffee in a sidewalk café and wonder at the small, cloudy depression you feel.

I am ever so thankful for the friend who well nigh demanded I purchase my first airline ticket to France. I cherish my Parisian friend who shared her 6th-floor flat and wealth of intimacy with her adopted country. The only thing keeping me from my dream was me; and I found the horizon was not nearly as far away, as I once presumed.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Paris Summers – Dozens of Delights!

Paris fountains in summer

Whimsical sailboats in the Tuileries fountains

Paris in the summer.  The general atmosphere of the city changes a bit, yielding to tourists while bidding intermittent adieus to vacationing city residents.  Locals and visitors alike enjoy special events from en masse pique-niques along the Seine to all night music in Le Fête de la Musique.

Rollerbladers still rumble down rue de Rivoli on Friday nights; but the leisurely family blade aficionados choose the slower pace of Sunday afternoons, when the roads along the Seine are closed to auto traffic.  Golden light falls over Notre Dame, and Le Tour Eiffel still sparkles in the evening.

As always the many gorgeous Parisian parks are a magnet for everyone.  See an outdoor film or watch your child sail boats in the fountains.  Read a book.  Tango by the Seine.  Paris is always a source of entertainment!

Paris summer evenings

Notre Dame dressed in golden light

There is another very unique difference in Paris in the summer that centers around boulangeries and patisseries – bakeries and pastry shops.  If your favorite patisserie closes for his or her holiday, you will see a sign on the door that notes where to find the closes bakery.  There’s quite an interesting history to this practice that dates back to the French Revolution, no less!

The French capital’s continuous supply of baguettes and pain au chocolat, croissants and tartines dates to the chaotic days of the French Revolution.  Remember that supposed remark by Queen Marie Antoinette – “Let them eat cake” – when told the poor lacked bread?  Hunger was but one of many catalysts in the bloody Revolution that ousted the French monarchy.

Since that era, French authorities have made certain to guarantee the availability of the basic staple of bread to all citizens.  The summer holidays of city bakers are strictly regulated to assure the city will not be left breadless in the wake of mass bakery closures.

boulangeries in Paris

Artisan breads of Paris

As of 1957 legislation, town halls have the power to regulate Paris bakeries.  The establishments are carefully split into two groups that must alternate vacations, with one group making merry in July, the other in August.

Oh for the love of bread in Paris!



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The “Black and White” of French Décor

Paris France - decor

Color accents ‘neutral’ Paris!

French décor.  It is a study in paradox, a blend of old and new, fluid and rigid, colorful and monochromatic.  French design at one moment gathers in the colors of the countryside, and at another allows life to make its statement against a backdrop of white and beige.

Walk along the paths of The Tuileries in Paris, and all of the neutral building colors gleam in the summer sun; but the gardens and awnings and sailboats in the fountains are all the more colorful against that background.  Enter a café or Salon de Thé in one of those seemingly ‘bland’ buildings, and you might enter a saffron-colored room or a restaurant deeply textured and toned in colors of jewels.

Travel south to Provence and the same light-colored palette washes the land and architecture, the stone walls and village lanes.   The landscape provides the perfect canvas for bold artistry, for paintings and fabrics and tiles that capture the spectacular colors of the sky, the vineyards and olive groves, the plentiful gardens and rivers and soft colors of the setting sun.

And all of this underscores color in décor.  Then, we have the accents that pull us in like bees to pollen.  An old wooden bust.   An antique piece of pottery.  A vase of tulips fresh from the market or a ceramic cicada filled with welcoming lavender.

French design

Color, shapes, unusual objects – the spirit of French décor!

Perhaps the real joy of introducing the French touch to your home is the lack of rules or the freedom to break any presupposed rules you carry with you.  Today, we enter a room filled with the scent of enormous lilies.  A bold yellow Quimper plate ‘announces’ its presence from a cherry bookcase.   Pure luxury exudes from the jacquard table linen in royal gold and burgundy colors.   A petite ceramic sign welcomes you to La Cuisine.

They are simple touches that quietly display our love of France and our appreciation for that delightful French touch in our home.   Surround yourself with those things you love, and your home will be as welcome to others, as it is to you.

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Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Paris – Lively & Lazy Moments

rue Mouffetard

Lively music at Place Contrescarpe

You will enjoy both, you know.  Moments when the city teems with people, either executing the perfect Tango by the Seine or gathering for a grand communal pique-nique in one of the many city parks.  Wander through any marché, flea market or antique show; and you will be surrounded by the hum of happy folks shopping for their Sunday dinners or housewares, keepsakes or flowers.

Your mood might lead you to a quiet, 20-seat restaurant for a pleasant, prolonged dinner; or you might choose the bustling brasserie around the corner, where deft waiters make their experienced way among crowds of diners.

We have happened upon choral groups on a bridge, where crowds gather to enjoy the spontaneous entertainment.   We have found ourselves in the midst of a ‘blockaded’ area by the Centre Pompidou, where a suspicious package held everyone in place.  And we have enjoyed a celebratory parade of costumed folks from Bretagne, proudly acting out their heritage along the Champs Elysées.  Certainly, we have never been at a loss for things to do in Paris!

Paris France

Perfect time of day by the Seine!

At the same time, all of the quiet snippets of time are just as memorable.  A glass of wine at sunset on the Seine.  A few moments on a park bench to watch children at play or a game of petanque underway.  A walk in the evening topped with a nightcap at Le Café Marly overlooking the Pyramide.  Early morning coffee along a sidewalk café with a friend.

It’s impossible to value one type of experience over the other.  We encourage you to balance your trip with a blend of ‘lively and lazy’ moments that will stay with you long after your trip has ended.

PARIS lazy

Catch the sun by the Seine!

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Aquitaine – History, Heritage – Pleasure!

Aquitaine, France

Path to the great beaches of Arcachon Bay – Atout France/Francois-Exavier Prevot

Aquitaine is one of 22 regions in Metropolitan France – 5 more regions are overseas.  This particular region is vast and diverse, spreading across 155 miles of ocean coastline and sharing a border with Spain through the Atlantic Pyrenees.  Bordeaux is not only the largest Aquitaine city; it is the self-proclaimed world capital of wine.

Speaking of wine, one of our favorite areas was Saint Emilion, where surrounding vineyards provide some of the finest wines of France.  Wandering south down a little country road, we happened on to a delightful treasure – Château Vieux Mougnac;  where hospitality mixed with delicieux wine tasting and produced an everlasting friendship!

Beyond the vast topographical changes, Aquitaine engages all interests in offering more than 2,800 historic monuments and a wealth of archeological treasures – not at all surprising, when you consider 40,000 years of wildly-varying inhabitants!  Fortified villages and grand Chateaus shed considerable light on the wealth and heritage of Aquitaine; and Dordogne’s  prehistoric Valley of Vézère includes stunning remains from the Paleolithic Age – from the mystical caves of Lascaux to nearly 150 sites and other decorated caves.

Similar to California glitz and sports, Biarritz is the European capital of surfing and one of the most popular beachfronts aside from the famed Côte d’Azur.  Beyond challenging the ocean Atlantic waves, pelota is a primary local sport akin to American handball; and one of the favorite local pasttimes is wandering along the seaside, once a favored playground of Empress Eugenie.  All in all, it’s quite an elegant resort area.

Chateau Vieux Mougnac

Near Saint-Emilion

While you are sampling the wide variety of excellent Aquitaine wines, keep in mind that the gastronomy of the area is rich and flavorful.  Whether foie gras or deliciously simmered duck, Bayonne ham or Gâteau Basque, the cuisine will represent some of your fondest experiences and memories.

Aquitaine France

Gironde fishing cabane

We arrived in Bordeaux at the heighth of the season, when summer ‘soldes’ – sales – made for rather crowded streets.  Fortunately, though, the city is located on the banks of the Garonne River, a particularly enticing option for us to explore the countryside.

We wandered past cyclists enjoying the Bordeaux vineyard sights and stopped for a while along the Gironde estuary, where a lone fisherman perched above the water at his “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – his fishing cabin on stilts.  Against a threatening sky, he nonetheless seemed quite content with his world.


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Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friendship Train Bound for France

France friendship

Friendship Train bound for France and Italy

Today, we see ‘tweets’ that circle the globe in rapid fashion; and we see causes garner attention and galvanize action through YouTube and Facebook posts that shine the spotlight on people or places in need. Well before those popular social media outlets existed, there was a columnist and broadcaster that soon became aware of the power of the media to ‘make things happen’.

In October of 1947, Drew Pearson conceived the idea of a “Friendship Train” that would take food donated by Americans to Europeans struggling in their existence following World War II. Pearson was in Europe, when he noticed the appreciation offered Communists for the few carloads of grain contributed to the people. He was then determined to rally the American people to the cause of feeding the hungry in Europe.

Mr. Pearson was astounded at the response to his plea. Across America towns, cities and states rallied with plans to collect food for the “Friendship Train”. Five weeks after his original announcement, the train moved from Los Angeles through eleven states to New York City. Along the way, every state had connected to deliver their own contributions to the Friendship Train.

friendship train WWII

From California to New York

No money was spent on food, labor or transportation; and at the end three trains delivered 270 boxcars of donated food to be loaded on a ship bound for Europe – food from Iowans’ gardens, baby food from Gerber, carloads of sugar from Hawaii and incalculable carloads of donations gathered at fire departments and City Halls throughout the nation.

And true to his desire to demonstrate the good will of America, the Friendship Trains that found their way through France and Italy were well posted with signs and banners ‘from the children of the USA to the children of France and Italy”. The Mayor of Paris at the time was General de Gaulle’s brother, Pierre, who greeted Mr. Pearson and his committee at City Hall.

French Friendship Trains made their way from Paris and Lyon to Bordeaux, Brest, Lorient and Toulouse with welcoming celebrations at each stop.

Every package of food had this label:

All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops.”

And soon, we will post the French response with the “Merci Train”.

We’d love to hear from you!


Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Sculpture of Rodin’s “Master”

Exhibition of sculpture, Paris

The sculpture of Rodin’s Master

Just imagine.  If we were in Paris today, we would have the distinct privilege of taking in a special exhibition at the magnificent Château de Compiègne Museum just north of the capital.  Until the end of October, the works of one of the most renowned French sculptors will be on display, that of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887).  One of the premiere sculptors of the Second Empire, Carrier-Belleuse is considered Rodin’s Master, as Auguste Rodin was a student in the sculptor’s workshop.

Seemingly no artistic genre attracts me more than sculpture, where the materials under masterful hands deliver beauty and energy, brute force and quiet repose.  Carrier-Belleuse seemed tireless in his sculpting, turning out busts and statues, bronzes and figurines.  No material seemed indifferent  under his piercing talent.

While he began his training as the apprentice of a goldsmith and later studied at École des Beaux-Arts and Petite École, the sculptor spent over five years designing ceramics and metalwork models for  companies like Wedgwood in England.  When he began to exhibit large sculptures at the Salon in Paris, he attracted important patrons and significant commissions.

Emperor Napoléon III tapped his considerable talents in numerous public projects during the rebuilding of Paris between 1851 and 1870 – from the torchères for the Paris Opéra to the marble Bacchante purchased by the emperor for the Jardins des Tuileries.  Later the State awarded a Medal of Honor and the cross of the Légion d’Honneur for his marble Messiah that was allotted to Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in Paris.

Fine arts sculpture Paris

“Printemps” by Carrier Belleuse

Though continuously producing abundant pieces for international patrons, Carrier-Belleuse was highly visible and commercially successful in the applied arts.  Appointed director of works at the state Manufacture de Sèvres, he significantly elevated the stature of applied arts and impacted the careers of younger sculptors – like Auguste Rodin – who apprenticed with him.

Might I be among the first to recommend you take a little time from your enjoyment of Paris to take in this remarkable exhibition?  For less than the cost of a movie in the United States, you will enjoy the energy, humor and unrivalled imagination of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.

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Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Île Saint-Louis “Second Homes”

Paris mansions

Private mansion at the tip of Ile Saint-Louis

Last time we were in Paris, we stayed for a week in a charming vacation rental on Île Saint-Louis.  Other than the sometimes grueling climb up four flights of stairs, we were absolutely enchanted to enjoy our residence on one of our favorite places on earth!

BUT that is also when we first heard from our best friend in Paris that, “The island has changed.  So many foreigners have bought property here, and it no longer feels authentic.”  Well, I’m sure I’ve paraphrased somewhat, but the key thought remains the same – the long famous and revered Île Saint-Louis doesn’t feel so French anymore.  I hasten to add that we do not share that sentiment, perhaps because we are blinded by the island’s charms!

Mind you, if we had the ‘spare change’ to buy property on l’île, we would jump at the chance; but we also would spend lots of time there.  Recent studies show that many foreigners, including Americans, have gradually driven out less well-off Parisian residents; and the second-home nature of their ownership and brevity of visits has had a negative impact on neighborhood shops and local schools.  Authors of the study indicate that this district is the only one in Paris that is losing inhabitants.  Given the French love of heritage, home and history; you can imagine how this ownership transfer has been received.

Those tensions resulted in quite a clash between historic and new residents, between architectural designers and cultural protectors.  A Qatari prince purchased one of the island’s most beautiful, historic and revered buildings – Hotel Lambert.  Once home to Chopin and Voltaire not to mention the Rothschild family, the 17th century mansion contains many artistic treasures, including priceless frescoes by artist Eustache Le Sueur created around 1652.

Paris vacation rentals

Our vacation home on Ile Saint-Louis

As if the drastic structural changes anticipated by the prince were not enough, a significant fire broke out in 2013 and caused the rooftop to collapse and destroy the Le Sueur designs.  Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the building was empty and undergoing the controversial renovations. Nonetheless legal actions still are underway to assure that changes to the famous building are in line with historical dictates.  One heritage architect specialist went so far as to describe the proposed changes as “a monstrosity with the aesthetics of a James Bond villa”.  Parfait!

The hotel was originally designed and built for the personal secretary – Lambert de Thorigny – of King Louis XIII.  Voltaire was said to have courted his mistress, the marquise du Châtelet, at the Hôtel Lambert; and prior to being sold in 1975 to the Rothschild banking family, noteworthy visitors included Chopin and Balzac.

Perhaps on a more positive note, it seems that many of those owners of second homes in Paris want to blend in, opting for traditions like visiting the local boulanger for bread and La Presse for the daily newspaper.  It is, in fact, that village feeling that so many of us seek, when we arrange our vacation rentals in the City of Light.

If you have always opted for hotel stays in Paris, we highly recommend the more authentic and cost-effective vacation rental.  You still may eat out as often as you wish, but that morning cup of coffee in your own apartment is quite nice!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you! Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Hôtel de Caumont – Aix-en-Provence

Museum in Provence

Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence

As if Aix-en-Provence lacked charming attractions to lure visitors, a very special addition will open in July 2014.  The charming mansion – Hôtel de Caumont – represents a blend of Parisian and Aixois architecture, in itself a remarkable site; but residents and visitors alike will enjoy the Hôtel as a center of art and culture.

Among the growing legion of exceptional culturespaces attractions, the organization has applied its deft skills in orchestrating the painstaking renovation. And the same management connections and expertise that has brought such pleasure in Le Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris and La Villa Kérylos on the French Riviera will be applied to Hôtel de Caumont.

Aix-en-Provence France

Colorful interiors of Hotel de Caumont


In addition to concerts and performances, the museum will host two exhibitions each year: a summer exhibition focused on major artists of the history of art, and a winter exhibition devoted to large collections. Inaugurating the museum opening will be the “Canaletto” Exhibition, featuring the cornerstone of the vedute artistic genre – Giovanni Antonio Canal, also known as Canaletto (1697-1768). His works are among the most revered Venetian creations from 18th-century Europe.

The mansion in the aristocratic Mazarin neighborhood of Aix-en-Provence evokes a Parisian influence from the 16th century, a château built between court and garden. The style includes a gate, courtyard, main building and garden, gradually moving you from public to private spaces.

Aix en Provence France

Center of culture and art

The ornate interior includes a mix of Regency and Louis XV styles with stunning plaster work ornaments and Provençal colors.  Beyond expansive renovations that deliver a remarkable historic site, the Hôtel de Caumont intends to be open to all the arts and will include a cinema, conference room and a gallery for the performing arts. If you haven’t done so already, change your itinerary to include this magnificent cultural attraction in Aix.




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Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mother’s Day in France

French customs

Work of ‘cake art’ from DALLOYAU – Paris

Usually Mother’s Day in France is celebrated on the last Sunday in the month of May.  After a traditional family dinner – hopefully prepared by someone other than mom – gift-giving centers on chocolates and flowers and the occasional poem written by a son or daughter.  The coup d’etat is a Mother’s Day cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers.

We wish all a Happy Mother’s Day with special prayers for your continued wisdom in serving in that esteemed role.  Many of us no longer have our Mothers, and we look back at the very heart of our families less with sorrow than with an appreciation for the cheer and wisdom and support she brought to our lives.  We hope for happiness for all Mothers and their families … and even if you don’t receive a specially-created poem or a Dalloyau cake, pass those warm hugs all around!

Paris france

Happy Mother’s Day!


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4 ½ Reasons to Visit Lyon

Vieux Lyon France

Hilltop views from Old Lyon

Yes. It’s silly isn’t it, this attention-grabbing title game. Actually, Lyon presents hundreds of reasons to visit, from the dual rivers that intersect the city to the magnificent Vieux Lyon. Let’s just ‘wander’ a bit to discover a few secrets of this second largest city in France.

I’ll just jump right into a premier reason to visit – dining! Somewhere I read that if Paris is the heart of France, Lyon is the stomach. Vraiement! Your food and wine selections in Lyon are seemingly endless.

Discover charming little bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants in Vieux Lyon, where you can dine along a cobblestone street or the river or overlooking the entire city.  And between the Saône and Rhône Rivers, Presqu’ile is a virtual peninsula of exceptional dining and shopping choices.

lyon dining

Lunch on the terrace with locals

We stop for lunch on an umbrella-canopied terrace, before wandering along one of the most incredible pedestrian streets we have ever seen – rue Mercière? I shouldn’t have mentioned this Utopian dining mecca. I’ll never get past dining!!

The history of this street is as eclectic, as are the plethora of shops and restaurants. Dating to bustling 16th-century merchants and printers; rue Mercière has seen seedier days as recent as the 1980’s, when women of the evening plied their trades. Fortunately for residents and visitors alike, plans to raze much of the street in favor of ‘modernizing’ it failed; for today it is as gorgeous on a summer day, as it is festive during cold holiday evenings. Let’s bid adieu to dining with this reminder that any Lyonnais specialty is available here – from praline tarts to chitterling sausage!

Lyon france dining

Bustling rue Merciere

Lyon is an ideal walking city with many pleasant riverside quais and lovely waterfront and hilltop views. We meander through the old traboules – passageways first used by silk workers and later by members of the Resistance in World War II.

We climb to Villa Florentine with our Lyon friend, who always has offered less the encyclopedic vision of Lyon and more the charming inner sanctum. There by the pool, we enjoy a drink, while overlooking Vieux Lyon – an indelible view and experience that soothes the soul on a sleepless night.

Enough for today. We’ll save some of Lyon’s charm for another day. I hasten to add that you not only should include Lyon on your French travel itinerary; you should plan to stay a few days to enjoy

lyon france sights

Lyon’s riverfront

every single open and hidden secret!

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Why Visit Montmartre in Paris?

Paris France

The iconic Sacre Coeur on Montmartre

Glass half full, half empty. That little test of one’s outlook runs through my mind, as I think about Montmartre in Paris. Throngs of people everywhere. International visitors. Locals looking to make a centime here or there. Busloads of tourists.

Tati and Darty anchoring the boulevard – the equivalent, perhaps, of Ross and Office Max. And in between, sidewalks with loads of tee-shirts and fabrics and whatever else one might grab as a bargain.

We understand it’s not the refined 7th Arrondissement, but it’s our home…for nearly six weeks. We are tucked away in a surprisingly elegant apartment just two blocks from the base of the steps leading up to Sacre Cœur. We see the tourists of every shape and size and age. And we don’t care. It is our home.

We take our daily walk past the charcuterie and the “village” theatre, past the wall-enclosed schoolyard, where we hear the children at play. We visit Théo for wine selections and step into line at our favorite boulangerie for fresh bread and the occasional pain au chocolat. We sit for a while near the entrance to the Abbesses Metro, where a sad old man is parked on the bench with his half-empty wine bottle; while children rejoice on the carousel behind him.

Paris France

Tidying the streets

Montmartre simply runs to a different rhythm, and you need only look a little, live a little to absorb its charm.  Around one bend is the old windmill – the Moulin de la Galette – made famous in Van Gogh paintings. He lived in an apartment nearby with his brother, Theo. We climb several flights of stairs, well worn by residents and visitors past and present.

We walk past colorful graffiti celebrating Star Trek and watch the green men clean the streets. And one day we even don our voyeuristic hats and take a café seat right across from the base of Sacre Cœur to watch the colorful throngs of tourists, as they look with wonder at the stunning Cathedral … and are accosted by the same enterprising ‘bracelet weavers’ that sought our business in the past.

Montmartre Paris

The last windmill

We have taken an unexceptional lunch overlooking the Place du Tertre, where visitors weave among the many artists and sit for a portrait memoir they can take back to Iowa or Alabama or even Sydney. And we have dined on the sidewalk of a trattoria, with the white Cathedral dome in the background and a cheerful accordionist offering his songs at our table.

Montmartre. It’s just one more of those enchanting villages within one of the world’s greatest cities. You take the “good” with the “bad” and, if you are fortunate – as we were – you tuck away those golden memories to enjoy on many a day in the future.

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Paris France

Our Montmartre entertainment

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A Few Fun Parisian Outings

Paris graffiti

Street art of Montmartre – Paris

No surprise here that I am instantly attracted to stories and articles about France, so The Culture Trip’s “Top Ten Unusual Things to Do in Paris” caught my eye.  Not only did I enjoy the article, I felt a bit of satisfaction that we have run the list … and then some.   S’il vous plait, allow me to piggyback their treatise with some of my own photos and observations.

Paris Graffiti – what’s not to love in this whimsical/political/devotional/inspirational art form?  Whatever Muse drives the artist, you catch this on-the-fly art on so many streets of Paris.  A tip of the hat to Star Trek and to a whimsical shopper on the back stairs – just a couple we enjoyed.

Canal St. Martin – on a warm August day, we set out to visit the petite atelier of Onaya jewelers.  Beyond the charming artistic creations we found, we were quite taken with the shaded banks, bridges and “Bobo” (BOhemian-BOurgeois) atmosphere along the canal.

Paris street art

Sophisticated graffiti of Bon Marche!

Roman Ruins – Literally just across the rue Monge from our favorite vacation rental in Paris, is the Roman treasure – Arènes de Lutèce.  Though it was built by the Romans around the end of the first century, the arena was rediscovered in the mid 1800s.  No less than author Victor Hugo campaigned to save what was left of the arena, and today the public park and garden greet visitors … and neighborhood children with soccer in mind.

Parties Along the Seine – Whether it’s time for the annual Fete de la Musique throughout a warm June evening or a simple tango along the river, Paris does not fall short of celebratory moments.  One of our favorites – this communal pique-nique, when the whole of Paris seemed to join the fun.

Waterways of Paris

Canal St. Martin, Paris

Paris Roman ruins

Roman arena of Paris




(Special hugs to our dear friends in Paris with whom we have shared so many wonderful moments and memories!)

Seine, Paris

Paris celebrations!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.


Porcelain and Trompe l’œil” in Limoges

Limousin France

Hôtel de Ville, Limoges

We arrived in Limoges, after a meandering kind of day in the French countryside.  What better place to stop for the night than the veritable throne of porcelain!

As the proud owner of my grandmother’s elegant Haviland Limoges china, I certainly was familiar with the name; yet we had no idea about the character of the city.  We followed our ‘norm’ and visited the Office of Tourism, checked into a hotel and set off to discover the city.

We wound our way down to the Vienne River and along the grassy remains of the town ramparts.  We found our way to the exceptionally beautiful Hôtel de Ville, a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Leclerc, who also was the architect of Trianon and the Palace of Versailles.  A clock with the image of Limoges is in the center of the stately façade, and two figures represent the goldsmith and enamellist.  It is simply one of those breathtaking sights that make you marvel at the combination of intricate design and excellent craftsmanship.

So often the case as we explored a new city or region, we happened upon a delightful square – the historic Place de la Motte, home to the sprawling Les Halles central market.  And what a remarkable view, as we enjoyed lunch beneath a canopy of canvas umbrellas.  Across from our location,  “trompe l’œil” paintings transformed buildings with flat, expressionless lines.  They came to life under the artist’s brush, creating windows and shutters and alcoves that did not exist.  In fact, we enjoyed and felt familiar with this Place; and after more exploring along pedestrian lanes and porcelain shops, we returned for dinner and dessert.

Limoges France

Remarkable “trompe l’œil” in the Place

After spending so few waking hours in the city, we really weren’t able to define Limoges in our minds, as we can with cities we have come to know – like Aix, Lyon, Avignon and – mais oui – Paris!   We will simply have to return for a longer stay, to walk more along the banks of the river, to discover little gardens among the half-timbered homes, to let Limoges reveal her personality.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Le Pâques – Easter in France

Paris Easter

Gorgeous tulips line Parisian walkways

The Lenten season is a delightful time to be in France, beginning with the grande Nice carnavale and ending with Easter Sunday … and Monday celebrations.  A blend of Spring awakening, religious and cultural traditions leave you twirling about in a sensuous overload!

Tulips explode from the soil like elegant dancers in the bold jewel-toned colors.  Window displays never fail to evoke a smile for the whimsical characters and settings the creators deliver.  Absurdly delicious chocolates abound.  Children gather with parents in the parks, and elder stroll arm in arm before the Eiffel Tower.  Whether you celebrate the Resurrection of Christ or the happiness of the Easter season, the sights and scents are glorious.

Paris Easter chocolates

Stunning chocolate creation for Pierre Hermé by Swiss artist Beat Zoderer

One religious tradition in France that differs from the United States is the “delivery” system for all of those eggs and candies that mysteriously appear in homes and around yards.  No rabbit involved in France!  Tradition calls for silencing of all church bells – Les Cloches Volants – in somber remembrance of the death of Jesus.  They are quiet from the Thursday before Easter, when children believe the bells have flown to Rome to see the Pope.  The return of their resonant pealing on Sunday morning signals that the flying bells have returned to deliver chocolate chickens, eggs and bunnies.

Eggs represent another favorite French tradition, symbolizing a departure from the hardship of Lent.  Perhaps no French town or village takes this egg celebration to a greater extreme than in Bessières in the Midi-Pyrénées near Toulouse.  On Easter Monday, the village celebrates with a giant omelette festival. (Watch festival preparations here).

Bessieres near Toulouse

The giant omelette preparation in Bessières

In a phenomenal 12-foot pan, weighing a ton, Chefs create a giant omelet of 10,000 eggs, providing a plentiful meal for all festival attendees.  It is a tradition begun nearly 40 years and has now spread to the United States and Japan.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



Discover Paris in Photos

Paris France

The Seine – always a ribbon of life in Paris

I am tired of my own hiatus from France Daily Photo, of my lack of discipline and self-indulgence.  At the same time, I am my own worst critic, as they say.  Regular readers know I had knee replacement surgery in November, and the road to recovery has been riddled with potholes.

YET, this is not my reason for nailing myself today in front of the computer.  I really do miss diving into French culture, history and joie de vivre … and sharing it with you.  I just discovered a show that sounds interesting, one hosted by the Maison Européenne de le Photographie (MEP) on rue de Fourcy in Paris.  In essence, the organization has tasked some the world’s greatest photographers with the unique assignment of capturing Paris in images.  Other photographers have taken up the challenge in years past, but this year the British photographer Martin Parr wandered the streets of Paris to provide his own view.

Paris canal

Canal Saint-Martin

I find it interesting to ponder what people “choose” to see and do in Paris.  Parr’s show includes a plethora of tourist photos  – massing on Notre Dame’s revered steps or taking their own snapshots of Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

My husband and I have a deep and abiding love for Paris; and our own photos and experiences flash before me, as I consider this ‘capture Paris’ assignment… of stunning window displays and the sad sight of homeless men on the cold sidewalks of Paris.  Of the buzz of models and photographers during a shoot in the Galerie Vivienne.  Of the tired old man on a bench in front of the carousel laden with happy children.  Of those little tête-à-tête moments you see in every café, on every corner of Paris.

Seine of Paris

The fishermen

I include a few of our photos and encourage you to re-live your own memories of Paris, as you plan your next trip!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Paris France

Sailing in the fountain

Please Your Palate at Meert in Lille

Royal waffles in Lille

Extravagant, historic Meert in Lille

Today we seem to live at the speed of  light, hooked to little electronic gadgets that nag us – with our permission, thank you – throughout every waking moment.  That’s all the more reason  to appreciate Meert. 

Nothing happens in France overnight, least of all a blossoming friendship or a thriving patisserie.  No, the maturation of either requires patience, tender care, growing trust and a touch of vision.  And so it is with Meert.  Over 250 years ago – in 1761, to be precise – a sweets and chocolate shop was born at 27 rue Esquermoise in Lille. Some ten years later, the addition of Meert’s famous ice cream inspired the reverence of the Count of Lille and transformed the establishment into one of Lille’s most fashionable sites, proving once again that the touch of royalty ‘gilds the lilly’.

Flash forward to 1839, when the decision was made to renovate the establishment.  The creative team included the architect César Benvignat – the official architect of Old Lille, painter Stalars and sculptor Huidiez; who combined their brilliance to create the impressive, ornate oriental style you find at Meert today.  Ten years later, Meert became the official supplier of King Leopold I and concocted one of the stellar products of the store – the famous vanilla-filled waffle.

Lille France

Dining under glass at Meert

Along the way, the house added a first-in-class restaurant poised along a sun-bathed interior courtyard with a 19th century glass roof.  Now, the distinguished clientèle enjoys the multi-faceted historic boutique, traditional tearoom and gastronomic restaurant all presented in the extravagant and tasteful surroundings of Maison Meert. A second restaurant at Lille Printemps has been added, as well as two Paris locations in the Marais and Saint-Germain, in Bruxelles and Roubaix.

Now, about that infamous waffle….

Ten years ago, the EphéMeert waffle appeared beside the traditional vanilla waffle that is particularly known for its’ flavorful Vanille de Madagascar.  Flavors range from praline and puffed rice, pistachio and morello cherry to blackcurrant and violet flavors.  You can be certain that the enticing combinations are tucked away quite carefully in the little tattered notebook that guards the Meert’s cherished secrets!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


The Eiffel Tower’s Changing Glow

Celebrating the presidency of the EU

Perhaps we should take lessons from the French and pump up the personality of our Washington monument.  You see the Eiffel Tower dresses for “the occasion”, changing her illumination and “jewelry” to reflect current events.

It was way back in 1985 that a new lighting system provided normal and “sparkle” lighting for the tower.  Over a period of 5 months, some 25 mountain climbers worked to install the intricate lighting configuration.  In a nod to environmental conservatism, the amount of time the tower sparkles now is cut in half.

The grand dame of Paris has celebrated many important events through the years.  In honor of the millennium, she sported “2000” on her face and a new twinkling effect, originally for ten minutes every hour from nightfall to 2 a.m.

In 2004 the tower glowed with scarlet red lights for 5 days in celebration of the Chinese New Year.  And when France claimed the presidency of the European Union, the tower beamed blue lights with a giant circle of stars in yellow.

Les Français N’oubliement Jamais

Should you ever doubt the “brotherhood” shared between France and the United States, in 2011 two towers stood sentry by the Eiffel Tower in a melancholic salute to the ten-year anniversary of our fallen twin towers.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.


French Winter Olympic Notes

France Winter Olympics

Skiers at the highest skiable summit at the Courchevel alpine ski resort – ©Atout France /Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

Just a few interesting notes today about France, fashion and – bien sur – the Winter Olympics!  France last hosted the winter games in 1992, officially at Albertville.  Though the opening and closing ceremonies and some skating events took place there, many surrounding villages were the sites for the bulk of the competitions.

Among the village hosts were Courchevel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Les Menuires, Les Saisies, Méribel, Pralognan-la-Vanoise, Tignes and Val d’Isère – all rather spectacular locales in the breathtaking French Alps.  Long a stalwart participant and supporter of the Olympics, France also hosted the Winter Olympics in 1968 at Grenoble and at Chamonix in 1924.

A couple of historic events significantly affected the Albertville competitions.  A single team, for example, represented Germany; as East and West Germany were reunified in 1990.  The make-up of Russian athletic teams also changed, in that the Soviet Union had disbanded in 1991; and the USSR competed as a Unified Team.  This also was the last Winter Olympics to take place in the same year as the summer games.

If you watched the opening ceremonies, I’m sure you were not surprised to see the French team looking ever so chic!   The iconic Lacoste crocodile logo replaced the Adidas brand, as Lacoste became the official outfitter for the French team.  The company will continue to “dress” French Olympians through 2016 summer games to be held in Rio de Janeiro.

French Olympians

Chic French Lacoste uniforms

Much was made, and rightfully so, that United States uniforms in the last Olympics were manufactured in China.  Lacoste explains that their Olympic collection for the French team was designed in Paris and primarily manufactured in Troyes, France.

And, for those with a possible interest in Lacoste Olympic purchases, the designs will be available in French boutiques and in special shop with an Olympic emphasis in the flagship Lacoste store on the  Champs-Élysées.  Hmmm.  Shall we make a quick trip to the City of Light?

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

French Lavender Sights and Scents

Paris Je T'Aime scarf

Anne Touraine – Paris fashion finds

Lavender blue – it’s a color straight from the skies and seas and hills, and it’s also the color touted this week by my favorite scarf creator, ANNE TOURAINE Paris™.  Coupled with some very savvy fashion finds by  Givenchy, H&M, Helmut by Helmut Lang, Henri Bendel and Joe’s Jeans; Anne bestows the crowning jewel – her Paris Je T’Aime lavender scarf with delicate drawings of the many City of Light  iconic features.

Lavender – the color, the scent, and the sight – appeals to me in every way.  I use slender stalks in a Provençal ceramic cicada to welcome visitors.  I sprinkle loose bits of lavender, when I vacuum to spread the scent throughout the room.  Oh, and you can be sure big squares of lavender soap are fixtures in my bath.

One of my most delightful memories of lavender occurred during a drive north of Aix-en-Provence.  We rounded a bend in the hills and came across a roadside table filled with lavender bunches.  A simple family homestead was set in the midst of this family’s lavender fields, spreading back, back to the hills behind the house.  Naturally, we stopped and bought a generous armload of lavender and enjoyed a warm encounter with the young ladies who welcomed us.

French lavender

Lavender fields of Provence

Today, it is my Anne Touraine – Paris lavender scarf that becomes the perfect addition to many outfits.   The color makes blue eyes turn Elizabeth Taylor violet, and the soft drape of Anne’s design is a natural magnet for attention and compliments.

Wishing you days and days of lavender enjoyment!

Personal Note to FDP Followers

Anniversaire Francaise

A delightful Provencal-style gift!

Just to clarify at the outset, I have missed my regular communication with France Daily Photo followers.  Really, I have.   Three conditions have contributed to my absence.

Changes to the “rhythm” of our home and work schedule have thrown me a bit out of the normal streams of my daily life, with intermittent periods of solitude and prolonged distance from our dearest friends.  I am neither unable to change nor overly fearful of change, but it does require attention and response; and I have been divided in my purposes, I suppose.

I also have been working on a book – a composite, as it were, of the many France Daily Photo entries that have prompted such enthusiastic response from regular readers – working title -“Fired Up for France”.  Yet, again, I seem divided and perhaps assailed a bit by ‘who do you think you are’ whispers in my sub-conscious.   I wonder if that’s the ultimate form of snobbishness, when you think you have to be the overriding expert on any given subject in order to share your thoughts in book form.  Je ne sais pas!

I leave the most profound reason for the last.  Knee replacement surgery has upended me well beyond my expectations.  And I can share with you my very human responses – a sense of vulnerability and even mortality, all sorts of fears and what ifs, bravado thwarted by the ‘rewards’ of pain.  The fact is that pain and recovery and lost sleep all take an enormous amount of energy.  At one point, I even asked my dear, supportive husband, “Please, don’t let me quit!”

Winter Park FL restaurant

Fabulous desserts at Croissant Gourmet

So there we have my very personal epistle to our Francophile family.  A blog, as opposed to a book, allows me that personal digression.  Yet for all of these reasons/excuses to walk around FDP, instead of faithfully writing posts; I shall leave you with snapshots of my perfect, recently-celebrated birthday.

Perhaps as a testament to my profound love of France or as an acknowledgement of my Francophile immersion, all of my loved ones celebrated my anniversaire with gifts and moments thoroughly awash with French charm.  My husband treated me to a spectacular French brunch at a charming little local bistro, where my galette teemed with savory onions, lardons, cheese and tomatoes – magnifique! Shut away from the cold and rainy day, we enjoyed our intimate little table for two in much the same way we have done so many times in our travels through France.  He carefully selected a lovely assortment of desserts to share with family … a delicious substitute for the proverbial birthday cake.

Lunch with our son and daughter at Café de France a couple of days later prolonged the celebration with a very French experience.   Authentic and oh-so-savory food accompanied joyful company and excellent wine.  I am so appreciative that they “know who I am”.

I hope to resume my regular postings, but I really wanted you to know some of the reasons for my absence and, particularly, to assure you that my love of all things French is still very much alive and well.   May the same be so with you!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Gift Shop French Museums Today

French sculpture

Polar Bear sculpture from Dijon’s museum


A rather late reminder, I know, but today is probably one of your last days to select gifts from your French museum to assure timely shipping for the holidays.  Imagine your pleasure in discovering  gifts from Versailles, the Louvre, Musée  d’Orsay and more.

Yesterday, I made my selections; and it was not an easy task to choose from  colorful children’s games to elegant sculpture and artistic jewelry reproductions.

Let’s look at a sampling.

Though simple in design, a stunning gold plated ring evokes 13th century Medieval art and comes from the Musée du Moyen Âge – Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny.  The children’s book explores the wonders from the land, sea and sky.

In two sizes, the magnificent polar bear sculpture was first presented at the 1922 Salon by François Pompon in Paris.  The sculptor’s extraordinary collection is on display at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon.

French museums

Children’s earth, sea and sky game

Whether or not you are an avid shopper, you will enjoy browsing the museums’ collections of art books and notepapers, jewelry and fashion accessories.  Holidays aside, I find the boutique to be a special resource for that unusual gift for family or friend.

We’d love to hear from you.

The Best Time to Visit Paris

Paris autumn

Autumn at the Jardin du Luxembourg

For those who know me, you know that’s a ‘trick’ title; because I think ANY time is the best time to visit Paris!  Mind you, I’m really not crazy about summer crowds and the lack of air conditioning in August, but nothing stops my enthusiasm for Paris.

That little disclaimer out of the way, I would encourage an autumn trip for an opportunity to dip your feet in the crisp and crunchy leaves of Jardin du Luxembourg (or Jardin de Plantes or any other plaza or garden in Paris).  Walk along the Seine to enjoy the warm autumn light that gilds the tops of the buildings lining the river.  When a chill or dreary mist settles over the city, take to your favorite museum.  New exhibits spring up constantly, and of course, the permanent exhibits at Musée D’Orsay or the Louvre or Marmottan never, never grow old.

This month an interesting exhibition opened at the Musée de L’Orangerie –  Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera Art in Fusion.     A collaboration with the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City, the Musée de l’Orangerie  devotes this exhibit to the lives and artistic expression of the legendary Mexican couple – Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957).

Musee, Paris

Self-portrait of Frida

The canvases of the artists revolve around their devotion to Mexico and their love for one another, but their expression is entirely different.  Frida’s art is highly personal, often evoking the pain in her life as the result of her severe injuries in a bus crash.  Rivera’s works are more objective and reflect the political and historic life of Mexico.  Presenting the works together casts a net over the two, allowing us to see the cycles of life and death, workers, religion and peasants that are part of their expression in art.

This is not the first time Parisians have been able to view Frida’s work, as she lived in Paris for a time in 1939; when she became friends with Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso.  The Art in Fusion exhibit will continue until January 13.  And, yes, I would even recommend a Paris sojourn in January, when the bitter cold will force you to duck into the Le Grand Colbert for hot chocolate.  There is always a warm side to a cold day.

“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”   – Frida Kahlo

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Paris Remembers Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf, Belleville

Edith Piaf remembered along the streets of Paris

Our daughter has such a nifty sense of humor.  She once said she wanted to be one of those people about whom they say, “She would be ‘this old’ today.”  That IS aiming high, and one little bird that reached that lofty nest of fame was Edith Piaf.

Last Thursday marked the fiftieth year after her death, and the renowned Parisian songstress  was  remembered in the working-class Paris neighborhood from which she came.  A memorial mass was celebrated at St. Jean-Baptiste, the parish church in the Belleville district where Piaf was born.  Hers was a tragic life, one that ran the painful gamut from abandonment by her mother to abandonment by the church on her premature death at the age of 47.

How often is it that years after a talent has fallen silent, masses rise up to celebrate that stilled life?  This week giant screens and amplifiers allowed those outside the church to follow a mass that began a four-day festival of remembrance.  Preceding the mass, a silent march took place, leading from her final resting place in Pere Lachaise to the church.  We especially appreciated our dear friend in Paris sending the remarkable graffiti rendering of Piaf on the streets of The City of Light.

Paris France

Piaf’s final resting place in Paris

Edith Piaf enjoyed a post-war resurgence of her career and became a household name in many  corners of the globe thanks to the success of “La Vie en Rose” and “Je ne regrette rien.”  On 1963, she was the biggest international star France had ever seen and the first to conquer America with her melancholy music a seeming backdrop for the post-war generation.

…. Coming soon – fun recommendations for your holiday gifts … from France, of course!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Georges Braque at The Grand Palais

Grand Palais, Paris

Braque’s magnificent bird collection – © Adago, Paris 2013

Visitors to Paris between now and January 6 have a unique treat in store.  The Grand Palais – ever the gorgeous backdrop of exceptional events – has just opened The Georges Braque exhibition with an astounding 240 of the artist’s paintings that encompass his entire career.  France 24 calls the event a “40-year first”, as it is the first retrospective dedicated to the artist in France.

Tracing the work of the artist who ‘co-authored’ Cubism with Pablo Picasso, the exhibition highlights Braque’s many sources of inspiration, from music and poetry to the intellectual arena of his time, 1882 – 1963.  Credited with inventing collage, the artist initially was tempted by Fauvism, before inventing the paper cut-out technique and helping to found Cubism in collaboration with Picasso –  a move that shook the art world in the post-war mid 1900’s .

Georges Braque

Musical Instruments – 1908

The exhibition moves from his initial Fauvist works to his final magnificent art studio, bird and landscape series.  Enjoy a delightful video ‘teaser’ about the exhibition; and if your Paris trip is not entirely scheduled, be sure to take in this Grand Palais event.

I long ago moved away from my naïve “I know what I like” to embrace many kinds of art.  I love the imagination of artists, who see … and share their different vision of scenes, places and people in the world.

And even I have had my ‘dancing with Picasso’ moments, though I didn’t then realize that I owed as much to Braque for the Cubism movement.

French artists

Sheridan Picasso – mais oui!


We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.



Monte Cristo – The Beauty of France

count of monte cristo

Chateau de Villette – fit for the Count


We all have our little moments of truth along the twisting paths of life.  Just one of mine took place, when I was eleven years old.

Decidedly miserable with stomach cramps and a nasty little flu, I made a monumental decision.  I no longer wanted to be a movie star, a dream I had nestled like a favorite doll in my soul for ‘all of my life’.  Suddenly I realized that if I were a movie star, the entire world would know that I was pale and miserable and sick with the flu.  Apparently my sense of decorum at that delicate age would not allow such highly personal life details to be made public.

And this has what … exactly … to do with France?  I thought you would never ask!

We have launched ourselves inside of a new adventure – namely, watching Le Comte de Monte Cristo – the 1998, four-part series made for television and starring Gérard Depardieu.  Yes, I am annoyed with Monsieur Depardieu and his abandonment of France for Russia, apparently unable to live within his considerable means and most unhappy with the government for wanting a greater share.

Depardieu's Monte Cristo

Le Comte de Monte Cristo

Back on track, though, I hasten to add that this film resurrects the intricate, swashbuckling tale of the esteemed Alexandre Dumas.  In only the first two segments of the eight-hour saga, we have been to the notorious Chateau d’If on Marseille’s horizon, to Marseille itself and to Italy, Paris, and Auteil.

We have relished the Mediterranean expanses and traveled the countryside of France.  We have stepped delicately through marble passageways and reveled in garden carriage rides in and around Paris.

Now, you see, don’t you?  The ability to immerse myself in such entrancing stories and delightful locations would be great reward for the tiny embarrassment of having the world know I was seized with influenza.  I am now willing to make that sacrifice and only await an invitation to read for the next movie to be filmed in France.

And however many of the numerous productions of Le Comte you may have seen, we recommend this particular series.  The film reveals Dumas’ exceptional talent, French history and culture, a cast of considerable expertise and an entire menu of beautiful sights in France and Italy.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Memories from the South of France

Cote d'Azur

Captivating colors of Bandol

I just read another posting from a blog I really enjoy – Belle Provence Travels.   I wouldn’t want you to think me petty or unkind, but sometimes I fight the urge to detest someone who not only is able to be spending the summer…or a lifetime…in the South of France, but who has the audacity to share her joyful existence.

I bow to her, though, as she shares “Postcards from a South of France Summer”.  She posts wonderful photos from Bandol and Antibes, Toulon and Le Castellet.  Foolish little jealousy aside, I really enjoyed her article, in part because it reminded me of a long ago trip with my daughter.

When Jennifer was a relative newlywed, my Christmas gift to her was a book about villages in France and an airline ticket to accompany me to France in March of 2000.  Naturally, I had cleared the date and trip with her husband.  After a week of visiting with my best friend in Paris, we booked the TGV and a rental car to spend the weekend in Provence.

As a little background, I might add that this was only my third trip to France, which didn’t exactly make me a seasoned tour guide.  My French also was limited but somehow managed to pave the way through many circumstances without irreparable harm.  Fortunately for both of us, those limitations had no effect whatsoever on our ‘joie de vivre’ embrace of this trip together.

Bloody Mary's in Bandol France

The wine antidote

And, circling back to the Postcards article, I was especially reminded of our time in Bandol and Antibes.  We had spent the previous night in Aix-en-Provence, where we enjoyed wandering along the fabulous Cours Mirabeau, picking out a lovely café for dinner and sharing a good deal of delightful French wine.Cut to our arrival for lunch in Bandol the next day, and I admit to our feeling a bit sluggish.  I managed to pull out my little French language bag of tricks to order us deux “Sangre de Maria?”  Oui, the waiter smiled.  He knew of Bloody Mary’s, and they accompanied our pizza and salad on a sunny terrace near the water’s edge.

Cote d'Azur France

Lifetime memories in Bandol

Vastly improved by our nice lunch and medicinal drinks, we took to the seaside boulevard to enjoy the open-air market.  A colorful mix of French artisan products and Italian knits and handicrafts lined the port, while boats bobbed in the bay behind the vendors.

American mother and daughter wandering about the Cote d’Azur were entirely captivated.  We purchased Provencal baskets and soaps, and my daughter – ever the spot-on fashionista – bought a vibrant, sleeveless Italian knit – goldenrod yellow, as I recall.

French Riviera

Artisan soaps by the Bandol port

We were soon to head further east along the coast to spend some of our most memorable times entirely in awe of the beauty of France.  But those memories of Bandol, of Le Lavandou and Antibes are so, so precious.  And just last night, I served rolls from one of those colorful baskets we purchased.

If you ever wanted to give an ideal gift to one you love, you could not go wrong in sharing a destination that will provide lifelong memories.  And my thanks to my dear daughter for being such an exceptional, fearless, try-anything travel companion!


We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved. 

Two Fine Art Expos Now in France

On display in Caen France

John Singer Sargent, Femme et enfant endormis dans une barque sous un saule, 1887. Lisbonne, Gulbenkian Museum. @ 2013, The Calouste Gulbenkian.

Two vibrant artistic exhibitions promise holiday visitors visual feasts in France this summer.  The second edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival  promises an appealing series of extraordinary exhibitions that will wrap around nearly 600 cultural events throughout the region.

With a focus on the theme of water, Normandy captures its maritime heritage and a central element of its existence.  Impressionists – most notably Claude Monet – represented the waters of the sea, rivers and rain.  Monet often said that “the Seine is my atelier” and the grand river we associate with Paris continues to play an important role in linking the City of Light to the sea and to the ports of Rouen and Le Havre.  The river’s importance in artistic impressionism is equally so in contributing to commerce and contemporary development in northern France.

With Normandy’s expansive coastline and seaside resorts, Impressionists also enjoyed capturing the holiday and maritime activities of the region.  Eugène Boudin painted the beaches on the Côte Fleurie, while Claude Monet brought to life the cliffs on the coast of Albâtre.  Camille Corot and Raoul Dufy painted the ports, and Mont Saint-Michel was a favorite subject of Impressionist painters.

An equally enjoyable summer art tour takes place in the South at The Grand Atelier du Midi in Marseille.  Over 200 masterpieces will be exhibited at the Palais Longchamps until October 13.  If the serene elements of water captured the imagination of Impressionists in the North, the vivid colors around Provence and the Mediterranean flashed across the canvases of southern painters.

Marseille France

The old port, Marseille – Franck Charel – © Atout France

As a critical part of Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, the cultural program will be a flagship event with a dominant focus of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne.  The entire region from northern Spain to the Italian Riviera serve as a virtual artistic laboratory, as one painter after another sought to capture the vitality of one of France’s most colorful and enchanting regions.

Cézanne summed up the delicate relationship between form and color, when he said, “When colour is at its richest, form takes on its fullest expression.” Many 20th century artists were heavily influenced by these two magnificent painters.

The Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence augments Marseille’s exhibition with “From Cézanne to Matisse”.   Visitors begin with Renoir and Signac works in the then obscure fishing village of Saint Tropez.   Matisse painted at Nice, while Picasso’s studios were in Antibes and Cannes; where they captured both the sunny and somber nature of the southern landscape.  Without question the entire region served as a breeding ground of imagination for artists and writers.

Dividing the exhibition between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence provides visitors with the dazzling opportunity to see the very best of artistic expression.  Perhaps Van Gogh best summed up the influence of the region:  “The whole future of art is to be found in the South of France.”

Would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Along the Atlantic Coast of France

Atlantic coast, France

Ancient fortified city, Guérande

July might well be a good time to visit the west coast of France and, in particular, to enjoy exploring from Saint-Nazaire up towards Guérande and Vannes.  The landscape is a stunning mix of inland tributaries and coastal plains.  August, as it turned out for us, was the busiest vacation time of the year in France; so planning well ahead is critical for your holiday enjoyment.

One distinctive feature of the coastal areas is the relative modernity.  We discovered a somber reason for that was the extensive bombing of the region by Allied planes.  This was the locale for the headquarters of the German submarines that were wreaking havoc on Allied supply ships in the Atlantic.  Entire cities were incinerated, to be rebuilt in the late 1940’s and beyond.

A little further up the coast, you will enjoy the lovely medieval city of Guérande.  The city center is entirely encircled by heavily fortified walls with 6 towers and 4 gates, as if to assure the preservation of this place in time.  After the siege in 1343 by Charles de Bois troops, Jean de Montfort ordered further fortifications.

France sea saltWe hope to visit here again, to allow time for slow discovery of this fascinating and beguiling ville – the collegiate church of Saint-Aubin, the surrounding salt flats, the megaliths and Gallo-Roman remains in the area and the gorgeous Bay of La Baule.  Perhaps in September, when life is a bit calmer?

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Avignon’s Summer Music/Arts Festival

Avignon France

Papal Palace, Avignon

The region of Provence lays claim to some of the loveliest cities of France, and Avignon stands as a beacon among those cities. Even though friends warned us not to visit during the summer music festival, we threw caution to the wind and joined the riotous fun of characters roaming the streets promoting theatre performances, faux wedding parties, mimes and music – a virtual circus of activity with the whimsical joy of a summer celebration in France. It’s a fantastic time and place to choose your café seat and watch the larger-than-life scenes roll by.

As the crowds thinned, the remarkable beauty of the city emerged once again. Stone ramparts encircle the city of magnificent architecture and art, broad avenues and tiny streets; until you arrive at the imposingly beautiful medieval fortress and home-away-from-home Palace of the Popes. From the fortress you will see the famous ruins of the Pont d’Avignon over the Rhône River. Whether you choose off-season quiet or mid-summer festivities, Avignon is a must-see stop in your discovery of France.

France summer festivals

Avignon Festival

Copyright © 2005-2019, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Le Tour de France – 2013

Tour de France 2013

Racing to Mont Saint Michel

Finally, our beloved Tour de France is almost here again!  This year marks the 100th Tour de France and will take place entirely in France.  Fans throughout the world will enjoy magnificent sights and phenomenal racing feats.  Beginning in Porto Vecchio, Corsica (Saturday, June 29)  and finishing in Paris (Sunday, July 21), the Tour will visit no less than 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  NBC in the U.S. will offer expansive coverage of what is always an exceptionally-well broadcasted series of sporting events. 

A few sights to watch for range from Albi’s Gothic cathedral and Saint-Malo’s military fortress to the breathtakingly beautiful Mont-Saint-Michel and the impressive new MuCEM in one of Europe’s Capital’s of Culture – Marseille.  Corsicans are especially pleased to make their debut on the Tour stage, where the peloton will pass the Bonifacio cliffs and the peaks of Bavella in a land of re(markably rugged coastal beauty.

Naturally the Alps and the Pyrenees are ‘polishing their ragged peaks’ to intimidate mountain racers in stages that always promise mind-boggling speed and endurance.  We would love to BE in France for the stages that drift (so it would seem…to non-racers!) through the Loire Valley and to Vieux Lyon.  And there is nothing quite like that last ritual race through the capital of France. 

Well wishes to all teams and to the French people who host them so well.

We’d love to hear from you!


Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Fête de la Musique – the longest day!

Paris music festival

Fête de la Musique

June 21 – the summer solstice and the Fête de la Musique.   The festival began in Paris but is now celebrated across the county, an all-night, all- free festival of music.  People of every age and interest take to the streets for a magical night of music. In Paris, the longest day of the year features all types of music spread across a world capital that offers a sweeping bow and an uplifting halleluiah to the pleasures of music.

Children dance to the sweet sounds of a Chamber orchestra in Place Dauphine. Indian dancers in full costume perform in front of Notre Dame. Rock throbs through the Place de la Republique, and classical orchestra sounds sweep through the extravagant courtyard of the Palais Royal.

Tonight’s Palais Royal recital at 6:00 is “Prom’nons us in the voice,” presented by a choir of 150 students from Paris and 30 elementary school teachers in music education.  Afterwards four unique artists will perform until midnight, offering attendees a diverse range of music.

Paris Lyon Marseille music festivals

Music celebrates the longest day

This is the 32nd year of the festival in Paris, but the events are now celebrated throughout the world.  We think it is particularly special, in light of so many hardships and uncertain times, to imagine people united by music throughout the world.  From Bordeaux to Brisbane and Marseille to Miami, people will turn from everyday concerns to a night of celebration.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


Five Great France Info Websites

Provence France

Balcony views over Provence

When you want quick and comprehensive information about France, how helpful it is to have trusted sources!  A few of our favorites allow us to do everything from trip planning to keeping an eye out for great new French books and films.

Rendezvous France websiteRendezvous en France is the official Tourism Development site for France and offers complete information about regions, sporting events, themed holidays, maps and more.  Rendezvous is a very valuable resource, particularly if you hope to build your vacation around regional events.

LuxeEuro upscale French dining, shopping, lodgingFrance Guide is the Official website of the French Government Tourist Office – I know. Don’t ask. The site is similar in content to Rendezvous, but both are very informative and are equally anxious to supply the information you seek.


French embassy cultural informationCultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States is one of our favorite sites.  Learn about events taking place throughout the U.S. with an interest in and focus on French culture.  Find movie reviews, book launches and educational grant details.   The primary emphasis is on French Culture, French Language and Higher Education.  


Paris CVBParis Convention & Visitors Bureau – Hotels, restaurants, museums, maps, events. If it has to do with Paris, you will find it here! A lovely site.

Actually, when planning a trip anywhere in France, it is wise to research regional and village Offices of Tourism.  On line and in person those offices are really helpful with event info, maps, lodging and dining recommendations and more!

logo_smA personal prejudice, LuxeEuro is similar to France Daily Photo but focuses on higher end French properties, restaurants and products.  A nice collection of special places, and you also can browse through “Toys in the Attic” for the occasional gift, European notecard, poupee doll and more.

D-Day Memorials in Normandy

France WWII

Canadian Cemetery in Normandy

Colleville-sur-Mer. Grainville-Langannerie. Bayeux. Ver-sur-Mer.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion of France, and the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.  Throughout the beach areas of Normandy are somber ‘villages’ of the dead heroes, who fought in those infamous invasions in 1944.  “In total, the Allied armies comprised nearly 3 million soldiers spread over 39 divisions: 20 American, 14 British, 3 Canadian, 1 Polish and 1 French.”

Some of the Polish soldiers were buried in British cemeteries; but the majority is buried in the Polish cemetery at Grainville-Langannerie.  There 696 graves are marked with crosses or with a tablet engraved with the Cross of David. 

Almost every unit of the Canadian 2nd Corps is represented in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.  Most died later in the Normandy battles, while participating in the capture of Caen and the thrust to the South.  The cemetery contains 2,958 graves with 87 of those remaining unidentified.

Near the southern ring road of Bayeux is the largest British War Cemetery of World War II.  Close to Arromanches and the landing beaches; nearly 4,000 British have their final resting places, and they are joined in this somber place by 17 Australians, 8 New Zealanders, 1 South African, 25 Poles, 3 French, 2 Czechs, 2 Italians, 7 Russians, 466 Germans and one unknown unidentified body. A memorial names 2,808 more missing soldiers. 

Normandy beaches France

D-Day Commemorations in Normandy

And in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer are the graves of 9,387 of our military dead.  In a garden on the Walls of the Missing, 1,557 names are inscribed. 

As part of the 40th anniversary memorials held in Normandy, President Reagan spoke.  In part he said, “You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Fantastic Villa in Aix-en-Provence

French luxury hotels

Your private oasis in Aix-en-Provence


Aix-en-Provence ranks high on our favorite cities in France list.  We relish everything about the city from the cuisine and endless dining choices to the markets, boutiques and galleries.  The fact is you can’t even begin to absorb the rich palette of Aix colors, unless you stay a few days. 

And we are delighted to recommend a wonderful villa (actually like a private mansion), where you can enjoy all of the fun of exploring Aix from an elegant  hillside retreat near Cours Mirabeau – just a 15-minute gorgeous walk.  To learn more –  visit  “Lovely Aix-en-Provence Hotel”.  


We’d love to hear from you –

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.




Fête des Voisins – France Neighbors Day

Fete des Voisins

Grand neighborly picnic in the Latin Quarter of Paris

If you have browsed through France Daily Photo often enough, you probably sense that I am a ‘softie’; when it comes to home, hearth and friendship.  And so it is with today’s celebrations throughout France and now in over 20 European countries.  The Fête des Voisins is ‘Neighbors’ Day’, when residents come together in their own neighborhoods to enjoy a grand picnic feast and fellowship. 

The history is interesting and sad, while offering a fine example of someone ‘doing something about it’.  The concept of Neighbors’ Day was born in 2003, when the President of the 17th Arrondisement in Paris found that an elderly neighbor had died and was not discovered for several weeks. 

In 2003, Atanase Périfan proposed to the Mayor of Paris to extend the event throughout Europe; and that is exactly what has happened.  Mayor Delanoe invited the mayors of Rome, Brussels and Geneva to join in the festivities to create and launch European Neighbors Day; and in 2012 over 15 million Europeans from 20 countries and 1,400 cities joined in the celebrations.

European Neighbors Day

French picnics May 31

One tragedy.  One man of action with an extraordinary idea.  One, united celebration of Solidarity. 

The French are very big on solidarity, unafraid to invoke the word and the active support it represents.  Back in 1999, I happened by the Hotel de Ville in Paris, when the Kosovos Refugees were at the heart of the Parisian communal mindset.  We have seen this unity on the closing of La Samaritaine and, naturally surrounding a variety of political and cultural issues; when mutual objectives and interests come together in a common front.

Paris France

Hotel de Ville, 1999

On this marvelous 10th Anniversary of Fête des Voisins, we wish all European neighbors, and particularly our friends in France, a lively picnic and warm celebration of neighborhood solidarity. 

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.




The Art of Kissing – French Style!

Audrey Hepburn

Elegant Sabrina gets a kiss from Bogie!

Have you ever looked up French kissing on line? You will discover a world of ‘how-to’s’ and very instructive YouTube posts. Wait – That’s not the kind of French Kiss I’m addressing here!

At least in movies, you must have seen the quick cheek buss that can be a greeting or a goodbye. With French friends and good acquaintances, the French do a lot of kissing on the cheeks. According to French etiquette: ‘To kiss or not to kiss’ is the question. Do I initiate a kiss? One cheek or two? Or more?

First, you shouldn’t offer up a French kiss, when you are first introduced to someone. Usually if you meet and get along well, you might buss them goodbye, instead of offering a formal handshake or an informal hug. Actually, when you think about it, the French form of cheek kissing is very much like a loose version of a hug and a kiss.

Actually, you can safely rely on the ‘body language’ of the French person. It’s such a natural action for them … in comfortable situations. Like you, though; they don’t want to rush into the infamous French kiss-kiss, if it isn’t appropriate. Who knows? You might be tucked away in the Auvergne region, where five kisses might be de rigueur!

Lessons for La bise!

Voila! Begin by moving forward to allow one cheek to ‘brush the air’ close to the other’s cheek – rather like a pretend kiss on the cheek. Hopefully, you’ll be in sync, so you won’t crash into one another with poor aims. Naturally, the other cheek follows the first, and it is very typical of those from the country to add a third – like, ‘swish, swish, swish’. No kissing noise is necessary – your choice here.

I think my favorite explanation of this tradition came from Peter Mayle’s enormously popular A Year in Provence.

Provence France

Peter Mayle’s delightful book

“…An amateur can easily make a social blunder if he miscalculates the required number of kisses. In my early days of discovery, I would plant a single kiss, only to find that the other cheek was being proffered as I was drawing back. Only snobs kiss once, I was told, or those unfortunates who suffer from congenital froideur. I then saw what I assumed to be the correct procedure – the triple kiss, left-right-left, so I tried it on a Parisian friend. Wrong again. She told me that triple-kissing was a low Provençal habit, and that two kisses were enough among civilised people. The next time I saw my neighbor’s wife, I kissed her twice. ‘Non,’ she said, ‘trois fois.’

It’s like a little cultural dance, an affectionate acknowledgement that demonstrates your pleasure in greeting another or your affection at their departing. Personally, I think it is endearing to buss friends and wish them bonne soirée!

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tributes to Heroes

Sancerre France

Memorial to WWI and WWII soldiers from Sancerre

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about war heroes and the constant reminders of war throughout France.  The message bears repeating on Memorial Day in the United States, and as D-Day approaches.  To honor all veterans who have fought for freedom and democracy –

The French have suffered so many invasions, so many losses over their long history.  The two Great Wars cost them generations of young men and women, who bravely fought to regain their Republic, to return their streets and farms and homes into French hands.  

Everywhere you travel in France, you see how deeply the French value their freedom and remember the price paid for their liberation.  And that price was paid with the blood of young men of many nationalities from the United States and Canada to France, Poland and Australia. 

In a small hamlet, just beside the road toward Riom, we see a monument to two young men who were casualties of World War II.  In Sancerre, a poignant memorial includes long lists of soldiers lost in the World War I.  In fact, look closely and you will be reminded of the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”  On the list are four young men from the Lesimple and Boulay families, three from the Bernau household.   We notice they have added tributes to  those lost in the 2nd Great War, but the number of names is understandably fewer.  How many of your young neighbors can you lose to war?

Paris France memorial

“France Remembers You” Pere LaChaise, Paris


The tributes are not limited to towns and villages.  On Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, a plaque commemorates an entire building of people lost in the night to German soldiers.  Along a quiet rue, fresh flowers and even a note are tucked behind a plaque offering tribute to the young man who lived in this home. 

One of the most touching of all memorials is in the Pere Lachaise cemetery.  Carved of marble, a child’s hand reaches up, as if to write…and beneath the writing implement are the words,

“France souviens toi.” 

France remembers you.

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

LuxeEuro – Pure Luxury, Pure France

French Luxury - LuxeEuro

Discover Somerset Maugham’s villa..

Today we introduce another of our sites – “LuxeEuro” – where the emphasis is on “Pure Luxury, Pure France”.  No, we haven’t lost our down-to-earth love of simple pleasures, but France and luxury are synonymous.

We enjoy placing the proverbial spotlight on finely hand-crafted products, extraordinary hotels and chateaux and the crowning jewel of all French luxury – superb cuisine.  And of course, we will include other places, products and points of interest that will appeal to Francophiles.

Along the way, we cover ‘Grande Dames’ of fashion like Hermès and Façonnable, while also introducing contemporary artisans like Le Prince du Sud and CERRI’Art of Paris.

We travel from the exceptional boutique luxury hotel – Villa Mauresque – on the French Riviera to Alpine retreats and fabulous river cruises through France. 

Bordeaux and Saint Emilion

Beau Sejour  near Bordeaux

And we explore some of the most inviting and appealing restaurants and brasseries in France, introducing exotic and traditional cuisines, regional favorites and the kaleidoscope of wines and Champagnes for which France is famous. 

We hope you will come along for the ride and tell your friends to join us too.   And, as always we encourage you to offer your comments and recommendations.  Merci et bienvenue a LuxeEuro!


Avignon France

The elegant Hotel d’Europe – Avignon


A Moment in Paris

Paris France

Sidewalk artists of Paris

Last night was the very popular annual Night of Museums throughout Europe, when thousands of art lovers enjoy events, festivities and – mais oui – art.  The evening elicits creative projects, and all of the museums are free of charge for the evening.  Certainly a lovely time to be in France.

Speaking of, my friend shared this “Moment in Paris”.  Can’t you just envision the photographer gathering up her photos and riding her bright, red bicycle to a busy corner?  Perhaps not all of the special moments to be enjoyed in Paris last night were in museums.

Pull out your bicycle and take a lovely Sunday journey today.

Night of Museums throughout France


Hersent Louis, Paris

National Museum Magnin – Dijon

Shakespeare’s “The world is my oyster” has evolved through time to mean that I can enjoy all the world offers.  That’s precisely what you and I and anyone else in France (and indeed in all of Europe) can enjoy on Saturday the 18th of May. 

On that evening the 9th edition of the European Night of Museums offers free admission to millions of ‘night-owls’ to enjoy 3,000 museums across the continent … from Moscow to Marseilles to Madrid.  Beyond the museum admissions, more than 5,000 ancillary events have been organized to join in the artistic celebration.

At the Grand Palais in Paris, for example, the Dynamo exhibition will be open until midnight with a festive evening planning in the Loggia – the Dynamo Live Party. 

First initiated by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2005, the “Night of Museums” takes place every year in May with official hours running from sunset to 1:00 a.m. to take full advantage of the magic of the evening.  The public is invited to discover the wealth of museums in France, as well as those of thirty European countries.

In the Champagne-Ardenne region, twenty local museums throw open their doors with original showcases, collections and entertainment.  The night full of surprises will include film screenings, buffets, demonstration of skills and more.  I would particularly enjoy visiting the National Museum Magnin in Dijon, where the magnificent oil canvas of Parisian Hersent Louis (1848-1884) – The Song of the Nightingale is on display. 

Limoges France

Museum of the Resistance – Limoges


The city of Bourges focuses on fairground arts with juggling and acrobatics invading the museums.  At Chartres, the spotlight is on strange musical experiences that mirror the museum collections. 

Of particular interest is the Resistance Museum in Limoges.  The Italian aircraft Reggiane RE 2002 Ariete returns us to the past.  Recovered by the Germans in 1943, the aircraft was assigned missions in Haute-Vienne.

Spectacular art, lively events, music, circus and history – the European Night of Museums promises an exciting cascade of events to a very fortunate public.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Republican Guard in Paris

Paris France

The Republican Guard – rue Cambon

A couple of days before we were to leave Paris, my husband and I shopped for gifts at Maxim’s and found a little café around the corner to enjoy a glass of wine.  Not only is the latter an excellent pastime in France, but sidewalk café-ing also offers you a fabulous window on the world.  In this particular place – Brasserie Flottes – we clearly had made a good choice, situated directly across the street from Jean Louis David and down the street from the Cour des Comptes – the official Court of Auditors.

Well-dressed gentlemen in perfectly-fitted cashmere topcoats pass with a stride that seems one of slow purpose.  Naturally the group of Asians appears as the “Camera Club”, and the well-coiffed lady just might be headed for a discreet ‘le cinq à sept’.  But of course I will translate – literally five to seven o’clock but figuratively ‘happy hour’ in Quebec and ‘afternoon tryst’ in France.  Vive la difference!  Everything from death to taxes sounds better in French, so I’m not surprised the translation of “tryst” is ‘un rendez-vous gallant.

Obviously I moved off subject, but I’m sure you didn’t mind.  So there we were, tiny carafe on the table and lovely glasses of wine in hand; when I spotted a surreal sight – my first time to see the Republican Guard stepping in precise and regal formation down the small street. 

“Leo, look!”  He turned to this magnificently orchestrated sight, and both of us tried to watch their passage without such wide-eyed tourist wonder.  As we later discovered, the Garde Républicaine had official duties with the presence of high-level meetings at the Court of Auditors.

Garde Republicaine Paris

Costly ‘pomp’ of the Guard

Ironically it is that same spending watchdog that has recommended reduced spending at the Garde Républicaine, indicating that it provides more pomp and circumstance than the kind of protection needed today.  The outsized budge costs the state over 280 million Euros a year for protecting the Senate, National Assembly and the presidential palace. 

In a world with the very real threats of terrorist attacks, the Garde would be ineffective in resisting an organized attack.  At the same time, the refined Guard is emblematic of the French Republic and seemingly treasured by the French people.  Even the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë has said that “the Republican Guard is an institution; deeply tied to the history of Paris”.

Pride and Pomp or practical savings?  We shall see. 

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Victory Day in France

Victory Day France

Huge celebrations marked the end of war in Europe

Quite noteworthy sights almost anyplace you travel in France are memorials in honor of World War II.  Statues and monuments bear the names of long lost sons and daughters.  Boulevards and even narrow lanes carry the names of heroes or the dates of freedom.

The 8th of May is a public holiday in France that marks an important anniversary – Victory Day in France, the official end of World War II.  La Fête de la Victoire or Le Jour de La Libération) – 1945 – celebrates the end of the war and the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s announcement of the war’s end.   

De Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, made his joyous announcement on May 8, 1945 to the ringing of church bells and the jubilation marking the end of a six-year war and Nazi occupation.  After many changes in the dates and levels of importance of Victory Day celebrations, in October of 1981 WWII Victory Day became an official national holiday.  Ironically the same day marks the anniversary on the island of Martinique of the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.

Chatel Guyon, France

WWII memorial near Chatel Guyon

Leading up to the holiday, schools, colleges and universities focus on the history of the Nazi oppression and World War II and, more recently, on the role of some French people in collaborating with their oppressors.  Lessons aim to ensure that all generations know about the war and understand the importance of preserving the rights of everyone.

Many people attend parades and church services, sing patriotic songs, attend parades and brandish the French flag on homes and public buildings.   Undoubtedly, the events include a mix of joyous celebration and sad remembrances for the magnitude of losses during the war.    

For those who haven’t had the privilege of reading a remarkable novel, I recommend Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky – Suite Francaise.   Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, the novel tells the stories of men and women caught in circumstances beyond their control.  Ms. Nemirovsky already was a very successful writer living in Paris, when she began her novel.  “But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died.  For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.”  – From the back cover of Suite Francaise.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Beaux-Arts Musée d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay

Victor Laloux’s magnificent clock

I have a passion for sculpture, drawn to the fluid lines, the grace and the seemingly impossible mission of creating something so alluring out of raw materials.  One of our favorite destinations for immersing ourselves in this fine art form is the Musée d’Orsay on the banks of the Seine in Paris. 

At the outset, the ‘sculpture’ of the museum itself is so appealing.  We can thank historic preservationists for the transformation of the d’Orsay from the Orsay railway station to the stunning museum we enjoy today. 

As the Universal Exposition neared in 1900, the French government saw the need for a more centrally-located station than that of the Gare d’Austerlitz.  Three architects contributed to the Beaux-Arts design – Lucien Magne, Emile Bénard and Victor Laloux (the latter designed the magnificent station clock that looks over the grand hall of the museum), who were challenged to integrate the new station into its elegant environs. 

“The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts…” – painter Edouard Detaille, 1900

Clearly they accomplished their goal, but plans for an expansive modern hotel complex threatened its destruction.  Fortunately revived interest in 19th-century architecture generated a declaration of the d’Orsay as a Historical Monument in 1978, when a commission was established to create the museum. 

The sculptures of the Musée d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Sapho – James Pradier

The debut of the museum in December 1986 included some 1,200 sculptures, mostly from the former collections of the Musée du Luxembourg, the Louvre and state loans.   The 19th century marked a prolific period for sculpture; when the ‘mood’ of the people sought to proclaim triumphant social progress, and the politicos wanted to carve their beliefs in bronze and stone. 

Fortunately, we are able to enjoy the many magnificent works of art under the changing daylight that streams through the museum’s glass roof.   Among the diverse sculptures are Rodin’s The Age of Bronze, Bourdelle’s head of Beethoven, works by Belgian sculptor Constantin Neunier and Edgar Degas’ enchanting Small Dancer.   

Over three-and-a-half million visitors enjoyed the Musée d’Orsay in 2012, a number that continuously increases over time.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to join those fortunate folks, we suggest you rectify that oversight on your next visit to Paris with indelible moments in the grand old station.

Sculpture in Paris

Along the Seine in Paris

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Waterfront Pleasures in Auxerre

Burgundy France near Paris

Auxerre on the Yonne River


We love cool and soothing waterfront views, whether they are overlooking lakes, rivers or that fabulous Mediterranean Sea. That’s why Auxerre is so appealing, a town of about 40,000 situated on the River Yonne in the Burgundy region, just an hour-and-a-half from Paris.

Originally Auxerre prospered as an active port on the wine route, but today holiday boaters and hotel barges provide easy enjoyment of the Yonne and the Nivernais Canal.  Much of the activity in Auxerre centers on the water with joggers, cyclists and boaters ever present.   A relaxing boat tour is a favorite, but we tend toward lazy times under shaded café terraces along the quay.

Ironically, we live in Orlando, where so many lakes dot the landscape, but you have to work very hard to find a waterfront café.  Very few such restaurants are in the area, and some even choose to build their parking lot overlooking the water rather than the restaurant!  Absolutely senseless!

Auxerre France

The Cathedral of Saint-Etienne

Tucked behind the quay, we wind up cobbled streets past half-timbered houses to the lovely, restored Cathedral Saint-Etienne.  The magnificent cathedral transformed over time from its’ initial 11th-century structure to the 18th century.  Just around the corner from the cathedral, we were fortunate to know about Le Petite Monde d’Edith, a wonderful little home-like restaurant; where potluck reigns and hospitality is natural!

Beyond tranquil waterways, the area is famous for vineyards and sprawling orchards of apple and cherry trees.  Yes, as you can imagine, the wine and the regional cuisine are inspired!   

Auxerre is an excellent base from which to explore this vast and beautiful region of France.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.



Avignon -Time to Splurge

Avignon France

The elegant Hotel d’Europe – Avignon

The thing about daydreams is you get to splurge. That’s what I have in mind for our long weekend in Avignon, one of our favorite ancient, walled cities. We happened to be there during the peak of the summer festival, so a calmer weekend in May will be ideal for really enjoying this historic site.

The long list of positive referrals would point us to Hôtel d’Europe for our lodging. Built as his residence by the Marquis de Graveson in 1580, this lovely five-star hotel enjoys a spectacular setting on one of Avignon’s most beautiful squares. In 1799 the Pierron’s founded the hotel, and in a testament to its fine lineage, Hotel Europe is the only Avignon hotel that appeared in Michelin’s first Guide in 1900.

We’re very much inclined toward mid-sized accommodations, as large hotels seem overwhelming and small gites a little too cozy. With 39 rooms and 5 suites, Hôtel d’Europe applies that deft French touch in low key elegance throughout the common (and not so ‘common’!) areas and spacious, beautifully-appointed guest rooms.


Explore Avignon and the Luberon region

Seasoned travelers in France and elsewhere know well, though, that décor and amenities can quickly be sullied with poor, haughty service. Not so at this hotel, where welcoming staff help you plan your days of exploring the historic city or the renowned Luberon countryside and welcome your return with a glass of wine at the handsome bar.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brunch in the Latin Quarter

Latin Quarter, Paris

Brunch on the terrace

Before we go explore all of those wonderful flower-laden gardens of Paris, let’s stop in for Sunday brunch at the Buisson Ardent at 25 rue Jussieu in the 5th arrondissement. The charming bistro is both warm and relaxing but with a surprising gastronomic flair – very personal and appealing.

The typically French cuisine has extra touches that enhance the presentation and taste equally. Can you resist – “green asparagus and St. George mushrooms in vinaigrette sauce” accompanied by a“spelt tabbouleh”? I didn’t think so.The professional staff mixes it up with top cuts of Normandy sirloin, filet of hog fish and white cheese with new onions. 

And then there are the fabulously inventive deserts – red fruit soup with a white chocolate cookie, tiramisu with strawberries, rhubarb and strawberry crumble and espresso cream, bitter chocolate ganache with a Brittany biscuit.

I’m starved!  See you at Noon?

Paris France

Latin Quarter – Le Buisson Ardent

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Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Les Fleurs de Paris

Paris gardens, France

Don’t you love the little red ‘rebel’?

Paris is always a good idea.  ~ Audrey Hepburn

Naturally, I’m with Audrey on this subject, and springtime is one of the very best seasons of Paris.  Step down through the Jardins du Trocadéro toward the Eiffel Tower, and all of the paths are lined with vivid floral bouquets.  Choose a bench along the Champ de Mars and enjoy the blaze of tulips and rose arbors and bright purple iris.  No doubt you can watch a busy game of petanque, while you are taking in the other sights.

Throughout the city, the onset of sunny days signals the rebuff of winter.  Flowers seem to decorate every corner, sneaking away from the well-manicured beds in the Tuileries, Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes.  Even the restaurants along the broad and busy Champs Élysées set out colorful boxes of bright yellow daffodils to their appealing entries.

Paris restaurants

Welcoming daffodils

Step along the intimate little lanes of Ile Saint-Louis, and you’ll find the tiniest spaces devoted to flowers – even the grande globe of a hydrangea looks over a bicycle propped against the wall.  And just up there on the right is one of the most famous of all Parisian fleuristes – Patrick Allain.

Paris France

Along Ile Saint-Louis

Yes, Paris indeed is always a good idea, and the flowers simply add to everything else that makes Paris one of the most beguiling and beautiful cities in the world.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Paris bouquet France

Flowers for friends

France gardens

The Tuileries in Paris

Fierce Provençal Winds

Marseilles France Mistral

Mistral winds over the Mediterranean

No one but Night, with tears on her dark face,
Watches beside me in this windy place.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recently, we wrote of the influence of weather on architecture and how construction yields to respect the forces of nature that cannot be escaped.  The most renowned weather phenomenon in southern France gives rise to all sorts of stories, beliefs and yes – facts.  The Mistral wind flows forcefully from the Massif Central down the Rhone Valley to the Mediterranean, taking on different personalities according to the season.

The folks of the Provençal region lay claim to all types of misery that can be attributed to the wicked wind.  Dejection and depression precede the Mistral; and headaches and bad tempers sweep over the land, as the daunting wind plays havoc.  Coming from the Occitan word for “master”, the Mistral masters the populace, just as it mastered Jean de Florette, making him physically and emotionally unbalanced in Marcel Pagnol’s famous book.  Local mothers will tell you that the wind incites restlessness in children and even in pets!

Occasionally in Florida, we will have howling days; when the rain and wind combine to deliver a distinct message – forget all else and yield to the weather.  And that, it seems, is the effect of the Mistral, when day after day of the bone-chilling winds of winter claim complete attention.   Residents weigh roof tiles with stones and plant trees to the North to protect their soil.  They wrap pipes to prevent freezing, bend to the wind on the way to the market, and lather lotions on parched skin.

Also called ‘le vent du fada’ (“the idiot wind”), the weather pattern takes on two forms – the Mistral Blanc and the Mistral Noir.  Brilliant blue skies with dry, sunny weather characterize the “White Wind”, as it seems to cleanse and dry the air.  Thus, the white wind clears the air and acts as artistic inspiration to all of those painters, who seek the crisp light of the Provencal countryside.  But the Black Wind is not so fondly considered, as rain and dark clouds accompany The Mistral Noir.

France forest fires

Raging fires in southwest France

The hot, dry winds of the summer Mistral pose dangerous conditions for Provence, as they accelerate forest fires.   Devastating fires between 1979 and 2005 have brought about many changes in the land and in forestry management.  Public awareness, particularly for the many tourists who visit Provence, is helping to curb the problem, but too often the French have discovered malicious arson to be the cause of the fires.

The split personalities of The Mistral undoubtedly will continue to equally inspire and frustrate; yet we can’t change the weather, can we?  There are days, when I would trade a bright Florida day for the mystique of the Mistral in Provence.

And I think I just heard a giant “Pffffffft” from the people of Provence – “Easy for YOU to say!”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

French Gifts Say J’Taime!

Paris poupee

Relaxing with her friends!

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner, not to mention graduation nears and probably early summer weddings. As you might imagine, I love gifting French … to please the recipient and to offer a bit of my unique ‘signature’.

Locally and to our internet friends, we are always happy to recommend a visit to My French Neighbor. It is our delightful, go-to source for gourmet mustards and jams, olive oils, charming key holders and home décor accessories.

Pastorelli ceramics

Marie Pastorelli jewelry

And here are a few suggestions from “Le Grenier aux Jouets” – Toys in the Attic, where shopping is quick and easy with free shipping and PayPal. Traditional French poupee dolls come to life and spread their French spirit to any lucky owner. Dressed in colorful fabrics and topped with chapeaus that would rival the Royal Wedding, the seed-filled dolls are wonderful accents that can be arranged “just so” in serendipitous poses. There are even a couple of chairs, so they can gather for a chat or glass of wine!

Paris France

Fabulous Poupee chair!

Notecards, a few pieces of jewelry, photographic prints … just the sorts of things you might come across in that mysterious attic.   Enjoy shopping for your loved ones and special friends! When it matters to you that your gift crawls inside the spirit of your friend or family member … and when you want those gifts to be authentically French, take the time to search out suppliers from all sources. Large or small, from little lavender soaps to handsome notebooks, your special attention to ‘gifting’ will not go unnoticed.

Paris France

Maxim’s bistro set

French Cuisine Lures Visitors to France

Paris crepes

Flavorful French Crepe on the go

Really?  Would people really visit France for the cuisine?  Perhaps they wouldn’t be so narrow in defining their reasons for travel to France; but nail down their dominant memories, and I promise you dining will be way up there.  Maybe the sheer beauty and stunning impact of the Eiffel Tower makes you ultra hungry for lunch.  Or maybe a relaxing day among the roses and boat-sailing youngsters in the Tuileries stimulates a hearty appetite for dinner.

And that’s just Paris, where your choices run from a simple baguette and coffee in the morning to a fresh, rotisseried chicken at lunch:  from a hand-held crepe filled with delicious ham, cheese, flavorful oil and tomatoes to a delicate soufflé along rue de Mont-Thabor – Paris offers every taste imaginable.

Memories of dining throughout France are delightfully vivid.  I can’t help but compare it to golf, the marvelous game that allows you to remember specific shots years beyond the afternoon tee time – the oddly-chosen five wood from the sandy lake shore that glides beneath tree limbs to land on the green.

Brittany, France

Imagine fresh fish entrees by the Atlantic

And so it is with dining in France.  Joining with locals at a wayfarer-style inn across from a castle, the creamed chicken and vegetables were simple fare but oh-so-good.  Dining at Le Café Epicerie in Lyon, where the gourmet cuisine was exquisite and the table decorations contemporary and elegant.Next to the carousel on Montmartre, we enjoyed an enormous Niçoise salade.  Overlooking the Atlantic, Coquilles Saint-Jacques was the chosen dish.  In Chinaillon Savoyarde cuisine reigned – fabulous fondues and gratinees.

And French wines?  An entirely new subject.  One is never at a loss to find the perfect wine to go with your dinner or pique-nique.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Three Reasons to Visit France

Spectacular Vistas … Fashion … Artisan Excellence

Avignon, France

Provence by plane – magnifique!

The charms of France extend well beyond metropolitan glamour, although I would be the first to tout the virtues of Paris and Lyon, Marseilles and Nice.  Perhaps it is that all-encompassing nature of France that makes it so attractive – that you can kick up your heels in Lille or settle into a lovely little vacation rental in the hills of the Luberon.  Whether you seek excitement or calm, contemporary experiences or village traditions; France is waiting to win your heart.

Spectacular vistas await you in Provence.  Travel by train, car or on foot; and a world of beauty spreads before you.  One fascinating experience is the aerial tour offered in Avignon.  From the air, you see all of the local historic sites in one afternoon! 

Departing from the Avignon airport, you reach from the mountains to the Mediterranean with lavender fields and ancient villages dotting the landscape – Saint-Remy-de Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence, Tarascon … and more.  It’s really a reasonable tour option with commentary by the pilot in English, French or German. 

Fashion and France are inseparable mates, and Eres demonstrates that magnificent ‘marriage’.  While their gorgeous line of lingerie and swimwear is not available for shipping to the United States, the sumptuous products are available at their e-boutique, Bon Marche, Galeries Lafayette and several Eres boutiques in Paris. 

e-boutique in Paris

Requiem swimwear from Eres

For years now, they have mastered the enhancement of body ‘architecture’ and its contours.   Eres’ designs are distinctly understated and flattering, with each piece beautifully crafted of innovative materials.  Absolutely stunning!

Artisan excellence represents the other end of the spectrum, as devoted artists execute the craftsmanship of multiple generations.  We met one such artisan in Aix-en-Provence – Veronique Baron.  She is one of those quietly elegant French women, soft spoken, graceful and engaging. 

With her “Dans la garrigue” brand, she continues the proud traditions of her father and grandfather – shoe stylists who paid the very same attention to each hand-crafted detail that Veronique carries forth today. 


Hand-crafted shoes

So, there you have three more reasons to travel to France, and I haven’t yet mentioned cuisine!  The list really is endless.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

#3 Reason to Travel – History

Paris monuments France

Gold-domed Invalides, Paris

We can begin in Paris – bien sur – where ‘history’ speaks to us at every bend.  Plaques adorn so many otherwise unremarkable buildings, plaques that pay homage to those lost to war; plaques that regularly receive small bouquets from elders who remember.  Invalides holds the remains of Napoleon.  Roman baths and arenas mix with the grand Arch de Triomphe, and the homes of Balzac and Rodin are simply there. 

Over at the extraordinary Père Lachaise Cemetery, eternal residents range from Chopin to Jim Morrison, from Oscar Wilde to “Aux Morts de La Commune – 21-28 Mai 1871”.  We came upon this small triangular corner, where an infamous chapter of French history is remembered.  Working-class Parisians, who were not in accord with the French capitulation to Prussia in 1870, formed the revolutionary and socialist Paris Commune in opposition even to the French government.  They held out for two months and suffered their final defeat in an Alamo-like last stand on May 28 in a battle at Père Lachaise Cemetery. 

Paris France Paris Commune

Pere Lachaise monument

Well, that is just Paris – so easy to get carried away, when you are surrounded by history!  Travel anywhere in France, and you find yourself in disbelief that you are standing in the American Cemetery dedicated to all of those young soldiers who died in World War II or visiting the hallowed grounds of Chambord in the Loire Valley.  From the stock exchange in Lille to the Roman Arena in Nimes, from the Canal du Midi footpaths trod by Thomas Jefferson to the grand hotels of the Cote d’Azur.  From simple village squares with ancient fountains to Cezanne’s studio, the wonderful tapestries of history demonstrate what a small part of our life on earth is included in the Big Book of all time. 

And perhaps that’s the whole point behind this reason for travel – that history gives us a profound sense of perspective.

Nimes France

Roman Arena, Nimes

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Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

#2 Reason to Travel – Culture

culture, Paris France