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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:

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Seafront Villa – Bay of Saint Tropez

Utopian formula for relaxation: A stunning boutique hotel, ultra-comfortable room, historic background, unparalleled views over the Bay of Saint Tropez and every moment enhanced by a hospitable, caring staff. Is it possible?

In a word – yes. Graced by the likes of Somerset Maugham, Ian Fleming and Winston Churchill; the Villa Mauresque enjoys a crisply-beautiful Morroccan atmosphere in a setting reserved for dreams, relaxation, creativity and yielding to nothing but the peace that surrounds you. The villa offers one of the few private sea front settings on the French Riviera.

Bay of St. Tropez

Villa Seaside Dining

French Riviera hotel

Enchanting Villa Mauresque

Romantic dining and sea-view pools only add to your experience. I’ve touched upon this remarkable venue on France Daily Photo, but I’m not convinced that words or photos can capture the inherent wonder of Villa Mauresque. I am, however, more than willing to put that statement to the test!

French Riviera Boutique Villa



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

Information about Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris – available in e-book and print formats

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.

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

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Haute Provence

Turquoise waters of the Verdon Gorge

Thread your way north from the Côte d’Azur to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and enjoy winding through gorgeous natural landscapes to one of the most beautiful sights in France – the Gorges du Verdon at Lac Sainte-Croix.  Several years ago, my daughter and I planned ahead and stopped in a village square to pick up fruit, cheese and bread.  Soon we arrived at our spectacular destination, where turquoise waters spill from the Verdon Gorge into the sprawling, man-made lake.  We spread our picnic in the spring sunlight by the lake, seemingly the only people on the planet.  What an idyllic moment – mom and daughter sharing a trip in Haute Provence!

On to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we found relative quiet and few visitors compared to the rush tourists in the summer.  Carved from the hills and divided by a rushing stream, we are not in the least surprised that Moustiers is  designated  one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”.

Alas – the main attractions here are the little pottery shops – Faïenceries – offering artisan plates and dishes created from centuries-old designs.

Village buildings seem to emerge from rock

We enjoyed a serene visit, wandering among the quaint boutiques, past village fountains and statues and by the 12th-century Notre-Dame church.  High above Moustiers, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel watches over the village. 

The “supply” of beauty and historic charm in France seems endless.  When we think we’ve “used up” that supply, we round another breathtaking corner. Our next ‘corner’ was to be Antibes along the Mediterranean, where the enchantment continued to prove our endless supply theory.

We’d love to hear from you!

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


A New Friend From Vinassan

The icehouse (Glacière) tucked among pines, Vinassan

The icehouse (Glacière) tucked among pines, Vinassan

New Year … new friends.  That brings to mind just one of the pleasures of connecting in cyberspace – making real connections with others.

One day I received such a nice note about our French articles from a gentleman in Vinassan.  In part, he said, “Far from being mere descriptions, your articles bring places to life in front of the reader, hooking them from the first sentence with the sure bait of your clear love of the country.”

No writer in the world would fail to appreciate that kind of praise, and I am always pleased when others recognize my passion for France.  Naturally I offered my thanks for his positive feedback, and we continued to correspond about his ‘commune’ of Vinassan near Narbonne in southern France.  He even sent photos, allowing me (and now you) a small glimpse into life in his region of the world.

Vinassan originally clustered around the castle lord, basically a plain of marshes and wild brush with a few slopes of decent soil.  Over time, the people transformed the wetlands into prosperous vineyards, and a pleasant village evolved at the foot of hills covered with vineyards, almond and olive trees.  The enchanting town enjoys panoramic views of the Pyrenees in the distance.

Our correspondent wrote of the icehouse (Glacière) located among pines above the village, originally built to store ice brought down during winter from the Montagne Noir hills to the north west. Though the vault enjoyed 300 years of use, it fell into disrepair and has been reconstructed as a site of interest.  He indicated that one can hardly consider the village without mention of their unusual and very popular restaurant called La Pierrot.   Though it has indoor seating, the most popular seating is a huge outdoor area tucked beneath trees with lots of play facilities for children.  Excellent service, wine and prices keep queues of customers lined up for a pleasant meal with plenty of company.

Vinassan Church tower and Mairie

Vinassan Church Tower and Mairie (click to see political posters still in place from the recent presidential election)

Vinassan has an esteemed native son for whom an Avenue was named and monument dedicated – Doctor Etienne Montestruc (1900-1970).  A French doctor and biologist, he was born in Vinassan to a family of winemakers.  In addition to working a mission on sleeping sickness, Doctor Montestruc headed the Pasteur Institute of Martinique and later created a private clinic.  He spent most of his professional career as a very important contributor to the research, treatment and control of leprosy that was a real cause of concern throughout the French Colonial Empire.

French New Year greeting

Wishing each of you the best year ever in 2017!!!

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

“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?

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Big Cheese in a Little French Village

Mont d’Or – golden, glorious cheese

Next month a soft celebration will happen in France.  Mais oui – this is the only time of year the remarkable Mont d’Or cheese (Golden Peak – also called Vacherin Mont d’Or ) is available.  For those who lament the onset of cooler weather, many balance their feelings by embracing autumn with a quick trip to their favorite cheese shop.  Alas, they have awaited this treasure for several months – a small AOC “Mont D’or”, carefully belted with spruce bark that is only available from September to April.

Renowned for the luxurious taste and treasured tradition, the cheese enjoys a storied history and even represents a center of contention.  While summer hikers thread their way across the Jura mountains, local farmers herd their cows up to the grassy pastures.  The summer grazing leads to considerable milk production and – voila! – ultimately to large wheels of Gruyère de Comté.  Why?  Milk can spoil.  Until I read the story, I hadn’t thought about trying to transport that volume of milk down the mountains.  The large cheese wheels are the answer.

French cheese

Stunning mountain views from Le Mont Dore

In the autumn and winter, though, the cows laze in warm barns in the valley, fed on dried mountain grasses.  Milk production drops off, and smaller cheeses are created.  A handful of producers deliver the raw milk to a select group of affineurs (finishers), who then refine the cheese, according to strict AOC standards.  There’s Edy and Jean-Pierre, René and Serge – to name a few of these distinguished cheese artisans.  And each will tell you their favorite uses of the cheese – cold or warm (but of course – fondue!), over potatoes, in a Cordon Bleu dish or stuffed in avocados.

Need I even suggest, if you are in France between November and April, you stop by the fromagerie to request Mont d’Or?  Bon Appetit!
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 my book:

Autographed copies with notecard gift – clicquez ici!

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


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

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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Guérande’s Renowned Fleur de Sel

Medieval city of Guérande

The fortified city of Guérande, Brittany

I’m sure we’re not the only travelers who look back on a trip wishing we had stayed longer in one place.  No, we don’t wring our hands over decisions made nor directions taken, but we do often wish we had researched a bit more thoroughly, planned a little more.

And so it was, when we drove from the Loire Valley to the western coast along the Atlantic.  “Rooms at the Inn” were in short supply due to the August tourist rush, so we were only able to stop for a brief visit in Guérande, before continuing north – definitely a do-over moment!  We’d like to return again to enjoy the medieval fortified town and explore the paradise of salt marshes.

Guérande’s salt marshes represent 1,000 years of salt production between the Loire and Vilaine rivers.  Perhaps the Romans discovered the technique that allows sea water to evaporate from open pans. Worked by paludiers, the salt flats formed a colorful mosaic that made the Bretagne peninsula quite rich during the early Middle Ages. Though there were slumps in production, the more efficient salt marshes today have enjoyed a real renaissance in popularity.

Now paludiers hand harvest sea salt in much the same manner that has been used over the past millennium. Sea water flows through the dyke at high tide and continues through a network of pools. Workers draw off water toward ditches, and the wind and sun hasten the drying action and evaporation. Gradually, the salt brine becomes concentrated, until it arrives in the last salt pan or “oeillet”.  Salt crystals start to form with coarse grey salt at the bottom and delicate “fleur de sel” at the surface.

salt marshes of guerande

Salt marshes of Guerande

Paludiers collect the flavorful grey salt daily.  The unrefined form is used in traditional cooking, while the finer “fleur de sel” is skimmed from the surface to provide subtle flavors to any good dish.  The reputation of Guérande’s sea salt is a renowned favorite of many of the world’s great chefs.



Sea Salt from Guerande


If you won’t be making a journey to Guérande any time soon, you still can enjoy this delicate favorite. Just visit French Food Market for fleur de sel and many other fine French oils, vinegars, mustards and more.
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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.

We’d love to hear from you!

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A Ray of Sun in Tarascon

.Castle of le Roi René [constructed in 1400 – one of the finest mediaeval castles in France.- © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

No wonder artists gravitate to the South of France. Beyond abundant history and natural landscapes, the storied country offers unparalleled beauty and color.

“In the morning, when you open the window, you see the green of the gardens and the rising sun, and the road into the town….It will not be commonplace.” Vincent Van Gogh

Imagine the vivid splashes of color that flowed from the mind and brush of Van Gogh, and you will grasp some idea of the landscape surrounding Tarascon.  In the heart of one of the most beautiful regions of Provence, the limestone hills of the Alpilles set the backdrop for endless rows of enormous sunflowers, ironically with their backs to the sun.  It’s the perfect photo op for a shot of you, standing next to a flower whose face is larger than yours!

Experience the Tarascon region, and you will never wonder at its ability to unlock the brilliance of artists and writers … and the awe of visitors who have enjoyed the sights, scents and sounds.  You take in purple fields of lavender that stretch across the land and perfume the air. Cypress and golden wheat, apricot and olive trees, lazy river banks and every imaginable variety of flora and fauna present one surprise after another.

Tarascon hugs the Rhone River that feeds southward through the Camargue Regional Nature Park to the Mediterranean.  In between Avignon and Arles, Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Nimes; Tarascon offers a perfect center for discovery.

For a unique experience, visit the “Maison de Tartarin” – a museum entirely dedicated to bringing to life the novel written by Alphonse Daudet in 1872, in which the adventurous hero Tartarin hunts lions in Africa before returning to Tarascon.  The house is filled with neatly-labeled exotic weaponry – Corsican knives and lassos from Mexico, steel guns – lions and costumes.

Souleiado Museum, Tarascon

Wander Tarascon’s narrow streets to 39 Rue Proudhon to discover the “Souleiado – Charles-Demery.”  The colorful printed cotton fabrics replicate the vibrant colors – mustard yellow, raspberry pink and the terra-cotta red – seen throughout southern France.

Today’s Souleiado fabrics symbolize Provençal heritage and are as popular in America as in France and Europe.  The very definition of Souleiado is “a ray of sun shining through the clouds after a rain.” The museum includes pottery displays, a print shop replica, period carved wood design blocks, 18th century costumes and a large variety of creative classes.

The Château du Roy René, another Tarascon attraction, features a vast sprawling fortress that dates to the early 15th century.  Rising some six stories above the Rhone, it is both imposing and interesting to explore.

The entire region offers a feast of interesting villages and outdoor activities, from the antique markets near St. Remy de Provence to the Roman arena in Nimes.  Perhaps, one evening you will visit Van Gogh’s famous cafe in Arles to imagine long ago starry nights and artistry touched with a bit of madness.

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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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Enjoying the Bordeaux Countryside

Our sun-filled room in Montlieu la Garde

Voila!  Off we went on the adventure of a lifetime beginning with our comfortable ride on the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux.  As novices in dashing about France, we had taken a precautionary step and booked a couple of nights in a gite near Bordeaux.

This was one of those times, when our different map scales threw us off.   Montlieu la Garde – home to our reserved gite – looked quite close to Bordeaux – see there on the map how close?  Not so.  As we headed north from Bordeaux, we found our gite to be some 40 miles – certainly not “around the corner” within easy reach of dining or shopping.  C’est la vie.  Being so-called displaced or misplaced in France just offers more charming surprises!

We had such a pleasant couple of nights with our host and his two guests.  We enjoyed this first experience in a privately-owned bed and breakfast, where Pascal Menanteau … and his cows … provided a warm and welcome experience.  Fellow house guests Estelle and Jean Claude gathered with us and our host in the shaded front yard for an apéritif, before scurrying off for dinner in a little commune called Podensac.

French countryside

Bordeaux countryside gite

Pascal told us the Chez la Mère Catherine had limited hours, and there were few dining options out in the country.  This offered another occasion for my limited French to get us by, as English certainly wasn’t the language of the local restaurant.  But that’s part of the adventure – to take your restricted vocabulary and stretch it, to ‘walk around’ a phrase, when you aren’t certain exactly how to express something.  We rarely encountered anything other than appreciation for our efforts to communicate in their native language.

In the morning we lingered over coffee, fresh breads and homemade confitures, feeling as if we were in the company of friends.  Pascal gave us a tour of his delightful ‘farmhouse’ kitchen, where vegetables steamed in a large copper pot.  Before heading out on another impromptu discovery tour; we visited with the cows, who were enjoying their own hearty breakfast.  As much as we love city life in France, the memorable experiences of the countryside remain firmly tucked into our rich bank of recollections.
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Pont-Aven – “14 Watermills, 15 Houses”

The River Aven rushes past the old watermill

A charming “tag” for a very appealing place.  That’s how the petite village of Pont-Aven was described in the 19th century – definitely a lovely hamlet known for watermills and a thriving port.  Today the river Aven surges down the Black Mountains and crosses through the village before flowing past  fertile farms to the Atlantic Ocean.

The watermills helped Pont-Aven become a prosperous port, where grain was milled and conveyed along the waterways to the Breton coastline for eventual trade with England. Today, the four remaining watermills lend considerable charm to Pont-Aven, where visitors enjoy the sensory pleasure of wandering along willow-draped river banks and quaint bridges.  Our destination is the Grand Poulguin watermill, where we look forward to savory crêpes on the terrace overlooking the river and footbridge.

Another significant facet underscores the success of Pont-Aven.  In the mid 1800’s, a group of American painters happened upon the lively village and instantly were drawn to the light, colors, warm hospitality and traditional Breton costumes.  Thus an artists’ settlement was born, a settlement that would attract none other than Paul Gaugin.  The invention of paint in tubes allowed Gaugin and other artists to escape their studios and set up their easels in the midst of nature – a la “plein-air” painting.  Brittany became famous for the colorful canvas paintings of Breton landscapes.

Moulin du Grand Poulguin

From his room at Madame Gloanec’s boardinghouse, Gauguin and several like-minded artists founded the Pont-Aven School, where they created a painting style that varied from the dominant Impressionism of the day.  Strong symbolism, simplicity and broad strokes of pure color characterized their new style.

Unfortunately today’s cost of Gaugin paintings makes it impossible for the village to showcase his work, but the Musée des Beaux Arts de Pont-Aven includes an interesting profile of his turbulent life – Hommage à Gauguin and works by lesser-known Pont-Aven artists – Maurice Denis, Émile Bernard, Émile Jordan, and Emmanuel Sérusier.

The whole Pont-Aven atmosphere urges me to take my own easel (and a bottle of wine) for an easy afternoon along the river.

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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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Pagnol’s Canal du Midi

Languedoc Chateau, France

The Château Ventenac overlooks the Canal du Midi

The first filmmaker to be elected to the Académie Française, Marcel Pagnol wrote a series of four autobiographical books. The second, Le Château de ma mère (My Mother’s Castle) was made into an entrancing movie. If you haven’t seen it, by all means take the opportunity to search out this cinematic treat, as well as the other three!

I most remember scenes of Pagnol’s family threading their way along the Canal du Midi with the assistance of groundskeepers and caretakers, who unlocked their property’s gates. Throughout the world there are more and more “green spaces”, trails and bicycle paths that entice the nature lover and exercise devotee. I would choose to linger along the Canal du Midi, to trace Pagnol’s path and see the chateaus poised above the canal.

As fortune would have it, there is an elegant castle, where groups and families can steal away for a retreat. The Château Ventenac borders the Canal and is right next door to the 13th-century church of Ventenac-en-Minervois in the Languedoc region of southern France.

Drive along the narrow D26 past miles and miles of carefully-tended vineyards, and suddenly you round a corner and – voila! The canal, the village, the Château and the little ancient bridge come into view. The six-bedroom gîte is beautifully appointed, with gardens and terraces overlooking the canal, an ideal setting for a self-catered getaway for you and your friends or family.

The little village has the necessities of life … like croissants from the boulangerie and wine from the Château de Ventenac Wine Cave, now a co-opérative that makes and sells wines using grapes from the same vineyards you pass on your way into the village. A couple of times a week, mobile market vans visit the village to sell fresh local produce. There’s even a chicken van, and the Mairie announces the van arrivals over a loudspeaker system –village culture at its best!

Chateau, CAnal du Midi, France

Breakfast on the terrace?

But, here is my favorite part. On the Château grounds, there is a lower gateway that provides access to the Canal du Midi. The gate is locked with a padlock – a la the Pagnol story – but the code is kept in the kitchen. You can slip through the gate and meander for miles along the tree-lined Canal.   Merveilleux!

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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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Yves Saint Laurent on Elegance

Exquisite French ceramic pulley lamps

“We must never confuse elegance with snobbery.”
                           Yves Saint Laurent


Merci, Monsieur Laurent.  You have redeemed my self image.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked at a beautiful artisan piece, only to discover a price tag to equal the creativity and craftsmanship the piece represents.  That’s when I say, “Oh, I’m such a snob!”

I always seem to gravitate toward the most expensive French items! Now I have learned my leanings have everything to do with elegance rather than snobbery.

Our friends at My French Neighbor store in Orlando used to carry these stunning French ceramic lighting fixtures … naturally I coveted them!!  Seeing hand-crafted works of art absolutely sears them into my mind and spirit.

Ceramic lamp ateliers

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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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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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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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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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“How-To” – Paris Book

Paris excursions

Bateaux rides on the Seine

Many readers and friends have asked about my book publication – How long did it take? How did you choose what to include and what to omit? Why does a relatively small book cost nearly twenty dollars?

Who am I to generate such questions? Certainly not Jeanette Steinbeck or Ernestine Hemingway! Yet, I did do this thing. I did publish my Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris. Whether or not “mon livre” represents the respectable non-fiction genre, an appealing impetus to travel or a nostalgic walk through The City of Light; it most certainly embodies a painstaking labor of love and an authentic entreaty to GO TO PARIS!

How long did my book take to complete? Certainly the first tiny seeds were tucked away, when I launched my blog – – in 2011. Though time constraints prevent my posting as frequently today than in the beginning, I enjoy the outlet for my teeming feelings about Paris and France. The serious ‘lets-write-this-book’ initiative began with a query to a fellow author in June of 2013. With an overwhelming number of interests and ideas, I believe he and my husband Leo helped me to filter down to the crux of The Promise of Paris. And that core of the book is sharing my genuine love of Paris with a mix of travel tips and authentic vignettes designed to prompt those delaying their first … or fifteenth trip to GO TO PARIS! Our lives have been so enriched with each and every trip that I wanted to share that passion.

From defining that core purpose and theme to actual publication took nearly two years. Two years to write, re-write, edit, re-write again, question myself, add a few paragraphs about famous Americans in Paris, delete an anecdote or two that I felt didn’t really matter. And several months to organize, re-organize, choose photos, and work hand-in-hand with a fabulous design team. We spent many weeks trying to produce a book that would be visually appealing and personally satisfying.

How did I choose the subjects and photos included in my book? I wish I could say that I crafted a scholarly outline that grew from prolonged research and informed focus groups, but that isn’t true. I wanted a spontaneous and fresh look at my favorite city – a book with a touch of serendipity and an honest evaluation of what matters in making travel decisions. I wanted to share delightful moments and meals, pinch-me-moments along the Seine and the pleasure of vacation rental experiences that to some degree mirror the everyday life of Parisians. And I haven’t even touched on shopping in Paris! I must be one of the most self-controlled travelers ever to visit Paris, because undoubtedly I have purchased a mere 1/1000th of the goods after which I lusted. No problem, though – the lusting was fun too!

Why the price tag on a relatively small book? Part of the cost of production has to do with print-on-demand economics. I know that many books have been written about Paris, and neither a publisher nor I was ready to invest in a big print run only to face the possibility of hundreds of books gathering dust. With print on demand; you want it, we print it. I do keep a personal stash, though, for direct orders; so I can sign, as desired and include a small gift with the purchase of a book.

Printing in color is the other considerable part of the price equation. As we began our layout, we started with black-and-white photos. They looked ‘nice’, but they did not jump off the page and wrap around your heart like my beautiful color photographs do. Given that so great a part of my purpose in writing was to encourage others to GO TO PARIS, I felt the use of color was essential to conveying that meaning and message. A Kindle version is another possibility for lower pricing, but I want to make sure the demand exists and the finished product will do justice to the printed book.

And what’s next? Good question. With some degree of learning curve under my belt, I intend to get Fired Up for other areas – Lyon, the Loire Valley, Provence and beyond. In our 700+ strong France Fanatics group on Facebook, I see so many questions about travel throughout France – questions that make people fearful or unsure about how to go about their planning. So, I am looking at producing other editions to cover different areas and potentially the launch of a personal, customized service to help travelers plan their specific itineraries.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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New Friends in Gréoux-les-Bains

Provence France

Sidewalk cafes of Greoux-les-Bains

Along the way during a summer of exploring France, we picked up a charming book that profiled seven “Routes of Discovery” in Provence.  From Romanesque art and pretty villages to the Giono and Ancient Provence routes, the author and photographer attempt what is seemingly impossible – to pull aside the veils and shine the light on this enchanting area.  I applaud their undertaking; but just as you try to define one area or quality of the Provençal landscape, another rises … and another.  We would gladly offer up a good portion of our lives toward the delight of discovering every corner of Provence, yet we have been fortunate to explore a good portion of this tantalizing region in our travels.

While staying a few days in Aix-en-Provence, we decided to wander north to the little village of Gréoux-les-Bains.  Even the name sounded enticing, and the Provençal sky and landscape were captivating in early August.   Along the Route de Vauvenargues, the muse of Cézanne – Montagne Sainte-Victoire – accompanied us, as we wound through pines and olive groves, lavender fields and a landscape that invited us to travel further, further.

ong known for the thermal baths used since the Gallo-Roman era, Gréoux-les-Bain combines a rich history with  appealing architecture, fountains and a hospitable populace of under 3,000 people.  We easily found our way to the charming pedestrian rue Grande, where visitors and residents wandered among quaint boutiques and one after another sidewalk café.  Colorful musicians stationed themselves close to our chosen restaurant, and waiters dashed between outdoor tables, strolling crowds and their indoor kitchen.

Provence villages, France

Greoux musicians add to the evening

We were enjoying a fresh rosé and awaiting our pork tenderloin order, when a huge pan of mussels arrived at the table of our neighboring diners – not the most enticing aroma for those who avoid shellfish.  Not a problem.  The evening was lovely; and we tended to ourselves, as we enjoyed our respective dinners.

Truth be told, though, I was dying to converse, to at least say hello and try to connect with my basic French.  With the arrival of dessert, I finally summoned the courage to say hello.  Like me, the husband seemed shy about trying to converse in broken English-French, but his wife was delightful and managed to understand my walk-around-it-if-you-don’t-know-the-word French.  Turns out, they were staying in a nearby campground and had left their children with friends to enjoy this evening out.

Then, our surprise of the evening occurred.  Our new friends treated us to a nightcap – their traditional drink of Provence, they explained.  What a nice gesture from them!  Definitely not for ‘lightweights’, I barely touched my tongue to the aperitif before passing it along to my husband.  A little research later, I discovered that Marc is one of the so-called eaux de vie – waters of life that are fruit brandies flavored by each region with its own artisanal variations.  Our particular Marc, it seems, began with distilled grape pulp… and continued with whatever the unique Provençal recipe required.  Certainly not Absinthe but strong enough to seal a new friendship!

All things considered, our foray into the evening offered color, friendship … and to some degree, an understanding of the potential influence of local drink on some of the colorful artists of the day.

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Loire Valley Gifts and Gardens

Amboise France

The Loire – lazy in August

A few years back, we traveled throughout France during an entire summer. Heaven! After a lengthy stay in Paris; we took the TGV, collected our ‘home’ for the next two months and headed off in our trusty Peugeot. Adventure was ours for the finding … and taking.

Now and then, our rhythm slipped a bit. We either didn’t stay long enough in one place, or we overstayed (or so we thought) in other areas. Due to a mix-up in vacation rentals, we ended up staying an entire two weeks in the Loire Valley. What are we missing, we wondered? And we came to discover, we missed nothing. Rather, we enjoyed the gift of settling in with plenty of time to wander and wonder at all of the beauty and charm of this “garden of France”.

Loire Valley France

Amboise market

The enormous Amboise market became a must for us. Tucked along the Loire River, the market teems with people and goods every Friday and Sunday. Huge pans of paella scent the air. Vivid flowers line colorful Provençal trays covered with acrylic to encase and preserve their beauty. Vendors offer gorgeous chunks of cheese of every taste and texture, while just next to them a large rotisserie roasts chickens to perfection and braises the potatoes that capture their succulent juices at the bottom.

Flowers. Fresh white asparagus. Berries galore. Artisan breads.  And the quiet hum of Amboise and neighboring residents. We gathered indelible memories along with all of those offerings.

French markets

Amboise flowers

One day we wandered over to Vouvray, where we bought namesake wine and savored lunch overlooking the river. And one enchanted evening Bléré became our destination; where chapels date to the 13th century, and outdoor cafes line the church square. Ironically, we ran into a young man we had met a few days before in another small village – Pontlevoy – underscoring that perpetual truism – it’s a small world after all.

Beyond excursions to villages and chateaux, we seemed to discover new spaces and places each day. Down a lane behind our little house; gardens lined the road, and donkeys milled about a field. Overhead, age-old trees bent beneath the river breeze offering a whispered sound that wrought images of naps in hammocks strung between the chestnut trunks.

Amboise Loire RiverOne exceptional August night, we took to the riverbank for a picnic supper of market-fresh delights . The water in this low season was quiet, slipping by and turning golden in the setting sun. Perhaps that evening cemented our knowledge that so called wrong turns happen for a reason, when you set aside expectations and embrace the moment. One could fare much worse than enjoying a two-week stay in the middle of some of the most beautiful landscapes and chateaux of France.

Amboise France

Loire pique-nique!


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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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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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Versatile ANNE TOURAINE Paris™ Scarves

“Paris Je T’aime” by ANNE TOURAINE Paris™

Bon Dimanche!  Thinking this morning about my precious ANNE TOURAINE Paris™  scarf, because my special foulard accompanies me often and to a wide range of events.   In soft blue and purple hues,  my “Paris je T’aime” scarf has travelled, embellished, rested with quiet dignity and always has evoked compliments.

I would be the first to admit many style mavens far surpass my abilities to pull together the perfect outfit.  In fact, I likely would nominate my own daughter as Maven Extraordinaire, since she has the talent to turn a tangerine into an enormous pumpkin in the style department.  But…an elegant scarf transforms and completes, adding that certain something that spells satisfaction or perfection or whatever attribute you seek.

My “Paris je T’aime” has escorted me, quite elegantly I might add, to birthday luncheons and anniversary dinners.  She has casually rested along my neck with a knot at each end to take in the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament – très chic!  Threaded through a sparkly, rhinestone pin, my beloved scarf has taken in the sermon at our Episcopal church; and entwined with pearls, “Paris je T’aime” has been the proud witness to our daughter’s wedding.

Anne Touraine Paris scarves

Paris Je T’aime entwined with pearls

And as I leave you to your “Bon Dimanche”, I invite you to visit the inviting ‘web salon’ of ANNE TOURAINE Paris™.  This delightful, creative, warm Parisian continues to delight all of her clients with fresh designs, superior quality and an unyielding devotion to exceptional style!  Kisses and accolades to this talented entrepreneur!

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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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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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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


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!

We’d love to hear from you!

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



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.

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

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!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

The “Place” Called Provence

Provence seaside

Red Rocks Along the Mediterranean

This is such a fun piece about one of our favorite regions … just want to share it again!

Aix-en-Provence.  Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.  Peyrolles-en-Provence.  A Year in Provence.

Interesting list – is there a point here?   Well, yes there is.  I’m not fond of hair-splitting nonsense, and I just read a piece that in essence said, “Sure, I’ll tell you how to get to Provence, but it doesn’t exist.”  R-e-a-l-l-y?

I then receive a lesson on the official designation of the southeastern French region as “Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur”.  And there’s a long geography lesson about the Alpes and the French Riviera, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône.  I do understand the fastidious mind of a hair-splitter, but I am given to the spirit of places and people; and I assure you Provence very much exists.

Provence lavender

Sweet aroma of lavender

It was the birthplace of the essential patriarch of Provence, Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) – a man who took his law degree but so devoted himself to the writing of poetry in “Provençal”, that he would one day found a literary society and publish a dictionary of the regional tongue.  In truth, Provence was the hero of all of his poems, and in 1904 Mistral was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature.

All of that is to undergird the intellectual affirmation of Provence, but there is the Provence of my heart and the hearts of so many.  There is the Provence I enjoyed with my good friend and with my daughter – the winding roads to Gordes and Roussillon, the delightful dinners under plane trees in Aix-en-Provence and the glass(es) of wine along the Mediterranean.

Provence France

Ceramic Cicadas

There is the Provence I shared with my husband, who remembers low hills and riotous fields of sunflowers, quiet villages and boules battles, warm sunlight and bright days.  Stopping by the side of the road for an armful of lavender.  Wandering tiny lanes up to Greoux-les-Bains.  Medieval ruins and savory cuisine, the blues skies in the universe.  Cicadas and ceramics.

I will defer to the gentleman who argues about the lack of a ‘line’ here or there that designates “Provence”.  I will as strongly argue for the ability to close my eyes and see a Parasol pine, to smell the sea along the craggy, red landscape that dips down to the Mediterranean.  To feel the rampant joie-de-vivre in Avignon, as well as the quiet air of reverence, while overlooking the Rhône from the ramparts of the Papal Palace.


Roussillon ochre buildings

Just as there is a God, there is a Provence; and we love her!

We’d love to hear from you!



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

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!

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

Three Savory French Cheeses – Délicieux!

French cheeses

Creamy Camembert originated in Normandy

Without a doubt all of us could enjoy a round-table discussion about all of the virtues and varieties of French cheeses.  Today, I share three of my favorite French creations that are elegant staples for almost any recipe or soirée.

French Brie is a natural starting point – the so-called “Le Roi des Fromages” (King of Cheese) in France.  This esteemed cheese won a championship nearly 200 years ago, and the title has remained intact.

Produced from creamy cow’s milk cheese that is soft ripened, Brie has enjoyed continuous adulation from the 8th century. The two Bries awarded AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) classification – Brie de Meux and Brie de Melun – are not permitted to be imported into the United States, because they are made from raw milk. (Notes about U.S. restrictions later!) Fortunately, we still are able to enjoy imported Bries with slight production variations. The creamy mild flavor is ideal for those of us who turn away from ultra-strong flavors.

French cheeses

Even Amazon offers gourmet cheese selections

I know a nice little wine bar that offers brie warmed with a touch of brown sugar and pecans and served with a small baguette and slices of apple. Très délicieux and one of our delectable favorites to serve at home!

Another soft-ripened cheese from Normandy, Camembert has been popular since the late 19th century. Sold in a quaint, round wooden box, the fragile cheese is well-protected in shipping and thus enjoyed around the world. Like Brie, it is an AOC-certified cheese made from raw milk that is adjusted for American importing. Camembert is slightly stronger than Brie but pairs just as well with nuts, bread and fruit.

Now we come to my all-time favorite, though that’s a stretch isn’t it – choosing one delicious cheese over another?  And that would be Gruyère de Comte,  a wonderful French Alpine cheese that is equally revered by the Swiss – who create their own version. Dating to the 12th century, Gruyère de Comte currently enjoys the highest production of all French cheese with AOC protection.

Again, a cow’s milk cheese (I seem to be quite partial to the bovine cheeses), it is pale ivory, semi-hard, formed in wheels and aged for about 12 months in mountain caves. The exceptional flavor tends to be sweet and nutty; though, as with all cheeses, can vary in taste according to the location, production techniques and time of year. Gruyère is absolutely the cheese of choice for many soufflés, gratins and fondues, but we also love it plain and simple with bread or fruit.

As I mentioned before, U.S. regulations affect the importing of French cheese, a slightly amusing fact given our ongoing recalls of everything from peanut butter to healthy, iron-rich spinach! C’est la vie! If you don’t have a good local market that carries premium French cheeses, go on line to familiarize yourself with gourmet cheese providers.  An exceptional source for learning about all types of cheeses by color, texture, country and more is

And by all means when you are in France, make it a point to shop in your neighborhood or market fromagerie – a heavenly experience!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

La Chandeleur Celebration

Paris Louvre France

Elegant Paris sculpture even in the snow!

The gaiety of the holiday season has passed, and winter has settled in along the quais and jardins of Paris.  Folks began their day in Paris with 30-degree temperatures that will move just a little to less than 45-degrees.  Often, the sun hides behind thick blankets of clouds, and the spirit perhaps needs a little boost.

Voila!  We are France!  We have just the solution to carry us through wintry days, until the tulips begin to spring forth along the garden walkways.

In just a couple of weeks, the French will celebrate the religious holiday of Candlemas or “Fête de la Lumière”.  The February 2 celebration – 40 days after Christmas – is also known as “jour des crêpes”, when families enjoy a bit of “fortune telling”.  They foresee the future with a game – flip the crêpe successfully, and you’ll enjoy good luck through the year.  Probably works as well as a Groundhog!


Have a wonderful Sunday!

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

The Mystery of the Camargue

Flaming sunset over the Camargue – © ATOUT FRANCE/Fabrice Milochau

Mystifying.  Fascinating.  Camargue stretches like a triangle from its apex at Arles to Aigues-Mortes and Fos-sur-mer on the Mediterranean and traced along those borders by the Grand and Petit Rhône Rivers.  The land is buffeted by the fierce Mistral winds, that even defined the cabanes or huts that were built to protect against the harsh environment.

The natural treasures are many, a cauldron of natural lagoons and manmade canals, a sweep of grassy plains dotted with black bulls and small white horses, a mix of farmhouse mas, sheep houses and pump stations, all working together – or at odds – through the years to keep the land and the people going.

Nature tries to stand her ground against tourists, and the Grand Parc enfolds the flamingos and animals and the  flora and fauna of the land.  The saltiers tend to salt flats, harvesting the fleur de sel; and the rice farmers protect their increasingly smaller fields.  Along the Petite Camargue, the unique mix of alluvial mud and sand nurtures the flavorful rose wine of the region.

Wild white Camarguais horses – © ATOUT FRANCE/Pascal Gréboval

The Camargue becomes a blur of tourists in the summer, campers parked in the countryside and along the Mediterranean.  Bed and Breakfasts offer cowboy-like experiences complete with guardien-guided horseback tours past garrigue shrubs and along reed-lined canals.  They return to the farmhouse in the evening for hearty Provençal meals of grilled beef, Coquilles Saint Jacques, rotisserie duck and earthy cheeses.

Open air markets, bull fights, quaint chapel towers, fortified towns and lovely seaside harbors deliver every conceivable holiday experience.  Perhaps, the crowning event is the pilgrimage and celebration of the saint’s day for Mary Jacobe in May, when the gypsies gather in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to venerate their patron saint.

The Camargue weaves quite a tapestry of scent and taste, sight and sound, custom and color.  One of our lasting memories was the sight of a gendarme on horseback out in the middle of a flat, golden field.  He seemed at once alone and a part of the land through which he rode.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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).

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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.

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


French Tales and Savory Salads

.. Salads in France – a bit of everything!

French Expression:

Raconter des salades –  “Vous raconte des salades!”

To tell stories, spin yarns – You are spinning a yarn !

The art of the salad in France is complex, full of color and savory tastes…. like a Salade Fraîcheur complete with greens, tomatoes, egg, black olives, ham, lardons,and garlic-sauteed potatoes.

So, the expression refers to something well beyond a little “lie”.  It is a full-blown creative story, spun with cunning and care and embellished beyond imagination.

Our friends in Paris say it this way:  “Qu’est-ce que c’est que ces salades?!”


What’s your favorite expression?

Have a delightful weekend with family and friends … and pick up a new French expression along the way!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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”.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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Sous les Étoiles de Loire Valley

All set for a welcoming lunch

We watched the moon rise above the trees here in Orlando tonight.  It’s a bit cooler, thank goodness, as the 80-degree weather doesn’t lend itself to the feeling of winter.  I hasten to add that we do feel badly for those suffering through winter storms in the North.

With the cooler, dry air, the sky grows clearer and there we see a star…and another…and maybe five or six more.  The sight is beautiful but makes us recall a magical evening in the Loire Valley.

We were invited with our Parisian friends for a weekend visit at the country home of a friend in the Loire Valley.  We found that time plays tricks in France with the regularity of an accomplished mischief-maker. Perhaps, it’s the mere footsteps from 5th to 18th century architecture and artifacts.  More likely, it was our host’s quiet hospitality and thoughtful planning that seemed to expand our weekend by several days.

He celebrated our arrival with a late afternoon lunch of roasted chicken, potatoes, warmed goat cheese salad and wine,  spread before us on a long table set before the window.  Then, we were off to take an enchanting tour of the quaint pottery village, La Borne, walk along narrow, natural lanes, from one small studio to another, to enjoy the artists and admire their work.  The Bourges light show and a lovely trip to Sancerre were other highlights, and the entire weekend continued to spill across us like a soft, worn quilt.  We began and ended our days with outdoor meals – breakfast with huge bowls of steaming coffee, pitchers of juice and local jams for the fresh baguettes.

Breakfast under the sun, dinner under the stars

But it was the last remarkable evening that forever imprinted our memories.  We gathered around a rough-hewn table in the evening air, lounging comfortably, while meat cooked over an open fire.  The  pitch black sky was bejeweled with the sparkle of millions of stars, a Van Gogh kind of evening unfamiliar to those of us who live under the constant haze of city lights.  Beneath this starry tiara, we enjoyed lightly-breaded chevre, warmed in an iron skillet and accompanied by smooth red wine of Sancerre.  Fresh breads and salad accompanied our perfectly-grilled beef.

Through the evening, we did what the French do so very well.  We sipped our wine and shared our stories.  We laughed and dined and listened to the eerie sounds of a slightly strange neighbor; who delivered strands from the Phantom of the Opera in his tenor voice, a sound that rose boldly in the night.  We spoke of old movies and new projects, of new friends and old habits.  The din of the world simply disappeared.

We wish you many star-filled evenings in 2015.

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



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!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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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.


Douce Nuit – Silent Night

The manger rests on a delicate French runner

The manger rests on a delicate French runner

Sung in the same tune as the English Silent Night, the French version – Douce Nuit – is different in meaning. Yet, the quiet celebration and deep sentiments of the seasons are equally present. Christmas carols in any language reflect genuine joy at the birth of baby Jesus.

Douce nuit
Douce nuit, sainte nuit
Dans les cieux , L’astre luit.
Le mystère annoncé s’accomplit.
Cet enfant sur la paille endormit,
C’est l’amour infini,
C’est l’amour infini !


Silent Night (Translation of French)

Christmas sachet from Provence

Christmas sachet from Provence

Sweet night, holy night!
In the heavens the star shines.
The foretold mystery comes true.
This child sleeping on the hay,
Is infinite love,
Is infinite love!Enjoy the peace of the season, as you make your final preparations.

A lovely reminder of the season, as you prepare to celebrate with friends and family!


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Copyright © 2005-2014, 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.

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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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.



‘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.

Trace the History of Art in Provence

Entrance – Carrières de Lumières – © culturespaces

Planning your next trip to France?  You may want to take in an extraordinary ‘new’ attraction in Provence.

A little history

In 2011, the town of Les Baux de Provence asked Culturespaces – the same progressive organization that manages many historic sites and museums in France and Belgium – to take over management of the Carrières du Val d’Enfer quarry.  Culturespaces has managed the Château des Baux de Provence for nearly 20 years and reopened the quarry site in 2012 with a new name – “Carrières de Lumières” – so named to focus on the ever-present role of light in Provence.

Just a stone’s throw from Les Baux de Provence in the heart of the Alpilles, the ‘Val d’Enfer’ enjoys an impressive artistic history. The valley’s dazzling solid mineral deposits has long inspired artists.  It was the setting for Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and the creation of Gounod’s opera “Mireille”. In later years, Cocteau filmed “The Testament of Orpheus” in these same quarries.

The Carrières du Val d’Enfer quarry was created over time with the extraction of bauxite and white limestone used to construct the Chateau and the town. Discovered in Baux in 1821, the dark red bauxite as named after the village.

Where history and art meet high technology

With all of the innovation and vigor they have applied to their other successful projects (among them La Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and Le Théâtre Antique & Musée d’Orange), Culturespaces will present cultural events emphasizing the History of Art in the Carrières rooms.  The all-encompassing galleries, audio visual shows, live shows, concerts and lectures aim to transform the ‘Carrières de Lumières’ into  a cultural hub for multiple events.  One big new show each year will profile the greatest names in the History of Art.  Twice the number of video projectors used in past productions will project images onto all surfaces of the rock, entirely immersing visitors in a vast artistic journey.

If you doubt for a moment that this will be an exceptional experience, look to the clear, expressed purpose that drives Culturespace.

“Our aim is to help public institutions to present their heritage and develop their reputation in cultural circles and among tourists. We also aim to make access to culture more democratic and help our children discover our history and our civilisation in remarkable cultural sites.”   Bruno Monnier, CEO.

Sneak preview of show – production © G. Iannuzzi M. Siccardi.

Created by Gianfranco Iannuzzi with Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi, the masterful show traces and interweaves the lives and works of “Gauguin and Van Gogh, the colour painters”.

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

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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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.

Fête des Pères – Fathers Day

French Father's Day

1908 Flaminaire lighter

Fête des Pères – Fathers Day – also is celebrated in France on the 3rd Sunday in June, when young French children create cards and gifts for their beloved Père! And perhaps the older ones search out a handsome lighter or enticing gourmet products to make the day special.

In profiling the history of this celebration in France, some say what began as a religious remembrance was resurrected for commercial reasons by the creator of Breton gasoline lighters called Flaminaire.   If one could find an original dating to 1908, the collectible would make quite a gift!

Sadly, as with every traditional holiday, marketing gurus continue to create loud flurries of commercial suggestions. We have quieter French gifts in mind – perhaps a tray of macarons, an Opinel knife or an assortment of savory mustards and oils.  French wine or champagne also makes a nice gift for Dad’s celebration.

gifts from France

French metal sign from My French Neighbor

Whether for Father’s Day or other celebrations, our friends at My French Neighbor are quite happy to satisfy the desire for authentic French gifts.

Happy Father’s Day to all of those men fortunate enough to be fathers!

The French Merci Train

French Merci Train

One of the many French shields

Throughout the week leading up to the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing in France, we see one special interview after another.   France Daily Photo recently profiled the Friendship Train sent by America to France, Italy and other European countries and today – the remarkable response from the French people.

The idea of responding to America in kind was initiated by a French rail worker and war veteran,  Andre Picard, who led efforts to create the Merci Train in gratitude to the American people.  The project quickly grew from one box car to a train with 49 box cars – one for each state and the remaining car to be shared by the District of Columbia and the Territory of Hawaii.

In February of 1949, the train arrived in New York Harbor aboard the French merchant ship Magellan.   Each car was filled with gifts to the people of the United States from the people of France.

All box cars featured a French flag and a unique symbol evoking memories of the American “Doughboys” of WWI, many of whom are buried in Flanders Field.  Interestingly, for more than 60 years veteran volunteers have kept the antique box cars restored and displayed as memorials to all who gave their lives for the freedom of others.  North Dakota has the most expansive display, in that many of the gifts they received have been preserved – from French shields from various departments to dolls, ceramics and family keepsakes.  Forty-two other French Merci Train box cars also remain and are displayed in various museums throughout America.

Sometimes politics ‘of the day’ cast shadows on the historical friendship that France and the United States have shared.  That is precisely when it is important to remember the bond between our countries.


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.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


France WWII

American Cemetery in Normandy

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

– Winston Churchill, about R.A.F fighter pilots


Not so very long ago, the Ukrainian people lived in what appeared to be relative peace.  The streets were calm.  Homes felt safe.  Day-to-day chores were accomplished, and children played with one another in the parks.

And in the blink of an eye, shouting and fires and armed troops and killing replaced the security they had known.  I know it isn’t that simple.  Nothing is.  But I would wager that the “average” person in Ukraine would rather resolve their differences without destruction and death.

After a somber visit to the American Cemetery in Normandy, we drove down to the beach.  Where the infamous conflicts portrayed in “Saving Private Ryan” and so many other war films played out, the beach this day was filled with holiday visitors … children playing along the shore, kites and wind sails across the sky … peace and happiness won at such a great price.

erquy france

And just down the road, elderly women return from fishing

Today, as we remember all the sad losses that have occurred because of hatred and conflict, greed and arrogance and all of those interminable reasons ‘mankind’ loses its’ way; I hope one day the abiding desire for peace will overcome the destructive actions of war.


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.




We’d love to hear from you!
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!


We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

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.

We’d love to hear from you!

Paris France

Our Montmartre entertainment

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

Help Médecins Sans Frontières

French medical organization

A newborn baby receives care from an MSF nurse in the neonatal unit at the mother and child hospital in Irbid, Jordan – Jordan 2013 © Enass Abu Khalaf-Tuffaha/MSF

The news of Syria is constant, but just yesterday I read about children whose parents had died or were missing. For a year the children lived off of boiled weeds. Naturally, they are starving.

We have our daily concerns, but they are nothing compared to the plight of children and families in so many war-torn countries of the world. I tend to be an upbeat person with, I believe, a balanced view of the world; but I cannot shuffle past these kinds of desperate stories.

So let’s do something together …. Today. I will introduce and suggest a fine organization – Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), but there are many agencies doing their best to help. The important thing is that today or tomorrow, we move from our sorrowful reactions to our meaningful action. Let us try to make even a small difference.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of MSF, it was founded in 1971 by French doctors – specifically Bernard Kouchner, future Minister of Health of France – and journalists. Kouchner is well known throughout the world for his passionate declarations on human rights and the need for intervention to protect those rights. He once said that by founding MSF, “we were establishing the moral right to interfere inside someone else’s country.”

MSF is working in and around Syria to help refugees in a number of ways:
Emergency room consultations: 49,083
Outpatient consultations: 94,389
Surgical procedures: 6,895
Maternity deliveries: 1,962
Emergency measles vaccination campaign: 75,000 children (April to June 2013)

More than two million Syrian refugees need help, but neighboring countries are stretched to the limit, creating serious shortfalls in health and other humanitarian services. We urge you to visit the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders -MSF) site for more information.

In appreciation for the incredible work of MSF; as I finish this post, we will make a donation to their organization. I hope you will do the same. [Click here to donate.]

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.


Celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day!

Valentines French gifts

A colorful gift from Anne Touraine-Paris

Oui – Saint-Valentine is just around the corner; and if you are really savvy, you could hop on a plane and celebrate in Saint Valentin , where the inhabitants take full advantage of their good fortune each year with an annual festival.

Naturally red roses are first and foremost in the celebrations; the Jardin des Amoureux invites visitors and even those who might wish to be married in the garden gazebo. Just as we take the trouble to send Christmas cards postmarked from Christmas, Florida; visitors to Saint-Valentin visit the post office for the same reason.

Assuming for a moment, though, that you might not take advantage of this visit, might we suggest some last minute gifts with the flavor of France?

Naturally, a premium choice is an Anne Touraine – Paris scarf or gift certificate – the gift that would win any woman’s heart!

Or perhaps, a Provencal tablecloth or French sign from My French Neighbor.

My French Neighbor

Provence tablecloth

Or go to your local French bakery for a delicious assortment of desserts. Our local favorite is Gourmet Croissant. 

Two of our favorites are simple, elegant choices – Chanel perfume from your favorite department store and lavender soap from L’Occitane.

Whatever your choices, may you enjoy a day devoted to appreciating the love(s) of your life!

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!

Wine from Winemakers – Triennes

Aix en Provence

Triennes Rosé from Provence

Simple winemaking without the cosmetics.

Our son recently gave us a gift that yielded another – a bottle of delicate Triennes Rosé from the heart of Provence.   The added bonus?  Memories, appealing joyous memories of travel in southern France, of shaded river banks and cool sips of Provençal wine on warm summer days.

The Triennes Rosé is fresh,  satisfying and reasonable.  Just east of Aix-en-Provence, one of our favorite French cities, gently sloping hills are exposed to the South.  Situated a mere thirty kilometers from the Mediterranean, the lay of the land and mix of clay and limestone provide ideal conditions for Triennes’ wines.  The refreshing microclimate favors the acidity of Triennes wines and results in a variety of exceptional wines. I love the way they describe their process:  “We make our wines the way we like to drink them.”

Assuming you might want an opinion other than mine, let’s see how wine connoisseur’s describe this elegant wine –   70% Cinsault, 25% Grenache, and 5% Merlot ; night harvesting for temperature control; very pale in color and aromatic notes of citrus, raspberry and white pepper….elegant and fresh!

All of that descriptive, and my reaction was a simple, “Delicieux!”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie ‘Escape’

Midi Pyrenees

Magnificent views of the Lot Valley

When we were in the flea markets of Paris, we would come upon stalls of ancient furniture – tables of thick, dark slabs of wood that immediately inspired visions of wayside travelers, tankards in hand. No doubt, Quentin Tarentino could have produced a lively, tavernesque scene among those furnishings.

Such imaginative scenes come to mind in exploring many medieval villages of France. Ancient ramparts and fortifications, thick stone walls, turrets and towering riverside views inspire thoughts of the inhabitants who braved winters, celebrated summers and thwarted attacks.

One idyllic region for discovery is the Lot Valley area.  Our good friends in Paris recently wrote of an Australian couple, who found their dream village in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. With all of the zeal and energy of youth, they purchased a medieval property in this historic village in the mid-Pyrenées; and they shall set about the task of completely restoring the manor – what many of us imagine but few have the time, energy and funds to accomplish!

Yet, in the end, they will inhabit one of the most beautiful and historic villages of France … described as a medieval jewel poised above the River Lot. A Gothic church, a cliff side museum and several castles mix with lovely old houses of stone and wood with steep tile roofs, that date as far back as the thirteenth century.


Châteaux de Cénevières

Today passageways of shops preserve the very artisan craftsmanship that contributed to the wealth of the village – skinners and coppersmiths, wood turners and ceramists. At the foot of the village, mills and dams, locks and towpath remind us of that entrancing age of river commerce that characterized the region.

Visitors explore the fort ruins for panoramic views of the valley and discover the same stunning views from the terraces of the Renaissance castle at Cénevières. The Châteaux de Cénevières is one of the area’s most historic monuments and is now open to the public. From the small village of Bouziès, just 4 kilometers from Saint-Cirq, tour boats and rental houseboats provide enchanting access to this magnificent river that meanders all the way to the River Garonne at Aiguillon.

Whatever your country of origin, you might find yourself much like those Australians, with an eye toward settling in the area. Another who did so was a famous surrealist.

“It was in June 1950 … that I first saw Saint-Cirq, blazing with Bengal Fire, like an impossible rose in the night. It was love at first sight and the next morning, I returned to the temptation, to the heart of this flower – it had ceased to flame, but remained intact. Above any other place in the world, in America or Europe, Saint-Cirq is my one place of enchantment: the one fixed forever. I stopped wanting to be elsewhere.” – André Breton, leader of the surrealist movement, September 3, 1951. The painter lived out all the remaining summers of his life in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, until his death in 1966.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

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.

Gift-giving for Monsieur!

Reims France champagne

Chalk caves of Reims

I love to theme gifts – French gifts or otherwise – so let’s refer to these gift ideas for Monsieur “It’s a matter of taste”.  For the budding to the mature wine connoisseur, let’s begin with a focus on very appealing champagne from France.

Perhaps to whet his appetite, you will include an engaging and comprehensive book by one of the world’s leading wine authorities, An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France.  Author Clive Coates shares his expansive knowledge of wine, its character, the meaning of apellations and the finest of French wine estates.

Now, let’s get right to the heart of the matter with an enticing bottle of Taittinger Champagne!  Go to your favorite specialty wine shop for guidance.  In Orlando, that would be Tim’s Wine Market, where they have been helping customers with personal guidance for over 20 years.

Taittinger champagne

Premier French champagne

Taittinger is one of the distinctly historic Champagne houses of France and one of only five to cellar its wines in the renowned “Crayères” of Reims – the chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. Since their discovery early in the 18th century, Champagne merchants found the cave conditions ideal for aging wine.  The Taittinger family is one of the largest vineyard owners in Champagne, and this esteemed brand will be the official Champagne at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Perhaps you will choose Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, chose in 2012 as “Best Champagne” by Fine Champagne Magazine. 

Round out your themed gift with a pair – or a set of champagne glasses – yet another opportunity for learning the ins and outs of the heavenly nectar.  Flutes, coupes and tulips are your choices, and there are myriad designs from which to choose.  Champagne flutes aid in capturing the flavor and aroma of champagne with their tall narrow shape, medium to long stem and point at the bottom of the glass.  Champagne coupes (saucers) are the wide-rimmed, shallow glasses with a short stem.  A favorite in the early 1900’s, they are not as popular with ‘experts’ today, in that the shape allows the aroma and carbonation to escape.  Finally, the aptly-named champagne tulip is similar to the flute but curves inward at the rim.  Especially recommended for finer French champagnes, the wider base allows flavors to be captured and taste enhanced.

Voila!  So there you have a wonderful assortment of French gifts for him, and I’m certain you can find a handsome bag or box in which to present your refined collection.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



All You Want For Christmas …French!

hand-rolled silk scarves

A stunning collection from Anne Touraine – Paris

Come now – you aren’t surprised that I would recommend exquisite French gifts for your friends and loved ones.  Not only will they appreciate your thoughtfulness, but they will readily acknowledge your good taste and shopping acumen!

Let us begin with a timeless, elegant silk scarf.  In any color or design, Anne Touraine – Paris silk scarves transform the most basic outfit to a subtle and sophisticated statement.  My favorite is Paris Je T’aime in blue, but wait until you see all of the colors, sizes and designs at your fingertips.  And Anne’s packaging is a work of art from the linen-finish box and signature ribbon to the styling techniques booklet inside.  My number one choice – Anne Touraine – Paris!

For a touch of Joie de Vivre, choose a highly collectible CERRI ‘Art poupee doll from Paris.  Exquisite detail ranges from the hand-painted porcelain faces, hands and feet to the ornate headdresses and jewelry.  Best of all, I love the fact that these bead-filled jewels can be situated and posed to elicit a smile every time you walk through the room!  Find your special gift at LuxeEuro – with free shipping in the U.S., no less.

CERRI 'Art doll Paris

I call her Betty Bleu!

Finally for today’s French gift recommendations, take a look through the French Food Market online shop.    We love to make gifts of gourmet mustards and sweet jams, caramel sauces and sea salt – specialty gourmet items that add a very personal touch to gift shopping.

Stay tuned for more shopping recommendations with that touch of French style!

We’d love to hear from you!

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.



Quickie Pear Tarte a la Jacques Pépin!

Jacques Pepin recipe

Pear Tarte with Framboise fruit spread

Alright, my friends, I promised on facebook, that I would reveal the secret of this elegant looking dish.  In 100 years, I would not have guessed that the base is ……………….a flour tortilla.  I am not kidding.

I told my husband that we have to try this.  I think I really didn’t believe it would be very tasty, despite the fact that we think Jacques Pépin is as endearing as he is incredible to watch ‘chefing it up’ in le cuisine.  Off to the store we went for two very perfect Bartlett pears… we had the rest ….except for parchment paper, but I am the make-do queen and used aluminum foil.

So here are the basics.  Take a 7- or 8-inch flour tortilla shell.  Butter one side with about 1 T of unsalted butter and sprinkle with the same amount of sugar.  Turn it over and place on foil or parchment on a cookie sheet.  Pre-heat your oven to 400o.

Peel your lovely pear and slice into beautiful wedges – as many as you can manage.  I had a nice, plump pear so only used one, but you can use two pears, as desired.  Carefully place wedges around the tortilla, beginning with the thicker parts of the pear at the outer edge.  Overlay a second ring from the center of the tortilla, and finish off with tinier pieces in the center.

tarte au poire frqance

Pear tarte dotted with butter and sugar

Dot the whole charming arrangement with little pieces of soft butter – about 2 T and sprinkle with the same amount of sugar.  Voila!  Time to place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, ‘til the tortilla is crisp and brown and the pear tender.  Monsieur Pépin warns of the potential for blackened, carmelized edges that you would need to trim.  Alas in my make-do perfection, there was no need!

Cool for a minute before placing on a wire rack.  I took a dollop of delicious St. Dalfour Red Raspberry fruit spread and heated for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, so it was nice and thin.  For a beautiful glazed finish, I lightly brushed the framboise over the tarte………and there you have this gorgeous creation!

tarte au poire france

Ready for glazing!

We split into four wedges and enjoyed this crisp, sweet treat with tender pears – very different and equally delicious!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, 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.

The Lure of Loire Valley Memories

France wheat fields

Golden fields in the Loire Valley

I suppose everyone has a different approach to travel, some probing the history and points of interest of a given area and others taking a more laissez-faire, let-it-unfold approach.  Whichever method appeals to you, what is quite interesting is to go back and research about an area you have experienced first hand.

I recently came across a nicely written and very thorough article that profiled the city of Bourges in the Loire Valley.  While reading of historic churches and age-old customs, my mind whisked backward to a remarkably hospitable weekend in the area.

A friend and former Parisian invited our friends and us to visit with him in a tiny hamlet about 30 minutes from Bourges.  We managed to pack a ton of discoveries into that one weekend.

Loire Valley

Cows seeking shelter from the July sun

In deference to the article I mentioned, yes we walked the streets of Bourges.  In fact we did so at night during the Lumiere extravaganza, when mystical lights cast their glow upon church courtyards and centuries-old, timbered houses.  On the steps of the renowned St. Stephan’s Cathedral, I picked up a couple of tiny red and pink tissue hearts, the sweet mementos of a wedding held earlier in the day.  We have the deepest respect for the city and its’ storied past.

But now I move on past the sophisticated travel to our deepest memories –

…. Of golden wheat fields stretching, stretching for miles up soft hills capped here and there with a couple of trees, standing as sentries, it seemed, overlooking this ‘bread basket’ of France.

…. Of steaming bowls of coffee enjoyed in the morning in the front yard, as we heard the plans for the day

…. Of an enormous, rhinestone blanket of stars setting the blackest of black nights ablaze with light

…. Of a whimsical house with all sorts of glass art – now, I see, named La Cathédrale de Jean Linard

…. Of narrow country lanes winding through the country, and shuttered homes built inches from the road – they always, always cloak their windows in delicate French lace

…. Of our little trek to La Borne, where 88 village artists give birth to imaginative ceramic  works of art

artists of the Loire

La Cathedrale in the Loire countryside

And so we traveled in the footsteps of the Gaulouis and years from now will still enjoy this warm quilt of Loire countryside memories.


We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.




September 11 – In Remembrance

September 11, 2001

World headlines of 9/11

Twelve years.  Time plays such tricks, but few of us have been left untouched by the psyche-searing visions and ugly remnants of September 11, 2001.

We remember where we were.  We remember the need to reach out to loved ones, if only to express our horror and confusion.  We remember the need to sequester ourselves for a time, a need to hold the world at bay; while we tried to find our footing on shaken grounds of belief.

Americans were not alone on that day.  Powerful world leaders and common men and women on streets in England and India, South Africa and Japan, France and Poland felt the anguish; as if it had happened in their own country, in their own back yard.

Twelve years later, we still have world turmoil.  We have the prolonged economic uncertainties of the past six years.  And we have the sometimes exhausting hassle and expense of extraordinary security measures in travel and even in commonplace sporting events.  And as trying as any of those circumstances might be, they pale before the events of September 11, 2011.

France on 9/11/2001

Le Figaro headlines on 9/11

On that day darkness threatened the light of the world; and if there is any grace in the unyielding terror of September 11, it is in the shared tears of global humanity.  America could never be the same.  Neither could any part of the world we live in.  In the face of generations of discord, unity is a treasure.

In quiet remembrance of all of the victims, heroes and families left behind.

Labor Day Sale of French Gifts

Paris poupee

Relaxing with her friends!



Voila!  LuxeEuro celebrates Labor Day with 20% off and free shipping in the U.S. for all items in the “Toys in the Attic”  Choose from serendipity Cerri’Art Poupee dolls and chairs from Paris – fun, whimsical and highly collectible!  These rare jewels are a joy to own and add warmth to any corner of any room.  And it is never too early to start thinking about holiday shopping..

Other sale items include:

Hand-crafted artisan jewelry from Paris and Provence    – for yourself, your friend … or your favorite aunt!

Paris France

Fabulous Poupee chair!

European collection of note cards and prints  –      a very nice gift for friends or employees!

To enjoy your savings, simply contact, so they can change the BuyNow price to reflect your savings.  As soon as are notified of the change by return e-mail, you can complete your purchase without delay …. while enjoying 20% savings and free shipping in the United States.

Happy Labor Day and Happy Shopping!



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.

Quéven Brittany ‘Unites’ with Orlando

Bretagne France

Brittany – a wealth of history and diverse landscapes

We are excited to welcome a new, though temporary, family member this evening.  Joining us for two weeks from Quéven in the south of Brittany, Hugo is 18 years old and a recent graduate.  He comes to us from his home in the country, with the blessing and support of his mom, dad, sister …. And cats! 

We will enjoy Hugo’s visit thanks to ECI (Echanges Culturels Internationaux), a non-profit cultural exchange program based in southern France.  With active programs in Central Florida and in Pennsylvania, the organization lays the groundwork and program features that allow French teenagers to enjoy an exciting opportunity to experience everyday American life.

Just as the word signifies, though, the exchange is mutual; for we already have learned about an area of Brittany with which we were not very familiar.   Quéven is part of the rich landscape of estuaries around the Gulf of Morbihan – described as one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  Ancient megaliths, and just to the Southeast the historic walled town of Vannes, enrich life in the region.

In researching the area, we discovered the notable impact of World War II.  Nearly the entire town of Quéven was destroyed by Allied bombs from 1943-1944.  As the U-Boat Headquarters for the Germans, Lorient was a primary target of the Allies.  And just yesterday, we made a very timely and interesting discovery.

As it turns out, my husband’s uncle was part of the armored division that ultimately liberated Brittany.  In an amazing coincidence, we came across his letters describing the ‘march’ from Rennes to Vannes and beyond in the fall of 1944.  On May 10, 1945, the German garrison surrendered, and four years later the city of Lorient was awarded the Legion of Honour and the Croix de guerre.

We are so pleased to be a part of this cultural exchange, understanding quite well the wealth of experience any person enjoys, when engaging with other cultures.  That is, in fact, one of the primary reasons we developed France Daily Photo.  Each day we learn more of our French ‘neighbors’, and it is our pleasure to share our love of French culture, history and style with our readers.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  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

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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.


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.

Julia and Jacque’s French Cooking

Julia  Child Jacques Pepin

An extraordinary cookbook

When I really love a place or product, I can’t wait to share the good news.  We recently have discovered a channel new for us – Create® TV, in particular the fabulous cooking duet presented by the legendary Julia Childs and renowned Chef Jacques Pépin.

Watch one episode of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, and you will appreciate how much Monsieur Pepin must miss his cooking accomplice, Julia, who died in 2004 and would have been 100 last August. The anniversary of that birth date prompted many fond remembrances and celebrations of her life.

The show is appealing on many levels. The thorough look at each category – meat or fish or potatoes – is very rich, covering everything from what to look for in cuts of meat to the chemical reactions that impact cooking.  Not only are DVD’s of the shows available, but the companion cookbook is one of the finest I have ever seen. Chapters cover soups and eggs, salads and sandwiches, potatoes and other accompanying vegetables, a wide selection of fish, fowl and meats and the pièce de résistance – desserts.

The book’s photography is excellent in illustrating the steps of cooking, methods of garnishing, preparation of meats and poultry and even directions for serving and carving. And then there are those little extras, like Julia explaining how to rid your hands of onion odors and Jacques showing us how to quickly peel garlic.

Both are geniuses in their arena and play off one another in a very entertaining way on the show.  Jacques doesn’t worry about de-veining shrimp; for Julia it’s a must.  Julia ‘collars’ her soufflés – not so with Jacques.

If you love cooking, you’ll love the show and recipe book. If you don’t love cooking, you just might change your mind, after watching these cum laude chefs! Bon Appétit.

Would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  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.

My “French” Mother’s Day Lunch

Winter Park French restaurant

Mother’s Day at Cafe de France

Who doesn’t love to be spoiled … just a little?  I confess, I do, and I definitely was spoiled with a warm and wonderful Mother’s Day lunch with my son.  He definitely played to my Francophile spirit with lunch at Café de France , our favorite local French restaurant.

Not too many restaurants in Central Florida garner the loyalty of their clientele like this typically French intimate restaurant.  For over 30 years, they have welcomed customers with very fresh and appealing cuisine and exceptional service.  Honestly, once through the doors, I feel as if we have just stepped off the Place Dauphine in Paris into one of the enchanting local restaurants.

Cafe de France

Excellent cuisine in an inviting atmosphere

We shared lots of wonderful conversation over Kir Royale and steak tartare, pan-seared scallops and one of the most exotic and enticing wild mushroom omelettes I have ever tasted.   Naturally a light and lovely Provençal Rosé perfectly paired with our meal.  

Too full and satisfied to indulge in dessert, we will return another day for delicious crêpes and profiterolles?
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.

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

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

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.

#2 Reason to Travel – Culture

culture, Paris France

GrandPalais © Mirco Magliocca

Many know that I could keep this up for months, as I can offer 100 reasons to travel!  Culture would be a top reason – the opportunity to explore works of art – visual and performing,  to experience the everyday customs of people with entirely different ways of looking at the world around them. 

The Grand Palais of Paris continues to provide a broad menu of cultural experiences.   Like the world in which we live, and those of us who inhabit that world; the Grand Palais of Paris has ‘worn different hats’ and evoked different moods through the years.  Marking the new century and the 1900 Universal Exhibition, the design of the Grand  was an attempt to outdo Le Tour Eiffel that had created such a stir and sensation in 1889.  Who would have thought that the grand building would be converted to a military hospital in World War I and would house Nazi exhibits in World War II?  Such are the vagaries of our times, and the ironies of our conflicts.

Fast forward to 2013, and we see the Grand Palais hosting quite an unusual exhibit – Dynamo – A century of light and motion in art, 1913-2013.  Scheduled to run from 10 April to 22 July, the exhibition marks the first time the Galeries Nationales has been devoted entirely to one exhibition.  Visitors can expect a whirlwind of perceptions from monumental works and installations focused on vision, light and movement.

Paris' Grand Palais

Dynamo – Light and Motion in Art, Paris

Retracing a century of optical and kinetic art, the installations draw the visitor in with blinking, undulating visions that in all likelihood distort one’s sense of space, like the strobe lights of a dark cavernous space.  Pioneering artists at the center of this entertaining sojourn include Alexander Calder, Julio Le Parc, Marcel Duchamp, Felice Varini and François Morellet. 

The “perceptual art”, combining vibration and vision, provides quite an innovative experience, one that ‘awakens all senses’.   Visitors will enjoy the unique pleasure of contributing to the image wall at the end of the exhibition, thus participating in … and prolonging the collective experience of the works. 

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


The Face of France in Textiles

Colorful home decor in Saint–Émilion

The luscious fabrics of France – they are museums unto themselves, full of color and creativity, artisan skill and symbols of the land.  The soul of France is woven into their textiles.  The inspirations for color and design are infinite.  Lavender and sunflowers. Olives and cicadas.  Mimosas and lemons.  Ochre soils and deep red clay.  Turquoise Mediterranean waters and brilliant Provençal skies. Is it any wonder that the same sights that inspired artists through the ages prompted textile artisans to create such vivid works of art?

So, the secret is out – I am a certifiable enthusiast of French fabrics.  Whether I am in Paris or Provence, I naturally gravitate toward textiles.  I purchased this lush piece of fabric at the foot of Montmartre, where the fabric stores cluster like grapes on a vine.  After 15 years, the colors remain bright.  What I love most is the mix of quaint flowers and simple striped design with lustrous, beautifully woven threads.  It’s like mixing gingham and sterling – a whimsical juxtaposition of country and city, casual and smart.

Delightful fabric from Paris [Click to Enlarge]

In Provence, the rich cotton table and home linens burst with color, reflecting the very land from which they come.  Souleiado deems itself  “The Last Indiennes’ Maker”, replicating some of the original fabric designs from India.  At the end of the 16th century, lively cottons with exceptional, lasting dyes began to arrive in Marseille from India.  Their popularity rapidly grew, and in a rather long historic evolution, Souleiado became the benchmark for famous fabrics.

Today, the rich heritage of Souleiado Métis tradition offers collections of fashion and home décor – creative expressions and colors of the sun of Provence.  In fact, souleiado means “when the sun shines through the clouds after the rain” in Provence.

And I haven’t even touched on Pierre Frey fabrics, opulent silks, quaint cotton laces or the intricate vignette designs of Toile de Jouy.  Perhaps, we’ll revisit my ‘fixation’ another day.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

“The Triumph of Caesar” – Nîmes


Nimes France Gallo-Roman

The fabulous Nimes Arena

“The Triumph of Caesar” is the special theme of The Great Roman Games to be held in Nîmes on the 4th and 5th of May.  This will be the 4th edition of the games, when visitors from all over Europe will see the entire city transformed to its Roman origins.  And for those planning a May trip to France, presales of tickets on the Internet are now open, with a 20% discount until 15 April (contact Director of the Arena, Michael at

The historic re-enactment devoted to the Triumph of Caesar will take place in the spectacular Nîmes arena, where the Battle of Alesia will focus on the decisive clash between Caesar’s Roman legions and the Gauls led by Vercingetorix.  Prior to watching Caesar’s victory, spectators will enjoy the Pompa de l’Empereur (pomp of the Emperor), an elaborate procession in which the troops greet their audience. All sorts of conflicts take place during the games, from man fighting against wild animals to gladiators fighting one another on horseback. 

Roman games of Nimes

Processions through the streets of Nimes

Naturally history buffs are drawn to Nîmes to explore the Arena, the Maison Carrée temple and Magne Tower; but we enjoyed wandering the streets to visit galleries, sidewalk cafes, the colorful carousel and gourmet shops – a very warm and hospitable city!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Château Puech-Haut – Elegant Rosés

southern French wines

Refreshing wines from the Languedoc region

Live, learn and …. love Languedoc wines!  I love unique things, and recently our son the wine expert introduced us to a lovely Languedoc wine that had an elegant glass stopper in lieu of a cork.  Certainly that unique feature captured our attention, but the delightful Rosé in the bottle was indeed “Le précieux nectar” promised by Château Puech-Haut!

Actually I first introduced Château Puech-Haut in December, when I recommended their Prestige Rouge 2010 for holiday gifts.  Well, with summer – at least in Florida – just around the proverbial corner, it’s time to think of light, chilled rosés.  The very refined Château Puech-Haut Cuvee Prestige couldn’t make a more elegant statement for your dinner table or a special gift to friends.  Their now-famous glass stopper – with a rose ‘blush’ – simply anoints the entire experience.                

Château Puech-Haut is one of the prestigious types of wine producers in Languedoc referred to as récoltants – vintners who make and bottle their own wine on the premises.  Most supermarkets, for example, stock négociant or co-op wines.  The first buys and mixes together other people’s wines in great quantity; the latter pools grapes from all area growers to make wine.  Generally, mass production yields cheaper wine without the deft personal touch of the récoltant producer. 

Château Puech-Haut continues to produce excellent wines from 400+ acres of vineyards in the Languedoc countryside of southern France.  The soil, climate and grape varieties of the 40- to 75-year old vines interact perfectly to yield exceptional wines.

As much as we enjoyed our introduction to their Cuvee Prestige, nothing compares with visiting a vineyard for a tasting and loading up the trunk of the car with a couple of cases of wine.  We look forward to that!

Languedoc France

Château Puech-Haut wine presentation

 We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Printemps – The Bounty of Spring Flowers

Printemps Flowers in France

And a year ago, we wrote of Printemps in France!

Wine and flowers permeate French pride, culture and tradition, and Spring delivers nature’s colorful bounty throughout the country – a sweet message that winter is behind us.  It was King Louis XII who designated the fleur-de-lis as the official symbol of France, the lovely purple and yellow irises that thrive all over France.

So serious is the French devotion to flowers, that there is a special designation – “Villes et Villages Fleuris” – that proffers one- to the esteemed four-flower designation as a village of flowers.  Throughout cities and villages, a gorgeous palette of floral gardens anoints parks and boulevards, rond-points and bridges.  Hyacinths, hydrangeas, tulips and sunflowers – the diversity of color, size and scent is beyond imagination.  And did I fail to mention the sprawling lavender fields that perfume the countryside?

May first heralds two important French traditions. The “Fête du Travail” (Festival of Workers) campaigns for and celebrates the rights of labor, and bows to the custom of gathering lilies of the valley to scent the home for spring renewal. Individuals and worker’s organizations are allowed to sell the symbolic flowers tax free. And there’s another sweet custom surrounding lilies of the valley – a kiss in return for the gift of the flowers,

Fleur-de-lis – The symbol of France

 We’d love to hear from you!

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



Dress Your Home in French!

French furnishings

French Bergere chair warms any room

My tastes run to all things French … well, and maybe a touch of Italian. I love all types of ceramics, molded from the rich red clay of the earth and painted by hand with Provençal colors. Bergère chairs are a favorite, as well – a comfortably warm accent in any room.

Santons remind of us the many working French folks and everyday family members, and the sweet scent of lavender soap brings those sprawling purple fields to mind.

I have a petite, brass Lampe Pigeon I found in a little shop along the back Loire Valley roads in Bracieux, and I was fortunate to find the unique round replacement wicks at a Paris flea market. Among my favorites also are lovely faience platters, elegant and colorful, that were wedding gifts from our Parisian friends; and a fabulous Tabac jar that serves as a delightful accent piece and occasional host to bouquets of flowers.

Pigeon Lampe, Bracieux France

Lamp from Bracieux

And French fabrics enthrall me! They cover our dining room chairs and dress the table, when we host friends for dinner. Lovely yellow, cream and blue toile accent our bedroom windows, and a simple cream and blue Pierre Frey print does the same in our guest room.

Thanks for bearing with me, as I gush about ‘all things French’. They simply add such color and charm to our life – a simple French napkin on a tray with a tiny Baccarat glass and flower turns a croissant and coffee breakfast into a trip abroad!

France products

Tabac pot – mais oui!

We’d love to hear from you!

 Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Francophonie Cultural Festival 2013

French celebrations

Francophonie Festival in Washington, D.C.

What a great time to consider a trip to our nation’s capitol!  The D.C. Francophonie Festival is in full swing from March 1st to April 13th with an eclectic mix of events designed to celebrate the diversity and richness of the French language and French communities around the world. Since 2001, the spirit of the Francophonie – from France to Africa to the Americas to the Middle East – has been celebrated by more than 40 countries, all collaborating to express the vibrant “colors” of the French-speaking world.

Cultural events in Washington range from film and music to dance and literature – and, of course, culinary events! The Francophonie Cultural Festival is presented in collaboration with The Smithsonian Associates, Alliance Française, La Maison Française, and the French-American Cultural Foundation.

Always a highlight of the annual Festival, La Grande Fête is hosted by the Maison Française on Friday, March 22, when 35+ embassies and organizations present a spectacular feast of culinary specialties and traditions of the Francophone world. Naturally, music will be a part of the celebration, featuring in concert Switzerland’s popular singer-songwriter Bastian Baker.

French films

Directed by Jean-Christophe Dessaint, Day of the Crows French film – March 16th

A few years back – unfortunately as the world was racing toward economic disaster – we formed a committee in Orlando to host “Paris on Park” – a cultural celebration much like the Francophonie Festival. Designed to mirror the very successful “Paris on the Potomac”, our events intended to shed light on the rich history, tradition and culture France and the United States share.

Alas, economic downturns and re-structured priorities did not allow us to bring that vision to fruition, but in the course of the planning we met with so many enthusiastic supporters. The Alliance Francaise of Greater Orlando was a staunch participant and supporter, and the then-Consul General of France in the Miami Consulate agreed to serve on the board. Realtors and event planners, professors and everyday French ex-pats demonstrated the kind of passion we hoped to exhibit and inspire in Paris on Park. What a pleasure the whole experience was for us!

And now, you can go to your favorite airline and hotel providers and plan to take part in the celebrations now happening in Washington! Enjoy the festivities, spread the cultural delights!

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fresh Thoughts and Vintage Poupee Dolls

Paris Medicis fountain

Jardin du Luxembourg – also one of our favorites in Paris

A few introductions today … to some of our fabulous CERRI’Art dolls and to a new gal on the blog-‘block’! We connected on Twitter (oh, how I detest that admission!), and her name is Merry Stuber. Whenever someone describes themselves as a died-in-the-wool Francophile and spends hours musing over and writing about all things French, I am interested.

I visited Merry’s site – French Seams – and found it … and her to be rich in content and warm in delivery. I really like her breadth of material from art and history to personal experience and travel.

As I learned, she works as an Assistant Editor in NYC; so it’s not surprising that she combines a cosmopolitan attitude with an authentic embrace of France. Well worth a visit to her site, and I offer my personal salute to her work.

paris poupee dolls

Sandrine – a delightful CERRI’Art Madame!

Now allow me to introduce you to “Sandrine”, so named by me because I don’t know the original name of this vintage treasure. She is all decked out with red netting and glamorous attired and takes on the whimsical poses with her pliant body. Visit her and her friends at LuxeEuro.   That’s where we have a little boutique for French treasures.

Wishing all of you a wonderful weekend!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Parisian Style, Provençal Colors

Marie Pastorelli's workshop in Provence

Marie Pastorelli’s workshop in Provence

As an offshoot of sorts from France Daily Photo, we have opened “Le Grenier aux Jouets” on our sister site – LuxeEuro. One of the artists with whom we have become acquainted through the years is the delightful ceramiste, Marie Pastorelli.

Marie lives and works near Nimes, where she creates extraordinary ceramic jewelry that seems to mirror the vibrant colors and natural beauty of Provence. She once wrote that she grew up in the same area as the famous French novelist, playwright and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol. Perhaps there is something in the air that stimulates creativity in that area of the country!

Marie's 'collier' -

Marie’s ‘collier’ –

An independent artisan, Marie began her career in 1992, after studying fine arts at the Art School of Digne les Bains. In each of her creations, she seems to sculpt unique shapes and fuse a variety of enamel colors. In addition to participating in international trade fairs, Marie offers her work through select retailers and at the Atelier d’Arts boutique in Paris.

And speaking of the Ateliers d’Art de France , we really enjoy going to their boutiques in Paris. They bring together astonishing talents and unique objects and refer to their organization as a center of contemporary creativity that offers selections from more than 150 artists. 

Much to our delight, they showcase those vibrant creations in their two boutiques – Talents Opéra in the 9th arrondissement and Talents Etoile on Avenue Niel in the 17th. They are ideal boutiques for finding those limited editions in jewelry, furnishings, tableware and decorative accessories.

Paris France arts

Atelier d’Arts Boutique, Paris

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

A New Provençal Retreat

Provence France

Domaine de la Baume, Tourtour

On a couple of occasions, we have enjoyed the distinct pleasure of wandering about the small villages and back roads of Provence. We visited potters in Salernes and enjoyed a picnic by Lac de Sainte Croix du Verdon. And we stopped for lunch under umbrellas on a café terrace in Tourtour.

Now we learn of a new property in Provence, part of the exceptional MAISONS & HOTELS Sibuet group, and the very description whets our appetite for a return to this magnificent landscape. To open late in June of this year, the Domaine de la Baume in Tourtour is set in a 99-acre property ideally situated between the Verdon Gorges and the French Riviera.

The Sibuet’s bring the same classic good taste and refined hospitality to the Domaine, where formal French gardens mix with rows of olive trees. This area of Provence is captivating with gentle hills and dramatic cliffs, lazy streams and rushing waterfalls and the songs of cicadas throughout the day.

The Domaine de la Baume was the last home of the artist Bernard Buffet, whose wife pays glowing tribute to the Domaine in the preface of an exhibition catalogue of his works – “…And on the easel sat our ‘home’. Bernard had decided to paint some landscapes and interior views of it, like a meticulous portrait of someone you love… He wanted to capture its atmosphere and beauty, possibly to explain the love that inspires him.”

Provence Tourtour

Catalogue of Buffet’s works

Without question, then, he would be pleased with the transition to a genteel retreat, with handsome Bergère armchairs and colorful Kilim rugs, sparkling chandeliers and comfortable suites. The restaurant will be serving from the rich garden of delights – crunchy petits pois and fleshy tomatoes and a wonderful variety of Mediterranean fish and local beef. They even have their own beehives for honey and domaine olive oil pressed locally at Aups oil mill.

When I need a mental escape, I can close my eyes and see the landscape of Provence and imagine the comfort and serenity of the Domaine de la Baume.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Montmorillon – Carnival and More


Montmorillon on the Gartempe River, France

Eglise Notre Dame, Montmorillon

Tucked away in the Poitou-Charentes region, the riverside town of Montmorillon is one of those pleasant getaway places, where history, charm and natural beauty complement one another. They call it La Cité de l’Ecrit made obvious by the twenty-odd shops focused on writing – booksellers, calligraphers and others devoted to the art of writing.

The medieval history of Montmorillon also comes to light in noted buildings like the Octogone, the Maison Dieu and Saint-Laurent chapel, Notre-Dame church and the Vieux Palais. Add scenic vistas along the Gartempe River, and you have a very pleasant village to explore.

Now is a popular time to visit, as the Carnival of Montmorillon takes place on Saturday, March 16. Children will gather for face painting, young and old will fill the streets and don their fanciful costumes in accordance with the ‘two-color’ theme of the festivities.

Poitou Charentes France

The wilder side of the Gartempe River

Music, parades, dancing and animations will keep the lively pace going. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy such celebrations in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Avignon and easily can attest to the ability of the French to throw exceptional parties!

And when you’ve exhausted your carnival spirit, you have a number of historic and archeological finds to explore. As recently as 1966, extensive excavations revealed a host of archaeological remains – tools made of bone, wildlife remains, thousands of flints and more. Scientists believe a small community of hunters gathered here to spend a few weeks a year at the foot of the cliff. Perhaps you should end your day with a cool drink of wine by the river.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Department Store Shopping in Paris

Bon Marche, Paris France

Our classic little shopper stepping up at Bon Marche!

Shopping in Paris is nothing short of spectacular … well, yes that and at the same time, quietly mesmerizing.  The first adjective applies best to the fabulous department stores in Paris.  Perhaps in Manhattan, you readily think to shop Bergdorf Goodman or Bloomingdale’s.  In Paris, department store choices are equally – if not more – enticing.

Bon Marché      

Definitely a classic on the left bank, Bon Marché features a treasure chest of products from top fashion designer collections to gourmet selections at La Grande Epicerie.  Dating to 1852 and designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, Bon Marché represented a new type of store in Paris – a single store offering a vast range of products, home delivery and even item exchanges.  Apparently it was very well received, as the store is still welcoming customers many decades later!  A part of the LVMH group since 1984, the store is now one of the most exclusive in Paris.  They manage to mix beguiling tradition with avant-garde contemporary in a delightful shopping venue.   

Galeries Lafayette    

galeries lafayette

Galeries gourmet sets

Who is to say which store is ‘best’?  Certainly the Galeries Lafayette wins beaucoup points for style, housed in one of Paris’ most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.  The Galeries has been a fashion institution since 1893 and fits in quite well with the nearby stately Opera Garnier.  What a challenge it is to shop here.  Around every corner there is a colorful display, a stunning mannequin; and everything is set beneath that gorgeous, glassed dome.  Beyond all of those wonderful fashion, jewelry and home furnishing areas, the Lafayette Gourmet is a very enticing food market.

Au Printemps                   

A neighbor to Galeries Lafayette on the same block along Haussmann/Grand Magasins, Au Printemps also dates to the mid-19th century.  What a dynamic era in the history of Paris commerce!  With the French name for spring, Au Printemps opened in 1865, equipped with electricity – mind you – and ready to provide shoppers with an incredible experience in a lavish Art Nouveau setting.  Despite damage by fires and painstaking renovation, the store’s façade was honored as an Historic Monument in 1975.  The ninth floor is the real jewel of Au Printemps, where the sights of Paris explode into view from the panoramic terrace.  Imagine the all-inclusive view of the city from the Opéra to the Madeleine and from the Eiffel Tower to Sacré Cœur.

Bazaar de L’Hotel de Ville (BHV)  

Finally, we shine the light on one my husband’s favorites.  Located right across the street from the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Bazaar de L’Hôtel de Ville (BHV) is the less touristy heart of Parisian shopping, the place for real everyday needs like a missing sink part or a trendy accessory … or real deals on up-to-the-minute electronics and the latest parquetry and carpeting on the market.  The range of products here is really dizzying, so you may need to sit down for lunch in La Cantine du Bazar.

We’d love to hear from you!

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



Extraordinary Poupee-Style Chaises!

Paris poupee chaise

Betty Bleu – so comfortable in her gorgeous chaise

Just a little note today to let you know that our little boutique – “Le Grenier aux Jouets” (Toys in the Attic) is up and “at ’em” on our sister site – LuxeEuro.  In addition to some fabulous –  and whimsical – poupee dolls from Paris, we found these two vintage chairs – hand-painted and absolutely extraordinary.

And while we are simply offering nifty finds either new from artisans or lovingly used by former owners, we still encourage our readers to visit My French Neighbor for delightful gifts and incredible gourmet products.

Poupee doll accessories

Deco poupee-style chair

Happy shopping and we hope you are looking forward to a great week ahead!


Distinctive French CERRI’Art Dolls

Paris poupee dolls

Gertrude – one of many CERRI’Art creations – Paris

Today is a resurrected post about delightful CERRI’Art dolls.  And there is an exciting reason for that. 

In the next couple of days, we are delighted to announce that we will open a petite boutique – Le Grenier aux Jouets – “Toys in the Attic”.  More about the boutique later, but you can expect  CERRI’ Art to be part of the boutique, as well as other little French treasures we have found along the way – gently owned or made by French artisans.  Stay tuned and enjoy the CERRI’Art story!

These wonderful poupee dolls from Paris are enchanting and appealing.  They make me search for the one word that might capture their spirit.  Perhaps, gamine is the right word – that wide-eyed, amusing innocence Audrey Tautou embodied in Amélie.  Walk through a room where Coco is posed on her pillow, feet kicked upwards, and you have to smile.

We were able to visit the CERRI’Art studio just outside of Paris for a first-hand tour of the petite atelier, where these charismatic dolls come to life.  Since that visit, they have moved their workshop to a lovely enclave of artisans in Meudon – more about that later!

The manager, Christine Chaignot, invited us to watch the artists shape and decorate each doll’s porcelain head according to his or her inspiration.  They create stunning coiffures, hats and scarves and, of course, focus on the minute details of the face, hands and feet.

Paris Cerri Art dolls

Ladies “in waiting” for the creative hand of the artisan!

Next, it’s time to select a splendid fabric to ceremoniously fashion costumes for Mesdames et Messieurs to enhance their distinctive personality.  Each doll becomes a work of art, absolutely original and unique….and highly collectible!

Finally, the dolls are filled with just the right amount of pannicum seeds that allow them to be pliable and easily and amusingly posed.  Christine chooses a doll to demonstrate.

Artisans create each poupee doll

“You turn the doll upside down, so the filling moves towards the head,” she explains.  With one hand she holds the excess fabric to keep the filling in place and turns the doll upright and places in on the table.  The filling supports the head and body, and she poses it, sitting on a satin pillow, legs demurely crossed with one arm outstretched and the other resting in her lap.

Since their birth in 1986, CERRI’Art decorative dolls have earned the well-deserved praise of art critics and selective collectors, who appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity of each doll.  They come with a certificate of authenticity; and though the styles change constantly with the vision of each artist, the meticulous attention to detail and fine materials exceed collector demands for long-lasting quality.

The collection design themes range from Paris monuments crowning their heads to wine and cheese, birthdays, clowns and more. Thanks to their flexible bodies, CERRI’ART dolls adopt all kinds of captivating poses. Far from being lifeless objects, they are living creatures who radiate fantasy, gaiety and humor to draw you in to their playful world.  To the delight of collectors, they are traveling all over the world – no doubt in First Class!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Street Art from Paris

Paris France street art

léZart – Paris

I love it that our friend in Paris walks her dog along every known street and unknown, tucked-away courtyard in the City of Light. Better yet, she shares photos with us, so we are up on the current, crazy street art and latest crazes and phases.

Wishing you … and our Parisian friends … a lovely walk this Sunday!

Paris France street art

léZart – Paris

Eugène Boudin, “King of the Skies” – Paris

Paris boudin Exhibit

Jacquemart-Andre Museum, Paris – © Charles Duprat

If you’re planning a trip to Paris between the 22nd of March and July, you will want to make note of a very special event. For the first time in Paris since the end of the 19th century, the Jacquemart-André Museum will present a Parisian retrospective devoted to the painter Eugène Boudin.

In cooperation with major international museums, the Paris museum is gathering at least sixty paintings, watercolors and drawers that will cover various periods of Boudin’s prolific work.

The Exhibit – Eugène Boudin, “King of the Skies”

Known for his seascapes and beach scenes, Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) was one of the first French “plein air” artists.  He took his easel from the studio to paint landscapes with particular emphasis on interpreting the elements and atmospheric effects. In that vein, he initiated a renewed view of nature, that preceded the Impressionists’ approach. Of him his friend Claude Monet wrote late in his life, “I owe everything to Boudin.”

Paris Jaquemart Andre Exhibit

Beach in the vicinity of Trouville – Boudin

Over time Boudin’s palette grew brighter and his touch lighter, resulting in astounding reflections from the sky and water. He painted subtle land- and seascapes from Honfleur (his birthplace in Normandy) to Venice, from Brittany beaches to the Mediterranean. Aptly named “King of the Skies”, he perfected the art of capturing such changing elements as light, clouds, and waves.

The unprecedented exhibition with Boudin’s art on loan has quickly attracted the interest of American art lovers, who hold a bounty of his works. Thanks to loans provided by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, some of Boudin’s works will be shown in France for the first time.

Other museums contributing to this exhibition include the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Québec National Fine Arts Museum, and the André Malraux Modern Art Museum in Le Havre and, naturally, the Eugène Boudin Museum in Honfleur.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

History Through Marc Chagall’s Eyes

Paris France Marc Chagall

Chagall Exhibit – © affiche de la Réunion des musées nationaux – Grand Palais

The nature and theme of art exhibits are interesting, pulling together works of art by era or method or subject. As a novice water colorist, I even find my own work a surprise now and then; when I realize how many include open window views and bright, Provençal colors.  Could that be, in part, my love of France?

A very interesting exhibit has just opened in Paris at the Musée du Luxembourg. To run until July 21, “Chagall, Between War and Peace” offers an all-encompassing look at the works of Marc Chagall through the 20th century history in which he lived.

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk, then part of the Russian Empire, and died in France at the age of 97. In that long, rich life, the renowned artist lived through the Russian Revolution, two World Wars and a period of exile in the United States. And so this new exhibit sheds light on how Chagall’s art chronicle’s the times in which he lived. Over a hundred of Chagall’s works from museums and private collections around the world portray his work from the outbreak of World War I through his eventful life until his death in 1985.

Paris Musee du Luxembourg

Catalog of Chagall Works

Various themes flow through Chagall’s work – the Jewish traditions of his childhood, Biblical events, family life, travel and the times in which he lived. The exhibit highlights four key periods of Chagall’s life and work:

■ Russia in wartime – depicting brutal wartime realities, troops and wounded soldiers, displaced Jews and his special relationship with wife Bella
■ Between the wars – Chagall’s return to Paris, his Biblical illustrations, landscapes and hybrid creatures
■ Exile in the United States – Chagall’s exile among several other Jewish artists and his somber reflection of the ravages of war with the theme of the Crucifixion as a universal symbol of human suffering, as well as homage to Bella who died in 1944.
■ The post-war years and the return to France – ultimately settling in Vence and exploring other techniques from stained glass and sculpture to engraving and mosaics. In particular, his use of color and light changed dramatically during this period.

Thoughtfully orchestrated, this exhibit contrasts the tensions and conflicts between war and peace and explores Chagall’s creative vision of ‘the human condition’.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Jean-Luc in Hauterives

Hauterives France

Palais du Factor Cheval

Sometimes odd things come together, like stray thoughts that wander around until they find a common place to settle. And so it was today, when I was thinking about Jean-Luc Ponty. Mind you, his name, his music may come to mind two or three times a year, but today I wondered about his concert schedule. Several years ago he performed in St. Petersburg, Florida. Who knows? Maybe Florida is on his agenda again.

For those unfamiliar with him, Jean-Luc is an unparalleled master of the violin, particularly parlaying his talent in the jazz and rock arenas. Lively, innovative, Ponty’s music is full of energy and surprises – not the sedately sweet sounds you normally associate with the violin.

He comes by his talent quite naturally, born to classical musicians in Avranches, France in 1942. He was only 16, when he was admitted to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris and graduated in two years with the conservatory’s highest award. Later, the influences of Miles Davis and John Coltrane fueled his interest in jazz.

Given his French roots, I wasn’t altogether surprised to see he would perform in France in June. Paris? Lyon? Saint-Tropez? No. He will perform in a most unusual setting in Hauterives – at the Palais du Factor Cheval. In the learn-something-new-every-day vein, I admit to having no idea about the location of the village or the plays.

Voila! You have to love the ease of access to information on the internet! Hauterives is a commune south of Lyon in the Drôme department. The palais was the life work of a rural postman – Ferdinand Cheval – who was appointed to serve the village of Hauterives in 1869. For 33 years, he spent evening after evening crafting a fantasy-like palace in his own back yard – in his vegetable garden, to be precise. Art historians liken his work to illustrations of naïve architecture, entirely original and surreal. The Ideal Palace was classified as a historical monument in the late 1960’s.

And so it is in this particular setting that two creative minds come together – the works of the rural postman and the eclectic violin music of Jean-Luc Ponty. We would love to be there for that unusual performance!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

The Water Serpent in Paris

Chinese New Year's Parade in Paris

A sea of red lanterns signal prosperity

I promised to follow today with more information about Chinese New Year celebrations in Paris, but I have to add one more item to yesterday’s musings about China Club. I likened the atmosphere to 1930’s Shanghai, and in researching came across this quote attributed to Christian missionaries of that time. “If God allowed Shanghai to endure, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.” Now wasn’t that worth a re-visit?

“The Year of the Water Serpent” officially ‘launched’ on February 10, when Parisians and visitors bundled up to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The sights, smells and sounds of good fortune played out in elaborately costumed dances, virtual carpets of firecrackers and the delightful aroma of Chinese-prepared fruits and vegetables. This first grand parade made its way from l’Hotel de Ville and wound through streets of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.

Through February 17 families from many Far East countries – Cambodia and China, Viet Nam and beyond – will gather to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The largest parade will take place on the closing day – February 17th – in and around Place d’Italie and ending at Avenue d’Ivry in south-central Paris.

For those of us not familiar with the Chinese celebrations, we might think they simply are the Mardi Gras element of Lent with all play and no serious intent. Incense-shrouded processions also include revered statues, and ‘underground temples’ – underground in that we mightn’t recognize them as places of worship – permeate the two dominant “Chinatowns” of Paris. The New Year brings together the various Asian religions and cultures in common celebrations.

Paris france Chinatown

Chinese alimentaire, Paris

In one of the world’s most multi-cultural cities, it’s not surprising to discover a strong Asian presence in Paris. They came first to the 13th arrondissement in southeast Paris, when the cold high-rise buildings of the Gaullist regime were rejected by Parisians. But this was the late 1970’s, and Vietnamese people welcomed a new life in Paris.

Until recently, I hadn’t really thought about their immigration to France, but the “boat people” would arrive in Marseille and travel by train to Paris to begin a new life. They built the largest Chinatown in Europe, one that has flourished with stores and restaurants and bustling population centers around the Gare d’Lyon and Place d’Italie.

More recently – at the opposite side of Paris in Belleville – a second ‘Chinatown’ has developed in a region that has long been a place for new immigrants to settle. Instead of the oh-so-French former neighbors like Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier, the region now hosts the open air markets so familiar in the Asian culture.

Belleville also will be the site of another February 17 parade, beginning with the “opening of the dragon’s eye” ceremony and dazzling onlookers with colorful banners and costumes, vivid red lanterns and startlingly orange fish!  Naturally, the acrid scent of firecrackers will fill the air!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Pagnol’s Nostalgic Provençal Tales

Marseilles France Provence

Pagnol’s countryside views in Provence

“In Marseille, I am still a child; in Paris, I am an old man…”

Marcel Pagnol

In January, I wrote about Marcel Pagnol’s movie, Le Château de Ma Mère (My Mother’s Castle), especially as it related to family adventures along the Canal du Midi.  Undoubtedly I’ve gone about this backward, because today I look to the first of the two Pagnol films – La Gloire de Mon Père (My Father’s Glory) – that echoed his life as a young boy in southern France.

Unlike the melodramatic – and delightful – pair of Pagnol films – Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, these two later films are simple, serial-like stories that reflect Chagnol’s experiences as a boy.  They haven’t the big-name stars of the earlier films.  They haven’t dramatic undercurrents nor carefully- constructed themes.

No, they are the collective memories of an ‘old man’ that is forever young in looking back to his adventures in the rustic hills around Bastide Neuve (New Country House).   In his wonderful twist of words and humor, the renowned author and filmmaker wrote:  “The house was called the Bastide Neuve, but it had been new for a very long time…”

Provence France

Pagnol’s summer cottage

That is the vacation home to which the Pagnol family would retreat each summer, perhaps in an escape from the bustle of Marseilles and the demands of the father’s teaching profession.  It is from that Provençal cottage that young Pagnol sets out to learn the secrets of the hills.  With the help of his rather mischievous Uncle Jules and that of his new friend, Lili, Marcel comes to know the lore of Provence and the simple bounties of the land – the high eagle’s nest, the carefully chosen pathways up rocky hill faces, the wondrous echoes across the valley.

And after each summer of exploration and contentment, autumn would arrive and Marcel would leave his treasured land to return to school.  It’s not the sort of movie to measure with box office returns or glowing reviews.  Rather, there is a kind of nostalgia with which we can all identify – a remembrance of gentle places and family traditions, of innocent hunting games in the forest and poignant memories of places and people we loved.

I like what Roger Ebert wrote about Pagnol’s film.  “Childhood ends, in a sense, the day we discover that summer does not last forever.”  But then, nothing lasts forever, it would seem.


We’d love to hear from you!

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

A 40-Year Anniversary to Celebrate!

American Frame French Art

Village painting with cherry frame and simple white mat

With 40 years of framing expertise and exceptional service, American Frame is celebrating a well-deserved anniversary! In these days of fickle customer loyalty and declining service and quality, American Frame stands well above competitors.

As you can imagine from our expansive interest in France, we frequently frame posters, original photographs and other artwork purchased during our travels. We discovered several years ago; and other than the occasional odd sale at a local department store, we meet every one of our framing needs with purchases through For one thing, the site is very user friendly and offers everything from traditional frames and mats to high-quality printing and custom features.

I particularly like to be able to upload my own piece of art or photo, because the site allows me to choose a variety of frames and mats with an instant preview of how the framed art will look. You can even change the wall color to get a better idea of how the end result will look in your own home.

French painting framed

Try an oval mat for a change

Beyond those nifty features that are very handy in trying to ‘picture’ framed art, I love the quick and personal service American Frame offers. If an item is out of stock, no problem. They advise you and offer other choices, a back order or a simple cancellation.

When so many ‘service’ companies require you to traverse a digital labyrinth for the answer to any question, American Frame answers the phone and resolves the issue. Very gratifying, indeed!

Their promise? As a leading supplier of custom picture frames, mat boards, picture framing supplies and fine art printing; American Frame custom handles every order within 1-2 business days, provides free samples and offers free shipping over $75. In essence, the Mickel family from Ohio transformed what had been an expensive “professionals only” task to an easy and affordable “do-it-yourself” project for everyone from everyday household photo framers to artists, photographers and DIY Decorators.

France Daily Photo offers sincere congratulations to American Frame on the occasion of their 40th Anniversary. We appreciate your fine products and service and wish you another 40 years of success!

framing French art and photos

How about blue?

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Snowy Days and the Promise of Gelato in Paris

gelato in paris france

On rue Mouffetard in Paris, Gelato d’Alberto

Covered with fresh mounds of snow, I doubt that Parisians are thinking today of cool, refreshing Gelato. But I am. A new client is opening a gelato business in Florida, a fact that caused me to take a mental trip back to Gelati d’Alberto on rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quartier.

After dining with friends, we did what we so often do … ambled along the narrow, cobbled streets of rue Mouffetard. The scene is never, ever static. Couples wander along shop fronts or duck into a wine bar. Dear little ladies walk le chien, taking a breath of fresh air in the night.

Tucked among creperies and boutiques, bars and restaurants, little cheese shops and quaint wine stores, we stopped in at the very inviting Gelati d’Alberto. I was relatively new to the ‘gelato scene’ and ordered only a scoop of creamy dark chocolate. “Non. Deux – two flavors minimum!” Smiles all around, customers always fill the tiny shop, aficionados of the creamy Glace Artisanale, who understand the two-flavor rule.

Paris desserts, gelato

Two-flavored fleur!

The hospitable young lady fashioned a beautiful flower of chocolate and vanilla (okay, so I wasn’t being adventurous as to flavor; but my husband made up for it in his choices!) Part of the fun and flavor of Gelati d’Alberto is their creative twist and presentation. My delicious creamy flower made for quite a memorable evening and a promise to return often.

When the snow melts away in Paris, and the sun begins to peak through the still barren trees; I think I know what will readily come to mind for gelato lovers!

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Provence Wrapped in Cultural Events

Marseille celebrates art and culture

Marseille – Provence Capital of European Culture 2013

Five years ago, a European jury of 13 people and organizations designated Marseille Provence and Kosice, Slovakia the 2013 European Capitals of Culture. At long last, the calendar has turned, and those five years of planning are playing out all across Provence. Officially kicked off last week, the year of cultural celebrations demonstrates the extraordinary collaboration between 8 Provençal cities and more than 2.2 million inhabitants.

In Marseille, the best places to find complete information are the Pavilion M in the Place Bargemon and Espace Culture at 42 Canebiere, where event and exhibition tickets are sold and information about transport provided. Artistic and cultural events of all disciplines will take place from Arles to Toulon – from gastronomy and scholarly conferences to art displays and performing arts.

Impressive new cultural facilities enhance Marseille’s urban landscape along the seafront – MuCEM (Museum of Civilizations from Europe) and the Mediterranean, the Regional Centre of the Mediterranean, the Silo and the FRAC. Based in the Fort Saint-Jean overlooking the port, the MuCEM will house collections from the “Europe” department of the Museum of Man in Paris.The largest private cultural facility added to Marseille’s esteemed ‘collection’ is the Museum Regards de Provence, constructed in the former Sanitary Station of Marseille.

Provence and Marseille France

Thousands celebrate the year of cultural events in Marseille and Provence

A unique concept of the Ateliers de l’Euro Méditerranée will host over 200 training and creativity workshops for artists, created as a major European project of intercultural dialogue. Also developed for the sharing of cultures and challenges will be six commissioned films on the role of women in the Mediterranean. Special tribute and exhibitions will focus on Albert Camus, whose centenary birthdate will be celebrated in 2013.

As the world increasingly reduces communication to rapid tweets and texts; the spirit of collaboration, communication and culture that permeates the Marseille celebrations is encouraging.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Heirloom French Porcelain Creations

Fine French Porcelain Paris

Muguet Cache Pot – Laure Sélignac – Made in France

When I was a relative newlywed, my mother offered a precious gift – an elegant cobalt blue and gold painted box, a prize possession that had belonged to my grandmother. I imagined her choosing the round box in one of the fine porcelain houses of Paris, where they lived before World War II. Sadly, that precious gift did not make it through several moves, but the memory of fine craftsmanship and delicate beauty remains to this day.

The works of Laure Sélignac are reminiscent of my own special treasure. Since 1919, the specialist of French Porcelain has created works painted with fine gold and delicately deposited in relief. Each unique creation is hand-painted, numbered, signed by the artist and authenticated by certificate.

You needn’t take my word for their quality and creativity. Laure Sélignac received the famous French EPV label – “Entreprises du Patrimoine vivant” (“Living Heritage Company Label”) and enjoys the patronage of Hèrmes, the Princess of Japan, the Tour d’Argent, Château de Versailles and former President Bill Clinton. For all of the history and tradition that accompanies the porcelain designs, the artists also create modern designs and whimsical Papillons.

Laure Selignac Paris

Delicate papillon tray

I can’t help but think of the people through the years; who have treasured their porcelain creations, as I did. And I can’t imagine a more perfect gift for a very special anniversary, wedding or Baptism – the gift of an heirloom that will pass through the family for generations.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Flavorful French Viniagrettes

Beaune, France

Burgundy mustard – an ideal base for viniagrettes!

If it’s an ‘illness’, I have a lot of company in the sick ward.  Talking about food, cuisine, dining – that kind of ‘illness’.  I can’t seem to stay away from it!  Today I’m thinking about the Burgundians who enjoy the well-earned reputation of being excellent gourmets.

Against the backdrop of the Alps to the east, Burgundy benefits from idyllic conditions for the hectares and hectares of vineyards that cover the landscape.  And with those vineyards comes the famous wines, Dijon moutardes, and fine vinegars.

The limestone terrain happens to be perfect for cultivating the strong, biting seeds of mustard.  Production of mustard began in 1390, and I love this – the City of Dijon Corporation of Vinegar and Mustard Makers began regulation of the craft well over two centuries later.  If asked where you work, can you imagine your expansive response – at the City of Dijon…”

For a long time flavorful mustard was used by poor families as a replacement for then-expensive, imported pepper.  With all of those grand feasts of the Renaissance era, mustard inched its way onto the banquet tables of the privileged classes.  Naturally, over time mustard recipes blossomed, as did the popularity of this pleasurable condiment.

Today, few craftsman still employ the traditional stone milling methods that allow mustard seeds to produce full taste and flavor.  Among them is the Fallot Mustard Mill in Beaune.  We are fortunate to get Fallot’s Mustard from French Food Market, who generously shared a recipe for perfected vinaigrette!

Burgundy Mustards, France

Fallot Moutarde, Beaune

Always begin with Oil, Vinegar and Mustard.To prepare a simple vinaigrette :

  • Place a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a bowl
  • Add salt and ground pepper, that have been dissolved in a tablespoon of wine vinegar
  • Add 3 tablespoon of olive oil while stirring constantly.

If you change only one ingredient, the taste will be completely different.   French Food Market points out that a simple spinach salad can be transformed just by adding:

  • Walnuts
  • Pieces of Swiss cheese and ham
  • Hazelnut Oil
  • White Burgundy Wine Vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard” vinaigrette

Splurge on those special imported flavors and enjoy experimenting!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Hearty Tartiflette for Cold Days

Yesterday the weather was raw in Florida – a grey, misty day with a chill that settled in the bones. And isn’t that exactly when you need one of those après-ski tartiflettes that are revered in the Alps? There’s nothing quite like the mix of hearty potatoes, cheese and lardons to satisfy hunger and soul!

Haute-Savoie region of France

Creamy & nutty Reblochon

My most memorable tartiflette was served to my friend and me by a film director from the Alsace region. I’m not sure his films have reached the perfection of that meal – a creamy tartiflette, a light vinaigrette salad and dry white wine served to us in Baccarat glasses. Mind you, this was not dining in a ‘manoir’, rather a small, two-room apartment in the Marais that was his ‘while-I’m-in-the-city’ crash pad. Yet, the evening, the meal, the music and convivial conversation are sealed forever in my memory.

So, let’s move on to the tartiflette – its’ ingredients and, as important, where to find them. Mind you, this isn’t meant to be a ‘lesson’ a la Julia Child but a guide to the simplicity of this irresistible dish.

The basics include white potatoes, onion, smoked bacon (try Canadian bacon), crème fraiche and Reblochon cheese. In the states, you should be able to find the crème fraiche in an upscale grocery or organic-style food store.As to the Reblochon – originating from the Haute-Savoie region of France, you might have to search a bit farther. For one thing, it can no longer be imported into the U.S. On igourmet, I found “Le Delice du Jura – Reblochon-style Tomme” described as the closest to the ‘real deal’ with a creamy texture, nutty after taste and delicate herbal aroma. They also carry crème fraiche, if you can’t find it in your area.

Haute-Savoie France

Beautifully browned tartiflette

You simply peel, boil and drain the potatoes. Slice and sauté the onion, adding crumbled pieces of the smoked bacon. Butter a gratin dish, cut the potatoes in thick slices and place half of them in the bottom of the dish. Top with half the onion and bacon and repeat with another layer of potatoes, onion and bacon. Some recommend adding a glass of dry white wine, but I always suggest two glasses – one for the tartiflette and one for the chef!

Spread crème fraiche over the mixture and top with slices of Reblochon. Bake in a hot oven – 400 degrees – until browned and bubbling. I’ll leave it to you to discover your own favorite recipe, but rest assured that you will be delighted with the delicious mix of tartiflette ingredients.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tradition and Taste – Galette des Rois

Croissant Gourmet, Winter Park, FL

Galette des Rois – King’s Cake

What a pleasure to be able to share a delicious dessert and a ‘plateful’ of culture on New Year’s Day.  And that’s exactly what we did, thanks to the authentic French bakery in Winter Park, Florida. 

We had been to Croissant Gourmet now and then for a pleasant lunch or a flaky croissant and coffee, but a real treat was in store late last week.  A sign above the enticing pastries explained the tradition of the Galette des Rois – the King’s Cake – and offered the option of ordering a Galette.

So we capped our American traditions with the excitement of serving the magnificent galette and wondering who would be the lucky one to be crowned King or Queen.  It’s an old tradition and one that varies from one region to another in France.  The cake of the Epiphany used to be baked with a bean – feve, but today a small ceramic trinket takes the place of the bean.

Our Charlie was the lucky one this year – as lucky, we think, for being able to enjoy the galette as to wear the crown.  Merci to Croissant Gourmet for crowning our New Year with a delicious French tradition!

Galette des Rois

Le Rois enjoys his ‘cake’!

And while we are on the subject, how were we so fortunate to have access to a genuine French pâtisserie?  Two brothers with a dream chose Winter Park for their lovely little bakery.  At the age of 16, Francois pursued the art of making pastries and apprenticed with a master chef in his hometown in the north of France. 

After earning a diploma in pastry making, he wanted to become a pâtissier, a pastry chef, and enrolled in apprenticeship programs for two more years.Diplomas in hand, he moved to Paris and worked at several restaurants along the famous Champs-Elysees.

In very little time, Francois and his younger brother, Philippe, had their own thriving bakeries in their hometown and in a neighboring village.  The dream to open a bakery in America would take a few years and a few visits to sunny Florida.

Luckily for all of us in Central Florida, they chose Winter Park and opened Croissant Gourmet in 2008.  Food critics have thrown open their arms in welcome, as have the locals who line up to choose their favorites – breakfast croissants and quiche Lorraine, Croque Monsieurs and Coco Rocher, Chocolate-filled éclairs (French style) and glistening fruit tartes … and possibly the largest selection of flavorful macaroons this side of Paris!

Again our thanks to Francois and Philippe for adding such a special touch to our New Year’s celebration.

Paris bakery in Winter ParkWe’d love to hear from you!

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

New Year’s Soirée?

Dalloyau Paris

Charlotte truffée d’asperges vertes

Let’s carry on today with a few more mouth-watering creations from Dalloyau – Paris.  Planning a little New Year’s soirée?  The renowned gourmet house has the answer!

Paris France

Grenadin de Veau d’un Noël d’antan





Dalloyau Paris France

Delice du chef – La fraîcheur des framboises fraîches, la douceur d’une crème
onctueuse à la gousse de vanille Bourbon de Madagascar




Across from Luxembourg gardens, take a seat by the window and allow one of Dallayou’s hospitable servers deliver your café and tarte … and take your picture to capture the moment!

We’d love to hear from you!

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


While visions of Sugar Plums ….

buche du noel

Bucchisme – rather a lovely twist on the traditional Christmas ‘log’

Some things in life require few words – like the magnificent gourmet creations at Dalloyau Paris. No, the simple word ‘gourmet’ won’t suffice. Royal orchestrations? Je ne sais pas! With nine shops and tearooms in Paris alone, the Dalloyau artisans have been creating masterful pastries, chocolates and prepared meals since 1682.

Imagine Lollipops Saint-Honoré or Lemon-Raspberry Swirl, Saint-Jacques and Summer Vegetables urchin shell. Each night the chefs and confectioners must dream of expansive kitchens and well-stocked pantries.dalloyau logo

Dalloyau is currently taking orders for berry-topped, almond creamy Galettes des Rois. Now, that would make a rather stunning start to the New Year!

We’d love to hear from you!

Dallayou Paris France

Divine Cendrillon – Cinderella!

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

Three French Wine Gifts – Part II

Dry white French wines

Domaine Lafage in the terroir Catalan

“He who knows how to taste will never drink wine anymore, but will taste its secrets.”
Salvador Dali

Authentic vintners seem to roll many qualities into their care of the land. Domaine Lafage describes its’ role as “Sculptors of Vines – in pursuit of a concentrated substance. Whatever their talents or choice of words, the end results of their efforts are revered and respected.

About the Domaine

As spring draws to an end, and summer peeks around the corner; the Lafage Estate vineyards reveal an excess of leaves and grape clusters, that begin to drop to ground level. To control their production, the Lafage team thins the vines in a delicate ‘operation’ that requires meticulous care. Their goal? To guarantee ripe fruit and a strong, balanced wine with a tropical alcohol blend.

Southern France dry white wine

Leaf thinning in the vineyards

The land itself plays an important role. The Lafage Estate stretches among heath and pine over a little more than 200 hectares (nearly 500 acres). Overlooking the 138-hectare cultivated vineyards is the ancient stone farmhouse, set along the road between Perpignan and the shores of the Mediterranean.The Domaine enjoys spectacular views of the Albères, an extension of the Pyrenees mountains that form a natural border between France and Spain in a region Lafage calls “the terroir Catalane.

To the hillside lay of the land, nature combines southern sunlight and a touch of briny sea breeze to enhance the novelty of the white Grenache, Muscat and Shiraz varietals. And much to the delight of those French travelers who enjoy tastings, the Estate entrance includes a boutique for tasting and learning about the Domaine’s wine offerings.

Lafage Wine Collection

Lafage Cote Est Wines

One of the most sought-after winemakers of Europe, Jean-Marc Lafage, offers his expertise with Southern European varietals to several top French and Spanish estates; but his best work centers around the Lafage Estate. The vineyards cover the eastern side of the hill with greater exposure to the morning sunlight and the benefit of cooler temperatures in the afternoon – parfait for fresh wine!

Today’s Dry White Wine Gift Suggestion

Our recommendation today is for the flavorful Domaine Lafage, “Cote Est” Blanc, 2011, a French wine (bien sur!) imported by Eric Solomon and part of the Appellation Vin De Pays Des Côtes. We prefer dry white wines, and this one is an ideal blend – bursting with citrus, minerals and with a ripe yellow peach and apricot character. The blend includes 45% Grenache Blanc, 48% Grenache Gris and 7% Macabeo varietals, fermented and aged in stainless steel to preserve the fresh, fruit flavors and aromas. It’s the ideal choice for seafood dishes and chicken or pork.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Three French Wine Gifts

Grenache and Syrrah varietal blend from the Languedoc region of France

Grenache and Syrrah varietal blend from the Languedoc region of France

My friends, you are in for a real treat over the next three days. Since I wrote of French Food Gifts yesterday, I thought it only proper to recommend three great French Wine Gifts. I am not a connoisseur by any means, so I asked my son who works with some of the world’s most esteemed importers. And so it is that we will discover a red and white wine and a fabulous champagne imported by Eric Solomon and Kermit Lynch and modestly priced in the $20 – $27 range.

We begin with Château Puech-Haut Prestige Rouge 2010, an aromatic red wine from the Languedoc region of France. As always, the history behind the winemaking is rich.

Industrialist Gérard BRU sold his business and took to the foothills of the Cevennes to plant his vineyards. It was an area he knew well from his youth, where he hunted and worked with his grandfather in local vineyards. The quality of the terroir also drew him, a soil covered in olive trees and wild herbs … and soon to be the locale for producing spectacular wine. After years of preparing the land and the domaine, Bru launched production at Château Puech-Haut.

Languedoc wines

Chateau Puech-Haut 2010

Today, Château Puech-Haut occupies 170 hectares (420 acres) including 100 hectares in the small village of Saint-Drézéry, just northeast of Montpellier. The vineyards belong to the AOC Coteause du Langedoc. Positioned on a hill higher than the surrounding hills (thus Puech-Haut), the vineyards enjoy exceptional drainage in a soil mix of clay and limestone with rolled pebbles deposited by the River Rhone during the Quaternary period.

The hillside locale also provides protection from the extreme temperatures and Mistral winds of the nearby Mediterranean Sea. The vines are 40 to 75-years-old, and is a special custom bottling cuvée for Eric Solomon, made with Philippe Cambie for the American market.

Now to the heart of the wine! Château Puech-Haut pairs well with hearty meats, like grilled beef or ribs, duck and lamb. The wine is a special blend of Grenache and Syrah varietals that are harvested, fermented an aged separately, before blending and bottling takes place.

Languedoc France

Barrel painting a la Chateau Puech-Haut!

As if learning about this exceptional wine isn’t enough, there’s a wonderful, artistic tradition that has arisen. Gérard Bru met with some artists to initiate a wine barrel painting project that has spread quickly. As the vintner says, the deal is simple – the container against the content. The artist receives a barrel for painting, and receives an equivalent amount of wine for his or her work. Artists have total freedom to create their own designs, and the resulting collection of barrels are fabulous, now included in shows and in exhibits throughout the world.

Is it any surprise that wine would give birth to such creativity?

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Three French Gifts from the Kitchen

Galettes from farine de ble noir

Savory galettes with cheese, ham, tomatoes….

No – not French hens, French gifts! I love giving, themed gifts and indulging my passion for all things French.  And who doesn’t relish a boost to the daily routine of meal planning and cooking?  Pull together all of those thoughts, and you have a “recipe” for gifting one of your favorite family members or friends.

Le Crêpe de Grâce

Deliver a crowning blow to Plain-Jane pancakes with a basket of crêpe-making supplies and ingredients.  Start with a search for delightful recipes for galettes and crepes – those savory and sweet, mouthwatering creations that make a meal equally memorable and delicious.  Tap the talents of your computer to assemble the recipes, photos and meal-planning tips to create your own personalized cookbook.  Line a basket with a colorful, jacquard dish towel.  Add a specially-selected crepe pan and a package of Farine de Blé Noir (buckwheat flour traditionally from Bretagne).  Now it’s time to get your chef off to a good start with a few ‘helpers’.  Nutella, thick French jams, savory mustards, Provençal herbs and a bottle of especially spiced olive oil.   And don’t be afraid to suggest an invitation to a tasting, once your fortunate recipient has mastered crêpe making!

Le Soufflé

Emile Henry Burgundy ramekiins

Colorful Emile Henry ramekins

Way back in the days of home economics primarily for girls, my soufflé went poof; as if the air had gone out of the ball.  It was years before I tackled soufflé making again, but it is now one of my favorite – and one of my easiest creations.  As with the crepe basket, create a personalized soufflé recipe book.  Next, choose from the many beautiful bake ware products on the market.  Emile Henry is my personal favorite with a variety of colorful soufflé dishes and ramekins.  Their ceramic bake ware allows heat to be evenly spread and retained for the creation of those light, high soufflés.  You already have a lovely gift to present, but you can go steps further to add some quality cheeses at the last minute.

A favorite from Alsace Lorraine

Favorite Quiche Lorraine

Quiche Lorraine

This is one of my favorites; and I shall take a bow, because I have mastered this savory dish and serve it often.  Again, look to Emile Henry for ceramic quiche bake ware in the same variety of colors and with the depth you need to create a proper quiche.  Pull in your recipe book and French kitchen towels – or perhaps an apron this time, and top it off with a little ceramic “Cuisine” sign your recipient can attach to the wall.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.


Why I Love the French Way of Shopping

Fresh food market along rue Mouffetard in Paris

So many fresh choices along rue Mouffetard in Paris

Well, that IS a broad brush seemingly across an unchanging canvas. I know that’s not necessarily the real, current world; but trends in French buying habits and preferences are not quick to change. Maybe this falls in the ‘duh’ department – offering a kind of re-cap of what we already suspect or absolutely know. C’est la vie. Bear with me, as I share some of the essential changes in consumer buying both in France and in the United States – actually worldwide. The economic jitters of the past few years certainly haven’t been limited to America and Europe.

Generally, the difference in French buying habits centers around a love of quality – of food fresh from the stalls of farmers and from the shelves of bakers and charcuteries. Can you blame them? Who wouldn’t prefer artisan bread over shipped-from-the-mass-producer dull rectangles of “sandwich bread? The end result lies in artisan touch and personal interaction, as well as the lack of preservative agents. Wines are similar, produced from AOC-designated vintners rather than conglomerates who have the clout and money to buy up huge lots of grapes years ahead of the actual picking season.

That being said, supermarchés have taken a firm hold on consumers, who opt for the competitive pricing and one-stop-shopping convenience. While devotees of the more intimate epiceries try to maintain a hold on the fresh and personal shopping experience, other city dwellers are buying autos expressly to make the trek to hypermarkets in outlying suburbs.

Pastries in Paris

Ooooh la! Pastries in Paris … flowers, linens – life’s little pleasures

As to the “Green Scene”, consumers choose eco-friendly products IF they also deliver value; i.e., they are not so quick to part with their hard-earned dollars/Euros for expensive green products. Yes, we all want a ‘cleaner’ world, but thrift carries its own weight. In the supermarket, though, there is a definite shift toward organic products; as consumers demand healthier choices and products direct from farm to consumer.Shaky economic outlooks are driving consumers toward more realistic choices – what they really need -and away from the tendency to satisfy oneself with the latest and greatest gizmo. Pre-owned goods have gained a real edge in the market, as they have gained acceptability by price-conscious buyers. You need only check out the popularity of eBay for confirmation. “Pre-loved” items run the gamut from mobile phones and laptops to durable heirlooms in this new wave toward controlled spending.

Frankly, after years of economic slippage and uncertainty, consumers show less loyalty to brands and greater acceptance of bargain shopping. The search for discounts and coupons is an absolute expectation for shoppers, who no longer slip around furtively in search of ‘deals’. Paying full price and failing to shop around for best prices is considered just plain silly in today’s shopper-savvy climate. Everything from toothpaste and cosmetics to hotel rooms and airline tickets is on the ‘auction block’, so to speak.

Could it be that we are pushing back against an economic machine that offered less and less service and quality at higher prices? Taking all of that into account, I have chosen highly impractical gifts this season for at least one favorite on my list. A touch of luxury in linens and silk and oh-so-aromatic fashion soaps will remind this recipient of some of the fine things in life that add comfort in penny-pinching days of practicality. Makes me happy just thinking about these choices!

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

5 Reasons to Visit Provençal Avignon

Avignon Palais des Papes, France

The Papal Palace overlooking the Rhône River

Remember back in 2005, when the Catholic Church broke its’ silence about The Da Vinci Code?  Though not officially a papal proclamation; cardinals and church elders condemned the book out of concern that readers of the best seller might believe the ‘fables’ on which the book is based.  All of that prelude is to say that Provençal Avignon owes its very history and attraction to the Papacy.

Thus, history becomes your first reason to visit this lovely old city.  The medieval politics of the early 14th century led Pope Clement V to move the papacy to Avignon, under the protection of Philip the Fair of France.  When his successors came along, Benedict XII and Clement VI felt the need to correct the lack of contemporary Kyriad or Ibis lodging one might find today.  It was only natural that the great Palais des Papes be built overlooking the Rhone River in the center of the medieval city.  The imposing palais is in magnificent, stark white contrast to the vivid blue skies of southern France and the sprawling square beneath the palace.

Musee de la lavande avignon France

Musee de la Lavande

For another papal-style outing, head across the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon.  Close, but not too close, over twenty cardinals built their own palatial retreats,  where the castle and fortifications of Saint André still watch over the town.  Enjoy quiet walks here among the terraced Abbey gardens and cloisters and the views from the 14th-century Tour Philippe le Bel are exceptional.  The tower protected the famous exceptional views of the remainder of  Pont d’Avignon, that once connected the town to Avignon.

Regional cuisine, cuisine, cuisine  – your second reason to visit Avignon.  In the Les Halles marketplace; cafes serve hearty cassoulets and velvety red wine, and marché shoppers search out earthy truffles, herbs and the local specialty – Papalines d’Avignon – exceptional  candies made of fine chocolate, powdered sugar and a very particular herbal liqueur dating to 1835.  Dine at Avignon’s number one restaurant – La Mirande just across the cobblestone street of the Palais du Papes,  Enjoy a savory breakfast on the terrace – c’est magnifique!  – or refined dining, where the atmosphere complements your veal medallions and after dinner Cognac. With the excellent regional Côte du Rhône wines and a mix of olives, lavender, honey and other local produce; the cuisine lives up to your expectations.

Avignon France Navette et Macaron

Delectable shopping!

As much as I love to linger over French food, it’s time to move on to number three  – shopping!  Stunning fabrics await you at Les Olvidades and Souleiado (meaning “first ray of sunshine after a storm”).  Les Oliviers treats you to an astonishing range of olive oils, and  Pure Lavande presents high-quality, natural products from the lavender estate at Château du Bois in Haute Provence.  Throughout quaint city streets, you will find charming squares with brocantes and antiquaires, cookware for gourmands and impressive Provençal pottery at Terre è Provence.  Three-dimensional cicada creations are among our favorites.

Number four is a natural choice – the kind of cultural diversity you would expect of such a vibrant city.  Art and theatre houses seem to be around every corner.  Tours take you  in the footprints of the popes.  The annual theatre festival is absurdly entertaining, with mini-acts throughout the town luring you to their destinations.  You can steep yourself in the art of cooking with gourmet classes, or enjoy ballet and opera.  Concerts, plays, special little theatres, motor and antique shows, ballet – Avignon maintains a robust event schedule with something to entertain every interest.

Finally, the elegant charm and quaint cobblestones, the refined architecture and shaded squares make Avignon such a pleasure to visit.  Typical streets, like the rue des Teinturiers (the Dyers street) surprise you with paddle wheels on the Sorgue canal, cobblestone squares (created, by the way, from stones from the Rhône River),  the gorgeous facades of 18th and 19th-century mansions – and interspersed amongst all the sights, you will find that perfect little spot for a cafe au lait.

We’d love to hear from you!

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



Happy Anniversary FRANCE 24


FRANCE 24 international news Special Report

FRANCE 24 International Special Report

We have a real attraction to FRANCE 24, the international news channel that is now celebrating its sixth anniversary.   We first were drawn to the channel on their internet site, as our good friend in Paris was the announcer on their weather segments.  Sadly, her performances finally succumbed to the more cost-effective use of music.

We remain fans, though, because FRANCE 24’s global news coverage offers a view of the world and an approach to news that offers a French perspective and broadcasts in French, English and Arabic.  As you might imagine, the project did not rapidly come to fruition.  Then-French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac expressed interest in launching such a news channel way back in 1987, but it took years of winding its way through political changes and international events. 

The coverage of the First Gulf War of 1990 by CNN International underscored the power of 24/7 international broadcasts to impact opinion.  Subsequent coverage of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan simply reinforced the need and desire for broadcast capabilities providing  French influence and promotion of French values.  Perhaps resolve was solidified after dominant American broadcasters failed to air the prolonged applause from the United Nations Security Council following Dominique de Villepin’s address and French stance on the Iraq conflict.  We all remember the absurd anti-French reactions that followed.

Finally, in 2006, with the launch of FRANCE 24, President Chirac’s ambition of a … “round-the-clock news channel in French, equal to the BBC or CNN….It is essential for the influence of our country.  For our expatriates, it would be a live and an immediate link to the mainland.”  (March 7, 2002 Chirac presidential campaign speech).

Today FRANCE 24 covers international current events in French, English and Arabic.  In addition to providing diverse viewpoints and in-depth analysis of complex events, the station places culture and special reports at the forefront of programming.

Tune in to the website or look for broadcasts on your own cable television, and you will see a mix of business, sport, culture and studio discussions of wide-ranging subjects from environmental matters to literary, fashion and cinematic news.  Special geographic reports cover “This Week In …” Africa, Asia, Europe, France, the Americas and the Middle East.

We encourage you to visit their website…..and we encourage France 24 to return to voiceover coverage of weather reports – just a preference, mind you!

We’d love to hear from you!

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


Breton Fest-Noz Honored by UNESCO

Paris welcomes Bretagne dancers in traditional dress

Bretagne celebrates its culture in Paris

A few years back, we enjoyed a festive Sunday in Paris with the Breton heritage parade along the Champs-Élysées. With our friends, we gathered 15-20 people deep to join the thousands and thousands of Parisians….and naturally, the Bretons … who lined the avenue from the Arc de Triomphe to Place Concorde. In the crowds and in the street, every age and region of Brittany was represented with colorful flags, regional dress, dancers, musicians and merrymakers. We felt as if we had dropped into the middle of a living lesson on Bretagne culture.

And what followed was just as fun. As we wandered along the paths of the Tuileries, little Bretagne groups had broken off here and there in small celebrations. They circled and danced and sang and played their instruments and exhibited a genuine warmth to all who gathered with them.

This year Bretagne has been anointed with a unique UNESCO honor. The United Nations organization has recognized “Breton Fest-Noz ” on its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Calling special attention to the Breton cultural movement that brings together young and old to perpetuate the dance repertoires, variations and thousands of Breton tunes that permeate their culture. The Bretons constantly renew and practice their musical heritage with a sense of camaraderie that unites all ages.

Brittany celebrates musical heritage

Bretagnes of all ages!

We were entranced with our opportunity to join the ‘party’ in Paris ( “Fest-Noz” loosely translates as night party). Some of the dances and music date back to the Middle Ages in celebration of ancestral traditions that brought friends and neighbors together after long days of work.

Hundreds of festoù-noz are celebrated each year in Brittany, but many also are held throughout the country -in Paris, Rennes and beyond. We join thousands of others in congratulating Bretagne for the UNESCO honor. In our fast-paced word, it is always rewarding to see the active preservation of cultural traditions.

We’d love to hear from you!

Bretons on Place Concorde Paris

Musicians along Place Concorde

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

Reminders of “Peace on Earth”

Rollins Chapel - Christmas Vespers Winter Park Florida

Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College

Though we’ve written about gift ideas and sources, ’tis the season to celebrate Peace and Good Will. Regardless of personal beliefs or religious choices, the holiday season unites the hearts of people throughout the world. We look forward to preparations and gift giving, festive meals and holiday traditions, with the everlasting hope of a world more united by Peace than discord.

We recently enjoyed what has become an age-old tradition right here in Florida at my Alma Mater – Rollins College. In its’ 79th year, the college presented Christmas Vespers – A festival of Lessons and Carols. As always, the service was completely filled, beneath the lovely old arches of the nearly 100-year-old chapel.

The combination of subdued Christmas decor, candlelit aisles and processions of students with magnificent voices allowed us to share a masterful entree to the season with hundreds of attendees. The Professor of Music at Rollins included powerful selections of Christmas music written or arranged by Mendelssohn, Zgodava and Cochereau.

With candles in hand, students filed beneath the “Fiat Lux” imposing chapel entrance, echoing the college motto – “Let there be light.” Twenty students were given the opportunity to conduct ensembles that included choral soloists, violins and cellos, horns and trumpets. And over and above all were the rich orchestral tones from the chapel’s great Singer symphonic organ.

Rollins College 79th Christmas Vespers, Winter Park, Florida

79th Christmas Vespers at Knowles Memorial Chapel

The youthful talent and enthusiasm, refined seasonal decor and distinctive holiday music selections seemed to knit together each individual spellbound by the performance and service.

This is the perfect season for you to look about your own community to learn where you might attend a special performance that cements those sentiments of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.

We’d love to hear from you!
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