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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!

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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

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


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

“Astonishing Images of Paris”

Gaston Barret’s Watercolor of Contrescarpe

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

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

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

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

Barret’s Montmartre

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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

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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!
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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


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.
We’d love to hear from you!

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

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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!

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

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

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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.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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

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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.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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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.

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


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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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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Guimard’s Historic Art Nouveau – Paris

Guimard's Entrance to Le Castel Béranger

Stunning Guimard doorway

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

We’d love to hear from you

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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.

We’d love to hear from you

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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.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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We’d love to hear from you –

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

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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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.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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!

We’d love to hear from you!

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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!

We’d love to hear from you!

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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!

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Limoges – City of Porcelain

Hôtel de Ville, Limoges

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

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

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

Place de la Motte, Limoges

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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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!

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Celebrate the Lemon in Menton!

Menton Lemon Festival

A tip of the lemon ….

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

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

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

Menton France Cote d'Azur

Nightly parades entertain

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

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

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!



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Ooh Lah – Fashion in Paris

Paris chapeau maker

Le Grain de Sable, Paris

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

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

Ile Saint Louis boutique, Paris

Winter – fall chapeaus

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

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

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

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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!

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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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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.

Villa Grecque Kérylos – C’est Magnifique!

Overlooking Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur

Villa Grecque Kérylos is located in a seductive setting on the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco.  Add lush gardens of olive and pine trees, oleanders and iris; and take to the tower for a panoramic view over the sea, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the countryside.

The villa is the culminating dream and passion of two men with a love of ancient Greek history, archeology and architecture.  Théodore Reinach was a member of the  “Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres” who indulged his love of all things Greek with the building of the Villa, quite near to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

In the late 19th century, he entrusted the building of his splendid Greek villa to Nice-born architect Emmanuel Pontremoli, a fellow philhellenist who studied at the Villa Medici and the School of Archaeology in Athens.  We are able to enjoy inexpensive access to this historic mansion, due to the generosity and foresight of Msr. Reinach.  After relishing his exceptional Greek Villa, Theodore bequeathed Villa Kérylos to the Institut de France, a step that insured the preservation of this esteemed French treasure.

The main rooms of the Villa are situated to capture the scenic landscape overlooking Cap Ferrat, but one outstanding feature is the corner tower with panoramic views of the sea.  The tower pillars feature Greek fret patterns, and the floor includes a mosaic of a compass rose.  Every detail evokes Greek art and architecture to lend an air of quiet harmony.

For us, the peristyle is the pièce de résistance, a lovely central courtyard inviting light and wind to flow through the state rooms and porticos that surround the space.  As one could imagine, it was here that the Reinachs enjoyed elaborate receptions for privileged international visitors.

Marble columns of the Peristyle

Equally striking, the Villa Library and gallery spreads over one and a half floors and is dedicated to the goddess Athena.  Facing the morning light, oak furnishings surround a mosaic of Prometheus and Hera, and Msr. Reinach’s art and archaeology books line the shelves.  Ancient Greek objets d’arts include vases, Roman glass and Greek figurines.

The Villa’s master inscribed one of his mottos on the library wall, which translates, “This is where I, in the company of speakers, scholars and Greek poets, enjoy a peaceful retreat in immortal beauty.”
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“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.

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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Sculpture of Rodin’s “Master”

Exhibition of sculpture, Paris

The sculpture of Rodin’s Master

Just imagine.  If we were in Paris today, we would have the distinct privilege of taking in a special exhibition at the magnificent Château de Compiègne Museum just north of the capital.  Until the end of October, the works of one of the most renowned French sculptors will be on display, that of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887).  One of the premiere sculptors of the Second Empire, Carrier-Belleuse is considered Rodin’s Master, as Auguste Rodin was a student in the sculptor’s workshop.

Seemingly no artistic genre attracts me more than sculpture, where the materials under masterful hands deliver beauty and energy, brute force and quiet repose.  Carrier-Belleuse seemed tireless in his sculpting, turning out busts and statues, bronzes and figurines.  No material seemed indifferent  under his piercing talent.

While he began his training as the apprentice of a goldsmith and later studied at École des Beaux-Arts and Petite École, the sculptor spent over five years designing ceramics and metalwork models for  companies like Wedgwood in England.  When he began to exhibit large sculptures at the Salon in Paris, he attracted important patrons and significant commissions.

Emperor Napoléon III tapped his considerable talents in numerous public projects during the rebuilding of Paris between 1851 and 1870 – from the torchères for the Paris Opéra to the marble Bacchante purchased by the emperor for the Jardins des Tuileries.  Later the State awarded a Medal of Honor and the cross of the Légion d’Honneur for his marble Messiah that was allotted to Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in Paris.

Fine arts sculpture Paris

“Printemps” by Carrier Belleuse

Though continuously producing abundant pieces for international patrons, Carrier-Belleuse was highly visible and commercially successful in the applied arts.  Appointed director of works at the state Manufacture de Sèvres, he significantly elevated the stature of applied arts and impacted the careers of younger sculptors – like Auguste Rodin – who apprenticed with him.

Might I be among the first to recommend you take a little time from your enjoyment of Paris to take in this remarkable exhibition?  For less than the cost of a movie in the United States, you will enjoy the energy, humor and unrivalled imagination of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.

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

Hôtel de Caumont – Aix-en-Provence

Museum in Provence

Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence

As if Aix-en-Provence lacked charming attractions to lure visitors, a very special addition will open in July 2014.  The charming mansion – Hôtel de Caumont – represents a blend of Parisian and Aixois architecture, in itself a remarkable site; but residents and visitors alike will enjoy the Hôtel as a center of art and culture.

Among the growing legion of exceptional culturespaces attractions, the organization has applied its deft skills in orchestrating the painstaking renovation. And the same management connections and expertise that has brought such pleasure in Le Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris and La Villa Kérylos on the French Riviera will be applied to Hôtel de Caumont.

Aix-en-Provence France

Colorful interiors of Hotel de Caumont


In addition to concerts and performances, the museum will host two exhibitions each year: a summer exhibition focused on major artists of the history of art, and a winter exhibition devoted to large collections. Inaugurating the museum opening will be the “Canaletto” Exhibition, featuring the cornerstone of the vedute artistic genre – Giovanni Antonio Canal, also known as Canaletto (1697-1768). His works are among the most revered Venetian creations from 18th-century Europe.

The mansion in the aristocratic Mazarin neighborhood of Aix-en-Provence evokes a Parisian influence from the 16th century, a château built between court and garden. The style includes a gate, courtyard, main building and garden, gradually moving you from public to private spaces.

Aix en Provence France

Center of culture and art

The ornate interior includes a mix of Regency and Louis XV styles with stunning plaster work ornaments and Provençal colors.  Beyond expansive renovations that deliver a remarkable historic site, the Hôtel de Caumont intends to be open to all the arts and will include a cinema, conference room and a gallery for the performing arts. If you haven’t done so already, change your itinerary to include this magnificent cultural attraction in Aix.




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

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!

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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.

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.

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.




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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mona Bismarck Cultural Center, Paris

Avenue de New York, Paris

Cultural center staircase in Paris

I’ve said it before, but please bear with my repetition.  I find it fascinating how one gets from ‘here to there’ in the thinking process.  We took our grandson for a delicious dessert at a French bakery near our home in Florida, and I told him they speak French at the bakery.  As we arrived at the door, he said, “You go first, so you can do the French thing.”

I loved that.  Obviously, he was intimidated that they might speak French to him.  Today, I was thinking how many Americans might feel that way about visiting France and might choose to skip the privilege rather than cope with another language.  So from there, I thought I would see how many American organizations are in Paris, beyond the very expansive United States Embassy right across the street from the renowned Hotel Crillon.

There you have it, an intriguing maze through which I traveled to come to this point; and now I choose to share about only one organization.  I’ll save the rest for another day, because The Mona Bismarck Foundation and the story of the Countess entirely captivate me!

Obviously I don’t move in ‘those’ circles, as I didn’t know who Monica Bismarck was.  When I saw photos of her elaborate, multi-storied townhouse right across the river from the Eiffel Tower, I wanted to know who had such good taste … and fortune.   

Paris France art galleries

Dining gallery for special events – © Metropolitan Design Paris. All Rights Reserved.

An article in The Guardian proved very informative; though the odd piece highlighted the sale of a Dali painting in which Madame Bismarck was depicted in grim black rags.  How strange that the woman, whose husband once was thought to be the richest in America, would be shown in such a way.  A Sotheby’s art expert theorized that Dali was having a bit of fun at the woman; who had townhouses in New York and Paris, a Long Island estate, a beach house in Palm Beach and a villa built on the runs of Emperor Tiberius’ palace in Capri. 

Indeed, Madame Bismarck was undoubtedly one of the most elegantly dressed women in the world and was often featured on the pages of Vogue.  The widow of multimillionaire Harrison Williams later married the grandson of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.  The painting she left behind was sold to raise money for the Mona Bismarck American Centre in Paris, an organization she founded to help strengthen Franco-American relations through art, culture and educational activities.

Through the philanthropy of the late Countess Bismarck, the Foundation’s Cultural Center has presented over 60 major exhibitions since 1986, primarily in the ground floor exhibition salons.  Her hôtel particulier (Parisian townhouse) dates to the end of the 19th century and was reconfigured in the late 1950’s.  Stunning features include magnificent woodwork from a dismantled château, ornate and colorful Chines wallpaper and opulent chandeliers.   The beautiful exhibition salons enjoy spectacular views of the Seine and Eiffel Tower, and the MONA Café overlooks an expansive terrace and private garden – just the sort of quiet retreat that is rare but welcome in lively Paris. 

The Center is a place we definitely want to add to ‘sights to see’ during our next trip to Paris.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

© Metropolitan Design Paris. 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.

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

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.

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.

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.



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.

Why Indulge in Paris Noël?

march_de_noel_champs_elysees paris

Unique market shopping along the Champs-Elysées

There are so many reasons to visit Paris during the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, that this will need to be a multi-part article. Let’s begin with those lovely little Christmas Markets.  For those of us who enjoy the search as much as the discovery of perfect gifts to match those on our gift list, Paris Christmas Markets simply add a Utopian level to our shopping journey. Set against the backdrop of fabulous Parisian landmarks, petite wooden châlets offer unique hand-crafted cadeaux for every age and interest.

For the past five years, the Champs-Elysées has been transformed from possibly the world’s most enticing avenue to an ever-expanding Christmas market. From the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde, Paris’ largest “City of Noël” serves up a mix of gifts, festivities and delicacies to enhance your shopping experience. Cold? Sip an irrestible mulled wine. Hungry? How about a sweet Alsatian crêpe? And if you would enjoy a spectacular sight by all means treat yourself to a magic ride on the Ferris Wheel, for panoramic views of the Champs, the glowing Eiffel Tower and the glow of the City during the holiday season.

And speaking of the Eiffel Tower, the Iron Lady is a magnet for visitors in search of spirited holiday experiences. Across from Le Tour Eiffel, Trocadero combines well over 100 market stands with a skating rink and “Snow Village”. Ice skating is also de rigueur in front of the magnificent Hôtel de Ville. Just imagine twirling about on the ice in front of these historic venues!

Skating and Christmas shopping in front of the Trocadero

Skate, shop, enjoy the sights!

I’ve only scratched the surface of the markets spread throughout The City of Lights. For a complete listing of Christmas Markets, visit the info-packed official Paris visitor’s site.We’d love to hear from you!

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

Storied Château and Dumas’ Career

Alexandre Dumas statue near Paris France

Alexandre Dumas statue in Villers-Cotterets near Paris

Some historic buildings dramatically transform through the ages, as much as their colorful inhabitants. Such has been the ever-changing history of the Château Villers-Helon, just 80 kilometers northeast of Paris in Villers-Cotterets. First built by a knight of the First Crusade in the 12th century, the fort-like chateau became a Templar “Safe House”, prompting one to imagine scenes from The Da Vinci Code.

After seasons of seizure and even conversion to a factory, the edifice became the nurtured home of Alexandre Dumas. Once again, though, war brought occupation first by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War and later by the Germans in both World Wars. After so much turmoil, one can appreciate the relatively peaceful existence today of the Chateau and the village, where a grand statue of Dumas commemorates the beloved 19th century creator of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti today), Alexandre’s great-grandfather was the mixed-race son of a French nobleman and an Afro-Caribbean slave. With that heritage and his own personal idiosyncrasies, Alexandre Dumas endured as many ups and downs through his life, as the Château that was an important part of his early life.

A renowned general in Napoleon’s army, Dumas’ father died when Alexandre was only four years old; and it wasn’t until his mothers’ fortunes were depleted, that he would make his way from his rather isolated village life to the City of Light.

In Paris he was able to play on his father’s favorable relations and earned a clerkship with the Duc D’Orleans. His fine penmanship cemented that position, but he reportedly commented to his father’s friend, General Foy, “General, I am going to live by my handwriting, but I promise you that I shall someday live by my pen.”

Honestly, his spirited up-and-down personal journey almost sounds like the history of many modern-day athletes, whose storied careers rise to pinnacles of wealth and abysses of personal disappointment and failure. Through periods of prolific writing and distractions with politics, Dumas enjoyed an explosive career. With his teasing and tantalizing “to be continued” phrase, Dumas’ daily published narratives captured the imagination of his adoring public.

Despite resounding success, his indulgent personal lifestyle constantly landed him in financial trouble. It would be his own writer son, who would amass the fortune that eluded Dumas and come to care for him in his final days in 1870.

Throughout his life, Dumas experienced discrimination in a French society then far less liberal in its view of mixed ancestry. In a famous response to a man who insulted his African ancestry, Dumas is said to have responded:
“My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” It would seem ill-advised to insult a person who has an exceptional way with words!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

King Louis XVI Computer – Paris?


Chirita-Paris gold-plated Empire computer

Neiman Marcus has done it for years.  That is, they have produced absurdly extravagant holiday Christmas Books offering everything from a $250,000 original mahogany speedboat to a $395,000 Ferrari FF with leather luggage to match the interior.  Naturally, there are a few items priced for – hmmm – the 53% of us, who may actually have a few bucks for holiday shopping.

Now our friend in Paris has sent us a delightful video that transcends even NM’s fantasy gifts.  We almost could hear her laughing, as we watched the You Tube video from Al Arabiya TV.  And therein was introduced an inspired Louis XVI gold-plated computer.  Yes.  You read that correctly.

The imaginative creator is Georges Chirita, who explained, “It may look pretty, but it’s not just for show.”  Undeniably, the ultra-flashy computer is nothing short of gorgeous, but the high-tech part includes first-rate innovative components.  Actually, Monsieur Chirita has designed three royal styles – King Louis XV, King Louis XVI and King Empire – that’s the one I think I’m partial to!

At a 17,000 Euro price tag ($21,000), who in the world is extending a Platinum Card?  It seems that European royalty head the customer line-up, as well as Chinese and Middle Eastern purchasers with a penchant for elegant technology.  Can’t you just imagine any French king, well-coiffed and immaculately attired, sitting down to his golden tech bling?


A rather stunning monitor, don’t you think?

One thing you now can imagine is Her Highness Queen Elizabeth II downloading photos of her children and grandchildren on her very own gold-plated USB key.  It was a thoughtful gift to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee this year.

Copyright © 2005-2019, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.



Musée du quai Branly, Paris

musée du quai Branly2 Nigerian art collection

Musée du quai Branly – a geographic journey through art and culture

I often think I need several lifetimes – so many places to go, things to see, people to meet … so much to create and share. Alas, I am simply one mortal being, who must pick and choose her way through this limited life. And if I were to be in Paris between now and the 27th of January, I definitely would choose to visit the Musée du quai Branly, where the special exhibition – “Nigeria, Arts de la Vallée de la Bénoué” – is taking place.

In essence, the exhibition follows in the footsteps of the first explorers to follow the course of the most important tributary of the Niger River – the Benue River valley. More than 150 sculptures and masks in pottery, wood and metal come to the exhibit from private collections and public institutions from the United States and Europe.

The dynamic collection offers insight into the art created by many regional tribes in sub-Saharan Africa. The special exhibit was organized with the Musée du quai Branly, Paris by the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where the world premiere was held. We must feel a sense of gratitude at the devotion of collectors, historians and curators who make it their mission to bring together such a meaningful collection of works.

The museum itself offers a unique unpartitioned geographical itinerary that showcases well over 5,000 artifacts from all over the world. The permanent collections originate in Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas, offering visitors the privilege of fluidly crossing between civilizations and cultures.

musée du quai Branly Paris

Musée du quai Branly

So many came before us and left behind spectacular remnants of their cultures, no wonder my own limitations frustrate me. There simply isn’t time enough to absorb all of the centuries of art and history.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Emilio Robba Floral Gift Ideas

Emilio Robba began under the prestigious "Maxims de Paris" label

Vanda flowers and wood arrangement – Robba

A recent Deloitte study focused on over 18,000 people across Europe, asking them about their planned holiday spending. Interestingly, they admitted preparing to spend “to give pleasure” … yet with an eye on prices.

Most research on line to find best prices and set a maximum gift budget.  An impressive 91% aim to buy “useful presents” – educational for youngsters and useful for adults. In a heartwarming break from the trend toward e-readers and tablets, real hold-in-your-hand-fold-down-the-page-corner books have surged ahead of chocolate and perfume in 14 of the 18 countries surveyed.

I wholeheartedly endorse books as gifts, and rarely am I unable to find the ideal book for anyone on our gift list. But I have a couple of other ‘categories’ that fill the bill for providing moments of pleasure and escape for friends and family – floral displays and gourmet food items. Each offers ongoing moments of pleasure. The first provides continuous visual pleasure. The second provides kitchen creativity and savory experiences around the dining table.

For ideas, if not for purchase, I tap a renowned floral designer – Emilio Robba. He was born to Italian artists residing in Paris, and early on discovered his own artistic roots. After studying form and color at the prestigious Beaux-Arts school, he instinctively focused on floral design – the orchid is his favorite treasure – and nature. “I always knew that nature would be the guide in my life…”

Emilio Robba's collection of red silk roses

Stunning rose display by Emilio Robba

It was Pierre Cardin who requested he create a retail store in 1980, and Emilio did so under the impressive “Maxim’s de Paris” label. The rest is history, and today the media recognizes Emilio Robba as the “Sculptor of flowers.  Robba discovered the “new generation of silk flowers” that are, “…so life-like (the silky transparency of their petals, the veins in their foliage filled with sap, and the bloom of their spring buds) that they can actually fill the same need we have in our lives for fresh flowers—with a unique personal touch!”

Today, you will find Robba’s works in the midst of the Galerie Vivienne, in Parisian Department Stores and in his own Paris and Miami boutiques.  Whether you are able to choose Emilio Robba’s refined works of art or allow his creativity to inspire your own arrangements, permanent floral accents make personal and pleasurable gifts.

As to the gourmet food side of the giving coin, we only need to tap the savory resources of our favorite ‘grocer’ – French Food Market. Often at the top of our gift choices, we enjoy selecting from rich sauces, pungent mustards, sweet confitures, sea salts and more.

Many of us continue to ‘tighten the belt’ during these uncertain economic times. Our petite gift-giving splurges feed the spirit and offer friends and family gifts they might not otherwise allow themselves to enjoy.

Hoping your shopping season is a well-earned pleasure!

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

A Cherished Gift from Aurillac

Great grandmother's coiffe from Aurillac France

A special gift from Aurillac


When we were recently visiting friends, I noticed this framed article of clothing – a French antique coiffe – and asked about it.  Turns out, there was quite a refreshing story attached to the delicate piece.  When our friend was taking a six-week French program in the Auvergne region, she requested some one-on-one time with a local resident, in order to enhance her conversational French skills.

The program director paired her with a very pleasant lady – a writer who lived in a small château with her husband.  My friend and her mentor enjoyed their times together and kept in touch through the years.  During one visit, our friend mistook the time of her train departure, and the lady insisted she return to their home to pass the time.

It was then her hostess presented her with this “coiffe” that had belonged to her arrière-grand-mère (great grandmother)  in Aurillac.   “I like imagining a piece from my ancestor in America.”

What a tender story!  We find the same is true in our home, where a piece of art or a dish brings memories of places visited and people remembered.  And that very special gift from France is a perfect touch in our friend’s home.  It’s rather nice to imagine her Auvergne friend smiling at the thought of this lovely coiffe being cherished in America.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Cocteau’s Legacy in Menton

Cocteau’s Spider-like Museum in Menton – © Roland Halbe

I recently mentioned our taking in a special Jean Cocteau Exhibit at Centre Pompidou, but we’ve not yet had the good fortune to visit the sparkling new Musée Jean Cocteau Collection Séverin Wunderman in Menton.  One hardly needs one more scintillating sight in a city that overflows with tropical charm, but the generous donation of a Belgian collector brought the new Cocteau museum to fruition.

Cocteau’s association with the French/Italian city (it does rest just west of Italy) began as early as 1953, and he now is memorialized with a stunning architectural museum and collection of his works along the Mediterranean.  While you roam among Cocteau’s drawings, books, film clips and paintings; you do so against the multi-windowed backdrop of Menton.

Cocteau surely left his imprint on Menton, as two sites augment the modern museum in displaying his work.  A few minutes away, the petite Musée du Bastion along the harbor wall houses some of Cocteau’s work in its 17th-century stone ‘fortress’.  The local Hôtel de Ville also features Cocteau’s late 50’s mythological mural in the Salle des Mariages, in decidedly stark contrast to the city hall’s neoclassical exterior.

Cocteau once said, “Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”  Menton is fortunate to have his legacy of complicated simplicity.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

A French Touch in Vermont

Fall colors outline Lake Champlain, named for Samuel de Champlain

Fall colors outline Lake Champlain

When we travel to France, we inevitably return home renewed and recommitted to adding French ‘touches’ to our everyday lives – indulging in a little wedge of trop cher cheese, picking out fresh vegetables from the marketplace, listening to light classical music.  Frankly, we didn’t expect the same of our recent trip to Vermont, but we were delightfully surprised.

Our friends treated us to such a wonderful variety of experiences.  We took a boat tour along Lake Champlain and learned of age-old fossils and gorgeous mountain peaks (shades of Paris bateaus!).  We wandered over winding roads swept through with fall colors to have chocolat chaud in Vergennes.  The name of Vergennes was suggested by Ethan Allen to pay homage to the Comte de Vergennes, who served as the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and negotiator of the Treaty of Paris.

The tiny ville of less than 3,000 people is the oldest chartered city in Vermont and has decidedly French touches.  Our favorite was the Vergennes Laundry – not a laundry at all but a very pleasant bistrot and bakery, where we enjoyed fresh-from-the-oven pastries and a hearty ‘bowl’ of hot chocolate.  Naturally the proprietor was French – do you see that heart in the middle of my husband’s cappuccino?  Wouldn’t you know that the owners are natives of France!

Vergennes cappucino embellished with a French heart!

Vergennes’ French heart!

We picked apples and saw hungry little sheep at Shelburne Farms.  We enjoyed savory crepes at The Skinny Pancake.  We walked among gorgeous Victorian homes, where maples reached their brilliant orange and red leaves to the sky.  We visited the market, where artisans offered everything from fresh fall vegetables and handcrafted rolling pins to organic bread loaves and tins of luscious maple syrup.  And, just as in France, street entertainers filled the air with their own unique music.

Above all, our hosts offered that warm hospitality we so often enjoy in France.  No, I don’t mean to imply that hospitality is in the sole possession of the French; rather that the entire trip evoked the kind of peace and restoration we enjoy, when we travel in France.  A grand merci to our friends!


We’d love to hear from you!

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

“Paris à l’infini” – Nuit Blanche

Golden light pours over the Seine in Paris

Imagine all night, all free, all eclectic Paris on Nuit Blanche

Tomorrow – the first Saturday in October. Even in warmer-than-usual weather, the air is starting to cool at night in New England. And in the South, at least the mornings haven’t stored up the heat from yesterday’s near-90-degree heat. Still, it’s the first Saturday in October.

That means thoughts are turning to fall vegetables and craft fairs, school Oktoberfests and the beginnings of Christmas shopping. The first Saturday in October in Paris holds something altogether different – Nuit Blanche. This year’s theme – “Paris à l’infini” – “Between the Sky and the Seine”. The popular annual festival offers an all night, all free host of creative events, and always seems to dig deeper for unusual experiences to entertain visitors and locals.

Panoramic views take center stage tomorrow night, when fifteen of Paris’ tallest buildings (no – not the Eiffel Tower) invites you to see the city from vantage points not usually accessible. Among those special ‘perches’ are the Pierre and Marie Curie University, the terrace of Tour Morland, a 9th floor room at the Institut du Monde Arable and the 18th floor of the 18th floor of the François Mitterrand Library.

At les Halles, cars and weighty materials will be suspended from worksite cranes to resemble a Calder-like mobile. Performing and creative artists throughout the city create moments meant to illuminate the “Parisian Experience”, and we would be headed directly for the riverbanks of the Seine. Dance companies will transform the banks with striking choreography and Woody Allen-like celebrations of the vivacious city.

The illusory nature of time will be projected at Chaillot National Theatre, and the very notion of ‘white’ will be explored. Oh all of those creative minds are so busy to entertain throughout the night in tribute to the arts. In the words of Nuit Blanche organizers, “It is an invitation to conquer public spaces, open doors of contemporary buildings, discover the masterpieces of the industrial heritage, rush into the elevators of university towers.”

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

Hidden in Paris – Win a Copy!

Popular French novel Hidden in Paris by Corine Gantz

Your opportunity to win an autographed copy of Corine’s novel

Part I of II

We are born with voices in our heads.  I am referring to writers – published or unpublished – who have a running stream of vignettes and conversations in their mind.  They write descriptions of real-life people on thin napkins at McDonald’s.  They come across papers and passages, hastily written lest the thoughts pass.  And if their talent and tenacity collide with the midwives of literature, they finally give birth to novels.

Today, we have a real treat!  Corine Gantz, a supremely talented French expat living in California and the “proud mother”/author of Hidden in Paris, agreed to share a few personal moments with France Daily Photo readers.    And to add Crème Chantilly to this treat, Madame Gantz not only offers personal insights but a generous giveaway of her novel – more about that later!

Before meeting Corine, let’s dive right in to a delightful review of Hidden in Paris.

“I loved Hidden in Paris! Ms. Gantz has created a story that should be read and savored – much like the Parisian lifestyle she depicts. The characters were deep and immensely likable and the plot line was smooth and delicious….The undertones of love and motherhood, self-loathing and hidden anger are so palpable, that it’s bound to keep readers up way past their bedtimes. Truly, truly, truly an excellent novel that leaves readers pondering the characters’ lives and choices long after the last page. I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone!”  Megan, Amazon review

Corine Gantz easily blends her unique brand of humor and French-American experience.  She was born in France, where she spent the first twenty years of her life. She studied Contemporary Art at the Sorbonne and worked in advertising and marketing in Paris, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Corine Gantz, author of Hidden in Paris

Corine now is settled near Los Angeles with her husband and two sons and – voila! – has published her first novel and a companion cookbook that dovetails with her book.  Those feats, though, didn’t silence the voices, so naturally a second novel is in the works. Corine started unleashing those voices in her mind with the popular blog Hidden in France, where she becomes philosopher, romantic and humorist to meditate on relationships, food, décor, and all things French.

And now a few questions for Corine.

If Hidden in Paris was made into a movie, who would you want to play Annie?

Enough with the Hollywood nymphets! I would love an actress of substance, someone charming but not too obviously beautiful.  How about Angelina Jolie?  Kidding! (Although she would make a wonderful Lola.) Annie should be played by an actress who can shift from goofy to sexy and from strong to vulnerable, and perhaps be all of those all at the same time. Holly Hunter, Tina Fey, Sandra Bullock come to mind, although my favorite must be Renée Zellweger.  She can layer emotions in a way that breaks my heart. At any rate, the film would have to be shot in Paris, so they have to be willing to travel and would need to speak French like an American woman who’s lived there for years.

If a movie was made about your life, who would you choose to play you?

May I please request Angelina Jolie? No scratch that. She needs to be French. How about a blonde like Cécile de France (actually from Belgium) or Mélanie Laurent. I wish! I was never that cute.

We invite you to join us again tomorrow for the remainder of Ms. Gantz’s interview. In the meantime, by all means register to win a copy of her acclaimed novel.

TO WIN A FREE COPY OF HIDDEN IN PARIS – One lucky reader will receive a free, autographed copy of Corine’s book – nice for you or as a gift!  We invite you to choose one of two options to enter:

Leave a comment (below) on France Daily Photo and be sure to tell us your favorite place, food, restaurant, etc. in France – or –

Like on Facebook (top left of this post is easiest) and, again tell us your favorites in France.

The winner will be announced one week from today, and we will contact you for autograph info and mailing information.  If you simply cannot wait a week, click Hidden in Paris for a sneak peek and an opportunity to order the book!

Merci beaucoup, Corine, for your generous Giveaway and your willingness to ‘visit’ with our readers today.

Paris – Balm for the Soul

Restaurant Georges in Centre Pompidou, Paris France

Christmas at Restaurant Georges, Paris

A Parisian blog I enjoy reading is Eye Prefer Paris.  The author, Monsieur Nahem, recently profiled an accomplished art book and catalogue designer by the name of Louise Brody.  I particularly enjoyed her response to, “What do you prefer about Paris?

“I would paraphrase Johnson – ‘When one is tired of Paris one is tired of Beauty’.   I know how lucky I am to live in the most elegant city in the world, with its endless vistas of harmonious architecture and leafy avenues….Being constantly surrounded by such beauty is an eternal source of creative inspiration and a balm to the soul.”

Madame Brody’s thoughts resonate with me – the elegance, the beauty, the captivating views and the ‘balm to the soul’.  So many memories of Paris usher me through the day and tuck me in at night.  On one chilly evening toward the end of my holiday, I had a terrible cold and was feeling under the weather and a bit cranky – imagine that in Paris!  We went to an outdoor exhibit of over-sized sculptures set in place across the Pont des Arts.  And therein lies the story.  I couldn’t possibly tell you where and when I have experienced similar bouts of flu – Paris even makes misery memorable!

Jean Cocteau Exhibit Paris

Jean Cocteau Exhibit Centre Pompidou

On another evening escapade, I had stepped outside of the restaurant for fresh air (and a cigarette –shame on me!), after a rather prolonged dinner.  I stood under the building eaves in a light, spring drizzle and happened to drop a cigarette in a puddle.  A man passing by quietly said, “C’est domage” and went on about his way – a stranger uttering his thoughts in Paris.

On our “lune de miel”, my husband and I visited the Centre Pompidou on Christmas Day.  After wandering through the spectacular galleries and a fascinating Jean Cocteau exhibition, we ascended to the Restaurant Georges on Level 6 for a drink.  On that crisp winter holiday, we enjoyed overlooking the city of Paris from the modern contoured aluminum inner sanctum of the Restaurant.

A Grand Mère in the park, a little girl on a carriage ride, elders tucked in woolen caps playing a game of pétanque in the shadow of the Louvre – little moments … grand inspiration!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

French Treasures, Rich Memories

Elegant designs of Moustiers Sainte-Marie, France

Elegant faïence from Moustiers Sainte-Marie

Throughout our home, we are warmly greeted by rich memories of our trips to France – a tablecloth, a piece of art, an old faïence platter. On a delightful visit to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we wandered through ateliers and shops that showcased the gorgeous faïence pottery for which the village is known.

Though tucked away in the heart of Haute Provence, Moustiers remains an immensely popular destination. The town backs right up to limestone cliffs in such a dramatic way, it seems to be carved from the rocks. In the midst of that scenic landscape, the town is brimming with pottery artisans, who ply the centuries’ old trade practiced by the well-worn hands of prior generations.

Legend has it that an Italian monk named Faenza brought to Moustiers in the latter part of the 17th century, the well-guarded technique of producing white enamel. Over the hundreds of years that have followed, the village became one of the largest and finest faïence production centers.

After a period of decline in the 19th century, the Provençal movement brought about a revival of the industry early in the 1900’s. Today, you can enjoy the same fine craftsmanship practiced by artisans using the 400-year-old processes and elegant designs of their predecessors.

Moustiers Sainte-Marie, Provence, France

Table linen from Moustiers Sainte-Marie

Our friend still has the lovely Moustiers pitcher we purchased in the village; and though wearing a bit through ten years of enjoyment, our Moustiers tablecloth continues to remind us of the industrious artisans and the charming Provençal village we hope to visit once again.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Fernand Léger’s Brilliant Legacy

Fernand Leger Lithograph, Les Deux Tournesols 1954

Les Deux Tournesols (The Two Sunflowers), 1954

I recently discovered an elegant fine art site – Masterworks Fine Art – and more important, a French artist previously unknown to me. Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955) was born in rural France in the relatively sleepy little village of Argentan. The son of a cattle dealer, Léger was encouraged to take up a trade; but his artistic talent emerged, and he pursued the study of architecture and art at a variety of schools.

As a novice painter with no pedigree in art, I am always interested in where artistic ideas come from and what prompts the artist in his expressions of line and color. Léger’s background is particularly intriguing, in that his experiences during World War I heavily influenced his artistic direction. Primarily his interaction with men of different social classes opened his eyes to new realities and led him to create art that should be accessible to all ranks of society. His distinctive style through the years evolved from Impressionism and Cubism to Fauvism and beyond, but while other artists influenced him, he followed none.

From his prominent interest in the working classes, his designs, paintings and sculpture featured a delightful mix of bold black contours and pure colors and precise representations of mechanical objects. Léger traveled widely and lived in the United States during World War II, where he taught at Yale University and at Mills College in California.

Original terracotta low relief ceramic plaque; white clay and glazed enamel

Visage aux Deux Mains – low relief ceramic plaque

For the 1970 Tate Gallery “Purist Paris” exhibition, John Golding wrote of the artist: “No other major twentieth-century artist was to react to, and to reflect, such a wide range of artistic currents and movements . . . And yet he was to remain supremely independent as an artistic personality. Never at any moment in his career could he be described as a follower … But his originality lay basically in his ability to adapt the ideas and to a certain extent even the visual discoveries of others to his own ends.”

During our next trip to France, we will make it a point to include a visit to the in Biot. Though the artist bought a villa in Biot, he died soon afterwards at his home in Gif-sur-Yvette. His wife Nadia created a museum on the Biot property.

Officially opened in 1960, the museum dedication included Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Georges Braque. With an exterior ablaze with colorful mosaics created by H. Melano of Biot, the museum holds the largest collection of Leger paintings in the world.
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Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Discover “Playing with Scarves”

Playing with scarves CD Book by a classic French woman

A delightful approach to French fashion flair

Not all of us were fortunate to have been born in Paris, nor to have the considerable “French Touch” so attractive in French women. Anne Touraine was graced with both, a native of Paris who worked for many years with world famous luxury companies – such as CHRISTIAN DIOR and L’OREAL.

Four years ago, she and her husband packed her family, scarves and innate French charisma and moved to her now adoptive state of Florida. Her friends of both countries call her “The Scarf Lady”, and I find it wonderful that each of us can find our own defining niche that adds meaning and sunshine to our lives and to those of our friends and acquaintances.

Anne describes her scarf addictive onset at the age of eighteen, when her Mom offered her a Hermès scarf. All mothers should be so wise and generous! Through the years and through the amassing of quite a collection of scarves, Anne found those magical little pieces of fabric to be the perfect touches to add zest to any outfit and pleasure to any day.

Paris native Anne Touraine on "Playing with Scarves"

Playing with Scarves CD Book

In the realm of ‘one-thing-leads-to-another’, it was only natural that Anne would pursue and share her flair with style and fashion coaching and now with a CD book – Playing with Scarves. The book guides us through the seemingly effortless and endless secrets to scarf tying, wearing, embellishing and enjoying.

In her own words, Anne tells us about the delightful chameleon nature of scarves. “Having lived in Paris for many years, I know from experience that a scarf can be worn in any place and in any season. It looks terrific on a turtleneck or a low cut dress; it is great whether you are enjoying the sun on the beach or whether you are dealing with winter in chillier climes.”

Yesterday, I purchased a wonderful addition to my own scarf collection – a rich Chinese red, long fringed scarf to accent my new purple and red blouse and to add color to all that Parisian black that seems to permeate my wardrobe. And winter white? It will be smashing with that, as well.

Paris-born Anne Touraine's book Playing with Scarves

Colorful photos, delightful designs

I wholeheartedly recommend purchasing Anne’s scarf guide book to add sparkle to your own wardrobe! See her website, blog and order details at Playing with Scarves and enjoy a remarkably warm approach to female fashion.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

The Art of ‘Gifting’ French!

Pylones Body Sponge from Paris - whimsical gifts

Charlie chose Pylones Body Sponge from Paris

Our daughter-in-law is one of those special people who quietly observes and listens to absorb what you really like and enjoy.  And on gift-giving occasions, she searches for those ideal treasures – large or small – that make you smile and feel her hug.

She has passed on her gift to our grandson Charlie, who saw Pylones colorful body scrubber and instantly chose it for me.  When I think of French gifts, I have a cupboard full of ideas from lovely French faïence on an Ebay listing to gorgeous and enticing Poupée dolls, stylish coffee mugs from Paris museums … and Pylones (pronounced pea-lone).

We first discovered this whimsical world of color just steps from our vacation apartment rental on Montmartre.  We simply could not step past the window display without stepping in for a visit.  This is where we bought our fun Christmas gifts – amusing bottle openers, wildly-designed business card holders, grape-shaped ice cube trays and très chic hair brushes.  Every item we chose sent a smile…and a wink from Paris.

Pylones – “éditeur d’objects à Paris” now has a USA division that simplifies ordering and, naturally, eliminates hefty shipping charges.  Founded in France in 1985, Pylones features thoughtful French designs and creative twists on everyday objects for the home, kitchen, office, playtime and even pets.  Indeed, if you should leave their store (or website) without smiling, you should call your analyst – immediately!

Pylones sugar pot - candy dish Paris France

Pylonnes sugar pot – Paris

I’ll leave you with a warm story about gift giving that has nothing to do with tapping my French sources.  When my daughter and son were quite young adults, I purchased some nice clothes and accessories I knew they would enjoy for Christmas.  Really, the list was completed, but I was depleted.  There was no “mom statement” in the equation.

So back out I went in search of “je ne sais quoi”!  I found two empty ostrich eggs – yes empty, lustrous, large and beautiful.  Would any other twenty-something receive an ostrich egg for Christmas!  My son did the ‘eye-roll-what-in-the-world, Mom! thing.  My daughter has cradled her egg through every move (girls kinda’ get it maybe more than guys).  The fact is neither of them will ever forget the ostrich egg gift.  Hmmm.  So I guess it’s more about me?  C’est la vie!

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

“Moo” or “Moi” – Les Vaches!

The Cow Parade in Toulouse France, September

“Le Secret de la Bête à Tiroirs” – Artiste : Philippe Vercellotti

In September Toulouse throws open the doors to The Cow Parade, The World’s Largest Public Art Event. Cows? Art? Well, yes. It makes perfect sense, so universally adored are these lowing creatures. Don’t most children begin their fledgling vocabulary with “Moo”?

And Cow Parades are not limited to Toulouse. They represent the largest and most successful public art event in the world and have been staged in over 75 cities worldwide, since the first was held in Chicago in 1999.

One real cow truly made us smile in the French Alps. We were parked by the side of an Alpine lane enjoying the quiet serenity of the mountainous terrain, when we heard a clanking bell. Hmmm. We looked behind us – nothing. We surveyed the hill that rose and spotted a cow. Far too urbanized in our lives, before that moment we imagined cowbells to be a touch of lore.

As it turns out, the Fiberglass cow presents a wonderful three-dimensional canvas for artists to express their colorful, inventive creativity. And that originality extends itself to their cow names – “Mootisse”, “Lady Cowdiva”, “Picowsso” and “Moosicowly Speaking” are just a few whimsical examples. Nearly skirting the bounds of imagination, over 2500 hundred completely unique cows have been created worldwide.

“Moo’ving Facts”

• Over 300 million people have attended at least one CowParade exhibit, helping to raise over $30 million for worldwide charitable organizations.
• Over 10,000 artists have expressed their ‘cow’tivity and have been compensated for their efforts.
• Collectors have purchased one million+ CowParade replica figurines.

My gazelle rivals the Cow Parade creations Toulouse France

My gazelle rivals the Cow Parade creations!

Though I was quite ‘mooved’ by the Cow Parade highlights, I decided to try my own hand at creating a ‘designer’ gazelle. I rather like the brightly-colored results!

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

Your Ad Here

Voila! Antoine et Lili Boutiques

antoine lili fashionable accessories paris, lille, bordeaux and beyond

Antoine et Lili designer clothing and accessories – Paris and beyond

Oh my! It is SO tiring to pull your head out from under a rock, but – Voila! – I have done so, only to discover serendipity in the form of Antoine et Lili. Truly, the quirky, original boutique has been creating artisanale women’s and children’s clothing, accessories, objects and curiosities since 1994. They ‘mix it up’ with urban, ethnic, colorful and sassy touches; and they’ve done so at such a successful clip, that they have opened sixteen stores since 1997.

The first, mais oui, was on the rue des Martyrs on Montmartre. Now Antoine et Lili enjoys several Parisian addresses, as well as stores in Aix-en-Provence, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes and Lille. That’s quite enough to gain my attention, but I think it was an airy jupe with delicate pleats that first captured my fancy.

As they say, you can spot the stores ‘a mile away’, with bright pink (bobo designer women’s clothing), green (children) and yellow (‘hip’ home décor) storefronts. Perhaps, that’s their version of “Shopping for Dummies”, as you really can’t miss the object (or store) of your affection.

Expect to find timeless clothing – silk tops, thick cardigans, wrap dresses and coats – and kitschy accessories with Mongolian, Indian and Chinese influences. Add a kaleidoscope of other things, from Russian dolls and ceramic bunnies to boots, lamps, hats and figurines.

antoine lili paris france - Lyon, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence

Colorful storefronts invite your exploration

For a woman like me, who throws shame on her feminine counterparts by not favoring lots of shopping, Antoine et Lili exudes enough charm and surprising finds to make the outing a genuine source of entertainment!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Remembering Special Effects Genius

Daniel Catherine Photographer Collage

We take a deep bow to a special gentlemen – Daniel A. Catherine, born in France in 1930 and recently passed away in Florida at the age of 82.  We came to know Daniel way too briefly through our membership with the Alliance Francaise of Greater Orlando.

Though we’ve been less able to do so lately, we joined Alliance members for monthly potluck picnic lunches and lively petanque tournaments.  Gathered under towering oaks, we shared little pieces of ourselves over brie and baguettes, crisp salads and savory chicken. And after all of that dining prelude, we got down to the real work – rivalling one another for the ultimate petanque victory.

It was during one of these convivial sessions, that we found ourselves talking at length with Daniel.  His petite build was offset by an engaging, twinkling smile – as if he held some amusing secrets in his back pocket.

DANIEL Catherine, special effects photographer

Our friend Daniel showing us the way in petanque

He told of us his pioneering days of working with color film in France… of moving on with his professional life in Canada and later in Los Angeles.  How astounding that we move from a competitive petanque game to this astounding history.  In Los Angeles, Daniel became an acclaimed special effects photographic expert, collaborating on the creation of album covers and concert posters for renowned musicians.

While those stories were interesting, it is his warmth, friendship and wry humor we will miss.  We join members of the Alliance and Daniel’s friends and family in saluting his accomplishments and the joie de vivre he brought to each of us.

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

Storied Le Select in Paris

"The Lost Generation" frequented Le Select Brasserie in Paris

Le Select Brasserie on bd. Montparnasse in Paris

My friend in Paris was the ideal guide to introduce me to her exhilarating city. After what seemed a lifetime of waiting and wanting, I landed at Charles de Gaulle in 1997, breathless with anticipation for my month-long visit. And my hostess did not disappoint.

Tuned in to my desire for seeing beyond the typical sights of the city, she was able to blend unusual experiences with de rigueur visits to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Our “premiere night” introduced me to “Salon Paris”, taking me from star-struck visitor to in-the-know insider. We began with a little chapeau event at Le Select on Boulevard Montparnesse.

But of course! Where should an American begin to discover the city but in the hallowed haunts of authors and painters? Among storied neighbors like La Coupole and Le Dôme, Le Select deems itself as a “ dressed-down Brasserie”, where a warm mix of worn wooden tables, grand mirrors and bright brass welcomed the likes of Picasso, F. Scott and Ernest Hemingway as quite regular customers.

Le Select opened in 1923 and soon became the creative fountain and gathering place for Picasso, Cocteau and Max Jacob, who gathered about the bar perhaps for a solid whisky on ice. Beyond on the terrace, Matisse and Henri Miller engaged in lively conversation with Deraine and Foujita. Yes, Le Select has definitely earned the right to name drop!

I kept the menu for a souvenir, a relic now dating to the days of French francs, in which fully 10 of 12 pages were devoted to Whiskies – Irish, American and Canadian, Cocktails, Apéritifs, Champagne, Alcools, Vins and Bières. Clearly, the impoverished but cultural elite knew where to sustain themselves. Of course food was also available, from cold and warm buffets with grand salads and omelettes to Croque-Monsieurs and –Madames, steaks and tartines au pain Poilane.

My mother should have shown her Chapeau designs at Le Select

My mother’s chapeaus would have been welcome at Le Select in Paris

Natually, I was enthralled with the rather intimate salon, where milliners quietly presented their exquisite chapeaus among small groups gathered at tables for wine and appetizers or light dinners. I couldn’t help but think of my mother, who designed hats to go with every suit and was written up in The Houston Chronicle for her creations.

It was a magical introduction to Paris – past and present – a peek inside one of the favorite Brasseries of “The Lost Generation”, and an opportunity to mix with contemporary wine-sipping, chapeau-enamored Parisians. Quite the heady experience for this little American, and one that has drawn me back to this magnificent city again and again.


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

Artisan Soaps from Marseille

Authentic soaps from Marseille

The sweet sensation of bathing with olive oil soap

France celebrates tradition and exacting craftsmanship. That is why they take steps to ensure their AOC wines are documented – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (Controlled Name of Origin), and their foods, as well, have protected designations of origin.

It is because of that pride and protection that clients prefer authentic products, like the exceptional handmade soaps that come from Marseille. Through four generations, Marius Fabre and his family have been producing authentic soaps since 1900. In the heart of Salon de Provence, you actually can visit their production site and museum to discover the living craftsmanship that has passed through generations in the Fabre family.

The history of soap making dates to the 17th century in Marseille’s hub of commerce. It was Louis XIV in 1566 who issued an Edict of Colbert that established rules for soap production – only pure olive oil and no animal fat were strict requirements. Failure to follow the edict risked banishment from Provence. Marseille then became famous for artisan soap production. And what an ideal location for making the soaps with the ready availability of olive oil, soda and the salt from Camargue.


100th Anniversary of Marius Fabre Soaps

Industrialization in the 18th century doubled production; and the 19th century heralded progressive technology, hygiene, chemistry and rail transport. Though the soap boom declined in the 1940s, the 1970s and 1980s saw a renewed interest in natural values and the environment and a lasting respect for the historic soaps of the region. In celebration of their 100th anniversary in 2010, the Marius Fabre soap factory produced a special 7-ounce cube of Marseille soap with 72% olive oil.

I know I can choose any number of acceptable soaps in the super market, soaps that promise any number of wonderful benefits. But when I pick up a bar of soap filled with olive oil and crafted by hands through the centuries, I enjoy far more than a simple cleansing process. I am connected to the land and to the people whose care and craftsmanship has delivered this rich product into my hands. Such a romantic! C’est la vie.

This lovely Marius Fabre soap is available on line or in store at My French Neighbor. Indulge yourself and gift your friends and family. They will love you for it!

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

French Decor … and Framing

Vivienne Passage Paris framed photo

One of my favorite photographs from Vivienne Passage in Paris – a model sauntering along the tile…in fabulous shoes!

When friends or family visit our home for the first time, we “take the tour” to show them where everything is, to point out highlights they might enjoy.  Needless to say, the French influence flows through our home like a golden river, beginning with a brightly-colored, welcoming ceramic cicada filled with lavender.

Our master bedroom, for example, includes a bench across the end of the bed covered in lovely cream, yellow and blue toile from Paris. On the wall are two of my framed watercolors, studio scenes in vivid hues.

On another wall is an original oil on paper of a scene near Chatelet in Paris, painted by our brother-in-law; on another – a framed Maxim’s menu with the artwork of Toulouse-Lautrec, given to us in the Maxim’s shop in honor of our honeymoon.

My French Neighbor is a favorite on-line and local store that sells fine French accessories, furnishings and cabinetry. Owned and managed by natives of Saint Etienne near Lyons, My French Neighbor creates a warm and comfortable setting, a combination of delicate and bold, rustic and refined – that delightful mix of French décor that defies definition but delivers hospitality.

A model in fabulous shoes in Paris' Vivienne Passage

Vivienne Passage – different frame

And that brings me back to framing photos and art for your home. I would love to recommend American Frame as a delightful on-line company that is personable, thorough and knowledgeable about printing and framing.

So many elements come into play when framing – the color and size of matting, the style and width of the frame, the ideal choice of materials to display your artwork beautifully without overpowering the work.

From the three examples I show here, you can see that American Frame’s website tools allow you to actually see how the end result differs, based upon frame and matting choices. You can upload the item you want to frame, see how different colors and frames work and even change the color of the wall on which it will hang.

And their service is impeccable. I once called to correct an order I had placed, spoke to a real sweet lady; and she told me she would place a note on the assembler’s desk right this minute. Warmed my day, I can tell you! Happy Decorating!!

Vivienne Passage Paris 2

Vivienne Passage Paris

(Just a reminder to click on photos to enlarge.)

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

The Deep Blue Sky of Collioure

La Ballette on the Vermillion Coast

The renowned La Balette restaurant in Collioure,

“There is nowhere else in France a sky with a deeper blue than the sky of Collioure…”  HENRI MATISSE

To each his own, but if one were to tell me that a French locale was renowned for anchovies, I might turn and run.  No, the tiny fish are not a part of my gastronomic selections!  But wait.  We are talking about Collioure, a village along the Côte Vermeille that may have enough stellar qualities to outweigh the unfortunate presence of anchovies.

Where the Pyrenees dive down to the Mediterranean, the landscape offers a delightful mix of craggy cliffs and sun-drenched beaches, hilly vineyards and colorful villages.  Add a number of châteaux and castles, and you have a lovely, laid-back seaside venue with proud traditions of culture and heritage.

Long the inspiration of countless artists, even a style of painting was born here in the “City of Painters”.  With Henri Matisse’s vivid, untamed paintings, Fauvism came to life.   Artists still are drawn to the area, and art galleries and museums are plentiful.

Le Relais de Trois Mas, Collioure

Le Relais de Trois Mas, Collioure

The area really is Catalonian, a blend of France and Spain, where the Spanish rhythm of life dictates late lunches and dinners.  And an unparalleled choice of lodging is the 4-star “Le Relais des Trois Mas” tucked along the bay facing the sea.  As one might suspect, the Mas enjoys spectacular scenic views and offers rooms both decorated and named after painters who have visited Collioure. 

It’s the perfect place from which to explore the historic sites (such as the lovely Notre Dame des Anges), to enjoy the Catalan-influenced cuisine and to take in the tranquil Mediterranean beaches.We’d love to hear from you!

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


Pablo Picasso in the South of France

Still Life in Front of an Open Window at Saint-Raphaël - Picasso "re-invented"

An interpretation of Picasso’s Still Life in Front of an Open Window at Saint-Raphaël.

A litany of famous artists has drawn inspiration from the vivid colors and clear light of the South of France.  Drive through the hills of Provence or along the splendid shores of the Côte d’Azur, and you quickly will understand the artistic stimulation that moved artists to perfect their skills in this region.  There really is nothing quite like looking out on the ever-changing blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Even I was moved to ‘re-invent’ Picasso’s Still Life in Front of an Open Window at Saint-Raphaël.  

Pablo Picasso summered along the Riviera from 1919 to 1939 and made France his permanent home, first in Vallauris and later at Mougins.  Through September 30th, visitors to Cannes will enjoy the unique privilege of seeing a collection of Picasso paintings at the Centre d’Art La Malmaison, well located along La Croissette overlooking the sea.

Formerly part of the 19th-century Grand Hôtel, today La Malmaison is the only pavilion of the original structure that remains.  The hotel was demolished in the 1950s and rebuilt in 1963, but the intimate rooms of La Malmaison have hosted painting exhibitions since 1945.

Carlton Hotel along La Croisette, Cannes

The Carlton Hotel – also on La Croisette in Cannes – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Angot

The Pablo Picasso masterpieces are on loan from Paris’ Musée National Picasso, and the exhibit includes the Spanish artist’s eclectic creations, as well as a series of André Villers photographs that trace Picasso’s life on the French Riviera. 


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




Flavorful Dijon Mustard, Burgundy

Edmond Fallot mustard production, Burgundy

Edmond Fallot mustard production, Burgundy

When we think of Burgundy, exceptional wines readily come to mind; but there are genuine treasures beyond the beloved grape.  The Fallot Mustard Mill, for example is the last independent, family-owned mustard mill in Burgundy.  With the deft touch of culinary artisans, they have been producing savory mustards since 1840, and they have added interesting tours to their mills that allow vistors to see the painstaking production steps.

In the Napoleonic building of its origin, you see the sieves, drive belts, winnowing machines and millstones that transform the seeds into jars of mustards of exceptional quality.  Marc Désarménien, the grandson of Edmond Fallot, carries the family tradition forward with pride, explaining that their mill production unit was awarded IFS (International Food Standard) certification.

We recently happened by My French Neighbor and purchased a petite bottle of Dijon mustard.  Sylvain, the owner, explained that many companies produce what they call Dijon mustard, but the ancestral Fallot recipe is genuine and original.  And, of course, he is right on target.

The Fallot mustards, in varying strengths, mix black seed or brown seed – at least 28% –  with verjuice, essentially the juice of grapes that have not reached maturity or what we might think of as premature wine.  They mill and sieve the mixture to produce the smooth pale yellow mustard that mellows with time.  Using the traditional mill stones avoids overheating the seeds, so all of the flavor of the mustard seeds is retained.

Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard from Burgundy

Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard

My husband, in particular, can attest to the delicious attributes of the Fallot Dijon moutarde, as he adds the savory “paste” to ham, chicken and….well everything except peanut butter and ice cream!.  It is only fitting to offer a Fallot recipe that highlights their artisan products.

Chicken Fricassee with Fallot Dijon Tarragon Mustard

1 chicken


3 T butter

3.5 oz. small white onions

Chicken stock

Fresh cream

2 tablespoons Fallot Dijon Tarragon Mustard

Salt & pepper

Cut the chicken into pieces. Season & dust the pieces with flour. Brown them in a large casserole dish with hot butter. Add small white onions. Moisten with the chicken stock. Add mixed herbs of your choice.  Bring to a boil. Cook for 35 minutes. Set aside chicken & onions in a dish and keep them warm. Allow the sauce to reduce. Add cream & mustard. Bring to the boil. Season according to taste. Pour the sauce over chicken pieces & serve.

Bon Appétit!  And by the way, visit French Food Market for a wonderful selection of French food products.


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


France Through Artisans’ Visions

Rich French jacquard fabrics

Elegant French jacquard fabrics light up a room

Recently, a sweet young girl of eleven was visiting our home.  She expressed her interest in art, and naturally our conversation turned to France.  I explained that the artisans of countries throughout the world leave their signature, while they evoke the heritage of their areas.

Before long, I was walking through our home and opening drawers to show her French fabrics.  Toile tells stories of peasantry or nobility, of Chinese dynasties or French royalty in many different colors.   Provencal prints reflect the ever-present sunshine and vibrant colors of the land.  Faïence does the same and traces artisan designs back through the ages with primitive images of men and women.

We looked at the front and back sides of intricately woven jacquards and spoke of the pride that artisans invest in their work.  We told her of the sweet cobbler we talked with in Aix-en-Provence.  She was a 4th-generation shoemaker; who created stylish suede sandals and other designs, while drawing from the heritage of her great grandfather.

I showed her a piece of pottery from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, where my daughter and I wandered through one after another shop with faïence designs dating back through several centuries.  A rushing mountain stream divides the village, where medieval houses ‘listen’ to the sound of the river, and high above the village Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel dates to the days of Charlemagne in the 8thcentury.

Faience Plate from Moustiers Sainte-Marie

We looked at a lovely passmenterie purse, intricately created from elegant braids by Le Prince du Sud and vibrant silk pillows that presented the works of Gauguin, Van Gogh and Modigliani.  In a half hour’s time, we had virtually toured France and had seen the country through the eyes of her artisans.  That’s a very special tour to take, when you allow the colors and spirit of the country to show you her heart.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

A Day of Art at the Villa – Côte d’Azur

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Some of you may know that beyond writing, I dabble in watercolor painting; and I have discovered an extraordinary event for all artists and art lovers. On Sunday, June 24, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is hosting a grand painting competition, free of charge and open to all amateur and professional painters. Throughout the day, painters will take pleasure in setting up sketch pads and easels across this magnificent estate overlooking the Côte d’Azur.

How would I choose where to paint?  I would surely have to sketch a while in the main French Garden, designed in the shape of a ship’s deck with the sea on both sides.  Perhaps, I would capture the graceful waterfall and ponds that descend so elegantly from the Temple of Love at the crest.  The largest of seven themed gardens, the French garden has splendid hundred-year-old olive trees, cypress hedges, parasol pines and huge colorful flowerbeds and ornamental ponds in front of the Villa.

One of my favorite themes seems to be “looking outward”, as from a terrace or through a window.  Naturally, I would make my way to the tea room or terrace to capture the peace and pleasure of the Mediterranean.  I can’t imagine a more wonderful experience, and it is the ever creative touch of Culturespaces, the Villa’s management company, that adds new events and unique encounters at each of the many fine cultural sites with which it works.

Salon terrace overlooking the sea
Salon terrace overlooking the sea

Culturespaces is a highly professional organization founded by Bruno Monnier, an art history devotee and formerly charged with modernizing the management of museums and monuments for the Ministry of Culture.  In particular, the organization works closely with local authorities to assure cultural preservation with innovative management.  The alliances with the Villa and the Arena in Nimes, for example, have resulted in generating new resources to make the French heritage sites accessible to all.

I appreciate Culturespaces focus on children, with special offers for families and school groups, that result in over 500,000 children’s visits to their varied sites every year.  All sites offer child-friendly activities, workshops and educational activity books to add interest to their experience.  Cultural heritage is cherished throughout France, and inspiring children early on insures that mindset will continue.


We’d love to hear from you!

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

Vençois Fête Celebrates Many Cultures

Vence Cultural Festival in France

Cultural Festival in Historic Vence

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, the Vençois (the people of Vence) will soon host a cultural and gastronomic event in their historic city center.  Locals and visitors will celebrate an eclectic mix representing many countries – Algeria, Cameroun, Colombia, Great Britain, Madagascar, Morocco, Mexico, Nicaragua, Portugal, Tunisia and Venezuela.

Taking place Saturday, May 19, all activities are free and will be centered around Place Clemenceau and the Cahours passage.  The festival will include artisan displays, culinary tastings, folk dances and traditional music from participating countries.  We would love to be there!

Make today a special Sunday with your friends and family.




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

Provençal Weekend, Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Cobblestone streets of Saint-Paul-de Vence, France

Cobblestone streets of Saint-Paul-de Vence

In the “good news-bad news” department, Saint-Paul-de-Vence is a lovely fortified village, perched like a crown jewel on a spur between two valleys with views of the Mediterranean. The flip side of that shiny coin is that so many tourists are drawn to the village. Even in so-called “shoulder” seasons the pedestrian lanes are filled with visitors, so we opt to stay at the Hotel Miramar in the charming commune of Vence.  The hotel was an excellent choice – formerly an ancient manor and reasonably priced with spectacular mountain and sea views from the elegant terrace.

We were able to enjoy the best of both worlds – the quiet relaxation of Vence and the stimulating artistic and medieval sights of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Both communes share a history rich with artists like Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, as well as authors Nostradamus (who referred to the town as “Garden of Vence, marvel of Provence”) and D.H. Lawrence. Clearly the beautiful surroundings inspire talent. Several contemporary sculptures capture our attention in Saint-Paul, and the pedestrian lanes and winding steps make for delightful shopping and sightseeing.

In Vence, five medieval “portes”, dating to the 13th century and beyond, are gateways through the walled buildings of the old town. We lunch at a terrace café along Place Clémenceau to watch the lively bustle around the square. The village fountains are particularly enchanting, located throughout the old town and fed by the clear mineral water of “La Foux” river. The Place Peyra fountain has a marble plaque that lists the various minerals and underscores the reason the water is so highly regarded. Often people with bottles form lines to take the water home. One of the most beautiful local sights is a short walk from the town center. Across the bridge over the Foux River is Chapelle Matisse, who decorated the masterpiece from 1947 to 1951.

Contemporary sculpture, Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Saint-Paul-de-Vence also is quite a beautiful walled village of primarily 16th and 17th century houses. Discovered in 1920 by Signac, Modigliani, Bonnard and Soutine, Saint-Paul has long attracted contemporary artists to quaint cobbled streets and spectacular scenic views. At the western edge of town, we stopped for dinner at the Malabar restaurant – a perfect choice for fresh Provençal food in a charming, hospitable atmosphere.

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Enticing Scents from France

A bow to color from BOUGIES LA FRANÇAISE

Back in the days when I felt chained to the ‘corporate mule’, I had a simple but delightful formula for relaxation.  Play light French music.  Prepare a warm bubble bath.  Pour a glass of chilled white wine.  Light some scented candles.  That little routine had the amazing ability to transport me from teeth-grinding tension to the relaxed appreciation of all those things I value in life.

And candles were no small part of that scenario.  They’re like characters in plays.  They lift the spirit with sweet scents of lavender or aromas of fresh linen. They deliver a romantic glow to a dining table.  They transform a simple bathroom into a welcoming spa.

I distinctly remember the most expensive candle I ever purchased.  It was my first visit to Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan.  I was on a rather humble budget, but I had to buy something from this fabulous department store.  Voila!  A memorable, exotically scented candle from D. Porthault of Paris.  In one purchase, I was able to indulge my love of France and candles.

And so I know where I shall shop for my daughter-in-law’s birthday and Mother’s Day.  My French Neighbor carries a lovely line of French candles from BOUGIES LA FRANÇAISE, an esteemed company that has been in the candle making and home fragrance business since 1902.  Innovative designers team with candle artisans and perfume specialists to awaken the senses and add a touch of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to any room.

Perfect gifts for discerning ladies

We happen to live in the Orlando area, so we can indulge ourselves with a visit to My French Neighbor’s store in Baldwin Park.  It will be a very cold day in Miami, when I fail to enjoy wandering among bistrot décor, charming country French furniture, savory foodstuffs and striking ceramic lamps.  If you aren’t so lucky to be local, shop on line to find just the right gift for Mother’s Day or other occasions.

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

Belles Heures Daily Devotional

Belles Heures du duc de Berry

Few of us can imagine having the privilege and resources to “commission” anything our heart desires.  That was not the case with 15th-century art patron and Duc Jean de Berry.  The son, brother, and uncle to three successive kings of France, de Berry also was a devoted bibliophile, who commissioned exceptional medieval prayer books for his personal use.

Until June 25, fortunate visitors to the Musée du Louvre may enjoy an exhibition on loan from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one that includes the extraordinary Belles Heures du duc de Berry.  The private devotional manuscripts were beautifully illustrated by the Brothers Limbourg – Paul, Jean and Herman – in ink, tempera and gold leaf on vellum.   The artistic brothers from Flanders were mere teens, when they undertook this remarkable commission.  The text reflects the duke’s personal interests and blends visions of the natural world with Italianate expressions of figures in one of the world’s most beautiful manuscripts.

It is the simple things in life that add texture and beauty.  The other day I purchased a bouquet of lilies, a promising bunch of ten unopened buds.  And each day another opens, spread impossibly large and filled with sweet nectar that perfumes the entire living room.  My $9.99 ‘investment’ is far less than the duke’s commissioned art, yet provides the same indelible imprint of beauty.

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Festive Château de Chenonceau

Many of us would feel rather like Julia Child; if we had a kitchen with plenty of space, a central island and every type of cooking utensil.  Tour the medieval kitchens of Château de Chenonceau, and you begin to appreciate the gastronomy of France.

Handsome copper urn and pans

Chenonceau's handsome copper urn and pans

Though the chateau was influenced by many women, Catherine de Medici in particular loved to entertain French Royalty for festivities and hunts. And with the Château kitchens, her staff was well prepared to present the many elegant parties she gave in honor of her three sons, who were all Kings of France.

One of the most famous fêtes honored Francois II and Mary Stuart in 1558 with a feast most certainly ‘fit for a King’.  Perhaps the grandest of all, though, took place in 1577, when the gallery over the Cher River was inaugurated.  The new King Henry III and his wife Louise were present, as was the wife of the future Henry IV, Marguerite de Navaree.  Feasts, dances, shows and concerts entertained all guests; while industrious and creative servants kept busy to meet their every need.

Built into the first two piers of the bridge that arched across the river, the fabulous kitchens were readily accessible by boats delivering foodstuffs to platforms just outside the kitchen.  Pristine, arched rooms included a large pantry that served the staff dining room, the Butchery for handling game and the Larder.  A huge bread oven is next to the Château’s largest chimney that dates to the 16th century; and a massive wood-burning fireplace includes an intricately designed rotisserie.

Copper collection beneath the kitchen arches

What immediately struck us was the variety and beauty of the collection of antique copper kettles and pots, a gleaming array of accessories to fit every culinary need.  Even today, the upkeep and polishing must be constant.

The gardens of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici handsomely contributed to the Château festivities, providing the enormous bouquets throughout the castle, as well as fruits, vegetables and herbs for the kitchen.  We stepped to the side to take a moment to imagine those days, the steaming soups and braised boar filling the kitchen with savory scents, the floral teams gathering armloads of flowers.  And looking in on the small staff dining room; we had the sense some of those British series evoke of servants gathered for a brief meal, before taking on the enormous tasks of the day.

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Festival d’Avignon – 66th Year!

Come along to the wedding!

If you are planning a trip to France this summer, you might want to include Avignon on your agenda.  The world-renowned Festival d’Avignon kicks off on July 7 and runs through July 28, when the streets and performance venues, the hotels and restaurants will be a constant buzz of creative activity.  And obviously, Avignon knows very well how to present a festival, as this will be their 66th year of hosting the events.  The Pope’s Palace was the first festival venue in 1947, when Jean Vilar presented three stage creations; and an exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculptures also was presented at the same time and locale.

The spirit of the city during the Festival might best be described as playful pandemonium.  Faux wedding parties saunter through the street, perhaps asking you to step in as bride or groom.  Or a magician wrapped in chains will miraculously free himself and request volunteers to be similarly chained.  All of this lighthearted nonsense is intended to draw you to their performances and shows.  Each year about 35 to 40 performances, many premieres in France, are presented in about 20 venues in Avignon.

Cha- cha- chain, chain of fools

Be sure to plan ahead, as accommodations can be hard to find.  Ironically, friends advised us against going to Avignon during the Festival, precisely because of the relative pandemonium; but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  When creative French folks “throw a party” … or a festival … you can be sure there’s comedy and mystique around every corner.

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


Whimsical Memories of Chartres


Flower bedecked banks of the Eure River

Travel memories.  They are those wonderful soft blankets that wrap your mind in warmth.  And they are whimsical, often selecting little moments that have nothing to do with the spectacular sights for which a place is known.

My memories of Chartres are like that, focused far less on the renowned Cathedral of Chartres than on petite sights.  Yes, the cathedral, the spires and gardens are extravagantly beautiful.  My friend and I chose a little spot right across from the side of the church to have our lunch in the shadow of its grand façade.

Stronger memories, though, include wandering along streets with half-timbered houses and brightly painted homes.  We stepped down the charming stairways of Tertre Saint-Nicolas and rue Chantault to arrive at the 12th-century Collégiale Saint-André.  We were surprised to find a delightful exhibit of large, colorful metal figures suspended from the ceiling – pure serendipity and not at all what we expected in the Romanesque church.

A little history lesson filled us in.  The church closed in 1791 and suffered severe damage in the early 1800’s and again in 1944.  Today, it is far smaller than its original size and serves as an exhibition centre.

12th-century Collégiale Saint-André

Down by the quiet flow of the Eure River, we crossed little bridges and wandered along riverside pathways lined with flower gardens.  Our grand finale experience before catching the last train back to Paris was dining at a quaint restaurant on the water.  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and experienced the amazing hospitality of Chartres’ residents.  Two gentlemen at an adjacent table knew an event had filled the city’s hotels and offered us a room, should we miss the last train.

With all deference to the unrivalled beauty and depth of history of the Cathedral, I felt privileged to have absorbed the many faces of Chartres’ penetrating charm.

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



Puy du Fou Theme Park Voted Best

Beware - the Vikings may be on their way!

The glitter and glow on the recent Oscar win for The Artist has not faded, and now France adds another “feather” in her chapeau.  The French theme park – Puy du Fou – has been voted the best in the world by the Themed Entertainment Association.  The park received numerous accolades for daring performances, spectacular themed shows, creativity, quality and uniqueness.  Puy du Fou was selected from a bevy of 700 parks in 40 countries, and representatives will make the journey to Los Angeles to receive the Thea Award.

Not only is that a phenomenal achievement, but it is exactly the way entrepreneurial action sparks the economy.  Located between La-Roche-sur-Yon and Angers, the park was created in 1977, the brainchild of a 27-year-old student Philippe de Villiers (now a French politician).  Since their premiere show – Cinéscénie – was launched, Puy du Fou has evolved into a multi-day extravaganza that welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors per year.  One can appreciate all of those jobs created – set and costume makers, performers and musicians – a tremendous boost to the Vendée region’s economy!

As one put it, whether you’re 8 or 80, the park is a delightful place to visit, learn, enjoy and immerse yourself in history.  Families enjoy sword-fighting and battle enactments, jousting and dancing horses, water shows and fireworks.

Jousting, Sword fighting, Gladiators & more

Now celebrating its 35th Anniversary, the Cinéscénie evening performance traces the history of a Vendée family from the 1700’s to the Second World War. Your journey through time takes you from Viking longboats sailing down river on daring village raids to jousting tournaments that end with storming the keep.

Villiers’ discovery of the ruins of an old renaissance castle in the village of Les Epesses in western France sparked the park’s development, and he wrote the story line and organized “l’Association du Puy du Fou” to launch and manage the park. The park now includes 3 hotels, 25 restaurants and 3 distinct villages – a Medieval City, 18th-Century Village and 1900 Town Square. And for families feeling a pinch in the budget, picnic areas are set aside for those who bring their own food


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



L’art Américain Entre au Louvre

Spacious galleries at the Louvre

Recently, we happened upon an interesting documentary about the building and opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in – of all places – Bentonville, Arkansas.  There’s quite a good reason for the unusual location, overlooking ponds in a wooded ravine in northwest Arkansas.  Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton spearheaded the Walton Family Foundation’s involvement in developing Crystal Bridges, bringing the museum an instant impressive collection of American art.  And Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville.

Now Parisians will be able to enjoy many collections of American art through a four-year collaboration between the Musée du Louvre, the High Museum of Art (Atlanta), Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Arkansas), and the Terra Foundation for American Art.  The first exhibit – “New Frontier: American Art Enters the Louvre, Thomas Cole and the Birth of Landscape Painting in America – opened on January 14 and will continue at the Louvre until April 16, 2012.

Nearly 40 years ago, the Louvre acquired its only Cole painting, “The Cross in the Wilderness”. Inspired by the writings of prominent authors of the day, like James Fenimore Cooper and William Cullen Bryant, Cole and fellow artist Asher B. Durand developed a new genre of American landscape painting.   In addition to the Louvre’s Cole painting, five works from the partner institutions were selected for this premiere exhibition, including one of Cole’s first and finest masterpieces – Landscape with Figures: A Scene from “The Last of the Mohicans” (Terra Foundation for American Art) painted by Cole in 1826.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, NY

Parisians now add this important “art chapter” to their ongoing fondness for American films and music.

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

“Matisse: Pairs and Series”, Paris

Still Life with a Magnolia   “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” – Henri Matisse

A captivating new exhibit at the Centre Pompidou opens next week in Paris, with a focus on the meticulous approach to painting by Fauvist leader Henri Matisse.  When you think of his famous “Joy of Life”, you might imagine a joyous painter spontaneously applying layers of bright color to the canvas.  But according to the exhibition curator, Cecile Debray, the show reveals obsessive work habits and an entirely different perspective of the painter.

Throughout his 60-year career, Matisse was inclined to recreate the same composition over and over, until he was satisfied with the painting.  While there have been countless exceptional Matisse exhibits, “Matisse:  Pairs and Series” is the first show to explore the complex creative process that brought together the artist’s simple shapes and piercing colors.

Quoted in the exhibition, Matisse described his craft.  “A painting is like a card game: you should know from the beginning what you wish to achieve at the end. Everything should be worked backwards so that you have finished before you have begun.”   Yet, the 60 paintings and 30 drawings clearly demonstrate his self doubt, worry and exploration to discover exactly what he wanted to accomplish.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

His “Blue Nude” cut-paper series from 1952 provide a perfect example.  Comprised of four collages, labeled I to IV, Matisse began the last work first.  He attempted three different variations, before finally returning to finish his first attempt.

In an unusual trait for artists, Matisse was willing to reveal his arduous approach to art.  In a 1945 exhibit, he exhibited six of his finished works in a Paris gallery and included framed photos of the complex working stages of the paintings.

According to Debray, after the violent colors of Fauvists earned him and similar artists the nickname “fauves” or “wild beasts”, Matisse constantly felt the need to be taken seriously.  He needn’t have worried, as managed to achieve fame in his own lifetime and is regarded as one of the more important 20th century French painters.

Following the Paris exhibition that runs to June 18, the show will run in Copenhagen and at MOMA in New York.

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


Unusual Film Set in Brittany

Lorient harbor in Brittany

In the “one thing leads to another” arena, I recently profiled the Rendez-vous with French Cinema celebration that kicked off yesterday.  The directors of one festival film – 17 girls – offered interesting insights about their own background in Lorient, France, and about how it relates to the movie.

In short, the story is based in truth, as 17 teenage girls make an unpredictable decision guaranteed to change their parochial, small town lives and to create huge misunderstandings with their local peers and adults.  Actually occurring in 2008, the Gloucester, Massachusetts girls made a “Pregnancy Pact”, with all deciding to get pregnant at the same time.

The French Directors, Delphine and Muriel Coulin, immediately realized it was something that could have happened in their own sleepy port of Lorient in Brittany.  In the past, the city’s strategic location at the junction of three rivers flowing to the Atlantic made it a base for trading operations and quite a bit of plundering.

Though today it is the fourth largest Breton city, the port was decimated during World War II.  In the years that followed, residents believed Lorient would become a “city of the future”.  That development never occurred, and hope has since vanished.  Lorient teens, in particular, see a circular, boring life with little promise of anything but high school, marriage and family.

“17 Filles” – © Jerome Prebois

That is an obvious parallel to the girls in the movie.  Having grown up in Lorient, the directors well understood the importance of shared friendship and the desire for something beyond this narrow existence.  The film setting is in Lorient and Morbihan, where they tell the girls’ stories with genuine empathy for their dreams.  There also is a touch of humor and understanding about emotional adolescents, who move with ease from desperation to bouts of explosive laughter.

On the larger landscape of life, the diminishment of villages and towns is a phenomenon filled with melancholy.  Where people once lived quiet lives in peaceful places, lives they felt worthwhile; their children often have moved away to pursue bigger dreams in cities.  Though many of us would enjoy the serene pace of small-town living, but the sad reality of minimal commerce and few jobs makes that impossible.

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


Fans of French Films Celebrate

An expanded Rendez-vous for cinema fans

To the delight of American film buffs, contemporary French cinema takes center stage from March 1 to 11.  New York-based Rendez-vous with French Cinema has expanded its reach to present simultaneous screenings in numerous venues across the United States.

Film-lovers will be able to see a delightful variety of cinematic entertainment, from the restored version of Marcel Carné’s 1945 Les Enfants Du Paradis to the recent hit Intouchables.   New York’s Walter Reade Theater screenings at the Film Society Lincoln Center will include:  Farewell, My Queen; Americano, Headwinds, Unforgivable, The Well-Digger’s Daughter and Delicacy.

Florida also hosts a film festival, “Films for Consideration not Consumption”.  Audiences will enjoy brilliant works by directors –  such as Marcel L’Herbier, Georges Clouzot and René Clair – at the Hippodrome State Theater in Gainesville, and at Cinema Culture and the French Mise-en-scène in Miami.

For the first time, Rendez-vous with French Cinema is collaborating with Emerging Pictures’ network of digital theatres to present a number of films in over 50 venues across the country.   Some of the films to be enjoyed include Delphine Gleize’s Moon Child, Rabah Ameur-Zaïméche’s Smugglers’ Songs and Daniel Auteuil’s The Well-Digger’s Daughter.   (See venue list here.) 

An extravaganza of films

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is screening the United States premiere of fully-restored Abel Gance’s Napoleon.   The epic silent film was first released in 1927 to great acclaim in Europe, though it faded to oblivion on the other side of “the pond”.  Interestingly, young Kevin Brownlow happened upon two rolls of 9.5mm film at a Paris street market.  His passion for the clips he saw as a young boy led to the gradual and final restoration of the 2000 version of the film. is an especially wonderful site for keeping up with French cinema, books, language, education and more.

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

Musée d’Orange – History & Art

Pierre Hébert Bronze Statue of Adrien Gasparin - © Gromelle Grand angle

Statues never fail to lure me, to capture me in their exquisite, fluid lines.  One such bronze gentleman takes residence in the Musée d’Orange.  In fact an exact reproduction, the statuette captures the contemplative stance of the famous agronomist Adrien de Gasparin, who was born in Orange in 1783 and died there in 1862.  In yet another sad reminder of the sacrilege of war, Pierre Hébert ‘s original full-scale bronze statue was melted by the Germans in 1942 to be used in the manufacture of munitions.

Our recent post about the Roman Theatre of Orange promised an encore, and here we fulfill that pledge.  Just opposite the theatre is an 18th century mansion that has served as home to the Musée d’Orange for nearly 80 years.  The museum is a natural complement for Theatre visitors to experience a vision of Imperial Orange and a rich collection of furniture and objets d’art.

Many elements that originally decorated the theatre stage wall are on display – eagles, amazons, centaurs and fragments of friezes.  The 1st century AD Roman cadastre illustrates the Roman occupation of the Narbonne area in the Gallo-Roman period.  Engraved in 77 AD, the remarkably preserved marble plaques represent the most complete cadastre ever discovered and are part of a complete revision of land ownership during the rule of Emperor Vespasian.

Salle des Wetter – © culturespaces

An entire room is devoted to the Swiss manufacturer Wetter, who founded a mill in Orange on the banks of the Meyne River.  The magnificent paintings that decorate the room were commissioned to decorate the lounge of the mill director and offer a glimpse of the life of “Indian” cotton mills at the end of the 18th century.  It was the French East India Company that brought the first cloths of painted cotton from India to Europe, where they proved very popular with affluent classes.

The museum not only is rich in artifacts and works of art, it seems a “living history lesson” with a unique vision of times we shall never experience.

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


Luminaires Céramique – Authentique!

Such an attractive home accent

Splendid crafts invariably carry an interesting artisan story, a bit of history that adds meaning to the beauty of the creation.  In the case of “Terre d’Hautaniboul”, producers of sleek and elegant ceramic lamps and accessories, the story centers around two brothers.

The love of beautiful things inspired François and Frédéric Catuffe to become potters, and that passion gave birth to some of the most striking lamp and lighting designs I have ever seen.  The glow of vivid colors, the delightful shapes, the little “imperfections” that testify to the authenticity of hand craftsmanship, the handsome brass parts – yes, I am really enamored with these gorgeous lamps!

My French Neighbor kitchen accessories
My French Neighbor kitchen accessories

But let’s get on with more details, shall we?  We first saw the lamps in our favorite local shop near Orlando, My French Neighbor.   There, set among so many charming French gifts, attractive cabinetry, elegant tableware and gourmet offerings; the ceramic pulley lamps drew me in and entirely captured my attention.  The sleek retro design that somehow spills over to modern.  The obvious craftsmanship, the interesting pulley design.  Forgive my overt enthusiasm, but my mother and aunt were interior designers; and I seem to instantly gravitate to exceptional design.

Sylvain Perret, the store owner, explained that his goods come from the finest of French manufacturers.  The “Terre d’Hautaniboul” ceramic lamps are created in Boissezon in the Tarn department in the south of France.  In their atelier (workshop), the Catuffe brothers draw their inspiration from the shapes of the past, from the days of their grandparents.

Stunning table lamps

Their work is decidedly “up market”, made by skilled artisans to the highest standards using age-old techniques. The large shade, ceiling plate, pulley weight and pulleys are all handmade earthenware pottery, also enameled by hand in 24 fantastic colors.  They then are glazed and twice-fired.

All metal parts are brass (though they have recently introduced a new chrome look).  The firing process yields slight variations of color that contribute to the uniqueness of each lamp.

Unfortunately, Sylvain’s lamps are available only in store and not on line (due to the delicate nature of shipping), but that won’t stop you from shopping for other on-line boutique items that help you shape the Art de Vivre in your home or that of a friend.  And if you aren’t local and must have a gorgeous ceramic lamp, just hop on a plane – to Orlando … or France!

We’d love to hear from you!

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


“King of Sport” Carnaval in Nice

Carnaval characters parade along the Promenade de Anglais

The merriment is about to begin.  From the 17th of February to March 4th, one of the world’s largest carnivals ‘kicks off’ in Nice to the 2012 theme “King of Sport”.   The theme, in part bows to 2012 London Olympics, while also paying tribute to the sporting dynamics of Nice.

In a challenge to all of the senses, colossal, colorful parades thread through the streets day and night, accompanied by over 1,000 musicians and dancers from throughout the world.  Elegant floral float compositions battle for attention up the Promenade des Anglais, topped by lavishly costumed characters who throw 100,000 mimosas, lilies, carnations and gerberas to crowds that line the Promenade.  Imagine the sight and scent of this fairy tale scene!  And 90 percent of the flowers are produced locally.

Carnaval celebrations continue a tradition that began in 1876, when the first Flower Parade was held along the Promenade des Anglais to Place Massena.  Today, the winter celebration is the premier event along the Riviera.

Color and charisma!

Traditional papier- mâché figurines dazzle with color amidst the street theatre and music groups, and floats are illuminated to take the parades through the night.  The craftsmanship itself is phenomenal.  With a deep passion for their work, Carnavaliers huddle in a large workshop – “Maison du Carnaval” – for several months, to plan and produce their works of art, the oversized heads, elaborate costumes and fantastic floats.

“Carnival” derives from “carne levare” (away with meat), in observance of the Catholic tradition of fasting through Lent.  Behind masks that disguised the wearers, excesses were the rule of the day.  Just as parades mark New Orleans’ Mardi gras celebration prior to the penitential Lenten season, Nice prepares for another spectacular celebration of Carnaval.  As they chant in New Orleans, “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!”

We’d love to hear from you!

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

The French Love of Cinema

Such a tough assignment to film in Paris!

The French have a longstanding love of the cinema; and with a glance at their many gifted film directors, that attachment is easy to understand.  Marcel Pagnol and Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Goddard and François Truffaut – the list is long and impressive.  After all, France is the birthplace of cinématographe, invented by Lyonnais brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière.

During my first trip to Paris, “Tout Le Monde Dit Je T’Aime” – Everyone Says I Love You – was playing at La Pagode, a Far Eastern antique pagoda built by the owner of Le Bon Marché for his wife.  The exotic building and garden escaped demolition in the 1970’s thanks to the grassroots support led by director Louis Malle.  When attending the film with a friend, the first thing I noticed was the serious, refined demeanor of the crowd.  No jeans.  No popcorn.  No large cokes or spicy nacho dips.  These customers came to see a film – not eat, nor talk, nor send messages via cell phone.  And, it was said, you need only run a Woody Allen film in theaters and French people show up.

Today, it is Allen’s Midnight in Paris that is captivating moviegoers across the globe.  Certainly it doesn’t hurt that Paris is showcased beautifully across a lovely palette of scenes; but tie the story to the romantic … or rogue …. salon artistes of the past, and you have a compelling couplet to draw you in to the magic of Paris.  The main character played by Owen Wilson is torn between his love of Paris and his love of his fiancée, who wants to live in Malibu. That in itself is enough to diminish a relationship.

One night he is tipsy, lost and sitting on the steps of the church Saint Etienne-du-Mont, when a vintage car pulls up and partygoers invite him inside.  Thus begins his midnight encounters in which he is transported to the 1920’s and hobnobs with the likes of  Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.  Again and again, he returns to the steps at midnight to await his travel to the past.

Wandering the streets at midnight

We definitely suggest you see the film, if only to satisfy yourself with the sight of all of those favorite places and spaces in Paris – walking by the Seine, wandering down cobblestone streets past enchanting architecture, visiting Rodin’s museum and sculpture garden.  Our friends in Paris live a mere two blocks from those church steps that were central to the movie.  In fact, they watched the filming taking place, while they walked their dog.

My husband’s favorite comment in France is “It’s good to be mayor!”  That’s because every Hotel de Ville – City Hall – is the dominant, charming edifice in all cities and villages, where the mayor reigns in some degree of splendor.  For my part, I think it would be great to be an actress … specializing, of course, in films that take place in Paris.  Certainly it would not stretch the limits of my talent or imagination to ‘act’ enamored with the City of Light.

We’d love to hear from you!

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


Passementerie – Refined & Refreshed

Elegant Passementerie - stylish & refined

I have a genuine love of things beautifully made of fine materials with the delicate touch of an artisan.  A few years ago, we ventured to import these “Elegant Gifts & Simple Pleasures” from France.  With big plans and great excitement, we sought out artisans in Paris and beyond – jewelers who created colorful ceramic and metal necklaces and bracelets, leather makers who created finely tooled journals and appointment books.

At L’Ateliers d’Art de France, we discovered the exceptional color and creativity of Bernard Serra, a master of passementerie who produces his work as “Prince du Sud”.  We couldn’t resist the refined clutches in vibrant colors with the kind of workmanship that lasts through generations.  Naturally, I had to keep one myself; and though I carry it to add a touch of stylish color to my outfit, I could as easily frame it on the wall to appreciate day in and day out….but, it looks so good in my hand!

Actually, when one thinks of this art style – passementerie, old fashioned comes to mind.  Essentially, it is the art of intricate trimmings or edgings (“passements” in French) of braid, gold or silver cord, embroidery, colorful silk or beads for clothing and home furnishings.  As a matter of interest, the Guild of Passementiers was created in France in the 16th century.  Seven years of apprenticeship was required to become a master.  The tassel was a dominant product, but fringes ornamental cords, pompons and rosettes also were expressions of the art.  The use of passementerie in clothing was long reserved for aristocrats, royalty, religious and military elite.

With an interest in the era of courtesans, Monsieur Serra revives the art and refreshes the style to create textiles that are beautiful to see, touch and adore.  He is devoted to artisanal work of world-class quality.  That comes as no surprise, in that this artist has worked in the textile art trade with prolonged exposure to the Parisian designers Christian Lacroix, Montana, Guy Laroche and Nina Ricci.

Today, he breathes new life into the old art, as a passementerie specialist for a house that regularly supplies the large couture houses in Paris.  Prince du Sud works from an old, renovated bookshop in the 6th arrondissement and collaborates with fashion and interior designers, as well as individuals, to provide his intricate, corded products, all created by hand with ancestral techniques.

His line includes bags, belts, small clutches, key rings and objects of decoration.  He often enhances his designs with pearls, sequins, feathers and spangles.  And he creates custom pieces for clients, who choose from 90 fabulous colors and unlimited imagination.  Oh my – would I love to take advantage of that service!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Madame Baker – Princess of Périgord

Josephine's beloved Le Château des Milandes

Few of us have the means and dedication to preserve and honor important places and people, but accolades are due to Monsieur and Madame Henry de Labarre.  Since acquiring Josephine Baker’s beloved Le Château des Milandes, Périgord, the new owners have restored the magnificent estate that a skinny, dark gal from Missouri purchased in 1947.

Today, visitors enjoy visiting a gorgeous estate overlooking the Dordogne Valley, where falconry shows and a handsomely-renovated château and gardens mix with the sweet, soft music of Ms. Baker.

“Black Pearl”, “Creole Goddess

A woman of immense talent, ambition and energy; a woman of such impoverished beginnings and racial discord cannot easily be pigeon-holed.  Josephine Baker’s performing career ranged from modest beginnings during the Harlem Renaissance to blazing fame on the Paris stage in the 1920’s.

Deterred in America by racial barriers, she stormed the City of Light in La Revue Nègre in a barely-there feather skirt and beguiled patrons with her and her partner’s uninhibited “Danse Sauvage” and offhand touches of comedy.  Her second blockbuster show in 1927 at the Folies Bergère sealed her sensual celebrity and was, perhaps most remembered for her 16-banana skirt (now on exhibit at Les Milandes).

But there were many sides to Ms. Baker, beyond exotic stage performances.  She and her French husband Jo Bouillon (yes, one of several mates) adopted 12 children over time, calling them “The Rainbow Tribe” and providing them with a lovely home at Les Milands. She loved animals and kept a virtual menagerie at the chateau, from parakeets and cats (likely combination!) to a leopard, chimpanzee and 7 dogs.  Her love for France led Ms. Baker to important work for the French Resistance during World War II, for which the French government awarded her the Medal of the Resistance with Rosette and named her a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

Le Château des Milandes

Les Milandes was built in 1489, when Madame Cardaillac envisioned a “less stuffy” family château.  Today, you experience exactly that – not a cold, overbearing castle but a grand, elegant home with refined décor, elegant stained-glass windows and handsome fireplaces. The gardens draw you among sweetly-scented rows of lavender, century-old magnolias and beautifully-manicured lawns and gardens.  One highlight of your visit is the interactive birds of prey show with falcons, owls and even bald eagles.  And one can only imagine, Josephine and the children enjoying the view over the rolling Dordogne hills.

Sadly, financial management was not one of Josephine Baker’s talents, and the château was repossessed in the 1960s.  One of the many Baker artifacts displayed at les Milandes is her last photo on the property, poised on the front steps and surrounded by her few possessions.

Paris honors Josephine Baker in Montparnasse

Several days after her 1975 premier at the Bobino Theater in Paris, where her performance was attended by Princess Grace of Monaco and Sophia Loren, she slipped into a coma and died at the same hospital, where Princess Diana died.   Her gravesite is in the Cimetiére de Monaco, Monaco.  In 1968, Princess Grace said of her, “This queen of the musical hall could not be buried anywhere else other than a place fit for a princess.”

We’d love to hear from you!

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

At Home on Montmartre

Montmartre's view over the city

Montmartre evokes so many images, so much history; as it looks over Paris from her high perch.  Naturally, the Basilica of Sacré Coeur is the Mont’s iconic sight, poised above the City of Light, like a glittering white ice cream cone.  For all of the artists, heritage, windmills and martyrs; we came to enjoy Montmartre as our home for nearly six weeks – a home with daily new discoveries, friendly neighbors and hidden gems along its’ winding streets.

From our delightfully comfortable and classic vacation apartment, we settled in to pleasant routines.  We learned to skirt the hordes of tourists heading to the Basilica’s steps and gardens.  Or we joined them, climbing the walkways to the top, sitting on the steps to listen to the notes of a violin and watch the mimes and living statues.

One day, sadly, we learned that a dear friend had died; so in tribute to him, we climbed to a shady place on the lawn overlooking Paris.  There, among students sketching and families sharing snacks, we remembered our cheerful, intelligent friend.

We passed the old Théâtre de l’Atelier and joined the morning lines at the patisserie, where we bought our baguettes, hearty artisan breads and tartes.  We stopped often to visit Théo, who guided our selection of wine.  And a little closer to our apartment, La Presse was a regular stop for papers and magazines.

We found a favorite spot by the Abbesses carousel to simply watch the people.  One unforgettable old man readily comes to mind.  He was sitting on a bench, with the colorful carousel and joyous children just behind him.  He sat hunched over, his clothes soiled, his head bloodied no doubt from a fall or fight.  And a half empty bottle of wine sat by his feet.  His air of hopelessness was palpable.

Just up the street – in an area our landlady said is a favorite with Bo-Bo’s (Bohemian-Bourgeois), we found sunny outdoor cafes and a mix of artsy shops and galleries.  Two little bistros became our favorites, more for the atmosphere and location than for gourmet dining.  One was tucked right behind the Basilica on a short pedestrian street with minimal traffic.  A good selection of Italian fare was perfectly complimented by our smiling accordion player.  The other was a tiny café that hugged the side of the hill, where we enjoyed friendly service and an amusing exchange between a young lady and a traveling jewelry salesman trying to get a date.

By our favorite cafe

I suspect we could write a book about those weeks, but let’s end with a delightful walk that took us past old Montmartre cottages and windmills.  We happened upon a pretty little park named Place Suzanne Buisson.  Children played on the grassy areas, and young men gathered for a game of petanque under the trees.

The plaque in Ms. Buisson’s honor was a surprise to us.  She had been a socialist leader advocating equal rights for men and women.  She merged her group to join the Resistance movement, and was ultimately arrested and killed by the Gestapo.  And so it is throughout Paris, where the lightness of heart mixes with somber history.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Shop the Boutiques de Musées

One of hundreds of decorative tiles on the walls of Musée d'Orsay

I have to admit a fatal flaw.  Though I am a savvy shopper and budget conscious; when it comes to having real French goods, I am obsessive.  If the shipping costs more than the gift or purchase, c’est la vie.  It is French.  Period.  Do not argue.

Should you tend toward the same character misalignment, I have good news – a fantastic source for elegant and unique gifts.  The Boutiques de Musées offer an incredible selection from the gift shops of museums throughout France, from Grand Palais, Champs Elysées and Musée du Louvre in Paris to Musée et Domaine Nationaux du Château de Fontainebleau and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.

Indeed, this site is the go-to source for world class museum gifts – sculpture and scarf reproductions, jewelry, children’s books and toys and home décor furnishings. La Réunion des musées nationaux was founded in the late 19th century to raise and manage funds for the acquisition of works of art, originally doing so for only four museums in Paris.  Today, the Réunion works with 34 institutions, from the colossal Louvre to the far-smaller Musée Magnin, Dijon.  It is precisely that oversight and growth that allows you to tap the gift shops of all member museums on one website.

How about a few examples of the enchanting products available?  Each piece of jewelry “tells a story”, either designed to reflect an image from a painting or to replicate a famous work of art.  Naturally art books, guides and CD’s offer impressive selections for art lovers and historians.  Home accessories range from tapestry pillows to clocks and Napoleon’s folding stool – a must, of course, for the  mate, who loves French history!  Madame might prefer the elegant but pricey Baccarat crystal polar bear or various vase reproductions.  Really, the list is seemingly endless and offers a broad scope of prices.

The “Kids Corner” presents inventive designer Rubik’s cubes, plush animals and a wonderful collection  of books.  Or,  how about a giant T-Rex puzzle?  You are able to select creative, colorful and educational items for children of all ages.

Stole La Parisienne

Last, but surely not least, let’s shine the spotlight on fashion accessories.  One of my favorites is the stole (or scarf), “La Parisienne” – a stunning blend of subtle beige, brown and blue of wool and silk.  Like many museum shop items, it was inspired by a specific work of art – “La femme aux gants, dite la Parisienne”, 1883, painted by Charles Giron.  It is the portrait of a refined young woman wearing gloves and an afternoon dress in the style of an 18th century crinoline dress – very elegant!

One more favorite – a cotton ‘clutch’ or pouch inspired by the interior architecture of Orsay Museum. You musn’t take my word for it.  By all means, go to the site and enjoy browsing through the enchanting collection to choose your own favorites.
We’d love to hear from you!

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





Nina’s Story Spreads Across the Web

Nina Simone Plaza, Tryon, NC - photo credit Meg Rogers

I often do the yin yang dance about the wonders of the internet.  As an info junkie who wants to know the answer to my question this very minute, I love being able to access worldwide, encyclopedic fountains of information.  On the other hand, I recognize the dangers posed by hacking and porn, media manipulation and the dilution of language with twit tweeting.

Today, though, I am able to applaud the connectedness the internet provides. After our blog post this week about Nina Simone, “The High Priestess of Soul” and iconic American musician; I received an appreciative e-mail from the Executive Director of The Eunice Waymon-Nina Simone Memorial Project.

A native of Tryon, North Carolina, Eunice/Nina’s talent was recognized early on by Tryonites, who helped to fund her senior year at the Julliard School in New York City.  What is delightful to learn is that recognition and support continues beyond her grave with the current memorial project that “…exists to honor the remarkable life, musical legacy and civil rights activism of Nina Simone, and to inspire and support talented youth to reach their full potential.”

While my first “Nina article” focused on her birth in America, death in France and her incredible contribution to the musical lore of her time; I did not profile her strong involvement as a civil rights advocate.  A native of the South, an African-American female performer in an America divided by racial discord; of course Ms. Simone experienced prejudice and sometimes used her music to express her rage over the violence and injustice that accompanied the Civil Rights Movement.  It was one of the reasons she and other performers moved to France and other European countries, where they enjoyed opportunity, acceptance and relative equality.  The mission of her Memorial Project honors the whole story and life of Nina Simone.

As you see from the first photo, one goal already has been realized.  In February, 2010, Tryon celebrated and dedicated a life-sized, bronze memorial sculpture to the international music icon.  NinaFest, a second goal to host an International Music Festival, is tentatively scheduled to take place this year in Tryon.

Downtown Tryon – Courtesy of Doug Nickau

In the demanding, iPhone-laden world we live in, sometimes we overlook the worthwhile projects that deserve our attention and support.  We invite you to take the time to learn more about and support a project that perpetuates the energy, talent and zeal Nina Simone demonstrated on both sides of “the pond”.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

The Stein’s Influence on Modern Art

Current Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais Exhibit

Beginning with the remarkable Exposition Universelle of 1900, the Grand Palais has carried forward a tradition of hosting exceptional ‘fetes’ and art expos.  The palace is one of Paris’ prized architectural gems, set grandly on the banks of the Seine and capped with breathtaking glass ceilings and handsome rotundas.  The sheer splendor of space allows for impressive shows from carousel and fairgrounds interactive displays to exhibits in the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais.

Running since October of 2011, the “Matisse Cézanne Picasso…L’aventure des Stein” exhibit has been extended until January 22, 2012.  The show then moves to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from February 21 to June 3, 2012.

The Stein family from America settled in Paris early in the 20th century, adding quite an avant-garde flavor to society.  Author Gertrude and her brother Leo lived on Rue de Fleurus, while their elder brother and his wife, Michael and Sarah, lived on Rue Madame.  They have been described as the first purchasers of Matisse and Picasso, amassing impressive collections of modern art.

The exhibition curators sought to infuse the show with the story of the Stein family, beginning with their acquisition of a Matisse painting, Woman with a Hat, at the new avant-garde Salon d’Automne in 1905, that took place at the Grand Palais.  The current exhibition traces the Stein family’s patronage for artists and exceptional contribution to modern art.  Their embrace of Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne and other artists made an indelible mark on the growth of taste in contemporary works of art.

Grand Palais and Galeries Nationales on the Seine

Each family member had unique relationships and perspectives.  Sarah and Michael championed the work of then impoverished Matisse.  Sarah convinced the painter to open a school, and she became an informal student of the painter.  Leo Stein  originally sought to become an artist, but it was his decision to begin purchasing contemporary art that posed significant influence.  He purchased his first Cézanne, The Spring House, in 1903.  With Gertrude’s help, he expanded their collection beyond Cezanne works to include the lesser known Matisse and Picasso works of art.

The two households rivalled one another with Saturday evening salons that were the topic of Paris; where some guests gaped at the “wild” French art, and others participated in the intellectual dialogues that the interesting art provoked.  A San Francisco curator, well familiar with the impressive exhibit, said that Gertrude Stein once said, “You can buy art, or you can buy clothes; but you can’t do both.”  After viewing this incredible collection of 20th-century modern art, one can only assume her wardrobe was modest.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Gaugin, Van Gogh, Painters of Colour


Gaugin's work spills through the quarry - © G. Iannuzzi

At the Carrières de Lumières,  the new high-performance technology introduced by Culturespaces provides visitors with an extraordinary audio visual journey, covering even the floor of the quarry with a vast carpet of images.  Opening March 30, the premier show is “Gaugin, Van Gogh, Painters of Colour”, an extravaganza linking the careers of Paul Gaugin and Vincent Van Gogh to demonstrate their uniquely different ways of using color.  Gaugin tended toward well-defined areas of flat color, while Van Gogh layered vibrant colors, providing a relief effect to his paintings.

“…Like dreaming with your eyes open.”

That was Gianfranco Iannuzzi’s response, when asked why visitors should come and see the show.  The producer went on to say, “And to discover – or rediscover – the work of these two exceptional artists, through a total immersion in colour.”

Their artistic journeys shared similarities.  Both began with landscape paintings in northern Europe, before returning to the light-filled landscape of the South of France.  Gaugin later sought inspiration in the Pacific islands, while Van Gogh returned to northern France.

Seven sequences illuminate the colorful world of the two painters: Van Gogh, the Northern Prelude, focuses on the austere light and somber colors depicting ordinary people in harsh living conditions; while Gauguin in Pont-Aven, A New Theory of Picture, follows Gaugin’s work in Brittany.  The unique culture and broad and vivid landscapes led Gaugin to develop a new minimalist theory of painting, with simplified forms and expanses of color that captured only essential details.

Van Gogh’s projected works – © G. Iannuzzi

Gauguin & Van Gogh’s Correspondence links the painters through their correspondence.  We see them come together, collaborate and separate.  The Encounter at Arles brought the two painters together for the first time in the land of light and warm colors of southern France.  Gauguin joined Van Gogh’s ‘Studio of the South’ outside of Arles, but it was a partnership marked by insurmountable differences, a mix of respect and disdain.  Gaugin departed after just two months in Arles.

Gauguin in the Pacific Islands, Back to Eden, profiles Gaugin’s prolific work in Tahiti, where he produced a large number of paintings, sculptures and engravings in and around Papeete.  Van Gogh in Saint-Rémy, Under the Southern Sun finds the painter in a blend of creative genius and madness.  His work in Provence shimmers with powerful, dark skies and cypress and olive trees with strong lines, vivid color and thick texture.  In 1889, he committed himself to the asylum in Saint-Rémy, where he continued to exercise his talent and imagination with brightly colored paintings and the unique angles featured in his famous “The Starry Night” and “Cypresses” series. The Auvers-sur-Oise Plain is the final chapter of Van Gogh’s artistry, where he crowned his body of work with another 77 paintings filled with emotional images, stormy skies and nature. The show is a lifelike journey through the lives of two masterful painters, an exposition made even more powerful through the extraordinary artistic production.

We’d love to hear from you!

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


Production of the show  © G. Iannuzzi M. Siccardi



The Lure of Southwest France

The old Pont Vieux bridge over the Tarn and Sainte-Cécile Cathedral - © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

Southwest France is an ideal choice for a holiday to enjoy a pleasant mix of scenic landscapes and outdoor activities, historic villages, beautiful rivers and soaring mountain vistas.  We thought the Tarn River valley would make a perfect central location in a peaceful area, where they say you’ll likely notice more sheep than tourists. Of course, that’s exactly what you would expect on the home ground of famous Roquefort cheese.

On a significantly loftier note, the spectacular Millau Viaduct, the world’s tallest bridge, spreads across the valley in a monumental bow to skillful engineering – simply a breathtaking sight!

In the heart of Southwest France, Toulouse anchors the region as the largest city.  The Mediterranean is just 2 hours away, and the Tarn region lies between the Pyrenees mountain range and the Massif Central.

For our weekend sojourn, we opted to stay at the Hostellerie les Magnolias.  Located in the ultra-charming village of Plaisance, just 20 miles from Albi, the inn has gorgeous terraces, authentic fireplaces, comfort and hospitality – a 3-star hotel with 22 unique rooms. Families might prefer one of the many vacation rentals available in the region to enjoy more space and the full conveniences of home.

We especially enjoyed the range of cultural, natural and historic discoveries. We visited Albi’s Toulous-Lautrec Museum, home to the largest single collection of his works. Henri was born in Albi and generously bequeathed his collection to the village.

The lush Tarn River Gorge – © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

From a far different perspective, we were fascinated with the many prehistoric wall paintings in the Dordogne caves near Lascaux and Rouffignac.  Saint Cyprien drew us into its’ serene medieval commune.  Narrow, winding lanes climb the hill to the 12th century bell tower and the Saint Cyprien Abbey.  Cordes-sur-Ciel is an equally beautiful hilltop village, a bastide – fortified town – with some exceptional 12th and 13th century buildings. When Albert Camus visited the town, he was said to observe, “In Cordes, everything is beautiful, even regret”.

Like so many enchanted travelers before us, we let our spirit lead the way to one after another of beautiful scenes, lively markets, quiet riverside banks and quaint, friendly villages. It is pleasure to explore, and one we hope to revisit.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Shop France from Home


Handsome French accessories for your home

Can’t make the trip to France for your Christmas shopping?  No problem.  There’s a lovely little shop in Winter Park, Florida called My French Neighbor, and they have a wonderful on-line boutique that makes shopping and shipping easy.   With a wide range of prices and products, you’ll be able to find authentic French gifts for everyone on your list.

My French Neighbor works with some of the finest French manufacturers to bring you a delicious assortment of gourmet products, elegant table accessories, heavenly French soaps and candles, quaint signs and trays and some of the most beautiful lighting fixtures available anywhere (in store only for the lamps and lighting fixtures).

Exceptional  Edmond Fallot gourmet items include  mustards, gherkins and Burgundy White Wine Vinegar to help you assemble a tasty gift basket.  From Huilerie J Leblanc, add truffle, hazelnut or walnut oils.   Why not also include an apron, cookbook and tea towel?  My daughter-in-law won my heart, when she presented me with a French gift basket, entirely assembled by her.  She lined the basket with delightful Provencal cotton, added Marseilles soaps, French ceramics, lavender and a lovely bottle of Cotes de Provence.  Feed my love of France, and you feed my soul!

Special scents of French candles

Founded in the eighteenth century, Toile de Jouy bags, towels and umbrellas offer a touch of elegance and history with canvases symbolizing the “art de vivre” of France.  The ancient toile designs come in a variety of colors from red and blue to chocolate.

For a unique shopping experience, you can shop on line at the magnificent Louvre museum boutique.    Choose from a delightful number of replicas and designs for jewelry, scarves, sculpture, children’s books and puzzles, tapestries and table ware.

Finally, I’ve purchased a number of French products on eBay, from lovely faience plates and Parisian-style light switch plates to clothing and jewelry.   In fact, eBay is an exceptional source for many French collectibles.

Wherever you choose to shop, enjoy adding those “touches of France” throughout your home.  Perhaps, the next best thing to being there is to be surrounded with things that evoke the memory of France.

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

Achetez en direct chez Villeroy & Boch


Timeless Treasure – Baccarat Cristal

A small town in the south of the Département of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Baccarat is internationally famous for its crystal glassworks - © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

A little village in the Lorraine region of France is home to world-famous and prestigious Baccarat Cristal.  A friend of ours from Colmar told us his grandfather worked in the Baccarat glassworks his entire life, and one would suppose the same is true of many residents – a mere 5,000 live in Baccarat.

It was Louis XV who authorized the creation of the crystal factory in 1764, and within 60 years Baccarat had become the preeminent crystalworks in all of France.

The company is able to draw from an exceptional collection of molds and drawings that date back to Baccarat’s origin.  Their inspired designs and glassworker’s artisan skills delight connoisseurs of sparkling crystal.  In fact, no less than twenty-five Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best French Craftsmen) – glassblowers, cutters and engravers) combine exacting skill, technical innovation and bold style to create the most elite symbols of French art de vivre.

Drawing from the best young talent and influential designers, Baccarat introduces two new collections per year, from tableware and chandeliers to decorative objects and jewelry. Stunning Baccarat chandeliers illuminate national palaces, royal residences and opulent mansions throughout the world.

Baccarat store in Nancy town centre – © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

For an inside look at the fabrication of crystal, visit The Baccarat Crystal Museum, where 5 distinct museum rooms showcase more than five hundred timeless crystal creations. Now crystal aficionados may also enjoy Baccarat museums, boutiques and Cristal Room restaurants in Paris and Moscow.

Should you wish to illuminate your entry or dining room with a prestigious Baccarat chandelier, Neiman Marcus would be happy to accommodate your wishes.  The upscale department store offers an 8-light crystal creation for a mere 25,000 dollars.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Très Chic Artisans in Aix-en-Provence

Gorgeous shoes made entirely by hand

They are called Aixoise, and we were fortunate to spend three nights among them in a city charmed by light and gilded with the ghosts of past genius.  Cézanne drew his life and inspiration here and in the countryside beyond Aix-en-Provence.

In fact, Aix is a virtual reservoir of art and culture, infused with   museums and studios, workshops and galleries.  The main boulevard, Cours Mirabeau, shelters elegant townhomes and graceful fountains under a thick canopy of plane trees – simply one of the most beautiful promenades in France.

During our visit, the progressive Maire (Mayor) continues the artistic tradition, as she leads the way to season after season of enthusiastic support and exposure of emerging and seasoned artisans.  We wandered among the many craft displays along the boulevard in absolute awe of the color and inspiration of their creations.

The chic shoes inspired …

Style – pure, indescribable style – très elegant.   Is it any wonder that a French woman needs only a chic pair of shoes and an elaborately arranged scarf to look like a million bucks!

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

Great fares to Europe and beyond.

Florence Masters of Light

Vierge d’humilité avec saint Dominique, saint François, saint Jean-Baptiste, saint Paul et quatorze séraphins, Galleria nazionale, Parme – © 2011. Photo Scala, Florence – courtesy of the Ministero Beni e Att. Culturali

One of the many delights of Paris is the city’s international character and outreach.  In years past, I attended an exceptional exposition hosted by the Mayor of Paris at La Chapelle de la Sorbonne – “Pieta de Michel-Ange”.  As much as I love words, they escape me in describing the magnificence of Austrian photographer Robert Hupka’s photographs of “La Pietà”.  While I have never known the privilege of gazing on Michelangelo’s glorious work of art in the Vatican, I was able to enjoy Hupka’s exposure of every appealing angle of the sculpture.

By the same token, Parisians and visitors alike can enjoy a very special exhibit- “Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light” – currently in place at the Musée Jacquemart-André until the 16th of January, 2012. It is the first French museum to pay tribute to Fra Angelico and his exceptional career as an artist. The exhibition presents nearly 30 of Fra Angelico’s major works, as well as 20 panels by many of his celebrated contemporaries – Lorenzo Monaco (his teacher and also a monk), Masolino, Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Zanobi Strozzi.

Fra Angelico was a major influence on Florence’s artistic revolution in the early 15th century. Specialists coined the term “Peintres de Lumière” (painters of light) for the artistic movement initiated by him. The special exhibition is made possible by the museum’s partnership with major Italian museums – including the Uffizi Gallery – and internationally famous collections.

Salle Florentine – © S. Lloyd

Combine your exposure to the special exhibit with your exploration of the Italian Museum that is a permanent part of Musée Jacquemart-André, and you will feel doubly enriched by the extraordinary artistic treasures of Paris and Florence.

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

Pines & Pleasures along the Mediterranean

Overlooking Cagnes-sur-Mer from Renoir’s Les Colettes estate - © ATOUT FRANCE/Emmanuel Valentin

Often we feel the need to hurry, to take in as much of France as possible, before the vacation villas and ‘supermarches’ entirely change the face of this beautiful country. Yes, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you especially see the changes along the Cote d’Azur.

We enjoyed a leisurely drive along the Route du Bord de Mer cradled between the SNCF railway and the lovely Mediterranean seashore. Palms and pines dotted the shoreline, while the jagged peaks of Mercantour lay ahead in the distance. Indeed, there are still many miles of beauty to enjoy. But what is THAT now ahead of us?

We saw this wave-like enormous apparition for miles before we could actually tell what it was – the Maeva Residence Le Baronnet Marina Baie des Anges. The aparthotel stretches for quite a distance along the beachfront, like a series of whitewashed, resurrected Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. It was all the more a surprising sight, when we learned that the upper village held medieval charm, lovely frescoes and the Escoffier Museum of Culinary Arts. But such is the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary in the changing landscape.

Gorgeous Cote d’Azur beaches

We drove a little further east to stay the night in Cagnes-sur-Mer, another dual personality town. Le Haut de-Cagnes village is poised on a blue-cypressed hill above the seaside fishing port with beautiful views of the sea.  Renoir called it “the place where I want to paint, until the last day of my life,” and that is exactly what he did, living in Les Collettes from 1908 to 1919.

Today, you can visit Musée Renoir & Les Collettes situated in his impressive estate set among ancient olive trees. Two delights, among the many to be enjoyed in the museum, are the bust of Madame Renoir in the entry and the terrace view of Cap d’Antibes from her bedroom. Is it any surprise that the beautiful Provencal countryside has inspired some of the world’s most beautiful works of art?

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Walk with Vincent Van Gogh

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

Just 17 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming little commune on the banks of the Oise River, a ville that attracted Vincent van Gogh and several other famous Impressionist artists.  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 be retracing the steps of Van Gogh to see the sights he painted in a whirl of artistic expression in the last two months of his life.

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.

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.

Van Gogh’s Hotel de Ville

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 a wayside tavern atmosphere, you will cement your experience with one more facet of the life and spirit of the Impressionist colony.


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Artisan Markets & Ateliers of France

Pottery of Roussillon, Provence

The artisan markets of France throw open the windows to a world of ancient skills and contemporary vision.  Colorful Marchés and Expos throughout France reflect deep respect for the exceptional craftsmanship, passed through generations from master to apprentice, that combines natural elements of the land with the spirit of imagination and experience. 

The works of creative artisans fill metropolitan and rural boutiques, but nowhere is fresh craftsmanship more prevalent or more delightfully experienced than in the special artisanal markets throughout the country.

Paris celebrates artisans throughout the year.  Every Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the Montparnasse Art Market provides an open-air setting for 120 artists and designers of jewelry, sculpture, paintings and more.   Each Saturday, the same type of market is held in Bastille.  Often special artisan markets take place in different neighborhoods, so it is wise to check at La Presse for local event publications. 

Aix Artisan Festival

Some call the Parisian “Viaduc des Arts” a living museum, where you can enjoy the process of creation as well as the stunning final artistic products of devoted craftsmen.  Ateliers, or workshops, are tucked in the arches of the viaduct of the former Bastille to Bois de Vincennes.  

In Lyon, the Marché  de l’Artisanat et des Metiers d’Art and Marché de la Creation hug the edge of Vieux Lyon (the old town) each Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.,  along the Quais de Bondy, Roman Rolland and Fulchiron.   Painters, jewelers, sculptors and other artisans join musicians and poets to transform the Saone riverbanks into a huge creative exchange with hand painted porcelain, vibrant pottery, wood creations, silk prints, weavings, paintings and every other artist medium imaginable.

Atelier, L'Agenda Moderne, Paris

To discover markets in your destination, go to the Office of Tourism for complete regional event information.  You also will find geographic listings of artists on 

To our good fortune, artisanship represents an important, growing sector of the French economy.  With more than 20,000 companies offering over 200 types of artistry, devotees of authentic products  can enjoy –  and help to keep alive –  the heritage, rich traditions and exceptional craftsmanship of French artisans.


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Fabric Shopping in Paris

Lustrous French fabrics set the tone


Many of the world’s most beautiful textiles make their temporary home just beneath the renowned Basilique du Sacre Coeur in Paris.  I love lustrous woven fabrics, so a trip to the Montmartre district is no less than a textile museum visit.  The fabrics are both luxurious and diverse, and the displays are equally playful and inventive.

Take the Anvers or Abbesses Metro stop and wander around Place Saint-Pierre, Rue Charles Nodier, Rue d’Orsel and Rue de Steinkerque where, at the foot of the Sacre Coeur gardens, you’ll find a virtual feast of discount fabric stores, where smaller boutiques beckon from their doorways to compete with the two dominant players – Marche Saint-Pierre and Tissus Reine.

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Tradition, Skill and the Artisan’s Heart

Colorful boutique, Saint-Emilion


We have been fortunate to meet many exceptional artisans in our travels through France.  In Saint-Emilion, we happened into an appealing boutique filled with colorful textiles for the home – curtains and placemats, tablecloths and linens for the kitchen.  In talking with the owner, we discovered that three women from the countryside surrounding Saint-Emilion collaborate to painstakingly produce the delicate cloths and colorful mats on display.

In Aix-en-Provence, some trés chic shoes captured my attention, during our tour of the artisan exhibition.  We stopped to visit the designer, Veronique Baron.  She is one of those charming, soft-spoken French women, who blends her shyness with a pleasant grace.  Born in la Drome, Veronique continues proud traditions – her father and grandfather were shoe stylists and milliners.  Early on, she designed shoes in her father’s workshop.  After a degree in shoe design and freelance work, Veronique realized her dream with the birth of  “Dans la garrigue”.  In the heart of the sunny pine forest, she creates each shoe and purse, piece by piece in her atelier (workshop).  It is precisely that devotion to beauty and artistry that makes France so pleasurable to explore.

The cobbler's daughter, Aix-en-Provence








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French Artisans – New York & Paris

Tres Chic Fashion Accessories at TALENTS

One of the many reasons France is considered a premiere fashion Mecca is devotion by artisans to their original crafts.  And that fashion sensibility flows through home decorative objects, jewelry and clothing, textiles, furniture and lighting. 

Once again Ateliers d’Art de France, Paris, will showcase the exceptional works of French craftsmen at the New York International Gift Fair.  Primarily aimed at foreign buyers and boutique owners, the CreatedinFrance® pavilions will feature 28 French exhibitors at the August 14 to 18 Fair to be held at the Javitz Center in New York City. 

You can enjoy a more intimate experience enjoying the works of talented artisans.  When you are in Paris, visit the Ateliers d’Art de France Talent Stores, where stunning displays spread across an assortment of exceptional creativity from more than 100 French designers. 

The shops are filled with colorful displays of the most beautiful and original works of art imaginable. At Avenue Niel, we explored TALENTS’ three, connected boutiques offering trendy furniture designs, unique jewelry collections and limited edition art pieces. C’est magnifique!

L'Ateliers d'Art de France TALENT Store on Avenue Niel



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Artisans in Paris

Leather Artistry – L’Agenda Moderne

Paris, work.  The two words don’t seem to belong together, yet the city bustles with business.  From bakers to bankers, the whole city throbs with creative excitement and energy.

At L’Agenda Moderne, Christophe Vanheule is the third generation to run his specialty leather goods business.  From his grandfather’s launch in 1912, they have maintained the highest quality at every step, producing everything but the “hides” in house.

The storefront on rue Sevigne in the Marais area of Paris belies the work going on, just behind the retail displays.  Just a few steps around the corner from the renowned Place des Voges, six people are busy in the back workrooms bringing fine leather products from parts to complete, handsome creations.  As the New Year approaches, Agendas, date books and refills are being readied for shipment.

Not far from the Picasso Museum in Paris is Marie-robin.  Surrounded by wholesalers of assembly-line imports, Marie’s shop is almost invisible.  With her dog and cat, she is surrounded by trade publications, customer records and sample displays.

Marie-robin’s colorful home decor

With an infectious smile and the constant nervous movement of an artist, Marie displays her latest table arts, moving original glass plates and textiles to create new looks, colors and feelings.  Like every artist, she studies it as if it is inspiring something new in her mind.

A comfortable little room in the back suggests that many long hours may push into evenings, when the creative bent is strongest and the deadlines near.

60 Ways To Save In  Paris - Paris Pass, Buy Now



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Parisienne Poupee Dolls

Meet CERRI’Arts Gertrude – from Paris

We were delighted to visit the CERRI’Art studios to see where these delightful dolls come to life. In their petite atelier, the artists combine imagination, humor and unparalleled craftsmanship to make these traditional French poupee dolls – dressed in silk, topped with chapeaus that would rival the Royal Wedding and filled with seeds that allow them to be arranged “just so” in serendipitous poses.  The heads, hands and feet are all meticulously painted right outside of Paris.  Just a delight that continues to make us smile.  And such a special, warm visit to the studio. 

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‘Les Calades Provençales’

Hand-painted silk artisan scarves

We arrived in Aix-en-Provence during the artisan craft fair, “Les Calades Provencales.”  Aix is famous for its many fountains and  talented favorite son Cezanne, so it’s not surprising that artisans are celebrated here.   

Elegant hand-painted scarves waved from canvas awnings, while artisans displayed their creations and crafts along the tree-lined Cours Mirabeau. Hand-crafted shoes and sandals, exotic jewelry, perfumes and pottery spread all along the boulevard.  After a pleasant stroll to examine the many gorgeous crafts, we stopped at one of Aix’s many canopied cafes.  Ummm – delicious ham and cheese gallette, a pichet of wine and a strolling guitarist made for a relaxing Aixoise experience.

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