Seafront Villa – Bay of Saint Tropez

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

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

Bay of St. Tropez

Villa Seaside Dining

French Riviera hotel

Enchanting Villa Mauresque

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

French Riviera Boutique Villa

 

 

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Wanderlust Fix in Le Lavandou

Le Lavandou France

Cavaliere’s Private Sandy Beach

Wanderlust, yes. As Florida’s ‘summer’ settles over me like a Saharan heat wave, wanderlust invades my spirit. I imagine chilly evenings near Alpine lakes and lazy, seaside terraces requiring little but beachwear and gauzy clothing. Of course, France always jumps to the forefront of my thoughts.

Through the ever-elegant members of Relais & Châteaux, I discovered the enchanting Club de Cavalière & Spa on the Mediterranean. Photos will lure you far more than words, but suffice it say that comfort, hospitality, spectacular views and exquisite cuisine are among the appealing benefits you will enjoy at this 5-star villa.

Club de Cavaliere, France

Your terraced room by the sea

More years ago than I care to count, my daughter and I wandered along the coast; and just a couple of miles west of Club de Cavalière, we discovered our own seaside oasis – lacking, I might, add the same number of stars! Though in late March, the Riviera had not yet awakened to tourists, so the only other guests were Italian cyclists on a group adventure.

We were mesmerized by a seascape that vacillated between rocky cliffs and silky sand – enchanting in every way. We discovered a cliffside path that took us along the coast to Le Lavandou.

French Riviera

French cuisine, gorgeous Mediterranean!

Of course, we would love to partake of the upscale pleasures of the villa, but either place would fulfill the wanderlust spirit and offer a touch of peace and beauty.

 

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

Place Contrescarpe – Paris Latin Quarter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Charming Provençal Vacation Rental

Gard department France

Charming salon in Provence country home

We have enjoyed entirely unique experiences as temporary vacation rental ‘residents’ in Paris and in the Loire Valley.  Whether in the city or country, we appreciate the convenience of having our own kitchen, private bath and spacious living areas as our personal retreat … in between discovering local landscapes, attractions and neighborhoods.  Many rentals today offer comprehensive advantages with phones, Wi-Fi access, upscale electronics and insider tips for the area.  All of those benefits often come at a price that delivers huge value over similarly-priced hotel rooms.

One such rental discovery is “Maison-de-Cerises” in the small village of Saint-Marcel Careiret, located just northwest of Avignon in southern France.  The lovely stone house is very tastefully restored with authentic Provençal charm. Envision, if you will, old terra-cotta tiles, stone and lime-washed walls, appealing living areas and comfortable bedrooms.

The village includes traditional amenities – café, patisserie (almost next door) and alimentaire – and the location is close to major area sites you won’t want to miss – Avignon, La Roque sur Cèze, Uzès, Nîmes and Pont du Gard. Uzès, for example, overflows with exceptional architecture, Italiante Cathedral and towers and spacious Piazzas. Add the market treasures – truffles, garlic, honey and local earthenware – and you will understand the attraction.

Saint-Marcel de Careiret , France

Join us on the terrace for wine?

As to the delightful house, two full bedrooms and baths, a completely equipped kitchen, washing machine and a living area will inspire you to create the same charm in your own home! The large ground-floor bedroom opens onto a lovely garden with a very large cherry tree – thus “Maison des Cerises”! French doors from the living area also open onto that enchanting garden scene.

We look forward to a stay with lots of sojourns to outlying areas and serene garden-style dining with our friends. For about 100 to 120 Euros per night, you will understand our appreciation for the value of vacation rentals.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Travel Pleasures – Loire Valley

Loire Valley

The Pontlevoy Abbey

Believe it or not, the weather in Florida today has sent us to the closet for sweaters and jackets; but there’s nothing like warm memories to take the chill from a winter day.

A few years back, we were tucked away in a vacation rental near Amboise, when we decided to visit Pontlevoy.  itDuring a visit from Parisian friends, we had trekked up the hill in Amboise to visit Clos de Lucé. We visited the fabulous Chambord Château,  wandered the streets of Blois, relished the Amboise open-air market and picnicked by the Loire.

One day we piled into the Peugeot and headed for Pontlevoy.  A family member recommended we visit The Abbey, where Americans had founded a Study Abroad Program.

As it turns out, that prior relationship earned us a neighborly welcome with a friendly tour of the grounds and building, use of the school’s Wi-Fi (not easy to come by in those traveling days) and a generous invitation to feel at home and to return again.

The roots of the Abbey and the town of Pontlevoy spread through the centuries from its founding in 1034, through its destruction during the Hundred Years’ War, rebuilding and transformation to a seminary for the sons of wealthy bourgeoisie and later to a royal military academy.

Pontlevoy Abbey

Louis’ cedar tree

The huge cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard was planted in honor of Louis XVI’s accession to the throne in the late 18th century. While the history is fascinating, on this day and on another that followed; our idle visits felt like trips to the oasis for a respite from the glaring sun.

After our tour, we sat beneath Louis’ tree, simply taking in the peace of our surroundings. Our friend’s dog, Sam, was quite content, as we heard the sweet sounds of a student violinist drift through the courtyard.

Just across Rue Colonel Filloux, we sat beneath plane trees to enjoy lunch at Café Commerce, the name as straightforward as the menu, the service as hospitable as friend’s.  Next to us, a local gazed over the Abbey and enjoyed his Kronenbourg.

Loire Valley France

A Kronenburg in the shade

We still wrap all of those experiences around us like a favorite old coat in the heart of winter. The Abbey, the tree, the friendship and convivial meal and the sight of a gentleman enjoying his cold beer on a warm day were as grand as a royal procession at Versailles.
Joie

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

Parisian Cafe Moments

Paris cafe life

Intimate brasserie near Jardin du Luxembourg

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

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

Paris cafes

Warm hospitality along rue Mouffetard

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

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

Paris cafes

Another Latin Quarter cafe with our friend, Philippe

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Mastering Space, Saving Energy in Paris

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

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

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

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

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

Water heater above the sink

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

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

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

Favorite Cafe, Ile Saint-Louis

Favorite Cafe, Ile Saint-Louis

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rouen – Where the Seine is “Main Street”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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Weekend in the heart of Côte de Beaune

The pastoral grounds of Hostellerie de Levernois

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

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

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

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

Delightful bistrot on the river

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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Franco-American Hopes for Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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Flea Market – Marché aux Puces, Paris

Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Copper and brass, baskets and buckets – Marché aux Puces

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

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

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

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

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

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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The Rhythm of Rennes

Historic Rennes against a background of contemporary architecture

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

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

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

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

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

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Les Florets – Avignon Countryside

Provence France

Maison Provencal – Les Florets

What’s not to love about Avignon, steeped in history, exceptional cuisine and lively festivals?  The old Papal city exudes charm and is so close to enticing French villages.  A stay in the city is delightful … but not your only choice!

Just what we all like to imagine for a peaceful getaway, Les Florets is a gem tucked away in the lush countryside in front of the Dentelles de Montmirail north of Avignon.  With all of the hospitality of a country hotel, Les Florets offers a ‘Maison Provencal’ style surrounded by the vineyards of Gigondas with abundant trees and views of rolling hills.  Most rooms overlook a spacious, shaded terrace – the ideal place to enjoy the regional cuisine of the excellent hotel restaurant.

The classic, traditional dining room also offers fine dining, where the beef filet with a savory red wine and shallot sauce readily attracts my attention.  For Americans, the exceptional breakfast runs well beyond the typical croissant, juice and coffee.  An entire spread includes yogurts and jams, fruit and cheeses, eggs and assorted breads.

But of course, you also will appreciate a wine cellar stocked with some of the finest Gigondas produced in the region, as well as some excellent selections from their own winery.  Up the hill from the town of Gigondas, Les Florets enjoys a serene location in an area teeming with beautifuls vineyards and appealing wine tasting Domaines.

Gigondas wines France

Lovely shaded terrace

We’ve tried many types of accommodations, while traveling in France – vacation rentals in the city and country, gites near Bordeaux and Toulouse, hotel rooms ranging in size from generous closet to spacious suite.  While often we like to be in the ‘thick of things’ with a nice little patisserie around the corner, sometimes the quiet of the countryside suits us very well.

When a quiet weekend with friendly hosts and professional staff (English-speaking, by the way) appeals, Les Florets is the place to keep in mind!

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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A Grateful Commune Remembers

Foxgloves in the beautiful Alsatian landscape – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel

On Memorial Day, we return to a special U.S. soldier to honor his memory and that of all of our men and women, who have served and sacrificed for our country.

Imagine, if you will, a little drive through the countryside south of Colmar. The Haut Rhine département of Alsace dresses for summer with fields of flowers, vineyards and cool forests along rolling hills and sprawling meadows. Just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Colmar, pull over near the soccer field in Holzwihr to enjoy a quiet walk – easily a popular pastime in this region.

You are about to discover a quiet, historic site. Tucked among trees along the side of the narrow country lane is a remarkable memorial, dedicated by Holzwihr citizens in January, 2000. The Audie L. Murphy Memorial pays tribute to the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, whose one-man stand successfully fought back a German regiment that had counter attacked Murphy’s own Company. The people who designed the monument highlighted Audie Murphy, as one who best represented the courage, valor and sacrifice all of the soldiers made.

The inscription translates: “In memory. This memorial is dedicated to the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division and the Fourth Combat Command under the command of the 1st French Army who liberated Holtzwihr on 27 January 1945 after bloody combat under most trying conditions. It represents the heroic act that Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy of the 15th U.S. Infantry Regiment achieved at this site on 26 January 1945, in order to push back an enemy counterattack. For this action he was decorated with the highest American and French honors. Visitor, respect this memorial and forget not that these soldiers have died so that you live. Holtzwihr, 29 January 2000.”

Audie L. Murphy Memorial, Holtzwihr

The Memorial is located precisely where the heroic stand by Audie Murphy helped to liberate this modest commune.  Beyond all of the medals awarded to then 2nd Lieutenant Murphy by his own country, France awarded him five medals, including their highest honor, the French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier.

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France River Cruise for Your List?

Cruise France

Viking River Cruise stateroom with your own veranda

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

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

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

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

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

Tournon France

Scenic Tournon

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

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

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

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Guérande’s Renowned Fleur de Sel

Medieval city of Guérande

The fortified city of Guérande, Brittany

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

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

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

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

salt marshes of guerande

Salt marshes of Guerande

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

 

 

Sea Salt from Guerande

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muguet – Lily of the Valley

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

I rather suspect that our American celebrations in September will find families and friends gathered for cookouts with a few avid shoppers hitting Labor Day sales.  I think I’d rather gather my bouquet and grab a seat at an outdoor café to watch the parades pass by….while appreciating the diligent work of the “green men”.
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Maugham’s Villa to the ‘Bucket List’!

Somerset Maugham's Villa

Breakfast by the Mediterranean

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

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

 

Bay of Saint Tropez

Villa on the Cote d’Azur

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Adventurous Driving in France

Overlooking Lac Saint-Croix and the Verdon Gorge

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

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

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

Hmm – What does that sign say?

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

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

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Enjoying the Bordeaux Countryside

Our sun-filled room in Montlieu la Garde

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

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

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

French countryside

Bordeaux countryside gite

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

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

Languedoc Chateau, France

The Château Ventenac overlooks the Canal du Midi

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

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

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

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

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

Chateau, CAnal du Midi, France

Breakfast on the terrace?

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

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Les Prés d’Eugénie – Aquitaine France

Landes department, Aquitaine

Les Prés d’Eugénie in Aquitaine, southwest France

My mind strays today to the countryside of France.  As much as I love Paris and Lyon, the lush rivers, forests and rolling French landscapes offer entirely restful and appealing travel.

From the French word égal (equal), egalitarian applies to me and my way of travel.  I write about and have enjoyed two- and five-star lodging and all points in between.  And, yes, I even have played the nature card and ‘camped’, though that inclination is long gone.  I’d prefer now to sleep well and see the stars from a lovely terrace overlooking the land.  Just such a remarkable place comes to mind today.

Bienvenue to the charming village of Eugenie-les-Bains in southwest France and to the incredibly refined Les Prés d’Eugénie.  One of the prestigious properties of the Relais & Châteaux Association, Michel Guerard’s accommodations offer a gated enclave in a serene setting just steps from a village that could as easily be part of that pristine principality of Monaco.   One of the property’s signature descriptions is an “echo of colonial India”, and it is accurate – refined, elegant, a mix of antique furnishings and original paintings with in an entirely tasteful setting.  Every single element seems designed to inspire warm hospitality in the Landes department in Aquitaine.

One of three Guerard dining choices

One of three Guerard dining choices

If we can no longer continue to invent and as a result find pleasure in our creativity, then we must ask why.”

—Chef Michel Guérard

His story and his success are apropos and interesting.  Early on a celebrated French chef, Michel and his wife, Christine, bought the existing chateau and property in the early 1970’s with the thought of creating an ideal south-of-France experience.  Such was the birth of Eugenie-les-Bains and Les Prés d’Eugénie, a retreat with beautiful, lush grounds, a relaxing spa and a country restaurant – Fermes aux Grives.

Chef Michel masters his style of cooking, one of the first of the nouveau cuisine that blends the bounty of the area with the artistry of the chef.  One might expect a lofty air from such a property, but no – warmth and courtesy abound.  You can enjoy a bike ride in the country or a Michel bottle of wine on your own garden-oriented terrace.  In no time, you can visit glamorous Biarritz on the Atlantic or cross the Pyrenees to San Sebastian.

My ‘bucket list’ definitely includes a visit with Michel and Christine … and soon, I hope!
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Embrace France in Travel!

Chinaillon France

Alpine hills around Chinaillon, France

“Travel is addicting. It can make you a happier American, as well as a citizen of the world….
It helps you understand and appreciate different cultures. Travel changes people. It broadens perspectives and teaches new ways to measure quality of life.”  
Rick Steves

In the one thought leads to another vein, I was reading about the resurrection of a ski resort in Kosovo, when the images of skiing in Canada and visiting the Alpine village of Chinaillon edged their way from my memory bank. Beyond my introduction to and enjoyment of French culture in Quebec, I relished those swift runs and dazzling vistas of the Laurentian Mountains – snow-capped peaks, chipmunks dashing across the frosty landscape, birch trees tucked among narrow trails – adventures I’m so glad to have enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I never skied in France, but we enjoyed several days of wandering through ski country in the summer. Anchored at a charming gîte in Chinaillon, we explored the gorgeous Alpine landscape from Annecy to Mont Blanc and many points in between.

Ski France

Le Grand Bornand – ski or hike the French Alps!

We could step through our door to the parking area to be greeted by roosters prancing about, while hikers with their staffs made their weigh up the bouldered hill behind us. As far as the eye could see, lush carpets of green spread over the hills and peaks – the domicile in summer of grazing sheep and cows.

We gained the understanding that knowing cowbells can ring through the hills (so the farmer can find the fellas) is worlds apart from standing at a remote ‘pullover’ in the mountains and hearing it yourself. The experience adds color to an otherwise black-and-white image.

I’d still love to ski in the Alps, but I’d also welcome new opportunities to meander through the stunning landscape on a sunny, summer day. One village after another offers floral shows beyond imagination. Icy streams race down the mountains. Quiet cafes offer some of the world’s finest views and a friendly conversation with locals. The sum total is simply exquisite!

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Safe and Secure in Paris

Our apartment entry on Ile Saint-Louis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good to be cautious in crowds

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

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

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And some charming French gifts ….

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And some charming French gifts ….

French Copper and Cookbooks

French copper cookware

Lovely cookware at E. DEHILLERIN in Paris

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

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

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

French cookbooks

The ever delightful Jacques Pépin

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

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

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Piano Vache Jazz Bar – Paris

Paris Jazz Bar

Latin Quarter’s Le Piano Vache

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

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

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

Paris music, France

Lively jazz/music bar in the Latin Quarter

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

 

 

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Latin Quarter Morning – Paris

Paris markets

rue Mouffetard market, Latin Quarter

Bon week-end à vous!

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

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

Paris cafe, Latin Quarter

Café at the bottom of Mouffetard

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

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

Latin Quarter bakery, Paris

Saine Saveurs patisserie-boulangerie

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

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

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

Wishing you a Bon Week-end!
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“How-To” – Paris Book

Paris excursions

Bateaux rides on the Seine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Discovering Haut-de-Cagnes

Cote d'Azur, France

Renoir’s retreat in Haut-de-Cagnes

During a nomadic summer in France, we stopped for the night in Cagnes-sur-Mer along the tantalizing Côte d’Azur. We enjoyed a perfectly fine evening in a 3-star hotel with a sprawling balcony that overlooked the sea and discovered a cozy trattoria for a lovely evening meal. And the next morning, off we went to follow the coastline and roam up and down the hills of southern France.

Fine, but now we need to return. We now know. Informed through time and research, we know about the old Haut-de-Cagnes village that rises above the vibrant beach bustle of the town below. We know about the ‘psst-follow-me ‘ narrow lanes and cobbled passageways, the little ateliers and café terraces teeming with floral vines.

We know about Renoir’s lovely museum and olive-grove setting and the quiet splendor of this entire hillside setting. Devil-may-care travel delivers a multitude of discoveries … like that wonderful little picnic in a rocky beach cove shared by only a handful of other visitors. Like that little inn in the village, where all the locals seemed to gather for their lovely noon meal.

Chateau Le Cagnard

Pastoral hillside views of Haut-de-Cagnes

But, a little advance research would have convinced us to stay a while, to find a place in the medieval village at the top of the castle hill, to enjoy quiet star-filled nights and intimate little cafés. And a visit to Renoir’s creative domain surely would have been a highlight of our stay.

Now we know, and it certainly isn’t too late to add this idyllic stopover to our bucket list of future travels. Perhaps, we will splurge and reserve our aerie at the 4-star “Sun of Provence” – the Château Le Cagnard. The 13th-century dwelling offers an intimate setting with only 28 beautifully-decorated suites and rooms and a renowned restaurant with spectacular cuisine and an unparalleled, retractable ceiling. With this central location, we will be able to wander to our heart’s content.

Chateau La Cagnard

Spectacular restaurant retracting roof

Sometimes I wonder what quirk of fate or happenstance of birth failed to set me in Cagnes-sur-Mer, where the likes of Renoir and the brilliant creator of Jules Maigret – George Simenon – tapped their inner genius. A river of creativity surges through me….non-stop….and it’s not even a choice but a ceaseless urge that finds me painting with watercolors or working on a novel, re-arranging furniture or setting an appealing table.

Bien sur! Poised above the Mediterranean within groves of olive and citrus, Renoir and Simenon wielded the paintbrush and pen. Imagine how prolific I would be in such a setting!

 

We’d love to hear from you!

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Choice French Museums & Historic Sites

Cafe Caumont Aix en Provence

Café Caumont terrace dining

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

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

 

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

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

New Art Center in Aix-en-Provence

The Book and Culture Shop

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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Elegant Lodging – Saint Emilion

France luxury lodging Saint Emilion

Enchanting Logis de la Cadène in the heart of Saint Emilion

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

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

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

Medieval Saint Emilion France

Relaxed elegance – Saint Emilion

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

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

Saint Emilion France shopping

Exceptional artisan textiles of Saint Emilion

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

 

 

We’d love to hear from you!

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

 

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France Today – Excellent & Absorbing!

French magazine

France Today magazine – from Paris to Provence

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

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

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

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

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

Puy de Dome France

Stunning landscape of the Auvergne

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

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

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

Balloons in France

Awakened by montgolfiers – Chenonceau

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

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


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We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Update – Preorder The Promise of Paris

Paris France travel

Enchanting anecdotes, practical recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I know anything of work?

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

À bientôt …
We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

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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Overcome French Language Issues!

Lyon and Le mont dor france

Friendly pharmacists in France!

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

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

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

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

Loire Valley France

Negotiating the laundry in Amboise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you

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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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Changing Patterns – May in France

May holidays in France

Parks, the Seine – all wonderful in Paris in May

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

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

Holiday in France

Fountains in the sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Beaches on the Cote d’Azur

Silky sand beach along the French Riviera

I have a photo of me the first time I dipped my toes into the striking blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Would it surprise you to know I look like a girl that had received her first, lovely doll at Christmas?  Mais oui!  The Côte d’Azur is simply breathtaking … but representative of so many stories, as well.

The French Riviera summons a landslide of mental images – F. Scott and Zelda partying through a champagne-filled evening.  Privileged dowagers collecting priceless art in seaside mansions.  Silky white beaches and sleek long yachts – all the province, it would seem, of the rich and famous, those untethered to the worldly cares most of the world must consider.

The reality of the “Cote d’Azur” sweeps well beyond stolen paparazzi moments and the red carpets of Cannes.  Officially, the French Riviera extends from Menton in the east to the Golfe de Saint Tropez in the west.  Parasol pines guard rocky coves and pebbled beaches.  Miles of white or pebbled beaches stretch along coastal roads.  Narrow paths snake along cliffs that drop to the sea. What a stunning world with countless choices for sun and sea worshippers!

Saint-Raphael seems a fine place to start, where yachts seek shelter in the horseshoe bay.  The Corniche d’Or winds along a dramatic seascape with little inlets, coves and tiny beaches.  Take delight in wandering, until the ideal spot (and a place to park) commands your presence.  Along the way, stop at a little wayside epicerie for a cool bottle of Rosé and a fresh baguette sandwich – jambon et beurre? – perfect for your seaside picnic.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

In the summertime, particularly in August, the beaches often are packed with holiday escapees from landlocked cities.  Saint-Tropez, Cannes and Antibes are popular for those who prefer smooth, sandy beaches over the often pebbled shorelines.  The beaches are a mix of public and private, where the latter offers mat and umbrella rentals and dressing rooms for relatively modest fees.  Usually, the private beaches also have outdoor cafes and restaurants.

The Route des Plages takes you to the popular 6-mile stretch of beach in Saint-Tropez, known as Les Salins.  Just 3 miles from town, the Plage de Pampelonne is another popular spot. You can walk or bike to the beach to avoid the hunt for parking.

In Cannes, La Croisette is the largest public beach, a bistro, partying kind of scene that attracts huge crowds in the summer and lots of young folks for the jazzy night life. Public beaches have toilets and open showers.  Hotels and restaurants own small patches of the beach, where chaise rentals are the norm.

Rocky beaches are popular too

Families gravitate to a small public beach in Old Antibes, as it offers the safety of artificial breakwaters.   Juan-les-Pins is the more “happening” beach, with seaside restaurants, where thousands gather along the promenade.   The shallow water and interesting rocks of Petit Plage attract those looking for a quieter beach experience.  The main public beach is La Salis, on the edge of Le Cap d’Antibes.

Nice is popular year round with a large stretch of beach along the Baie des Anges.  Again, public and private beaches intertwine along the broad seaside Promenade.

Today, ever-growing numbers of visitors flock to the same beautiful seaside that catered to 19th-century European socialites.  Whether you choose a private or public beach, a broad sandy shore or a pine-shaded inlet; you will understand the enduring attraction of Mediterranean vistas. I can close my eyes this very minute and see that first glimpse of the sea near Antibes…Merveilleux!

We’d love to hear from you – swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

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!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Exotic Le China in Paris

Paris Le China Club

The exotic, old Shanghai feel of Le China Club

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

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

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

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

Le China, Paris

Singapore Sling anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order
 

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Bonne Saint-Valentin!

French Alps skiing

Our summer lodging at L’Isalou in Chinaillon

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Today I remember romantic ‘getaways’ in France … a night at the Opera Garnier, many walks along the Seine, a fabulous performance and dinner in Aix-en-Provence – many lovely memories with my husband in France.

When we were in Le Chinaillon Vieux Village in the French Alps, summer swept over the land. The pace of life was easy, and hillsides were taken up with occasional hikers and, of course, cows in the upland pastures. A ski lift operated here and there to give you a sweeping view of the land, and the village offered an easy pace and plenty of room for dining under a summer sky.

We know the entire area bustles now with avid skiers, non-stop lifts and fondue pots bubbling through the evening. Mulled wine by the fireplace. Tired limbs and rosy cheeks. The ski season is a much faster, though exhilarating, pace.

Today, we won’t be on the snow-packed ridges of the Alps. Perhaps, we will take in a lovely breakfast at Gourmet Croissant in Florida, where we live…. or a lazy drive to the beach.

Le Grand Bornand

L’isalou in snow!

 

Bonne Saint-Valentin à mon chéri!

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.

Provence

Roussillon ochre buildings

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

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

 

 

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

Say “Cheese” in the Auvergne Region

The Cheese Road of Auvergne France

Wander the Cheese Road of Auvergne

Cheese seems to be top of mind this week, as I recently shared my three favorite French selections.  Since it is the BIG day of eating and celebrating with Super Bowl at our virtual doorstep, let’s look at French cheeses to serve (and remember, you don’t need to wait for a party or guests to treat yourself at home!

We shall indulge with a rather more sophisticated menu than Americana’s chips, dips, wings and ribs.  How about a magnificent roasted ham, Camembert cheese (oui and a touch of Havarti), croissants and a tantalizing bowl of fruit (or savory salad, if the fruit isn’t up to par this time of year).   For me, the cheese is the prima donna…the very thought of French cheeses and choices takes me to Auvergne’s “Cheese Road”.  Enjoy the journey with me!

You frequently hear about renowned wine routes in France, but did you know there is a charming “Cheese Road”?  It’s true, and the Auvergne region of central France is proud to be the only region in the country to produce 5 PDO cheeses (Protected Designation of Origin – much like the AOC wine designations).

The diverse lay of the land, from Monts du Forez and Puy de Sancy to the Monts Dore and the Cantal, allows for the artisan production of different, flavor-filled cheeses.  The savory collection of PDO cheeses includes Cantal, Saint Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne and Salers.  The cheeses range from a creamy Highlands cheese with nutty flavor to the powerful wild blue cheese with, of course, a strong aroma; and in between the Salers robust farmer’s cheese that combines spicy and floral flavors.  The cheeses reflect the nature of the land.

Follow The Auvergne PDO Cheese Road and expect warm hospitality, easy access and parking and thorough information about the five unique cheeses.  Your “tour” will include visits to production areas – yes, even cow milking – to learn about the history of cheese production and ripening.  And perhaps best of all, you have the opportunity to taste and purchase the local products.

Le Mont Dore gorgeous views

Gorgeous views surround Le Mont Dore

We have often enjoyed stopping by a cav for a wine tasting and purchase of regional wines but never imagined the same could be true for cheese.  For example, Msr. and Mme. Pons of Monts Dore offer daily tours to explore cheese making, tasting and, naturally, purchasing.  And you can hardly go wrong with traveling about the gorgeous volcanic landscape of the Auvergne region.

If you should venture to Le Mont Dore, there is one café you must try.  The Café de Paris offers delightful fare, warm hospitality and a delicious Auvergne Truffaude specialty.  We enjoyed dining inside the handsome dining room, but you also would enjoy the outdoor patio with sweeping views of the mountains.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Thomas Jefferson’s Love of France

The lively market in Aix-en-Provence

 

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

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

Canal du Languedoc

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

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

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

 

Ten-Plus Reasons to Love France

Long lunch in the sun at a favorite cafe

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

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

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

A ‘bon vivant’ moment in Paris!

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

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

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

French Wine Gifts Part III

White wines Vouvray and Sancerre

Champalou Vouvray Brut NV

Today we offer a special recommendation for an exceptional French champagne. Honestly, when you are searching for that ‘perfect gift’, isn’t it nice to have a personal recommendation?

This extraordinary French gift is a bisou from Vouvray – the bubbly kiss from the Gods we especially enjoy during celebratory holidays. I’ve already confessed to lacking the nose and palate required for exacting examinations of wines and Champagnes, but that’s no problem. I rely on the experts – like renowned importer Kermit Lynch. And to back that esteemed recommendation, how about Le Wall Street Journal?

Earlier this year, WSJ profiled our recommended Champagne – Champalou Vouvray Brut NV, noting “…a very gentle character quite typical of the domaine. A nice palate, quite full in the mouth, with lots of foaming mousse. A good clean style, with a powerful acid backbone. There is plenty of appealing character here.” Now, that’s from experts in the realm of wine descriptions!

I enjoy exploring the who, where and what of wine production; and in this case, the origin is the Loire River Valley wine region. In that lovely, rolling landscape, two famous white wines dominate – Chenin Blanc and Sancerre. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy tastings in Vouvray and Sancerre, experiences we would recommend to all travelers and wine aficionados.

Our perfect Champagne – Champalou Vouvray Brut NV – comes from a small, specialty producer (Catherine and Didier Champalou) of the highest quality, one with a history of delivering reasonably-priced whites that are bright, clean, vibrant and almost pear-inflected.

The Land

The Champalou label is one of the most highly-acclaimed in the Vouvray appellation, where the Chenin Blanc draws from the exceptional soil and ideal climate to yield – well, something quite different from the California Chenin! In the region of the Touraine, Vouvray enjoys warm summers and slowly cooling temperatures in autumn, allowing an extended ripening season. The vineyards’ gravel and chalk soil absorbs the sun’s rays and perfects the ripeness of the grapes.

Chenin grapes in the Loire Valley, France

Grappe de Chenin a Vouvray

The Champalou family farms twenty-one hectares (about 50 acres) of vineyards, where the acclaimed vignerons even integrate the lunar calendar with their eco-balanced farming. Between the vineyard rows, cover crops are planted to absorb excess water and encourage microbitoic activity in the soil. Wine experts applaud their elegant, balanced results, “No one comes close to copying their distinct style.”

The Methods

Early in the morning, the Champalou ‘team’ picks the grapes at the peak of maturity and immediately presses the fruit. Fermenting in stainless steel cuvees follows, and the wine is aged on fine lees (yeast and other solid deposits) to enhance flavor. The effervescence develops during a second natural fermentation that takes place once the wine is in bottle – then various periods of aging, according to the wine to be produced. (Come now – you know we won’t get the exact recipe!)

The Chenin

I love the fact that Champalou specializes in one grape – Chenin – that is native to the Loire Valley region. Interestingly, the grape is mentioned by Rabelais in his Gargantua (1534), so no need to question its’ pedigree! Depending on its terroir and the vinification, the Chenin ranges from bone-dry and sparkling, through dry and still, to semi-sweet dessert wines. Their annual 120,000-bottle production is enjoyed in over twenty countries around the world.

The Rhythm of the Season

Each season in the vineyards heralds new tasks: pruning in winter; de-budding and removal of unwanted shoots in spring; and trimming and thinning of the leaves in summer. No, we haven’t forgotten the big moment in September! That’s when they taste the berries for maturity and continue that tasting, until they decide the grapes are perfect for harvest.

We hope you decide to ‘gift’ Champalou, but don’t forget to keep a bottle or two for your own holiday pleasure.

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Royal Guests at Château de Chambord

Breakfast with a rather pleasant view!

South of Blois in the Loire Valley, the 18th-century Château de Chambord rises at the heart of over 5,000 hectares (12,000+ acres) of ancient forest.  Chambord was the personal chateau and hunting sanctuary of King Francois I, and today is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.

Our first encounter with Chambord destined our return.  We attended the light show —  “les clairs de lune de Chambord” — a fantasy light show production created to recall the hunting of deer and boar, fox and pheasant by guests of King Francois.  We arrived shortly before sunset to stroll through the grounds surrounding the Château.  Couples shared ice cream or light snacks under an outdoor arbor.  Others dined on the patio of a hotel restaurant.
Wait – hotel?  There is actually a quaint hotel – The Hotel Grand du Saint-Michel– overlooking this magnificent chateau?  With little hope that it would be affordable or available for the one night we would have between gite rentals, we had to check.  When we were able to book a room at a reasonable $75 rate, we felt as if the king himself had invited us to his retreat!

A little ‘voyage’ before the show

Prior to the show, we watched families gather on the lawn with children, couples take to rowboats to enjoy an end-of-day outing.  France bestows these blessings on a public entranced by history and tradition.  Chambord’s information pamphlet reinforces this gift:
“It is to the passion of Francois I for hunting, that we owe the existence of Chambord, designed both as a meeting place and a belvedere for observing the hunt.”

Alas, when we returned a few days later,  Francois was not on hand to greet us.  Still, we wandered the grounds and imagined the privileged guests and game hunting of 300 years past.  Visitors biked and hiked through the many lanes that lace through the forest.  Others gathered for the equestrian and falcon shows.

Our view over the petite Chambord village

This night, we would see the light show from our dining table on the terrace.  Indeed, with our exceptional bottle of local Vouvray and delicious French fare, we felt like guests of the king!  When the park closed, only the hotel guests and Château staff shared this enormous sanctuary.  Chambord remains a national hunting reserve and home to an abundance of wild creatures that roam free.  No, we didn’t encounter a graceful stag or menacing boar, but the crisp night sky offered us millions of stars to illuminate our stay.

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We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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Millau – An Audacious Work of Art

Millau viaduct – the highest in the world and taller than the Eiffel Tower – © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

 

In case you believe that Gustave Eiffel’s influence ended with his renowned Eiffel Tower, you are quite mistaken.  As former President Jacques Chirac declared, “’The Millau Viaduct is a magnificent example, in the long and great French tradition, of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel.'”

The award-winning and record-setting  “le Viaduc de Millau” opened to traffic on December 16, 2004, to unending praise and interest and, indeed, has swiftly moved into the highest ranks of engineering “wonders of the world.”

Poor Millau.  The little village in the south of France was branded, scowled at for the traffic bottlenecks she presented. For thirty years the A75 auto route, planned as an efficient modern highway, had remained unfinished.  Before the Millau Viaduct, travelers had to cross the River Tarn by a bridge in the town of Millau at the valley bottom.  The town became the “great black spot” of traveling, with miles of congestion and hours of delay during the summer surge of traffic.

Finding the solution was technically demanding, given the area’s violent winds and the challenging geology of the deep Tarn Valley.  After ten years of research, the dual talents of structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster provided the design solution.  Foster described his project as a “sculpture in the landscape…a dialogue between nature and the man-made.”

Millau Viaduct – © ATOUT FRANCE/Patrice Thébault/Eiffage – Foster and partners

The $523 million project broke three world records:  highest pylons in the world at 725 and 803 feet; highest mast in the world at 1,130 feet; highest road bridge deck in the world – 890 feet.  The project simply defies the imagination of most worldly creatures.

The end result required a delicate marriage of knowledge, courage, talent, teamwork and tenacity – and a measure of good fortune!  The extraordinary construction embraced the latest public works techniques, bringing together multiple technologies – laser technology, GPS, hydraulic rams, climbing formwork, special asphalt and high performance concrete.  At the peak of the project, nearly 600 employees worked toward the successful conclusion of the viaduct.

At last, the viaduct completes the essential final link in the A75-A71 auto route axis from Paris to Spain.  The bridge considerably increases convenience and reduces the cost of travelling to the south.

This area was rural France, ignored by the rest of the country and left alone to its craggy terrain, ancient traditions and Roquefort cheese.  Clearly, the viaduct opened this flower in southwest France to a new era of expanded tourism and economic growth.
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Black Friday Versus “Soldes” in France

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Printemps department store, Paris

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

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Whimsy and Wonder of Montmartre

Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, home to the iconic La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, but also the guardian of whimsical art, spectacular cityscape views and delightful scenes around each corner.

We enjoyed  a month-long stay in a vacation rental at the foot of the Basilique.  We seemed to wander every lane, every endless set up steps that wind their way up to the appealing summit.  We never tired of finding our ideal, shaded spot on the Basilica’s sprawling lawn, where we could watch the visiting throngs of tourists and residents along the magnificent steps that spill down the hill.  Musicians play Mozart’s “Air”.  Living statues appear frozen in place, dressed as a jester, a sphinx or the Statue of Liberty.  Though some exacting visitors would find the scene hectic, we enjoyed the lively mix of magnificent views and lively people.

The Place du Tertre is the bustling center at the top – yes, overrun often with  tourists, but nonetheless another traditional “must see”, where artists gather to demonstrate their skill and sell their creations.  We simply don’t accept the notion that the popularity (or notoriety, as the case might be) of a place makes it off limits, too mundane to bother with.  In 20-degree weather, we have visited the square to enjoy a steaming bowl of onion soup, while watching over the chilled artists.

Chilled artists on Place du Tertre


With our extended stay on Montmartre, we came to recognize the everyday humanity that is part of the fabric of any renowned attraction, the people who populated our ‘village’.  The baker who greets each morning with the delightful aroma of fresh baked breads and a welcoming line of customers at the door.  The many fabric storekeepers, who ready their displays in hopes of a prosperous day of business – even the sad old man, who sits on the bench with his half-empty bottle of wine.  It is just another side of Paris that we relish.

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Mirabelle Delicacies from Lorraine

Mirabbelle greengage plums, Sion hill - © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent   "sensitive natural area" (ENS) of the Département of Meurthe-et-Moselle for its very rich ecology and countryside.

Mirabelle plums in the Département of Meurthe-et-Moselle – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

Don’t all sweet and savory foods taste better with stories?  In Florida we await the arrival of delicious ears of newly-picked corn…or the sweet scent of orange blossoms; as groves move toward producing plump, textured oranges filled with juice.  This is the one month of the year in France – from mid-August to mid-September – when gourmands salivate, at the onset of harvesting of the year’s crop of delectable Mirabelle plums.  The sweet plums are the pride and profit of the Lorraine region of northeast France, where over 70% of the world’s entire production centers.

While we can only enjoy the fresh mirabelles during the harvest season, we savor delightful jams and desserts throughout the year.  Under the esteemed “Confitures a l’Ancienne” brand,  Mirabelle Plum French Jams are produced in “Grandmother’s” old fashioned way.  Plums at the peak of ripeness combine with pure cane sugar and pectin to be cooked in large copper cauldrons.

Beyond the few plums eaten fresh in season, the remainder of the fruit is made into jams, pastries and ‘eau de vie’.  And if you don’t happen to be in France, you still can enjoy the confiture (and many other imported delicacies) from French Food Market.   You’ve no excuse, then, so spread that lovely jam on your baguette or croissant and settle in to learn more about this fabulous fruit!

Now a revered French food staple, the mirabelle enjoyed a renaissance some thirty years ago, when producers expanded and launched the replanting of 1,500 hectares (nearly 4,000 acres) of new orchards.

Mirabelle plum jam imported from France - French Food Market

“Confitures a l’Ancienne” – French Food Market – Imported from France

Fifteen years ago, Mirabelles from Lorraine became the first fruit to be awarded the European IGP quality label.  Such an esteemed designation signifies adherence to strict standards – traditional, primarily organic methods, natural fertilizers and special steps for aerating, collection and packaging in Lorraine and guaranteed minimal sugar content.  Not only do the French strive for and achieve quality, but they make sure that excellence is recognized.

The “Champagne” of Lorraine?  Just as Champagne is strictly designated for the magnificent sparkling wines only from France, The Association Mirabelles de Lorraine assures the authenticity of fruit and confitures (jams).

Naturally any ‘heaven-sent’ delicacy must have an alluring legend.  They say there was once a princess named Mira who was equally generous and pretty.  She lived in a grand castle around the Nied river, and one day she extended hospitality to an old woman.  In thanks, the lady (who, of course, was really a fairy) waved her magic wand over the sterile trees surrounding the castle.  Voila!  The barren landscape transformed into a lovely orchard filled with golden fruits.  She told the princess, “As your name is Mira and as you are as generous as pretty, these fruits will be named Mira-belles plums!”

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Huge Little Reasons to Travel to France

The River Seine in Paris France

Reflections along the quai of the Seine in Paris

La vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver. – Renard
Truth is more valuable, if it takes you a few years to find it.

Note:  I first wrote this post back in August 2012, but the thoughts are just as valid today; and it’s one of many reasons I am nearing completion of a book of encouragement to those who dream of travel to France.

 

I’d like to have a keyboard embedded in my brain, so it could capture all of the thoughts that rush at me like the force of flood waters surging against a levee. But I don’t. The thoughts whip through my mind; and when I sit down to try to edge them gently on to paper, they wander over to the ‘formula’ anteroom, the ‘rules’ parlor. No sooner do I type a word, than the grammar teacher cocks her brow and pronounces, “You can’t begin a sentence with ‘and’!”

Enough. This current flood began when I was thinking about HUGE little moments, like the time my friend called me from a distant conference to tell me about the airline ticket sale to Paris. She knew how deeply I yearned to experience France, with a passion I couldn’t seem to indulge.  It was her enormous little call that forced me over the timid lines I had drawn in my life. I bought the ticket. I boarded the plane. I arrived in Paris. I was forever changed.

I wonder what my life would have been without my trips to France.  No – “trips to France” sounds like some little chapter I might add to a diary.  I wonder what my life would have been without just “doing it”, just breaking beyond my self-limiting reticence to reward myself for living.   I have had enough dark moments in my life to want the counterbalance of bright, light joy.  And the extremes of both make me very restless with the in between. Perhaps, it’s the drama of extremes.

Paris gave me extremes. France gave me extremes. God reached down and swirled through beautiful spaces and places, but He also allowed the scared little girl to face her own internal doubts. Is that what happens, when Utopia – long sought Utopia – becomes reality, only to stand you up straight to learn the fact that you take yourself with you into the light?

Cafe chats in Paris France

Petite cafes, grande friendship

You also ‘pack’ the unresolved sorrows of yesterday, the guilt, the hopes, the insecurities. You may dangle your feet above the Seine or stare at the magnificent iron beauty of Le Tour Eiffel and enjoy floods of happiness; but you also may sip your coffee in a sidewalk café and wonder at the small, cloudy depression you feel.

I am ever so thankful for the friend who well nigh demanded I purchase my first airline ticket to France. I cherish my Parisian friend who shared her 6th-floor flat and wealth of intimacy with her adopted country. The only thing keeping me from my dream was me; and I found the horizon was not nearly as far away, as I once presumed.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Paris – Lively & Lazy Moments

rue Mouffetard

Lively music at Place Contrescarpe

You will enjoy both, you know.  Moments when the city teems with people, either executing the perfect Tango by the Seine or gathering for a grand communal pique-nique in one of the many city parks.  Wander through any marché, flea market or antique show; and you will be surrounded by the hum of happy folks shopping for their Sunday dinners or housewares, keepsakes or flowers.

Your mood might lead you to a quiet, 20-seat restaurant for a pleasant, prolonged dinner; or you might choose the bustling brasserie around the corner, where deft waiters make their experienced way among crowds of diners.

We have happened upon choral groups on a bridge, where crowds gather to enjoy the spontaneous entertainment.   We have found ourselves in the midst of a ‘blockaded’ area by the Centre Pompidou, where a suspicious package held everyone in place.  And we have enjoyed a celebratory parade of costumed folks from Bretagne, proudly acting out their heritage along the Champs Elysées.  Certainly, we have never been at a loss for things to do in Paris!

Paris France

Perfect time of day by the Seine!

At the same time, all of the quiet snippets of time are just as memorable.  A glass of wine at sunset on the Seine.  A few moments on a park bench to watch children at play or a game of petanque underway.  A walk in the evening topped with a nightcap at Le Café Marly overlooking the Pyramide.  Early morning coffee along a sidewalk café with a friend.

It’s impossible to value one type of experience over the other.  We encourage you to balance your trip with a blend of ‘lively and lazy’ moments that will stay with you long after your trip has ended.

PARIS lazy

Catch the sun by the Seine!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Île Saint-Louis “Second Homes”

Paris mansions

Private mansion at the tip of Ile Saint-Louis

Last time we were in Paris, we stayed for a week in a charming vacation rental on Île Saint-Louis.  Other than the sometimes grueling climb up four flights of stairs, we were absolutely enchanted to enjoy our residence on one of our favorite places on earth!

BUT that is also when we first heard from our best friend in Paris that, “The island has changed.  So many foreigners have bought property here, and it no longer feels authentic.”  Well, I’m sure I’ve paraphrased somewhat, but the key thought remains the same – the long famous and revered Île Saint-Louis doesn’t feel so French anymore.  I hasten to add that we do not share that sentiment, perhaps because we are blinded by the island’s charms!

Mind you, if we had the ‘spare change’ to buy property on l’île, we would jump at the chance; but we also would spend lots of time there.  Recent studies show that many foreigners, including Americans, have gradually driven out less well-off Parisian residents; and the second-home nature of their ownership and brevity of visits has had a negative impact on neighborhood shops and local schools.  Authors of the study indicate that this district is the only one in Paris that is losing inhabitants.  Given the French love of heritage, home and history; you can imagine how this ownership transfer has been received.

Those tensions resulted in quite a clash between historic and new residents, between architectural designers and cultural protectors.  A Qatari prince purchased one of the island’s most beautiful, historic and revered buildings – Hotel Lambert.  Once home to Chopin and Voltaire not to mention the Rothschild family, the 17th century mansion contains many artistic treasures, including priceless frescoes by artist Eustache Le Sueur created around 1652.

Paris vacation rentals

Our vacation home on Ile Saint-Louis

As if the drastic structural changes anticipated by the prince were not enough, a significant fire broke out in 2013 and caused the rooftop to collapse and destroy the Le Sueur designs.  Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the building was empty and undergoing the controversial renovations. Nonetheless legal actions still are underway to assure that changes to the famous building are in line with historical dictates.  One heritage architect specialist went so far as to describe the proposed changes as “a monstrosity with the aesthetics of a James Bond villa”.  Parfait!

The hotel was originally designed and built for the personal secretary – Lambert de Thorigny – of King Louis XIII.  Voltaire was said to have courted his mistress, the marquise du Châtelet, at the Hôtel Lambert; and prior to being sold in 1975 to the Rothschild banking family, noteworthy visitors included Chopin and Balzac.

Perhaps on a more positive note, it seems that many of those owners of second homes in Paris want to blend in, opting for traditions like visiting the local boulanger for bread and La Presse for the daily newspaper.  It is, in fact, that village feeling that so many of us seek, when we arrange our vacation rentals in the City of Light.

If you have always opted for hotel stays in Paris, we highly recommend the more authentic and cost-effective vacation rental.  You still may eat out as often as you wish, but that morning cup of coffee in your own apartment is quite nice!

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swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Special Moments in France

Provence France

Picnic by the Cote d’Azur

One golden summer in July, we did a bit of zigzagging along the Côte d’Azur.  The Mediterranean has that effect on you.  No sooner do you ‘head for the hills’ to explore Provençal villages and Roman ruins, than the turquoise and indigo waters of the sea send out a call to you – “Come back.”  We couldn’t resist that call!

We found ourselves threading along the rocky red coast among parasol pines and privileged beachfront homes, quaint seaside restaurants and swimming coves.  The day was hot, the water enticing.

A little market ‘called our name’, and we stopped for picnic provisions – the de rigueur fruit, cheese, bread and wine – mais oui!  From the market, we found a perfect little cove to
share with a few French people making the most of their summer holidays.

French Riviera

The rocky, pine-filled coast

The most well-meaning travelers can tell you about fabulous historic sites and extravagant museums, about Roman ruins and festive celebrations.  We have enjoyed a bit of each in our travels through France.

The most vivid memories, though, seem to stem from smaller, less intense moments – a quiet walk and a glass of wine with a friend, a picnic among strangers by the sea.  Dipping our toes in the waters of the renowned Cote d’Azur. Watching children trying to trap elusive sand by a rock in the sea.  Enjoying rich, nutty Comté cheese and a chilled glass of Provencal Rosé.  Perfection.

We drove further and stopped along a more vibrant stretch of beach – certainly a contrast from our private cove, but nonetheless a pleasure.  We stayed a bit to share the sun and sea and even called home – right then and there – to taunt our family with the sights before us!

Provence Riviera

Calling home on the Riviera!

It was our hope then … and now that we would one day all enjoy these moments together on our own Mediterranean holiday.

 

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

4 ½ Reasons to Visit Lyon

Vieux Lyon France

Hilltop views from Old Lyon

Yes. It’s silly isn’t it, this attention-grabbing title game. Actually, Lyon presents hundreds of reasons to visit, from the dual rivers that intersect the city to the magnificent Vieux Lyon. Let’s just ‘wander’ a bit to discover a few secrets of this second largest city in France.

I’ll just jump right into a premier reason to visit – dining! Somewhere I read that if Paris is the heart of France, Lyon is the stomach. Vraiement! Your food and wine selections in Lyon are seemingly endless.

Discover charming little bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants in Vieux Lyon, where you can dine along a cobblestone street or the river or overlooking the entire city.  And between the Saône and Rhône Rivers, Presqu’ile is a virtual peninsula of exceptional dining and shopping choices.

lyon dining

Lunch on the terrace with locals

We stop for lunch on an umbrella-canopied terrace, before wandering along one of the most incredible pedestrian streets we have ever seen – rue Mercière? I shouldn’t have mentioned this Utopian dining mecca. I’ll never get past dining!!

The history of this street is as eclectic, as are the plethora of shops and restaurants. Dating to bustling 16th-century merchants and printers; rue Mercière has seen seedier days as recent as the 1980’s, when women of the evening plied their trades. Fortunately for residents and visitors alike, plans to raze much of the street in favor of ‘modernizing’ it failed; for today it is as gorgeous on a summer day, as it is festive during cold holiday evenings. Let’s bid adieu to dining with this reminder that any Lyonnais specialty is available here – from praline tarts to chitterling sausage!

Lyon france dining

Bustling rue Merciere

Lyon is an ideal walking city with many pleasant riverside quais and lovely waterfront and hilltop views. We meander through the old traboules – passageways first used by silk workers and later by members of the Resistance in World War II.

We climb to Villa Florentine with our Lyon friend, who always has offered less the encyclopedic vision of Lyon and more the charming inner sanctum. There by the pool, we enjoy a drink, while overlooking Vieux Lyon – an indelible view and experience that soothes the soul on a sleepless night.

Enough for today. We’ll save some of Lyon’s charm for another day. I hasten to add that you not only should include Lyon on your French travel itinerary; you should plan to stay a few days to enjoy

lyon france sights

Lyon’s riverfront

every single open and hidden secret!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Few Fun Parisian Outings

Paris graffiti

Street art of Montmartre – Paris

No surprise here that I am instantly attracted to stories and articles about France, so The Culture Trip’s “Top Ten Unusual Things to Do in Paris” caught my eye.  Not only did I enjoy the article, I felt a bit of satisfaction that we have run the list … and then some.   S’il vous plait, allow me to piggyback their treatise with some of my own photos and observations.

Paris Graffiti – what’s not to love in this whimsical/political/devotional/inspirational art form?  Whatever Muse drives the artist, you catch this on-the-fly art on so many streets of Paris.  A tip of the hat to Star Trek and to a whimsical shopper on the back stairs – just a couple we enjoyed.

Canal St. Martin – on a warm August day, we set out to visit the petite atelier of Onaya jewelers.  Beyond the charming artistic creations we found, we were quite taken with the shaded banks, bridges and “Bobo” (BOhemian-BOurgeois) atmosphere along the canal.

Paris street art

Sophisticated graffiti of Bon Marche!

Roman Ruins – Literally just across the rue Monge from our favorite vacation rental in Paris, is the Roman treasure – Arènes de Lutèce.  Though it was built by the Romans around the end of the first century, the arena was rediscovered in the mid 1800s.  No less than author Victor Hugo campaigned to save what was left of the arena, and today the public park and garden greet visitors … and neighborhood children with soccer in mind.

Parties Along the Seine – Whether it’s time for the annual Fete de la Musique throughout a warm June evening or a simple tango along the river, Paris does not fall short of celebratory moments.  One of our favorites – this communal pique-nique, when the whole of Paris seemed to join the fun.

Waterways of Paris

Canal St. Martin, Paris

Paris Roman ruins

Roman arena of Paris

 

 

 

(Special hugs to our dear friends in Paris with whom we have shared so many wonderful moments and memories!)

Seine, Paris

Paris celebrations!


Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Please Your Palate at Meert in Lille

Royal waffles in Lille

Extravagant, historic Meert in Lille

Today we seem to live at the speed of  light, hooked to little electronic gadgets that nag us – with our permission, thank you – throughout every waking moment.  That’s all the more reason  to appreciate Meert. 

Nothing happens in France overnight, least of all a blossoming friendship or a thriving patisserie.  No, the maturation of either requires patience, tender care, growing trust and a touch of vision.  And so it is with Meert.  Over 250 years ago – in 1761, to be precise – a sweets and chocolate shop was born at 27 rue Esquermoise in Lille. Some ten years later, the addition of Meert’s famous ice cream inspired the reverence of the Count of Lille and transformed the establishment into one of Lille’s most fashionable sites, proving once again that the touch of royalty ‘gilds the lilly’.

Flash forward to 1839, when the decision was made to renovate the establishment.  The creative team included the architect César Benvignat – the official architect of Old Lille, painter Stalars and sculptor Huidiez; who combined their brilliance to create the impressive, ornate oriental style you find at Meert today.  Ten years later, Meert became the official supplier of King Leopold I and concocted one of the stellar products of the store – the famous vanilla-filled waffle.

Lille France

Dining under glass at Meert

Along the way, the house added a first-in-class restaurant poised along a sun-bathed interior courtyard with a 19th century glass roof.  Now, the distinguished clientèle enjoys the multi-faceted historic boutique, traditional tearoom and gastronomic restaurant all presented in the extravagant and tasteful surroundings of Maison Meert. A second restaurant at Lille Printemps has been added, as well as two Paris locations in the Marais and Saint-Germain, in Bruxelles and Roubaix.

Now, about that infamous waffle….

Ten years ago, the EphéMeert waffle appeared beside the traditional vanilla waffle that is particularly known for its’ flavorful Vanille de Madagascar.  Flavors range from praline and puffed rice, pistachio and morello cherry to blackcurrant and violet flavors.  You can be certain that the enticing combinations are tucked away quite carefully in the little tattered notebook that guards the Meert’s cherished secrets!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

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! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

Copyright © 2014, 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!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Bon Dimanche – Beaumont du Périgord!

scenic Dordogne

Montignac on the Vezere in Dordogne

Visit our LuxeEuro site today for a combination of amusement and revelation – our recommendation for lodging in the lovely old bastide town of Beaumont du Périgord in southern Dordogne.

We hadn’t heard of the ville, until our Parisian friend sent us Julia Stuart’s first novel, the Matchmaker of Périgord.  Stuart’s novel is the fictional side of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, in which she captures so many of the endearing (and not so) idiosyncrasies of provincial French in the story of the barber turned matchmaker.

Do take a look at a remarkable old mill country retreat –Moulin de la Ville Beaumont du Périgord– and have a delightful Sunday remembering past adventures and planning future trips!

 

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!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

 

Memories from the South of France

Cote d'Azur

Captivating colors of Bandol

I just read another posting from a blog I really enjoy – Belle Provence Travels.   I wouldn’t want you to think me petty or unkind, but sometimes I fight the urge to detest someone who not only is able to be spending the summer…or a lifetime…in the South of France, but who has the audacity to share her joyful existence.

I bow to her, though, as she shares “Postcards from a South of France Summer”.  She posts wonderful photos from Bandol and Antibes, Toulon and Le Castellet.  Foolish little jealousy aside, I really enjoyed her article, in part because it reminded me of a long ago trip with my daughter.

When Jennifer was a relative newlywed, my Christmas gift to her was a book about villages in France and an airline ticket to accompany me to France in March of 2000.  Naturally, I had cleared the date and trip with her husband.  After a week of visiting with my best friend in Paris, we booked the TGV and a rental car to spend the weekend in Provence.

As a little background, I might add that this was only my third trip to France, which didn’t exactly make me a seasoned tour guide.  My French also was limited but somehow managed to pave the way through many circumstances without irreparable harm.  Fortunately for both of us, those limitations had no effect whatsoever on our ‘joie de vivre’ embrace of this trip together.

Bloody Mary's in Bandol France

The wine antidote

And, circling back to the Postcards article, I was especially reminded of our time in Bandol and Antibes.  We had spent the previous night in Aix-en-Provence, where we enjoyed wandering along the fabulous Cours Mirabeau, picking out a lovely café for dinner and sharing a good deal of delightful French wine.Cut to our arrival for lunch in Bandol the next day, and I admit to our feeling a bit sluggish.  I managed to pull out my little French language bag of tricks to order us deux “Sangre de Maria?”  Oui, the waiter smiled.  He knew of Bloody Mary’s, and they accompanied our pizza and salad on a sunny terrace near the water’s edge.

Cote d'Azur France

Lifetime memories in Bandol

Vastly improved by our nice lunch and medicinal drinks, we took to the seaside boulevard to enjoy the open-air market.  A colorful mix of French artisan products and Italian knits and handicrafts lined the port, while boats bobbed in the bay behind the vendors.

American mother and daughter wandering about the Cote d’Azur were entirely captivated.  We purchased Provencal baskets and soaps, and my daughter – ever the spot-on fashionista – bought a vibrant, sleeveless Italian knit – goldenrod yellow, as I recall.

French Riviera

Artisan soaps by the Bandol port

We were soon to head further east along the coast to spend some of our most memorable times entirely in awe of the beauty of France.  But those memories of Bandol, of Le Lavandou and Antibes are so, so precious.  And just last night, I served rolls from one of those colorful baskets we purchased.

If you ever wanted to give an ideal gift to one you love, you could not go wrong in sharing a destination that will provide lifelong memories.  And my thanks to my dear daughter for being such an exceptional, fearless, try-anything travel companion!

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Normandy’s Plus Beaux Beuvron-en-Auge

Basse Normandy France

Beuvron’s half-timbered houses

Oui – yet another Les Plus Beaux Villages de France   (The most beautiful villages of France).   Up in the Basse-Normandie region of northwestern France, Beuvron-en-Auge is just a couple of hours … but a world apart … from Paris.  Comfortably situated between the sea and countryside, this charmingly beautiful village seems like a stage setting with half-timbered 17th century houses, a lovely old inn from the 1700’s, the authentically Normand Church San Marino and a very beautiful Manor House.

Flower boxes dress the sparkling windows and open spaces, and quaint, colorful signs show the way to the local patisserie or epicerie or brocante.  They celebrate all kinds of things in Beuvron – geraniums and cider and an exotic dessert rice pudding called tergoule; and they have a central location, where many farm products are offered.

Normandy France

Tasteful signs of many colors

Doesn’t it make you wonder how this small community of less than 500 people should gain the esteemed “Most Beautiful Village” designation?  Well, let’s see exactly how that comes to be.

Of the more than 32,000 villages that have shaped the French countryside over time, there are currently 157 villages that share membership in the association.  These are the special places with a passion to reveal the quality of their distinct heritage – their history, land, culture and people.

Three requirements must be met, before the four-stage process of selecting

Michelin-star restaurant

Pave d’Auge Normandy cuisine

villages.  The village population must not exceed 2,000.  The village must include at least two protected areas of legendary, picturesque, scientific, artistic or historic interest.  Finally, the decision to apply for admission must be taken by the town council.  Once those requirements are fulfilled, four stages form the selection process:

1.            Evaluation of a village’s application

2.            On-site evaluation

3.            Quality Committee

4.            Quality Charter

A former stronghold of the Harcourt family, Beuvron easily fits the picturesque requirements, with brick and half-timbered buildings and country homes scattered about the landscape.

The village is on the Cider Route and on the Cheese Route; and the Place de la Halle (Market Square) is now home to the inviting Pave d’Auge Normandy restaurant, where Michelin-star menus and regional gastronomy augment the exposed beams and timberwork of the old covered market.

Hmmm….shall we order the Saint-Jacques dans un bouillon de cidre or a savory soufflé?  Naturally a glass of vin de pays du Calvados will accompany our meal.

By the way, the Pave d’Auge is a bed and breakfast; so if you are inclined to absorb the lovely Normandy countryside, stay a while with Sophie and her husband.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Famous Omelettes of Mont-Saint-Michel

La Mere Poulard restaurant

Mont Saint-Michel, northern France

My apologies to our faithful readers about the intermittent blanks in publishing France Daily Photo.  It’s certainly not from a lack of passion or interest.  One of several projects at the forefront include a book with a dual focus:  challenging readers to indulge their passion for travel and providing personal glimpses of the many faces of France.  I hope you will share with us the things you most enjoy reading and learning about France.  Many have told us how much they appreciate the wide range of topics and ‘territories’ covered.  Others particularly like those personal moments and suggestions that offer a deeper look at a village, an inn or a person.  I appreciate your longstanding loyalty and will keep you posted on our progress.

 

In the meantime, welcome to a different slant today on our France.

I cherish the lessons I learn along the way about what is important and lasting.  One of those lessons centered on an endearing Chapel Dean, who made his own omelette at La Mère Poulard in the medieval village of Mont-Saint-Michel.  It is a wonderful story.

As an alumnus of Rollins College, I wrote an article for our collegiate magazine.  The piece profiled our Dean of the Chapel, who had recently completed a one-year sabbatical the University of Edinburgh.

Mont Saint-Michel France

Omelettes over the open fire

I knew him to say a warm hello and have an occasional conversation.  Rollins was and still is an exceptional, small Liberal Arts college with less than 2,000 full-time graduates.  All of us on campus were like an extended family with all of the ups, downs and merry-go-rounds family can entail; so it would have been impossible to miss this charismatic professor and Dean.

We saw him as a man with a twinkle in his eye, an abiding love of God … and a penchant for chomping on cigars!  In preparing for our interview, I brushed up on his ‘official’ background.  Boston-born, from a Scottish family that emigrated to Prince Edward Island; he and his family later moved on to Massachusetts.  By the time he was fifteen, he had made up his mind to enter the ministry.

After completing his Bachelors of Science and Bachelors in Sacred Theology at Harvard, he was invited to join the Rollins College faculty.  By that time, he and his wife had produced four children and had ministered in two Connecticut churches.  He was the fourth dean of the Knowles Memorial Chapel and would ultimately earn the title of full professor. He was bemused by the latter.  He related that his professorship was a real accomplishment, in that his only previous teaching experience was instructing Sunday School.

La Mere Poulard

Quite famous and fluffy!

So I had the privilege … finally … of sitting down for what seemed like a fireside tête-à-tête with this remarkable man – as extraordinary for his ‘in the moment’ ways as for any of his accomplishments.  We simply chatted.  He recalled rainy days and interesting moments in and around Edinburgh; and he cherished his well-deserved exploratory retreat, after a lifetime of significant responsibilities.

With his bifocals perched on the bridge of his nose, he peered over at me like a school child ready to share something that happened on the playground.  That is when he recalled his trip to Mont Saint-Michel, to this historic pre-Romanesque settlement on a rock in the midst of a huge bay.  When the tides come in, the Mont is isolated.  It becomes a village tucked away from the world for a while; perhaps with ancient whispers from the Benedictines, who settled the rock.

With all of that beauty, that religious history, that magnificent sight in the North of France; his story centered on the invitation to, “Come and make your own omelet.”   The tale was appealing; he would have made a great village storyteller.

But it was only when we finally made our own way to La Mère Poulard that the ‘bud’ he presented to me that day came into  full bloom.

As we ducked away from the grey drizzle into the warm entry of the restaurant, the picture he had painted transformed from black and white to color.  A young girl in a long burgundy apron stood before the open fire, long-handled omelette pans at the ready.  Since the L’Hôtel de Madame Poulard opened in 1888, the ultra-light omelette has become quite famous, drawing countless celebrities since the 19th century.

I imagined his hands whisking those eggs in an old copper bowl and holding that long handle.  I believe his heart was as warm as the hearth where he stood.  You needn’t guess what we ordered on our visit, and it came with his long-ago message about the importance of little moments in life.

After the sabbatical, he received his honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Rollins College.  These words were read to him:

“…The scourge of the administration, an implacable foe of red tape, the custodian of a thousand and one faculty and student confidences, and always a jealous advocate of freedom of the pulpit, and worship.”

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

How to 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.  It is the quaint 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 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.

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Along the Atlantic Coast of France

Atlantic coast, France

Ancient fortified city, Guérande

July might well be a good time to visit the west coast of France and, in particular, to enjoy exploring from Saint-Nazaire up towards Guérande and Vannes.  The landscape is a stunning mix of inland tributaries and coastal plains.  August, as it turned out for us, was the busiest vacation time of the year in France; so planning well ahead is critical for your holiday enjoyment.

One distinctive feature of the coastal areas is the relative modernity.  We discovered a somber reason for that was the extensive bombing of the region by Allied planes.  This was the locale for the headquarters of the German submarines that were wreaking havoc on Allied supply ships in the Atlantic.  Entire cities were incinerated, to be rebuilt in the late 1940’s and beyond.

A little further up the coast, you will enjoy the lovely medieval city of Guérande.  The city center is entirely encircled by heavily fortified walls with 6 towers and 4 gates, as if to assure the preservation of this place in time.  After the siege in 1343 by Charles de Bois troops, Jean de Montfort ordered further fortifications.

France sea saltWe hope to visit here again, to allow time for slow discovery of this fascinating and beguiling ville – the collegiate church of Saint-Aubin, the surrounding salt flats, the megaliths and Gallo-Roman remains in the area and the gorgeous Bay of La Baule.  Perhaps in September, when life is a bit calmer?

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Five Great France Info Websites

Provence France

Balcony views over Provence

When you want quick and comprehensive information about France, how helpful it is to have trusted sources!  A few of our favorites allow us to do everything from trip planning to keeping an eye out for great new French books and films.

Rendezvous France websiteRendezvous en France is the official Tourism Development site for France and offers complete information about regions, sporting events, themed holidays, maps and more.  Rendezvous is a very valuable resource, particularly if you hope to build your vacation around regional events.

LuxeEuro upscale French dining, shopping, lodgingFrance Guide is the Official website of the French Government Tourist Office – I know. Don’t ask. The site is similar in content to Rendezvous, but both are very informative and are equally anxious to supply the information you seek.

 

French embassy cultural informationCultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States is one of our favorite sites.  Learn about events taking place throughout the U.S. with an interest in and focus on French culture.  Find movie reviews, book launches and educational grant details.   The primary emphasis is on French Culture, French Language and Higher Education.  

 

Paris CVBParis Convention & Visitors Bureau – Hotels, restaurants, museums, maps, events. If it has to do with Paris, you will find it here! A lovely site.

Actually, when planning a trip anywhere in France, it is wise to research regional and village Offices of Tourism.  On line and in person those offices are really helpful with event info, maps, lodging and dining recommendations and more!

logo_smA personal prejudice, LuxeEuro is similar to France Daily Photo but focuses on higher end French properties, restaurants and products.  A nice collection of special places, and you also can browse through “Toys in the Attic” for the occasional gift, European notecard, poupee doll and more.

Fantastic Villa in Aix-en-Provence

French luxury hotels

Your private oasis in Aix-en-Provence

 

Aix-en-Provence ranks high on our favorite cities in France list.  We relish everything about the city from the cuisine and endless dining choices to the markets, boutiques and galleries.  The fact is you can’t even begin to absorb the rich palette of Aix colors, unless you stay a few days. 

And we are delighted to recommend a wonderful villa (actually like a private mansion), where you can enjoy all of the fun of exploring Aix from an elegant  hillside retreat near Cours Mirabeau – just a 15-minute gorgeous walk.  To learn more –  visit  “Lovely Aix-en-Provence Hotel”.  

 

We’d love to hear from you – swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

 

Fête des Voisins – France Neighbors Day

Fete des Voisins

Grand neighborly picnic in the Latin Quarter of Paris

If you have browsed through France Daily Photo often enough, you probably sense that I am a ‘softie’; when it comes to home, hearth and friendship.  And so it is with today’s celebrations throughout France and now in over 20 European countries.  The Fête des Voisins is ‘Neighbors’ Day’, when residents come together in their own neighborhoods to enjoy a grand picnic feast and fellowship. 

The history is interesting and sad, while offering a fine example of someone ‘doing something about it’.  The concept of Neighbors’ Day was born in 2003, when the President of the 17th Arrondisement in Paris found that an elderly neighbor had died and was not discovered for several weeks. 

In 2003, Atanase Périfan proposed to the Mayor of Paris to extend the event throughout Europe; and that is exactly what has happened.  Mayor Delanoe invited the mayors of Rome, Brussels and Geneva to join in the festivities to create and launch European Neighbors Day; and in 2012 over 15 million Europeans from 20 countries and 1,400 cities joined in the celebrations.

European Neighbors Day

French picnics May 31

One tragedy.  One man of action with an extraordinary idea.  One, united celebration of Solidarity. 

The French are very big on solidarity, unafraid to invoke the word and the active support it represents.  Back in 1999, I happened by the Hotel de Ville in Paris, when the Kosovos Refugees were at the heart of the Parisian communal mindset.  We have seen this unity on the closing of La Samaritaine and, naturally surrounding a variety of political and cultural issues; when mutual objectives and interests come together in a common front.

Paris France

Hotel de Ville, 1999

On this marvelous 10th Anniversary of Fête des Voisins, we wish all European neighbors, and particularly our friends in France, a lively picnic and warm celebration of neighborhood solidarity. 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, 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

 

Luxury Dining in the Clouds

French Alps

Restaurant L’Oxalys

 

Imagine dining at ‘the top of the world’ in France. Well it might be a shade short of Utopia, but Restaurant Oxalys lays claim to being the highest gourmet restaurant in Europe. Fabulous cuisine, spectacular views! For the ‘full story’ – Restaurant L’Oxalys – Val Thorens.

French Bed & Breakfast Resource

Southwest France

Castell Rose Bed & Breakfast

Just one of the benefits we try to offer through France Daily Photo is locating and evaluating helpful travel resources. We recently encountered a new website that focuses on Bed and Breakfast accommodations in France. After spending way too much time combing through Samedi Midi – The Best Bed and Breakfast France, we think it has some very nice attributes to assist your lodging hunt.

At the top of the list are the well-organized categories. Many, like us, seek different travel experiences, mixing up city sojourns with lazy, out-of-the-way ‘lost weekends’. We often scale back the budget in one location to help underwrite a more lavish encounter in the next.

Samedi serves two purposes quite well – offering a central promotional site for bed and breakfast and guest houses and an informational resource for travelers in search of unique accommodations. Since 1982, the organization has organized lodgings into 14 themed paperback guidebooks, sorted by French regions, by lifestyle choices, by city and village, by luxury and gastronomy – you name it, and you have a host of choices to meet your particular desire.

Prades France

B&B views over the Pyrenees

From Provence to the Pyrénées and from Brittany to Burgundy, Samedi Midi has pulled together some exceptional lodging selections. We’ll leave it to you to wander through their site, but here is just one example that appealed to us – from Bed and Breakfasts in the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

Tucked away in the small village of Prades in the South of France, Castell Rose is one of those ideal ‘home away from home’ choices. Pleasant hospitality combines with very comfortable room selections and exceptional views.

For the traveler on the go, the well-equipped laundry and notebook computer are welcome amenities. Though the lovely garden setting allows genuine tranquility, the town of Prades is an easy, ten-minute walk; and four of the regions “Most Beautiful Villages” are within a few kilometers.

southwest france

Romanesque Marcevol Priory

You can mix a day of poolside lounging or reading a book under the lime tree with a day of exploration – horseback riding around the Pyrénées near the Canigou, sacred mountain of the Catalans, or discovering churches and priories like the stunning Romanesque Marcevol. Another day you might visit the beautiful village of Mosset, that is reminiscent of Gordes, poised on a hilltop overlooking the valley. All of those lovely mountain and village experiences are just 25 minutes from Perpignan.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Escape To Haute-Savoie

Haute-Savoie France

Flowers, villages, cool Alpine air

Sometimes we are so fickle in cherry-picking our favorite memories and places or in evaluating what we might have done differently in traveling through France. Annecy is just one example of an incredibly charming lakeside city, in which we wish we had spent more time…like settling in for a week of exploring the Alpine countryside.

C’est la vie – after a day and a night, we sought out the local office of the Gîtes de France for help in reserving a room in the area. If you are not familiar with the organization, the Gîtes de France developed the first European network of ‘homestay’ accommodations and celebrated 50 years of service in 2005. They focus on rural areas and promote hospitable and comfortable tourist stays. Their latest count of offerings was 43,000 French homesteads that open their unique homes to welcome tourists.

French Alps

Chinaillon – small & welcoming

The GDF helped us to reserve a charming room in the little village of Chinaillon, just up the road … or mountain from Annecy. Though we vowed to return to that gorgeous city, the Alpine countryside began to weave its’ spell around us.

A couple of roosters welcomed us in our ‘car park’, and a few hikers passed by on trails up the hillside looming behind our gîte. The owners – Isabelle and Jean Louis – were very pleasant, and each morning we joined with other guests (5 or 6) for a nice breakfast, before taking to the local roads to explore.

Over a three-day period, we simply wandered … along winding roads that rose to offer spectacular, flower-framed views, before dropping down into one charming village after another … through artisan hamlets and chapel-centered bourgs… over to the Mont Blanc tunnel, where we emerged in Aosta, Italy and wound our way back to our little village for a warm café meal.

France Haute-Savoie

Simple drives in the Alps

When you plan your adventures in France, we heartily recommend you stay a bit in the Haute-Savoie region. For all of the other benefits, surely the Savoyard cuisine and famous regional Reblochon cheese will reward your decision for all time!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

More Resources About France

 

South France

Wild horses – Camargue – © Atout France/Pascal Gréboval

If you haven’t checked out France Today, I encourage you to do so.  What?  Go to another site?  No vainglorious attempt here on France Daily Photo to keep you all for ourselves!   France Today and French Entrée recently have ‘eloped’ and offer an ever-widening truckload of information about French travel, culture, property for sale, cuisine … well, all of those interesting things we love to explore.

Regional articles cover a broad range of geographic sites.  We see inside the mystique of the Camargue in the South of France, where fleur de sel vies for attention with fine rice, and exotic black cattle and white horses ‘own’ the land.  It’s an unspoiled natural preserve, endangered only by the fervent tourists who visit. 

Eastern France

Le Doubs near the birthplace of Gustave Courbet – ©Atout France/CRT Franche-Comté/J. Lhommée

Swoop to the Jura Mountains in the East, and you immerse yourself in yet another natural, forested French landscape.  Just east of Switzerland and north of one our favorite areas around Lake Annecy, the Le Doubs department is home to enchanting villages, winding waterways and appealing historic sites.  France Today beautifully profiles everything from the UNESCO World Heritage site in Arc-et-Senans to the ancient houses of Ornans on the Loue River, birthplace of Gustave Courbet and fortunate repository of many of his artistic landscapes.  And in France, is it any wonder that an artist would be drawn to landscapes?

Not to dwell, I encourage you to visit France Today for a wealth of information and a very pleasant journey through the landscape, cuisine and culture of France.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Avignon -Time to Splurge

Avignon France

The elegant Hotel d’Europe – Avignon

The thing about daydreams is you get to splurge. That’s what I have in mind for our long weekend in Avignon, one of our favorite ancient, walled cities. We happened to be there during the peak of the summer festival, so a calmer weekend in May will be ideal for really enjoying this historic site.

The long list of positive referrals would point us to Hôtel d’Europe for our lodging. Built as his residence by the Marquis de Graveson in 1580, this lovely five-star hotel enjoys a spectacular setting on one of Avignon’s most beautiful squares. In 1799 the Pierron’s founded the hotel, and in a testament to its fine lineage, Hotel Europe is the only Avignon hotel that appeared in Michelin’s first Guide in 1900.

We’re very much inclined toward mid-sized accommodations, as large hotels seem overwhelming and small gites a little too cozy. With 39 rooms and 5 suites, Hôtel d’Europe applies that deft French touch in low key elegance throughout the common (and not so ‘common’!) areas and spacious, beautifully-appointed guest rooms.

Provence

Explore Avignon and the Luberon region

Seasoned travelers in France and elsewhere know well, though, that décor and amenities can quickly be sullied with poor, haughty service. Not so at this hotel, where welcoming staff help you plan your days of exploring the historic city or the renowned Luberon countryside and welcome your return with a glass of wine at the handsome bar.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

La Ville d’Arreau in the Pyrenees

Southwest France

The Neste River, Arreau – © Atout France/Catherine Bibollet

We’ve discovered a ‘new-old’ place of charm, tucked far away in the Pyrenees of southwest France.  Arreau is but one of several small villages in the valley-swept landscape, where the Neste and Louron Rivers converge.

Fewer than 1,000 people live in the village that developed around the Romanesque Saint-Exupère sanctuary.  Early on, between the 13th and 15th centuries, Arreau simply was strategically located at the outlet of two valleys, where craftsmen and merchants presented four major markets each year in addition to the regular weekly markets that attracted residents of many neighboring villages.

Since the 1800’s, the Tour de France has highlighted the area’s dramatic topography between the Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde and has contributed to significant tourism growth.

Arreau - Neste River

Tranquil riverside village

Wind your way down stone-walled lanes into the village, and you discover delightful venue with river waters rushing past shops and homes.  It’s a lovely place from which to explore the gorgeous countryside and even, perhaps, slip over into Spain or Andorra.

 

We’d love to hear from you!swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

The Serene Bretagne Coast

Bretagne Coast of France

Family cycling before the House Castel Meur, tucked between the rocks and facing the sea – symbolic of coast tourism in Brittany. © Atout France Pierre Torset

When our family consisted of mother, father and four young children (including ‘double trouble’ twins!), we took twice yearly vacations in a small town on the East coast of Florida.  They weren’t ‘fancy’ holidays – certainly not with four children! – but they were idyllic retreats, where there was lots of time, space and freedom to enjoy miles and miles of soft, sandy dunes and ever-changing beaches.

The Bretagne beaches differ – the Pink Granite Coast, Trégor – Côte d’Ajoncs has interesting rock formations all along the coast – but the wanderlust spirit and sense of discovery remains the same.  The astounding beauty of the region is delightful by bicycle, traveling upward from the coast along small lanes, past gardens on the Jaudy estuary, through small villages like Plougrescant.

Northern coast of France

Unparalleled sunsets of Bretagne

Accommodations in the region range from the quaint bedroom in a sturdy stone cottage to the five-star L’Agapa Hôtel – Spa.   And the regional fare, as one might imagine, tends to the sea – to oysters in particular – and agriculture; so you can feast on any number of local dishes with fresh leeks and potatoes and a specialty called “Craquants” of Tréguier.  They are surprisingly flavorful biscuits, a mixture of almonds and seaweeds and salted caramel.  Local beers also are popular among hearty oystermen and wandering cyclists.

Trégor – Côte d’Ajoncs is the same type of golden holiday destination I enjoyed in my youth.  Beyond lovely, solitary hikes, there are plenty of water activities – from fishing expeditions to kayaking and watching that fabulous, fiery sunset over the water.

Throughout the world, fortunate families are planning summer holidays.  Many will be lucky, like me, to look back on ‘moments of awakening’ by the sea; when I realized how small I was against the enormous sea and how mysterious and wonderful the future seemed.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Sunday Morning Near Bordeaux

galard 2Today, I enjoy remembering the quiet in the countryside near Bordeaux.  Gite guests gathered for coffee, fresh breads and jams.  The cows moved slowly about the surrounding fields.  Down the lane, expansive fields of bright yellow sunflowers spread their cheers.

Another day in France awaited, and we were ready!

 

 

Peaceful morning near Bordeaux

Peaceful morning near Bordeaux

#3 Reason to Travel – History

Paris monuments France

Gold-domed Invalides, Paris

We can begin in Paris – bien sur – where ‘history’ speaks to us at every bend.  Plaques adorn so many otherwise unremarkable buildings, plaques that pay homage to those lost to war; plaques that regularly receive small bouquets from elders who remember.  Invalides holds the remains of Napoleon.  Roman baths and arenas mix with the grand Arch de Triomphe, and the homes of Balzac and Rodin are simply there. 

Over at the extraordinary Père Lachaise Cemetery, eternal residents range from Chopin to Jim Morrison, from Oscar Wilde to “Aux Morts de La Commune – 21-28 Mai 1871”.  We came upon this small triangular corner, where an infamous chapter of French history is remembered.  Working-class Parisians, who were not in accord with the French capitulation to Prussia in 1870, formed the revolutionary and socialist Paris Commune in opposition even to the French government.  They held out for two months and suffered their final defeat in an Alamo-like last stand on May 28 in a battle at Père Lachaise Cemetery. 

Paris France Paris Commune

Pere Lachaise monument

Well, that is just Paris – so easy to get carried away, when you are surrounded by history!  Travel anywhere in France, and you find yourself in disbelief that you are standing in the American Cemetery dedicated to all of those young soldiers who died in World War II or visiting the hallowed grounds of Chambord in the Loire Valley.  From the stock exchange in Lille to the Roman Arena in Nimes, from the Canal du Midi footpaths trod by Thomas Jefferson to the grand hotels of the Cote d’Azur.  From simple village squares with ancient fountains to Cezanne’s studio, the wonderful tapestries of history demonstrate what a small part of our life on earth is included in the Big Book of all time. 

And perhaps that’s the whole point behind this reason for travel – that history gives us a profound sense of perspective.

Nimes France

Roman Arena, Nimes

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

#1 Reason To Travel – Discovery

Bordeaux region, France

Cabane cabane de pêche au carrelet – Gironde

In the Bordeaux region, we first discovered the “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – fishing cabins on stilts raised above the Gironde River.  For us that was an unusual sight, because the only remotely similar buildings were fish camps firmly situated on the shores of rivers in the States.  With a little homework, the “discovery” was complete.  We learned that peasant fishermen in days of yore used these types of cabins for fishing. 

Today, they are popular for local and visiting fishermen, who suspend large, square nets from a winch into the water and scoop the catch with nets on a long pole.  The Gironde offers a feast of sturgeon, white shrimp, shad and lamprey.

Troglodyte caves were next.  We stayed for two weeks in the Loire Valley, where these cave-like homes are abundant.  In fact, walking up Victor Hugo toward the last home of Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise, we passed by cave dwellings tucked into ancient cliffs.  The cheerfully-inhabited troglodyte homes were adorned with flower boxes, brightly-colored shutters and stone alcoves that held their satellite dishes. 

Loire Valley France

On the way to da Vinci’s Amboise home

Some homes are actually built of the tuffeau stone, cut in blocks from the ancient cliffs above the Loire River. Quarrying of the tuffeau dates to the 11th century, when great cavities were created in the hills, when construction of the renowned chateaux took place throughout the valley.  People moved in to those spaces, finding them to be a low-cost refuge.  Now ‘owners’ dress them up to their own pleasure and convert them into their own vacation retreats and artist galleries.  Hard to imagine ‘owning’ a piece of ancient history!

And now we discover Alpine pile-dwelling settlements.  On the UNESCO World Heritage list, the settlements date to 5000 to 500 B.C., when ‘villages’ formed along the edges of lakes or wetlands.  Many of the sites are located in Switzerland; but in the Haute-Savoie Department of Rhône-Alpes, several prehistoric sites hug the shores of Lake Annecy. 

Near Lake Annecy, France

Original piles and reconstructed dwelling in Lac de Chalain, rive -© P. Pétrequin, Centre de la Recherches Archeologique de la Vallée de l’Ain

Important Archaeological evidence points to early agrarian societies in the region, where pile-dwellings have been discovered under water, on lake shores and along rivers.  Flint, shells, gold, and pottery reveal the existence of trade routes, and old textiles date to 3,000 B.C.   Along the western shores of Lake Annecy, the communes of Sévrier and Saint-Jorioz  are home to Neolithic finds.  In 1989 over 700 piles were counted. 

Our memories of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley and Lake Annecy are filled with stunning images – riverbank wedding ceremonies, Amboise markets and the crystal Alpine waters of Lake Annecy.  Then, we add the discoveries of ancient settlements and medieval chateaux – it’s simply a fascinating journey that combines spectacular natural beauty and ancient history with the welcoming hospitality that travelers can enjoy.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Songs of Rue Mouffetard – Paris

Paris' rue Mouffetard

La compagnie Jolie Môme

Today rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quartier of Paris takes its normal Monday ‘snooze’, a well-deserved day of rest, particularly after a busy Sunday.  Each and every Sunday, neighbors gather at the base of the cobblestone street for accordion-led songs and dances; and yesterday the popular troupe – La compagnie Jolie Môme provided lively entertainment – un spectacle de chanson.  They sing on stages, in theatres and in the streets, sometimes in support of other workers or to pay tribute to Brecht. 

If you are familiar with the Latin Quartier, you will know rue Mouffetard is a delightful ancient cobblestone street, brimming – every day but Monday – with all of the sights and scents of an open-air market along the street.  Let’s see now.  I have purchased French jeans, flower bouquets, tomatoes and radishes and bright orange carrots.   We have chosen rotisserie chickens, and potatoes roasted in their savory juices.  Fred’s wine shop, of course, is a favorite and that little fromagerie across the way – parfait!  Musn’t forget the chocolatiers and patisseries – so many tempting choices for gifts and desserts.

Then there are the restaurants.  I’m always a cross between amused and irritated, when I read reviews from those ‘in the know’ about too many touristy places or overpriced cafes near Mouffetard.  The fact is there are appealing places for a coffee or hot chocolate, for gelato or a ham-and-cheese crêpe.  And there’s a nice little raclette-fondue spot that’s always toasty and welcoming on a cool Spring day.

Paris France graffiti

Even the street art is tres jolie!

I just get the feeling sometimes, that some people go through life with a Zagat-rating mindset or ‘can’t wait to lambast this place on TripAdvisor’.   Perhaps, we are always so excited to be in Paris, that we embrace each lovely little moment.  In our nearly 20 years of visiting Paris, we could count on one hand even a tiny negative situation … too little to cause a ripple in our contentment.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

France Today Magazine – Special!

Expanded an elegant - special offer for new readers

Expanded an elegant – special offer for new readers

I am not a hoarder. I don’t have stacks of things in corners and closets. This shedding of ‘stuff’ began, when my husband and I decided to sell our home and spend the summer in France. We wanted that fabulous immersion, before settling in again. So we pared and pared, placed our essentials in a ten-by-ten storage unit, and off we went.

On our return to Orlando, we bought a condo, retrieved our belongings and began to add back some of the ‘non-essentials’.  We still took a minimalist approach without all of the gizmos and gadgets many seem to need, but naturally added some charming keepsakes from France. 

And that’s my extended explanation of the fact that you will find several French magazines in our home – primarily interior décor, art and travel-fo cused publications, some dating to 2005!  They are my ‘friends’ on a rainy day; my source of pleasure under golden lamplight, when Florida’s infamous weather blocks the sun with an enormous grey blanket.  The magazines’ rich home and travel photos sometimes even serve as ‘models’ for watercolor paintings in progress.

With all of that said, an exciting publishing marriage recently occurred and is being introduced with a special offer.   First published in 1985, France Today recently acted upon a very positive poll of readers.   

Under new ownership by France Media,  the magazine has been relaunched as an upmarket international publication.  Adding three times more editorial content, France Today will feature French travel, culture, gastronomy, art, design, shopping and real estate; and the frequency will change from 11 to 6 issues per year. France Media is also the parent of the popular frenchentree.com and French Entrée Magazine that offers valuable information about French culture, property and lifestyle.    

France Today Magazine

Captivating photos, excellent features and columns

“France Today is already a well-respected magazine with thousands of loyal subscribers,” says Guy Hibbert, Managing Director of France Media Group, “but we’re making further investments in design, editorial and circulation so that it serves up the best that France has to offer.”

The new edition contains over 100 pages of beautifully-designed content with news, special features and regular columns.  Some of the upcoming features include: 

  • Chagall: we review the hot ticket in Paris this summer
  • On the Champagne trail: make the most of your visit to this iconic region
  • Special streets of Paris: where to really enjoy the art de vivre in the City of Light
  • Aix-en-Provence: the colours of  Cézanne
  • Great brands: the heritage behind famous maletiers Louis Vuitton and Goyard
  • Victor Hugo’s Paris
  • Sète: the Venice of the Languedoc

 For the price of a latte –

Those not already subscribers can take advantage of a limited-time offer. New readers in the U.S. and Canada can sample one copy of the new France Today – $3.50 (there’s that latte) and £2.50 to UK and beyond, including postage.

I’ve already signed up – can’t wait to add a sparkling new addition to my stack of French magazines!

 We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

April in Paris and Provence!

Provence France

Crillon le Brave overlooks Mount Ventoux

Just a little dream – April in Paris … and then a pleasant train ride with our friends to Avignon.  After wandering about and having a late lunch, we would be off for a couple of nights at Crillon Le Brave.  April, you see, is their time to offer special €150 rates.  I know, I know – that’s not exactly tightening the belt or wallet, but it is a definite bargain compared to their usual €280 to €520 rates!

Crillon Le Brave is a very special retreat, one that spreads over seven renovated village houses mystically connected by petite alleyways and courtyards.  Just 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Avignon, the spectacular views from the village sweep from valley vineyards to the crests of 6,000-foot high Mount Ventoux. 

Crillon le Brave France

Charming rooms, gorgeous views

Our friends are wonderful conversationalists, so we undoubtedly would have plenty to talk about; but they also are as keen for adventure as we are.   With picnic basket and chilled wine in hand, we would head out in the countryside to find a perfect spot along the Rhône River near Avignon.   Hunting for antiques and Provençal treasures would follow, perhaps across the river in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Beyond enjoying exceptional local cuisine and wines, the history and culture throughout the area reflects the Roman imprint and 14th-century Papacy in Avignon.   Roman ruins, cycling through vineyards, dining along the river, relaxing in the village – that sounds like an ideal April sojourn to me!  And basing ourselves in Crillon le Brave would afford the perfect window to all that is refreshing and spectacular in the Côtes du Rhône and Provence.

Rhone River France

Dinner by the river

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Weekend in Bormes-les-Mimosas

 

South France

Bormes-les-Mimosas overlooking the Mediterranean

Yesterday – a focus on upscale camping in France.  Today, we go to the same area but “the opposite direction”.  The weekend is here; our getaway wings need to be stretched.  We are longing for a comfortable, idyllic kind of place – charming, warm and quiet but within reach of interesting places to visit.

The old village of Bormes-les-Mimosas is the perfect place for such a retreat, a charming village just above the coast.  Years ago, my daughter and I wandered along the coast from Saint-Raphael, and it was in Le Lavandou that we stopped to stay, to explore.  March is just before the ‘shoulder season’, when you find far fewer tourists but fewer places, also, to stay shop or dine.  No problem.  Make your way along walled streets, along stony seaside paths or up narrow lanes overlooking the Mediterranean.  Everywhere you turn the sights are welcoming.

Cote d'Azur France

Mimosa-lined lanes

The Hostellerie du Cigalou will be our chosen auberge, just 20 rooms in a lovely village setting.  We would want the garden views from our private terrace and could easily wander through the floral lanes to discover a little café or crêperie for lunch. 

At the top of the hill above the village, we can visit the Romanesque Chapelle Notre Dame de Constance, set among oaks and overlooking the bold, blue sea and the Hyères Islands.  Can you imagine a more relaxing and enticing weekend? 

Bon Weekend to you!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Five-Star Camping in France?

Provence 5-star camping France

Five pools for the pleasure of Esterel campers!

We are big fans and avid viewers each July of the Tour de France, and you can’t possibly watch the dynamic race without noticing literally thousands of campers lining each day’s route.  Whether through mountain passes, lowland flats or Provençal hills; vacationing campers choose their ideal spot to catch this annual glimpse of intense cycling competition.

As we drove through France, in every area – particularly in the summer – we noticed the same thing – scores of campers and mobile-style homes on the road or lining the beaches, seemingly tucked away each evening in hillside campgrounds.  About that, we really didn’t know.  Camping simply wasn’t on our radar, perhaps the privileged snobbery of aging bodies opting for more comfortable accommodations.

Camping 5-star in France

Dining poolside, Esterel in Provence

We did meet a lovely young couple, who were dining right next to us in Greoux les Bains.  Turns out they and their children were staying in a nearby campground, and I suppose that was our only ‘up-close’ touch with French camping, except to note that this option is quite popular among French people on holiday.

Imagine my astonishment, then, when I came across a five-star camping compound!  In June 2011, Esterel Caravaning  was designated the first 5-star camp site on the French Riviera.  Needless to say, I was intrigued.  Clearly this was not some tent-scape or 20 x 20 lot in the middle of scrub pines! 

First and foremost is their lovely setting in the rocky red coastal region – the Esterel – between Cannes and Saint Tropez.  Just 3 kilometers from the beach at Agay-Saint Raphael, Esterel Caravaning truly does offer the penultimate deluxe camping experience.  Guests enjoy expansive recreation facilities, restaurant dining, on-site grocery and souvenir shopping, elaborate swimming pool (excuse me – make that 5 pools!) and even horseback-riding facilities. 

With touring ‘pitches’ for those with their own camping homes and a well-appointed and varied offering of motor and mobile homes; the camp grounds deliver the beauty of the pine-forested Provence region with well-above-average camping accommodations – air conditioning, dishwasher and television, new-this-year free Wi-Fi, pleasant patios and porches and, in select units, private Jacuzzis!

Hmmm.  My mind travels back to pitching a tent on a boulder in the rain, limited cooking inside of dripping canvas, hikes up rocky paths.  Along the way, I’ve even experienced the motor home getaway, a more comfortable environment with its unique, stop-by-the-side-of-the-road cup of coffee features.  I will have to admit that we still prefer to commune with nature and return to our hotel or B & B, or find a delightful vacation rental in which to ‘burrow’.

Esterel Caravaning, though, seems to paint a whole new canvas for outdoor lovers and those in search of comfort, beauty and assuredly not the final bill one might receive on checking out of a 5-star hotel on the French Riviera!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A New Provençal Retreat

Provence France

Domaine de la Baume, Tourtour

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

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

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

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

Provence Tourtour

Catalogue of Buffet’s works

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Places to Stay in Monpazier

Photos of Hotel-Restaurant Edward 1er, Monpazier
This photo of Hotel-Restaurant Edward 1er is courtesy of TripAdvisor

For a relatively tiny community of less than 1,000 people, Monpazier in the Dordogne area of southwest France offers some excellent lodging options.  Fittingly named Hotel Edward 1st , the hotel combines friendly hospitality with 12 varied accommodations in a lovely turreted, 19th century building at the edge and within easy walking distance of the entire charming village.  Two hotel restaurants easily serve the needs of guests, and the village itself offers a number of bistros and café choices, all within the “embrace” of the walled Bastide town.

Dordogne Bastide

Villa Sainte-Therese, Monpazier

The gorgeous rolling countryside surrounds the village, and therein we discover another exceptional lodging choice, perhaps for that family retreat.  Set on 4 acres, this Dordogne “farmhouse” – Villa Sainte-Therese –  sleeps 8 to 10 and offers all of the comforts one would expect of a nice vacation rental – spacious rooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, gorgeous views and lovely terraces for enjoying the morning sun or evening sunset.

We stayed in a nice little hotel in the village of Saint-Gervais-d’Auvergne to the northeast of Monpazier, but the Bastide is definitely on our must-do list for our next travel adventure in France!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Bastide Monpazier – Plus Beaux!

dordogne france

The old walled Bastide – Monpazier

Sometimes, there simply are not sufficient words and photos to capture the spirit and beauty of a place. And so it is with Bastide Monpazier in the Dordogne area of France. Listed and labeled not only a “Grand Site National”, it is quite appropriately a “Plus Beaux Villages de France”.

Founded by Edward I of England in the late 13th century, Monpazier is an incredibly preserved fortified village; in fact, it is considered one of the most exceptional examples of a bastide in all of southwest France. Edward was assisted in the founding by the Lord of Biron (thus the presence of Château de Biron), and it wasn’t until King Charles V of France reigned that the bastide became French.

Monpazier france

Graceful arches

Certainly not untouched by skirmishes and wars through the years, the Bastide still is remarkable – a perfectly quadrilateral town with four cross streets that divide Monpazier into rectangular areas. Wander beneath the arches and through the alleys, and you discover lovely old stone walls, where the sun plays over colorful vines. Medieval houses share streets with those from the 17th century, and little galleries and cafes bid visitors welcome.

The Place des Cornières is the central square with the old market hall covered by a 16th-century timber roof and is surrounded by houses that form a charming arcade. Other architectural wonders include Saint-Dominique’s Church and the 3-story Chapter House behind the church. Dating to the 13th century, the house served as the tithe barn for harvest produce requisitioned as taxes. The Chateau de Biron embraces six centuries of architecture through the apartments and renaissance Chapel.  At the foot of the Castle, the village has many elements of l’époque médiévale.

Dordogne Lot and Garonne

Pleasant cafes in the Bastide

I return to the comment about words and photos. In a gorgeous natural area so popular with campers for the enjoyment of lovely rivers and lush forests, this beautiful village springs like a gift from the past. The area south of the Dordogne and near the Lot and the Garonne Rivers, the area is often described as “the Tuscany of France”.

Tomorrow – an ideal place from which to explore the Dordogne.

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Pitfalls of Alpes Maritimes Driving

Alppes Maritimes

Quite the curves along La Route!

Well, it’s February in Florida, and we’re going from a high of 82 today to a low of 49 on Thursday. Such is the manic-depressive weather pattern in the South and many other places this year. Europe and, of course, France in particular have had record snowfalls.

The Riviera Times reported today that the Alpes Maritimes and the Var are suffering through many accidents and power outages caused by the weekend snowfall. Today, they expect more – snow, sleet, stormy weather – and hopefully zero traffic disasters. Toulon, Sophia-Antipolis and Antibes are affected and, according to the Times, “Ice in Tinée also means that drivers will have to take particular care on the roads, while la route de Napoleon in high Grasse is also affected.”

Personally, we cannot imagine driving the roads of that region in snowy or icy conditions. On the brightest, driest day one is challenged. Narrow roads wrap around stone ridges. Paved lanes suitable for one tiny Morris Minor, perhaps, thread their way above gorges; and the ‘guard rails’ are either absent or eight inches tall. Then there are the tunnels, again wide enough for petite cars…yet we pass buses on the la Route de Napoleon highway? Amazing.

France driving

My sketch of near disaster!

Which reminds me quite clearly of an adventure with my daughter. We, indeed, were driving along La Route, headed south. The road was eyes-wide-open narrow, when it veered slightly west. Just at that moment, in that turn, I reached for the windshield wash and wipers. Also just at that moment a large tourist bus showed itself coming directly towards us. I could not stop my hand. The wash and wipers came on. The sun was blinding. I could see virtually nothing for a split second.God is good. We lived through the moment, as sure proof that God takes care of ladies wandering about eastern France in a rental car!

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Sweet Dreams at La Bonne Étape

Provence France

Balcony views over the rolling countryside

I have a new mind ‘game’ for those nights, when sleep is a fighting proposition instead of an easy transition from wakefulness to sweet dreams. I’ve never been a sheep counter. Lately, though, I comb through my memories for beautiful views … from patios and courtyards to balconies and seaside overlooks. And instead of fretting about things left undone or chores for the morrow, I am lost somewhere in France … and then sleep settles in and feels welcome.

Perhaps that’s just one of many reasons I am taken with La Bonne Étape. One of their delightful descriptives – “Cosy corners for your sweet dreams” tells me they understand my search for beautiful sights and peaceful sleep.

The lovely 4-star Relais & Chateaux post house dates to the 17th century and has been carefully looked after by generations of the Gleize family. Jany Gleize is the current proprietor – Chef de Cuisine and Maître de Maison.

His personal touch permeates La Bonne Étape from the charming, lacy balconies and almond-green shutters to a kitchen that pours forth the Provencal recipes of his grandmother, Gabrielle. I always research places we visit and write about, and I was most impressed with what I found on TripAdvisor.

La Bonne Etape Provence

Two dining options

Each comment by a guest of La Bonne Étape was responded to – in detail – by Jany. That is the sign of one who pays attention, who cares enough to make things perfect for guests – though doubtless we all know there are some folks who cannot be satisfied!

Each room is uniquely situated and decorated to exude its own character and comforts. Some rooms overlook the organic garden; others offer a view of the pool or the rolling landscape of Chemin du Lac. More elaborate first-floor rooms offer inviting private terraces, and all accommodations include modern comforts – air conditioning, Wi-Fi, en-suite baths and satellite television. In all, La Bonne Étape offers 18 rooms and suites in a delightful boutique hotel atmosphere in the countryside of Provence.

Jany presides over two enticing restaurants, where le Chef produces exceptional regional classics from local herbs and produce and his own kitchen garden to enjoy in the more upscale La Bonne Étape or in the more simplified Au Goût du Jour.

Within easy reach, you can discover the sunlit wonders of Provence – the stunning Gorge du Verdon canyons and winding river, countryside biking or rounds of golf, a visit to the Citadelle de Sisteron. Take in the local markets or search out antique shops. Picnic by the gorge or horseback ride along the rolling landscape. No two days need be alike in this magnificent area of France.

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Michelin Star in Saint-Tropez

Petite dejeuner in Saint Tropez?

Petite dejeuner in Saint Tropez?

I suppose if they awarded ten Oscars for “Best Picture of the Year”, it would rather dilute the meaning. Either you’re the “best”, or you’re one of ten.

And so it is with the esteemed Michelin star system. If the etoiles were handed out like baubles in a Mardi Gras parade, few would pay attention. Only one French restaurant in Saint Tropez added a third Michelin star to the 2013 guide to top restaurants in France. Chef Arnaud Donckele of La Vague d’Or is now one of only 27 restaurants in France to join the elite three-star club; and at 35, he is the youngest chef to hold that rating.

I suppose if one has to ply one’s trade, one might as well select the French Riviera as the place to do it. Imagine a mix of golden sun, seaside panoramas, parasol pines and passionate cuisine. The restaurant is located in Saint Tropez’s Résidence de la Pinède, where the chef’s fine touch focuses on Mediterranean cuisine with the abundant use of local vegetables and fruits.

Saint Tropez

Seaside dining at Residence de la Pinede

Monseiur Donckele enjoys quite a pedigree in the world of chefs, having refined his culinary techniques under Alain Ducasse and Jean-Louis Nomicos, among others. I rather think we might have enjoyed his special romantic Valentine’s dinner of poire pochée au vin de Maury and Grenadin de veau (I’m not much of a fish eater, you see).

I love the description I read about the Michelin Red Guide star system: “…Three stars mean exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey; two are for excellent cooking, worth a detour; one denotes a very good restaurant in its category.”

Given that our kitchen and dining table would never be worthy of Michelin notice, I would award us two “Pirelli” stars for a combination of quite decent cooking – a pretty fabulous Cheese Soufflé and Quiche Lorraine, as well as delicieux vinaigrette! – and, as important, for a charmingly French table setting, excellent wine and stimulating conversation.

Bravo to Monsieur Donckele for his well-earned Michelin stars….and bravo to us for our newly-improvised 2 Pirelli stars.

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Misadventures in Châtel-Guyon

Auvergne France

Fountains and casino, Chatel-Guyon

I want to be delicate here.  Regular readers are well aware of my passion for France.  In article after article I applaud the people, scenery, history, culture and cuisine of France.  Yet, I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that we never made a misstep in our nomadic adventures through France.

In describing one such ‘off-track’ misadventure, I have no mean-spirited streak at work.  It’s just a good story.  After a rainy arrival and lunch in Riom in the Auvergne region, we headed for the Office of Tourism for two reasons:  to determine the closest laverie – laundromat – (we never quite nailed down that appropriate piece of vocabulary) – and to see if we might discover a weekly vacation rental, from which we could explore the region.

As always, the tourism staff was very helpful and even called ahead to Châtel-Guyon, a ville just up the road, and made an appointment for us to see a place later in the day.  After our domestic laundry chores, we headed up the Route de Riom to meet with the apartment owner.  With directions in hand, we drove slowly through the main street up the hill to an apartment building overlooking the town.

Not a bad location.  Perhaps a brisk walk to the ville.  The apartment was odd though – two rooms and a bath, as I recall.  A bedroom.  An all-in-one kitchen-dining-living room.  Odd.  A door led to a nice terrace with a pleasant view and virtually no furnishings/seating.  I think it was the “no linens” that sealed the deal.  We left to find lodging down along Main Street.

Chatel Guyon France

Casino magic moment!

It was getting late, and we happened to find the last room available at the Hôtel de Paris.  The name is the only thing the hotel had in common with the City of Light – a fairly typical two-star.  Our ‘last available’ room was spacious but overlooked a large, broken skylight that seemed to cover the kitchen.Our first “treat”, though, was the front desk lady who registered us.  She was perhaps in her early 50’s, pleasant and very accommodating with us.  So much so, in fact, we thought she deferred to us a ‘youngsters’.

We had not realized that the real attraction in Châtel Guyon – besides the Casino – were the thermal waters … l-o-a-d-e-d with minerals and good for rheumatoid complaints and general aging maladies.  Our pleasant hostess nearly added a wink, when she told us about the mineral waters.

“If you try the water,” she said, “they will give you about this much (she gestured about two inches with her thumb and index finger).  Only take a sip.  It tastes terrible!”

With this auspicious beginning, we set out to explore and quickly discovered that we were mere “teenagers” in a sea of seniors in search of wellbeing.  Those who weren’t drinking the ‘waters’ were drinking at local bars… or playing the slots at the Casino.

Still, we enjoyed ourselves, reasoning we could just as easily find ourselves in some retirement community in Florida, minus some really beautiful architecture!  And, for the first time in my life, I won a bit of a bundle playing a Poker machine in the Casino.  Perhaps not entirely understanding the French directions, I kept doubling down until my wide-eyed husband said, “CASH IN!!”  I did so promptly and over 100 Euros – all in 50’s – came tumbling out with an incessant roar – so embarrassing!

We took some of our winnings down the street to a very pleasant bar to celebrate with the locals.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

13 Reasons to Visit Paris

Le Tour Eiffel, Paris

Along the Champ de Mars in Paris

Why 13?  Why not?  It seems the de rigeur approach to articles these days, doesn’t it?  “Five Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store”.  “Transform Your Kitchen in Three Easy Steps”.  You get the point; and I promise you, with only the effort needed to transport my thoughts from head to paper, I can give you 13 very good reasons to visit one of the most appealing and beautiful cities in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. To wander along the Seine and see the barges, where real people live … complete with bicycles and barbecue grills
  2. To have a too expensive coffee at a sidewalk café, where the price reflects the spectacular view rather than the coffee
  3. To get a little lost (you can always get ‘unlost’ in Paris!), only to discover a wonderful little courtyard with latticework and geraniums that you’d never seen before
  4. To wander into an intriguing bookstore, where books are stacked like jewels in an overflowing treasure chest
  5. To sit on the steps under the puffy white domes of Sacre Cœur, you and so many other representatives of the ‘world at large’ looking over the magnificent rooftops of Paris
  6. To take your place in line at your chosen patisserie, intending only to buy your daily bread yet lured by all of those gorgeously decadent desserts
  7. To loll away an afternoon in and around the Tuileries, where one lady reads her book in the sun while another naps, her head at rest on the shoulder of her mate
  8. To amble along the packed dirt pathways of the Champ de Mars toward the Eiffel Tower, with children riding little donkeys, friends sharing wine and cheese and old men partaking in a very serious game of petanque
  9. To take in the rue Mouffetard market in the Latin Quartier, particularly on a Sunday morning, when locals gather for sing-alongs and dancing
  10.  To capture the last croissant of the early morning at your favorite café – Non!  No croissants for late sleepers!
  11. To drift with pleasure through the Maxim’s boutique in search of coffees, teas, chocolates and other treasured gifts to bring back home
  12. To visit the fabric district at the bottom of Montmartre, where store after store and floor after floor displays some of the most creative and intricate textiles in existence
  13. To discover a favorite spot – by the river bank, on a bench in the park, at a little Salon de The, near the Hotel de Ville – a spot that seems your own that you return to again and again, as if it has become your little territory in Paris

In a city so filled with history and culture, fashion and cuisine, monuments and marvels; it’s all too easy to think about the grand destinations from the River Seine to the Arc de Triomphe.  You undoubtedly will see almost all of the noteworthy ‘must-do’s’, but it is the energy and teeming life around those very esteemed sites that add a very welcome flavor of humanity to your sojourns.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Discover Yourself in Travel

Why travel is important

Paris laid back in September

Recently my son said the most incredible thing to me. After he said, “I love you mom,” I prodded him for three reasons he loved me.

His second reason – “… because you have such a passion for France. I wish I felt that passion for a place.”

I was pleased but floored, as he has teased me for years. Every time I mention France, he puts on a fake French accent and tosses out a comment like, “Oui. Oui. Zee Eiffel Tower ees mon favorite!”….or some such nonsense.

I think about my passion for France, the where and when it began to blossom, the reason it continued to grow. Beyond familial ‘history’ and the experience with the French culture of Quebec (yes, yes, I know it’s different!), I think travel … and France specifically … allowed me to emerge from some dark days of youth, from some significant losses, from career responsibilities and the never-ending challenge of raising children!

Travel allowed me to embrace a new world, entirely apart from all of that, a chance to escape the cage and fly. And that is one important reason to travel, to immerse yourself in another place that draws you into its charming circle and allows you to emerge.

Montmartre Paris France

Dinner with a view!

I had enjoyed three trips to France, when I met my future husband in the States. After many years as a widow, I was blessed beyond imagination. We honeymooned in Paris. We travelled for an entire summer in France. We continue to return to a place that has been such a treasure in our lives. I wrote the following at the end of that lovely summer:

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

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

Last night we climbed ‘the mountain’ (Montmartre) to have a simple dinner at a sidewalk café just at the base of Sacre Coeur. We enjoyed a delightful waitress with an appealingly mixed French-Italian accent, and Leo studied exactly how that young woman over there in that very short skirt could manage to, uh, remain modest?

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Homeward bound from CDG

When we walked to the steps of the cathedral, as always there was a crowd gathered, some living out their last night of Paris vacation but with more locals than in the summer. Some young men from the Middle East gathered with guitars and drums to ‘jam’ and resurrect their country’s music. The scene was friendly, almost familial, as people seemed to take advantage of enjoying this last warmth, before serious work and cold weather set in.

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

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

Unspoiled Retreat in the Pyrenees

Ariege France in the Pyrenees

Gallo Roman sites of Saint-Lizier

After the buzz and bustle of the city – whether Paris or Lyon, Marseille or Nice – consider a visit to one of France’s most unspoiled regions.  Imagine the majestic Pyrenees dissected by rushing rivers and overlaid with valley upon valley.  Next to Andorra, the Department of Ariège hugs the central Pyrenees, where every imaginable outdoor recreation is available – kayaking, cycling and hiking along parts of the ancient pilgrimage route across the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Now you can take in the extraordinary views enjoyed through the centuries by Gallo-Romans and bishops at the beautifully-renovated Domaine du Palais.  A virtual ‘sea of mountains’ is your backdrop for dining on the terrace, and the 3-star apartments combine comfort and hospitality with authentic preservation of the remarkable palais.

Ariege France

Terrace views over the Pyrenees

If you are drawn to magnificent Gallo-Roman sites, the citadel of Saint-Lizier is a fountainhead of monuments – the ramparts, the 11th-century cathedral with Romanesque paintings and the 14th-century gallery of the cloister.  One of the many treasures of the Bishops of Saint Lizier is the collection of gold and silverwork dating back to the Renaissance.  As one of the renowned stops along the pilgrimage route to Spain, Saint Lizier is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Prehistoric caves, Cathar chateaux and escape routes used during World War II bear out that Ariège has long been a place of refuge and resistance.  With the help of locals, over 33,000 French and 6,000 servicemen fled from the Germans along secret escape trails that brought them safely across the border.  Apparently Franco ‘turned his head’, as members of the French resistance and downed Allied airmen escaped to Spain.

Arieche France

Neighboring Saint-Girons

Beyond the spectacular natural setting and fascinating historic routes, the innate charm of the region is captivating – narrow lanes flanked by ancient stone walls, promenades along shaded river banks, picturesque streets and plenty of wide open green land.   Colorful local markets draw the mountain folk to area villages to sell their livestock and re-supply their pantries.

Is it any wonder that the Tour de France always makes annual treks through this astounding region?

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

“Alphabet Soup” – Villa Grecque Kérylos

Villa on Cote d'Azur, France

Villa Grecque Kérylos’ imposing library – © P. Louzon

With the Christmas season just a couple of weeks ago in my mind, I find it difficult to imagine that April is right around the corner. Yet, with weather in Florida hovering in the 80’s like a force threatening to wreak heat waves in the Spring and Summer, perhaps April isn’t so distant. Certainly, it’s not too early to plan a trip abroad, as “April in Paris” approaches.

I always think of Paris, at the least, as the bookends of any trip to France. Not only is the City of Light the natural entry point, but Paris is home to our good friends and our favorite city in France (my, oh my – aren’t we unique!)

If your itinerary includes a trip to the Côte d’Azur, you may want to include a sojourn to a special Exhibition at the Villa Grecque Kérylos on the Mediterranean. Entitled “The Birth of Writing on the Shores of the Mediterranean”, the exhibit carries you well beyond visions of Zola or Fitzgerald penning novels in the sun. No, the story of the birth of the alphabet reveals where the first writing systems were conceived.

That story unfolds by means of numerous educational panels and reproductions of inscribed items displayed in the library and the Gallery of Antiques. Among those reproductions is the Narmer Palette – the large ceremonial palette of King Narmer – now preserved in Cairo. Finally, a ten-minute slideshow takes you through the history of writing up to the birth of the Phoenician and Greek alphabets.

Villa Grecque Kerylos writing exposition

Narmer Palette

The Villa is one of the most spectacular sights along the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco. You can wander among gardens of olive and pine trees, oleanders and iris; and enjoy panoramic views of Cap Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur.

The Library itself is one of the most imposing rooms in the Villa with a gallery that occupies one and half floors. Created with every comfort and convenience in mind, the library faces east for maximum morning light and is furnished with oak pieces positioned around a mosaic of Prometheus and Hera and filled with authentic objects from daily life in Ancient Greece.

Cap Ferrat, France

Magnificent Villa on the sea – © C. Recoura

Don’t forget to plan a little side trip to Èze, our favorite seaside village. There is nothing quite like a glass of wine overlooking the sun-washed sea!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Bistro Near Palais Royale, Paris

near Palais Royale, Paris

Low-key charm, excellent food and wine!

Just north of one of Paris’ many spectacular sights – the Palais Royal – is a ‘typical’ little French restaurant with atypical food and service. Aux Bons Crus on rue des Petits Champs is in the center of a lively and interesting part of the 1st arrondissement. Correction: What part of Paris and the 1st is not interesting!

Around this corner and that, you discover the Palais gardens and Place Vendome, the Opera district and Galerie Vivienne and Passage.  And seemingly everywhere, wine bars, bistros and restaurants entice you to enter.

Therein lies yet another advantage to vacation rentals – the insider information of your landlord.  We enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Aux Bons Crus with ours, a charmingly sophisticated business woman, whose office was just around the corner from this inviting restaurant.

This bistro isn’t the sort of place, where a peek through the window would demand your attention.  With low-key décor, Aux Bons Crus is nonetheless a charming part of the 16th-century building in which it resides.  The wine carte, covering every region of France, is one attraction, filled with exceptional and ever-changing offerings; and plenty of wine buffs seem to be frequent customers.

We chose the ground floor bar area, where somehow the bustle of activity offered just the right ambiance for enjoying a wonderful platter of cheeses and charcuterie and different choices for the three of us – steak tartare, entrecôte and canard –  each prepared to perfection.

Paris France Bistros

An exceptional bistro – Aux Bons Crux in Paris

Once again, Paris wrapped us in simple warmth, tucked away as we were with our friend, with buoyant service and satisfying meal choices.  After dining, we had the whole of Paris to explore!  Parfait!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

An Invitation to Classic Good Taste

Normandy France

“My French Country Home” in Normandy

When you find a treasure that nurtures little moments in your days, you should share it with others.  So, we introduce a serene blog, one with classic taste and subtlety, one that shares passions for nature and … antiques!  Some of us wander through life without clear ideas about ‘what we really want’, much less develop plans for achieving our goals.

Take the time to read My French Country Home, and you will discover a family with the good fortune to have realized and nurtured their dreams from an appealing country home in Normandy.  The site includes many treats – pleasant anecdotes about life in the country, interesting Brocante Tours, lovely details about their verdant gardens and a profile of their charming rental cottage.

From the Vallée de l’Eure, they have lived their idyllic life, raised four children and immersed themselves in the activities they love.  And that humble satisfaction shines through their photos, their décor, their gardens and day-to-day blog posts.

On a more practical ‘it’s-all-about-me’ note, you have to love someone so enticed by brocantes!   Someone who understands how a simple brocante treasure can warm the corner of a room or enhance the taste of breakfast served on colorful antique pottery.

brocantes in France

Brocante tambourine painting

Don’t take our word for the ambience of My French Country Home.  See for yourself, and who knows?  You may well spend a week in their cottage in Normandy and discover the path to your own dreams.

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

Maison de Maitre – Calvados

Calvados property France

Maison de Maitre – Basse-Normandie

In the Calvados area of Basse-Normandie, layers of color spread through the land. Somber colors of D-Day landing beaches. Vivid colors of fields and apples and Bayeux tapestries. The cuisine tops off the dynamic features of the area; as Camembert and Pont L’eveque cheeses, cider, seafood and dairy foods fill pantries with delicious, natural choices. Add the soft hills and gorgeous sandy beaches, and you might just choose this place to live or vacation.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised, when I tell you I’ve found ‘just the place’! Bien sur! I was on another of my daydreaming journeys, when I came across the Maison de Maitre. The beautifully-renovated home and garden lies at the edge of a lively village; and, in fact, was once the home and offices of the local Notaire.

Today, custom-made marble graces kitchen and baths. Imagine your tiled entry leading the way to a grand, paneled sitting room. Shall we have a glass of wine in front of the marble fireplace?

Basse-Normandie France

Wonderful sunlit entry!

I see croissants and artisan jams in the south-facing breakfast room and, perhaps, a small dinner party in the formal dining room. Up the spiral staircase, is a nice little office – perfect for writing France Daily Photo posts. Actually, the maison features several choices for common living areas – all centrally heated.

A wide staircase leads to four spacious bedrooms on the first floor. I think we’ll make the main bathroom into an en-suite bath for the master bedroom, as there is also a WC and large shower, as well as a second bathroom with bath, basin and WC. I appreciate the vegetable garden and little orchard of fruit trees, as well as the grassy slopes than run down to a small stream.

You can see all of the details for yourself – Stephen Buss is the local agent, a ‘transplanted’ Brit, who loves Calvados!
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The village offers basic amenities, and the town of St Lô is just a 10-minute drive. For the weekend, we could pack up and head to ferries at Cherbourg or Ouistreham for a nice trip to England.

Nice to take a pleasant mental journey and, who knows? Your maison may be right around ‘the next daydream’!

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

Discovering Paris’ Restaurants

Paris France restaurants

La Grande Cascade, Paris

The best gift of the season awaits you – a brand new year to live, love, travel….and dine. France Daily Photo has enjoyed ‘chatting’ with you, sharing personal anecdotes and offering tips for travel throughout the year.

Now is the perfect opportunity to introduce an excellent website for Paris visitors in search of dining options. There are so MANY excellent choices of every atmosphere, price and cuisine; and Paris Best Restaurants provides an exceptional guide. Easy to use. Comprehensive. Reservations and ‘coupons’ available.

The team at Paris Best Restaurants includes food addicts, who aim to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the best restaurants in Paris.  They are independent, with no commercial relationship with the restaurants they list; and as important, they are well organized with listings by categories of cuisine and arrondissements. Categories run the gamut from Michelin-starred and Brunch options to Terrace & Garden and Exceptional Views.

Beyond helpful menus and prices, they include reviews that simply add more credibility to help you make your choice. Let’s look at a couple of listings.

Paris France restaurants, Montmartre

Chez la Mere Catherine, Place du Tertre

In the 16th arrondissement, La Grande Cascade is a rather fascinating choice in an ancient hunting lodge dating back to Napoléon III. Discreetly poised in Bois de Boulogne, the restaurant is especially nice on sunny days on the pleasant terrace. The gastronomic cuisine from chef Frédéric Robert includes a la carte offerings like Roasted Filet de Saint-Pierre with almond, summer truffles in ravioli, butter à la parisienne and far more. Definitely haute cuisine Française! 

One of Paris’ most historic – and famous – restaurants overlooks the Place du Tertre on Montmartre. Founded by Catherine Lemoine in 1793, Chez la Mère Catherine is warm and inviting with traditional and rustic antiques. The ever-evolving typical French cuisine includes Honey Confit of Suckling Pig, Ginger Grilled Frog’s Legs and Sea bream with Mango Coulis. Cabaret singers entertain every evening, while you enjoy your dinner in the romantic atmosphere of the Montmartre village.

Bonne Année et Bonne Santé!

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
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!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Pure Luxury – Pure French Gift

Le Vieux Castillon in Provence France

Le Vieux Castillon in Provence

Naturally, it would have to be an elite organization like Relais & Châteaux that would assemble a French gift of pure luxury.  Drawing on their many superior lodgings and gourmet restaurants, they present two very enticing “Gift Box” offers.  The “Duo Bronze Midweek Lys” for two includes 2 nights in a double room, 1 dinner for 2 (sans drinks) and 2 breakfasts for 2 to be enjoyed from Sunday to Thursday at one of their 197 global properties.

The Gift Box Duo Silver Lys provides the same range of amenities without restriction on days and with the inclusion of drinks with dinner for 1 evening.  Pricing is trop cher at 549 and 745 Euros, respectively.  Take a moment to look over just two of the spectacular properties, and you will readily understand the pricing for pure French luxury.

Step off a little side street at the peak of the Provencal village of Castillon-du-Gard into a world handsome Renaissance architecture and panoramic views.  Le Vieux Castillon hotel and restaurant blends sun-drenched cuisine, refined decor and unparalleled hospitality for that oh-so-ideal sojourn in Provence.

Le Bernard Loiseau in Burgundy Franche Comte

Poolside relaxation at Le Bernard Loiseau

And in the Burgundy region, it is Le Relais Bernard Loiseau that provides a spectacular welcome.  Tucked away in the village of Saulieu, the cuisine is a top attraction as is the historical breakfast room and the sumptuous lounges and guest rooms.

In every sense, your Relais and Château selection guarantees an experience that imprints luxurious memories for all the days to come. Other gift selections are available and are beautifully boxed and presented with a copy of the Relais and Château Guide.

We’d love to hear from you!

 

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

 

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!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Kayaking in Southwest France

Pont d’Arc along the Ardeche River

We love the great outdoors, and France offers an abundance of calm and vibrant outdoor explorations. While we are not avid trekkers or kayakers, we still enjoy leisurely walks along Alpine foothills or riverside picnics in the Loire. Biking through various areas is one thing we have yet to experience, but it’s on our list.

Recently, I heard from Jack Tobin, who with his French/American wife Martine launched KayakDordogne.com. Though they split their time between California and the Dordogne, Jack is an avid kayaker devoted to the lovely UNESCO region in which he lives and to the betterment of kayaking in the area. Both enjoy lifelong sports-related and marketing careers with Jack involved in the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and Australian tourism and Martine having participated in the first private sailing yacht ever to venture into Antarctic waters … with an entirely female crew! Is it any wonder that such dynamic personalities would offer exceptional insight into outdoor sports in their region?

Hearty paddle enthusiasts have diverse choices with five major rivers in the region – Dordogne, Vézère, Ardèche, LOT and Célé. KayakDordogne.com reflects this wondrous countryside, where mankind resided over 450,000 years ago, and where savvy outdoor lovers take in everything from prehistoric cave paintings at Pech-Merle to many of the Plus Beau Villages of southwest France.

Carennac in southwest France dates to Neolithic

Carennac dates to Neolithic times

Naturally we can’t let this moment pass without mentioning the Quercynoise cuisine of the area. As Jack points out, the area is ground zero for black truffles; where thin soil and porous limestone provide the perfect nutrients for the black jewels. Add local produce and rabbits, ducks and other regional specialties; and you will want to dine your way through the delightful countryside!

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

Villefranche-sur-mer Seaside Lunch

L'Oursin Bleu, Villefranche sur mer, Mediterranean

Lunch at L’Oursin Bleu by the sea

Time to return to one of our favorite pastimes – finding that ideal spot for lunch, and what better place to start than in the scenic harbor of Villefranche-sur-mer. Today the weather is a mild 65 degrees, a pleasant time before winter sets in to look over the Mediterranean and enjoy an indulgent déjeuner. Just the thought of this scene reminds me of lunching with my daughter in Bandol, when the warm sun and a cool glass of wine delivered such a delicious mellow experience.

Just to the East of Nice, Villefranche overlooks a harbor dotted now and then with sleek Riviera yachts – not a bad sight, when you stop for a delicious lunch at l’Oursin Bleu along the Quai de l’Amiral Courbet. While the interior is serenely elegant, we cannot resist a waterfront table.

The Parisian-born chef and his partner transformed this delightful restaurant from a traditional brasserie to an excellent fine dining restaurant. Naturally, seafood plays a starring role in the menu – savory Bouillabaisse, poached prawns and sea bass – quite the selection for lovers of poissons. But even for a beef and vegetable lover; veal, beef rossini and lamb dishes stimulate the palate.

Villefranche sur mer

Quiet lunch by the sea

Combine the remarkable view with attentive service and crown your meal with coconut lime souffle, perhaps, and do not forget an excellent glass of chilled white wine, one of many that the representative wine menu offers. Parfait! Now, it’s time to stroll along the harbor.

And by the way, we have just hit a milestone – 500 posts on France Daily Photo! Thanks to all of you for your interest, support and oh-so-pleasant comments!

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

Why Travel to France? Or Abroad?

Alain Vagh hospitable tour of ceramics factory and private dwelling

An hospitable tour of a Salernes’ artist home

Indeed, why travel to France or anywhere abroad?   While France is our overriding favorite destination;  we encourage travel outside of the United States, because Americans tend to be so insular, so uninvolved and unevolved in their view of the world.  The media is somewhat responsible in focusing primarily on our “own back yard”,  but that tendency perhaps reflects the very audience to whom they hope to appeal.

Through the years, I have met many young travelers from England, Australia, France and beyond.  I was wide-eyed at their independence and sense of adventure.  Generally, it was de rigueur for Europeans to have a passport in their back pocket and, often, an airline ticket in hand.Before the EU was formed, passports were a necessity; nonetheless, these folks had a far broader view of the world than those of us in America.  Back in 1989, only 7 million Americans – 3 percent – held passports.  Changes in travel requirements to Canada, Mexico and the Islands resulted in quite a surge in the number of Americans with passports.  As of January 2012, over one-third of Americans – 110 million – have passports.

But will those millions choose to travel outside of their own comfort zone?  Outside of their own culture, language and cuisine?  Just as one encourages a youngster to respect and pay heed to their elders, we encourage Americans to travel to France and elsewhere to notice and embrace our differences.  Rather than delve into intellectual pursuits of the history and culture of France, I’ll travel a more personal route in touting the advantages of travel.

Gallo Roman ruins throughout France

Old Roman fountain in Tourtour

How about a stream-of-consciousness list of attractions – the exciting throb of cities with modern transit systems, astounding museums,  sprawling parks that serve as the “back yards” to populations often living in multifamily buildings, centuries-old monuments and architecture, the very grounds on which liberty was defeated, defended and upheld.

Then there are the smaller towns, villages and hamlets, where kindly plot gardeners pause to offer greetings, and brocantes display ancestral belongings.  Where castles loom in the midst of forested reserves.  Where learning to negotiate roundabouts could become a month-long driving lesson. We have shared champagne in the streets of Paris on New Year’s Eve, and we have spent lazy afternoons on the lawn before the Eiffel Tower with wine and cheese and no policeman telling us we have broken the law. 

We have chatted in our far-less-than fluent French with neighboring diners in bistros, only to astound them as Americans who love France.  We have gazed with absolute wonder on Gallo-Roman ‘ruins’ – like Pont du Gard aqueduct near Nimes and ancient Roman fountains in Tourtour.  We have enjoyed a hospitable tour of a renowned Salernes artist’s home, and we have relished market shopping along rue Mouffetard in Paris.

Mouffetard marketplace Paris - French cheese, wine, flowers, vegetables

Lively rue Mouffetard in Paris

We are so delighted to have had the opportunity and exercised our choice to travel throughout France.  Looking at a photo of the Eiffel Tower simply doesn’t come close to the heart-pounding experience of seeing the Iron Lady in person.  And sharing sights, sounds, tastes and customs brings a genuine, reciprocal pleasure.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

New Stars at Relais & Châteaux

Hotel La Villa Corsica

Beautiful poolside views in Calvi, Corsica

Each year the prominent Relais & Châteaux group honors gourmet chefs as “rising stars” and luxury hotels that have joined the group.  Today the spotlight is on a dreamy Corsican resort on the port of Calvi.

The five-star Hotel La Villa is poised between the mountains and the Mediterranean with spectacular views of the sea.  The Villa’s Chef – Sébastien Sevellec – earned the prestigious “Rising Chef” award for his “…hymns to Corsica that this son of a fisherman has created, having worked at this property for 12 years now …”

The Villa’s extraordinary pleasures begin with stunning views of the bay, easily enjoyed by taking in one of the Chef’s savory menus at La Terrasse or one the other restaurant offerings at the resort.  Imagine a seaside lunch of poisson freshly caught in the bay of Calvi!

Hotel La Villa Calvi Corsica Relais & Chateaux

Chef Sevellec’s menu by the sea

Established over fifty years ago, Relaix & Châteaux sets the standard for excellent hospitality in over 500 associated luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants throughout the world.  I particularly appreciate their emphasis on the genuine hospitality and uniquely authentic regional cultures and tastes their properties represent.

Whether you fancy an intimate Villa experience in Italy or an elegant Château in France, you will discover a world of pleasure for that very special holiday you plan.  We carry their directory with us when travelling, so we can discover unique restaurants or lodging, we would not otherwise have located … like Bernard Robin – Le Relais in the quaint village of Bracieux.

Wishing you a delightful Relais holiday or memorable gourmet meal!

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Sunday Golf Along the French Coast

 

Mandelieu La Napoule near Tropez France

Mandelieu La Napoule near Tropez

Finally, we are blessed with cool, refreshing moments in Florida. After sweltering weather and plenty of rain; the skies are virtually cloudless, and the morning temperature hovers just below 70 degrees F. What better conditions for musing about where we might choose to go in France?

The Golf Club de Beauvallon comes immediately to mind – a remarkable course near Sainte-Maxime and Tropez; where the Mediterranean and the massifs meet in agreeable accord. A relaxing round of golf would satisfy our needs for welcome diversions and beautiful landscapes overlooking the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

I’m sure you noticed our ‘up and down’ postings over the past couple of weeks. First, we were traveling and dropped our focused dedication a bit. Second, my computer became “ill” and finally was declared “dead”.

The latter occurred only after hours of security scanning and talking to any number of technos at a call center obviously far-far-away. I know we have all experienced similar frustrations with our computers, but that sense of community offers little comfort in the face of stalled technology.

C’est la vie. That’s precisely why a lovely round of golf and views of the Mediterranean would soothe my spirit. Wishing you a peaceful Sunday and a restful day, before the big vote on Tuesday!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Revolutionary Trip to Versailles

Versailles RER train from Paris France

RER C line from Paris to Versailles

I’m sure we all share the disturbing tendency to be walking or driving to a particular destination without being fully “in the moment”.  We suddenly realize we’ve passed our turn or are surprised to find ourselves arriving at our target, without remembering each step of the route.

Imagine, then, stepping on the RER in Paris only to find yourself in the palatial lap of luxury.  The train?  Elegance and art?  Yes, that’s exactly what you will discover on the RER C line to Versailles.  Your intention might have been a simple, pragmatic transit from “here to there”; but this train transports you in such style, you will be altogether removed from the bustle of the city to the serene grandeur of the Palace of Versailles   Wouldn’t you know that Paris could so completely transform an otherwise mundane trip?

During your 20-kilometre journey, you can enjoy beautifully-designed ceilings, a mock library and several memorable recreations of Marie-Antoinette’s royal chateau.  With precise attention to detail, the Palace of Versailles funded the makeover, in which interior train walls were layered with high-tech plastic film.

I’d say it’s an extremely clever marketing ploy that is sure to inspire more trips to the former home of King Louis XIV.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Late But Bright Bordeaux Harvest

The Milhards harvest at Chateaux Vieux Mougnac

The Milhards harvest at Chateaux Vieux Mougnac in the Bordeaux region

It’s one thing to have reports of cantaloupe and corn shortages.  It’s quite another, when vintner’s predict reduced wine production!  Not to be overly clever, that’s surely a time to be concerned!  Well, the report’s are in, and the news is good.

In the Bordeaux region, the harvest began later than usual – around the beginning of October.  Wet weather mid month rushed harvesting a bit, with more pickers needed to reap the harvest.  On the positive side the yields are not at the predicted lows but resemble the yields of last year.

Merlot grapes are healthy with intense dark aromatic fruits of blackberry and black currant.  Cold nights during the late harvest have produced balanced acidity.  In short, the ripening stages have been thrown off some by the onset of rains, so skins and pips removal require an especially gentle extraction.

No, I’m not a wine expert, but we do have friends who have produced exceptional wines in the Bordeaux region for five generations.  If special attention is needed at any point in the growing, harvesting or production process; the Milhard family of Château Vieux Mougnac knows how to respond.  Every step is monitored.  Their production is organic certified and environmentally friendly, with careful attention to picking at the right time and using their old horizontal press machine and maceration vats to yield the best wine.  They simply call themselves “Nature’s Assistant”, because their savoir faire allows the grapes to grow under the best conditions to yield rare and original wines.

Vieux Mougnac grape harvest, Bordeaux France

A healthy Bordeaux harvest

A few years back, we had the pleasure of joining Sylvie Milhard for a private tasting.  She was as warm as the July day of our visit.  We sampled her delicate white wines and enjoyed the bread and cheese she fetched; as “they add so much to this rouge.”

After all of their hard work this harvest season (and perhaps with the picking of the Cabernet still to be done), we rather like thinking of our friends by the lime tree in the courtyard, raising a glass to their friends in America.

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Masterful Light Show in Provence

Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence France

Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence – © g. iannuzzi, m. siccardi

It certainly can’t hurt to remind those planning trips to France before January 6 to include a visit to The Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence.  Until that date, the attraction is presenting a spectacular show appropriate for children and adults.

“Appropriate”, though, is all too uninspired to describe a magical multimedia presentation of the works of Van Gogh and Gauguin.  Images of their paintings are projected onto expansive walls, as high as 14 meters

It is a completely other-worldly experience to stroll through the maze of stone rooms and majestic painting images against the backdrop of classical and popular music.  Even the ground beneath your feet becomes a flowing carpet of images.  Can you imagine Van Gogh’s cherry tree flowers with Rachmaninov in the background?

I love what the show creator, Gianfranco Iannuzzi, said about his masterpiece of work:  “When I see couples dancing and their children playing with the images on the floor, I know we made the right choice.”

Metamorphoses – © g. iannuzzi, g. siccardi

A second, shorter show invites visitors through a world of creation, of science, of natural elements and matter.  The stunning imagery of “Metamorphoses: from the infinitely tiny to the infinitely large” spans vibrating flower pistils, dazzling colors and the glowing lava of volcanoes.  It is nothing less than a living classroom for all ages!

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Find Ideal Hotels in France!

Le Mazet dining atmosphere - magnifique!

Le Mazet dining atmosphere – magnifique!

I have long been a fan of the Relais & Chateaux collection of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants, but I discovered another excellent resource for outstanding hotels. The variety of themes, locations and pricing options help to ease your selection process.

Actually, an article on France 24 pointed my way toward a new coffee table-style guidebook – CHC Signatures – that profiles 81 privately-owned properties that make up the Chateaux & Hotels Collection owned by the Alain Ducasse Group. Naturally the book simply whets your appetite for several themes of lodging, from culinary and ‘well-being’ to nature and urban. And in an interesting twist, each category in the book is ‘introduced’ by highly-successful business women who share their travel visions and advice.

Alain Ducasse describes the unique collection as embodying the distinct signatures of “…‘the ‘artisans-hôteliers’ that brought them to life.” The elegant book will be sold at each of the 81 featured establishments or on the website – Chateauxhotels.com.

Chateau du Martinet, near Avignon France, Provence

Elegant Chateau du Martinet near Avignon

Beyond the newly-published book, the website offers an excellent variety of lodging in the collection – from 3-star comfort to private residence-style grandeur. I think you will find their offerings diverse enough to fit all interests and holiday budgets. A couple of listings underscore the attraction and diversity of accommodations.

Set within easy reach of a charming chain of Provence villages, Les Mazets des Roches hotel combines attractive and appealing decors with a lovely garden and poolside setting. The restaurant overlooks century-old pines and soothing garden sights. Rates run from an ever-so-reasonable 69-Euro rate, and half board rates also are available. The hotel has an extended closure from mid-October to early April.

Further up the pecking order and pricing ladder is the refined CHÂTEAU DU MARTINET, former home to the Marquises of Isnards. The entire property offers the feel of a private manor house, where you discover a perfect mix of classic architecture, modern amenities and genuine comfort.

While plenty of on-site amenities entertain – swimming, tennis, bowling and botanical fitness trails, guests are within easy reach of Avignon, Mont Ventoux and Luberon. Imagine curling up in the library for a good reading session, or enjoying a long and lazy meal in the historic dining room with soaring, sculpted ceilings. Rates begin at 190 Euros for the expansive 18-th-century chateau experience and warm hospitality. The hotel’s limited closure extends from January 1 through March 31.

The Ducasse collection will be high on our list of resources for planning the next French ‘getaway’!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Find an Apartment in Paris

Montmartre apartment in Paris

Comfort, exquisite curtains, light – our apartment in Paris

We arrived in Paris with the intent of staying a week, then taking ‘flight’ to discover the country. Change of plans. We couldn’t bear to spend so little time with our friends. We wanted more, more, more of our City of Light.

We were ‘covered’ for that first week with stays in 3 different apartments of friends, and that gave us some insight about our preferences. The first and second apartments were in nicely secluded little passageways. BUT. One was relatively spacious with nice windows but poorly equipped. The next was quite small, though well equipped. The hunt was on.

Through local ads, we connected with a couple of potential apartments to rent on a monthly basis. Though our preference was the Latin Quarter, we were open to other locations. We nixed one well-located apartment, because there was an unusual set-up with a part-time renter occasionally sharing common quarters. Not our cup of tea.

We went to see another apartment in the 10th arrondissement under somewhat unusual circumstances. We received a call at 11:00 p.m. from the lady renting the apartment. Could we come to see the apartment now? Well, why not, as long as we could make the Metro to and from the location. So off we went into the night to meet a stranger and see the apartment.

We entered a door into an interesting, windowless, seemingly subterranean area. From there, we entered the apartment. The space was open enough. The furniture seemed comfortable, and the equipment sufficient; but the sleeping area was a visible, rounded cave-like alcove reached by a ladder. One window looked out at ground level on the street. We simply didn’t like the overall feeling, a kind of dark retreat in our “City of Light”.

Parisian charm in Montmartre

Bienvenue Paris entry!

It was then we realized that, while we didn’t have a formal list of preferences; we had instinctive desires – for light, comfort, cleanliness, relative quiet and, of course – safety. We were not ‘spoiled Americans’ in search of some kind of duplicate to the space and convenience we enjoy at home.

Our friend accompanied us to look at another apartment in the garment district. Like me in many ways, she embraces the overall charm of a place, while dismissing negatives. The apartment was crisply white and entirely charming with nice windows, but we could not get past the labyrinth of hallways past workroom doorways, up darkened stairways to reach the apartment.

Finally, we received a personal recommendation from a friend for a place in Montmartre – not our favorite location, but let’s take a look. The apartment was as charming as the owner (who lived in the same building) – an executive headhunter for the cosmetics industry in Paris. She had entirely converted the first floor apartment and blended genuine convenience with salon-style charm. A high-ceiling entry included a large, bright window, fireplace flanked by tall bookcases and cabinets and a grand mirror. The Pullman-style kitchen included every possible appliance and assortment of dishes. The sitting area was stylish and even included a piano – a nice touch, though we don’t play.

We then became Montmartre residents for a month, then for another week after our return to Paris. “Seek and ye shall find.” More about hints for discovering your perfect vacation rental next week!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Le French Adore the Burger!

“The Smoking Truck” – Paris’ first food truck

A few days ago I wrote about American cravings in France – particularly the undeniable urge for a juicy hamburger!  Now, I may be the only person in the world who would write about hamburgers, while suffering from a liquid diet prior to a medical procedure.  Go figure!I wouldn’t kill for a burger right now, but I might consider tackling and pummeling to achieve that end.

Since the illustrious Forbes magazine elevated the hamburger to worldwide attention in a recent article, I simply am forced to suffer through sharing it with you.  The headline read, “Mais Oui, Le French Love the Burger”.

The ‘blasphemous’ news was released by the research group NPD.  According to their study, the French fall second only to Brits in the yearly average of hamburgers consumed per person.  The score?  U.K. 17, France 14.  Germans rank 3rd and Spaniards 4th.  I am rather horrified to report that The Economist pegs Americans yearly average per person at 150!

According to noteworthy researchers, Le Burger has managed to surpass the fast-food status to which it had been relegated by the French.  Tried and true travelers in France are well aware that brasseries, traditional French eateries and even Michelin-starred restaurants have graced their menu offerings with hamburgers.  Famous French chefs have not been shy in developing very creative burger concoctions.

American-style burger at camion qui fume in Paris

Thick and juicy, American style!

Leave it to Le Figaro to conduct its own review of Parisian “gastro” burgers.  Among other establishments cited,  “Le Camion Qui Fume” (The Smoking Truck) is the brainchild of a California native…and chef… who introduced the hip American-style food truck with an assortment of enthusiasticall- received burgers.  No doubt the brioche-style bun, aged cheeses and champignons sauvages entice even the most rebellious ‘finger food’ enemies.And that has always been part of the stigma attached to pick-‘em-up-and-eat-‘em burgers.  Traditional French decorum of the past shunned  “finger foods”, opting instead for the highly civilized use of cutlery and the dreamily slow dining experience.  But, alas!  Even Francoise Hollande admits to a fondness (or addiction?) to hamburgers.  Indeed, Americans no longer claim the exclusive royal pedigree for the burger.

Though tastes and culinary superiority changes, there is one thing of which you can be certain.  Tomorrow at approximately 2:00 p.m., I will sit down to relish a lovely thick burger.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême

Lithograph of 2004 poster for circuits des ramparts in angouleme france

2004 Circuits des Ramparts Poster

In less than a week the Charente area of western France will be transformed, invaded as it were, by deeply passionate auto enthusiasts who will gather for the 2012 “Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême”.  Carefully pampered, antique luxury cars will be buffed to perfection for display in the classic auto exhibitions, and the gala Concours D’Elegance on Friday evening will find drivers and passengers in flawless ‘costumes’ to evoke eras of the past.  And all of that takes place before Saturday’s premiere race – the Rallye International de Charente – from Chais Magelis to Champ de Mars, Esplanade in Angoulême.

If you were wise enough to plan well ahead, you might enjoy the weekend of events as a guest at La Ferme de l’Église, a lovely 17th-century Charentaise farmhouse in the heart of Vanzay.   I believe we would choose their traditional “La Petite Maison” overlooking grassy courtyards and private gardens and some leisurely moments by the pool, just within sight of the old village church.

A visit to the historic town of Cognac also is a must, where elegant Renaissance buildings and cobbled streets mix with the heavy scent of fabled spirits referred to as the “angel’s share”.  How about a tour and delectable tasting of cognac of Courvoisier or Rémy-Martin?

La Ferme de L'Eglise Charentes France

La Ferme de L’Eglise, Vanzay

Your affable hosts will help to guide your selection of rural cycling and picnic outings (by the lake at Saint-Macoux?), as well as historic forays and dining in Poitiers.  Without a doubt, they will encourage your indulgence in a little known local aperitif – Pineau des Charentes, and offer homemade preserves and local market specialties. 

Perhaps, you will rent one of John’s antique cars to join in the Circuit des Remparts festivities! 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

French Cuisine, American Cravings

Paris flea market kettle of savory carrot soup

Delicious kettle of steaming carrot soup, Paris

We take such pleasure in French cuisine – not all parts, mind you, but the savory dishes we find everywhere. We are particularly fond of tartiflettes and souffles, potatoes gratinee, soups and patisserie offerings. My husband is more adventurous and palate tolerant than I am, so he’ll try blood sausage and many ‘poisson’ dishes … except moules (mussels).

In France we seem to begin and end our days with food in mind, as we discuss dinner options over lunch! To be perfectly honest, though, ‘creeping cravings’ begin to gnaw at us after a week or so. The thought of a hearty burger or a simple American breakfast – call it a touch of homesickness or a minor rebellion of l’estomac – starts a whisper in the mind. Once we slipped into a McDonald’s for a ‘fix’, perhaps shameful, but you can give us a few points because it was in Galeries Lafayette. Another time, we dined at Breakfast in Americain Paris. It’s quite popular and seemed more than acceptable to dine in this American “cusine port” in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

Breakfast in America, Paris Latin Quarter

Latin Quarter, Paris

That leads us to food gaps Americans crave during travel abroad. Traditional ‘square’ sandwiches jump to mind, as do peanut butter and corn. Peanut butter? Those of us who have grown up with our fair share of peanut butter understand the occasional need for this ‘comfort food’, but the French view this staple as gooey and fattening.

The short supply of certain Anglais groceries has given rise to several épiceries in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and even in the gastronomic capital of Lyon!While their intent is quite purposeful – to supply English and American expats and visitors with familiar foods – reviewing their ‘menu’ of offerings raises the eyebrow a bit. I mean – you are in France, and you want Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? Alas, that is the state of the homesick tummy sometimes, when “Plain Jane” wins over savory French meals.

Let’s take a look at a couple of establishments. One bills itself as American Grocery and British Grocery. Grant you, there are some similarities, but vinegar is not necessarily a common meeting ground. Their grocery list includes Devon cream, hot sauces and barbeque sauce, beef jerky (Really? ), kool aid, chocolate bars, and Concord grape jam. Hmmm. A Parisian wandering into such an establishment must have serious misgivings about American/Brit tastes.

epicerie anglais ou epicerie americaine

British-American Epicerie

Best sellers at My American Market include Marshmallow Fluff, French’s Mustard, Coca-Cola and – get this – General Mills Lucky Charms at a whopping 9.99 Euros for 16 ounces. One has to wonder how far American parents will go to feed bad habits! Even the aforementioned Mac and Cheese is pricey in France at 2.99 euros for 7.3 ounces.In all fairness, there are some staples that make the American cook feel at home, whether creating a traditional Thanksgiving meal or a simple pancake breakfast. Crisco, baking powers, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin and maple syrup satisfy the urge for some cooking that ‘feels like home’.

I admit to acting as if I have superior tastes in profiling these lists – simply clever banter, I suppose. But when we have spent prolonged periods in France, there have been moments when I would have lunged at a nice B-L-T (bacon, lettuce & tomato) …. on toast, with mayonnaise, please.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Discovering All Things French!

Elegant Carlton Hotel along La Croisette, Cannes

Dreamscape Carlton Hotel stays in Cannes

Some readers ask me how I choose subjects to cover – “How do you determine what to write?”   Honestly, it is somewhat of a mystery even to me!  I may be deeply into learning about a World War II vignette in France, only to discover one tidbit of information about a person or place and off I go.

There is a flip side to the joy of discovery, though – should I perhaps be on some kind of medication?   Topics currently swilling in my mind run the gamut from “Passports” and “Three Days in Paris” to “A week in ‘x’” and “Auffay” France.  Avid followers know I have wandered through memories, feelings, interests and personal curiosities.

I’ve enjoyed imagining my grandparents’ seven year residence in Paris – with great envy!  I have fed my sister-in-law’s attraction to Gallo-Roman ruins, and savored the Île de Ré experiences of our French friends.

favorite little bisque poupee dolls from Paris France

My favorite “Gertrude” Poupee doll from Paris

Readers have suggested favorite restaurants and resorts.  And I have tapped my profound love of artisans and their creations – from delightful Poupée dolls and sumptuous French fabrics to quaint clay Santons and trés chic bijoux!   Speaking of fabrics, I really feel as if my entire embrace of and experience with France has transformed me – or my personae – from perfectly nice linen to an astoundingly rich jacquard.   Merci to France and the French for our rich engagement!

And did I mention food and wine?  Mon Dieu!  To think of France without closing your eyes and imagining the aroma of a bubbling tartiflette or the crisp, cool taste of a Provençal Rose is unforgiveable as well as unimaginable.

Another favorite is journeying into what I might call “dreamscapes” – unique places we’ve never been but hope to experience – a lovely Auberge on the Mediterranean coast, a luxury vacation villa tucked in the hills, a little river village just large enough to satisfy our desire for farm-fresh meals and native wines.

Since France Daily Photo is about all of us, we invite you to share your favorites, to make suggestions and requests about accommodations or products, to tell us about your own unique moments.  Simply ‘like’ us (top left of post) and add your comments, ‘share’ with comments (below the post) or drop us a note at swsheridan@francedailyphoto.  We would love to hear from you!

A Dream House in Normandy

The Old Gallery estate in Normandy

The Old Gallery – Beauval en Caux, Normandy

Several years ago, my friend in Paris mused about our buying a big old home somewhere in a French village. We both were single at the time and imagined spending our ‘twilight days’ with other friends enjoying one another’s company and being on hand, when support was needed.

While we now are each happily married, I still think of her idea, imagining even today our doing the same thing as couples – sharing market shopping, tending to household chores, tipping the wine glasses at sunset.

And that brings me to the point, in a roundabout sort of manner. I came across a rather magnificent home for sale in Normandy – “The Old Gallery”. Seems that an English fellow – an artist – purchased the six-bedroom ‘manor’ about 10 years ago. Over the years local craftsmen and tradesmen helped transform the heating and insulation, the kitchen and baths. The Old Gallery has hosted many vacationing Brits and corporate groups, who have relished the location, comfort and quiet of the Normandy countryside.

While the property is only a 20-minute drive from Dieppe on the Channel, it is located in the heritage hamlet of Beauval en Caux and within 5 minutes of Bacqueville en Caux and Auffay. Five minutes? It takes us that long to start the car and leave our property, so it would be no imposition to enjoy the short ride to the patisserie and charcuterie!

Beauval en Caux Normandy house for sale

Hearthside dining at The Old Gallery

Petite communes share their own unique history and charm. In 1965 the Beaunay and Sainte-Genevieve-en-Caux hamlets merged into one commune with two village churches. The church near The Old Gallery dates to the 12th century and proudly boasts an onion-shaped dome and elaborate slate work.

Who knows? If my friend’s vision had come to pass, The Old Gallery might have been our chosen retreat. Or maybe it will be yours? It certainly seems to be the ideal blend of country living, village convenience and easy access to coastal resorts.



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We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Labor Day Retreat in Provence

Jacques Chibois country manor grasse france

La Bastide Saint-Antoine in Provence

In the spirit of the political convention ‘season’ in the United States, allow me to ask you a few questions. I fully expect you to answer with the fervor of an impassioned delegate in search and support of Truth!!!!

When you settle in for a night of sweet dreams, do you take your wallet to bed with you? No-o-o-o!!

Should your holidays be limited to 2-star “Sleep Inns” without the hope of enjoying the refined quarters frequented by ‘world leaders’? No-o-o-o!!

Shouldn’t you have the same sense of entitlement as your representatives? Ye-s-s-s-s!!!

Alright. All that vibrant political rabble-rousing aside, it’s time to reward yourself to 5-star luxury in the South of France. Fluff your pillow, set your wallet aside and prepare for a dream holiday.

Wind your way from the heart of Grasse up Avenue Henri Dunant, lined with grey stone walls and canopies of parasol pines, to La Bastide Saint-Antoine. Set in the midst of lush Mediterranean vegetation, 18th-century La Bastide welcomes you to a comfortable retreat overlooking the Bay of Cannes. Naturally you can’t go wrong with a premiere Relais et Châteaux property, particularly with the ideal blend of the spirit of Provence with refined hospitality.

Settle in to a room with antique furnishings, plush linens and your own fireplace; but expect every contemporary amenity you may desire. “Bio Tea” in my room? I wouldn’t otherwise consider this choice!

In all seriousness, I can’t imagine a more satisfying combination of tranquility and stimulation – the quiet hills and ancient olive trees, Provençal villages and sun swept Mediterranean beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Take in Antibes and Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. Discover perfumeries in Grasse and glass-making in Biot. And see if you can’t arrange a round of golf at the historic Golf Country Club de Cannes-Mougins, founded in 1923 by the likes of Aga Khan, Prince Pierre of Monaco and Baron Edouard de Rothschild. Remember – it’s Labor Day weekend, and you are entitled!

Dining in Provence near Grasse France

Pleasant dining, gorgeous views

In between your delightful journeys through the area, return to your country manor for gourmet meals on the terrace looking out on 1,000-year-old olive trees and the perfumed air of Provence or cozy up to the lounge fireplace for an after-dinner drink. I believe we also would challenge fellow guests to a rousing game of petanque on the boules court near the kitchen garden.

Whether you celebrate the ‘labor’ of your life along the Atlantic Ocean or the French Riviera, discard your work woes and political concerns. This is your weekend to enjoy a well-deserved escape from daily occupational hassles and, perhaps, to remember the many achievements of everyday workers throughout the world.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

FIVE TIPS FOR FRANCE TRAVEL PLANNING

Chateau Eza - Eze France

An elegant Château by the Mediterranean?

We are by no means travel gurus, but we hope to take the “I Could Scream!” out of planning travel to France. Beyond personal insights and vignettes about cities and villages, cuisine and culture; we profile specific areas, inns and elegant hotels. We shine the light on insider treasures and outdoor escapes.If you are a birdwatcher or spelunker, a surfing enthusiast or an archeologist in search of relics; we assume you have very specific interests better discovered on sites catering to the niches you worship. We embrace broader experiences.

We discover beautiful villages and seaside retreats, lively festivals and serious artisans – a potpourri perhaps of general interests for those who want to be ‘touched’ by France. Now and then, we slip in a dream-like luxury escape, not necessarily for the aloof bejeweled patron, but for adventurous travelers in search of ‘one in a lifetime’ experiences.

If you have a unique interest, question or desired destination – or if you want to share suggestions and experiences,  contact us – swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com.  We would be delighted to help you avoid endless searches and annoying pop-ups or provide other readers with your insights!

Planning the trip of your dreams requires that you ask yourself some key questions –

1. Location – Rural, as in lovely under the stars and drive 30 km to reach anything, or rural as in grand manor with everything at your fingertips? Office of Tourism sites usually provide plenty of information to help you narrow your choice.

2. Type of accommodation – “I like quaint.” Is that quaint, as in comfy 2-star with bright blue shutters, or quaint as in elegant château with personable touches?

3. Privacy or social? – Small as in 2-room, almost a member of the family, or small as in 20 rooms with your own space but the freedom to mix with international visitors?

4. Things to do – Culture, as in a museum and rampart on every other corner, or culture as in a mix of museums, historic architecture, lively local markets and resident artisans?

5. Can’t live withouts – Bathtub? Wi-Fi? Multiple restaurant choices? On site dining? Figure out your ‘musts’, so you are not disappointed.

Montilieu la Gardes Frnce

An inviting gîte near Bordeaux?

Whether I research a favorite, decidedly upscale resource like Relais & Château , an ‘in-home’ gite selection or a vacation rental; I realize I have a ‘built-in’ sifter of sorts. That ultra clean and Wi-Fi connected hotel looks like a Comfort Inn in Louisiana. Are we ready to take on that little gîte or chambre d’hôte in Bonnieux with 3 guest rooms? Do we really want ultra-frills luxury in Saint-Tropez or would we enjoy overlooking the Mediterranean from our self-catered vacation rental? Understanding what you want and need from a holiday trip to France will make your journey more rewarding.

Finally, whether you are ‘on the mark’ – or off – with your choices – whether sun or rain greets you – whether your favorite Salon de Thé is closed – embrace the experience. You are in France, after all!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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



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Battling the Heat in France

The French head to the beach in 2003 heat wave

2003 saw crowded beaches during the scorching heat wave

Temperatures across the United States have soared this summer, leaving all but those privileged to enjoy home air conditioning scurrying to local movie theatres, open fire hydrants or anywhere else to escape the scorching wrath of heat. This month, the heat moved eastward to Europe. France recorded 38.2°C (100.8°F) at the Orly Airport in Paris – the hottest day in the City of Light, since the deadly heat wave of 2003.

Life, and facing heat waves in the United States, is different than in France. Far more homes and buildings in America enjoy air conditioning.  French buildings generally are older. They’re made of concrete, stone or brick and hung with shutters to close against the midday heat. Space is a premium, and energy is expensive; and often historic preservation precludes the addition of the cooling air systems we often deem critical in the U.S.

The 2003 Heat Wave Across Europe

The whole of Europe fell under scorching weather patterns in the summer of 2003, but France was particularly hard hit, recording temperatures as high as 44.1°C (111.4°F) in Saint-Christol les Ales on August 12th. The human toll was especially tragic, with nearly 15,000 estimated fatalities in an aging country with minimal access to air conditioning.

So many lone elders were cooped up in their stifling, airless apartments. How could they know the dangers or the precautions to take against day after day of extremely hot weather? Emergency contingencies were in place for many natural and man-made disasters, but few had considered high temperatures to be a major hazard.

Devastating 2003 heat in France

Devastating 2003 heat in France

Naturally, no disaster of this type could happen without repercussions and finger pointing. Shouldn’t the nation’s health system have handled the crisis more efficiently? The administration pointed to vacationing families, who left elders behind. Though there was a shortage of doctors – like many families, also on holiday – the primary limitation was locating old people in need of assistance.A French Red Cross official noted another influence. The French family structure is more dislocated, and elders often live isolated lives behind closed apartment doors or in retirement or nursing homes. In essence, they become “someone else’s” problem, removed from the mainstream psyche.

In the wake of the 2003 disaster, the French government created a Heat Wave Protection contingency plan (Plan Canicule) to protect those most vulnerable to heat waves. Various levels of the plan include weather watches and warnings, local alerts and outreach to those at risk by monitoring hospitals and retirement homes and opening up air-conditioned supermarkets, malls and other local buildings.

The recent heat wave brought level 2 (orange) alert warnings to 33 departments with members of the French Red Cross placed on alert and ready for mobilization – certainly good news for elders and others unfamiliar with the dangers of heat. But all of that extreme weather – what’s next?

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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



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Fontaine-de-Vaucluse – Shangri La!

fontaine-de vaucluse Provence France

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in Provence

We once stayed in a small inn by the side of the French Broad River in North Carolina.  The back wall of the entire inn ended in the river below, so our fondest memory was settling in to sleep to the sound of rushing water.  I think I’ve found the ideal counterpart in Provence.

I don’t know how we missed Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in the past.  We drove from Avignon to Isle sur la Sorgue, on to Gordes and Roussillon.  The villages are all close to one another, but I guess we simply did not wander far enough afield.  No problem.  We won’t make that mistake again, because we found our earthly “Shangri La” at the HÔTEL DU POÈTE.

Where to begin?  Perhaps we’ll start with the quaint village itself, a lovely site, where the thread of the Sorgue River weaves through town and flows beneath a petite bridge with an old watermill.  The source of the river is the largest spring in all of France situated at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains.  Windowed restaurants and shop arcades hang by the river’s edge with large, welcoming windows overlooking the water.  Hollywood couldn’t imagine such a setting, much less create it.

Cross over the bridge and up the road a bit, and you will find yourself turning off onto a long, lush drive toward the hotel and river.  Honestly, the river splits right around the property to the tune of softly flowing streams of water.  Not only is the swimming pool set right by the river’s edge, but dining tables line the riverside terrace, allowing you the most serene environment for a light breakfast.

Hotel du Poete - hotel de charme in the Luberon

The comforts of HÔTEL DU POÈTE

The   owners of the three-star hotel chose to transform the old mill into a very   special retreat for guests.  Simple   hospitality is their trademark, where they offer 24 rooms and junior suites, each   tastefully and uniquely furnished with refined style and surrounded by garden   and river landscapes.  As you might   expect, each room is named for a muse – “Au fil de l’eau”, “Chant d’Automne”, le Clos du Poète.

We’ll plan our trip for a time well after the tourists have returned to the city for walks along the white water rapids and still waters, for visits to museums and markets, for purchases of santons and brightly-colored Provençal tissus. And for that ever-present touch of history, we’ll wander by the old Gallo-Roman canal built by Constantine in the 4th century.

If you visit Fontaine-de-Vaucluse before we do, please drop us a line.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Belle-Île – That French Island!

donnant beach belle-ile, brittany france

Donnant Beach – Belle-Île, Brittany France

We all look for different experiences, when we arrange extended holidays or getaway weekends. In planning a recent trip to France, my cousin and his artist wife sought quiet accommodations in given areas, from which they could explore during the day and return to their haven at night. One traveler may prefer the privacy of a self-catered vacation rental, while another wants to soak up the service and civility of a four-star retreat.

All of those choices are available on one of the most spectacular islands of France – Belle-Île, located off the Brittany coast of northern France. Whether you want to hop on a bicycle to explore rocky outcroppings and intimate coves or walk to a little hamlet for croissants and coffee, the island and the amenities spread before you. Imagine pretty villages, wide open spaces, extraordinary coastline and beaches and easy local hospitality.

On the ever-so-safe side of lodging choices, the Castel Clara is a premium choice Relais & Châteaux property, beautifully situated overlooking a rocky cove facing the ocean. The hotel’s thalasso spa is a popular draw for Parisians looking for ‘renewal’, and from the Castel you can reach all parts of the island with a sporty little rental cart or bicycle. Le Grand Large is another choice, again set remotely above the sea. Or you might book a vacation rental – your own home away from home with plenty of room, privacy and shaded terrace.

Once settled in your lodging of choice, hop on those bikes for a ride up and around coastal lanes, rolling dune, through wheat fields to the breathtaking Plage de Donnant. Not only breathtaking but word defying, the beach exudes so much natural beauty; that is almost impossible to put into words. Rocks tower above a silky sand cove with the sound of pounding surf in the background. Thoreau would have been quite comfortable here, I think.

Another outing will take you to an appealing harbor on the northern part of the island – Sauzon, where shaded quais watch over silt-locked boats, until the tidal rescue arrives. Find a pleasant brasserie or restaurant for island lamb, crêpes, or ‘fruits de la mer’. Over a dawdling lunch with crisp white wine, you can watch visitors amble through the picturesque town or small parties toast the setting sun from their boat in the harbor. Of all the experiences you may enjoy on your holiday, it is those small moments when visitors and residents share a view or a laugh that settle into your memory bank for later ‘review’.

Claude Monet's "Port Donnant"

Claude Monet’s “Port Donnant”

While the island is a mere 17 km by 9 km (10.5 by 5.5 miles), some 150 villages and hamlets dot the landscape in between three prominent towns –vibrant Le Palais, colorful Sauzon to the North, and Bangor with its towering lighthouse above the sea. Wander along the shore and imagine the brush strokes of Monet himself, standing seaside to capture the plein-air landscape along Donnant beach. Good company, wouldn’t you say?

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

A White Aerie Above Lyon

le  Collège Hôtel Vieux Lyon

Arched window –  our “home” at Le Collège Hôtel Vieux Lyon

Regular readers of France Daily Photo know that I am enamored with stylish French décor, the mix of color and rich texture, old wood and contemporary design. When we travel, whether we ‘tighten the belt’ and opt for a perfectly acceptable two-star hotel or throw open the doors to a “let’s splurge” four- or five-star hotel; we enjoy the unique style of each accommodation.

You might imagine, then, my surprise at one of our stays in Lyon. A business associate recommended Hôtel Le Collège on Place Saint Paul in Vieux Lyon. It was ideally located, just a block from the curve of the Saône River at the north end of the old city.

My husband checked in and went ahead to the room, and I soon followed. First, he pointed out the old coke machine in the hall near our room. “Look, free soft drinks and water…and a place to store wine,” he said. Was he stalling, or was I imagining things? He opened the room and stepped back. I walked into an entirely white room – well, perhaps, 95% white. Crisp and clean. Fluffy white linens. White “lockers” for closets (in keeping with the ‘school’ theme – even our entry door number was written on a small school slate.

Airy white boudoir in College Hotel Lyon

Lovely arched window – College Hotel Lyon

Whatever his concern, I embraced the ‘difference’ and felt like we had booked a room just this side of heaven. A lovely arched window with French doors opened onto our narrow balcony overlooking winding cobbled street, and the Notre Dame Basilica on Fourviere Hill. And after traveling on overnight trains and staying in hotels with miniature bathrooms with showers, I opened the door to a bathroom fit for pristine angels – white tiled with a double window and large oval tub – c’est magnifique!

Beyond the unique and quite comfortable décor, our ideal location allowed us to step out the door to wander the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon, to take in a petite breakfast; while watching delivery trucks edge their way along seemingly impossible little passages. We explored old book shops and climbed Fourvier Hill, walked by the Saône and crossed to Presqu’île and Place Bellecours.

View of Fourvier Hill and Cathedral from Lyon Hotel

View of Fourvier Hill and Cathedral

Just a few of our holiday highlights, they don’t begin to capture the charm, history and hands-down fabulous cuisine of Lyon. As always, you are wise to consult with the Office of Tourism, http://www.en.lyon-france.com when planning your visit for tours, maps, suggested itineraries and special places to visit.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

The “Science” of Villers-sur-Mer

Dinosaur topiary at Villers-sur-mer's Office of Tourism - home to Paleospace

Office of Tourism topiary dinosaurs in Villers-sur-mer

Seaside panoramas and Gallo-Roman history may draw you to Villers-sur-Mer, but you will be surprised at the rich scientific discoveries in this commune just a short distance from Deauville on the coast of Normandy. Perhaps, your first hint will be the grande topiary dinosaurs facing the sea at the Office of Tourism. They even add a baby dinosaur to the lot on occasion!

Why the affection for dinosaurs? A combination of geography and history is the simple answer. The Vaches Noire cliffs begin at Villers-sur-Mer, a site rich in the discovery of fossils and a universal magnet for fossil specialists. But before we delve into the fascinating exhibitions at Paléospace l’Odyssée, let’s digress for a moment to another noteworthy site in the small ville.

Imagine – you are visiting a charming town along the sea that happens to be precisely located at the intersection of the Meridian line of Greenwich. Some 250 years ago, scientists sought a method of measuring longitude. The Greenwich Meridian was established as a universal reference point for space and time.

Stand on the prominent marker overlooking the English Channel, and you will be at longitude 0. Step across, and you cross from the east of the planet to the west. And if you are there at noon in universal time, you will see the sun at its zenith. For all of us who may run our lives with the help of digital clocks and watches, this precision is fascinating!

Dinosaur Exhibit - Paléospace l'Odyssée - Normandy

Bonjour Jurassic! Dinosaur Exhibit – Paléospace l’Odyssée – Normandy

Enter the museum Paléospace l’Odyssée, and – sans Spielberg – you will travel back to the Jurassic age! Over 160 million years ago, Normandy lay beneath a warm sea; and with creative and interactive reconstructions, Paléospace returns you to the era of towering predators.

Many fossils were unearthed around the ‘Falaises des Vaches Noires’ (The Cliff of Black Cows): 30-feet-long pliosaurs, ichthyosaurs, salt-water crocodiles, ammonites… and the remains of dinosaurs! And, by the way, the site is particularly stimulating for children. Located by the marshes, beach and cliffs, Paléospace also sheds light on the coastal marshlands.

Now we will flip forward a few years to the 13th century, when men adapted to the coastal marsh and cultivated the land to rear cattle. That development led to the unique wetland marshes and rich ecosystem we embrace today.  Again appealing to adults and children (inventive interactive games reel them in!), the sensory “Walk from the Marais” features seasonal diversities of flora, fauna, migrating birds and sweeping views of the freshwater tidal marshes and wooded hillsides.

All in all, Villers-sur-Mer offers a quietly rich smorgasbord of sites, senses and delightful holiday memories.

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



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La Maison de Lucie – Honfleur

wisteria+Francois honfleur hotel de charme - La Maison de Lucie

Wisteria greetings at La Maison de Lucie, Honfleur

Tomorrow a posting about Honfleur, but today we’ll choose our discreet lodging.  Right in the historic heart of Honfleur, the three-star La Maison de Lucie surrounds you with a delicate, sensory atmosphere.

The petite “maison” dates to the end of the 18th century, the former home of poet and novelist Lucie Delarue Mardrus. The tranquil hotel offers two distinct views – second-floor rooms overlooking the town, surrounding hills and the estuary and first-floor rooms opening on to the wisteria-filled courtyard. Quiet elegance underscores the handsome décor with wooden paneling and floors, tiled bathrooms and refined furnishings.

Sounds like the perfect place from which to explore the Côte Fleurie!


Save up to 65% at Luxury Link!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Visit Mandelieu-La Napoule

the red rocks of the Esterel Massif on the Mediterranean

Driving toward Mandelieu-La Napoule, on the Mediterranean

Now is the time for planning – not travel – in France, as the coming weekend will see the infamous traffic jams ; as holiday travelers exit cities for beaches and mountains, and those whose vacations are ‘fini’ return home.  So let’s think about mimosas.  No, dears, I don’t mean those lovely brunch champagne drinks.  I’m talking about the virtual “Queen” of mimosas in Mandelieu-La Napoule.Dubbed the “Capitale du Mimosa”, this delightful town lies between Saint-Raphael to the South and Cannes to the North.  The striking “Corniche d’Or” Road winds past the jutting red rocks of the Esterel Massif overlooking the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean up to La Napoule.  And just beyond, the magnificent Mimosa forest is poised on the Tanneron Massif watching over the town.

We tend to enjoy shoulder and off-season travel in France, when normal French activity hums in towns and cities; and tourists are not so evident.  You might even want to plan your trip to coincide with the annual Mimosa Festival held in late February.  The festive events range from processions and parades to exhibitions and the crowning of King and Queen of the festival – all designed to pay homage to the gorgeous yellow blooms of the mimosa.

The beaches along the Gulf of La Napoule are delightful, clean, safe and varied from silky sand to red rocky shorelines.  One particularly beautiful sight on the sea is the  Château La Napoule, the former home of American artists Henry and Marie Clews. Before purchased by the Clews in 1919, the 14th-century Château had been pillaged destroyed and rebuilt eight times.

chateau la napoule, mediterranean France

Chateau La Napoule, magnet for the arts along the Mediterranean

Today it easily is referred to as a “high table for the arts”, where art programs, exhibitions and workshops mix with conferences and gala receptions.  The gardens are among the stunning sights with thin, towering Tuscany firs, tranquil pools and fountains and lovely views to the sea.

Finally, on a more down-to-earth note, the local markets are filled with tradition, colorful fruit and produce and Provençal scents and crafts – oilseed products and country wines, carved olive wood pieces and pottery.  Fully four days a week, you can dive into the local scene at the colorful marchés.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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



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Away from the city to Paradou

mas-Paradou La Maison du Paradou in Bouches du Rhone Department France

The welcoming charm of La Maison du Paradou

When I am tired of the city – the noise, the horrid drivers, the insensibilities – I long for a quiet place in the country. I want to smell the lavender-scented air and see the stars. I want to listen to lazy streams and take the occasional walk to the village for a visit to the brocantes and the local café.

So my choice right now would be Paradou in the Bouches du Rhone Department at the foot of the Alpilles Mountains. First, the village is tiny but charming. Second, it is within easy reach of the Camargue, Avignon, Arles and more. Third…and most important…it is the Provençal escape from ‘civilization’ that we seek.

Mind you, when I say escape from civilization, I definitely am not referring to outdoor camping. No, I have a better destination in mind, the La Maison du Paradou, where countryside beauty mixes quite well with food, wine, sunny days and starry nights.

santon village museum paradou france

Village setting of Santons

Beyond quiet walks and calming days by the pool, we will visit an unusual village museum – La Petite Provence du Paradou; where talented santon (hand-painted terracotta figurines) artisans ply their trade, and more than 400 santons are displayed. We’ll stop at Le Bistrot du Paradou for a warm and welcoming Provençal meal.

We will re-visit the spectacular Camargue for views of petite white horses, salt flats, grand black bulls and quaint communes. Each day we can wander a different direction or choose to stay put in the comfort of La Maison. And at day’s end, we look forward to unrivalled gourmet fare with savory artisan cheeses, exotic desserts and – bien sur – exceptional French wines.

I believe this countryside holiday will strengthen our resolve to face the city once more, if only to settle in and plan our next trip to France!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Sunday Visit to Mercantour

parc-mercantour-allos lake France

Allos Lke in Parc Mercantour – an ideal Sunday outing

Wouldn’t it be a perfect Sunday adventure to visit Mercantour National Park?   Let’s take a leisurely hike to Allos Lake.  Formed from the thaw of glaciers and melting snow, it is the largest high altitude mountain lake in Europe.  In the heart of earth, wind and water, we relish alpine flowers and enjoy nature’s playground.

We are in the upper Verdon valley, between the Mediterranean and the Alps, in a park that contains over 54 square kilometers (21 square miles) of lakes, summits and gorges.  Will we see the green lizard of the Mediterranean or spot a deer?

 

The Mercantour is such a splendid protected treasure, that a few rules maintain the sanctity of the area:

•       No dogs even on lead

•       No gathering or camping

•       No litter or fire

•       No mountain bikes or vehicles

While the rules offer continued protection to the magnificent Mercantour Park; they also allow us to savor nature without the unabated zeal of visitors.  A wonderful Sunday outing, wouldn’t you say?

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Guadeloupe’s French Olympian

 

Beaches of the Guadaloupe Islands - French Region

Beaches of the Guadaloupe Islands – © ATOUT FRANCE/Eric Larrayadieu

With the start of the Olympics around the corner, let’s take a look at one of France’s most accomplished Summer Olympians.  Considered one the greatest of modern female sprinters, Marie-José Pérec is a native of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe and was nicknamed “The Gazelle” (and the Greta Garbo of athletics for her insistent privacy) for her speed and graceful running style in track.

Under the flag of France, she specialized in the 300 and 400 meter and won three gold medals in the 1990s in Tokyo, Barcelona and Atlanta.  In London this year, Julien Absalon is a French medal hopeful, looking to add to his gold medals won in Athens and Beijing.  Another Frenchman who was the first white man to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meter sprint hopes to race in that event, as well as the 200 meter.

Pérec’s birthplace of Basse-Terre is the western wing of Guadeloupe’s two primary islands that resemble butterfly wings with a mangrove swamp between them.  It is home to a national park with hiking trails, a Jacques Cousteau underwater reserve and La Soufrière volcano.

The eastern island is Grande-Terre, home to surfing schools, long and lazy sandy beaches and beach bars from which to overlook the gorgeous azure water.  Small archipelagos stretch southward from the ‘mainland’, each with unique characteristics that round out the essence of the Guadeloupe Islands.

It is ever so easy to absorb the perfect blend of French charm, island relaxation and gorgeous landscape. The main resort area of Guadeloupe is the reef-protected waters off the southern coast of Grande-Terre, while the eastern side of the island is buffeted with the crashing surf of the Atlantic.

Traditional Guadeloupe house -Les Villas Aquarelles in Saint Rose

Traditional Guadeloupe house -Les Villas Aquarelles in Saint Rose – © ATOUT FRANCE/Eric Larrayadieu

As a center of Caribbean Creole culture, you will readily notice the blend of French African and Caribbean influences in Guadeloupe’s culture, dance, cuisine and patois language.  Though colonized by the French, the islands also came under British, and briefly, Swedish rule before becoming a “department” of France in 1946.  The islands now operate as an overseas region with representation in Paris.  The Euro is the island currency, and French is the official language.

Not only do visitors enjoy spectacular seaside views and rainforest hikes, they can choose from many vacation rentals, hotels and bed & breakfasts.  And word has it that you must not miss waterfront dining in Saint François at L’O – quite a gourmet experience!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNESCO-Honored Dordogne Basin

 

Dordogne River Basin Honored by UNESCO

The Dordogne river basin has been designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve – © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

With just two days until the Tour de France enters its final stage along the Champs-Elysées, today the tour raced essentially from Toulouse in the South to Brive-la Gaillard in Central France. Just to the East, is the Massif Central, where volcanic landscapes are covered with wildflowers each Spring.

Recently, the 24,000-square-kilometer (nearly 9,300 square miles) Dordogne river basin was named a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Puy de Sancy is the source of the beautiful, winding river that crosses through six French departments to the south of the Corrèze.

Unesco recognised the extraordinary blend of cultural heritage and art de vivre with the well-preserved natural landscape. Rich in natural resources, the healthy economy of the basin benefits from tourism, agriculture, forestry and industry – all in the remarkable beauty of the Dordogne and its tributaries.

Le Puy de Sancy in the Massif Central

Spring wildflowers cover the volcanic slopes of Le Puy de Sancy – © ATOUT FRANCE/Pierre Desheraud

France now boasts 11 such areas of natural heritage, including Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse and the sprawling Camargue in the South. While UNESCO also designates World Heritage sites, the biosphere reserve honor is meant to encourage people to revere and maintain the symbiotic relationship between man and nature and to assure that progress and environmental protection move forward with mutual respect.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Lorraine’s Lac de Gérardmer

A little water sport at Lac Gerardmer, Lorraine France- © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

Boat, canoe and kayak rentals are available on Lac Gerardmer – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

When one hot Florida day after another begins to sap my spirit, I turn cool thoughts to beautiful places.  I take one of my infamous ‘mental’ journeys to Lac de Gérardmer in the lovely Lake Valley area of Lorraine – home to towering forests, chilled mountain streams and lakes and a whole lot of local hospitality.

Lac de Gérardmer is the largest of all Lorraine lakes, encircled by a natural footpath around the edge.  That would be an excellent place to begin exploring, one day perhaps taking along a picnic; another day stopping at a lakeside café.  With the deep blue lake waters and gorgeous forest backdrop, I would pick out a spot to set up my easel, pull out watercolors and try ever so humbly to capture this scene.

I’d say a solid week just before or after the summer rush would allow enough time to absorb the quiet of the stately forests, to rent a boat for a lazy afternoon on the lake, to wander along the resort’s huge esplanade.

To be certain one highlight would be the wonderful gastronomy of the Lorraine area. Imagine a buttery croissant with the jam made of local Mirabelle plums or after lunch a slice of Mirabelle cake. Honestly, I had a Mirabelle tarte in Paris in 1997, and I have never forgotten the heavenly taste!

Dining by Lac Gerardmer, Lorraine - Quiche

Dining by Lac Gerardmer, Lorraine – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

Naturally, I would indulge my love of Quiche Lorraine, though I have so perfected my own recipe that I’m not sure local chefs could live up to the “competition”.  Guess I’ll just have to trust their deft mix of fresh cream, eggs, bacon and cheese.  Can’t you just taste and smell that quiche right now?

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Rail Europe’s Exceptional Passes

Colorful carriages in Market Square in Bruges, Belgium

An afternoon overlooking the colorful carriages in the Market Square, Bruges

One of the things we particularly enjoy about traveling in France and in Europe, in general, is the exceptional rail network.  When we spent a summer primarily in France, we planned well in advance and secured a Rail Europe pass for multiple days of travel and a long-term rental/purchase plan with Auto Europe.

Though we mainly traveled in France, we purchased a rail pass that allowed travel in three countries.  We knew we would travel in France and Italy to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle in Florence. By adding “Benelux” as our “third country”, we were able to travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; as Rail Europe treats the three as one.  Though a whirlwind kind of scoop through the three countries, it was nonetheless a great experience to set foot in these extraordinary cities.

Bruges, in particular, was a warm and welcoming city laced with canals, steeped in history and entertaining with its assortment of beers. We walked about the beautiful city and spent an afternoon on Market Square overlooking the Provincial Palace – an absolute pleasure!

In Amsterdam, we were unfortunate in thinking that our choice of hotel by the station would be in the city center, when it turns out it was quite far away by a metro station.  Still, we enjoyed an evening along the canal and checking out the intriguing nightlife.  I admit to feeling like a little girl in patent leather shoes, as we passed along the red-light district.

Luxembourg City - historic site on cliffs overlooking two rivers

We enjoyed the cliffs and valleys of Luxembourg City

Luxembourg was a real treat, and this time our hotel was nearly across the street from the train station.  Luxembourg City is perched high on cliffs overlooking the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, so we wandered past pleasant neighborhoods down to the valley and found an elevator to return us up to the city center.  We found a delightful large square, where several restaurants offered open-air dining.

Though we only briefly touched down in these delightful cities, we enjoyed expanding our experience beyond France.  So – worth noting – if you choose to purchase a multi-country Rail Europe Pass, by all means considered adding Benelux to your itinerary.  And you will find complete travel information on Rail Europe’s excellent web site.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

A Golf Getaway to the Dordogne

Chateau des vigiers, dordogne, france

16th-century Château des Vignes, Dordogne

One day I want to indulge one of my French travel wishes – to enjoy a long weekend of golf in the countryside.  And I believe I’ve discovered just the right place to indulge that wish.

Set in the Dordogne, near Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, the 16th century Château des Vignes is an appealing blend of classic and contemporary.  The 4-star Château is regal, set like a Grand Dame in the undulating landscape of a spectacular 27-hole golf course with special attention to the “natural” golf course design.   The beautifully restored centerpiece and resort have been designated one of the “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”.

A little side note is interesting.  I know France hasn’t much of a golfing tradition.  Perhaps, with so much beauty, culture, history and “je ne sais quoi”, they simply haven’t the time or desire to chase a little white ball around grassy knolls.  But there was one notable French golfer who made history more for his loss than Paul Lawrie’s win at the British Open at Carnoustie.  In a virtual bow to the theme of the movie “Tin Cup”, in 1999 Frenchman Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18thtee with a healthy 6-stroke lead. To make a long story short, he made one bad decision after another, spending twenty excruciating minutes working his way in and out of the barns and water.  Though his triple-bogey took him into the playoff, he would not walk away with the Claret Jug.  An interesting story, but let’s get back to our golf escape.

chateau golf in Dordogne near Bordeaux

Comfortable rooms, exquisite views

I’m not sure if we would choose one of the classic Chateau rooms or one of the spacious patio wing rooms with our own terrace overlooking the gardens or golf course; but all rooms are beautifully furnished with every comfort.  Though there is a beauty and spa centre, I rather think we’ll just play golf, enjoy leisurely lunches and perhaps explore Saint-Emilion and local vineyards, as our sole side trip.

Just the thought of playing golf and relaxing in the countryside is quite enough to satisfy this particular travel wish.  And at day’s end, we’ll dine “al fresco” on the scenic terrace overlooking the lake, while the wine steward fetches our favorite rose from the wine cellar.  Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Fête de la Transhumance, Castellane

Sheep in Castellane for the Fete de Transhumance, France

Sheep sans their 'coats' in Castellane

Castellane once again hosted its lively Fête de la Transhumance from the 15th to the 17th of June, casting an educational spotlight on the extraordinary heritage and landscapes of the village and the Verdon Regional Natural Park.   Festivities included nature walks, picnics and presentations; celebrations of the Provence Alps and colorful games for all ages.  A delightful traditional Occitan folk dance workshop prepared everyone for the real party, when dance troupes gathered in the early evening at Place Marcel Sauvaire.

Sunday began with the day-long Farmer’s Market and a veritable feast of regional products, but the real highlight unfolded after the late morning Church of the Sacred Heart Mass and Procession.  That’s when the blessing of the flock took place in the sheep pen near the Pont du Roc, and the sheep were shepherded through the village.  In keeping with the celebration, restaurants offered “meals of shepherds” specials.

Ongoing traditions are an important part of French culture, as natives revere and celebrate centuries old customs.  If a trip to France is on tap for you this summer, be sure to look up the events to be held in the areas you will visit.  Festivals take place throughout the country in the summer, and you may want to plan your calendar around them.

Castellane Festival of Transhumance with dance and shepherding of sheep
Traditions of the Fete de Transhumance

Paris, for example hosts the incredible Fête de la Musique on the June 21 summer solstice, when every conceivable music style plays out in venues all over the City of Light.  First launched in Paris 50 years ago, the festivals now have taken root in cities throughout the world; when free concerts pay homage to music old and new.  But those events demand a special posting of their own – stay tuned!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Troglodyte Dwellings of France

Troglodyte homes in Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Oh, do come visit my little cave in Amboise!
Troglodyte homes – what in the world are they?  For starters they are historic, domesticated cave dwellings that are quite common in the Loire Valley, phenomena as rich in history as the valleys and castles of the region.  In fact, we stayed in a delightful ‘semi-troglodyte’ dwelling in Civray de Touraine, a tiny commune of less than 1,800 residents near Amboise.

And, as we walked up rue Victor Hugo toward the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, we passed by half-timbered homes and troglodyte dwellings tucked into ancient cliffs – unusual dwellings with flower boxes, brightly-colored shutters and little stone alcoves that held their satellite dishes.  Can you even imagine this mix of ancient rock and contemporary electronics?

So what is this business of building homes straight into the ancient (like millions of years old) white stone walls of caves that hover above the Loire River?   Some homes are actually built of the tuffeau stone, cut in blocks from those walls.  The most serious use of the stone, though, was for the construction of the many renowned chateaux and castles throughout the valley.

Amboise, France troglodyte home
Don’t you love the space above the door for the ‘dish’?

And that’s the real story.  Quarrying of the tuffeau dates to the 11th century, when great cavities were created in the hills.  People moved in to those spaces, finding them to be a low-cost refuge.  These spaces, you see, don’t go away.  People find new uses, learn to dress them up to their own pleasure and convert them into their own vacation retreats, artist galleries or – I am not kidding – create a hotel in a honeycomb of caves.  For my taste, I rather think I’d prefer to be very much above ground with expansive views of the sky and the landscape.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

French Hotel or Vacation Rental?

bordeaux bed and breakfast, france

The long driveway that led to our 19th century gites in Bordeaux

Sometimes we like to be tucked into a nice hotel in the city, but we also enjoy the unique experience of staying in vacation rentals in more remote places.  It gives us the feeling of living in the French countryside.

We have stayed in the gorgeous apartments owned by a dentist whose sideline hobby is creating works of wrought iron.  Another lovely apartment just down the road from the renowned Chateaux Chenonceau was owned by an artist and his family.  Built up against a rocky outcropping, their children’s playroom literally was carved out of the cliff wall.  After a week in our ‘troglodyte’ habitat, we slowly backed out of the driveway only to have the owner’s brother run to us with a bottle of wine his family produced.

And that’s the beauty of staying in out-of-the-way places – getting to know the people, the village, the customs and marketplace.  An excellent resource for vacation rentals, whether in Paris or Provence, is Vacation Rentals by Owners.

GÎtes de France is also an ideal resource for locating bed and breakfast lodging, where perhaps a few rooms in a home are offered for rental, and breakfast with your hosts and fellow guests provides more opportunities to broaden your vacation experience.

toulouse vacation rental, france
Lovely vacation rental near Toulouse

We wish you happy ‘hunting’ and even happier vacation memories.

We’d love to hear from you!   swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

By the Shores of Lake Annecy

Relaxing at Auberge du Pere Bise, Annecy France

Relaxing at Auberge du Pere Bise, Annecy

I’m ready to spirit away to a magical place, far from keyboards and cell phones, steeped in beauty and refinement.  Rest.  Relaxation.  Restoration.  Please come along – you are most welcome!

Once again I have to admit to a touch of snobbery….or is it simply an exacting sense of my own style?  Je ne sais pas!  I can appreciate the distinct beauty and passion of a restored castle, but I prefer more intimate surroundings sans massive stone fireplaces and tiny windows.  So for this trip to the shores of Lake Annecy, we shall choose to stay in a lovely inn – The Auberge du Père Bise in Talloires.  Our pleasant suite will overlook the turquoise waters of the lake to greet us each morning, as we drink fresh orange juice and taste of buttery croissants.

The beauty of this region is almost absurd – how can a singular region dare to hoard so much that is lovely and serene?  Among the purest of European waters, Lake Annecy stretches for miles beneath the watchful eyes of the Rhone Alps, a sight that captured the imagination of Paul Cézanne in his painting “The Lake of Annecy”.

A delightful gourmet meal overlooking Lake Annecy France
A delightful gourmet meal overlooking Lake Annecy

The 100-year-old inn shall be our base for enjoying the area with cycling, horseback riding, canoe rides and peaceful strolls through the surrounding hills.  Before a gourmet dinner under the expert direction of chef Sophie Bise, we shall stretch out on a chaise by the lakeside to enjoy a cool, refreshing glass of rosé.  The culinary traditions of the Bise family stretch back to 1901, and the famed restaurant and inn have drawn many ‘royals’, from Charlie Chaplin and Brigette Bardot to Winston Churchill and President Richard Nixon – and, of course, Queen Elizabeth.

We only stayed one night in Annecy during our last visit, so we shall enjoy one of our dreamed of ‘do-overs’ and spend at least an extended weekend in this Alpine paradise.

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Visit The French Island of Corsica

Erbalunga beach, Corsica

Erbalunga beach, Corsica

Dramatic landscapes, baroque churches and picturesque villages portray an appealing Corsica, your ideal French island holiday destination and welcoming land of contrasts.  Bastia rolls out a zenith of sensory experiences with the scents of wild maquis shrubs and lavender and the sights of old ports, rugged mountains, colorful hills and an endless view of the sea.

Though you can fly into the local airport, it’s more fun to take the ferry to the number one port in the Mediterranean.  Over 2 million passengers make the voyage yearly, from Marseilles, Nice, Toulon, Genoa, Livorno, Savone and La Spezia.  When you arrive, you’ll want to rent a car, scooter or motorbike for exploring the countryside and local villages.

The second largest town on the island, Bastia is a busy commercial centre with a population of 50,000, a town that offers a dynamic mix of old world charm, interesting regional cuisine and enough history, culture and sightseeing ventures to interest and entertain you.  As always, the local tourist office offers an excellent first stop to learn about island cruises, restaurants and things to do.

Three distinct areas await Bastia visitors – the citadel, the old town and the old port.   Once the childhood home of Victor Hugo, the old town is a perfect starting point for exploring.  Against the backdrop of sleek yachts in the harbor, you’ll discover the faded charm of 18th-century buildings set along narrow streets with wrought iron balconies punctuating the mix of pastel colors.

Calvi Port, Corsica
Calvi Port, Corsica

The Quai des Martyrs de la Liberation offers wonderful views of the Vieux Port (Old Port).  The harbor area is filled with bars and restaurants for dining and partying into the Corsican night.  Corsican wines are popular and other local specialties include Casanis pastis, Patrimonio Muscat and soft white cheese from Brocciu.  At the Place de l’Hotel de Ville, bargain your way through the Saturday market for local fare from prisutu (smoked ham) and figatellu (fried sausages) to migliaccilou – delicious, hearty pancakes with goat cheese – and jams.

The Genoese citadel provides a signature silhouette to the city landscape.  Though the region lacks the historic appeal of the old port and town, the impressive fort, gardens and elegant homes are interesting to see.  Between the old and new ports, wander the streets to discover local bars and nightlife.  Bar Odeon is a popular local watering hole where Corsicans sip pastis and trade animated tales.  La Belle Epoque on rue Pino features romantic candlelit dinners and nightly impersonations of famous French singers, such as Edith Piaf.

For beach enjoyment, try the long stretches of sand south of town to avoid Bastia’s more crowded pebble beach.  North of Bastia, you’ll discover a spectacular blend of isolated beaches, vineyards and rugged countryside.  The Cap Corse peninsula is dotted with small picturesque villages – Macinaggio, Saint-Florent and Erbalunga — each offering local charm and excellent dining choices.   Whether water or mountain sports, tracing history or relaxing along the port, you will discover a fascinating world apart from traditional mainland Europe.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Dining at Home in Paris

Entertaining in our vacation rental in Paris

Entertaining in our vacation rental in Paris

We will be working on an intense marketing project over the next few days, so enjoy photos from Paris and look for our regular vignettes on Monday.  It is always a pleasure to share news and views of France with our very special readers.

 

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Week in Colorful Roussillon

Fascinating ochre cliffs of Roussillon

Fascinating ochre cliffs of Roussillon

We already love the village of Roussillon, the Technicolor bursts of yellows, reds, oranges and greens that burst through the village like an artist’s palette.  Now, we’ve found the perfect vacation rental, so we can settle in for a week to explore to our heart’s content.

We have enjoyed vacation rentals in Paris, where we learn to blend into the neighborhood and offer our daily “bonjours” to the baker and wine merchant.  We want to do the same in Roussillon, where this delightful studio is in the blissfully natural countryside but a five minute walk to town.

The old ochre quarry of Roussillon is nothing short of amazing.  It makes me think of nature’s divine art, of seashells with every color and design.  Such are the red cliffs of the quarry, striped in fascinating designs and colors and set against the backdrop of blue skies and green pines.

Countryside vacation rental in Roussillon
Countryside vacation rental in Roussillon

We won’t limit ourselves to Roussillon, as the entire area is replete with charming towns and the gorgeous landscape of the Grand Luberon and the Vaucluse plateau.  Perhaps a week won’t be quite enough.  We shall see.

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Sharing Your Love of France

A visit to the Louvre - Bien sur! Paris

A visit to the Louvre - bien sur!

Three years after my first visit to France, I was able to fulfill an important dream – to take my daughter to my favorite place.  She was the ideal traveler, willing to try everything and delighted with every sight, scent and taste she encountered.  We stayed with our friend in her 5th-floor apartment overlooking boulevard Saint-Marcel.

Our first day in Paris seemed to last 36 hours – wine on Place Contrescarpe, a visit to Jardin du Luxembourg, walking by the Seine, watching the bateaus along the river, out for the evening at a concert and wine bar.

And we travel for a long weekend, taking the TGV to Avignon and driving to our hearts’ content.  We see Gordes and Roussillon, stay in Aix-en-Provence, make our way to Moustiers Sainte-Marie and down to the Mediterranean for brief visits to Monaco and Eze.  On the long train trip back to Paris, we had plenty of time to remember the absolute wonder of sharing special places with someone you love.

 

A lovely park near the Grimaldi Palace
A lovely park near the Grimaldi Palace

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Médoc Marathon in Bordeaux

Château Gruad Larose, Bordeaux

Château Gruad Larose, Bordeaux

One element of today’s post is unusual.  Another is not.  For those of you keen on staying in shape by running, I want to tell you about The Médoc Marathon in Bordeaux.  Of course if you are a marathon runner, you may already be aware of this popular race.

The thing, you see, that’s different about this event is the route and the water stops.  You wind through vineyards that, as one gifted journalist put it, “…read like a wine list. Château Beychevelle, Château Gruaud-Larose and Château Lafite Rothschild all … provide libations.”  Yes, that’s correct.  They serve wine at the water stops.

Now what in the world could be more French and more fun?  I know, I know.  The deeply serious runner might well be put off by the wine part of the equation.  Fine. They are most welcome to down bottled water and Gatorade.  Oh, but do the rest have fun!

Native Médoc runners will advise you to stick with red wine – no harm – and steer clear of the white wine.  And did I mention that there’s a big party the night before the race?  And a 9 kilometer walk the Sunday after, when runners, fans and friends walk from the vineyards to the estuary of the Gironde … tasting Haut-Médoc along the route.

Remember in the beginning, when I said something was unusual, something not?  What is not unusual is that we have a friend who participated in the marathon.  She described the festivities and race, the crazy creative costumes and lively wine stops.  She had so much fun, she returned to run another year.

Château l'Evangile, Pomerol, Rothschild
Château l’Evangile, Pomerol, Rothschild

If all of this seems too difficult to imagine ….and if you want a good laugh, watch the video from the 2011 race.  This year the marathon takes place on September 8, and we can only imagine what the non-serious runners do to get in shape.

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

 

 

 

Paris’ Open-Air Food Markets

Basket of fresh vegetables from the rue Mouffetard marche in Paris

Basket of fresh vegetables from the rue Mouffetard marche in Paris

Historians peg the first Parisian food market on the Île de la Cité in the 5th century.  That is indeed an important note in history, as the Paris open-air food market scene bursts with an abundance of flowers, inviting fresh produce, savory cheeses, artisan meats and seasonal foods.

There’s an artist’s palette of bright red strawberries, white asparagus, plump leeks and more types of delicious olives than you could ever imagine.  And did I mention regional wines and plump, rotisserie chickens?  Ooh lah – delicieux!

When you begin your day at a market, is it any wonder that you think about food all day long? Let’s begin with a few market pointers to make your experience enjoyable.

*  Markets generally run from about 7:30 a.m. to just after lunch.  Naturally, you’ll have better selections in the early hours, but there’s hardly a ‘wrong’ time to go.

*  Invest in a light weight basket or net-like or canvas bag to comfortably carry the things you buy.

*  Cruise the market on your arrival, so you can see the variety and pricing of prooducts.

*  By all means, try a sample of the product in order to choose the right cheese or olive, for example.

*  Do bring cash – the payment de rigueur

*  It is my understanding that vendors prefer you not ‘pick over’ the produce, like we often do in the U.S.

Now you are ready for an enticing cultural experience.  Let’s presume we’re going along rue Mouffetard, one of our favorite markets in the Latin Quarter.  Perhaps, we’ll wander down the narrow street from Place Contrescarpe and stop for a café au lait en route.  Along the lower half of “Le Mouff”, we find our favorite rotisserie vendor, his racks filled with golden roasted chickens and the bottom filled with small potatoes cooking in the juices that fall.  That’s a must for our dinner!

Shopping along rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter of Paris
Flowers along rue Mouffetard, Paris

Next, we’ll stop in a little cheese shop for a lovely chunk of Comté cheese, an ancient type of cheese with a distinctly nutty flavor.  Fruit and vegetables are next, and the choices are amazing.  Some freshly-picked green beans or 5 kinds of leafy greens for salad?  Raspberries or plump white peaches?  And just across the way, a little shop sells home-made pastas.  Flowers ‘face off’ against the vegetables, daring us to omit this touch to the ‘dining scene’.  Of course we can’t resist.

We’ll be returning up to our little vacation rental near the Place, so we stop in to see Fred.  He’s our favorite wine shop person and helps us select a nice, dry white wine to go with le coq.  Nearby is a lovely chocolate shop, calling for a decision.  No, today we’ll choose a variety of pastries from that nice little patisserie, where – of course! – we purchase our baguette.  By the way, it also is customary to tear off little chunks of your baguette on the way home.  After all, it only stays fresh for a few hours, so nibble early and often!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Wedding Traditions of France

Decorated for the "great escape"!

Countless times during our travels in France, we miss one thing only to discover something delightful.  This photo, one of our colorful favorites, happened quite by accident.

We wandered over to Blaye in the Bordeaux region to take the ferry across the Gironde River to Medoc.  We apparently arrived shortly after the ferry departed, and another was not due for 45 minutes.  Looking back, we might have walked about and discovered the citadel in Blaye.  Instead we simply started driving through the countryside, saw a dirt road heading toward the river and took the impetuous and instinctive turn.

The choice took us through low-lying fields out to the river.  A sole building “guarded” the site, a small restaurant that was hosting a wedding party.  Parked outside was this delightful decorated wedding car.

We later discovered that it is a popular custom in France to decorate vintage cars for the bridal couple’s merry departure for their honeymoon.  Often the bridal car is elaborately bedecked with ribbons and flowers, and once had the good fortune to see another popular decoration – dolls dressed as the bride and groom topped the car, complete with brooms and flowers.  Pure serendipity!

Our “croquembouche” wedding cake

When we were married, we indulged in another favorite French wedding tradition.  A local baker created our cake, called a “croquembouche”, which really is a tower of cream puffs crowned with ribbons.   Goes quite well with lovely French champagne!  Naturally, we celebrated our marriage with a wedding trip to Paris for our “lune de miel”

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Saint-Désert, Petite Charm of Burgundy

Handsome stone buildings and plentiful flowers of the village

Communes dot the landscape of France, offering petite surprises around every curve in the road.  One memorable place was Mosnes, a short distance from Amboise.  We stayed in a vacation rental in this small hamlet, where communal gardens lay in neat rows down to the Loire.  Early in the morning, we would walk a short block to purchase fresh croissants from the sole patisserie.

Saint-Désert is much the same, a village of Burgundy in the department of Saône-et-Loire.  The community includes key shops – a bakery, coffee shop, hairdresser, plasterer, bricklayer and little post office.  One company tends to shutters and verandas; another handles plumbing and heating.

There is an endearing charm to a community that can readily tick off their tradesmen and shops.  While those are necessary support groups, Saint Désire is primarily a wine village. Fully 20% of the village land is devoted to lush vineyards, nearly all of them owned by townspeople who share the responsibilities of planting, pruning, picking and bottling the wine.  Then, off they go to be sold in one of the Co-op Cave de Vins.  Buy your wine there, and you directly support the locals.

Lush vineyards of Burgundy

Named for a Désiré monk , the village has 900 or so residents called Holy Désiréens.  They live in typical rural homes with lots of stone, tiled roofs and vivid gardens.   Nearby, Saint Isidore Church watches over the farmers, and an old windmill lies in ruins, a quaint symbol, perhaps, of antiquated ways.

There is even a small inn along this part of the wine route – Domaine de Nesvres – where you can stay a night or two to enjoy the owners’ hospitality in the middle of Burgundy vineyards and explore the area by bicycle.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Fast and Fantastic TGV

Zipping around France by TGV

 

Everyone who travels by train in France and beyond has enjoyed the speed and luxury of the high-speed trains known as TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or High Speed Train).  On April 4, 1971 the first test run of the TGV was conducted.  Thirty fours later that test train set the record for the fastest wheeled train with a speed of 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph).  With Paris as its hub, this high-speed French rail network of 450 trains connects throughout Europe offering a favorable alternative to plane.

Now these superb trains operate all over France, with diverse connections to neighboring countries.  Paris to London is now 2 hours and 35 minutes.  Paris to Brussels is 1 hour and 25 minutes.  New direct routes connect Charles de Gaulle Airport to main tourist regions like the Loire Valley and southern France.

One of our most pleasant trips took us from Paris to Bordeaux in just under 4 hours.  If we had made the trip by car, it would have taken over 6 hours.  Instead, we were able to relax in comfortable Premier seating with two seats facing one another across a table and pleasant meal service from an attendant.  A bar-buffet car with a complete selection of food and beverages also was available.

And it’s good to know that the TGV’s green technology minimizes the impact on the environment, with compacted and recycled waste, low-energy light bulbs, air conditioning that adapts to the number of travelers and even the drivers trained to power off when going downhill.

Travelers from the U.S. will enjoy savings by planning and booking rail travel on RailEurope in advance.  Many versatile passes are available allowing you 9 days of travel throughout France, for example, or offering travel to multiple countries in Europe.

Everyone owes themselves at least one of these trips in their lives.  So plan your travel in advance and look forward to relaxing train travel and panoramic views, as you whisk toward your chosen destination.  Enjoy.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Returning to Roussillon

Roussillon's dramatic ochre quarry

One of the great appeals of Roussillon are the ochre mines below the village, with curious rock formations and splashes of white, orange and red soil and rock mixtures.  But it seems less ochre and more “magnet” that lures us, as we don’t seem to be able to visit the Luberon without stopping in Roussillon.

At most, though, we spend a couple of hours browsing through shops, sightseeing and picking a scenic outdoor café for lunch.  The entire village seems ablaze with the ochre and rust colors and colorful accents, beautiful flowers and shaded cafes.

On our next visit, we’ll change our travel strategy to stay in the small village rather than in a larger city like Avignon.  We want to feel the quiet descend over the village, as nightfall nears.  We’ve found the perfect place – Le Clos de la Glycine in the heart of the village, with lovely rooms overlooking the valley.  We’ll choose one with our own private terrace and panoramic view, the perfect spot to begin our day with breakfast.

The shops and galleries and winding village lanes are wonderful to explore, filled with bright baskets and pottery and lazy cats curled in the shade of a windowsill. We’ll stop on the square at the top by the Church of Saint-Michel, where we once spread our picnic to watch over the lively Hotel de Ville square.

Quaint and colorful village in the Luberon

On a Saturday, when household chores beckon and projects loom in the week ahead, I can’t think of a better trip to imagine and plan.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Retreat to Perfection in Gordes

The breathtaking approach to Gordes

Gordes.  It’s one of those places you visit in your mind, when you can’t sleep and want to fill your spirit with peace and calm and unspoiled beauty.  I push away my covetous feelings about those who enjoy life there on a daily basis, telling myself that such an experience might spoil the charm, might make me numb to the everyday pleasure of such a quaint and quiet place.  But that’s too poetic.  The fact that Gordes now is such a renowned beauty, a revered stop on the path of tourism, makes those thoughts a bit nostalgic.  There’s only so much room for tourists, and at night I imagine the village quiet, tucked in and looking over the Luberon valley under a blanket of stars.

In fact, that thought is so enticing, I have looked and found the perfect place to stay – Les Bories & Spa. On a “mental voyage” one can skip the tiresome problem of figuring out what to pack and how to plan the easiest way through all of those security checks.  Perhaps we’ll take the TGV from Paris to Avignon, rent a car and in no time arrive at Les Bories.  Our room is simply elegant and understated with a private terrace overlooking the hills.   We’ll be able to dine poolside under crisp canvas umbrellas and explore the village and countryside at our leisure.  It’s ever so easy to understand the lure of Gordes, poised at is with the central 12th-century castle and filled with winding cobblestone lanes.

Charming cobblestone lanes of Gordes

After all of our discoveries, we can return to our tranquil hotel retreat for a glass of wine by the fountain.  Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Plan Ahead for Long Flights

Anticipation is part of the journey

For long airplane flights, leave nothing to chance!  Unless you really want to spend eight hours on a plane reading everything from the copy on wine bottle labels and pretzel bags to the same, worn flight magazine you read on the way over, be prepared!

Our story has amusing elements, but the reality was quite painful.  We were late for our flight from Charles de Gaulle to Orlando.  While grabbing a quick croissant and coffee, we heard our names called in the most charming French accent.

“Monsieur et Madame Sheridan.”  We laugh about it now.  After all, it’s not everyone who has the privilege of hearing their name over the loudspeaker in the CDG airport!  With no time for our usual stop in the book store; we head to the gate, where three airline agents are waiting.  They close the door of the plane, as soon as we board.

Settled in our seats, we hear the dreadful announcement that electrical problems with the video system prevent music and movies from operating during the flight.  We are doomed to eight hours of self entertainment.  No books.  No magazines or newspapers.  Only a pad on which to write and one another, and fortunately we do like to converse.

Now, we leave nothing to chance. More so than ever before, plane trips seize your time without mercy.  Once on board, you’re a hostage in the air with less freedom than a prisoner in Leavenworth.  We take a few steps to ease the pain and make our ‘incarceration’ pass a little faster in relative comfort.

We begin with attitude and acceptance.  We made the reservation and planned the trip.  We knew the timeline and personal limitations, so we don’t fight what we can’t change.  It’s the same theory, really, as being stuck in traffic.  There’s not a thing we can do about it, so we don’t waste time and emotional energy railing against the inconvenience.

Well in advance, we pick out a couple of books and magazines, a crossword puzzle book and a notebook and pen.  And we add a few snacks – nuts, pretzels, candy or cookies – something to nibble on between meals or, heaven forbid, if we have unexpected delays.

A rainy morning in St. John’s

And therein lies another travel story.  On our return trip from Paris, a medical emergency forced us to land in Newfoundland … in an icy rain storm.  After the passenger was whisked off to the hospital, we sat in line on the tarmac waiting our turn for de-icing.  Finally, the smaller plane ahead of us left.  For the next hour or so, they tried without success to de-ice our plane.

Guess where we spent the night? Those snacks came in handy, as we waited for immigration personnel and buses to arrive.  While the airline arranged hotels for all of the passengers, we couldn’t access anything but our carry-on luggage.  That’s when you want to have tucked a few things in your bag!  We had no problem recognizing our fellow passengers the next morning.  All of us boarded the buses in the same clothing we wore the previous night.

Remember that your trip includes your anticipation, the flight, destination stay, and the memories that return with you.  Embrace the whole package, and log your memories in a journal to enjoy on a nostalgic, rainy day.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Creole Charm of L’île de La Réunion

Entre-Deux Photos
This photo of Entre-Deux is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Pull up to the gas pump today; and you want to look away, as if you have seen a sight too difficult to absorb – the price of gas climbing to nearly $4.00+ per gallon.  Certainly that “sticker shock” is felt worldwide, yet a brief article from a faraway place recently caught my eye.

Five hundred miles east of Madagascar, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the French Island of l’île de La Réunion has been consumed with violent riots over the rising cost of living and, in particular, the price of gas.  In a nod to irony, the proverbial epicenter of the riots is the neighborhood of Chaudron (“the Cauldron”).

Truckers initiated the protest over increasing gas prices, but others joined to express their anger over the high cost of living.  As unrest increased, police reinforcements from mainland France arrived, and local legislators were considering emergency measures to reduce gas prices.

That article was enough to kick-start my curiosity.  Compared to the popular destinations of Mauritius and the British Seychelles, the French department of Réunion is relatively unknown, privy perhaps mainly to the well-travelled French.

Yet, the island is a delightful land of contrasts, a distinctive landscape of fertile primary forests, lava fields, and long strands of Caribbean-like beaches.  The crown attraction is the Piton de la Fournaise, one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world and still fully capable of belching forth molten lava. The cultural influences are as diverse, a blend of Chinese, African, Indian and French.

Islanders and visitors spread their time among the many outdoor activities – hiking and surfing, paragliding and diving.  What really attracted my attention, though, were the Creole architectural jewels and colorful building accents that seem to mirror the bright colors of tropical gardens and orchards.

Beyond the natural island beauty, I discovered several places we surely want to experience.  Named for the former admiral and island governor Anne Chrétien Louis de Hell, the small village of Hell-Bourg would be at the top the list.  It is the main commune in the Cirque de Salazie (a volcanic ‘cauldron’) that rises to 1344 meters (4412 feet) above the sea and the only island village to be crowned Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (‘the most beautiful villages in France’).  There we would wander among an abundance of charming 19th-century Creole buildings with pastel colors and gingerbread woodworks.

The kiosk and fountain at Maison Folio

We would visit the Maison Folio, a particularly attractive bourgeois villa that probably was part of the old military hospital complex.  Surrounded by a Creole garden, the architectural details of the home are striking – a Napoleon III-style cast iron fountain, timbered floors, intricate woodwork.  In the middle of the garden is the fountain of the three Graces and a prominent openwork kiosk.

Next on the itinerary – another “Village Creole”, Entre-Deux, so named for its location between two of the main tributaries of the Saint-Étienne River.  Vividly-painted cottages border petite lanes and reflect the palette of color of the scenic countryside.   And Saint-Denis also is no stranger to charm, where we could stroll among the distinct Creole homes that dominate the capital city.

Hopefully, one day our dream visit will take place, and we will split our time between a luxury seaside resort and a colorful hillside gîte.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Tranquil Week at Hotel Belles Rives

Seaside balconies, spectacular views

Perhaps, it is true – that money can’t buy happiness.  Nonetheless, I’d rather like to have the money for us to enjoy a week at Hotel Belles Rives, overlooking the Mediterranean in Juan-les-pins.  Yes, it would be a bit pricey at a cost of several thousand Euros, but we could enjoy an opulent vacation and a sort of creative immersion in the place that was once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

We all might be published authors, given the chance to lounge about by the sea. In 1926, Fitzgerald rented the Villa Saint-Louis, then a sprawling mansion on the Cote d’Azur.  There he molded the pieces of his life – his doomed marriage to Zelda and her mental illness, his escalating alcoholism and wasted talent– molded all of those pieces into the first passages of “Tender Is the Night”.  At the villa, he would write this fourth and final novel, inspired less it would seem by the surrounding beauty, than by his own internal conflicts and bleak outlook.

Unlike the famed author, our ‘baggage’ would not be packed with bitter old memories.  No, we would fill our luggage with clothes well suited to the Hotel Belle Rives, the mansion turned hotel in 1930.  We would dine in the elegant La Passagère or on the terrace overlooking the turquoise sea.  We would include très chic beachwear to pass lazy afternoons on our private beach.  We would walk among seaside mansions and parasol pines, venturing perhaps as far as the famed Bacon Restaurant at Cap d’Antibes.  And in our bejeweled evening attire, we would sip delicate wine in the Art Deco piano bar.

Hotel Belles Rive

Yes, it would be lovely to have the means to bankroll such a week, but there is a saving grace.  Imagination allows us all of the mental holidays and opulent accommodations we desire.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

Train à Grande Vitesse

The aerodynamic and ever so stylish TGV Duplex

Did you know that it has been 30 years, since the first high-speed train route connected Paris and Lyon?  With the recent completion of the Rhine-Rhone High Speed rail line, travel to eastern France just stepped up a considerable notch. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse – High Speed Train) trains zip along at a record-holding speed of 322 kph (201 mph), allowing you greater freedom to explore cities far and wide.

The new Eastern Branch route is interregional and runs from Dijon to Mulhouse. With Paris as the TGV network hub, this new link shortens the journey between Paris and Zurich by 30 minutes.

Another new route – The Southern branch – will be added to provide speedy connections between Dijon and Lyon and will help connect to Germany, eastern France and the Saône and Rhône valleys, the Mediterranean arc and Nice. Just imagine “flying” from Lyon to Frankfurt in less than five hours! According to RailEurope, 11 million passengers will take advantage of the new Rhine-Rhone TGV service.

And it isn’t just speed that will be achieved – you’ll travel in aerodynamic style on the Paris to Basel and Zurich routes. The new TGV Duplex is the only double-decker high-speed train on European networks, hosting travelers in colorful, comfortable interiors with screens in each car showing travel info, much like you see in airplanes. We’re looking forward to that trip!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

 

 

Une Soirée Très Unique à Amboise

The striking Château d’ Amboise on a promontory overlooking Amboise and the Loire River

The weekend of my husband’s birthday, our friends took the train from Paris to join us for a celebration in Amboise.  They arrived early on Friday, so we were able to explore the pretty gardens around our vacation rental as well as the sights of Amboise.

We wandered among pedestrian lanes and quaint boutiques, beneath the 11th-century Château d’ Amboise and up rue Victor Hugo to Clos Lucé, the final home of Leonardo da Vinci.  It was a pleasant and interesting walk past troglodyte caves and half-timbered homes, leaning precariously under the considerable weight of age.

We managed to take in quite a bit of the countryside during their visit – to see the light show at Château de Chambord, to visit the Abbey at Pontlevoy and picnic by the Loire.  Our friends are much like us, enjoying on-the-go moments as much as quiet walks and riverside pique-niques.

Our birthday celebration on Saturday produced several memorable moments.  Early in the day, Philippe and I huddled over a restaurant guide to choose the perfect destination for our dinner.  We reduced the selection to two – a chateau restaurant with a la carte choices or a set menu, in what has been referred to as the “best restaurant in Amboise”.  While I do have an adventurous palate, I thought dining outside at the latter would be a wonderful experience; and surely I could trust the chef’s menu choices.

We arrived at a beautiful, stately home that serves as a small hotel and restaurant.  It is set apart from the city in a lovely, walled garden with the magnificent Château d’Amboise as a backdrop.  Atmosphere – I love it!  We were seated outside under the stars at a table set for royalty – sparkling crystal and charger plates, crisp linens and little pebbles strewn here and there on the table to glisten in the candlelight.

Outdoor dining under the stars

After wine was presented, our waiter described the two set menus – vegetarian and traditional.  Remember, I’m not adventurous, and something on the traditional menu was not appealing.  The men opted for traditional, the ladies vegetarian.

The memory lurches to our first two vegetarian courses.  One, a pimiento starter, seasoned of course, and delicately placed on china.  Our second – pimiento again, prepared in a different manner, but nonetheless … was there a sale on peppers in the marketplace?

I hasten to add that I am not meaning to cast shadows on the restaurant.  The service was impeccable, the wine superb.  The pain et beurre mouthwatering.  And the finale was 7 delicate, desserts, beautifully served in petite stemmed crystal glasses in front of each of us.

You could not discover better theater and atmosphere than that.  Truly, that final ‘show’ overshadowed our quiet surprise over the first two courses, and left us with an amusing tale to share with friends.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

An Elegant Retreat Near Avignon

Le Prieuré, Villeneuve-lès-Avigon

Some things deserve to be presented and discussed without the tawdry business of mentioning prices.  Let’s just assume that ‘budget’ is not part of our vocabulary, as we choose a magical weekend quite near Avignon.  Up front, I have to acknowledge that there are some lovely, refined manoirs within the storied walls of old Avignon; but just to experience a private setting, with easy access to the historic area, we’ll give the nod to Le Prieuré just across the Rhône in Villeneuve- lès- Avignon.  The owners promise a stay that is both authentic and elegant.

You’ll first want to book your stay at Le Prieuré, though keep in mind their seasonal closure may run to mid March, 2012.  A member of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux collection of luxury hotels and restaurants, Le Prieuré is a former 15th-century convent, magically transformed into a welcoming hotel and perfumed by the priests’ trellised garden of roses and wisteria. Lavish Provençal style mixes with contemporary convenience in the carefully restored rooms and suites, that guarantee an intimate and comfortable stay.

The restaurant reinforces the setting with savory Provençal dishes.  Would you care to try the distinguished chef’s “Fillet of John Dory baked with salty butter and artichockes from Provence”?   The inventive cuisine delivers a flavorful mix of Mediterranean and regional dishes with fresh ingredients from the surrounding area. Yes, you’ll want to spend many leisurely moments in your chosen retreat, but let’s explore Villeneuve.

Fort Saint-André – 14th century fortified wall constructed to defend access to the Languedoc and protect the Benedictine Abbey – © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

Apparently, when the pope resided in Avignon, the cardinals had the good taste to choose Villeneuve for their opulent estates.  The village overlooks the river with striking views of Avignon from a more subdued and serene pace of life.

You may be surprised at the rich heritage and treasures in the village.  The dominant tower on the skyline – Fort Saint André and the Philippe le Bel Tower – remind us of Avignon’s alliance with the Holy Roman Empire and the need to protect the Benedictine abbey and town.  And the municipal museum in the Pierre-de-Luxembourg mansion displays exceptional art, notably religious works from ivory carvings to 17th century paintings.

The charming village becomes the focal point for performances and festivals throughout the year; due to their strategic location where Provence, la Camargue and Languedoc come together. Of course, you will visit the lovely old streets of Avignon to enjoy its’ special blend of history, striking architecture and inviting collection of shops and restaurants.

But the delight comes with your return from those lively moments to seal each and every memory with a quiet glass of wine on the balcony.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Saint-Aignan Celebrates New Neighbors

New residents of Saint-Aignan

 

An air of excitement and celebration is spilling through the Cher valley and Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, indeed through all of France.  Saint-Aignan’s populace recently expanded from its’ nearly 4000 residents to add two unique neighbors – Yuan Zi and Huan Huan –lovely giant pandas who are on loan from China  for ten years.

They are the first pandas to make France their home since 1973.  Surely they needed a rest after taking an 11-hour flight from China and another 3-hour drive from Paris to their new home.  It’s rather amusing to imagine Yuan Zi and Huan Huan in flight, tucked in their oversized seats with bamboo set before them on their lap trays.

They will reside in the ever-popular Zoo Parc de Beauval in the Loire-et-Cher town of Saint-Aignan.  They join a fascinating mix of white tigers and lions, koalas, sea lions, kangaroos and other assorted primates, reptiles and exotic birds.  One of the world’s most beautiful zoos, the Parc is home to about 4,600 animals and is renowned for working with endangered species.

When you visit the zoo, be sure to drive along the Route de Beauval, a lovely little country lane that winds past soft pink flowering trees, Italian cypress, apple orchards and sun-splashed rapeseed fields.  Well-manicured gardens wrap around the houses you’ll see, set either close to the road behind little stone walls and thick hedges or set back amongst a copse of poplars.  It really is a pastoral drive, as you head toward Saint-Aignan.

Saint-Aignan on the Cher

A Renaissance château is the centerpiece of Saint-Aignan, in the midst of the medieval houses of the village.  The striking view from the château terraces overlooks the 11th-century town and the rolling landscape of the Cher valley.  We wandered down narrow streets past balconies of lacy iron, geranium-bordered windows and a few half-timbered houses.

For our finale, a picnic by the Cher, we stopped in a little patisserie to pick up sandwiches and found an alimentaire for wine and apples.  Parfait!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

3 More Reasons to Visit Provence

 

Flower market, Aix-en-Provence

Give me time, and I can fill a book with reasons you should travel to this remarkable region!  First, let’s look to the towns and villages – Avignon, the Papal Palace and retreat on the Rhône.  Aix-en-Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, Cassis overlooking the Mediterranean, and the sprawling natural landscape of the Camargue.  In Aix, we duck around a corner to find the perfect café in the sun for lunch.  The friendly owner recommends plats and a Côtes de Provence Rosé.  We dine in Greoux le Bain next to a friendly young couple from Sophia Antipolis.  They insist we join them for a typical digestif. Phew!  Marc de Provence, I believe she called the drink, and it was s-t-r-o-n-g!  Thus the engaging people join the enchanting towns as reasons for our love of Provence.

Extraordinary Roman ruins point the ways of old Roman roads and customs, of religious communities and trade routes.  The amphitheatre in Nîmes, the Pont du Gard aqueduct above the city and ancient fountains in tiny hilltop towns – each provides a fascinating view of the past.  The defensive walls around Aigues-Morte and the secluded Romanesque abbeys – serene retreats from a land once thought to be sauvage (wild), a land routinely ravaged by Mistral winds through the seasons.

Along the rocky seafront by Saint Clair

And the Mediterranean spreads like luminous turquoise peacock feathers along the coast.  We stop in Bandol for a lazy lunch under wisteria-draped balconies. The markets along the water lure us with handmade soaps, fabric-covered baskets, pestos and Italian knits. It is each and every one of these experiences that nurture our love of Provence.  We find a rocky seaside path near Saint Clair to take a solitary walk along the coast.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Why Visit Provence? Color!!!

The vivid colors of Roussillon

There have been far too many invasions of France with devastating effects, but Provence experienced a different sort of invasion.  When Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence was published in 1989, within a year the word had spread like wild fire; and within 20 years, the book had sold 6 million copies!  Those who had previously enjoyed their provincial country life and those who had called Provence their second quiet home found the flood of tourists and property seekers overwhelming.  Even the Mayles had busloads of tourists dropping by their home in Ménerbes!

But I’ve gotten a bit off topic, haven’t I?  After all, I’ve not tangled with a truffle smuggler nor redone a Provençal home at the whimsy of local contractor’s schedules.  What immediately comes to mind about Provence is one attribute with two parts – color.  The blue skies, mustard-colored fields, spectacular rows of lavender, ancient olive trees and the rich red and ochre layers of soil near Roussillon. The play of light over the rainbow of landscape colors defies description; it simply seeps into your spirit, never to leave again.

The second part of the color equation is in the products that reflect the land.  Cheerful provincial linens burst with orange, blue, red, green and yellow threads.  Glazed potteries do the same, utilizing all of the vivid pigments from the land.  Red-tiled roofs top pastel and earth-red homes, while traditional brightly-colored shutters shield from the southern sun.

Enchanting fields of lavender

Provence eludes capture; it is a wandering place, neither a department nor an administrative region, officially part of “Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur.”   Where does one begin and the other end?  Perhaps, it is more a state of mind and heart, a reflection of the artists who have tried to capture her beauty or the writers who have reached for words to describe her diversity.  Some things simply cannot be defined.

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

Chambéry Blends History and Beauty

Fontaine des Elephants - Chambery

From Annecy, one of our favorite towns in eastern France, we take a day trip to discover another jewel – Chambéry.   The pretty mountain town is the historic capital of Savoie and enjoys a pleasant blend of quiet pedestrian streets, handsome mansions and a proud heritage.  Excellent road networks make travel to and from the town easy, with Grenoble, Annecy and Albertville within a 30-minute drive.  Lyon, Geneva and the Italian border are only an hour away.

Chambéry’s location between the Jura and the Alps mountains and adjacent to gorgeous lakes is equally picturesque and ideal for summer and winter outdoor activities.  The city also is the gateway to the Vanoise, Chartreuse and the Bauges parks, adding more choices for recreation.

We choose to head for the heart of old town around Place Saint Léger to enjoy a quiet stroll by the grand mansions along rue Croix d’Or, each with intriguing architecture, quiet courtyards and charming fountains.  The most famous landmark in the city is the seemingly misplaced Fontaine des Elephants (Elephants Fontaine).  The fountain honors the Comte de Boigne, who shared much of his wealth (derived from India, thus the elephants) with the city.  In fact the uniformed figure at the top is a statue of General Benoît de Boigne, a prominent adventurer in India, general to a maharajah and protector of the Taj Mahal.  It is not surprising that his storied life and generosity to Chambéry would result in this unique monument.

Chateau des Ducs de Savoie

The Charmettes Museum makes another interesting stop, formerly the country house of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the mid 18th century.  In 2012, the museum will mark the 300th anniversary of Rousseau’s birth.  One delightful feature of the Charmettes is the typical French garden with herbs, fruit trees and vegetables – a garden that reflects the writer’s affinity for botany.

We pick a lovely shaded table for lunch at the Restaurant le Réverbère right across from the Chateau des Ducs de Savoie, its’ imposing beauty the perfect backdrop to our Savoyard meal – a delicious tartiflette with salad.  Mountain folks know how to satisfy the hunger that comes from hiking in summer or skiing in winter.

Before returning to Annecy, we detour a bit for a drive along Lac Bourget.  There are many places to stop, park and walk along the lake.  The scenery and silence is magnificent, with clouds brushing mountain peaks across the lake and little wavelets lapping at the shore.  Pure perfection that restores peace of mind and erases any worldly worries!

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

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!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

A Relaxing Provençal Weekend

 

Sweeping views from the top of Mont Ventoux - © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

A weekend visit to one of the most beautiful villages of France offers a breath of fresh air that restores your spirit, sanity and appreciation for the pastoral beauty of the countryside.  Venasque, a small village of about 1,000 residents, perches on sheer rock outcroppings with a panoramic view towards Mount Ventoux.

Just 31 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Avignon, Venasque overlooks the valley of the river Nesque and is the first village built around the mount of Vaucluse.  It shares the countryside in the heart of Provence with nearby Carpentras, Isle sur La Sorgue and Gordes, to name just a “tip” of the iceberg of charm in a region that is riddled with abundant vineyards and orchards, lively markets and ancient historical sites.

Be prepared for a pleasant blend of outdoor enjoyment, art and craft exhibits, petite shops and historic exploration.  Begin in the small village with the starkly beautiful 5th century baptistery – Le Prieure de Saint-Pierre-Les-Thermes and the church of Notre Dame.  The beautiful church dates to the 13th century with a high bell tower overlooking the valley. Three large Saracen towers are classified historic sites and add to the imposing, thick-walled fortification.

Historic Saracen Towers, Venasque

Wander from the village center up the Chemin de Peiriere to the highest point overlooking the valley and Mount Ventoux.  In fact, you should drive or cycle up to the latter for a panoramic view at 1890 meters (6200 feet).  Discover a beautiful and varied landscape in the Gorges de la Nesque that cut through the mountains between Mont Ventoux to the north and Plateau de Vaucluse.  The Nesque River flows through valleys and gorges, dropping some 300 meters (984 feet), as it drops through the dramatic countryside.

A few excursions will add to the pleasure of your stay.  Enjoy an afternoon trip to Gordes and the nearby 12th-century Cistercian Abbey Notre-Dame-de-Sénanque. Surrounded by lavender fields, the church is in the form of a tau cross with the apse extending beyond the outer walls.  The village of Gordes is one of the most picturesque in Provence with a delightful collection of shops, galleries, studios and bistros.

Take in the authentic French market in Carpentras on Friday morning and the Sunday market and antique fair in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.   After a delightful round of antique shops, we stopped for lunch at a charming crêperie – Bistrot de L’Industrie.  On the outdoor terrace, we feasted on wild mushroom crêpes and topped our meal with a Grand Marnier crêpe.  Délicieux!
We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Spa Town of Aix-les-Bains

By Lac du Bourget, 12th-century Hautecombe Abbey- © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

Spa towns are a bit like musicals – they move in and out of favor, according to the fickle leanings of society.  The healing water generation gives way to the take-an-aspirin-and-go-hiking mindset.  Health remedies aside, what never fails to attract is raw beauty, and Aix-les-Bains has plenty of that to offer.  Make no mistake – your visit to Aix should be entirely focused on embracing and enjoying one of the most beautiful regions of France.

Set between the Alps and the Jura mountains, Aix-les-Bains hugs the eastern shore of Lac du Bourget, the largest natural lake in France.  The ideal combination of water and mountains creates a Mediterranean-like microclimate, allowing for abundant flowers and trees and softening the chill of winter.  The year-round views of snow-capped peaks are breathtaking, pushing your imagination from thoroughly abandoned skiing to leisurely cycling along the lakeside promenade.  Lac du Bourget saturates every vista and offers an endless supply of active water sports, lazy cruises or Zen-like relaxation.

Thousands come to Aix every year to enjoy lush parks, Roman statuary, open-air concerts or a simple game of chess in the square.  Of course many still come for the “cure” partaking in the sizzling waters of Thermes d’Aix-les-Bains, founded by the King of Sardinia and favored by Queen Victoria.  Since she reigned England longer than any other – 64 years – perhaps the waters do encourage prolonged health!

One visitor amusingly described central Aix-les-Bains as a “curious spa mix of sickness and celebration.”  It’s an apt description of many spa towns, where thermal waters soothe the body and casino-hopping pumps the spirit.

La Chapelle du Mont du Chat – © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

Worth noting, the Hautecombe Abbey, set high above the lake, enjoys a simply stunning location.  For centuries the abbey has been the burial place of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy, though the various religious orders have changed through the years.  It is said that the monks finally moved away in 1992 – to dodge the tourists?

Established by the Environment Ministry, the Maison du Lac is a freshwater aquarium- the largest in France.  The French enacted numerous strict environmental standards, when the Alpine lakes were threatened, and the results have been rewarding.  The aquarium serves to promote the protection and management of a natural aquatic environment to the general public.

The lovely old Hotel Le Manoir is a delightful choice of lodging, rather like an old country house with charming balconies and shaded setting.  Complete with full spa facilities and a fine restaurant, the hotel is classified as a “Relais de Silence” – the ideal choice for a relaxing holiday.
We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Invitation – Jacquemart-André Museum

The magnificent gilded Music Room

May we suggest two entirely elegant experiences at one of the most exquisite museums in Paris?  If you are not already in love with the “City of Light”, these suggested outings will seal your heart forever!

Both excursions will take you to the Jacquemart-André Museum on boulevard Haussmann, just 400 meters from the Champs Elysées and the Arc du Triomphe.  The beautiful “hôtel particulier”  (freestanding private mansion) was home to Nélie Jacquemart and Edouard André, built on the Monceau plain after their marriage in the late 19th century.  Emile Zola once wrote of the collection of aristocratic mansions, “It is a display, a profusion, an overwhelming amount of wealth.”

It is their wealth and exceptional taste in art and elaborate furnishings that will be at your fingertips in a museum that feels more like you are the personal guest of aristocrats than an attendee at a formal ‘institution’.  Begin your visit around 10:30 a.m. to take in the exceptional collection of paintings in the Picture Gallery.  Next you spill into the Grand Salon and adjacent Music Room, where hundreds of the Andre’s guests gathered for sumptuous receptions.

Now, it’s time to relax a bit with lunch in the Café Jacquemart-André, formerly the mansion dining room.  Over quiche, salad, delicate pastries and a glass of wine; imagine the elaborate dinners once hosted here.  Indeed, you are enjoying your déjeuner (lunch) in the most elegant tea salon in Paris.  If a leisurely brunch is more to your liking, enjoy a delightful repast, offered every Sunday at 11:00 a.m.

Tiepolo fresco by the graceful staircase

For the second of your memorable experiences at the museum, you will need to visit Paris between January 20 to March 18, 2012, to enjoy an intimate evening of “Music at the Jacquemart-André”.  Now in its eleventh year, the program gathers only 100 guests for champagne and chamber music, poetry or piano recitals in the gilded privacy of the Music Room.

Voila!  There you have two delightful experiences that underscore the never-ending mystique of the capital of France.
We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

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Metz on the Moselle and Seille

Straddling the Moselle, the Moyen-Pont bridge in Metz and the Temple Neuf - © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

So many cities and villages in France spread along the leafy banks of gently flowing rivers.  Metz is no exception, where nearly 14 miles (22 km) of the Moselle and Seille riverfronts contribute to the appeal and tranquil rhythm of the city.  The sparkling capitol of the Lorraine department in northeastern France continues to evolve into an interesting and thriving city with heavy influence from Germany and Luxembourg.

Just 80 minutes from Paris on the new TGV Est-European train, Metz combines 3000 years of history with an appealing flower-filled landscape, appreciation for the past and excitement about the future.  The university adds another energetic and cultural dimension to the spirited city.   We are particularly fond of scenic water views, so we explore the river areas first.

In Metz, ancient gardens open on to promenades, and the verdant open-space Seille Park offers an ideal leisure and sports venue as well as a fascinating environmental experience.  The lagoon, reed beds and wet pond  were designed to treat storm water, and perennials mix with towering oaks, maples and sycamores to set a peaceful place for quiet walks.  North of the old city center, charming 18th-century neighborhoods hug the Moselle and the Grand Island Saulcy.  Especially with reflections in the water, you’ll enjoy a beautiful view over the old town from Pont Saint-Marcel.

Saint-Étienne de Metz – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Laurent

The recently opened Centre Pompidou mirrors the ambitions of Paris’ Pompidou center.  Together with the Metz Metropole region and the Musee National d’Art Moderne, the stimulating exhibits tap your hunger for contemporary art.   La Cour d’or houses the art, architecture and archeology museums, each illuminating the history of the city and surrounding areas as well as displaying art from the 15th to 20th centuries.

One of the most beautiful buildings in Metz is the Cathedrale Saint-Etienne at place d’Armes with the third-tallest nave in France.  Overlooking the river, the Cathedrale has several beautiful stained glass windows by Chagall, and little canopy-covered café tables provide a delightful place to take in the majestic architecture.

When it comes to Lorraine cuisine, think creamy quiche and lovely rabbit dishes, Mirabelle plum treats, Savoy raclettes and fondues.   Brandy.  Excellent lagers spill through the outdoor terraces in warm weather.  It won’t take long for you to discover your favorite dining spots.

Guidelines and inside tips are nice to have, but always allow your own sense of discovery to lead you to those perfect little places and surprises that make your holiday unique.
We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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

The “Île aux Vaches” Transformed

Berthillon's cafe on Ile Saint-Louis

Without hesitation I can say that Île Saint-Louis is one of our favorite places in Paris; so it is difficult to imagine the island as an unadulterated cow pasture in the middle of the Seine.  But that’s exactly what it was – Île aux Vaches (Île of Cows) – where the occasional court-ordered duel might shatter the otherwise peaceful pasture.

It remained so until King Louis XIII launched an urban plan to transform the island into a prestigious neighborhood.  Elegant townhouses were built between 1620 and 1650, using stone and slate in place of the fire-prone wood and thatch roofs.  Thus, the island was transformed into a place of privilege for affluent Parisians to escape from the bustle of the city.

Today, Île Saint-Louis remains a quaint haven compared to her neighbor, Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapel, the Palais de Justice and other island attractions draw thousands of visitors.  Ile Saint-Louis is more like a 17th-century village with narrow, one-way streets, bakeries, cafes, one of the city’s most famous flower shops and interesting little specialty boutiques, galleries and gourmet shops.  We never tire of wandering along the narrow streets and stepping down the stairways to the island’s tree-shaded quays.  We find our little bench to watch the boats and ducks glide through the river, the occasional fisherman and, always, pairs of lovers here and there.

Rather a nice spot for fishing!

During our last trip, we actually stayed in a vacation rental on the island – a charming apartment overlooking a school yard, where we could watch the children play and form an obedient line to receive their snacks.  For all of our exploring, it seems there are always things we miss, experiences we want to add in the future.

While we have enjoyed every type of meal on the island, we’ve yet to buy a single flower from Patrick Allain’s shop or a single scoop of Berthillon’s famous homemade ice cream.  Our most memorable omission was our failure to purchase an exceptional painting, while on our honeymoon.  There was a boutique gallery featuring the work of a Vietnamese artist, who used bold splashes of color in his works.  Alas, we did not make that purchase, but I have enjoyed trying to replicate his work several times.

Just one of my 'knock-offs'

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


Paris Pass

Timeless Tradition – The Travel Journal

Preserving memories, telling stories

 

We have something in common with Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. Now, before you rush to judgment about our perceived arrogance, allow me to explain. Moleskine® is our common denominator, the lovely and legendary notebooks that preserve recorded thoughts, whimsical sketches and travel stories.

One of the very first ‘must-do’s’, when we arrive in France is to seek out a little papeterie – stationer’s shop – to find just the right journal for our trip. It’s not at all difficult to find one with a personable owner and a delightful variety of notebooks – with fancy covers or a little pocket in the back, ruled pages or fine unlined paper.

Then, we are set for that quiet moment along the Seine, when we simply must record the scenes before us. Or, while at a café in Aix-en-Provence, the pen hits the paper to preserve the setting. I sketch the nanny on the bench in the Jardin des Plantes, watching over her charges; and do the same in Bandol, as my daughter and I enjoyed a terrace lunch.

Nanny in the park

I looked through a journal from Paris just today to discover an inspired assortment of ‘keepsakes’ – a Cotes d’Auvergne wine label (but of course!) tickets to the metro, the Louvre and Musee Marmottan, a little café receipt and a handsome brochure for an elegant boutique hotel.

Call me sentimental, as you wish, but those little items, notes and sketches resurrected some extraordinary memories. As Moleskine® indicates, “The adventure of Moleskine continues to widen, and its still-blank pages will tell the rest.”

Perhaps, you would like to seek out your own papeterie, your very special notebook; so you can capture the special moments of your journey.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

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


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“Nuits de Champagne” – Troyes

Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul cathedral – Troyes – © ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Champagne-Ardenne

Lucky folks in and around the Aube department in northeastern France will enjoy yet another spectacular lineup of music at the Nuits de Champagne.  Set in l’Aube capital of Troyes, the music festival has become a welcome October tradition and runs this year from October 23 to 29.

The 2011 Champagne Nights festival centers around Jean-Louis Aubert, the guest of honor of the 24th annual festival.  Aubert is an immensely popular French pop-rock star and outstanding guitarist who will combine his musical flair with the magnificent Dawn Chorus, comprised of 850 ‘amateur’ students from 26 colleges in the Department.

Aubert first performed at the festival in 2006 at the invitation of fellow artist Michel Delpech and followed suit by inviting his friends to participate in the 2011 program.  Bernard Lavilliers/Raphael,  Catherine Ringer and bluesman Paul Person will perform in the festival, bringing an exciting and diverse mix of music.

Aubert returns with his latest album, “Roc Flash”, seemingly a clear picture of his life, written and composed in Provence, after his father’s illness and death in Paris.  The album reflects his humanity, positive outlook and empathy for others.

The Grand Chorus

Set in the beautiful half-timbered city in the region renowned for producing elegant champagnes, the festival will assemble music lovers, a bit of bubbly and a good measure of local hospitality.

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


Great fares to Europe and beyond.

Absorbing the Charm of Chartres

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres

Every October, the Artisanales de Chartres (Chartres Arts & Crafts) presents a famous exhibition, the works of over 500 skilled crafts and tradesmen. And heaven only know how much artistic and creative talent is in Chartres year round. Known especially for magnificent stained glass, you can see for yourself exceptional displays of ancient and contemporary windows, mirrors, lamps and more at the International Stained-Glass Centre and the Stained-Glass gallery.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. A mere day trip by train from Paris’ Montparnasse station, it’s a scenic journey through blazing yellow rapeseed fields, small towns and flourishing farmlands. Arriving in Centre Ville, you are just steps from the famous Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres, The town of Chartres might duck into the shadows of the UNESCO World Heritage site; instead, on the small hill overlooking the Eure River, the pretty town sparkles as the Capitol of Light and Perfume.

We stopped at an outdoor café in the shadows of the cathedral to plan our day over coffee. We were more interested in absorbing the atmosphere of the town than in making studious tours. We wandered through some of the prettiest streets and lanes we had ever encountered. Flower-filled parks weave through the city with many choices for relaxing in peace: The Bishop’s Gardens, Andre Gagnon Park with 65 varieties of roses, and the Sakurai Gardens with a view over the town and cathedral.

From the high ground of the cathedral, the steps and floral-lined paths wind downward to the pastoral waters of the Eure. As we explored the half-timbered old buildings along the stream, we were instantly drawn to Le Moulin de Ponceau.

In an ancient building just next to the bridge, the restaurant spills from its handsome interior to an outdoor terrace by the water – simply a gorgeous sight and a very pleasant dining choice. Throughout the town, you can find a plentiful supply of charming brasseries and restaurants to satisfy any yen for crêpes or paninis, farm-fresh soups and classic French cuisine. We always prefer a peaceful setting, and this day our choice was flawless.

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

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap Ferrat

Guests on the terrace of the Rothschild’s Villa Ephrussi – © ATOUT FRANCE/Cédric Helsly
From the late 1800’s until World War I, the “Belle Epoque” or beautiful era, swirled about the upper classes of Europe like a magnificent feather boa, conferring exotic pleasures while requiring little but self indulgence. New technologies made life more comfortable, and the wealthy were unencumbered by income taxes. At the center of Belle Epoque, Paris invented haute couture, perfected champagne; and created splendid restaurants and gilded buildings to serve and satisfy the privileged.

It was during this era, in the early 1900’s that the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a strikingly beautiful site on the narrowest part of Saint-Jean du Cap Ferrat to build one of the most beautiful palaces on the French Riviera. The Baroness’ spectacular Italian-style Palazzo overlooks the Bay of Villefranche to one side and the Bay of Beaulieu on the other. Built to house her growing international art collection, the magnificent palace is set among nine themed gardens, each carefully designed and impeccably tended.

On her death in 1934, Baroness Beatrice Ephrussi bequeathed her palace and art collections to the Academie des Beaux Arts. Her benevolence allows this one grand residence – the only open to the public on the Riv