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!

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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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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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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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“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

We’d love to hear from you!

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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!
We’d love to hear from you!

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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!

We’d love to hear from you!

And some charming French gifts ….

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

And some charming French gifts ….

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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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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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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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.

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!
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. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

“Bucket List” Lodging – Champagne Region

Les Crayeres

The stunning former Pommery mansion

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

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

Epernay champagne region

La Briqueterie’s tranquil setting outside Epernay

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

Champagne Ardennes region of France

Fine dining at Les Crayeres

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Save up to 65% at Luxury Link!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

 

 

Black Friday Versus “Soldes” in France

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Printemps department store, Paris

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

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

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.

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!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

We’d love to hear from you!

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.

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)
Amazon direct order

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. 

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.

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.

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

 

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.

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.

#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.

 

 

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

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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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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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

 

A Midnight Swim in Paris?

Enjoy the mystique beneath the beautiful art deco ceiling

Mais oui!  You can take a dip in the evening in Paris in a particularly alluring place that is the premiere swimming site in Paris – the Piscine Pontoise, also known as Piscine du Quartier Latin.  If you are a fan of Kieslowski’s Three Colours Blue, you will remember the swimming scene with the beloved French actress, Juliette Binoche, in this piscine.  And  Jacques Cousteau tested his first deep-sea diving suit here, though one wonders how effective this not-very-deep body of water might prove for testing purposes.

Located in a graceful art deco building in the heart of Paris, the Pontoise pool is officially listed as a Historical Monument and has a delightful atmosphere with natural light spilling through a dramatic, opaque glass ceiling.  Two stories of 160 individual cabins surround the pool, offering swimmers a private changing area.

At 33 meters in length (108 feet), it’s not an Olympic-sized pool and can often be crowded.  In fact, you should avoid going on Wednesdays, when the French children are not attending school.  But the hours may draw you for an evening swim.  From Monday through Friday, you can purchase a night ticket to use the pool from 8:00 p.m. to midnight.

In addition to swimming, visitors enjoy other activities from squash classes and fitness club to a revitalizing sauna and whirlpool, and even a restaurant.   Parisian pools – there are 38 throughout the city – are open throughout the year, but it is always a good idea to double-check your pool choice for hours, rules and scheduled days of closing.  Many, for example, close on Monday.

You also will want to be aware of rules observed by all municipal pools.  Most French pools require everyone to wear bathing caps – bonnets du bain, and speedo-style briefs are de rigueur for men – no boxers or square-cut trunks allowed.  Bring your own flip flops and towels.

Another intriguing pool you may want to try is Piscine Josephine Baker – yes, she certainly captured the attention and imagination of the French!  This one is so unique, because it is a glass-walled pool on a barge that is permanently located below the Bastille.  It’s particularly pleasant in warm weather, when the retractable glass roof opens to sunny skies.

Piscine Josephine Baker

Extras include a steam room, 2 solariums, gym and Jacuzzi.  Can’t you just imagine your note to friends back home?  “Took a dip in the Josephine Baker pool today in Paris …” Certainly guaranteed to pique some envy in your friends!  And we rather imagine that Ms. Baker might have chaffed at the swim suit requirement.

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.

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.

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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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.


bebe.com

“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.

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 Riviera – to be available to visitors for a modest 10 Euro entry fee. Allow yourself time to wander through the Villa and gardens to imagine the life and summer homes of the very wealthy, who created the French Riviera during the “beautiful era.”

The Villa is a living testament to the Baroness’ passion for travel and outstanding art. In a gracious setting, the state rooms and private apartments are richly decorated with priceless art and elaborate antique furnishings. In addition to a Venetian painted ceiling, the Baroness’s bedroom houses a collection of costumes from the Louis XV and XVI eras. Her dominant pink color scheme mirrored Queen Marie-Antoinette’s sumptuous court at Versailles.

Fountains in the gardens of Villa Ephrussi – © ATOUT FRANCE/Cédric Helsly

Extend your fantasy visit in the Belle Epoque with tea or lunch in the stunning Salon de Thé. For relatively modest prices, you may enjoy tea or coffee and pastries or quiche, salad and desserts. You will not soon forget the magical moment overlooking the Bay of Villefranche.

After lunch, step into the enchanting gardens that spill across 17 acres – Spanish and Florentine gardens, a French formal garden, the Stone garden, and the Exotic, Japanese and Provencal gardens. You’ll marvel at the endless flora, serene waterfalls and ponds and romantic paths. With almost 100 varieties, the sweetly-scented rose garden surrounds a hexagonal temple. In fact, each garden offers a sensory experience, combining lush vegetation with architectural additions that support the garden’s theme.

Indulge yourself for a moment, along your favorite garden pond or staircase, to imagine the era, the lively balls and quiet Mediterranean dawns, the era’s opulence and renowned (or perhaps infamous) visitors. You might even stretch a little further to imagine yourself as the lady or gentleman of the palace, coffee before you and quill pen in hand, stopping to look over the bay, before beginning your correspondence. Few will ever again know the extravagance of this storied time.

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

 

The Winds of Change

 

Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre

Renewable energy. Jobs. Reduced dependence on fossil fuels. These are tip-of-the-tongue topics of the 21st century. Fully nine centuries ago, England and France were the first to embrace windmills, and they remained a viable energy source for 700 years, before declining into a rather dusty closet.

At one point, no less than fourteen windmills spread across Paris’ historic crest – Montmartre Hill. Le Moulin Vieux was the first, built in 1570, and was operational until the late 19th century. Now there is only one – the Moulin de la Galette – classified in 1939 as a monument. In the early 1800’s, the Moulin and its’ courtyard were transformed into a ballroom, where Parisians gathered each Sunday to dance, enjoy a glass of wine and freshly baked bread.

So the windmill eased from a helpful industrial tool that produced flour to nostalgic relic and treasured symbol of bygone days.  Oh, but leave it to the spirited entrepreneurs to keep the image alive.  At the bottom of Montmartre, the Moulin Rouge (Red Mill) is one of the most famous Parisian cabarets.

“Come to the cabaret…”

Today, in the face of economic uncertainty and an uneasy dependence on fossil fuels, wind continues to take on increased importance as a renewable energy source. Now, across the European landscape, wind farms with, perhaps, less than charming massive turbines tap the power of wind to produce megawatts of electricity.

A new kind of farm

“Increasing the use of renewables is central to building a new economic model. Over the last 5 years we have created 300,000 new jobs … actively developing the renewable energy sector. If we continue at this pace, this could mount to 1.5 million jobs by 2020, locking in a virtuous circle.”

José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, speaking in Brussels on Renewable Energy sources and Climate change mitigation, 16 June 2011.

Earlier this year, the French wind power leader GDF Suez announced plans and partnerships to develop another 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines – planting, as it were, turbines in the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean to offset fossil fuel and nuclear energy dependence.

So there you have it – the evolution from a charming, though antiquated energy tool to intelligent alternative to fossil fuels that keep the political arena poised for aggressive energy “diplomacy”.  It is quite a sight to drive through the French countryside and see the giant wind turbines. While the view is far preferable to mountaintops raked bare by strip mining, the soaring structures probably would not be the chosen subject of Renoir’s brush strokes.

“And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space,
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.”

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Exceptional French Rosé Wines

It's almost picking time in France

 

We first discovered delightful French rosés during a late July trip along the Mediterranean.  Often misunderstood in America as a too sweet, “starter” wine for the uninformed, French rosés are the ideal, refreshing warm weather wine – on the dry side with hints of fruit flavors – and a perfect addition to picnics and summer meals.  Rosés now are seen as “all year” wines enjoyed by wine lovers that prefer a light, dry taste.

Begin with the ever-popular Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé produced in the Bandol appellation between Marseille and Toulon.  Imported by Kermit Lynch, the Tempier Rosé  “… is stunning, and lays down a serious argument for not just being one the greatest rosés in the world, but one of the world’s greatest wines,” according to Clark Z. Terry.  Could it be the sun-drenched vineyards that run down to the Mediterranean?  Probably that agreeable climate combined with the experience of a Domaine that has been producing great wines since 1834.

Domaine Tempier Bandol

With your grilled fish, try the Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45 Rosé that blends Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes to yield a raspberry and strawberry flavor.  The wine is so named for 45th North parallel that runs just 2 kilometres from the Jaboulet cellars in the fertile Rhone Valley.

A little northwest of Avignon, Tavel is a village of 1,600; where the Languedoc nudges up against Provence, and the rose is considered the best in France.  In fact, the area is said to be the cradle of French rosé, where the Tavel wine favored by Louis XIV and Philippe le Bel, thus was ‘crowned’ the Rosé of Kings.  As they say in the industry, if it’s named Tavel, it must be a rosé.  The Chateau Trinquevedel 2008 Tavel Rose makes an excellent choice for its’ deep pink and robust strawberry-spice taste.  Out of five million bottles produced each year, only 200,000 are imported to the United States (Once again, Kermit Lynch is the importer with a savvy selection of Tavel.)

Red grape varietals for Rose

Most rosé wines are made from a red grape varietal that have short contact time with the skins to produce the lighter color.  Sparkling rosés traditionally blend red and white grapes.   According to third-generation winemaker Séverine Lemoine,  “It’s more complex. It’s a wine for consuming all year.”  On top of all of these positive attributes, the majority of French rosés provide good value for the money. The versatility of Rosé wines allows for easy partnering with a variety of foods from ‘surf to turf’.  And there is absolutely nothing to stop you from enjoying a chilled glass of rosé on the porch before dinner!

 

 Contact us:  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Guerande – A Medieval Masterpiece

Fortification of a "fairytale" village

Though we enjoy the freedom of taking the most interesting road or choosing a general direction, there is one “do over” we will rectify in the future.  We travelled from the Loire Valley to the Atlantic Coast in the 3rd week of August; when, as it turns out, every other potential vacationer in all of France had done precisely the same thing. 

After wandering around the port of Saint-Nazaire, we wondered at its relatively modern look.  Sad to discover that the entire city was fire bombed by the Allies in January of 1943, in order to cripple the German submarine base that was wreaking havoc on Allied supply ships in the Atlantic.  The entire city was incinerated and was rebuilt in the late 1940’s. 

We headed north to discover 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. 

A "cocoon" of shopping and dining

The small streets are alive with tourists, shopping, dining and enjoying the authentically historic feeling of the town.  All of that medieval gray is gaily punctuated with bright blue shutters and storefronts, geranium-filled flower boxes and gardens lined with tulips.  And of course there are baskets and boxes of the famous Fleur de Sel, sought by chefs and everyday cooks to enhance their creations.

It is here that we will correct our mistake, visit again and allow time to discover the city, 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 May, when life is a bit calmer.

 

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Free Things to Do in Paris

Enjoy a pique-nique by the Eiffel Tower

Begin with comfortable shoes, a good map and a few snacks in your backpack.  Paris offers a feast of sights and sounds from sophisticated exhibits to down-to-earth people watching in magnificent parks.

The quays along the Seine are always pleasant.  In the 5th arrondisement, stroll through the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air.  Created in 1980, it is literally an outdoor garden planted with twentieth century sculptures instead of flowers.   Along the way, you’ll see large boats anchored to the quay, homes for those who choose the river life, with bicycles aboard, outdoor seating and plants.  Their address is enviable. 

All along the quay, Parisians and visitors take a rest in the sun or read beneath the riverfront shade trees.  You’ll see tour boats pointing out the Notre Dame Cathedral and L’ile Saint-Louis.  Each Sunday, adjacent roads are closed to auto traffic, yielding their fast roadways to leisurely cyclists and roller bladers. 

Take in the sun along the Seine

Summer in Paris serves up a number of free, inventive celebrations.  Several beaches along the banks of the Seine welcome sun worshippers.   At the same time, a giant outdoor screen at the Parc de la Villette delights cinema fans with free movies from all eras.

The Fete de la Musique is held each June with concerts presented throughout the City of Light.  At every square, on corners and in courtyards, you will enjoy all kinds of musique, from a chamber quartet at the Place Dauphine to African rhythms in front of the Notre Dame.  All free and all delightful.

July signals the celebration of Bastille Day, much like the American 4th of July.  The French pull out all stops on July 14th with grand military marches and flyovers to celebrate the birth of the Republic. Every July 14th, Paris comes to life with free events in honor of democracy à la Française.

Finally, the annual Quartier d’Eté is resplendent with presentations of music, theatre and dance by international performers.  Once again, the sites are spread throughout the city in the gardens and even at the ancient arena, Arènes de Lutéce.   

Lovely sculptures adorn the City of Light

Other outdoor places to loll and people watch include the magnificent Tuilleries gardens, the Place des Vosges and the gardens of Luxembourg.  In fact, visitors too often feel honor bound to see every museum or monument and miss the concept that the entire city is a living museum.  From sculptures on bridges and buildings to historic and stunning architecture, the city offers a free visual feast at every bend in the road. 

These tips should get you off to an enthusiastic start, so now it’s your turn.  Hit the internet and book store for a never-ending supply of ideas.  You’ll be glad to arrive in Paris armed with knowledge and ready to roam.

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Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Artisan Markets & Ateliers of France

Pottery of Roussillon, Provence

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

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

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

Aix Artisan Festival

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

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

Atelier, L'Agenda Moderne, Paris

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

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

 

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text,  all rights reserved.

A Prehistoric Weekend in Brittany?

Megalithic stone formations in Carnac

With so many fascinating things to discover in Carnac, you will want to plan a weekend to take in the beautiful seaside and profound collection of megalithic sites.   

Begin your adventure checking into a charming hotel on Carnac’s highest point, where guests have gathered for 4 generations.  Not only is Hotel Tumulus a sparkling Brittany inn and spa; it is set at the foot of a Neolithic mound and was built in 1900 by an archeologist, who excavated the adjacent tumulus of Saint-Michel for 8 years. 

The location, sweeping views of the bay of Quiberon and exceptional restaurant make this an ideal choice for exploring all of the enchantment in and around Carnac.

(Click any photo to enlarge)

Now, let’s see how to even introduce the mind-boggling collection of Carnac megalithic stones, without going entirely “brainiac” on you.  Perhaps little is surprising in a country with such a rich storehouse of historic sites, but the megaliths in Brittany date back as far as 6850 years B.C.  The Ménec alignments include 3,000-plus prehistoric stones (the world’s largest collection), were rough hewn from local rock and raised by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany.   

When you stand before these formations, you can’t help but marvel at the complexity involved in raising and arranging stones that weighed 350 tons or more!  Naturally, the French have some clever observations about those feats.  Local lore, for example, perfectly explains the exact, straight lines of some stone alignments.  “…They are a Roman legion turned to stone by Merlin – Brittany.”  Others believe the heavy stones had to be transported by fairies. 

A prehistoric tomb

Beyond your historic explorations, you will enjoy the white sandy beaches and water sports, hiking and visiting other local sites – La Trinité sur Mer, Quiberon and Auray.  Your French getaway will combine the misty magic of prehistoric sites with the down-to-earth hospitality and recreation of the Carnac area.

 

 

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Best French Villages to Visit

Famed chef Alain Ducasse's La Bastide de Moustiers

Hilltop and valley villages anoint the French countryside like little pearls strung lazily across the landscape.  Each, it seems, is centered on a petite chapel, and many claim riverfront privileges with ancient stone bridges and willow-protected river banks.  While there are hundreds of scenic and historic villages in France, we have to begin somewhere!  Enjoy a glimpse of two of our favorites.

Moustiers Sainte-Marie

At the western end of the striking Gorges du Verdun, Moustiers Sainte-Marie is a remarkably beautiful village in the Emerald Valley.  Moustiers is home to just 600 residents but host to thousands of visitors, many who come for the valued “faience” pottery produced here.   

The traditional pottery village straddles a small rocky canyon and a stream that splits the village and adds the pleasant sounds of rushing water to the overall charm of the town.  High above the village a semi circle of rocky cliffs are linked by a forged iron chain, from which the golden star of one of the knights of the Crusades is suspended.  It’s quite a striking sight and symbol.  Under the protective star, the village unfolds with narrow streets and passages and welcoming shops and cafes.  Everywhere the views upwards and outwards prompt you to stop, look and listen. 

At the village center, the 12th-century Notre-Dame church, with its four-level Romanesque bell tower, is watched over by the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel, high above the village and beneath the gold star.  You gain a sense of how “young” we are, in that the chapel was built on the same spot as a Marial temple that dates to 470 A.D. You will definitely want to carve out some time to wander through faience stores, before finding that perfect umbrella-covered table for a delightful lunch.

Roussillon

Roussillon's main square

On the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, Rousillon is an ochre-red village that is tinyenough to easily explore but filled with charm and color.  Wandering along her tiny streets takes you through a maze of bright colors – coral buildings with bright blue shutters, vivid yellow with green accents, deep earth colors and red tile roofs.  One of the 141 villages in France rated as a Plus Beaux Village (Most Beautiful Village of France), Roussillon’s color stems, in part, from the former ochre mines at the base of the village.  In fact, there is evidence of Roman occupation, when the mines were operating. 

The village square was one of our favorites, lively with outdoor cafes, the Mairie’s (Mayor’s) handsome building and the 19th-century clock, bell tower and sundials of the church.  Stretching out from the square are charming boutiques with pottery that reflects the joyous colors of the area.

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Great Cities to Visit

 

Avignon's magnificent Palace of the Popes

France spreads like an elegant patchwork quilt across landscapes that sweep from the dramatic Alpine peaks in the East across fertile river valleys down to the sun-swept beaches of the Cote d’Azur.  All along the way, you discover delightful cities that shape the best of the land, people and culture to create their own unique identity, each calling you to visit. 

Avignon

The region of Provence lays claim to some of the loveliest cities of France.  Stone ramparts encircle Avignon to harbor magnificent architecture and art, broad avenues and tiny streets; until you arrive at the imposingly medieval fortress and home-away-from-home Palace of the Popes.  From the fortress you will see the famous ruins of the Avignon bridge.  We parked by the ramparts and meandered through quaint lanes, until that perfect café seat called us to sit, sip and watch the world wander past.

Chartres

One of the most beautiful cities in France and home to one of the finest gothic cathedrals, Chartres exudes an air of relative calm.  Just 60 miles southwest of Paris, the town center is dominated by UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cathedrale de Notre-Dame. The cathedral’s renowned flying buttresses, stained glass and twin spires are a remarkable sight, and one that takes your breath away!

Another of Chartres’ stellar charms is the picturesque branch of the Eure River that winds through the lower city. Be sure to wander the flower-lined paths and petite bridges to discover gardens, museums and the gentle city spirit that wraps around you. The perfect ending for your excursion is Le Moulin de Ponceau, a lovely restaurant with terrace overlooking the tiny bridge across the river – wonderful in every way!

Lyon

 Lyon is considered the French capital of gastronomy and former capital of the silk trade. To be certain, sampling the famed Lyonnais cuisine will be one of your favorite activities. Whether along narrow, winding streets in the old town or in the popular Presquile area, a fantastic range of restaurants will lure you with steamy regional dishes, perfected haute cuisine and classic Cotes

So many cafe and bistro choices in Lyon!

du Rhone wines. Lyon’s traditional bouchons elevate the onion to royalty in hearty meat and potato dishes, fish dumplings and other down-to-earth meals delivered with plenty of atmosphere and casual hospitality.

In between meals, discover the waterfront beauty and compelling historic sites of the city. Two beautiful rivers, the Rhone and Saone, intersect the city, forming a charming and eclectic peninsula in the middle; where shopping and dining radiate from the huge Place Bellecours.

More cities to come…..

 

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Visit France – Top 4 Reasons

Palace of the Popes, Avignon

 

Imagine France, and your thoughts run to fashion, food and icons like the Eiffel Tower and Arch de Triomphe. Step beyond your initial notions, though, to find four great reasons to visit France.
History and Architecture – From Paris to Provence, you will wonder at the Roman presence. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, stroll through the Arènes de Lutèce to discover a quiet, park setting in a Roman amphitheatre that dates to the 2nd century.

In Avignon, stand before the gleaming white Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), the papal residence dating to the early 1300’s. Whether you comb the streets of Paris and Lyon or wander through petite French villages, all will reward you with fortifications, Roman aqueducts, Gothic cathedrals, Renaissance chateaus and half-timbered homes.

Landscape – The palette of France includes every imaginable color and intensity, from dramatic coastal landscapes to soaring Alpine and Pyrenees peaks. Travel east from the Atlantic coast across valleys, vineyards, river gorges and volcanic domes. Head south to the vivid Provencal landscape and ever-changing coastal terrain along the Mediterranean Sea. Almost any sight or season you want to experience, France delivers. Raft through the Gorges du Verdun. Hike through Alpine meadows or sip your wine, while the day comes to a close, along the Cote d’Azur.

Joie de Vivre – The French celebrate life and revere their customs and culture. On the occasion of the Summer Solstice, for example, cities across France celebrate with la Fête de la Musique, a festival of musicians performing through the night. Everywhere visitors join with residents to celebrate the onset of summer. Every season in France gives occasion to make merry, from luminary shows and craft fairs to Saint Nicholas and New Year festivities. The wine harvest gives rise to moments of joy for the generosity of the land and the cooperation of the weather.

Aix-en-Provence market

The French Spirit – Enjoy the warmth of the French, and the cuisine that permeates everyday living and special celebrations. France is an agricultural country, rich in fields of wheat, lavender, corn and vineyards. To the west and south, sea salts and Provencal spices are gathered. All of the waterways and seas offer a rich bounty for the simplest cooks and the most renowned chefs.

 Everywhere you go, you will want to visit the local markets, where artisan crafts mix with homemade, field-fresh relishes and jams, steaming paella dishes, rotisserie chickens and wonderful displays of cheese. The markets will deliver some of your warmest memories of France.

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Tips for Travelers to France

 

A leisurely lunch along Place Dauphine, Paris

Visit France to discover a beautiful country with a fascinating history; a people who are polite and friendly, but conservative; and a culture that appreciates the arts, gardens, historic architecture and – above all – leisurely dining.  Follow a few suggestions to take pleasure in all that France and the French have to offer.

Please bow to “politesse” – courtesy, French style and show respect for the different culture you will find.  The French hold honor, dignity and freedom in high regard; so you may read some of their actions as unfriendly or aloof.  A little “wooing” and basic good manners will remove apparent “barriers”.  Master a few French phrases that will open doors and smooth your path.

Begin with “Bonjour Madame (or Monsieur)” when you enter a store or restaurant. Skip this courtesy, and you may find yourself ignored!   “Bon journee/Bon soiree” (have a good day/evening) are the perfect farewell phrases.

“Excusez-moi de vous deranger, mais j’ai un problem” – another basic tool for relationship mastery  in France – means excuse me for bothering you, but I have a problem.  Especially learn the first part to show you value the person’s time, and you will discover a bend-over-backwards-to-help response.  If you are lost, simply add “mais je suis perdu” (but I am lost).  

Slow down!  The French pace of life generally mirrors their values.  They are not a grab-and-go society, except perhaps in traffic!  They love philosophical conversation and lengthy, leisurely dining.  You will not be rushed through your restaurant meal nor will you be presented with l’ addition (the bill), until you are quite ready to ask for it.  Imagine the utter freedom of sipping your coffee or slowly enjoying your meal without worry! 

Beyond meals, slowing your pace will deliver many side benefits.  There simply is so much to enjoy, when you take the time to look around, absorb and enjoy the people and places surrounding you.  You’ll see that plaque on the building that denotes Ernest Hemingway’s home in Paris or the flowers above the engraving in memory of those lost in the war.  You’ll notice the delicious-looking chocolate fountain in the store window, and will be compelled to try the ice cream everyone seems to be buying. 

Chocolate fountain on Ile Saint-Louis

Above all, relax and enjoy each moment and new experience.  Around every corner, through every city and village of France, the sights and scents, history, culture and hospitable French people will fill your days with colorful, lasting memories.  Vive la difference! 


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