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French Photo Holiday Gifts

A chance photo while wandering the streets of Paris France

An elegant sight, while wandering the streets of Paris

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

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

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

Overlooking the River Cher from Chenonceau Castle in France

Musing by the Cher at Chenonceau

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

A Clear Vision of France

Sylvie’s vineyard near Saint-Émilion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeing … and dipping my toes in the Medterranean!

Enjoying an afternoon along the Seine

Doing my Julie Andrews thing in the beautiful Alps

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Artisans in Saint-Emilion

Bordeaux area of France

Saint-Emilion textile creations

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

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

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

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

Bordeaux shops

Color, texture and joie!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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

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Enjoying the Bordeaux Countryside

Our sun-filled room in Montlieu la Garde

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

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

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

French countryside

Bordeaux countryside gite

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

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

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

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

Autographed copies with notecard gift


Elegant Lodging – Saint Emilion

France luxury lodging Saint Emilion

Enchanting Logis de la Cadène in the heart of Saint Emilion

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

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

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

Medieval Saint Emilion France

Relaxed elegance – Saint Emilion

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

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

Saint Emilion France shopping

Exceptional artisan textiles of Saint Emilion

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



We’d love to hear from you!

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


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France – Water & Window Views!

Amboise France

Sunset picnic by the Loire

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

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

Lyon France

Along the Saone in Lyon

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Aquitaine – History, Heritage – Pleasure!

Aquitaine, France

Path to the great beaches of Arcachon Bay – Atout France/Francois-Exavier Prevot

Aquitaine is one of 22 regions in Metropolitan France – 5 more regions are overseas.  This particular region is vast and diverse, spreading across 155 miles of ocean coastline and sharing a border with Spain through the Atlantic Pyrenees.  Bordeaux is not only the largest Aquitaine city; it is the self-proclaimed world capital of wine.

Speaking of wine, one of our favorite areas was Saint Emilion, where surrounding vineyards provide some of the finest wines of France.  Wandering south down a little country road, we happened on to a delightful treasure – Château Vieux Mougnac;  where hospitality mixed with delicieux wine tasting and produced an everlasting friendship!

Beyond the vast topographical changes, Aquitaine engages all interests in offering more than 2,800 historic monuments and a wealth of archeological treasures – not at all surprising, when you consider 40,000 years of wildly-varying inhabitants!  Fortified villages and grand Chateaus shed considerable light on the wealth and heritage of Aquitaine; and Dordogne’s  prehistoric Valley of Vézère includes stunning remains from the Paleolithic Age – from the mystical caves of Lascaux to nearly 150 sites and other decorated caves.

Similar to California glitz and sports, Biarritz is the European capital of surfing and one of the most popular beachfronts aside from the famed Côte d’Azur.  Beyond challenging the ocean Atlantic waves, pelota is a primary local sport akin to American handball; and one of the favorite local pasttimes is wandering along the seaside, once a favored playground of Empress Eugenie.  All in all, it’s quite an elegant resort area.

Chateau Vieux Mougnac

Near Saint-Emilion

While you are sampling the wide variety of excellent Aquitaine wines, keep in mind that the gastronomy of the area is rich and flavorful.  Whether foie gras or deliciously simmered duck, Bayonne ham or Gâteau Basque, the cuisine will represent some of your fondest experiences and memories.

Aquitaine France

Gironde fishing cabane

We arrived in Bordeaux at the heighth of the season, when summer ‘soldes’ – sales – made for rather crowded streets.  Fortunately, though, the city is located on the banks of the Garonne River, a particularly enticing option for us to explore the countryside.

We wandered past cyclists enjoying the Bordeaux vineyard sights and stopped for a while along the Gironde estuary, where a lone fisherman perched above the water at his “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – his fishing cabin on stilts.  Against a threatening sky, he nonetheless seemed quite content with his world.


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

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.

Sunday Morning Near Bordeaux

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

Another day in France awaited, and we were ready!



Peaceful morning near Bordeaux

Peaceful morning near Bordeaux

#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!

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


Birthday Celebration Near Bordeaux

Bordeaux and Saint Emilion

Beau Sejour bed and breakfast near Bordeaux

A couple of days ago our dear friend in Paris celebrated his birthday with his wife, enjoying what he described as the best vegetarian meal of his life at a local Lebanese restaurant. Had they been here, we would have taken them to our favorite French restaurant for a convivial evening of wining, dining and sauntering along très chic Park Avenue. Alas, that was not to be, but I thought it would be fun to let him know what we all would have enjoyed ‘had the stars circled about us in perfection’.

Naturally, we would be in Paris to begin with, and we would tell them to pack up for a long weekend. We would all take the 9:30 TGV to Bordeaux, so we would arrive just in time to find a wonderful café for a leisurely lunch. After a little sight-seeing, we would take our rental car to the road. In just 30 minutes, Beau Séjour appears, the serene bed and breakfast retreat that will be our ‘base’ for relaxation and exploration.

Hospitality can be one of those elusive things, but from all accounts the hosts here combine a delightful maison and country setting with genuine welcomes and comfortable accommodations. Since we would be four, we just might choose the ‘separate’ cottage that is attached to the main house but set aside from the general bed-and-breakfast guests. I can easily imagine chilled wine on our own terrace, collaboration in the well-equipped kitchen and dining under blankets of Bordeaux stars. We will reminisce about another shared birthday celebration in the Loire Valley several years earlier.

Aquitaine France

Our cottage kitchen awaits gourmand attention!

Saint-Emilion definitely would call our name in the morning. After a lovely Beau Séjour breakfast, off we would go to that most charming village. Wine tasting and purchases for the rest of the weekend would be de rigueur, as would be combing through the many beautiful shops in Saint-Emilion. I’m sure those same folks who specialize in tantalizing macarons would beckon us to their shop doorway, as they did during our last visit.

That would be our gift, one that would be enjoyed by all of us. Long, lazy walks. Cycling perhaps along country roads. Discovering beautiful textiles and regional delicacies. Visiting local fresh-air markets. Cooking together, sharing a glass of wine with our hosts – some real plans but mostly just wallowing in the friendship we enjoy.
Bon Anniversaire notre très cher ami!

7 Fabulous French Wines

B-21 List of 2012 Top Wines

French wines to please the palate!

Don’t you just have to feel some degree of sympathy for a guy who flies all over the world tasting wine? Hmmm … I’m sure it can be exhausting, but the wine must help to offset the fatigue!

Such is our introduction to Bob Sprentall and B-21; who hopped aboard the family retail wine business, after graduating from Tulane in 1979. By 1983, B-21 was the highest dollar volume wine and spirits store in Florida and in 1982, they introduced the B-21 Wine Buyer’s Guide – an award-winning site.

All of that is to say that the news is in for “The Top 21 Wines of 2012″, and of course, we will focus on those lovely wines from France. While competition is increasingly fierce in the world of wine, seven French wines made the list. As Bob is renowned for his acquisition abilities and enjoys life-long business relationships with wineries, he ferrets out excellent wines.

We are not wine experts and offer a few of B-21’s notes, so we encourage you to read the reviews for yourself … and act accordingly! As B-21 indicates, the fourth-generation wine retailer is about “quality wines, competitive prices and exceptional customer service.”

Without further ado (not ‘adieu’!), B-21’s top French wines for 2012:

2009 La Vieille Cure, Fronsac, Bordeaux
La Vieille Cure’s ideal location combines excellent soil attributes with southwest exposure to yield this rich, intensely colorful 2009 selection. Bob describes it as a “…serious merlot (and a lot of cab franc), dusty blueberries as rich as they get at a remarkable price.”

Haut-Bergey - France

Haut-Bergey – France

2011 Domaine de Reuilly “Pierres Plates”
In the Loire region, the appellation of Reuilly has recovered beautifully from the late 19th century scourge of the revered vineyards. Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and produced from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, this wine blends a pleasant nose with good weight and a rich finish.

2001 Lanessan, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux
An excellent Bordeaux vintage from Cabernet grapes, this wine is smooth, elegant and rich. Per Bob, “Never had a Bordeaux this old that tasted so good.”

2009 Haut-Bergey Rouge, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux
A perfect claret from Pessac-Leognan, said to exceed the exceptional 2005 vintage – mostly cab.

2009 Chateau du Gaby, Canon-Fronsac, Bordeaux
We don’t have the sophistication to rate or even appropriately describe wines, but anything from the Saint-Emilion area sets quite well with us! This wine is so good, nearly all of it is consumed in Europe, and only two retailers sell it in the States…. Supple, sophisticated Merlot with a hint of Cabernet herbs.

N.V. Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs
But of course, there is a sparkling white – a touch of all things excellent – fruit notes blended with sublayers of smoke, stone and spice.

2010 Gerard Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape
One of the most famous Côtes du Rhône wine, this is a real B-21 favorite with exceptional aromatics, richness and yet light on the palate.

There you have but one expert list; so enjoy exploring, tasting and choosing your favorite.

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

énorme Error Near Bordeaux

18th Century Chateau near Yvracs in Bordeaux

Magnificent Château de Bellevue

Colossal … massive … énorme … gigantesque – all words that accurately describe the enormous error recently committed by Polish workers in the Bordeaux area of France. You see there is an elegant 18th-century château – Château de Bellevue – that lies between Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, a splendid place with grand rooms for receptions and lovely Bordeaux vineyard to overlook.

That is, there was such a grand and glorious edifice. Quite a story here!

It seems that a Russian businessman searched far and wide, before finding and purchasing what he considered to be the ideal château. The owner of an import business in Poland, the gentleman planned to restore the 13,000-square-meter Château de Bellevue to its’ former, pristine glory.

He hired a Polish building firm to raze a small building on the property, but they demolished the entire Chateau “by mistake”. At least that’s how the story goes. Local officials – incensed by the destruction of a cherished Bordeaux landmark – have launched an investigation and lodged a complaint regarding the breach of Yvrac’s building code.

Domaine de Bellevue Vineyards - Bordeaux France

Overlooking the vineyards of Domaine de Bellevue

The former owner is outraged. The locals are outraged. The Russian owner is conciliatory, vowing to rebuild an identical replacement and already contracting a firm to re-build the fine edifice at a cost of €1.5-million. Cynics naturally question how such a mistake could ‘accidentally’ happen; particularly since the entire demolition, removal of debris and site preparation took place without anyone noticing such a massive project.

There are heritage activists who might call this travesty “Heritage Lightning”; a slight-of-hand kind of misstep, when an owner prefers shiny new over drafty old castle – heritage aside, of course. That’s when mysterious fires occur … or Polish workers smash a building to pieces, somehow mixing it up with a little accessory building. Quelle domage!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Victor Hugo’s Memorial Inscription

Victor Hugo inscription on Saint-Emilion war memorial

Victor Hugo inscription from “Les Chants du Crépuscle”

Tomorrow in France, as in the United States, solemn ceremonies will remember those who fought and “sont mort pours la patria” in World War I and in all the wars that followed.  The armistice treaty at the end of World War I on the Western Front officially ended the war at 11 minutes past the 11th hour of  November 11, 1918.

Saint-Emilion in the Bordeaux region has a particularly touching and beautiful memorial monument inscribed with the last verse of Victor Hugo’s “Songs of Twilight”.

Ceux qui pieusement sont mort pours la patria

Ont droit qu’a leur cercueil la foule vienne et prie.

Entre les plus beaux noms leur nom est le plus beau.

Tout Gloire pres d’eux passe et tombe epherme et comme ferait une mere.


How we all wish for a world in which care and understanding would replace battles and bloodshed!

Memorial in Saint-Emilion France

Memorial in Saint-Emilion France

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!

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


A Feast in Charente-Maritime

Charente-Maritime, coastal island villages and marshes in France

Charente-Maritime – island villages, natural marshes…and more

Offices of Tourism offer such a wealth of information, whether you visit them in person or virtually on line.  Many capture the authentic details and general personality of their given area, but I always enjoy the insights of others and my own personal impressions.  That’s part of what drives me to publish France Daily Photo, as it offers the opportunity to share a sight, a moment, a petite vignette.

Today, we highlight Charente-Maritime, as a charming Loubillé resident in Poitou-Charentes was the fortunate winner of our recent “Hidden in Paris” book giveaway.  I particularly appreciated her no-holds-barred reaction to winning – “… I will admit to doing a silly-happy- dance, when I read this email [notifying her]!  I have read Corine’s cook book that goes with the book, which just made me want to read the book itself even more, and now I can, thanks.”

Interestingly, Jacqui also publishes a French blog – French Village Diaries – and, in the course of registering to win the novel, told us about one of her favorite ‘restaurants’ in France.  Circling back to capturing the full scope of an area like Charente-Maritime, Jacqui’s comments add yet another dimension to a region steeped in history, art, seaside villages and island havens.

Jacqui and her family enjoy the quaint, no-frills atmosphere of a little ‘eaterie’ near the tiny village of Les Gours.  She describes the summer leisure and fishing lake (with huge, leaping trout!) and a sprawling agricultural chicken barn that draws many regulars for quaint ‘feasts’.

Heaven knows you can find many recommendations for elegant restaurants and chic brasseries, but it isn’t every day that you can enjoy an insider scoop from a local resident.  Jacqui writes, “Run by a family, Monsieur does the chatty welcome and moves from table to table clutching bottles of aperos.  Madame does the cooking, often catering single-handed for 100 people; while son, daughter and daughter-in-law wait on the tables.  It really is in a chicken shed, the tables are wooden trestles with plastic garden chairs and paper tablecloths and the plates are plastic too – stylish it isn’t, but the food more than makes up for that and there is always a party atmosphere.”

For Jacqui’s full account, see her original French Village Diaries article.

Congratulations to Jacqui and our thanks again to author Corine Gantz for providing France Daily Photo with the opportunity to offer an autographed copy of her novel to our readers.




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


Visiting the Atlantic Coast

Ile de Re in France

A lovely port off the Atlantic Coast in France

We are still traveling and will catch up on France Daily Photo news in a few days.  In the meantime, it’s quite chilly and ever so beautiful in northern Vermont; and we leave you with warm thoughts and a lovely photo of  Ile de Re off the Atlantic Coast of France.

Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême

Lithograph of 2004 poster for circuits des ramparts in angouleme france

2004 Circuits des Ramparts Poster

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

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

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

La Ferme de L'Eglise Charentes France

La Ferme de L’Eglise, Vanzay

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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



Reunion on Île de Ré

lazy sunlit walks on ile de re near Bordeaux

Mulane would guide us down sunlit lanes

Last September, our friends packed a few things, closed the door to their Paris flat, took their dog Mulane in tow and boarded the train. Soon enough they would be stepping along quiet lanes on Île de Ré, a village retreat off the western coast of France near La Rochelle.

Sundays usually take me to pleasant memories or thoughts of places I would like to visit. Today, I would like for us to join our friends on the Île, to walk with us along the salt flats and tell us about their recent trip to China.



ile de re off the atlantic coast of France

And peek through handsome gates

We would amble down village corridors, until a café came into sight. And over crosissants, coffee and a cool glass of orange juice, we would share all of the news pent up over months of time.We wish you sweet Sunday journeys today.

Beautiful Scenes of France

Île de Ré, France

A field of sunflowers on Île de Ré

An ongoing marketing project has kept me from my favorite passion – writing about France; but we are grateful for the work.

Now, I’ll place the spotlight on a dear friend from Paris, who takes such care in capturing beautiful and unusual sights with his camera.  One amusing shot was of me taking a picture of him taking a picture of me in front of the Chambord castle.  (Perhaps you had to be there?)



Today he provides two beautiful shots.  He and his wife often visit the family cottage on the Île de Réoff the Northwest coast near La Rochelle.  It is as if the sunflowers have gathered to pose for him.

Traditional Auvergne kitchen in France

Warm, traditional Auvergne kitchen

The other was taken in the central massif area of Auvergne, simply a very charming and traditional kitchen.  I’ve never seen as many beautiful old tables, as those I have seen in France.  And what can match gathering around an old burnished table with friends, wine and naturally a little bread, cheese and olives.  I’d love to have the table AND lamp shown here!

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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?

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



French Hotel or Vacation Rental?

bordeaux bed and breakfast, france

The long driveway that led to our 19th century gites in Bordeaux

Sometimes we like to be tucked into a nice hotel in the city, but we also enjoy the unique experience of staying in vacation rentals in more remote places.  It gives us the feeling of living in the French countryside.

We have stayed in the gorgeous apartments owned by a dentist whose sideline hobby is creating works of wrought iron.  Another lovely apartment just down the road from the renowned Chateaux Chenonceau was owned by an artist and his family.  Built up against a rocky outcropping, their children’s playroom literally was carved out of the cliff wall.  After a week in our ‘troglodyte’ habitat, we slowly backed out of the driveway only to have the owner’s brother run to us with a bottle of wine his family produced.

And that’s the beauty of staying in out-of-the-way places – getting to know the people, the village, the customs and marketplace.  An excellent resource for vacation rentals, whether in Paris or Provence, is Vacation Rentals by Owners.

GÎtes de France is also an ideal resource for locating bed and breakfast lodging, where perhaps a few rooms in a home are offered for rental, and breakfast with your hosts and fellow guests provides more opportunities to broaden your vacation experience.

toulouse vacation rental, france
Lovely vacation rental near Toulouse

We wish you happy ‘hunting’ and even happier vacation memories.

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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.

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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”

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Journey through Time in Saintes

Saintes' large amphitheatre built under Claudius in 40 AD

For an incredible journey through history, head north from Bordeaux to enjoy a day in Gallo-Roman Saintes.  Steeped in ancient and medieval history, the charming ville lies along the Charente River in the Poitou-Charentes region.  Stop first at the Villa Musso, where the Office of Tourism offers complete information on cultural and leisure activities, restaurants, cycling trails and tours.

We always like to wander to get a sense of the town and to blend shopping and dining with museum and monument visits.  The historic center includes pedestrian walkways with prestigious limestone residences dating to the 17th and 18th centuries.  In particular, stop at the Hôtel Presidial, now a Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Hôtel de Monconseil – home to the Musée Dupuy-Mestreau, overlooking the river.

Next, explore Saintes’ amphitheatre – one of the largest, dating to about 40 AD during the Gallo-Roman period.  Built in a small valley, the arena could accommodate several thousand people to watch gladiators in their life and death contests.  Victorious gladiators entered through the Sanavivaria door, and the remains of gladiators and animals put to death exited through the door Libitinensis.

Overlooking the Charente River, the Arch of Germanicus with simple columns and fluted pilasters also is in remarkable condition; and there are fragments of several other monuments in the Archaeological Museum of Saintes.  As you explore, either keep an eye out for a café that “calls your name” or stop at a patisserie for quiche or sandwiches to take a picnic by the Charentes.  You also can rent a boat and have your picnic on the water, while you wander along the river banks.

In the early ninth century, Saintes became an essential stopover for huge crowds of devotees making their pilgrimage to the newly-discovered tomb of the Apostle Jacques the Major at Saint-Jacques-de-Compostela.  The Abbaye aux Dames housed and fed the travelers, who paid their respects to the relics of St. Eutropius, the first bishop and martyr of Saintes.  Now an important cultural center, the Abbaye’s 11th to 12th-century church includes exceptional features of Romanesque art.

Château de La Roche Corbon

One of Saintonge’s most beautiful castles, the Château de La Roche Corbon is a must for your discovery tour.  Overlooking the marshes and the Sparrow, the 15th-century fortress was converted into a “residence of approval” by Jean-Louis de Courbon in the 17th century, but fell into ruin for a hundred years.  Voila!  In 1920, Paul Chénereau bought and restored the castle.  Family members still own the Château, where impressive features include 17th-century panel paintings, Louis XV and Louis XVI furnishings, and a dazzling collection of brass.

Finally, let’s really step back to meet a young Neanderthal called Pierrette.  The 1979 excavation revealed the amazing collection of bones and gave birth to the Paléosite, the first interpretive center of Prehistory in Europe.  After all of your “time travel”, enjoy a leisurely drive back to Bordeaux with an arsenal of information and experiences to discuss over dinner.

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Phare des Baleines – Île-de-Ré

Phare des Baleines

Set in one of the pretty seaside villages on the Île-de-Ré, the impressive “Lighthouse of Whales” watches over Atlantic-bound sailors with four pulses of light that can be seen for over 3 miles (50 meters).  The lighthouse and the commune of Saint-Clément des Baleines, where it is located, take their names from the large number of whales that have been stranded on this part of the island.

The popular local attraction stretches over 185 feet (57 meters) and was completed in 1854.  After cycling over to this northwest corner of the island, tackle the 257 steps to the top of the lighthouse.  The views are impressive, overlooking the ocean and the quaint village that is tucked between salt flats, silken beaches and forested dunes.

The original Phare des Baleines was built in 1682 of stone from quarries in the Charente-Maritime.  Under the aegis of Louis XIV, the strategic project was to protect shipping (seems that locals of that era enticed the ships onto the rocks with lights, so they could keep debris from the shipwrecks).  Musée des Baleines at the base of the lighthouse once served as a school for lighthouse keepers from as far as Algeria.

Boats locked in silt ’til the tide turns

By all means, expand your visit with walks on the beach and a wonderful seafood or crêpe dinner in the village.  You’ll be well rewarded with views of quaint, old windmills and the warm hospitality of your island hosts.

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La Femme de Saint-Emilion

Graceful statue in a Saint-Emilion square

French Proverb:

À l’oeuvre on connait l’artisan.
The work shows the workman

I wish I could tell you who created this lovely statue in Saint-Emilion.  She was just another surprise on our journey.

Enjoy some beauty today!


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The Forests of France

Ultimately the donkeys take to the shade of the Loire forest in the heat of summer

Some of the most beautiful natural gifts in the French landscape are the country’s abundant forests.  They spread from the Midi-Pyrénées to Alsace – Lorraine, from Aquitaine to the Rhône-Alpes.  Many of the splendid castles, like Chenonceau, Chambord and Versailles are set in scenic, wooded grounds with centuries-old trees.  We have wandered beneath towering trees by the Loire River, only to hear the soft whisper of the leaves moving slightly in the wind.  And we have seen the trails through the forests that linked one castle to another.

But it was another sight in Aquitaine that really stopped us in our tracks.  We drove along a little country road and rounded the bend to an astonishing scene.  Acres of trees spread like lifeless toothpicks across the landscape, an ugly scar in a region otherwise filled with beautiful trees and sunflower fields.  Later, we learned the reason for the devastation.

On December 26th and 27th in 1999, two cataclysmic storms ripped across France from the Île de Ré to the Alps, extending beyond French borders to Germany, Switzerland and Italy and causing damage as well in Portugal and Spain. The Lothar and Martin storms cut a swath of destruction, with 150 mile-per-hour winds, tearing through woodlands and villages and destroying about 4 percent of the forests of France.

Stripped and snapped before cyclonic winds

In Paris alone, two famous forested parks – the Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes – each lost a third of their trees.  National monuments suffered damage in France and Italy, including the palace at Versailles, Notre Dame and Rome’s Campidoglio town hall.  Of the 140 victims who died in the storms, floods and avalanches; 88 were French.

Fortunately, contemporary reforestation policies contribute to the continued growth and diversity of forests in France, with various oak, conifers, chestnuts, pines and other varieties making up forests that cover about 28 percent of the land.  We saw the mutilated landscape nearly six years after the original damage occurred, a fact that was not lost on us.  It takes so many years for natural beauty to flourish, and so little time for those years to be erased.

[Reminder – click on photos to enlarge.]
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Go Basque in Bayonne

The beautiful Basque city of Bayonne

Anyone who loves to travel understands the pleasures of surprise and discovery.  Located near the Atlantic in southwest France, Bayonne is French Basque country, where the Spanish-French heritage touches everyday life in signage and conversations, in cuisine and warm Basque hospitality.

The Nive and Adour Rivers meet in the center of the city, creating Grand and Petit Bayonne, and many of the local houses look so crisp and fresh with deep red or green shutters against white-washed walls. And, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore, as you’re just 10 minutes from the beaches of Biarritz and 30 minutes from Spain and the Pyrenees.

Indeed, the narrow River Nive is like a main street, with lovely half timbered town houses, restaurants, squares and the covered market along its river banks.  Pull up your chair in a traditional Basque restaurant overlooking the river, and you will feel at home with pleasant hospitality and the famous regional “Jambon de Bayonne” or one of the many fresh fish or local beef dishes.

Quaint riverfront walks

Grand Bayonne is the commercial hub, with pedestrian-only streets lined with shops, the large cathedral and Hôtel de Ville. Petit Bayonne is home to lively Basque bars and restaurants reminiscent of cities in Spain. The area is home to two important museums:  the Musée Basque with exhibits on agriculture, seafaring and Basque history and way of life; and the Musée Bonnat with exceptional paintings by El Greco, Goya, Degas and more.

The annual fêtes de Bayonne attracts thousands, proudly attired in red and white, to participate in 5 days of festivities and watch the annual bull fighting (Bayonne remains the number one site for bullfighting in France).  Not surprisingly, the Bayonet comes from this city, and Bayonne’s pottery is renowned throughout Europe.

Beyond pleasantly strolling through Bayonne’s old town and indulging yourself in the excellent Basque cuisine, don’t miss wandering through the Botanic Gardens with 1000-plus species and a Japanese influence. Bayonne holds the prestigious 4-flowers designation of the ville et village fleurie competition.  Near the gardens, you will see remnants of the town ramparts that include Roman, 16th- and 17th-century defenses.
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C’est la Vie, c’est le vin

Exceptional Chinon wines

Sunday formula –

2 pictures (worth 2,000 words?)
and a new French phrase.


La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.

Life is too short to drink bad wine.


Have a wonderful day!


Chateau Vieux Mougnac merlot grapes

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We welcome your suggestions and comments!

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All rights reserved.



Harvest Time in Aquitaine

Perfectly ripe Merlot grapes

Perhaps when you are shopping today, you will stop by your favorite wine store to pick up a bottle of Merlot.  What better moment then to tell you about our friends in the Aquitaine region just outside of Saint-Emilion.  This oldest Bordeaux region wine area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of the great terroir (soil) of the Saint Emilion area.

At the Chateau Vieux Mougnac, the Milhard family has completed their hand picking of Merlot grapes.  That’s right – hand-picked grapes that will one day become that bottle of Merlot you might choose.  The harvest goes according to season and weather conditions, so grapes are perfectly ripe and ready to produce exceptional wine.

Hand-picked harvest

The children help too





For the Milhards, that is just one of many devoted steps of wine production they have carried forward for five generations.  Sylvie Milhard and her family cultivate by hand, only use products friendly to the environment for weeding and pruning and hand pick the harvest.

It is a labor of love and, as you can see from their harvest photos, a happy family venture.  And at the end of the picking day, they gather in the courtyard under the lime tree for a well-earned glass of wine.

A family harvest

Sylvie’s daughter, Laetitia, writes that the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes will be picked next week, along with the earthy black cepes (mushrooms) to be carefully folded into a delicious omelette.

When we buy milk, we don’t readily imagine Elsie and friends in the milking barn.  But I don’t think we will ever purchase another bottle of wine without thinking of our friends at Chateau Vieux Mougnac.
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The Salt Marshes of Ile de Ré

Colorful ports along Ile de Ré

Just off the mid-Atlantic coast of France, the Ile de Ré enjoys some of the sunniest climate’s in France, much like that of the Cote d’Azur.  The landscape reflects the island’s mild climate with pines and palms vying with salt marshes and silky sand beaches.  In addition to serene vistas, Ile de Ré has many claims to fame.  Home to the Citadel (France’s largest correctional facility), it was a departure point for Richard Dreyfus en route to Devil’s Island.  But, today a different topic rises to the top – the salt marshes.

Originally four, narrowly-divided islands, the Ile de Ré transformed over a period of time to one island.  Salt marshes formed along bays; and though production has decreased significantly since the early 1900’s, the “Fleur de Sel” – French gourmet salt is still produced today.  In Loix, the Salt Marsh Museum offers guided tours of the marshes, but there seems no more delightful  way to experience the mystique of this landscape than by cycling along the marshes south of Loix.  You’ll enjoy a multi-sensory experience with views of the wild marshes sheltering herons and other wildlife and the distinctly sharp smell of iodine emanating from the salt flats.

The salt pans near Loix

Among your treasured keepsakes from the island, Fleur de Sel is a must – perhaps purchased from the Esprit du Sel.  You can choose from the Pelin’s Grey Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel or specially flavored salts.  Then, from your own kitchen, you can resurrect the fine memories of your Ile de Ré holiday.


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Fishing Cabanes along the Gironde

Awaiting the day's catch from his cabane de peche

Where the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers come together in Charente Maritime, the Gironde estuary is formed – a vast waterway that hugs the shores of the famous Bordeaux vineyards to the west and ultimately flows into the Atlantic Ocean. 

We wander westward from our little chambre d’hote (guesthouse room) in the interior, turning here and there as our fancy dictates; until we reach the flatland leading to the river.  It is quite low, seemingly near sea level; but we drive as far as we can, until we reach the Gironde River. 

Just at this spot, colorful fishing boats are docked in the inlet, and a wedding party celebrates at the only building on the point.  The vintage “escape car” was brightly painted and decorated, as is the custom for many weddings in France.  We park overlooking acres and acres of rich, green farmland; where lazy, satisfied cows nap near their feeding station.   

As we looked around, we spotted the lone fisherman, perched at his “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – his fishing cabin on stilts raised above the river.  A little homework later, we learned that peasant fishermen in days of yore used these types of cabins for fishing.  Today, they are not commercially viable for fishing, but are nonetheless very popular for local and visiting fishermen. Large, square nets (thus, fishing “au carrelet”) are suspended from a winch into the water; and a net on a long pole is used to scoop the catch, before lowering again.  Their efforts can easily earn them a feast, as the Gironde is teeming with sturgeon, white shrimp, shad and lamprey.

All in all, we were well rewarded for our day of exploration.  It is a day we will long remember.

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Tradition, Skill and the Artisan’s Heart

Colorful boutique, Saint-Emilion


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

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

The cobbler's daughter, Aix-en-Provence








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