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Seafront Villa – Bay of Saint Tropez

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

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

Bay of St. Tropez

Villa Seaside Dining

French Riviera hotel

Enchanting Villa Mauresque

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

French Riviera Boutique Villa



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

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

Wanderlust Fix in Le Lavandou

Le Lavandou France

Cavaliere’s Private Sandy Beach

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

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

Club de Cavaliere, France

Your terraced room by the sea

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

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

French Riviera

French cuisine, gorgeous Mediterranean!

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


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

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

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

Autographed copies with notecard gift

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!

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

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

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


Return to Seaside Sète, France

Sete Fr

Magnificent views from Mont Saint-Clair

Sète fits well into our ‘now we’d like to return’ category, another of those places we briefly visited, before bustling on along the beautiful Mediterranean coast. During our adventurous summer of 2005, we drove southeast from Toulouse and crested a hill to the most magnificent sight – the bejeweled Mediterranean in the distance. We dipped down to Agde – yes, another city where we should have lingered – and before we knew it, we were driving along a pure, spectacular beachfront on our way to Sète.

We were in the beginning of our “Discover France” summer, so we had few plans and sometimes too little information; so our time in Sète was limited to floundering around the charming port with its intricate canal network, colorful boats and stunning views. Today I can’t imagine how, but we ended up driving all the way up the singular hill around which the city circles – Mont Saint-Clair. A great accident, in that the views were panoramic!

Languedoc coast

Panoramic views of Sete

Now we understand that this modest city of 40-plus thousand does not represent the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur but stands as a proud working port with abundant fishing and an inimitable, non-touristy charm. Two bodies of water wrap themselves around Sète, like a set of parentheses with the sprawling multi-blue Mediterranean to the front and the brackish Étang de Thau lagoon to the rear. Handily and with an enticing appeal, a network of canals connect the two – quite a rainbow scene with fishing boats painted every color of the spectrum.

Along the magnificent stretch of beach that separates the sea from the lagoon, we stopped to sink our toes in the soft sand and take in the endless expanse of azure waters. Magnificent! Only one couple with their two young children were even close to us – close enough, I might add, for us to notice their European ways with wildly colorful, animal-shaped floats and the entirely unself-conscious act of stripping down to don their suits. Pas de problème!

In fulfilling our “do-over”, I believe we could happily stay at Le Grand Hotel handsomely situated on the main canal and offering the three-star, 19th-century architecture that has long attracted the city’s maritime elite. And if we really wanted an exotic adventure, right out of Sète we could book a ferry to Morocco!

Between Agde and Sete France

The incomparable Mediterranean

Somehow, though, I think we would be quite satisfied to explore the port and canals, not to mention re-visit the magnificent beaches. Perhaps one of the most interesting dollops of history in this town and port established in 1666 is the mandate from Louis XIV that the port be built as an outlet for the Canal du Midi.

Though I’m not among the fish-loving populace, those of you who fit that category will be in heaven! Mussels and oysters and octopus and every conceivable gilled creature comes straight from the port ships and adjacent lagoon to the markets and restaurants along the canal-side quays. I am altogether certain, though, that we will be able to find one of those savory daube beef stews for which the Camargue region is famous.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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

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Discovering Haut-de-Cagnes

Cote d'Azur, France

Renoir’s retreat in Haut-de-Cagnes

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

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

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

Chateau Le Cagnard

Pastoral hillside views of Haut-de-Cagnes

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

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

Chateau La Cagnard

Spectacular restaurant retracting roof

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

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


We’d love to hear from you!

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

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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 –

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!

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

Celebrate the Lemon in Menton!

Menton Lemon Festival

A tip of the lemon ….

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

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

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

Menton France Cote d'Azur

Nightly parades entertain

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Friendly, Fascinating Antibes

Old Antibes, and the Mercantour peaks in the distance – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel Angot

“I have never seen such a surprising thing as Antibes in front of the French Alps when the sun is falling.” – Guy de Maupassant, French Poet

My Parisian friend and I indulged in a whimsical  day of wandering around the country lanes of Provence on a chilly March day.  At one point during the journey, our paved road turned into a dirt track in the middle of a vineyard.  Yes, we looked at our map, though that was useless, and I said, “We’ll know where we’ve been, when we get where we’re going.”  C’est la vie, it’s a bit of fun to be lost anywhere in France.

At the end of the day, we checked into a quaint little hotel in Antibes and took to the streets of old town in search of a restaurant.  The same devil-may-care approach guided our evening.  Though it was off season in early March, several petite café’s were warmly lit and inviting.  How shall we choose?  We turned to see a couple walking behind us and decided that if they chose the café we just passed, we would do the same.

And oh sweet fate – it was the perfect choice for an entertaining evening.  We sat at a cozy little table next to a beautiful stone wall.  The other couple was just ahead of us, and to our right was a group of 6 or 7, engaged in lively conversation over dinner.  We learned they all were members of the family that owned the café and were very interested to discover an American in their midst.  It is as if we instantly were part of their family.  When their karaoke entertainment began, they called for the American to sing – Allez, allez Sahn-di!!  And so we sang and danced through the night with our new friends.

Cap d’Antibes and Old Antibes radiate charm among the many jewels along the Mediterranean; where maritime pines line streets that descend to the sea, and a charming lighthouse and 5th-century chapel –  Nôtre Dame des Amoureux – overlook the cape and the Baie de la Garoupe.

Several beaches serve sun worshippers and visitors who enjoy the scenic bayside along Le Chemin de Tirepoil.  That particular trail passes below the Villa Eilenroc at the tip of the peninsula.  Designed by the man who created the Opera Garnier in Paris, the grand villa and gardens are now owned by the city and open to the public to offer a captivating visit with beautiful murals, historic displays and sumptuous furnishings.

Eilen Roc Villa & Gardens

End your visit with a quiet moment in the rose garden and, perhaps, imagine the view through Greta Garbo’s eyes (she was one of many famous people to rent the villa).

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Villa Grecque Kérylos – C’est Magnifique!

Overlooking Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur

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

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

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

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

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

Marble columns of the Peristyle

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

The Villa’s master inscribed one of his mottos on the library wall, which translates, “This is where I, in the company of speakers, scholars and Greek poets, enjoy a peaceful retreat in immortal beauty.”
We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Nice – A Jewel on the Sea

Nice France

Breathtaking views of the harbor from a belvedere on Castle Hill- © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

“When I realized I would see that light every morning, I could not believe my happiness … I decided never to leave Nice and remained here for my almost my entire existence”.  Henri Matisse

Let’s visit the fifth largest city of France – Nice – set along the French Riviera and oozing charm!  The city for which the famous Salade Niçoise draws its’ name seems to have everything, including the good taste to allow progress and heritage to thrive side by side.  Nice combines her glorious climate and fortunate seaside setting with traditions of art, culture, history and ambient lifestyles.  At the same time, the city has evolved into an advanced technology and industrial research hub.

Of course, you must begin along the world renowned Promenade des Anglais, gracefully threading along flower-and palm-lined walkways overlooking the Baie des Anges.  The vista is a blend of stately Belle Epoque hotels, gentle beaches, and a constant flow of humanity; though as an architectural purist, I wished for fewer modern apartment buildings.  C’est la vie – there’s still plenty of beauty to go around and benches for you to watch tourists and locals taking in a seaside walk.

Beyond visiting some of Nice’s exceptional art museums, two distinct destinations for exploring are Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill).  The old city winds through ochre streets with colorful morning markets, boutique shops and wonderful cafes that offer a mix of French, Italian and North African tastes and exude the distinct aroma of olives.  Church spires, handsome doors, lacey balconies and the daily rhythm of Niçoise life make this a very special place to discover just the right spot for a fresh, olive-garnished lunch.

Enjoying Vieux Nice from your sidewalk café -© ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

For an entirely different experience, don your comfortable walking shows and make the climb of some 100 steps to the Chateau on the hill (Don’t worry – plenty of little benches for a rest along the way).  At the top, Nice and the Mediterranean spread like a postcard-perfect panoramic view.  Take a drink and snack at the little café and watch the little ones enjoying the playground park.

We’d love to hear from you!
Copyright © 2005-2015, 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!

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

Temptations of Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc

Poised on the tip of Cap d’Antibes

Probably two of the most popular topics in any era are the cost of living and fashion.  So today I resurrect a post that looks at one of the French Riviera’s luxury hotel jewels now….and way back when the prices and fashions du jour were quite different!

Let’s take a look at one of the most luxurious and lavish resorts delightfully positioned on the tip of Cap d’Antibes.  And that resort would be Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc, where celebrities through the ages have steadily and royally enjoyed the most elegant of holiday experiences; while no doubt, leaving a trail of interesting tales in their wake.

Words simply fail when describing the legendary Hotel.  In fact many might say, if heaven is like Eden Roc, I can’t wait to die!  From 1870, the “Villa Soleil” welcomed writers looking for inspiration, but in 1885 a Piedmontese hotelier readily envisioned the Hôtel du Cap and transformed the Napoleon III style villa into a fabulous refuge by the sea.  One of the most interesting hotel embellishments is the seawater swimming pool dug in the rock, though the seaside “cabins” (33 cabanas, in all) and Eden-Roc Pavilion are equally alluring.

Recently reopened after a €45million refurbishment, the hotel has returned to its stunning, authentic quality, while adding every modern convenience and several new amenities.  Nothing compares with the elegant, spacious rooms and luxury appointments, the sumptuous Bellini Bar, gourmet restaurant and assorted intimate bars and grills. Open only from mid-April to mid-October, the hotel rates are equally ‘handsome’ for accommodations ranging from standard, classique and Supérieure rooms to a private villa complete with your own butler.  Rates run from 350 € for the standard to 12,500€ for the villa in the highest season.

The seawater pool in 1932 – Click photos to enlarge

But I have a humorous twist to this story.  The postcard shown here was sent to my father in Paris from a lady friend staying at the hotel in 1932.  In part, her message reads, “Here I am at this wonderful place – $6.00 a day for room, bath and meals (in between seasons) … You ought to see the scanty one-piece bathing suits.  Oh, I don’t know where I’ll end – the temptations are lovely and many.”

The prices surely have changed, but I rather imagine the temptations to still be … lovely and many.

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

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Memories from the South of France

Cote d'Azur

Captivating colors of Bandol

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

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

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

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

Bloody Mary's in Bandol France

The wine antidote

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

Cote d'Azur France

Lifetime memories in Bandol

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

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

French Riviera

Artisan soaps by the Bandol port

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

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


We’d love to hear from you!

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

Two Fine Art Expos Now in France

On display in Caen France

John Singer Sargent, Femme et enfant endormis dans une barque sous un saule, 1887. Lisbonne, Gulbenkian Museum. @ 2013, The Calouste Gulbenkian.

Two vibrant artistic exhibitions promise holiday visitors visual feasts in France this summer.  The second edition of the Normandy Impressionist Festival  promises an appealing series of extraordinary exhibitions that will wrap around nearly 600 cultural events throughout the region.

With a focus on the theme of water, Normandy captures its maritime heritage and a central element of its existence.  Impressionists – most notably Claude Monet – represented the waters of the sea, rivers and rain.  Monet often said that “the Seine is my atelier” and the grand river we associate with Paris continues to play an important role in linking the City of Light to the sea and to the ports of Rouen and Le Havre.  The river’s importance in artistic impressionism is equally so in contributing to commerce and contemporary development in northern France.

With Normandy’s expansive coastline and seaside resorts, Impressionists also enjoyed capturing the holiday and maritime activities of the region.  Eugène Boudin painted the beaches on the Côte Fleurie, while Claude Monet brought to life the cliffs on the coast of Albâtre.  Camille Corot and Raoul Dufy painted the ports, and Mont Saint-Michel was a favorite subject of Impressionist painters.

An equally enjoyable summer art tour takes place in the South at The Grand Atelier du Midi in Marseille.  Over 200 masterpieces will be exhibited at the Palais Longchamps until October 13.  If the serene elements of water captured the imagination of Impressionists in the North, the vivid colors around Provence and the Mediterranean flashed across the canvases of southern painters.

Marseille France

The old port, Marseille – Franck Charel – © Atout France

As a critical part of Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, the cultural program will be a flagship event with a dominant focus of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne.  The entire region from northern Spain to the Italian Riviera serve as a virtual artistic laboratory, as one painter after another sought to capture the vitality of one of France’s most colorful and enchanting regions.

Cézanne summed up the delicate relationship between form and color, when he said, “When colour is at its richest, form takes on its fullest expression.” Many 20th century artists were heavily influenced by these two magnificent painters.

The Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence augments Marseille’s exhibition with “From Cézanne to Matisse”.   Visitors begin with Renoir and Signac works in the then obscure fishing village of Saint Tropez.   Matisse painted at Nice, while Picasso’s studios were in Antibes and Cannes; where they captured both the sunny and somber nature of the southern landscape.  Without question the entire region served as a breeding ground of imagination for artists and writers.

Dividing the exhibition between Marseille and Aix-en-Provence provides visitors with the dazzling opportunity to see the very best of artistic expression.  Perhaps Van Gogh best summed up the influence of the region:  “The whole future of art is to be found in the South of France.”

Would love to hear from you!

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

A Weekend in Bormes-les-Mimosas


South France

Bormes-les-Mimosas overlooking the Mediterranean

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

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

Cote d'Azur France

Mimosa-lined lanes

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

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

Bon Weekend to you!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Five-Star Camping in France?

Provence 5-star camping France

Five pools for the pleasure of Esterel campers!

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

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

Camping 5-star in France

Dining poolside, Esterel in Provence

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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!

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

Sunday Golf Along the French Coast


Mandelieu La Napoule near Tropez France

Mandelieu La Napoule near Tropez

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Cocteau’s Legacy in Menton

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

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

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

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Labor Day Retreat in Provence

Jacques Chibois country manor grasse france

La Bastide Saint-Antoine in Provence

In the spirit of the political convention ‘season’ in the United States, allow me to ask you a few questions. I fully expect you to answer with the fervor of an impassioned delegate in search and support of Truth!!!!

When you settle in for a night of sweet dreams, do you take your wallet to bed with you? No-o-o-o!!

Should your holidays be limited to 2-star “Sleep Inns” without the hope of enjoying the refined quarters frequented by ‘world leaders’? No-o-o-o!!

Shouldn’t you have the same sense of entitlement as your representatives? Ye-s-s-s-s!!!

Alright. All that vibrant political rabble-rousing aside, it’s time to reward yourself to 5-star luxury in the South of France. Fluff your pillow, set your wallet aside and prepare for a dream holiday.

Wind your way from the heart of Grasse up Avenue Henri Dunant, lined with grey stone walls and canopies of parasol pines, to La Bastide Saint-Antoine. Set in the midst of lush Mediterranean vegetation, 18th-century La Bastide welcomes you to a comfortable retreat overlooking the Bay of Cannes. Naturally you can’t go wrong with a premiere Relais et Châteaux property, particularly with the ideal blend of the spirit of Provence with refined hospitality.

Settle in to a room with antique furnishings, plush linens and your own fireplace; but expect every contemporary amenity you may desire. “Bio Tea” in my room? I wouldn’t otherwise consider this choice!

In all seriousness, I can’t imagine a more satisfying combination of tranquility and stimulation – the quiet hills and ancient olive trees, Provençal villages and sun swept Mediterranean beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Take in Antibes and Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. Discover perfumeries in Grasse and glass-making in Biot. And see if you can’t arrange a round of golf at the historic Golf Country Club de Cannes-Mougins, founded in 1923 by the likes of Aga Khan, Prince Pierre of Monaco and Baron Edouard de Rothschild. Remember – it’s Labor Day weekend, and you are entitled!

Dining in Provence near Grasse France

Pleasant dining, gorgeous views

In between your delightful journeys through the area, return to your country manor for gourmet meals on the terrace looking out on 1,000-year-old olive trees and the perfumed air of Provence or cozy up to the lounge fireplace for an after-dinner drink. I believe we also would challenge fellow guests to a rousing game of petanque on the boules court near the kitchen garden.

Whether you celebrate the ‘labor’ of your life along the Atlantic Ocean or the French Riviera, discard your work woes and political concerns. This is your weekend to enjoy a well-deserved escape from daily occupational hassles and, perhaps, to remember the many achievements of everyday workers throughout the world.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

Visit Mandelieu-La Napoule

the red rocks of the Esterel Massif on the Mediterranean

Driving toward Mandelieu-La Napoule, on the Mediterranean

Now is the time for planning – not travel – in France, as the coming weekend will see the infamous traffic jams ; as holiday travelers exit cities for beaches and mountains, and those whose vacations are ‘fini’ return home.  So let’s think about mimosas.  No, dears, I don’t mean those lovely brunch champagne drinks.  I’m talking about the virtual “Queen” of mimosas in Mandelieu-La Napoule.Dubbed the “Capitale du Mimosa”, this delightful town lies between Saint-Raphael to the South and Cannes to the North.  The striking “Corniche d’Or” Road winds past the jutting red rocks of the Esterel Massif overlooking the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean up to La Napoule.  And just beyond, the magnificent Mimosa forest is poised on the Tanneron Massif watching over the town.

We tend to enjoy shoulder and off-season travel in France, when normal French activity hums in towns and cities; and tourists are not so evident.  You might even want to plan your trip to coincide with the annual Mimosa Festival held in late February.  The festive events range from processions and parades to exhibitions and the crowning of King and Queen of the festival – all designed to pay homage to the gorgeous yellow blooms of the mimosa.

The beaches along the Gulf of La Napoule are delightful, clean, safe and varied from silky sand to red rocky shorelines.  One particularly beautiful sight on the sea is the  Château La Napoule, the former home of American artists Henry and Marie Clews. Before purchased by the Clews in 1919, the 14th-century Château had been pillaged destroyed and rebuilt eight times.

chateau la napoule, mediterranean France

Chateau La Napoule, magnet for the arts along the Mediterranean

Today it easily is referred to as a “high table for the arts”, where art programs, exhibitions and workshops mix with conferences and gala receptions.  The gardens are among the stunning sights with thin, towering Tuscany firs, tranquil pools and fountains and lovely views to the sea.

Finally, on a more down-to-earth note, the local markets are filled with tradition, colorful fruit and produce and Provençal scents and crafts – oilseed products and country wines, carved olive wood pieces and pottery.  Fully four days a week, you can dive into the local scene at the colorful marchés.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Artisan Soaps from Marseille

Authentic soaps from Marseille

The sweet sensation of bathing with olive oil soap

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

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

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


100th Anniversary of Marius Fabre Soaps

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

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

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

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

Pablo Picasso in the South of France

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

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

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

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

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

Carlton Hotel along La Croisette, Cannes

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

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


We’d love to hear from you!

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




Sharing Your Love of France

A visit to the Louvre - Bien sur! Paris

A visit to the Louvre - bien sur!

Three years after my first visit to France, I was able to fulfill an important dream – to take my daughter to my favorite place.  She was the ideal traveler, willing to try everything and delighted with every sight, scent and taste she encountered.  We stayed with our friend in her 5th-floor apartment overlooking boulevard Saint-Marcel.

Our first day in Paris seemed to last 36 hours – wine on Place Contrescarpe, a visit to Jardin du Luxembourg, walking by the Seine, watching the bateaus along the river, out for the evening at a concert and wine bar.

And we travel for a long weekend, taking the TGV to Avignon and driving to our hearts’ content.  We see Gordes and Roussillon, stay in Aix-en-Provence, make our way to Moustiers Sainte-Marie and down to the Mediterranean for brief visits to Monaco and Eze.  On the long train trip back to Paris, we had plenty of time to remember the absolute wonder of sharing special places with someone you love.


A lovely park near the Grimaldi Palace
A lovely park near the Grimaldi Palace

We’d love to hear from you!

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


“Eco Valley” Underway Around Nice

Nice's Grand Stade - a part of the Eco Valley mission

Nice's Grand Stade - a part of the Eco Valley mission

There’s a plan underway to develop an “Eco Valley” along the Cote d’Azur.  One of the first ‘planks’ in the plan is the Grand Stade in Nice, an important first part of creating “The Green City on the Mediterranean”.

You don’t naturally associate eco-friendly with the building of stadiums, but Nice’s Stade fulfills many green promises, with the expansive use of wood in the building, the recovery of rainwater for irrigation and natural air-conditioning that taps the prevailing winds of the Plaine du Var.  Over 16,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels will allow the Grand Stade to produce more energy than it consumes.

When Nice hosts the Euro 2016 – one of 12 venues to do so, the new stadium will hold well over 35,000 soccer fans.  The stadium is literally the centerpiece for the larger Eco Valley between the hills at the base of the Var valley, the Alps and the Mediterranean.

We’d love to hear from you!

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


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

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

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

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

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

Salon terrace overlooking the sea
Salon terrace overlooking the sea

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

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


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Provençal Weekend, Saint-Paul-de-Vence

Cobblestone streets of Saint-Paul-de Vence, France

Cobblestone streets of Saint-Paul-de Vence

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

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

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

Contemporary sculpture, Saint-Paul-de-Vence

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

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Salt Flats and Seascapes, Hyères

View from the hilltop garden in Giens

I enjoy my mental voyages each Sunday, when my own imagination allows me to re-visit beautiful places.  On a sunny day in March, my daughter and I drove along the sparkling Côte d’Azur; until we reached Hyères, then headed south past neatly-placed salt flats to the Giens peninsula.

With the Mediterranean shining in the background, a display of brightly-colored pottery lined the road near La Capte.  The knotty parasol pines curved every which way, casting playful shadows over our drive.

We meandered around the village, before climbing up to the garden to look out over Hyères and the Ile de Porquerolles.  “But where does that road go?”  Well of course we had to answer that question, so we wound down from the village to the Port du Niel.  Simply gorgeous views awaited us – rocky cliffs and tropical foliage leading down to the sea and a little cove filled with fishing boats painted in the colors of Provence.  Those are memories that will be with us through all time.

Gien's rocky coastline

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

Rose Festival on the Côte d’Azur

Rose Festival displays spread through the Villa gardens © C. Recoura

As if the Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat were not enticing enough, the elegant Côte d’Azur site once again will host the 3rd Rose Festival in its delightful gardens.  Renowned rose growers and gifted nurserymen will create their magic early in May, devoting careful attention to roses that were among the favorites of the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild.

The heart of the French Garden will be transformed into a colorful festival with exhibits spread under pink umbrellas, with palm trees and fountains in the background.  Participants from around Europe will showcase their varieties of old and contemporary roses and will include a host of perennials and all kinds of flowers.

The rose grower Delbard will host perfume workshops and offer a selection of offers visitors a selection of exceptional roses. An added benefit for perfume-lovers will be natural fragrance collections and perfume workshops from Fragonard of nearby Grasse.

Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa

And what could be more natural for such an elegant event than a champagne bar presented by Veuve-Clicquot.  Visitors will wind along the pathways and garden displays with refreshing glasses of brut rosé.  For gourmands, the Villa’s tea room offers delicate patisserie selections and refined salads.

Through the three-day event, experts from around the world will profile the history of the legendary rose and its cultivation.   Special activities and workshops will keep children entertained, while parents explore the fabulous Villa gardens.   The Rose Festival will be refreshing event, one that allows you to shed the daily grind and dip into the world of roses in one of the most beautiful gardens on the Mediterranean.

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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.

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“King of Sport” Carnaval in Nice

Carnaval characters parade along the Promenade de Anglais

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

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

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

Color and charisma!

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

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

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Preservation Versus Progress – France

Limestone cliffs meet deep blue water, Les Calanques

In a country with such diverse resources and natural beauty, France takes great interest in protecting its natural environments.  Officially, France has 9 designated National Parks – soon to be 10 with the addition of Les Calanques this year, the first to be added since 1979.

That development alone was ten years in the planning, but interim steps were taken to preserve the dramatic cliffs and inlets along the Mediterranean from overuse by hikers and tourists and particularly from the monstrous threat of fire during dry seasons and high winds.

In addition to the National Parks, some 45 Regional Parks, such as the Camargue between the Rhone and Petite Rhone Rivers, manage and monitor 13 percent of all French territory, inhabited by 3 million people.

And therein lies the critical need for balance – of people’s needs versus environmental protection, of economic progress versus preservation of the life and history of a region, of encouraging the lifeblood of tourism versus spoiling the natural sites they want to visit.

In fact, the Camargue Regional Park provides an excellent example.  Without “taking sides”, we can point to the sometimes divisive relationships between the ‘distant bureaucrats’ and those who call the Camargue their home.  For generations, the saltier (salt farmers) and rice farmers have vied with one another, and the growth in tourism only added fuel to that fire.  But the Regional Park serves to protect the unique structures, the salt marshes and inland lakes and the stunning array of flora and fauna that thrive in the Camargue.

Protected … and perfect for enjoying

The Calanques also represent a stunning treasury of prehistoric caves, dramatic limestone cliffs, turquoise inlets and highland meadows and an especially precious marine life. The marine area is nearly five times the protected land area, and a buffer zone will further protect Les Calanques.

Factor in the dynamic city of Marseilles, the many seaside villages, the influx of tourists and extensive ship travel – from sleek yachts and mammoth cruise ships to local fishermen and tour guides – the sea and adjacent land is under constant assault from natural forces and human activity.

And it is Les Calanques National Park that will focus special interest on protecting these natural treasures against urbanization, fires and marine pollution not to mention the natural deterioration.

If you have ever had the privilege of looking toward the Calanques from a boat or from an inlet or from a rocky outcropping, you know how worthwhile it is to safeguard this and other areas of natural beauty and heritage for all of the generations to come.

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“Belle Époque” on the French Riviera

The gorgeous Promenade des Anglais, Nice - © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

Try as you might, I’m not sure you could match Nice’s blend of Belle Époque beauty, fashionable heritage and Italian flavor.  Nice is the prestigious centerpiece for elite travelers, the Grande Dame of the Riviera, the playground of public and private beaches, palatial homes and hotels, handsome museums, and infinite façades overlooking the Mediterranean.

We first dipped down to Nice from the Alps to an amusing discovery.  Red-cheeked skiers fresh from snow-covered slopes converged with bathers stretched out on rented chaises along the beach – quite the range of recreation options in this magical place.

The Promenade des Anglais lured us again and again, stretched like a mesmerizing artist’s canvas along the sea.  Given the number of renowned artists who succumbed to the city’s charm, it’s an apt description.  Of Nice, painter Pierre August Renoir wrote, “If you would like to see the most beautiful land in the world, here it is.”  Henri Matisse was 48, when he discovered Nice; and for 27 years, he made his home here, leaving behind a wonderful legacy of paintings.

So restful along the Promenade – except in summer – © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

Under pristine, whitewashed arbors, we watched the parade of strolling visitors against a backdrop of the turquoise waters of the Baie des Anges and lush, tropical foliage.  As much as I love the magic of words, I don’t know how to define or describe this visual feast.

From the 18th century, tourism has proven a reliable girder to the economic health of the city.  First came the English, who were responsible for the construction of the Promenade – queens and empresses and all sorts of gilded and fashionable members of society wintered in Nice. Then came the Russians – Tsars, Grand Dukes and other aristocrats, who essentially transformed the coast from Cannes to Menton as an adopted annex to the shores of the Black Sea.  Naturally, Americans were next.

Of course, we must sip a drink at the Hotel Negresco’s handsome Bar Le Relais.  Next year, the famous, five-star hotel will celebrate 100 years of hosting and coddling the rich and famous.  Two famous features are the wildly colorful statue of Miles Davis, and the Gustave Eiffel-designed gorgeous glass dome over the Royal Salon.

Bar Le Relais – Hotel Negresco

Tucked ever so elegantly between the Negresco and West End hotels, the 19th-century Palais Massena is one of the last mansions along the Promenade and houses the museum of the same name.  It’s the perfect place to duck out of the sun and into old world elegance and an abundance of impressionist paintings and French folk art.

We’ve not even scratched the surface of this fascinating city – the Matisse Museum, Vieux Nice, the port and daily markets – so we shall return … perhaps for Carnaval!



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© ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

3 More Reasons to Visit Provence


Flower market, Aix-en-Provence

Give me time, and I can fill a book with reasons you should travel to this remarkable region!  First, let’s look to the towns and villages – Avignon, the Papal Palace and retreat on the Rhône.  Aix-en-Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, Cassis overlooking the Mediterranean, and the sprawling natural landscape of the Camargue.  In Aix, we duck around a corner to find the perfect café in the sun for lunch.  The friendly owner recommends plats and a Côtes de Provence Rosé.  We dine in Greoux le Bain next to a friendly young couple from Sophia Antipolis.  They insist we join them for a typical digestif. Phew!  Marc de Provence, I believe she called the drink, and it was s-t-r-o-n-g!  Thus the engaging people join the enchanting towns as reasons for our love of Provence.

Extraordinary Roman ruins point the ways of old Roman roads and customs, of religious communities and trade routes.  The amphitheatre in Nîmes, the Pont du Gard aqueduct above the city and ancient fountains in tiny hilltop towns – each provides a fascinating view of the past.  The defensive walls around Aigues-Morte and the secluded Romanesque abbeys – serene retreats from a land once thought to be sauvage (wild), a land routinely ravaged by Mistral winds through the seasons.

Along the rocky seafront by Saint Clair

And the Mediterranean spreads like luminous turquoise peacock feathers along the coast.  We stop in Bandol for a lazy lunch under wisteria-draped balconies. The markets along the water lure us with handmade soaps, fabric-covered baskets, pestos and Italian knits. It is each and every one of these experiences that nurture our love of Provence.  We find a rocky seaside path near Saint Clair to take a solitary walk along the coast.

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Another Day in Menton

Seaside views from Maria Serena

Perhaps it is only “spoiled” travelers, who have the freedom and resources to indulge every travel whim, who look upon their chosen destinations with a rather jaded eye.  Where we can’t see anything but the wonder, beauty and unique personality of a new place; they compare it to all of the other places they have been entitled to visit.

Bourgeois Menton, they called it, because the city seemingly has evolved from chic winter playground to comfortable home to Mentonnaise.  And, for  us, that is the appeal of Menton.  It is as if the land that allows citrus and exotic plants to bloom year round also allows the town and its’ residents to do the same.

Today, we have more jewels in store, like the newly-opened Jean Cocteau Museum.  The love affair between Menton and Cocteau was crowned with the world’s largest collection of the painter/playwright/film director’s works.  Smitten with Menton in the late 1950’s, Cocteau painted murals in Menton’s now-famous Hall of Marriage.  Some 50-plus years later, Menton christened the modern museum to house the collection donated to the town by Séverin Wunderman.  Nearly 1,000 of Cocteau’s works are featured in the dazzling museum, set between the sea and the old market building.

Menton Orthodox Church

Another interesting site is the Menton Orthodox Church, designed by Danish architect Tersling.  It was built at the proposal of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, granddaughter of the Tsar, Nicholas 1st and was linked to “l’Hermitage” founded by Anastasia for Russia’s children suffering from consumption.

Finally, Menton’s gardens represent the appreciation of tropical beauty so typical of the town.   Three favorites include the Jardin Serre de la Madone, the Le Val Rahmeh and the Maria Serena garden.  Each exudes a distinct personality from the terraced subtropical plantings of the Serre de la Madone to the Villa Maria Serena on the seafront next to the Italian border.

We are so enamored with Menton that we hope to choose a vacation rental to enjoy an extended stay.  There is nothing quite like immersing yourself in a favorite place, so you can absorb the surroundings – read a book in the gardens, take a leisurely picnic in the hills, spend lazy days by the beach.

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


Decouvrez La Riviera Mentonnaise

View of the old town from the sea - © ATOUT FRANCE/Franck Charel - (Click to enlarge)

Think of the things you enjoy – sunshine, seascapes, stimulating art, pleasant weather, gardens, history, hills.  Simply add a twist of lemon, and you have Menton, the easternmost city on the French Riviera.  In fact, this charming subtropical town has the proverbial location, location, location between the mountains and the sea in the Alpes-Maritimes and just a few minutes from Italy, Monaco and the Comté de Nice.

The lemon is the golden symbol of the city, a symbol that is celebrated at the renowned annual Lemon Festival.  This year marks the 79th Festival and will be held from February 17th to March 7th.  Each Sunday morning during the festival, residents and visitors alike enjoy a virtual dance through the streets to the sea, with confetti floating through the air and elaborate citrus-laden parade floats boasting colorful designs.

Menton – The Lemon Capital

Menton’s sophisticated history began in the 12th century under a Genoan family; until the mid 14th century, when ownership passed to the Grimaldi family of Monaco.  From the time Menton chose to become part of France in 1860; the local economy flourished, as winter visitors relished the mild climate and scenic surroundings of the city.  During the two World Wars, Menton was annexed by Italy and invaded by Germany; but the town, devastated by war, was liberated in September, 1944.  After years of re-building, Menton once again has become a favorite destination.

Visit the beguiling city with us, and we will follow in footsteps from the Empress Eugénie to Jean Cocteau.  Menton stimulates all of our senses with fragrant gardens, hilltop panoramic views, quiet pedestrian lanes and unique architecture.  Let’s wander through the narrow streets to the sea, past cool fountain squares and pastel houses shuttered against the sun.

After lunch and a glass of Provencal wine, we’ll visit two Baroque masterpieces – the majestic “Basilique Saint-Michel” and a few steps beyond “La Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs” (White Sinners Church).  Now, we’ll climb to the top of the hill to discover the “Vieux Château” cemetery to look over the mountains, the sea and the landscape of Italy.  Next stop is “Notre-Dame de l’Annonciade”  dominating  Menton’s skyline  at 230 metres (700 feet) above sea level.  It is built on the site of the original fortified town and now is home to the Annonciades nuns.

We must stop in at the Municipal market between the old port and the old city. We’ll gather some exotic Mentonnaise specialties like spices, Soca and “barbbajuans” – fried vegetables and rice.

And we haven’t even seen the gorgeous gardens or enjoyed water sports by the sea or visited the Jean Cocteau Museum!  Clearly, an overnight stay is in order … tomorrow, more about the delights of Menton.

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Pines & Pleasures along the Mediterranean

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

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

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

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

Gorgeous Cote d’Azur beaches

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

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

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Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.

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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A Mere Mistake – Voila! – Monaco

Elegant designs painted on Monaco buildings

First, let me rush to tell you that I know Monaco is not France, but please … bear with me.  My daughter and I were driving along the “Moyenne Corniche” to visit the village of Eze in the South of France.  It was a cool, sunny morning, and I couldn’t wait to introduce her to one of my favorite spots on earth.  We had plenty of time to enjoy the village, before returning to Nice to catch a 3:00 train back to Paris.

Hmm … I missed the turn to Eze, and the next exit was Monaco.  We found ourselves hurtling forward on the autoroute through a very long tunnel and around curve after curve, as if Monaco were a magnet that would not let go.  What were we to do?

We simply followed the line of traffic and ended up in a parking garage beneath the Oceanographic Museum.  We ascended an elevator and escalator to discover that the beautiful museum is poised high above the Mediterranean, as if the building grows out of the cliff at the water’s edge.

We knew our time was limited, but there was no way we were going to land in Monaco without exploring.  We wandered along pedestrian lanes past the most tastefully painted buildings we had ever seen.  We peeked through doorways at quaint restaurants readying for lunch customers.  We were struck by the cleanliness and soft pastel palette of colors.

After only a few minutes, we found ourselves in a large plaza across from – “Is THAT the palace?”  Indeed it was, and we moved forward to an incredible sight – the changing of the guard.  It most assuredly was a pinch-me moment – losing our way, landing in the principality of Monaco and witnessing the elegant guards change watch.  Only a glimpse of Prince Albert II might have surpassed that moment.

Changing of the guard ceremony

We later learned that the ceremony takes place every day promptly at 11:55 in front of the royal entrance.  In full dress uniform, the guards perform in a tradition that has not changed for more than a century.

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


Along the Côte d’Azur – Giens

Port du Niel fishing boats

We were driving eastward along the French Riviera near Hyères, when we made another of our “why not?” decisions.  We took a right that led south across a narrow salt flat road to the Giens peninsula.

It turned out to be an excellent decision, as we wound through clustered parasol pines that opened onto the charming Giens village center and the obligatoire church plaza.  We wandered along the main village street, where welcoming shops, bakeries, galleries and sidewalk cafes mixed pastel Provencal colors with French blue shutters and doors.  Toward the end of the street, we climbed stairs to reach a garden with panoramic views of the Hyeres and the Ile de Porquerolles.

Imagine a vacation rental in Giens

Those views demanded a closer look, so we drove along the Route du Port du Niel, until we rounded a corner to a magnificent sight.  Colorful fishing boats bobbed in the crystal waters by a rock pier, and tree-lined cliffs spilled down to the little harbor.  We were to learn that people gather each morning to buy the fresh catch from local fishermen.  But on this day, we were alone in the sun to gaze out over the sea.

Wave washed rocks of Giens

A coastal footpath offered stunning views of little coves and rocky outcroppings, sweet scents and the ever present orchestra of cicadas.

Not every spontaneous turn in the road led to such perfection, but this day, this turn brought us a touch of heaven.  Giens is definitely on our ‘short list’ of places to find a vacation rental and absorb the peace of a village far removed from the rush of the city.


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The Massif des Calanques – Cassis


The Magnificent Calanques Near Cassis

Simply spectacular!  The Massif des Calanques offers magnificent contrasts for 20 kilometers along the coast from metropolitan Marseilles to the pretty port of Cassis.  Stark white limestone cliffs, dotted with rare plant species and parasol pine forests, run to the ever-changing blue waters of the Mediterranean. 

Ancient river mouths thread their way through the cliffs to form a French version of fjords with coves of soft turquoise waters, so colored because of the limestone.

The area is so popular with rock climbers, hikers and divers, that the Calanques this year will become France’s eighth National park.  Oversight of the park will help to relieve pressure on the environment and regulate access.  One of the best ways to gain a real appreciation of the Calanques is to take one of the boat tours offered at the port.  Tours depart from the harbor and vary in length to take in 3, 5 or 8 Calanques.

The fishing port of Cassis

Tucked between the famous Calanques and the spectacular cliff of Cap Canaille, Cassis itself is a charming seaside fishing port, best visited after the summer rush to enjoy quiet walks through the village and enjoying outdoor cafes overlooking the colorful harbor. The old quarter is a heritage site, and on Wednesdays and Fridays, the market offers wonderful local products – figs and olives, cassis wine, cheese and more – typically Provencal!  For some pleasant views of the village and the pastel buildings along the harbor, take a walk up the hill by the old Château de la Maison des Baux (privately owned). 


Stunning views from the cliff

Each year, locals celebrate the Cassis harvest during the last weekend in September, when you can dance to local folk music, join in the parade and enjoy culinary treats and wine tasting. If you don’t visit during the Fête du Vin, worry not one little bit.  Local wine domains offer wine tastings, and you can always pull up your café chair and loll away the time with your very own bottle of the refreshing white Cassis wine.  À votre santé!

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The Magic of the Mediterranean

Our hilltop view of the Mediterranean

When we first approached the Mediterranean, we were on a road to the North, high above the sea.  As we crested the hill looking toward Agde, suddenly the striking blue waters of the sea appeared, as if by the magic stroke of a painter’s brush.  Though we were still 30 miles away, the very sight of the water made us surge with anticipation of being right on the beach, our toes in that water.  The sight also summoned  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 privilege, it would seem of the rich and famous, those untethered to the worldly cares most of the world must consider.

When we finally reached the Mediterranean, we parked our little Peugeot by the side of the road, and walked through the pure white sand, taking in the incredible beauty, and slipping our feet into the sea.  In this spot, the waters were a lovely turquoise color, as if the entire sea covered a reef.  We continued for a long way along the coast, watching the water change to darker blue with azure streaks.  As we were to see, the Mediterranean weaves and washes a coastline with hundreds of personalities.  Parasol pines look over rocky coves and pebbled beaches.  Miles of whitewashed beaches stretch along coastal roads.  Narrow paths snake along cliffs that drop to the sea. It is a stunning world with countless choices for sun and sea worshippers.

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The Lure of Eze on the Cote d’Azur

Oh, do have a glass of wine in Eze

Arguably one of the loveliest spots on earth is the ancient village of Eze, perched high on Mount Bastide overlooking the Mediterranean.  We thread our way through the enchanting cobbled lanes, stopping in a Provencal fabric shop, virtually a cave carved entirely from the mount on which Eze is built.  No autos mar the serenity, as all visitors park below the village. As always, a charming chapel is at the center, and petite galleries and cafes, pottery and gourmand boutiques take their colorful spots along the way.

We ensure a memorable moment, when stopping at the Chateau Eza for a cool glass of Rosé on the outdoor terrace.  We are virtually at the southern edge of the cliffside village, looking out on the beautiful Mediterranean and Cap St. Jean Ferrat. Quickly, it becomes our dream to stay at the Chateau, to wrap ourselves in the luxury and old-world charm.  Each of the rooms and suites are refined and elegant, with natural stone accents and toile-draped windows, some even with an intimate fireplace.   Just 7 kilometers from Monaco, the boutique hotel is the perfect, tranquil base from which to explore.  We haven’t made it yet, but it’s still our dream!

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Wandering Along the Cote d’Azur

A refreshing dip in the Mediterranean

I absolutely love the comment W. Somerset Maugham made about the French Riviera – “A sunny place for shady people.”  While the rich and famous have long enjoyed the Cote d’Azur, you needn’t be Brigitte Bardot or Jacques Cousteau to appreciate the infinite beauty of the French Riviera.  Stretching from the Saint-Tropez peninsula northeastward to the lovely lemon capitol of Menton, the French Riviera boasts many famous destinations – Nice and Cannes, Monaco, Saint-Raphael and Antibes. 

We drove along the Mediterranean for miles and miles, stopping at coves for a swim, enjoying a picnic on a bluff above the beach.  The coast is infinitely beautiful and ever changing.  Parasol pines dot the landscape, shading the beach in places.  Yacht-filled marinas and condos are distressingly frequent, but there’s still plenty of room for quiet moments by the sea.   You can easily understand that the French Riviera deserves more than a week to capture its lazy charm and exciting venues.

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