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‘Les Calades Provençales’

March 8, 2017 @ 3:10 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
France artisans

Hand-painted scarves in Aix-en-Provence

Renowned for its extraordinary fountains and talented favorite son, Cezanne; Aix-en-Provence manages a lovely blend of enchanting culture, vibrant youth and stimulating history.  But wait – the marketplace alone adds a huge dimension to the city, and the restaurants entice you at every bend in the road!  We arrived in Aix during the artisan craft fair, “Les Calades Provencales” and were able to meander along the stunning, tree-lined Cours Mirabeau to take in the original works of dozens and dozens of craftsmen and women.   

A quiet, personable potter demonstrated ease with his wheel.  Bright, hand-painted scarves drifted from canvas awnings.  With every turn of the head, we immersed ourselves in this treasury of talent – exotic jewelry, perfumes and ceramics, intricate wood creations and handsome textiles.

We stopped to chat – yes, in halting French but quite adequate – with a lovely young woman with a trés chic array of hand-crafted shoes and sandals.  The talented designer, Veronique Baron, epitomized the charming, soft-spoken French woman.

artisan fairs in france

The talented potter in Aixx

Born in la Drome, Veronique carries on the proud traditions of her father and grandfather.  Early on, she designed shoes in her father’s workshop.  After earning her degree in shoe design and practicing her talent with freelance work, Veronique realized her dream with the birth of  “Dans la garrigue”.  In the heart of a sunny pine forest, she creates each shoe and purse, piece by piece in her atelier (workshop).

Isn’t that kind of chance encounter one of the priceless rewards of travel?  In the midst of one of the most beautiful cities of France, we made this small connection that added immeasurably to our enjoyment of the artisan fair and the city itself.

Naturally, we needed some time to absorb our experiences and stopped at one of Aix’s many canopied cafes.  We capped our lovely adventure with delicious ham and cheese gallettes, salad and pichet of wine with a strolling guitarist to perfect our Aixoise moment.

Aix en Provence

Veronique’s hand-crafted shoes

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Italy, France – Travel Early and Often!

March 2, 2017 @ 12:09 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Duomo, Florence Italy

Charming cafes overlooking the magnificent Duomo

“Travel changes people. It broadens perspectives and teaches new ways to measure quality of life.”  Rick Steves

Florence, Italy.  The Duomo bells ring, at 7:45 a.m. –an unusual alarm clock that follows a warm evening with family in a room filled with vibrant students.  Through Jacksonville University in Florida, Leo’s sister and brother-in-law offer summer programs of art history, photography and painting in France and Italy.  We were fortunate to be included in the farewell dinner celebration for the end of their studies.

The student group of 15 young people, aglow with new experiences and the kind of relationships forged through sharing all things new, trade group photos and insider memories.  They may have an ever-so-small idea of the imprint they will carry with them from their sojourn in Italy.  The molecules of imagination have been stimulated.

The students gathered from Maine and Ohio, West Virginia and Florida.  They seem to recognize the unique privilege of participating in a life-changing program and summer.  Their families and friends will welcome home students who are different, who are better equipped and more motivated to dive off the board into the pool of possibilities life offers.

Florence Italy

“David” watches over the bustling Piazza della Signoria – the original David is in the Galleria dell’Accademia

We-are well beyond the clear-eyed face of youth but our ventures have been similar.  It IS never too late to learn, to set aside old fears and needs for security to pursue new roads of travel, learning, and culture.

Our mature eyes absorb the naked truth of Alpine ridges against the sky and the fickle faces of sunflowers turned away from the sun.  We exchange bonjours and ciaos with kind and interesting people. We see the pride enmeshed in each fine craft that has evolved from generations of artisan development.  Each adventure renews our feeling that we’ve just begun.

All of us feel the tumult in the world these days with so much suffering and displacement, adversarial politics, economic fears and ongoing security threats.  How easy it is to focus on the negative and even to let your fears guide your decisions about travel.

Annecy, France

Mountainous peaks hover over Lake Annecy

We can attest that travel so broadens your horizons that you re-gain your perspective and refresh your spirit to address challenges that lie ahead.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Artisans in Aix-en-Provence

November 10, 2016 @ 12:22 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
France artisans

Hand-painted scarves in Aix-en-Provence

During a delightful 3-day visit to Aix-en-Provence, we enjoyed the added benefit of the artisan craft fair, “Les Calades Provencales.” Aix is famous for its many fountains and talented favorite son Cezanne, so it’s not surprising that artisans are celebrated here.

At any moment Cours Mirabeau offers an enchanting, tree-lined boulevard; but the fair magnified the magic. Elegant hand-painted scarves danced in the breeze, while artisans warmly greeted visitors explaining their crafts, demonstrating the potter’s wheel and generally serving as welcoming ambassadors in this dynamic city.

Hand-crafted shoes and sandals, exotic jewelry, perfumes and pottery spread all along the boulevard. The cobbler followed generations of the art of shoemaking; the silk scarves were painted by hand.

French dining

Greoux-les-Bains

After a pleasant stroll to examine the many gorgeous crafts, we stopped at one of Aix’s many canopied cafes.  Ummm – delicious ham and cheese galette, a pichet of wine and a strolling guitarist made for a relaxing Aixoise experience.

We would offer a hearty thumbs up to any planning a trip to this lovely area. An easy drive from Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding area immerse you in an enchanting landscape, exceptional architecture and abundant dining choices.

You might wander through Cezanne’s landscape and stop for dinner in Greoux-les-Bains or take in the grand Pont du Gard aqueduct; but parking yourself at a café along the boulevard provides plenty of enjoyment!

We’d love to hear from you!

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Wandering the Loire Valley

September 20, 2016 @ 7:42 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Travel the Loire Valley

Sunset over the Loire River

I suppose everyone has a different approach to travel, some probing the history and points of interest of a given area and others taking a more laissez-faire, let-it-unfold approach.  Whichever method appeals to you, discovering different areas of France offers abundant delights!  We have found it quite interesting to go back and research about an area you have experienced first hand.

I came across a nicely written and very thorough article that profiled the city of Bourges in the Loire Valley.  While reading of historic churches and age-old customs, my mind whisked backward to a remarkably hospitable weekend in the area.

A former Parisian invited our friends and us to visit with him in a tiny hamlet about 30 minutes from Bourges.  We managed to pack a ton of discoveries into that one weekend.

En route from our host’s country home to Bourges, we stopped in the quaint artist hamlet – La Borne – for a delightful slice of culture in a petite community.  We walked the streets of Bourges at night during the Lumiere extravaganza, when mystical lights cast their glow upon church courtyards and centuries-old, timbered houses.  On the steps of the renowned St. Stephan’s Cathedral, I picked up a couple of tiny red and pink tissue hearts, the sweet mementos of a wedding held earlier in the day.  We have the deepest respect for the city and its’ storied past.

Loire Valley

La Borne artist hamlet

But now I move on past the sophisticated travel to our deepest memories –

…. Of golden wheat fields stretching, stretching for miles up soft hills capped here and there with a couple of trees, standing as sentries, it seemed, overlooking this ‘bread basket’ of France.

…. Of steaming bowls of coffee enjoyed in the morning in the front yard, as we heard the plans for the day

…. Of an enormous, rhinestone blanket of stars setting the blackest of black nights ablaze with light

…. Of a whimsical house with all sorts of glass art – now, I see, named La Cathédrale de Jean Linard

…. Of narrow country lanes winding through the country, and shuttered homes built inches from the road – they always, always cloak their windows in delicate French lace

…. Of our little trek to La Borne, where 88 village artists give birth to imaginative ceramic  works of art

Loire Valley

The wheat fields, cows – the bread basket of France

And so we traveled in the footsteps of the Gaulouis and years from now will still enjoy this warm quilt of Loire countryside memories.

 

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Top French Textile Designers

December 29, 2015 @ 12:55 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
French textiles

One of the lovely tablecloths offered by My French Neighbor

I was walking through the local park with a friend in our oh-so-upscale little ‘village’ in Florida, when a woman walked toward us.  My friend commented to her, “Oh, I like your purse.”  She paused a half step and responded “Dior”, before stepping her way on down the walkway.

Now that’s what I call name-dropping, particularly in the face of an innocent compliment and about as boorish as it is ill-mannered.  So why am I going on about ‘name-dropping’?  Because that is precisely what I intend to do in discussing one of my favorite topics – sumptuous, breathtaking, lovely-to-touch French fabrics.

You simply can’t cover the topic properly without a touch of D. Porthault here and Frey there.  There now.  Please accept my rather limp apology for this transgression.

French textiles

Sun-swept colors of Provence by Valdrome

Naturally you can discover fine French linens and fabrics in a number of boutiques and high-end department stores in the United States, but I have discovered a very nice, comprehensive on-line store with an impressive offering of table linens, towels, kitchen and bedroom textiles and fabric by the yard (or meter).  French-brand.com offers what may be the widest selection of Designer Luxury Bedding anywhere on the Internet.  Imagine the wealth of choices – over 45 brands from France and elsewhere and up to 50 designs per brand in silk, pure linen, cotton mixes, Egyptian and Organic Cotton.

French textiles

Intricate Pierre Frey pillow

Let’s just introduce a small sampling …. Like The Company Olivier Thévenon Sélection, created in 1908 and specializing in upholstery fabrics, coordinating net and jacquards.  Moutet is another from the French Basque country with very traditional stripes as well as crisp and colorful contemporary designs.  Pierre Frey is synonymous with luxury in home décor and fabulous fabric and wallpaper designs.  In the wonderful French tradition, Pierre Frey brings a sumptuous look and feel to any room with a blend of touch, sight and harmony among patterns.

I love to shop at the base of Montmartre in Paris, where textile shops fill the streets from multi-story department stores to barely-large-enough-to-walk-around-in boutiques.  It is one of my favorite pastimes.  Perhaps, I have now discovered ‘the next best thing’ to shopping there.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

 

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