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.
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.
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I love to theme gifts – French gifts or otherwise – so let’s call these gift ideas for Monsieur “A Matter of Taste”. For the budding to the mature wine connoisseur, we begin with a focus on very appealing champagne from France.
Perhaps to whet his appetite, you will include an engaging and comprehensive book by one of the world’s leading wine authorities, An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France. Author Clive Coates shares his expansive knowledge of wine, its character, the meaning of appellations and the finest of French wine estates.
Now, let’s get right to the heart of the matter with an enticing bottle of Taittinger Champagne! Go to your favorite specialty wine shop for guidance. In Orlando, that would be Tim’s Wine Market, where they have been helping customers with personal guidance for over 20 years.
Taittinger is one of the distinctly historic champagne houses of France and one of only five to cellar its wines in the renowned “Crayères” of Reims – the chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. Since their discovery early in the 18th century, champagne merchants found the cave conditions ideal for aging wine. The Taittinger family is one of the largest vineyard owners in Champagne, and this esteemed brand was the official champagne at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Perhaps you will choose Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, chosen in 2012 as “Best Champagne” by Fine Champagne Magazine.
Round out your themed gift with a pair – or a set of champagne glasses – yet another opportunity for learning the ins and outs of the heavenly nectar. Flutes, coupes and tulips are your choices, and there are myriad designs from which to choose.
Champagne flutes aid in capturing the flavor and aroma of champagne with their tall narrow shape, medium to long stem and point at the bottom of the glass. Champagne coupes (saucers) are the wide-rimmed, shallow glasses with a short stem. A favorite in the early 1900’s, they are not as popular with ‘experts’ today, in that the shape allows the aroma and carbonation to escape. Finally, the aptly-named champagne tulip is similar to the flute but curves inward at the rim. Especially recommended for finer French champagnes, the wider base allows flavors to be captured and taste enhanced.
Voila! So there you have a wonderful assortment of French gifts for him, and I’m certain you can find a handsome bag or box in which to present your refined collection.
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Near Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, the 16th century Château des Vigiers is an appealing golf retreat – a blend of classic and contemporary. The 4-star Château is regal, set like a Grand Dame in the undulating Dordogne landscape with a spectacular 27-hole golf course. The beautifully restored centerpiece and resort have been designated one of the “Small Luxury Hotels of the World”.
A little side note is interesting. I know France hasn’t much of a golfing tradition. Perhaps, with so much beauty, culture, history and “je ne sais quoi”, they simply haven’t the time or desire to chase a little white ball around grassy knolls. But there was one notable French golfer who made history more for his loss than Paul Lawrie’s win at the British Open at Carnoustie. In a virtual bow to the theme of the movie “Tin Cup”, in 1999 Frenchman Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18thtee with a healthy 6-stroke lead. To make a long story short, he made one bad decision after another, spending twenty excruciating minutes working his way in and out of the barns and water. Though his triple-bogey took him into the playoff, he would not walk away with the Claret Jug. An interesting story, but let’s get back to our golf escape.
You will enjoy distinct room choices, from a classic Chateau room to spacious patio wing rooms with your own terrace overlooking the gardens or golf course. All rooms are beautifully furnished with every comfort. And you can cap off your round of golf with a visit to the beauty and spa centre. After enjoying a leisurely lunch, by all means explore Saint-Emilion and local vineyards.
At day’s end, dine “al fresco” on the scenic terrace overlooking the lake, while the wine steward uncorks your favorite rosé from the wine cellar. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?
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Some things in life require few words – like the magnificent gourmet creations at Dalloyau Paris. No, the simple word ‘gourmet’ won’t suffice. Royal orchestrations? Je ne sais pas! With nine shops and tearooms in Paris alone, the Dalloyau artisans have been creating masterful pastries, chocolates and prepared meals since 1682.
Imagine Lollipops Saint-Honoré or Lemon-Raspberry Swirl, Saint-Jacques and Summer Vegetables urchin shell. Each night the chefs and confectioners must dream of expansive kitchens, well-stocked pantries and beaucoup sugar.
The DALLOYAU House also applies their expansive talents to Les Lunch Boxes and business meals – everyday trays that are as healthy as they are enticingly delicious. Sad to say they only deliver in Paris and in the region around Paris; but now you know where to order that special ‘lunch box’ or business luncheon.
We welcome your comments and suggestions!
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