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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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Villa Mauresque – Boutique Riviera Hotel

February 15, 2017 @ 9:00 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
France Travel

Villa Mauresque, Saint Raphael

Words and music for “I Went to a Marvelous Party” were written by Noël Coward in 1938.  The song offered a first-person exposé of five parties the playwright-composer-singer attended on the French Riviera in the frantic era of amusement of the Train Bleu society of the 1920s and 1930s. While that particular vignette sparks your curiosity, you need only drive along the jeweled coastline of the Cote d’Azur to imagine the haute lifestyle of that era.

These touches of history merely pave the way to introduce an enchanting hotel on the Mediterranean near Saint-Raphael.  No less than renowned author Somerset Maugham initiated the incubator for the hotel, when he purchased the 9-acre estate of Villa Mauresque.  Prior to transforming to today’s elegant hotel residence, the villa hosted great literary and society guests in one of the Riviera’s most tantalizing social salons and was Maugham’s secluded home, until his death in 1965.

France Travel cote d'azur

Author and artist named suites

Around 2005, discretion and good taste led the way in converting the Moorish-inspired mansion into an extremely welcoming hotel.  The walled property keeps the world at bay, while you take breakfast on the terrace at the edge of the Mediterranean.  Or from your private port, you might tackle windsurfing or a quieter canoe ride.

The Villa was designed by Chapoulard in 1860, one of many of his neo-Moorish imprints along the fabled coast.   The boutique hotel has been carefully curated to offset serene ivory walls with bold tapestries and painted doors; and only 11 luxurious suites and bedrooms welcome guests to refined comfort.  Two on-site small villas also are a part of the property, available for rental and even engaging a chef-prepared meal en suite.

France Travel

Overlooking the Gulf of Saint Tropez

Speaking of dining, a Michelin-star Chef provides inviting cuisine in “Le Bougainvillier” restaurant with elegant indoor or terrace dining with unparalleled views of the Gulf of Saint Tropez.  Atypical of many Riviera resorts, the restaurant open throughout the year to offer … fillet of John Dory from our sea, roasted green asparagus in Provencal style or perhaps roasted lamb chops from the Quercy region

Enough.  You must browse the Villa’s site for more information to choose from artist- and writer-named rooms and suites that range from Monet’s 225-Euro room to Baudelaire’s Suite Prestige with sea view at 1,300 Euros per night.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Dining French Style- Oui!

February 12, 2017 @ 6:40 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
French pastries

Elegant pear tarte – delicieux!

You discover everything appetizing with French dining.  Like this lovely pear tarte, so appealingly beautiful, with sweet aromas and a golden crust….and we haven’t even tasted it yet, but the promise is so alluring.

Last year … and the year before … we couldn’t be in Paris for Valentine’s Day; so we did the next best thing.  We stopped in for breakfast at our favorite local ‘patisserie’.  The atmosphere was so pleasant, complete with quiet “bonjours” and customers gazing over the expansive pastry choices to selects their croissants or quiche.

In that natural French way,  we lingered over our coffees and heard the simple bits of conversation that drifted our way.  One couple shared quite a delicious looking ‘breakfast croissant’ complete with egg, ham and cheese; while two ‘rowdy’ garcons spread Nutella over their pastries, the evidence peeking at us from the corners of their mouths.

To expand our enjoyable petite dejeuner, we went a step further.  A lovely pear tarte caught my eye … and imagination!  Alas, we would be able to share this elegant dessert at home with our Valentine’s meal.  We still would have preferred to be in Paris for the day, but we were able to bring a touch of Paris to us.  And on another day, we even made our own pear tarte at home – perhaps not as delicate looking but every bit as enchanting in taste.

Life lesson?  Even if you can’t travel when or where you want, you can create your own atmosphere and experience to enjoy.  A tip of the hat to France from us.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2013, 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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