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French Riviera – Stunning Hotel Choices!

Nice, France

Petit Palace terrace views

Of course we would love to be in France right now, but why not look forward, dream a little, imagine an over-the-top stay along the Riviera.  Grand idea – let’s take a look at two very charming Cote d’Azur hotels and the “stars” associated with them.  The 3-star Belle Époque style residence, Le Petit Palais in Nice is a smaller, elegant residence located in the heart of Cimiez.  The 5-star Grand Hôtel Cap Ferrat is all one would expect of a luxury hotel by the Mediterranean. Read more…

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‘Les Calades Provençales’

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!

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

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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Île Saint-Louis Magic!

Paris watercolor

Capturing the charm of Ile Saint-Louis, Paris

Favorite places in Paris – how does one choose!  We always seem to return … again and again … to that charming petite island in the center of the Seine –  Île Saint-Louis.  It seems we have wandered about every square inch of the island, along the quays, through galleries and boutiques, in every sort of restaurant and café.

Our flood of memories includes our charming vacation rental overlooking the school yard, where children played happily and lined up ever so politely for snacks.  Stopping for lunch at our favorite crêperie – Au Lys d’Argent, we enjoy delicious quiche and crepes with a pichet of wine, before heading across the street to the little shop that always includes a lacy leaf or other such decorative item on our purchase.  Down the street, the chocolate shop whispers “visit now”, so of course we do!  Again, our purchase is carefully tucked into an elegant bag.

Stepping inside of the historic and charming Saint-Louis-en-l’Île Church (dating to 1675!) offers quiet moments of reflection among the quaint rush-seated chairs under soaring ceilings. We even stopped by the church on a crisp March evening to leave a raincoat and some sweaters with the priest in the hope they would be shared with someone in need.

Paris watercolor

Along the Seine in Paris

Walking along the river, stopping at sunset to watch the golden light fall across Paris, the island offers us such special moments and so much gratitude for the privilege of enjoying The City of Light!

 

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Stained Glass … Memories of France

Paris watercolors

Charming stained glass in Paris

All of us who love France find ways to nurture those feelings, to indulge often in the pleasant memories that stay with us for weeks and weeks after our travels. And so it is with my painting, as if touching brush and pen to paper will resurrect the best of our times in France.

One of my favorites, this ‘vitrail’ painting returns me to the one of the most enchanting times of our last stay in Paris.  With our dear friends we were invited to brunch at the home of his brother and family in the 16th arrondissement.  We enjoyed a warm welcome from our hosts, their two young-adult student children and the Russian exchange student, who was residing in their ‘chamber de bonne’ for a year.  Instantly we have the mix of generations and diverse cultures to guarantee lively conversations!

We gathered in their lovely dining room – with the table set before this magnificent window and spread, of course, with all kinds of enticing fare from the patisserie, charcuterie and local market.  As we spread artisan breads with fresh local jams and sampled an assortment of meats and cheeses, we shared little slices of our lives.

I particularly remember talking about different expressions and ways of life.  We refer to ‘raining cats and dogs’.  The French – ‘raining ropes’.  Our ‘turncoats’ are traitors.  Theirs turn their coats inside out – quelqu’un qui a retourné sa veste.  The daughter asks, “What IS a food court?” I think her question was borne less of really expecting some kind of definition and more of trying to comprehend why you would have such a thing.  That’s not exactly surprising given all of the intimate café choices one has in Paris!

Paris Art Deco

Entry to Hector Guimard’s home in Paris

As if we had not been immersed in enough culture and charm, we wandered a bit on leaving and found ourselves in front of the home of Hector Guimard – designer of the famous Art Deco metro entrances.  Quite an afternoon, so I’m sure you don’t wonder at my desire to resurrect the whole thing!

Hoping you have a “Bon Weekend!”

 

We’d love to hear from you!

 

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Hôtel de Crillon Reimagined

Paris luxury hotels

Overlooking Place de la Concorde – ©Atout France/Hôtel de Crillon

Two years into the renovation of the renowned Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, we still can only imagine the changes taking place. Many of us would wonder at any change to this veritable institution directly across the street from the American Embassy. Yet, in 2013 came the announcement about the closure for renovations and the forthcoming change in management to Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

Beyond tantalizing mentions of the auctioning of an abundant number of hotel accents, furnishings … and wine; the fate and future of the hotel has been cloaked in mystery. Now, though, we learn that no other than Karl Lagerfeld has been commissioned to apply his creative genius to the design of two suites.

luxury hotels of Paris

Junior suite – ©Atout France/Hôtel de Crillon

Acclaimed not only for fine craftsmanship but for blending history ‘with an edge’, perhaps even Mr. Lagerfeld feels a slight hesitation in tackling this Parisian landmark. Of course I am wrong about that – what designer wouldn’t jump at the chance to create a signature suite in one of the world’s finest hotels?

Under Rosewood’s core philosophy – A Sense of Place® – Mr. Lagerfeld will apply his unparalleled talent in the marriage of 18th century heritage with 2015 ‘je ne sais pas’.   Overlooking Place de la Concorde, the Hôtel de Crillon has witnessed abundant history from the reign of French Kings to the fall of Napoleon’s Empire and the birth of the League of Nations.

I hope that Karl Lagerfeld and the myriad designers involved in this renovation find the ideal balance of respect for heritage with light touches of the contemporary world in which we live. While my personal prejudice sways away from ultra-modern treatments of grand old buildings, I recognize that some might lean in the opposite direction.

Some describe the magnificent hotel as “…a living testament to the very best way of life France has to offer.” Alas, we all simply must wait and see for the unveiling of this monumental project in 2016.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Le Prieuré – Elegant Avignon Retreat

Retreat to the French countryside

Le Prieuré – hotel in the country by Avignon

Gift-giving season is here, and who among us wouldn’t cherish the gift of travel in France?  While we love the refined manoirs within the storied walls of old Avignon; we would easily enjoy experiencing a private setting with easy access to the historic area.  Le Prieuré,  just across the Rhône in Villeneuve- lès- Avignon, would definitely fit that bill!

The owners promise a stay that is both authentic and elegant. You’ll first want to book your stay at Le Prieuré, though keep in mind their seasonal closure may run to mid March, 2012.  A member of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux collection of luxury hotels and restaurants, Le Prieuré is a former 15th-century convent, magically transformed into a welcoming hotel and perfumed by the priests’ trellised garden of roses and wisteria.

Lavish Provençal style mixes with contemporary convenience in the carefully restored rooms and suites, that guarantee an intimate and comfortable stay. You may be surprised at the rich heritage and treasures in the village.

The dominant tower on the skyline – Fort Saint André and the Philippe le Bel Tower – remind us of Avignon’s alliance with the Holy Roman Empire and the need to protect the Benedictine abbey and town.  And the municipal museum in the Pierre-de-Luxembourg mansion displays exceptional art, notably religious works from ivory carvings to 17th century paintings.

The charming village becomes the focal point for performances and festivals throughout the year; due to their strategic location where Provence, la Camargue and Languedoc come together. Of course, you will visit the lovely old streets of Avignon to enjoy its’ special blend of history, striking architecture and inviting collection of shops and restaurants.

But the delight comes with your return from those lively moments to seal each and every memory with a quiet glass of wine on the balcony.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Luxury Redefined at Hôtel de Crillon

Hotel de Crillon, Paris

Crillon lobby elegance!

The renowned Hôtel de Crillon, right next door to the American Embassy in Paris, is about to complete a two-year renovation. Slated to reopen next year, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world will present a bright new face in order “to meet its clients’ highest standards.  Really?

Far be it from me to question the tastes and/or decisions of those who cater to those who likely spend as much on a stay at this magnificent hotel as many would spend on six months’ worth of mortgage payments! That disclaimer aside, you can be certain that the Crillon had not fallen into musty disrepair! Rather, like a bored homemaker shoving furniture about or painting a wall to freshen the home; the new management wanted to make a dual statement of refined continuity and techno-luxury progress.

Paris hotel Luxury

Signature style – what is coming at Hotel de Crillon?

I stand among many who appreciate the Hôtel de Crillon and, in fact, have some very fond memories of brushing up against her opulent presence. Many years ago during my first visit to Paris, my good friend once again demonstrated ‘the world is my oyster’ style. Dressed for a casual walk and a bit sodden with the Paris mist, she insisted we duck into the hotel for a visit to the restroom and gift shop. So discreetly imposing was the grand edifice, I balked at the thought quickly theorizing that such a visit would equal attending an upscale event in shorts and flip flops!

No, no, my friend assured me, and we entered … with her darling dog in the lead. A uniformed gentleman nodded with an appropriate smile, and we traversed the marble foyer and descended elegant stairs to the toilette. Certainly quite serviceable and inviting, the rest room nonetheless did not equal that of The Ritz; though I don’t intend to cast aspersions.

Then, we enjoyed moments of hushed French-style conversation with the gracious attendant in the gift shop, as we looked among porcelain keepsakes, sumptuous leather goods and light-as-air silk scarves. Despite my initial misgivings, it was a delightful experience … and certainly memorable.

I had no idea that the genteel tenacity of my friend offered such benefits!  Well indoctrinated now to the Crillon’s egalitarian hospitality, on another occasion I waited to meet my friend in the hotel lobby….that famous, gleaming lobby with quietly efficient hosts and elegant guests.  I marveled at the thin, fine leather boots of a statuesque young woman attached to the arm of a quite dignified gentleman.

Imagine, then, my sorrow on reading about a tourist who had the same thought to take a peek inside, perhaps a good ten years after our adventure.  As this lady approached the door, a guard at the front explained that only hotel guests could enter in order to protect the privacy of their guests.

Now, I only wish we had stopped in for a glass of wine, as my daughter and I did one evening at The Ritz; but that is another story, and I am well satisfied with my Crillon memories at the moment.  In fact, even ambling along the sidewalk in front of the hotel is quite an experience.  Elegantly uniformed livery men oversee a stable of sleek, black vehicles, every ready to spring into action for in-or outbound guests.  A stately tall black man leaves the hotel in what appears to be the attire of African royalty.  There is an indescribable hum of service and wealth and privilege that is interesting to see, a window on a world most of us do not encounter … on a regular basis.

Enjoy the big and little moments of your life.  And, as they say, “act as if” and perhaps you will be welcomed into otherwise hallowed ground!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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Meert – # 1 Palate Pleasure in Lille!

Lille, France

Patisserie to royalty in Lille

Today we seem to live at the speed of  light, hooked to little electronic gadgets that nag us – with our permission, thank you – throughout every waking moment.  That’s all the more reason  to appreciate Meert.

Nothing happens in France overnight, least of all a blossoming friendship or a thriving patisserie.  No, the maturation of either requires patience, tender care, growing trust and a touch of vision.  And so it is with Meert.  Over 250 years ago – in 1761, to be precise – a sweets and chocolate shop was born at 27 rue Esquermoise in Lille. Some ten years later, the addition of Meert’s famous ice cream inspired the reverence of the Count of Lille and transformed the establishment into one of Lille’s most fashionable sites, proving once again that the touch of royalty ‘gilds the lilly’.

Flash forward to 1839, when the decision was made to renovate the establishment.  The creative team included the architect César Benvignat – the official architect of Old Lille, painter Stalars and sculptor Huidiez; who combined their brilliance to create the impressive, ornate oriental style you find at Meert today.  Ten years later, Meert became the official supplier of King Leopold I and concocted one of the stellar products of the store – the famous vanilla-filled waffle.

Along the way, the house added a first-in-class restaurant poised along a sun-bathed interior courtyard with a 19th century glass roof.  Now, the distinguished clientèle enjoys the multi-faceted historic boutique, traditional tearoom and gastronomic restaurant all presented in the extravagant and tasteful surroundings of Maison Meert. A second restaurant at Lille Printemps has been added, as well as two Paris locations in the Marais and Saint-Germain, in Bruxelles and Roubaix.

Now, about that infamous waffle….

Ten years ago, the EphéMeert waffle appeared beside the traditional vanilla waffle that is particularly known for its’ flavorful Vanille de Madagascar.  Flavors range from praline and puffed rice, pistachio and morello cherry to blackcurrant and violet flavors.  You can be certain that the enticing combinations are tucked away quite carefully in the little tattered notebook that guards the Meert’s cherished secrets!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Top 4 Paris Moments!

Paris ballet and opera

Opera Garnier – CREDITS: Atout France/ Benoit Roland

Each of us approaches trip planning in a different way.  Some need the security of detailed plans; others prefer a more devil-may-care approach, allowing moments to unfold and surprises to occur.  Regular readers know, of course, that I fall into the latter group!

This Top 4  Moments in Paris provides for some magnificent experiences, while keeping your agenda open for that spontaneous glass of wine in the Marais or ducking into that little Librarie in search of old etchings  or books.  Not in any particular order, I recommend a mix of culture, couture and fantastic flea market shopping.

First, I would hasten to purchase tickets on line for a performance at the Opéra Garnier, one of the most elegant venues in all of Paris.  You can easily purchase tickets on line, and you will enjoy the luxury and luminosity of the performing arts in the refined setting of Opéra Garnier.  The location is central to everything – near Galeries Lafayette – so you can find an ideal spot for a little aprés Opera drink or late dinner.

Museums, Paris

Jaquemart-Andre Museum, Paris

Also on a sophisticated but so approachable note, plan to visit the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  One of Paris’ ‘beauty marks’, the museum welcomes you home to the refined world of the former owners.  If possible, try to go for the Saturday or Sunday brunch – quite an elegant affair held from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in The Café Jacquemart-André.  You also have the option of late-night openings during certain seasons, but be sure to check the museum website for specific nights and times.

Remember now that I am just offering you a few specific recommendations, but I fully expect you to wander the city.  Be sure to enjoy quiet walks along the Seine and duck into a fabulous Brasserie for an unparalleled chocolat chaud.

One of our favorite streets for reeling in the grandeur of Paris is the fashion world of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Shall we drop a few names?  Hermès, Lanvin, Givenchy, Dior ….  Some of the world’s most exclusive designers are set in sparkling shops amid five-star hotels.

We stopped for a carafe of wine on the street overlooking Estée Lauder – a perfect spot for watching distinctly upscale shoppers sating their appetites for finery.  You will be just around the corner from Place Concorde and the Palais de l’Élysée – official home to the French president – so you won’t lack sightseeing opportunities.  Our most notable experience was stopping at a sidewalk cafe and looking up to see the handsome, fully-outfitted French Republican Guard marching down the street – quite a sight!

Now, we shall explore one of the most famous of all flea markets in Paris – Les Puces (The Fleas), more formally known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen.  Dress comfortably, as you will literally comb through acres of treasures in the world’s largest antique market.  Naturally, such adventurous shopping will stimulate your appetite; so stop in at one of the flea market cafes for a breather and an excellent tureen of soup (that happened to be our lucky find on a very chilly day!)  The market’s best hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 9 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Be prepared, plan a bit but not too much, and look forward to perhaps the most memorable Paris visit of your life!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Paris Dining Guides

Fabulous Paris retaurants

La Grande Cascade – Paris

Whether you have visited Paris one or a hundred times, you will always be on the lookout for excellent dining choices.  We have enjoyed scenic park-  and riverside dining, simple bistros and elegant brasseries; and we always welcome new information and insider tips.

Allow LuxeEuro to introduce a valuable resource for your Paris trip planning and search for dining options.  There are so many excellent choices for atmosphere, price and cuisine; and Paris Best Restaurants provides an exceptional guide. Easy to use. Comprehensive.  Reservations and ‘coupons’ available.

The team at Paris Best includes food addicts, who aim to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the best restaurants in Paris.  They are independent, with no commercial relationship with the restaurants they list; and as important, they are well organized with listings by categories of cuisine and arrondissements. Cuisine categories run the gamut from Michelin-starred and Brunch options to Terrace & Garden and Exceptional Views.

Beyond helpful menus and prices, they include reviews that simply add more detail and credibility to help you make your choice. Let’s look at a couple of listings.

In the 16th arrondissement, La Grande Cascade is a rather fascinating choice in an ancient hunting lodge dating back to Napoléon III. Discreetly poised in Bois de Boulogne, the restaurant is especially nice on sunny days on the pleasant terrace. The gastronomic cuisine from chef Frédéric Robert includes a la carte offerings like Roasted Filet de Saint-Pierre with almond, summer truffles in ravioli, butter à la parisienne and far more. Definitely haute cuisine Française!

One of Paris’ most historic – and famous – restaurants overlooks the Place du Tertre on

Paris restaurants

Place du Tertre, Montmartre

Montmartre. Founded by Catherine Lemoine in 1793, Chez la Mère Catherine is warm and inviting with traditional and rustic antiques. The ever-evolving typical French cuisine includes Honey Confit of Suckling Pig, Ginger Grilled Frog’s Legs and Sea bream with Mango Coulis. Cabaret singers entertain every evening, while you enjoy your dinner in the romantic atmosphere of the Montmartre village.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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Why Visit Montreal in New France?

Montreal - New France

Lovely Queen Elizabeth views over Montreal

A line in one of my favorite movies, Shirley Valentine, reminds me of my initial reaction to Montréal.  Shirley said, “What am I to do with all these feelings?” Even in contemplating what to share in this post, I don’t know where to begin.

Montréal is very much a part of France – “New France”, that is.  This cosmopolitan city is a stunning mix of old world charm and chic contemporary, village warmth and metropolitan excitement. And, keep in mind that Montréal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. One guess as to the first!

Perhaps some of my lasting impressions might prompt your first …. Or 12th visit!  First, The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel –  so grand, so comfortable, so delightfully perched above the rail system and a maze of tunnels and shops. When frigid arctic air rests over Montréal; you can shop, dine and explore the city in the weather-protected underground labyrinth.

Montreal New France

Old Montreal’s boutique restaurants

From the moment this luxury hotel opened in 1958, royalty and robust international business leaders have been enthusiastic guests.  During our delightful stays, we appreciated the distinctive guests that had gone before us – the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, General Charles de Gaulle, Jacques Chirac, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama ….  Louis Malle also enjoyed the comforts of the QE, as did John Lennon, who held his famous ‘bed-in’ in 1969 in Suite 1742, where the song Give Peace a Chance was written and recorded.

Vieux Montréal’s cobblestone streets encouraged us to wander here and there, into shops with Inuit carvings and ornate Indian dolls, artisan figurines and gorgeous textiles. Much as we would in Paris, we stop to watch a while over coffee on a café terrace. Dinner along Place Jacques-Cartier is warm and intimate, tucked up against thick stone walls with fire-warmed hearths. And horse-drawn carriages simply tipped my mind backwards to what life must have been in days past.

Perhaps Montréal had the perfect upbringing from the city’s initial 17th-century founding as Ville-Marie. The site of Old Montréal was fortified and under French control until the mid-18th century. The British arrived – still very much a source of contention today – but the Ville evolved to a bourgeois city, as a political and commercial center of Upper and Lower Canada.

Today, Montréal combines Victorian showcase architecture with sleek, contemporary designs. With a reverence for heritage and an embrace of innovation, the highly multicultural city demonstrates her personality across cuisines and festivals, shops and creativity, in haute fashion and traditional Canadian lore.

I haven’t even touched upon McGill University, where my grandfather was an engineering student in the early 1900’s, or Mont Royal or the Saint Lawrence River. More… later.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Musée d’Orsay – Elegance and Art

Paris museums

Stunning sculpture of the d’Orsay

I am drawn to sculpture, to the fluid lines, the grace and the seemingly impossible artistic mission of creating such alluring works from sometimes drab raw materials.  A favorite destination for immersion in this fine art form is the Musée d’Orsay on the banks of the Seine in Paris.

From the moment you enter, the ‘sculpture’ of the museum itself is so appealing.  We can thank historic preservationists for the transformation of the magnificent d’Orsay from the Orsay railway station to the stunning museum we enjoy today.

As the Universal Exposition neared in 1900, the French government recognized the need for a more centrally-located station than that of the Gare d’Austerlitz.  Three architects contributed to the Beaux-Arts design – Lucien Magne, Emile Bénard and Victor Laloux (the latter designed the extraordinary station clock that looks over the grand hall of the museum), who were challenged to integrate the new station into its elegant environs.

“The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts…” – painter Edouard Detaille, 1900

Clearly they accomplished their goal, but plans for an expansive modern hotel complex threatened its destruction.  Fortunately revived interest in 19th-century architecture generated a declaration of the d’Orsay as a Historical Monument in 1978, when a commission was established to create the museum.

The sculptures of the Musée d’Orsay

The debut of the museum in December 1986 included 1,200 sculptures, mostly from the former collections of the Musée du Luxembourg, the Louvre and from state loans.   The 19th century marked a prolific period for sculpture.  Then the ‘mood’ of the people sought to proclaim triumphant social progress, while the politicos wanted to carve their beliefs in bronze and stone.

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

View from D’Orsay rooftop

Fortunately, we are able to enjoy the many legendary works of art under the changing daylight that streams through the museum’s glass roof.   Among the diverse sculpture collection are Rodin’s The Age of Bronze, Bourdelle’s head of Beethoven, works by Belgian sculptor Constantin Neunier and Edgar Degas’ enchanting Small Dancer.

Over three-and-a-half million visitors enjoyed the Musée d’Orsay in 2012, a number that continuously increases over time.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to join those fortunate visitors, we suggest you rectify that oversight on your next visit to Paris!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Hôtel Cour des Loges – Lyon – Bienvenue!

Lyon France

Cour des Loges lobby, Lyon

Nothing quite imprints the distinct feeling of history like staying in the former mansion of an Italian silk merchant. Tucked discreetly along the cobbled lanes of Vieux Lyon, Hôtel Cour des Loges offers exactly that experience. You feel as if the old merchant’s staff welcomes you, but alas – they are contemporary concierges well schooled in warm, refined hospitality (as you might expect of a 4-star luxury hotel).

Every glance through the hotel, from the arched reception and dining rooms to your own handsomely outfitted boudoir provides an agreeable blend of antique and contemporary. The hotel actually is a complex of 14th to 17th-century buildings that encircle a glass-covered courtyard.

After checking in, ask your concierge about nearby “traboules” to explore. The passageways first were used by workers in the silk industry and later by members of the Resistance to evade capture by the occupying Germans. They weave through the old city with a mystique of their own, hiding the stories of long ago.

Cour des Logees

Merci garcon! Parmesan hand scooped!

Our friend provided an after-dinner tour, pushing open a door here and there, that appeared to be the entrance to a home or apartment. We followed him along silent corridors, around corners and through other doors, only to exit a few streets away.And speaking of dinner, you will want to enjoy a memorable experience at the hotel’s Café-Épicerie, a restaurant that artfully mixes contemporary décor with stone walls, graceful arches and silk tapestries. Our excellent waiter guided our menu choices and scooped fresh parmesan from a large cheese wheel to accent our selections. The experience reminded us that dining is not eating.

After a restful night, head to the interior courtyard for a delicious breakfast buffet. We look around the upper and lower arches imagining the life of the original owner and his family in Renaissance France. You cannot fail to absorb the ancient life, the stories and history of this unique Lyon dwelling. The hotel serves as a wonderful anchor, after wandering up the hills and by the rivers of this remarkable city.

We welcome your comments and recommendations!
swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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Le Grand Colbert – Paris

Le Grand Colbert Paris

Beautifully-appointed brasserie – Paris

We would love to be ‘regulars’ at Le Grand Colbert in Paris.  The brasserie is authentically ‘old school’ Paris, with lovely mosaic tile floors that match those in the nearby Galerie Vivienne. Soaring ceilings and brass and glass globes, over-sized floral displays to fit the scale of the rooms.  Banquettes and movie posters – yes, this IS the place where they filmed “Something’s Gotta Give”!

Some call Le Grand Colbert a real table Parisienne.  I rather like a description of their customers.  “They welcome and serve a cosmopolitan clientele among which are actors, top models, designers, movie stars, businessmen, tourists and some regulars.”  That’s why we want to be a ‘regulars’ in a world of irregulars.

We ducked out of the cold into a welcoming tea room atmosphere and indulged in their pièce de résistance – chocolat chaud.  Across the room a small family celebrated with a birthday cake.  Behind etched glass screens, a handsome business couple murmured no doubt of important matters.

Le Grand Colbert brasserie

Near Galerie Vivienne in Paris

With all of the choices for fine dining in Paris, you really don’t want to miss this lovely brasserie.  Expect a mix of elaborate seafood trays and gratin dauphinois, steak with sauce bérnaise and their specially roasted free range half chicken with savory herbs.

You enter a world of comfortable tradition in the décor and in the menu.  You will leave with the feeling that you have indeed touched part of the heart of Paris.

We welcome your comments and recommendations.

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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Four Classic Bordeaux Properties

Stunning window - Bordeaux france

Chateau Grand Barrail

All 5-star rated by the prestigious Five-Star Alliance of exceptional hotel properties in France, keep these four Bordeaux properties top of mind.

Rated among the “Best Travel Web Sites” by The London Times, Five Star Alliance remains focused on   appropriate luxury properties for business and pleasure travelers.  Not only does the organization hand-pick hotels, they manage to leverage their influence to secure advantageous rates.  Offering the highest levels of 24/7 service, Five-Star takes extra precautions to assure safeguarding clients’ privacy and security.

Four exceptional choices in and around Bordeaux include a mix of large and small property choices in a variety of settings and styles.

Hotel Château Grand Barrail, for example, is a 19th century Château set in the heart of stunning vineyards in Saint Emilion, arguably one of the world’s most famous wine regions.  In a mix of traditional manor splendor and modern comforts and amenities, the Grand Barrail offers you a choice of 33 rooms and 9 suites.

Bordeaux France

Serene and elegant Chateau Mirambeau

Of a similar size and taste, Château De Mirambeau includes 23 rooms and suites between Bordeaux and Mirambeau.  The Renaissance-style castle is the magnetic jewel at the heart of a lovely park, where indoor and outdoor pools and two tennis courts keep guests active.  Within the sumptuous chateau, the deft combination of elegant fabrics, furnishings and crystal chandeliers evoke a grand era and the quintessential ‘art de vivre à la Française’.  One captivating highlight is the Cognathèque, a relaxing room wholly devoted to wine and cognac tastings.  And what better region to reveal the treasures of the vineyards?

The Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux

Bordeaux grandeur!

The Grand Hotel Bordeaux provides a city experience in the heart of Bordeaux, where stimulating shopping, dining and recreational options … include, but are not limited to, visits to popular wineries. The ‘haute’ re-design of their 150 rooms and 22 suites includes such five-star amenities as a Bose® wave music system and high-speed, wireless Internet access.  Naturally, you needn’t ever set foot from the hotel, as on-site gourmet restaurants and relaxing spa treatments are perfectly capable of meeting every guest’s desire and preference.

Finally, Five Star highly recommends yet another variant in luxury Bordeaux region properties.  The Relais De Margaux is a 4-star Deluxe Hotel with 100 guest rooms and expansive outdoor amenities – swimming pool, tennis court, volley-ball pitch, a Par 71 18-hole golf course and quite an enchanting private harbor. And did we mention gastronomic dining choices and terraces with panoramic views of the Gironde estuary?

We welcome your comments and suggestions.

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

 

 

 

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Brasserie Georges – Fine Dining, Lyon

Lyon France

Art Deco Brasserie, Lyon

Ernest HEMINGWAY Table 10

COLETTE Table 20

Auguste RODIN Table 15

Jules VERNE Table 17

… Just a few of the renowned diners at the ultra-popular Brasserie Georges in Lyon. I can almost see them in one of the handsome booths. I wonder what they ordered.

Brasserie Georges has entertained discerning customers since 1836, with traditional cuisine served in a classic art deco setting.  And despite its’ majestic architecture and immense popularity, the brasserie brews beer on the premises and is moderately priced.

I love the way they tell their story… “The Brasserie George has witnessed an Empire, three wars and four republics…. This establishment held by Alsatian brewers from generation to generation knew how to keep their traditions, despite the numerous revolutions which the French table has known since 170 years.”  Clearly, not every brasserie can boast such a distinguished lineage!

In 1836 the young Alsatian brewer Georges Hoffherr discovered the exceptional water properties of Lyon and decided to establish a large brasserie on the old marsh of Perrache.  Drawn to Lyon by the excellent water, no less than 26 brasseries were in the city at the time.

With changing tasstes and the birth of cinema, the Brasserie decided to reinvent itself around the turn of the century.  In 1924, the Brasserie was entirely transformed to pure “ART DECO” style by Bruno Guillermin, a painter from a Lyon art school, whose stucco creations celebrated the harvests of the grape and the hops.

A couple of the “Entrees Chauds” are most appealing –La Célèbre Gratinée au Madère – prepared at your table – Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée with an egg yolk and Madeira

Ravioles du Dauphiné– Specialty Ravioli from the Dauphiné region in chive cream with Parmesan

Paul Bocuse France cuisine

Brasserie L’Est Lyon

To our dismay, we did not discover Brasserie Georges, while in Lyon….but, we did enjoy lunch at l’Est, one of the wonderful Lyon brasseries associated with renowned chef Paul Bocuse.

Located in the elegant former Brotteaux railroad station, the brasserie experience imprinted us with warm memories, exceptional service and such appealing cuisine!  While we enjoyed la rôtisserie du jour, genteel servers offered ready, but unobtrusive service; while quaint little trains ran about the brasserie on tracks near the ceiling.

And this is just one of the many reasons we enjoy sharing insights with you – that you might be able to plan your trip around some of the recommended sights, hotels and restaurants.

We welcome your comments and recommendations. swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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Lovely Aix-en-Provence Hotel

Elegant Aix en Provence retreats

Villa Gallici, Aix-en-Provence

Among our top four favorite cities in France, Aix-en-Provence definitely holds a treasured position.  We enjoyed everything about the city – the cuisine and seemingly endless dining choices, the fabulous flower and produce markets, the artistic niches and galleries around every corner, the fountains, the dynamic night life …. Yes, I could go on for quite some time, but shall I sum it up by adding that if it was good enough for Cézanne, it was good enough for us.

Provence, France

Elegant rooms, Villa Gallici

And we have an ideal recommendation for your visit – La Villa Gallici, a charming 22-room mansion  ideally set in a seven-acre hillside garden.  You will relish your Provençal room and private terrace with lovely period furnishings and welcoming toile fabrics, all perfectly suited to the 18th-century honey-colored manor.  Comfort, effortless style and the appeal of just-the-right-size hotel from which to explore Aix-en-Provence makes La Villa a wonderful choice.  And you are but a 15-minute walk from the leafy boulevard of Cours Mirabeau.

Provence, FR

Serene outdoor dining, Aix-en-Provence

 

Despite all of the unique Aix restaurants available, you will want to spend an evening ‘at home’ enjoying dinner on the terrace with a blend of Provençale,  French, Mediterranean dishes and appealing local wines.  Regional specialities range from la soupe au pistou (aioli, garlic and basil vegetable soup) to fougasse bread and calissons.

The engaging concierge will be happy to recommend side trips to the calanques at Cassis or the quaint villages that spread across the Luberon and Cote d’Azur regions.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Sculpture and Art Throughout France

Paris museums

Stunning sculpture of the d’Orsay

Last night all of Europe was able to enjoy very special events.  The 9th edition of the European Night of Museums offered free admission to millions of ‘night-owls’ to enjoy 3,000 museums across the continent … from Moscow to Marseilles to Madrid.  Beyond the museum admissions, more than 5,000 ancillary events boosted the artistic celebrations.

The Dynamo Live Party took place at the Grand Palais in Paris, for example, with festivities running until midnight.   Since 2005, the “Night of Museums” has taken place every year in May with official hours running from sunset to 1:00 a.m. to take full advantage of the magic of the evening.  The public is invited to discover the wealth of museums in France, as well as those of thirty European countries.

One need only enjoy today’s photo to realize that museums are indeed wonderful, but free art is always available throughout the City of Light.

We welcome your comments and suggestions.

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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Travel France with Rail Europe

Colorful carriages in Market Square in Bruges, Belgium

An afternoon overlooking the colorful carriages in the Market Square, Bruges

We particularly enjoy traveling on the exceptional rail network in France and in Europe, in general.  When we spent the summer in France, we planned well in advance and secured a Rail Europe pass for multiple days of travel as well as a long-term rental/purchase plan with Auto Europe.

Though we mainly traveled in France, we purchased a rail pass that allowed travel in three countries. We knew we would travel in France and Italy to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle in Florence. By adding “Benelux” as our “third country”, we were able to travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; as Rail Europe treats the three as one. Though a whirlwind kind of scoop through the three countries, it was nonetheless a great experience to set foot in these extraordinary cities.

Though we only briefly touched down in these delightful cities, we enjoyed expanding our experience beyond France.   So – worth noting – if you choose to purchase a multi-country Rail Europe Pass, by all means considered adding Benelux to your itinerary.

Rail Europe

Comfortable travel!

You will find complete (and even entertaining!) travel information on Rail Europe’s excellent web site.  For savings and peace of mind, it is well worth your time to plan ahead for your rail adventures.  Learn about reservations, surcharges, classes of travel and levels of service.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

 

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NÎMES, Belle Epoque Gallery

Nimes Provence France

Belle Epoque Gallery, Nimes

The famous Roman arena and other Gallo-Roman historic sites in NÎMES definitely are ‘required sites’, but there also are quiet places, seeimingly off the vistor rador.  One of our greatest pleasures came from the simplest of things.

We wandered along tree-lined boulevards and lingered in a square at night to watch the colorful carousel.  We stopped for a pleasant visit in this gorgeous gallery with gilded molding and a stunning glass ceiling.

During lunch at an outdoor café table, the owner’s little dog perched himself right next to Leo.  He gazed up with a beseeching look, as if to say, “I am the cobbler’s son, and I have no shoes.”  The owner shooed him away and explained, “He is always trying to beg for food.”

One morning, we rose to a most unusual sight.  On a balcony across from our hotel, a cat looked calmly, but with longing, at a bird in a cage on the balcony next door.  Finally, she grew bored and looked the other way.  Simple pleasures, all tucked away for rainy day musing.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@luxeeuro.com.

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

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Paris Vacation Rental – Montmartre

Paris vacation rentals

Our Montmartre vacation rental

We’ll always enjoy hotel stays, but the embracing nature of vacation rental experiences delivers a sense of belonging that transcends mints on the pillow and coffee in the dining room.  We’ve had the good fortune to try several vacation rentals in France, in the incredible City of Light, in the country and in small villes.  Each and every time, the experience was rich, memorable and superior to hotel stays.

Take Paris, for example.  How could we hope to ever become a resident of Montmartre with the stunning sight of Sacre Coeur around the corner, the endless bolts of French fabric along every street and the soft throb of local life among the never-ending tourists flocking to the highest point in Paris?  Frankly, we would NOT have entertained such a dream, until we found our sophisticated apartment, completely renovated at the hands of its owner, the daughter of a diplomat and successful Parisian executive.

Our rental was beyond imagination, with elegant silk drapes flowing from the high ceilings, intimate seating areas, a cozy sleeping loft with soft, down-filled bedding and every conceivable convenience, including Salle Climatesse, air conditioning!  Certainly, that was an unexpected but welcome benefit in the warm month of June.

Paris vacation rental

Well-equipped, comfortable Paris apartment

Did I mention price?  We paid 1300 Euros for a month or about 45 Euros per night with no extra charges!  Two-star hotels with little space and zero extras start at 100 Euros a night, and even that is a bargain!

That was just our Paris vacation rental experience.  On future trips, we were quick to parlay our knowledge into wonderful stays in the Loire Valley, the Alps and the countryside near Toulouse.

Each rental offered the freedom, comfort and convenience, the benefit of parking and the hospitality of hosts and neighbors that we simply would not have experienced in hotel stays.  And there’s always the lure of attractive savings on lodging and food, on parking and laundry.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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“My Little Home in Paris”

Paris vacation rentals

Our favorite apartment in Paris

Take just a few steps from Place Contrescarpe at the top of the famous Mouffetard market street.  Enter your door code, pass through the courtyard and up the stairs, and you’re “Home”.  That’s how easy and delightful your stay can be in a vacation apartment in Paris.

“My Little Home in Paris” in the Latin Quarter  is one of your many apartment choices in this fabulous world capital; and it delivers huge value over a comparably-priced hotel room.

With a full bath, attractive furnishings, wi-fi and free phone service, well-equipped kitchenette and more, your “little home” provides the comfort and genuine experience of living as a Parisian.  To top it off, your owners will greet you with chocolates or wine and acquaint you with the area, shopping choices, metro stops, restaurants and favorite spots to visit.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

 

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