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Hostellerie de Levernois – Burgundy

Burgundy countryside

Serene Hostellerie de Levernois

Allow us to recommend a memorable stay at the tasteful 5-star Hostellerie de Levernois in the heart of the Côte de Beaune.  An esteemed member of the Relais & Chateaux, the hotel is situated on the edge of a golf course in an 11-acre park that offers a seemingly endless air of tranquility.

The intimate estate includes several room and suite selections and exceptional dining to make the hostellerie the ideal base for exploring the wine country of Burgundy.  Indulge in a charming  lunch at the Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau on the river, before exploring area vineyards and tasting rooms – bicycles are available for your use.  And at the end of the day, a glass of wine on your private terrace is essential to be beginning of a pleasant evening. Read more…

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5 Charms of Provençal Avignon!

Papal city of Avignon France

Avignon overlooking the Rhone River

We hate the numbers ‘game’,  but there are so many reasons to visit this enchanting city….one must limit!

1.  Provençal Avignon owes its very history and much of its attraction to the Papacy.  The medieval politics of the early 14th century led Pope Clement V to move the papacy to Avignon, under the protection of Philip the Fair of France.   His successors came along, and Benedict XII and Clement VI felt the need to locate the great Palais des Papes overlooking the Rhone River in the center of the medieval city. The imposing palais offers a magnificent, stark white contrast to the vivid blue skies of southern France and the sprawling square beneath the palace. Read more…

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Refreshing Lake Annecy Retreat

Annecy France

Gorgeous lakeside views from the Abbaye de Talloires

When Florida temperatures and electric bills suddenly elevate by 30 percent, I wander to cool places in my mind. I can’t think of a more refreshing mental escape than Lake Annecy. Tucked up against snow-capped ridges in the East of France, this pristine lake – the 3rd largest in France – displays a lovely turquoise invitation to boat, swim or simply enjoy a magnificent visual feast.

The city of Annecy welcomes visitors entranced by her location, history, cuisine and hospitality; but several villages and enticing inns surround the sprawling lake. I think I may have discovered an ideal retreat in the Abbaye de Talloires on the Southeast shoreline of the lake.

Annecy France

Appealing rooms with panoramic views

Certainly the locale’s history, dating as far back as 866 A.D., is intriguing, but let’s be candid here. That’s a lovely addition to the overall atmosphere, but panoramic lake views, ultra-comfortable rooms and brasserie dining by the lake engulf my imagination and quest for cool weather and beautiful outdoor views.

We have always wanted to return to Annecy for a more thorough exploration, but I’m afraid we can’t make the trip at the moment. We certainly can take our cooling mental journey and add this lovely retreat to our “Bucket List” for real travels in the future.

Annecy France

Can you imagine a relaxing French-style lunch by the lake? I can!!!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

And don’t forget – my book Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris – now available in E-book (pdf) and print!

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Villa Mauresque – Boutique Riviera Hotel

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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Wandering the Loire Valley

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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Those Appealing French Doors

colorful doors in France

La Porte Accueillant – The Welcoming Door

I don’t think I stretch any limits in guessing that at least 90 percent of visitors to France take one or two photos – if not many more – of French doors. And, no, I don’t mean those double-glassed doors we come to think of as “French doors”.

I mean the doors of many colors – deep green or bright blue, russet or yellow. Doors with interesting grills or set beneath an arbor of grapes. Honestly, these portes to the inner home have such an appeal, that we can scarcely pass them without a click!

During my first trip to France, I noticed the wonderfully grand entrance door to my friend’s early 19th century building.  Then, we were off to the Loire Valley and wandering through Blois, when I saw a deep red door with a rustic, old wrought iron knocker.  In Bracieux, a small village, an entry with a windowed-door was dressed with a quaint, cotton lace curtain.

Needless to say, I was hooked; but I know a part of my curiosity lay in imagining the life beyond the door.  Was a family within or an elder lady with her little dog?  Or was an immigrant family behind that door feeling gratitude for their opportunity to live and work in France?

Doors of France

Gordes, France

Sorry – don’t mean to wax poetic, but it was a distinct memory that evoked my desire to paint “La Porte Accueillant”.  My husband and I stayed a couple of nights at a lovely gîte – La Pradasse – in the small town of Ayguesvives near Toulouse.  One day we wandered along a  country road canopied with beautiful plane trees, until we came to a small town – Villefranche-de-Lauragais – not our ‘destination’, just a place to stop for lunch and explore.

Doors of France

Roussillon, France

We enjoyed lunch in a little brasserie, before exploring a town that had battened down for the extended noon meal. What I most remember was walking along narrow streets with inviting doors and bright shutters closed to the mid-day heat.  We could hear the murmur of voices and even the sounds of cutlery against porcelain, as the residents of those little homes gathered for their meal.  So, it really wasn’t so much that those particular doors were beautiful, but they served as the portals for those who lived behind them.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Stay at Le Château de Chambord!

Chateau Chambord, France

Chambord’s chapel in the Loire Valley

South of Blois in the Loire Valley, the 18th-century Château de Chambord rises at the heart of over 5,000 hectares (12,000+ acres) of ancient forest.  Chambord was the personal chateau and hunting sanctuary of King Francois I, and today is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.

Our first encounter with Chambord destined our return.  We attended the light show —  “les clairs de lune de Chambord” — a fantasy light show production created to recall the hunting of deer and boar, fox and pheasant by guests of King Francois.  We arrived shortly before sunset to stroll through the grounds surrounding the Château.  Couples shared ice cream or light snacks under an outdoor arbor.  Others dined on the patio of a hotel restaurant.

Wait – hotel?  There is actually a quaint hotel overlooking this magnificent chateau?  With little hope that it would be affordable or available for the one night we would have between gite rentals, we had to check.  When we were able to book a room at a reasonable $75 rate, we felt as if the king himself had invited us to his retreat!

Francois I chateau, Loire Valley

Chateau de Chambord

Prior to the show, we watched families gather on the lawn with children, couples take to rowboats to enjoy an end-of-day outing.  France bestows these blessings on a public entranced by history and tradition.  Chambord’s information pamphlet reinforces this gift:

“It is to the passion of Francois I for hunting, that we owe the existence of Chambord, designed both as a meeting place and a belvedere for observing the hunt.”

Alas, when we returned a few days later,  Francois was not on hand to greet us.  Still, we wandered the grounds and imagined the privileged guests and game hunting of 300 years past.  Visitors biked and hiked through the many lanes that lace through the forest.  Others gathered for the equestrian and falcon shows.

This night, we would see the light show from our dining table on the terrace.  Indeed, with our exceptional bottle of local Vouvray and delicious French fare, we felt like guests of the king!  When the park closed, only the hotel guests and Château staff shared this enormous sanctuary.  Chambord remains a national hunting reserve and home to an abundance of wild creatures that roam free.  No, we didn’t encounter a graceful stag or menacing boar, but the crisp night sky offered us millions of stars to illuminate our stay.
We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, 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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Provençal Retreat – La Cabro d’Or & Spa

Avignon France

Tranquil gardens of La Cabro d’Or

On the first day of the hottest month of the year – throughout out America and particularly in Florida – let’s just get away.  Let’s imagine an escape to a lovely Provençal farmhouse, surrounded by natural beauty and infused with unnaturally warm hospitality.

We arrive at our Relais et Chateaux hotel and restaurant – La Cabro d’Or & Spa – in a magnificent garden setting in the valley of Lex Baux de Provence.  The Alpilles mountains stretch across the landscape; where olives and wine share the fertile land, and the jagged white rocks of the Val d’Enfer provide a delightful contrast.

at home near Avignon FR

Exceptional cuisine in a warm setting

Your Maîtres de Maison, Geneviève and Jean-André Charial, perfect the mood of peace and quiet with graceful rooms, elegant living areas and a dining room and terrace that celebrate the incomparable cuisine of the land.  Imagine confit tomatoes and asparagus from the garden, suckling pig and scallops from the seas.  Following the seasons, the cuisine and wines mirror the rich land that surrounds La Cabro d’Or.  We shall end at least one meal with a magnificent creation – bourbon vanilla, grand cru chocolate mousse and Camargue salt.

historic sites of Provence

Daudet’s Moulin, Provence

We will slide through the cool water of the huge pool, stop here and there in the garden, explore the historic villages of the area and, perhaps, discover a special antique in Saint Rémy de Provence or visit the famous Windmill of Daudet.  And at day’s end, we will yield to tranquil farmhouse evenings.

One guest perfectly described his La Cabro experience: “…There is one thing that stands out above all others: the freedom to do just as you please.”

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Sweet Luxury at La Bonne Étape

Provence Luxury lodging

La Bonne Étape – balcony views

I have a new mind ‘game’ for those nights, when sleep is a fighting proposition instead of an easy transition from wakefulness to sweet dreams.  I’ve never been a sheep counter.

Lately, though, I comb through my memories for beautiful views … from patios and courtyards to balconies and seaside overlooks. And instead of fretting about things left undone or chores for the morrow, I am lost somewhere in France … and then sleep settles in and feels welcome.

Perhaps that’s just one of many reasons I am taken with La Bonne Étape. One of their delightful descriptives – “Cosy corners for your sweet dreams” tells me they understand my search for beautiful sights and peaceful sleep.

The lovely 4-star Relais & Chateaux post house dates to the 17th century and has been carefully looked after by generations of the Gleize family. Jany Gleize is the current proprietor – Chef de Cuisine and Maître de Maison.

His personal touch permeates La Bonne Étape from the charming, lacy balconies and almond-green shutters to a kitchen that pours forth the Provencal recipes of his grandmother, Gabrielle. I always research places we visit and write about, and I was most impressed with what I found on TripAdvisor.

Each comment by a guest of La Bonne Étape was responded to – in detail – by Jany. That is the sign of one who pays attention, who cares enough to make things perfect for guests – though doubtless we all know there are some folks who cannot be satisfied!

Each room is uniquely situated and decorated to exude its own character and comforts. Some rooms overlook the organic garden; others offer a view of the pool or the rolling landscape of Chemin du Lac. More elaborate first-floor rooms offer inviting private terraces, and all accommodations include modern comforts – air conditioning, Wi-Fi, en-suite baths and satellite television. In all, La Bonne Étape offers 18 rooms and suites in a delightful boutique hotel atmosphere in the countryside of Provence.

Jany presides over two enticing restaurants, where le Chef produces exceptional regional classics from local herbs and produce and his own kitchen garden to enjoy in the more upscale La Bonne Étape or in the more simplified Au Goût du Jour.

Within easy reach, you can discover the sunlit wonders of Provence – the stunning Gorge du Verdon canyons and winding river, countryside biking or rounds of golf, a visit to the Citadelle de Sisteron. Take in the local markets or search out antique shops. Picnic by the gorge or horseback ride along the rolling landscape. No two days need be alike in this magnificent area of France.

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

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

 

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Best French Villages to Visit

Famed chef Alain Ducasse’s La Bastide de Moustiers

Hilltop and valley villages anoint the French countryside like little pearls strung lazily across the landscape. Each, it seems, is centered on a petite chapel, and many claim riverfront privileges with ancient stone bridges and willow-protected river banks. While there are hundreds of scenic and historic villages in France, we have to begin somewhere! Enjoy a glimpse of two of our favorites.

Moustiers Sainte-Marie

At the western end of the striking Gorges du Verdun, Moustiers Sainte-Marie is a remarkably beautiful village in the Emerald Valley. Moustiers is home to just 600 residents but host to thousands of visitors, many who come for the valued “faience” pottery produced here.

The traditional pottery village straddles a small rocky canyon and a stream that splits the village and adds the pleasant sounds of rushing water to the overall charm of the town. High above the village a semi circle of rocky cliffs are linked by a forged iron chain, from which the golden star of one of the knights of the Crusades is suspended. It’s quite a striking sight and symbol. Under the protective star, the village unfolds with narrow streets and passages and welcoming shops and cafes. Everywhere the views upwards and outwards prompt you to stop, look and listen.

At the village center, the 12th-century Notre-Dame church, with its four-level Romanesque bell tower, is watched over by the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel, high above the village and beneath the gold star. You gain a sense of how “young” we are, in that the chapel was built on the same spot as a Marial temple that dates to 470 A.D. You will definitely want to carve out some time to wander through faience stores, before finding that perfect umbrella-covered table for a delightful lunch.

Roussillon

Roussillon’s main square

On the southern edge of the Plateau de Vaucluse, Rousillon is an ochre-red village that is small enough to easily explore but filled with charm and color. Wandering along her narrow streets takes you through a maze of bright colors – coral buildings with bright blue shutters, vivid yellow with green accents, deep earth colors and red tile roofs. One of the 141 villages in France rated as a Plus Beaux Village (Most Beautiful Village of France), Roussillon’s color stems, in part, from the former ochre mines at the base of the village. In fact, there is evidence of Roman occupation, when the mines were operating.

The village square was one of our favorites, lively with outdoor cafes, the Mairie’s (Mayor’s) handsome building and the 19th-century clock, bell tower and sundials of the church. Stretching out from the square are charming boutiques with pottery that reflects the joyous colors of the area.  We simply stopped to listen to the chanteuse, who entertained from the middle of the village square – magnifique!

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

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Les Prés d’Eugénie – Aquitaine

One of three Guerard dining choices Aquitaine France

One of three dining choices

If we can no longer continue to invent and as a result find pleasure in our creativity, then we must ask why.”

—Chef Michel Guérard

Introducing a phenomenal property today, bienvenue to the charming village of Eugenie-les-Bains in southwest France and to the incredibly refined Les Prés d’Eugénie.  One of the prestigious properties of the Relais & Châteaux Association, Michel Guerard’s accommodations could be described as a gated enclave in a serene setting just steps from a village that could as easily be part of that pristine principality of Monaco.

Their own signature description is an “echo of colonial India”, and it is accurate – refined, elegant, a mix of antique furnishings and original paintings within a tasteful setting.  Every single element seems designed to inspire warm hospitality in this Landes department in Aquitaine.

Monsieur Guérard’s story and his success are apropos and interesting.  Early on a celebrated French chef, Michel and his wife, Christine, bought the existing chateau and property in the early 1970’s with the thought of creating an ideal south-of-France experience.  Such was the birth of Eugenie-les-Bains and Les Prés d’Eugénie, a retreat with beautiful, lush grounds, a relaxing spa and a country restaurant – Fermes aux Grives.

Chef Michel masters his style of cooking, one of the first of the nouveau cuisine that blends the bounty of the area with the artistry of the chef.  One might expect a lofty air from such a property, but no – warmth and courtesy abound.  You can enjoy a bike ride in the country or a Michel bottle of wine on your own garden-oriented terrace.  In no time, you can visit glamorous Biarritz on the Atlantic or cross the Pyrenees to San Sebastian.

My ‘bucket list’ definitely includes a visit with Michel and Christine!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Beaumontois en Périgord

France Dordogne

Beaumontois en Périgord

Today we have a combination of amusement and revelation in recommending a sparkling little jewel in Dordogne.  First, there is the lovely old bastide town of Beaumont du Périgord in southern Dordogne.

On the humorous side, I admit to being unaware of the ville’s existence, until my Parisian friend sent me Julia Stuart’s first novel, the Matchmaker of Périgord.  Stuart’s novel is the fictional side of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, in which she captures so many of the endearing (and not so) idiosyncrasies of provincial French in the story of the barber turned matchmaker.

So that is the amusing side of our introduction to the old mill town, but we move along now to make your acquaintance with an historic ‘mill house’ that proves you needn’t boast five stars to offer charm, warmth and refined but ‘home-like’ lodging.

Given the owner’s talents and passions, none of that hospitality and grace is surprising at Moulin de la Ville Beaumont du Périgord.  Your hosts combine the professional interior design of Sue with the Michelin Star master craftsmanship of Chef Steve.  Is it any wonder that the resulting Chambre & Table d’hôte is infused with their inspired talent?

Dordogne FR

Chateau in the Dordogne region

Less than a quarter mile from the center of the village, the old mill and house combine delicate and thorough restoration, contemporary comforts and historic Moulin features in an appealing streamside country retreat.  Breakfast on the verandah?  Mais oui!  A visit to the night market?  De rigueur!

The medieval bastide town and surrounding countryside invite you to explore and absorb the scenic treasures, history and hospitality of southern Dordogne.

Do not take our modest word for it, but do take the time to visit their site.  Like us, we think you will find that a peaceful retreat, exceptional hospitality and fresh, gourmet meals are not the sole province of sophisticated star-bedecked lodging.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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Collioure 4-Star Seaside Resort

Collioure FR

Collioure – Le Relais de Trois Mas

“There is nowhere else in France a sky with a deeper blue than the sky of Collioure…”  HENRI MATISSE

Though the anchovies for which Collioure is known might not be enough for a draw for you, make no mistake that this charming seaside ville is well worth visiting.  Along the Côte Vermeille, the village lies where the Pyrenees plummet down to the Mediterranean.  The landscape is striking and varied – a mix of craggy cliffs and sun-drenched beaches, hilly vineyards and colorful villages.  Add a number of châteaux and castles, and you have a lovely, laid-back seaside venue with proud traditions of culture and heritage.

Long the inspiration of countless artists, even a style of painting was born here in the “City of Painters”.  With Henri Matisse’s vivid, untamed paintings, Fauvism came to life.   Artists still are drawn to the area, and art galleries and museums are plentiful.

French Mediterranean restaurants

Port side dining in Collioure

The area really is Catalonian, a blend of France and Spain, where the Spanish rhythm of life dictates late lunches and dinners.  The unparalleled choice of lodging is the 4-star “Le Relais des Trois Mas”, tucked along the bay facing the sea.  As one might suspect, the Mas enjoys spectacular scenic views and offers rooms beautifully decorated and named after painters who have visited Collioure.It’s the perfect place from which to explore the historic sites (such as the lovely Notre Dame des Anges), to enjoy the Catalan-influenced cuisine and to take in the tranquil Mediterranean beaches.

We welcome your recommendations and comments.

We’d love to hear from you!

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

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“Platinum” Cruises Through France

Tournon France cruise

Viking Cruises – Tournon

Do you know the movie The Bucket List?  Rob Reiner’s comedy stars none other than Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two terminally-ill men, who take a last road trip to do all of those things they want to do before they ‘kick the bucket’.

VikingCruises

Serene riverside dining through France

Not to discourage any and all desires to fulfill, before the curtain falls; we have our own “Platinum Bucket”.  We would prefer to fill our bucket with Dom Pérignon Champagne and indulge in some extraordinary adventures in France.

Certainly one addition to the bucket would be a Viking River Cruise through France – either the short version from Paris through Normandy or the indulgent 15-day excursion that extends your initial trip to Avignon, Arles and beyond.  Accolades for the Viking cruises are plentiful, and they have a number of French and European cruise choices available to discerning travelers.

Cruise Critic Editors chose Viking River Cruises Longship as the Best New River Ship in 2012. With six new longships recently launched, Viking has exceeded high expectations with state-of-the-art engineering, balcony cabins, suites and expansive, atrium-style common areas.  They have applied their more than 175 years of experience to provide carefully-planned itineraries on extraordinarily comfortable ships. Viking crews pride themselves in providing the kind of personal attention that makes your cruise equally comfortable and exciting. National Geographic even features Viking in their The 10 Best of Everything awards.

We prefer the “Platinum” route, so we choose the combo cruise that runs the length of France. Viking combines their abbreviated Normandy adventure with a cruise through the southern regions of Burgundy and Provence.  With visits to Avignon, Arles and Lyon and many points between, can you imagine a more delightful itinerary? Touches of Monet and Van Gogh. Cuisines of Lyon and Avignon. Cobblestone streets and soaring Gothic architecture. And the magnificent sights of Paris need no description.

Viking Cruises France

State-of-the-art Cruise Ships

A ‘thumbnail sketch’ may inspire you to explore the possibilities for yourself. Imagine a comfortable, spacious stateroom with your own balcony. Expansive sun decks offer 360-degree views, as do observation lounges and bars with panoramic windows. Wireless internet service, boutique, library – they’ve thought of every comfort and convenience to spoil you.

Talented chefs labor to provide a mix of fresh, seasonal local vegetables, regional specialties and menus adapted to your tastes. From pleasant and complete breakfast choices to your five-course dinners, you will be well nourished for active days and pleasant evenings.

Your itinerary takes you from Avignon to Arles, from Romanesque ruins to wine tastings at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tournon, Vienne and Lyon stimulate the senses and the imagination. A visit to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, offers wine tasting that takes on an entirely new experience in the famous cellars. After a night docked in Chalon-sur-Saône, you will ride through Dijon to Paris; where you board your second ship, after stimulating city and museum tours.

Visit the comprehensive website of Viking Cruises to learn more about this and other cruises through France.  We think you will agree that this adventure belongs on your Platinum Bucket list!

We welcome your comments and recommendations.

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com
Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Golf Holiday in the Dordogne Region

Chateau luxury hotel, France

Golf holiday in the Dordogne

We have discovered just the right place to indulge your wish for an appealing golf retreat in the countryside of France.  Set in the Dordogne, near Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, the 16th century Château des Vignes is an appealing blend of classic decor and contemporary comfort.

The 4-star Château is regal, set like a Grand Dame in the undulating landscape of a spectacular 27-hole golf course with special attention to the “natural” golf course design. The beautifully restored centerpiece and resort have been designated one of the “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” and manage to perfectly combine golf, spa amenities and serene country views for your complete enjoyment.

A little side note is interesting. France hasn’t a strong 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.

Dordogne France luxury hotel

Spa and Beauty Center

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 18th tee 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 and water rough terrain. Though his triple-bogey took him into the playoff, he would not walk away with the Claret Jug.  C’est la vie – let’s get back to our golf escape.

Comfortable rooms, exquisite views

Dordogne France

Chateau comfort and luxury

You have the choice of a classic Chateau room or one of the spacious patio wing rooms with your own terrace overlooking the gardens or golf course.  All rooms are beautifully furnished with every comfort and convenience. 

You will enjoy the appealing beauty and spa centre,  pleasant rounds of golf, leisurely lunches and perhaps a side trip to explore Saint-Emilion and local vineyards.At day’s end,  why not dine “al fresco” on the scenic terrace overlooking the lake, while the wine steward fetches your favorite Rosé from the wine cellar.  Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

We welcome your comments and recommendations.

swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Luxury Stay at Les Prés d’Eugénie – France

Pres d'eugenie

Les pres d’Eugenie

We invariably trust the exacting standards of the Relais & Chateaux Association and its members, so we have no hesitancy in recommending a phenomenal property in the charming village of Eugenie-les Bains.  Located in southwest France, Les Prés d’Eugénie seems like a gated enclave just steps from a pristine but welcoming village.

Michel Guérard describes his accommodations as an “echo of colonial India”, one with a mix of antique furnishings and original paintings, tasteful accents and comfortable luxury.  Every room has a singular personality that ties sumptuous fabrics with handsome, burnished wood.  Imagine breakfast by your own warm fireplace and terrace views over the garden – parfait!

Accomplished ‘innkeepers’ have that perfect knack for hospitality that is gracious but not intrusive, helpful but not overwhelming.  Every element of Les Prés d’Eugénie works in harmony to offer guests an ideal retreat in the Landes department in Aquitaine.

If we can no longer continue to invent and as a result find pleasure in our creativity, then we must ask why.”  — Chef Michel Guérard

As you see, “Part II” of this particular Chateau ‘story’ revolves around the celebrated cuisine.  Chef Guerard’s well-deserved success is equally apropos and interesting.

While already an accomplished French chef; Michel and his wife, Christine, bought the existing château and property in the early 1970s with the thought of creating an ideal south-of-France experience.  Such was the birth of Eugenie-les-Bains and Les Prés d’Eugénie, a private world with beautiful, lush grounds, a relaxing spa and a country restaurant – Fermes aux Grives.

Chef Michel masters his style of cooking, one of the first of nouveau cuisine that blends the bounty of the area with the artistry of the chef.  One might expect a lofty air from such a property, but no – warmth and courtesy are quite the norm.  You may enjoy a bike ride in the country or a Michel bottle of wine on your own garden-oriented terrace.

We welcome your comments and suggestions.

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

 

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La Bastide Saint-Antoine – Grasse

Cote d'Azur France

La Bastide Saint-Antoine

Isn’t it time to reward yourself to 5-star luxury in the South of France?  Fluff your pillow, set your worries aside and prepare for a dream holiday.

From the heart of Grasse in the South of France, wind your way  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, the 18th-century retreat welcomes you to pristine comfort overlooking the Bay of Cannes.  Naturally you can’t go wrong with a premiere Relais et Châteaux property, particularly with the perfect blend of the spirit of Provence and refined hospitality.

Enter your special room with antique furnishings, plush linens and your own fireplace; but expect every contemporary amenity needed and desired. “Bio Tea” in my room?  We wouldn’t otherwise consider this choice!

In all seriousness, we 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 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.

In between appealing journeys through the area, return to your country manor for gourmet meals on the terrace overlooking 1,000-year-old olive trees and the perfumed air of Provence.  Then cozy up to the lounge fireplace for an after-dinner drink.   You might even challenge fellow guests to a rousing game of petanque on the boules court near the kitchen garden.

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

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

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Restaurant L’Oxalys – Val Thorens

Val Thorens France

Val Thorens at the top of the world

I am not a gourmand in the true sense of the word; but if I am a connoisseur of anything, I earn that ranking in my appreciation of spectacular views. You can imagine, then, how I would be drawn to Restaurant L’Oxalys, literally the highest situated gourmet restaurant in Europe.

In the heart of the Trois Vallees ski region as far east in France as you can travel without reaching Italy, this two-Michelin-star restaurant is yet another ‘diamond’ in an Alpine landscape brimming with jewels. A distinguished member of the Relais & Chateaux organization, L’Oxalys fits well with their selection of luxury restaurants and hotels.

Wisely, the contemporary décor doesn’t try to compete with the panoramic mountain views or the inspired cuisine. An active skier himself, Grand Chef Jean Sulpice pays homage to the dramatic mountains of Val Thorens with inventive creations and the abundant use of local fresh mountain fish, Wine Route wines, honey and high-pasture Reblochon and Beaufort cheeses.

L'Oxalys France

Cuisine as pretty as it is delicious

We all have noticed a certain degree of snobbery can attend fine dining, but no such attitude exists here, either on the side of the staff or the clientele. Perhaps the purity of nature, the relaxed atmosphere and the plentiful talents of the staff come together in just the right measures to deliver a memorable experience.At L’Oxalys you might be directed to eat your little trio of hors d’oeuvres in a certain order or six tiny desserts in the same manner. Fine chefs understand the science of taste as well as watercolorists understand the order of paint colors. Each blends together in the right order and measure to deliver a masterpiece.

By all means, end your dining experience at L’Oxalys with coffee and dessert on the balcony overlooking the land. We suspect you will forever remember this dining experience!

Restaurant L'Oxalys We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

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

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A Weekend at a Château near Blois

Blois-Chateau

Chateau Nanteuil near Blois

We took the train from Paris to Blois, quietly traversing the flat, fertile countryside and miles of vivid yellow rapeseed fields.  Friends told us about a quaint Château near Blois, so we planned a weekend getaway and off we went.

We explore a bit in Blois, before picking up our rental car.  We walk through medieval streets, handsome windows hung with scenes on lace and ornate doors bidding welcome.

After picking up the car, we thread through roundabouts and over bridges to make our way to our 18th-century Château De Nanteuil overlooking the petite River Cosson.  Our host, Frédéric Théry, welcomes us and sits for a chat over café au lait and a delicious île flottante  dessert (floating island).  Frédéric’s English grandfather – a Trinity College Cambridge gent – purchased the Château in the early 1900’s.  Frédéric has never been to America; and we have the feeling, he neither feels deprived nor in need of going.

Following his recommendations, we visit Brassieux, driving through forested lanes and age-old villages, past Loire Châteaux and stone-walled cottages to arrive in the petite commune.  We wander a bit and discover an antiquaire, where we ring a bell and are welcomed by the shop keeper.  Her store is filled with silver and pewter, bits of lace and lamps, books and lanterns and china.  We pick two treasures – a 50-year-old yellow Quimper plate and an authentic pigeon oil lamp and return to our weekend ‘home’.

Le Château is both grand and ‘unfinished’, with many touches of charm but no defined décor.  Our room overlooks the garden and river, with an enormous bath, eight-foot doors, a fireplace, but no television nor phone (no problem!), stationery package or tiny bottled shampoo – definitely not a Comfort Inn for which we are grateful.

A fire in the dining room greets us, and within minutes, we are enjoying a glass of red wine, soon to be followed by a feast of lapin (rabbit), soup and an enormous crème brûlée.  A large family and a couple of other smaller parties had arrived, and we tried to figure out the mothers, fathers, couples – who are they at this large table presided over with discretion and charm by a happy, bifocaled gran père?

Another great adventure is coming to a close, while our anticipation of the next already grows.

 

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

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

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Château Puech-Haut – Elegant Rosés

Puech Haut, Languedoc

Exceptional Languedoc wine

What better subject to identify regional favorites than Languedoc wines!   We recently enjoyed a lovely Languedoc wine that had an elegant glass stopper in lieu of a cork.   While that unique feature captured our attention, the delightful Rosé in the bottle was “Le précieux nectar” promised by Château Puech-Haut!

With summer – at least in Florida – just around the proverbial corner, it’s time to think of light, chilled rosés.  The very refined Château Puech-Haut Cuvee Prestige couldn’t make a more elegant statement for your dinner table or a special gift to friends.  Their now-famous glass stopper – with a rose ‘blush’ – simply anoints the entire experience.

Château Puech-Haut is one of the prestigious types of wine producers in Languedoc referred to as récoltants – vintners who make and bottle their own wine on the premises.  Most supermarkets, for example, stock négociant or co-op wines.  The first buys and mixes together other people’s wines in great quantity; the latter pools grapes from all area growers to make wine.  Generally, mass production yields cheaper wine without the deft personal touch of the récoltant producer.

Château Puech-Haut continues to produce excellent wines from 400+ acres of vineyards in the Languedoc countryside of southern France.  The soil, climate and grape varieties of the 40- to 75-year old vines interact perfectly to yield exceptional wines.

As much as we enjoyed our introduction to their Cuvee Prestige, nothing compares with visiting a vineyard for a tasting and loading up the trunk of the car with a couple of cases of wine.  We look forward to that!

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

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

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A Château in Languedoc France

Canal du midi

Canal du Midi, France

Sometimes you want to plan a retreat for an entire group of family or friends, and I know just the place – the very elegant Château Ventenac. The ‘castle’ borders the Canal du Midi and is right next door to the 13th-century church of Ventenac-en-Minervois in the Languedoc region of southern France.

Drive along the narrow D26 through miles of carefully-tended vineyards, and suddenly you round a corner and – voila! The canal, the village, the Château and the little ancient bridge come into view. The six-bedroom gîte is beautifully appointed, with gardens and terraces overlooking the canal and just waiting to deliver a self-catered getaway for you and your friends or family.

The little village has the necessities of life … croissants from the boulangerie and wine from the Château de Ventenac Wine Cave, now a co-opérative that makes and sells wines using grapes from the same vineyards you pass on your way into the village. A couple of times a week, mobile market vans visit the village to sell fresh local produce. There’s even a chicken van, and the Mairie announces the van arrivals over a loudspeaker system –village culture at its best!

Cycling on the Canal du Midi

Peaceful paths lining the Canal du Midi

But, here is my favorite part. On the Château grounds, there is a lower gateway that provides access to the Canal du Midi. The gate is locked with a padlock – a la the Marcel Pagnol story and film, Le Château de ma mère (My Mother’s Castle) – but the code is kept in the kitchen. You can slip through the gate and meander for miles along the tree-lined Canal. Merveilleux!  We’d love to hear from you!

 

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

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Discover Haute-Savoie Gîtes & Lodging

Chinaillon France

Hearty mountain cuisine in the Alps

Sometimes we are so fickle in cherry-picking our favorite memories and places or in evaluating what we might have done differently in traveling through France.  Annecy is just one example of an incredibly charming lakeside city, in which we wish we had spent more time…like settling in for a week of exploring the Alpine countryside.

C’est la vie – after a day and a night, we sought out the local office of the Gîtes de France for help in reserving a room in the area.  If you are not familiar with the organization, the Gîtes de France developed the first European network of ‘homestay’ accommodations and celebrated 50 years of service in 2005.  They focus on rural areas and promote hospitable and comfortable tourist stays.  Their latest count of offerings was 43,000 French homesteads that open their unique homes to welcome tourists.

Alpine France

Gorgeous Alpine villages near Chinaillon

The GDF helped us to reserve a charming room in the little village of Chinaillon, just up the road … or mountain from Annecy.  Though we vowed to return to that gorgeous city, the Alpine countryside began to weave its’ spell around us.A couple of roosters welcomed us in our ‘car park’, and a few hikers passed by on trails up the hillside looming behind our gîte.  The owners – Isabelle and Jean Louis – were very pleasant, and each morning we joined with other guests (5 or 6) for a nice breakfast, before taking to the local roads to explore.

Over a three-day period, we simply wandered … along winding roads that rose to offer spectacular, flower-framed views, before dropping down into one charming village after another … through artisan hamlets and chapel-centered bourgs… over to the Mont Blanc tunnel, where we emerged in Aosta, Italy and wound our way back to our little village for a warm café meal.

When you plan your adventures in France, we heartily recommend you stay a bit in the Haute-Savoie region.  For all of the other benefits, surely the Savoyard cuisine and famous regional Reblochon cheese will reward your decision for all time!

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

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

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Bed & Breakfast in France

Pyrenees

Castell Rose Bed & Breakfast

Just one of the benefits we try to offer through LuxeEuro is locating and evaluating helpful travel resources. We recently encountered a new website that focuses on Bed and Breakfast accommodations in France.

After spending way too much time combing through Samedi Midi – The Best Bed and Breakfast France, we think it has some very nice attributes to assist your lodging hunt.

At the top of the list are the well-organized categories. Many, like us, seek different travel experiences, mixing up city sojourns with lazy, out-of-the-way ‘lost weekends’. We often scale back the budget in one location to help underwrite a more lavish encounter in the next.

Lovely mountain views

Lovely mountain views

Samedi serves two purposes quite well – offering a central promotional site for bed and breakfast and guest houses and an informational resource for travelers in search of unique accommodations. Since 1982, the organization has organized lodgings into 14 themed paperback guidebooks, sorted by French regions, by lifestyle choices, by city and village, by luxury and gastronomy – you name it, and you have a host of choices to meet your particular desire.

From Provence to the Pyrénées and from Brittany to Burgundy, Samedi Midi has pulled together some exceptional lodging selections. We’ll leave it to you to wander through their site, but here is just one example that appealed to us – from Bed and Breakfasts in the Most Beautiful Villages in France.

Tucked away in the small village of Prades in the South of France, Castell Rose is one of those ideal ‘home away from home’ choices. Pleasant hospitality combines with very comfortable room selections and exceptional views. For the traveler on the go, the well-equipped laundry and notebook computer are welcome amenities. Though the lovely garden setting allows genuine tranquility, the town of Prades is an easy, ten-minute walk; and four of the regions “Most Beautiful Villages” are within a few kilometers.

You can mix a day of poolside lounging or reading a book under the lime tree with a day of exploration – horseback riding around the Pyrénées near the Canigou, sacred mountain of the Catalans, or discovering churches and priories like the stunning Romanesque Marcevol. Another day you might visit the beautiful village of Mosset, that is reminiscent of Gordes, poised on a hilltop overlooking the valley. All of those lovely mountain and village experiences are just 25 minutes from Perpignan.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com
Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

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