Wintertime has a bad rap of being gloomy, dark, cold, and insufferable.
A Paris holiday is the exception indeed! Let the City of Lights soften your winter blues. Paris becomes a glitzy, sparkling wonderland, bustling with beautiful people, food, and sights. Everyone in Paris enjoys the breathtaking Tour Eiffel, but not everyone gets the inside scoop. Here are a few tips for people who want to make the most of their Paris holiday:
These are the top 5 reasons you need Paris this winter holiday. Be in Bliss, you deserve it!
5. The Christmas Markets
Of course you have heard of the bustling street markets that dazzle with their seasonal delicacies, flashing lights, and twinkling charms. Imagine taking a stroll in these seasonal Christmas markets, where you can grab a warm cup of mulled wine to warm up the belly. But, here’s an insider’s tip: A few of the formerly Michelin starred chefs have taken stands at one of the markets, and are offering tastes of great bistro food, and even music….Gourmet bistro food on the streets? Only in Paris!
What will you choose in the sea of possibilities?
4. Bright Lights of the Streets and Storefronts
‘Tis is the season of giving (and of course treating yourself!) so don’t forget to pack lightly so you can fit all your new finds from the dazzling storefronts that glisten with light. Remember, the markets aren’t the only place to shop. There are fabulous finds in the 6th and also along the Grand Boulevards. Don’t forget Bon Marche, where you can indulge yourself in every category of purchase.
3. La Seine
There is nothing quite as dreamlike as the reflections of all the lights on the main vein of Paris like La Seine. Stunning to stroll along, or perhaps view on your way to or from Christmas mass at Notre Dame or ice skating at Hotel du Ville……. Can you say romantique?
In past years the weather was nice enough that we brought some special gourmet treats and treated our clients to an impromptu “casse croute” and a street performance! Worried it’ll be cold? Not a problem –last year we switched it up and had oysters and Champagne under the Tour Eiffel.
2. The Magnificent Monuments
Imagine the stained glass windows of the cathedrals illuminated as the winter light passes through them, or how about the fairytale-like views leading to L’Arc de Triomphe? Surely there is nothing more magnificent than the glittering lights of Paris and her beautiful adornments!
and the TOP reason you need Paris this holiday season……..
1. The Food and Drink
Your taste buds will thank you for treating them to such excellent Parisian fare! It’s foie gras season, chocolate season, truffle season, chestnut season, and more. The holidays are the culinary pinnacle of the year! From Champagne to Burgundy to Bordeaux, the wines enchant. From discreet patisseries to private dinners in the home of a chef (formerly of three Michelin star Arpege), discover foodie Bliss. And share that holiday cheer with the new friends you meet along the way!
We first discovered this gorgeous and uplifting poem thanks to Ms Espinasse’s email blast and couldn’t resist sharing. Enjoy!
About the author
Raoul Follereau (1902-1977), who established World Leprosy day and who, throughout his life, shared his compassion for victims of leprosy–as well as for victims of poverty, indifference, and injustice.
“Un Sourire” “A Smile”
Un sourire ne coûte rien et produit beaucoup,
A smile costs nothing and produces much,
Il enrichit ceux qui le reçoivent,
It enriches the person who receives it
Sans appauvrir ceux qui le donnent.
without impoverishing the one who gives it.
Il ne dure qu’un instant,
It only lasts a moment,
Mais son souvenir est parfois éternel.
But sometimes its memory lasts forever.
Personne n’est assez pauvre pour ne pas le mériter.
Nobody is poor enough to not deserve it.
Il crée le bonheur au foyer, soutient les affaires,
It creates happiness at home and sustains businesses,
Il est le signe sensible de l’amitié.
It is the visible sign of friendship.
Un sourire donne du repos à l’être fatigué.
A smile brings rest to the weary soul.
Il ne peut ni s’acheter, ni se prêter, ni se voler,
It cannot be bought, loaned or stolen,
Car c’est une chose qui n’a de valeur
For it is something that only has value
Qu’à partir du moment où il se donne.
At the very moment it is given.
Et si quelquefois vous rencontrez une personne
And if sometimes you meet someone
Qui ne sait plus avoir le sourire…
Who no longer knows how to smile…
Soyez généreux, donnez-lui le vôtre!
Be generous and give him yours!
Car nul n’a autant besoin d’un sourire…
As no one is more desperate for a smile…
Que celui qui ne peut en donner aux autres.
Than the one who is unable to give a smile to others.
What a lovely thought. May your days be filled with smiles to give freely to others!
Many travelers love to fly under the radar when exploring a new country. Sometimes being marked as a tourist is helpful, but other times, you want to be seen as just another local. This is the ultimate game to play in Paris, a city known for its leagues of tourists. Feel up to the task of touring France like a Parisian? We’ve learned some tips and tricks to utilize in the City of Lights especially. Try them out yourself on a trip to France with Bliss Travels!
1. Always Attempt to Speak French
No matter how unconfident you are in your French-speaking skills, you should always, always start out an interaction in French. Check out our post on Useful Phrases for Traveling in France for the basics. Just as we would get offended if tourists assumed we could speak their language without attempting English first, so do the French. This is especially common in Paris, where they are constantly overrun by tourists. Give your best attempt and show that you’re trying to make an effort, even if it doesn’t go that well. They will switch to English for you more often than not. And who knows? You may just pass as a local.
2. Watch your Feet
The French wear tennis shoes when they’re exercising, and that’s it. You certainly don’t have to trek across the city in 5 inch Laboutins, but consider some of your other more understated (but still comfortable!) options. Bring another pair to switch out with when your feet get sore during your trip–they will, no matter what pair you wear. Squeaky white sneakers are the first thing that will give you away!
3. Avoid baggy T-Shirts and Jeans
Parisians have perfected looking effortlessly chic. Don’t feel the need to mimic their style, but do pay attention to the tailoring of your clothes. Leave your sweatshirt and cargo shorts at home! This is the time for well-fitting, neutral-toned clothes. Bring layers that will mix and match easily. Voila! A simple, smaller travel wardrobe that will look good no matter how far you walk that day or how fancy the occasion. (See this great article on Easy Packing Tips for Traveling in France for more great ideas.)
4. Avoid meals on major boulevards
Cafes near major sites are just waiting for the midday crash of tired tourists. Sometimes this can be a relief–the english menu, the simple fare–but we always encourage seeking out an authentic meal. Go a few blocks away and search the side streets. This is where you will find the locals’ preferred watering holes. Prepare to not understand the menu, but to love your choices regardless. After all, when in Rome…or Paris…
5. Seek out the Smaller Museums
The Louvre has gained its reputation as the finest museum in the world for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it should be your only cultural outing. There are dozens of smaller museums dotting Paris, and each is a gem just waiting to be explored. Parisians will oftentimes head to these museums on special days just to enjoy the experience. The Museum Carnavalet, for example, has a stunning inner courtyard that locals will go to for a quiet afternoon of reading and relaxing. La Vie en Rose!
6. Stop and Enjoy
The French excel at reveling in a moment. While many cultures are more focused on getting as many experiences in as possible, the French have a “quality over quantity” mindset that should be commended. This is one of the biggest markers of a tourist in Paris- we rush through musuems, hustle to the next monument, and grab sandwiches instead of sitting down to a great meal. Take your cues from the Parisians: enjoy your moments and focus on the experience instead of the amount of things you get done. What will make the best memories?
Armed with a carry-on suitcase of neutral clothes and sensible footwear, an adventurous appetite, a guidebook of lesser-known sites, and an open mind, you are now set to take on Paris like a local! These, of course, are just the basics to blending in. Give them a go on your next trip. Bliss Travels specializes in seeing France “like a local,” so why not take the next step and get insider access to this stunning country? Tell us about your own tips to blending in, and we hope to see you on a trip soon!
Wine Tasting: A Tour de France of Wines
Wine tastings are often the highlight of Bliss Travels trips. No one does wine quite like the French, and we fully embrace their talents! Whether it’s a simple chilled rosé at lunch on a Provencal farm or a private barrel tasting with the winemaker in his 14th century cellar owner, or chatting with the technical director of a world famous chateau, Bliss always includes wines! And we treat these events as they should be treated: As relaxed fun!
2012 Famille Abeille Rosé
Rosé: Côtes de Provence, France
$13.50 per bottle with the 10% discount.
Grapes: Grenache, Syrah-Shiraz, Cinsault, Vermentino
Area: This wine comes from a family-owned estate, which is part of Château Riotor, located in the heart of Provence in the commune of Cannet des Maures. The vineyards are only 30km from the Mediterranean, and enjoy a warm, maritime, Mistral-influenced climate.
Flavor profile: A delicate and refreshing rosé typical of Provence. Locals (and Bliss, of course) drink rosé at lunch for a perfect midday pick me up. Its gentle flavors reminiscent of fresh peach, clementine, pear and raspberry tend to be on the dry rather than sweet.
Pairs well with: soft pink fish, like poached trout.
White: 2012 David Moret Bourgogne Blanc
White: Burgundy, France
$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount on a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop
Area: This comes from one of the finest Cru holdings in the region, Beaune. Moret is known as one of the premier white Burgundy producers, using detail-oriented procedures to ensure the finest quality wines. Bliss clients stay in a privately-owned chateau on a vineyard, where we get a private tasting of the wine!
Flavor profile: Notes of honeysuckle, toasted walnuts and Anjou pear greet your nose, with rich fruits, lemon zest, minerals and elegant acidity filling your mouth in waves. The finish is long–peeling away the layers before your next sip.
Pairs well with: Epoisse, a bloomy cow’s milk cheese. Delicieux!
2011 Agnès Paquet Bourgogne Pinot Noir
Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir): Burgundy (Auxey-Duresses), France
$16.65 per bottle with the 10% discount based upon purchase of a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop
Area: The charming Agnès Paquet is based in Meloisy, in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. Half of the vines for this cuvée are planted in her home village, the remainder coming from an 85 year-old plot in Volnay, adding depth and structure to the blend. The villages of Burgundy, like Meloisy, are known for their beautiful architecture and history (check out our blog post of what a trip here is like with Bliss!)
Flavor profile: This vibrant, fruit-forward red has a delicate aroma of red currant, cherry, raspberry and vanilla. Its balanced, medium bodied palate offers notes of ripe red fruit, caramel, vanilla and tobacco complemented by balanced acidity and silky tannins.
2011 Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras
Rhone: Rhone Valley, France
$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount
Grapes: Primarily Grenache grapes, with notes of Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier.
Area: Climate-wise, the area is strictly Mediterranean (the eponymous sea is only 50 miles/80km to the south) and is therefore blessed with a long, hot, growing season, ensuring maximum ripeness for its vineyards. This, combined with the site’s south-westerly aspect, make it one of the most sought-after viticultural sites in the Rhone valley, which explains the density of vineyards in the area.
Flavor profile: Spice and fullness. After a few swirls of this dark purple wien, notes of blackberry, garrigue and tapenade come forth. The first sip fills your mouth, full of fruitiness, balanced tannins and acidity with a lasting finish. This is the “Grand Cru” of Vacqueyras.
Pairs well with: heartier dishes and meats, such as a good steak. Or, if in Provence –Lamb!
2010 Château Lalande Cru Bourgeois
Bordeaux: Listrac-Médoc, France
$20.25 per bottle with the 10% discount
Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dash of Petit Verdot
Area: The area produces some of the most sought after wines in France. In fact, some of the vineyards in the area resort to picking grapes with tweezers to get the most “perfect flavor.” These growers take their flavor seriously, as do we! On our trips here, we spend a day making our own wine and have cases shipped home. Bragging rights are definitely earned!
Flavor: Aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, and cassis rise from the glass. A little aeration brings out a wonderful balance of berries, plum, and minerality that coats the mouth pleasantly. A short time in oak barrels lends a beautiful silkiness that leaves a full, smooth blend.
Pairs well with: lamb in any form, as well as beef. Parfait, non?
Now you’ve gotten a good start to a wine tasting of monumental proportions. The next step? Drink them where they were created! Come on one of our “exclusive access, insider” food and wine vacations and visit the vineyards themselves. Make delicious memories! Contact Wendy (email@example.com) to learn more. We have trips to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, Paris and all along the Mediterranean. We have even expanded to Spain!
Why not pair one of our destinations with our insider Paris experiences -like dinner in the home of a Paris chef! This month, our exclusive seasonal menu included the following:
Amuse Bouche of Foie Gras with Champagne
Caramelized carrot soup with quinoa and ginger, with a white Crozes Hermitage from the Rhone
Asparagus with Slow Poached Egg, Hollandaise, with a white Burgundy from Meursault, Premier Cru, Les Charmes 2009
Turbot with Cauliflower Puree and a White Asparagus Emulsion
Rabbit Roulade au Jus, Greens with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, a Grand Cru Chambertin
Chocolate Cake, Strawberry/Balsamic Sorbet, Olive Oil Powder, with a Sauternes from Bordeaux
owner, Bliss Travels
A couple of days in Burgundy are eye opening, mouthwatering, and never enough for a wine lover! This region shows off its grapes like no other in the world. Winemaking has been an integral part of the region even before recorded history, eventually earning it the title of Côte d’Or, the “Golden Slope,” because of the sheer number of rolling golden vineyards in the fall, and the value of the wines they produce.
We hop off the train in Burgundy (almost regretting leaving our comfortable first class seats) and find ourselves in the charming town of Beaune. Walking down the cobblestone streets, we see the iconic tiled roofs of Burgundy, first designed to replicate the homeland of a noble woman from Flanders that the designer wished to woo. An entire region’s architecture created out of love—just like the nectar we have come to taste!
Our little group drops our luggage off at a small private luxury inn, attached to the home of a Burgundy winemaker. We enjoy a personal introduction to Burgundy as we visit his 14th century cellars, located just under our lodging. This is where we learn the unique qualities and process for making Burgundy wines from the expert himself.
We say “unique” because only two grapes represent almost the entirety of production: Chardonnay for white and Pinot Noir for red. The focus here is on the soil and the artful process of winemaking: nowhere else in the world is there such an emphasis on “terroir” and location. What is truly amazing is the variation in flavor that results from these two things. Winemakers here can’t blend grapes (since only 1 of each color is grown), and they can’t blend things grown on different plots of land (or they lose their ranking). “Terroir” is all.
Even the ranking of the wines is determined by which plot of land grew the grape, rather than the winemaker or Domaine. Each bottle bears the name of the plot, each so famous that everyone knows them and what they produce. Everyone in our group eagerly takes in each name to decide on a favorite!
Burgundy creates about 180 million bottles per year, but only 2% of these will get the regal ranking of Grand Cru. We taste about 15 Grand Cru –from Corton Charlemagne (white) to Echezaux (red), to Chambertin (red) and the mythical Clos Vougeot (red). The flavor and depth have tremendous variety.
Another 12% of production is Premier Cru. These very fine wines are known by their village—Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Gevrey Chambertin—and the plot of land in that village where the grapes were grown. One of our favorite experiences is tasting a Premier Cru Meursault “Les Charmes” from the barrel. By the end of our 4 day stay, we will have tasted 4 or 5 wines from this very same small parcel of land, all from different years and different wine makers. And, interestingly, we will be able to identify that the wines came specifically from “Les Charmes”—a source of pride for the group. The parcel really does have a distinct flavor, just as different winemakers put their own special mark on each bottle.
This is the intersection of nature and art. Burgundy is where we get to taste how they work together—not something we could do if we were in Bordeaux for example. In France’s other major winegrowing region, the winemaker can take grapes from wherever they want, and often mix different grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot…) in any way they choose. In Bordeaux you taste the skill of the winemaker, instead of a special plot of land or a single grape.
Both regions offer incredible wines and memories for wine lovers. There is nothing like tasting a wine at the vineyard it grew in, and we encourage any enthusiast to put the experience on their bucket list!
Bliss Travels is so pleased to be featured on the front page of this luxury editorial magazine, which is owned and operated by the French Tourism Bureau! Read the rest of the article right here and get inspired by the author’s musings about our “insider” Provence travel experiences.
We are so excited about our Provence trips this summer, and especially the festival week of July 7-12 and 12-15, during which we celebrate Bastille Day with the locals in St Remy (read more about last year’s trip here!) Enjoy 5 nights in the stunning Luberon region of Provence having the benefit of our exclusive access, and then live it up for 3 nights of festival activities including fireworks, bull fights, running of the bulls through the streets, community dances and markets. In addition to the special festival events, this sophisticated town is home to an archeological dig, Roman ruins,Van Gogh’s residence, as well as wonderful boutiques, museums, galleries and sights. Not to mention an abundance of specialty wines and gourmet meals!