Tour France: Lavender

images-2Tour France: Lavender, Poppies, Perched villages and colorful markets. In May and June you cannot help but celebrate the stunning beauty of Southern France. Van Gogh, below, painted this nearby. It’s striking in both its creativity, and it’s actual depiction of what Provence looks and feels like. The red coloration in the field probably represents the poppy fields that are so prevalent in May and early June.

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An amazing photograph taken by a client last June (2014). The field is just down the hill, and visible from our inn.

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Another great photo by the same client, this time of the painted buildings in a nearby village where we saw the ochre ‘mines’ (pigmentation used to make the paints on these buildings). 

 

 

 

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vines and poppies, side by side, irresistible.

 

 

 

Our October trip also features professional photography lessons!

Setting up for the photo…

Our clients loved to stop in the lavender fields when we passed them!

A quick pic!

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Tour France: Cartier’s Grand Palais Exhibit in Paris

cartier_expo_0Ooh la la! Cartier, the “Jeweler of Kings,” has an opulent exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris from December 4th to February 16th. This is a must-visit experience and a great addition to a tour through France. And what a perfect add-on to a Valentine’s trip (you could get some ideas for the kind of ring or tiara she likes 🙂 ) Bliss Travels is currently offering a deal for the Valentine’s weekend trip (the special price is only offered through January 2nd). Check it out here! A romantic opportunity awaits!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It's simply a must-see!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It’s simply a must-see!

WWD gushes that Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara and Grace Kelly’s engagement ring are among the star pieces of an exhibition on Cartier opening in Paris today.

Billed as the most extensive show to date dedicated to the French jeweler, famed for its panther-themed jewelry and Tank watches, “Cartier — Style and History” is set to run at the Grand Palais until Feb. 16. It showcases more than 600 items ranging from fine jewelry and watches to decorative objects, many reflecting the influence of exotic locations like China and India. Most are drawn from Cartier’s extensive archives, but about 100 items are on loan from private collections.”

Cartier's signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit's displays.

Cartier’s signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit’s displays.

In an interview with the Guardian, the curator of this opulent exhibit, Laure Dalon, explained its significance. “Cartier is one of France’s iconic companies and is a part of France’s tradition and heritage. It’s not just the actual monetary value of the pieces but their social history, their owners and their place in the history of decorative arts. That makes them priceless, really.”

Hasn't every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Hasn’t every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Well said, Mme Dalon! We are delighted to recommend our clients see  this magnificent exhibit during their Valentine’s trip. We can even provide a private guide to accompany and tour this exhibit, and others! Add it to your checklist: we’ll see you there!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; New Van Gogh Painting Discovered!

After being stored in a Norwegian attic for over 100 years, “Sunset at Montmajour” has been officially declared a long-lost van Gogh original. The first van Gogh to be confirmed since 1928, it took two years of extensive testing before art historians accepted the hypothesis. Museum director Axel Rueger called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” going on to effuse praise on his fellow historians and van Gogh experts.

"Sunset at Montmajour" was unveiled by the delighted  van Gogh museum director, Axel Ruetger.

“Sunset at Montmajour” was unveiled by the delighted van Gogh museum director, Axel Rueger.

Over a million people visit Amsterdam’s van Gogh museum each year. “Sunset at Montmajour” will only be on view until September 24th, as it is owned by a private collector, giving audiences even more incentive to visit the museum quickly!

Much of van Gogh’s adult life was spent in various facilities in Provence, France–even in the village that Bliss Travels visits each summer and autumn! Visiting the same sites that van Gogh painted has always provided Bliss clients an intimate link to the painter and his oeuvre.

Van Gogh's Provencal self-portraits provded a look at his tumultuous feelings.

Van Gogh’s Provencal self-portraits provded a look at his tumultuous feelings.

We hope that someday soon we will see “Sunset at Montmajour” on our summer or autumn trips to Provence. Come with us to get a unique look at his life!

This past summer Bliss clients explored van Gogh's favorite region.

This past summer Bliss clients explored van Gogh’s favorite region.

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch just outside of van Gogh's Provencal sanitorium.

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch just outside of van Gogh’s Provencal sanitorium.

If you want to know more about the esteemed artist, check out our previous blog, Vincent van Gogh’s Provence.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Bordeaux & Barcelona. Spotlight The Sagrada Familia

An architectural masterpiece still under construction.

It’s astounding. That’s why we visited it and why 60 Minutes profiled it.  Look below to get a link to that segment.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

When you look at photos of the Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona, Spain, your mind simply cannot process what it sees. Huge spires reach into sky and it towers over every other building in the city.

Gaudi's tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

Gaudi’s tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

The genius that designed it, Antonio Gaudi, was considered “God’s Architect,” an extraordinarily devout man who recognized that his design was a little complicated and built models for the next architect to follow.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

These turned out to be more helpful that he could have known–construction on his church began in 1882 and is still being working on today, making it the longest running architectural project in the world! In the style of Notre Dame, entire families devote their lives to creating this place, and the passion invested in it is as clear and important as the architecture.

When Bliss Travels clients are shown the Sagrada Familia on our Barcelona trips, the meet the church with an awed silence.  People can spend hours exploring in and around the Basilica in awe of this marvel of architecture. Our native Spanish guide whose specialty is Gaudi’s architectural genius gave us all the inside scoop about Gaudi, and about future plans for the Basilica (Of course, being Bliss Travels, we also spent plenty of time finding the best tapas bars in the city to enjoy!)

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

And yet, at the end of the day there are still no words for this place. The Sagrada Familia has the capacity to make you feel very small, very important, and very proud to be human all at once.

There may be no words, but there are certainly pictures. And if you are as intrigued by the place as we are, come on our April trip to Bordeaux and Barcelona to see this spectacular site for yourself!

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

A bientot!

Bliss Travels

Want more information on the world’s most fascinating building site? Watch 60 Minutes’ special on the Basilica right here.

Vincent van Gogh’s Provence

One of several self-portraits van Gogh painted in Provence.

One of several self-portraits van Gogh painted in Provence.

The Bliss Travels trip to Provence is coming up soon, and it is one of our favorites. The untamed, easy beauty of the region is like no other in the world. Something about the rolling lavender fields, the ancient stone villages, and the smell of pure sunshine just diminishes your worries and makes your stresses seem silly.

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

It really is no wonder that Vincent van Gogh escaped here from the hustle and bustle of life in Paris. In February 1888, the painter moved to Arles, one of the larger towns in the area, to work on his fragile health and to rid himself of the ever-increasing modernity in the cities—the same reason his friend and fellow painter Gauguin left. For a while it even soothed his artistic needs—he had been surrounded by too much gray in the city for an artist whose very essence relied on vivid colors, used with the utmost intention. In Provence, the colors he saw in his head were reflected by nature.

(I sometimes think we give the Impressionists and other revolutionary painters of this time too much credit. Though their work is gorgeous, they did not need to strain themselves much to paint it—the south of France really does have that incredible brilliance to it!)

It was during this time that van Gogh’s inspiration struck. In 15 months, he created over 300 paintings in his “Yellow House” and the sanatorium he lived in after suffering a mental breakdown (culminating with a fight with fellow artist Gauguin and the infamous lop of his ear). This sanatorium can actually still be visited, as Bliss does regularly, and maintains a lovely flower garden similar to the one van Gogh took flowers from to paint.

"The Evening Cafe" looks the same today!

“The Evening Cafe” looks the same today!

Arles was the location of many of his most famous works, in fact, such as “Starry Night”, “The Evening Café” (seen here), “The Hospital Garden”, and “Trinquetaille Bridge”. Many of his floral and landscape pieces are from the time period as well, since he did not know many people to act as models in the new town (and those who saw his unconventional pieces were quite hesitant to be a part of them!)

For even more incredible examples of van Gogh’s work, click here.

It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished for art in such a sleepy town (that Bliss is lucky enough to visit each summer.) Not much has changed since van Gogh’s time there—Arles is still built around stunning Roman ruins, filled with markets and friendly folk, homemade olive oil and soap shops, warm terracotta roofs and lavender wooden shutters, and a deep, innate respect for the beauty of the land itself.

One of the most popular parts of Bliss’ French tours are our picnics out in olive tree orchards. The cicadas chirp lazily—a sound the region is never without—as we snack on typical Provencal food like figs, fresh fruit, and baguettes with locally made goat cheeses and tapenade. Sitting in the dappled sunlight, everything feels easy and utterly timeless, as if van Gogh is just beyond the trees, bringing us a tarte Tatin from his favorite bakery. Provence has an ageless beauty that connects old and new seamlessly.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

One would hope that van Gogh had found as much inner peace in Provence as he did artistic inspiration.  Though sadly that wasn’t the case, we do know that he was in awe of the vivacity of the region. Now it is our turn to love it as much as he did! Come with us to experience his life in a completely unique way.

See you there!

Bliss Travels