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

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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.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in France; The Great Gatsby’s Birthplace

Fitzgerald in the Riviera

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald early on in their tumultuous marriage.

Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald early on in their tumultuous marriage.

The Great Gatsby is everywhere at the moment. But surprisingly, F. Scott Fitzgerald was barely on the map at the time he wrote it, an unsuccessful author living in a village on the coast of France.

In 1924 he and his wife Zelda did their own “tour of France” and moved to Valescure, a picturesque little town on the French Riviera, halfway between Marseille and Monaco, which continues to inspire people to this day. Maybe it is because of the medieval villages filled with street artists, little cafes, and bustling markets. Perhaps it is the sweeping views of the coastline, where only the vividly painted fishing boats distinguish where the azure waters stop and the cloudless sky begins. Inspiration may strike purely from the smells of the sea and the lavender fields and the steaming plates of the best food in the world, relished on a rickety table in a cobblestoned side street.

A sidestreet in Monaco, just a few miles from the Fitzgeralds' home.

A sidestreet in Monaco, just a few miles from the Fitzgeralds’ home.

Even Bliss Travels groups are affected in the Riviera. People spontaneously buy journals as they tour France to sketch and start jotting down ideas for the novel they always wanted to write. Maybe one of us will be as inspired as F. Scott and create the next Gatsby on a tour! As Fitzgerald could have told us, anything is possible in Provence.

But despite the region’s astounding effect on his creativity, the esteemed author cut his visit short once he discovered that his wife was having an affair with a French naval aviator. Packing quickly, The Great Gatsby’s final editing was to be done in Rome as the simple joy of Provence was left behind them after only two seasons.

Fitzgerald in Paris

            The novel was published as the well-traveled couple was returning to their beloved Paris, a frequent stop of theirs. Though it was well received by critics, sales were underwhelming, adding to their already stressed relationship.

A rare glimpse of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris

A rare glimpse of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris

Thankfully, it was here that F. Scott found solace in a new friendship with Ernest Hemingway, who was as yet relatively unknown in America. The two shared many things in common—both were literary geniuses and heavy drinkers going through rough patches in their careers.  However, Hemingway would go on to achieve fame in his lifetime—F. Scott would die believing he was a failure.

Yet at the time, neither was aware that their writings would be considered revolutionary or would be read by billions. Their friendship and the city they both loved dearly kept them afloat with hope and inspiration. Can you imagine them strolling through the side streets of Paris—how the great city influenced their work, their thoughts, their lives? Did they meet at Notre Dame to talk of literature? Did they visit the Sacré Coeur and watch the sun set over Paris?

Sitting in a café a few blocks over from the Louvre, perhaps feasting on something we always enjoy –a special menu of Os a Moelle in winter or a perfectly roasted chicken, like only the French make!a dish from a recent vacation in Paris!

It is easy to picture Fitzgerald and Hemingway side by side, contemplatively sipping a café au lait, observing the passersby and dreaming up the world’s next immortal novel. Two friends with extraordinary talents, quietly taking in the most beautiful city in the world. The fact that we can tour France in a similar way is a gift in itself.

Today, you can visit the spot where the two met, the Dingo American Bar and Restaurant (10 rue Delambre) or see the Fitzgeralds’ apartment building at 14 rue de Tilsitt, near the Arc de Triomphe, which give the pleasant thrill of a solid connection with the past.

Cafe de Flore has been around since Fitzgerald's time.

Cafe de Flore has been around since Fitzgerald’s time.

The Fitzgeralds stayed in France for two years, splitting their time between the apartment in Paris and the Riviera, where F. Scott wrote and his wife Zelda became increasingly bizarre (she would eventually suffer from several mental breaks). After much debate, they finally returned to America for a life of fewer distractions than the one they had in Europe, which was ironically the very reason they had moved overseas in the first place.

As a result of his wife’s illness, they returned to France only once more. Did F. Scott miss his adopted home? France has a way of pulling people in and making them crave it once they leave, a feeling that is quickly understood once you visit. Something in the very light makes the world more beautiful, simple, romantic—it provided a muse for The Great Gatsby, one of the best books ever written. And if great authors like Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald fell in love with it, then we certainly cannot attempt to avoid its charms.

Happy viewing,

Bliss Travels