Holiday Bliss: Top 5 Reasons Paris Should be Calling your Name

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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!

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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!

 

 

mulledwine

what will you choose?

 

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.

 

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stores

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.

 

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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!

monuments

 

 

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!

Yes that is a golden trees of delicious macrons, all for you!

Yes that is a golden trees of delicious macrons, all for you!

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a dish from a recent vacation in Paris!

Tour france visit paris over the holidays

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Tour France. Holidays in Paris

 

Tour France French food Paris for the holidays

Tour France Paris for the holidays

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Give yourself an incredible present this season: a holiday in Paris with Bliss!  Be an insider and put the treat in your retreat! Contact wendy@blisstravels.com for more tips and info!

 

A bientôt,

Wendy Jaeger

Bliss Travels

Tour France: The Must-Eat French Foods


Anyone who has toured France will tell you that it has some of the best food in the world, without question. But with so many dishes to try, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start! We’ve given you a list of Bliss Travels‘ favorite French foods to get you started. Do you have some favorite meals of your own? Let us know if you agree!

1. Fougasse

This bakery good is a specialty of Provence. With a focaccia-like texture and height, the fougasse has several deep cuts which allow the toppings to infuse their flavor throughout the bread. This could be anything from olives to fresh vegetables to ham and cheese.  Our favorite is une fougasse gratins, which is filled with chopped bacon. The bacon fat gives it an incredible crunchy crust and more flavor than one would ever think to find in an inauspicious loaf of bread–marveilleux!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

The shape varies with each bakery that makes it, but every one is delicious!

2. Duck- Canard

The French rarely “do” beef. Instead, they specialize in what we would consider “alternative proteins”– and boy, do they do them well! Duck in France is incredibly tender, with a rich, buttery, and unique flavor that simply can’t be copied. In general, the French do not complicate this dish- it will be cooked perfectly and served with potatoes and perhaps some sauteed vegetables. They know a good thing when they have it! The Burgundy region especially has a reason to brag– clients who tour France with us are always ecstatic about this dish!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

With a drizzle of balsamic oil and sauteed vegetables, this is divine!

3.  Lamb- Agneau

Speaking of these “alternative proteins,” French lamb is consistently out of this world. One of the reasons these meats are so incredible in France is the way they were raised. Lamb roam the countryside, literally dining on herbs de Provence. Thus, they are flavored with rosemary, thyme and the like –naturally! Raising animals using methods that are considered “organic” in America, with fewer hormones and better quality food– they raise happy lambs! Any version of lamb you get will be to die for. Bliss Travels‘ favorite place is in a small bistro on the Left Bank of Paris, which specializes in an mouth-watering shoulder of lamb for two!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S'il vous plait!

A shoulder of lamb for two? S’il vous plait!

4. Napoleon- Millefeuille

This classic French pastry is crumbly, messy, almost always falls on your lap, and is totally worth it. It has gained notoriety across the world, but France is still the clear winner when it comes to making it. Literally– it’s name in French means, “1000 sheets/layers). And so true! Layers and layers of flaky pastry are interspersed with creamy custard, finished with a distinctively patterned top glaze. Parfait!

Does it get better than this?

Does it get better than this?

5. Any and All Breads- Tous les Pains!

Nothing in France opens before 10 AM, with the exception of the local bakery. And they certainly give you a reason to wake up early–the open storefront fills the street with the heavenly and comforting scent of warm bread. Most of the time, you can find the nearest bakery by following your nose! Baguettes and brioche are always great options. If you feel like branching out, try something with olives or noisettes (nuts), or pain aux cereales, which has whole grains and an pleasant texture.

How can you choose?

How can you choose?

6. Warm Goat Cheese Salad- Salade du Chevre Chaud 

This is a summer favorite! A simple, fresh bed of lettuce provides the counterpart to the the tangy, partially melted goat cheese served on toast that surrounds it. Light and refreshing, yet completely satisfying, every restaurant has their own spin on this dish, usually using local goat cheese. Whether in Provence, Paris, Burgundy or Bordeaux, this is always a great option. As it is summer, a glass of rose is essential to finish off the meal–bien sur!

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese...what's better?

Fresh bread, fresh goat cheese…what’s better?

7. Chocolate Lava Cake- Chocolat Fondant

This is France’s gift to the chocoholics of the world. America has tried to copy this classic dish by dousing it in sugar, but the French know that the chocolate should take center stage. Here, the cake is made using dark chocolate, butter…and that’s about it. Rich and almost bitter, these tiny cakes will almost assuredly make you put your fork down after the first bite to shout a happy, “Mon Dieu, c’est incroyable!”

This is perfection.

This is perfection.

8. Melon and Prosciutto

Going without this dish on a trip to France is like visiting America without getting French Fries. It is a staple in the spring and summer months, especially in the Provence region, and starts off just about every good meal. The prosciutto’s smooth, mellow flavor is always appreciated. But the melon is what steals the show! The trick here is to look for “Cavaillon” melons, which is the Provencal town where they are grown. These are to die for!

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

The perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Feeling inspired? Come with Bliss Travels to taste your way across France! Our spring and summer trips to Provence are the perfect opportunity to try Cavaillon melon at it’s finest, while our upcoming September trip to Burgundy gives you a chance to sample the heartier fare of the wine region!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Bulls and Bastille Day in St Remy de Provence

Bastille Day, July 14th, la Fete Nationale…whatever you may call it, anyone in France will agree that it is the most entertaining holiday of the year. And this summer, Bliss Travels and our clients were lucky enough to celebrate with the French in St Remy de Provence during our July Provence trip!

The town square was bustling!

The town square was bustling!

Each region of France celebrates things differently. In Paris, there are Fireman’s Balls, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, and a huge military parade, amongst many other things. Provence has a different take on the holiday, especially in St Remy.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

Festivities begin the night before, with a unique tradition. The main square is suddenly sectioned off by a large gate, though the bars are far enough apart that people can squeeze through fairly easily. Everyone–from toddlers to grandfathers–gathers behind the gates, expectant and excited. Some of the bolder young men and boys strut into the unprotected center of the square as a van pulls up to each end of the gates. The van doors open suddenly and, one by one, enormous bulls (or taureaux) burst out into the square, only to be quickly corralled by experts on horseback. They guide the bull to the other end of the square, loading them onto the other van. Meanwhile, the boys in the center chase after the bull, trying to pull its tail and wrestle it to the ground.

Finally, all the bulls are brought to the same van. A brass band plays enthusiastically, the boys in the middle are shooed back to safety behind the gates, and the expectations of the crowd are nearly palpable. All are watching the huge van doors.

Suddenly, they are flung open and the entire herd of bulls comes racing through the town square. The cowboys on horseback chase after them, trying to keep them in line, as the crowd laughs and cheers and sings along to band’s galloping tunes. This carries on late into the night, as it has for decades. Everyone will be sleeping in late for Bastille Day!

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The next morning, as promised, is a lazy one. Bliss Travels guests spent most of it wandering around the local Roman ruins, shopping, or relaxing at the pool. When night fell, we had dinner in a private wine cellar, toasting to Bastille Day and good company! The perfect weather of twilight encouraged us to take our desserts of fresh fruits and chocolat fondant (and wine glasses, of course) outside to be serenaded by a jazz band playing on the corner.

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

Properly satiated, we meandered over to the town square to watch the fireworks with the locals. Afterwards, a large band playing everything from American Top 40 hits, to disco-era medleys, to timeless French classics kept St Remy grooving late into the night. Their Bastille Day song–complete with dancing Marie Antoinettes!–was a huge hit, and the perfect way to end the evening.

Though Bastille Day in Paris is incredible, we almost prefer the quirky and completely unique celebrations in the South of France. Bulls, bands, fireworks, and good food–what better way to celebrate? Come to Provence with Bliss next year to see it all for yourself!

A Bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France: 6 Culinary Treats to Eat in Paris Over the Holidays

6 Holiday Paris Treats! 

Tour France

One of the great things about French food is that it’s so seasonal….Unlike our large supermarkets where you can find “n’importe quoi, n’importe quand” (anything, anytime), that’s not the case in France. April/May are for strawberries and asparagus. July and August for peaches and melons, and so on. Well, the December holidays, though not during a “growing” season, have some of the most special culinary treats of any time of year. This is the time of year for….

Tour France

1. Foie Gras. Too hot to keep well (and too rich) for summer. This is prime time for foie gras. Best served with dried fruits, fruit breads, chutney…Don’t miss out on this. There are even “stands” at some of the Christmas markets that serve this as street food. And also, there are fabulous specialty places that make or bring in the best of the best. We have a restaurant we frequent who does this beautifully.

Photographer Anthony B makes this foie gras with fig look as good as it tasted!

2. Oysters and Champagne. Yes, you can have this along the streets or by the river bank during the holidays only. The vendors are set up, and a heater or fire is not too far away. Contemplate the lit up night sky while having these treats. Best of the best, at the best time of year. Walk to find the best market streets or by the river bank, where the views are “manifique”.Tour France Paris over the holidays

3. Chestnuts. In many forms. Roasted, and sold on the streets, or pureed and served with lamb or venison. Or candied and soaked in cognac (and sold by the best gourmet shops. Try Fauchon for this special treat. They do it particularly well.) A nutty but sweet flavor, that can be an accompaniment to both savories and desserts (think, Angelina’s Mont Blanc)!

photo by Sarah Miller Photography

4. Anything…in a Truffle Sauce. (Still remembering that dish as it simmered for Christmas Eve dinner in a little –very little– bistrot we frequent, on the Left Bank). I met the chef that morning as I was out shopping and he was taking a cigarette break. When i commented on the heavenly smell coming from his kitchen, he invited me in. He showed me the boudin blanc and the truffle sauce he was making. Also cooking a stuffed game hen for the night, he gave me a personal recommendation –Get the hen, and then ask for the truffle sauce. It was sublime!


5. Warm Wines. As we stroll the Christmas markets, there are vendors who sell warm mulled wine, both white and red. They add calvados or cognac to them for an added degree of “warmth” and you take your cup and stroll along the miles of markets looking for your favorite artisan products or gifts. We visit several of the markets each year and highly recommend you too visit more than one. Because some specialize in art and antiques, some are filled traditional gifts and crafts, and others have the best foods…Tour France Holidays in Paris

6. Chocolates. This is the time of year the really fine, and very perishable chocolates come out of hiding–and in full view. Perhaps you’ve heard of the wonderful Maison du Chocolat. Truly a great place. But, there are some remarkable, amazing, smaller (lesser known outside of Paris, but feted as masters in Paris) chocolate houses….And dare I say, it’s worth going to Brussels to experience some of this magic. We often do day or overnight trips to Brussels for just this purpose (along with some mussels, or amazing savory waffles).Tour FranceWe love these little holiday treats. Inexpensive and deceptively light. Try one!
Tour France Paris for the holidays

Contact us if you’d like to celebrate with Bliss!
www.blisstravels.com

 

Tour Paris over the Holidays: 9 Special Things To Do!

TOUR PARIS OVER THE HOLIDAYS

9 SPECIAL THINGS TO DO AND SEE!

(and 1 extra!)

1. Tour Paris to see the decorations and trees. Each Arrondissement (neighborhood) puts up specially decorated trees in strategic locations. Get an idea of which arrondissement and which trees you’d like to see and go on a hunt for your favorites!

2, Oysters and champagne by the riverbank. Every holiday season, on the lower level embankment of the Seine River, by the Eiffel Tower, there are Champagne and Oyster vendors…check them out. What an experience to sip Champagne by the riverside, feast on oysters (or some other gourmet treat) and to do so all in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Even better –wait til it’s glittering at night!

3. Pastry and hot chocolate tastings. Take an afternoon stroll and taste the famously rich hot chocolate of various famous and lesser known hot chocolate vendors. Angelina’s is of course the most well known –They are famous for having both white and dark hot chocolate. I think this pairs just perfectly with their famous Mont Blanc pastry. That chestnut and meringue confection is not too rich to pair with their thick hot chocolate –yet it holds its own. Or, if you have the chance, purchase the “mix” offered by Pierre Herme to take home to make. What a treat! 

4. Christmas markets. Visit the Christmas markets. Each of them are different. Some have more foods/wines. Some have more gifts and some specialize in art or antiques. All have warm spiced wine and gourmet goodies and gifts. We like to find the special artisan vendors who have come to Paris from the countryside. They carry high quality and unique products. Hint: Many vendors in street markets, the Christmas ones included, will occupy the same space year after year –so once you find someone you love, you are likely to find them easily the next time!

5. Skating in Paris…in front of City Hall (where Rodin sculpted) or even in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower. Need we say more?

6. Notre Dame for Christmas mass. Even if you are not Catholic, this is certainly an interesting experience.

7. Christmas dinner –Culinary treats abound in Paris over the holidays.  Whether your tastes run to casual cafes and a glass of red wine, or something more whimsical or even something traditionally formal…..The gastronomic treats are endless. Truffles, scallops, roast pheasant, veal and duck, special cheeses infused with truffle or aged for many months until tiny bits of crystal appear –adding texture and punch –bouches de Noel, and other traditional desserts–in fact, there are 13 traditional desserts for Christmas. Our last few Christmas lunches and dinners in Paris included Champagne, foie gras, oysters, scallops, truffles, roast leg of lamb, truffle stuffed chicken breast, specialty breads, homemade desserts and fabulous wines from Burgundy and Chateauneuf du Pape…I’m stuffed just writing about these feasts. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of these wonderful treats!

The gastronomic treats are endless. Truffles, scallops, roast pheasant, veal and duck, special cheeses infused with truffle or aged for many months until tiny bits of crystal appear –adding texture and punch –bouches de Noel, and other traditional desserts–in fact, there are 13 traditional desserts for Christmas. Our last few Christmas lunches and dinners in Paris included Champagne, foie gras, oysters, scallops, truffles, roast leg of lamb, truffle stuffed chicken breast, specialty breads, homemade desserts and fabulous wines from Burgundy and Chateauneuf du Pape…Remember, this is red wine season –if such a season exists. Too hot for many reds in the summer, and white’s just won’t warm you up or stand up to that hearty winter fare! So, your best reds will be now!

I’m stuffed just writing about these feasts. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of these wonderful treats!

 

8. Concerts. Whether it’s Gregorian chants, or classical concerts, there are wonderful concerts held in the area churches and museums. Imagine listening to chanting in a Medieval building, or a choral group in a 1000 year old church.  Check into it!

9. Museums….That’s right. Visit the museums. What a great time of year to walk the city and come in to warm up (though last year it was about 55 degrees in mid December) while looking at world class art. We specifically take our clients through several of the smaller museums. Spending the day weaving in and out of these museums, mixed with the Christmas lights, and the early sunset, really makes for a magical adventure.

 If you have any ideas of your own to share, or if we can answer any questions, contact us at wendy@blisstravels.com

A water color by our very talented and charming Michel! Not all art is in the museums! And this is idea number 10 –sit with Michel  on a park bench, bridge or cafe, as he paints some amazing Parisian scene!!!

Tour France: Holiday Chocolates in Paris

Chocolate in Paris

Not all chocolate is created equal. And not all chocolate desserts are either. In Paris, especially in winter, when the heat won’t destroy these delicate creations, we find a plethora of magical chocolate treats. They are chocolates with a richer, deeper, more unctuous feel and flavor than typically exist in the United States. They are in pastry form, liquid form and candy form. Paired with a wonderful Champagne or a digestive, they are the perfect ending to a meal –or a fabulous treat on their own. Imagine sitting on a Parisian bridge with Champagne and a chocolate truffle from the Maison du Chocolat, for example….Pure Bliss! Of that, we are sure!

Tour France Paris for the holidays

Liquid gold: The hot chocolate is thick. Served like an expresso in a small cup, it is an elixor of sorts. No children’s treat, this one. Originally served only to the most privileged. It was a drink served as if it were a coffee. It was black, intense and served as a morning or after meal beverage. This drink is meant to warm, arouse and fill.  There are many Parisian boites claiming to be the “best hot chocolate” in. Let us know yours, and we’ll take you to ours!

Little Jewels: Chocolate candies in Paris are small, less sugary bits of wafer thin intense flavor filled with seasonal, sometimes subtle and intriguing ingredients. Champagne truffles. Chocolates filled with flavored ganache. Typicallysmall and delicate these are treated almost like a medicine. The French even refer to the recommended serving size as a “dose”.  Chocolate is good for you and you should have just a bit at the end of a meal, or as a late afternoon break. Not packets of sugary froth —just a taste of something more pure –to warm you up and cheer you up in the cold of winter.

(From the Parisian Christmas markets. Do not miss out on this!)

And the pastries….Well, over the holidays, those include whipped, pureed, and melted chocolates flavored and seasoned with hazelnuts, cardamom, cinnamon , walnuts, salted caramel and orange as well as pear, chestnut and liquor.  Whether it’s a Bouche de Noel –the famed Christmas log –rolled chocolate cake with a mousse of Grand Marnier (as we had last year) or chestnut or hazelnut…covered in chocolate and decorated with meringue –perhaps confectionary mushrooms and other woodland items –

Tour France Visit Paris for the holidays

or an éclair filled with a rich dark chocolate cream –or perhaps even, an opera –with chocolate and hazelnut –it is the lack of sugar and intensity of flavor that make a French pastry distinctive.

We have our favorite places and items for all of these. But, it’s always wonderful to hear other people’s opinions as well. Please let us know what you think.

What are the best choices for holiday confections in France? If you introduce us to something new, we will treat you to Champagne and pastry in Paris as our “merci”! N’importe quand. (whenever) you are there!

(Love Brussels too for the holidays and for the chocolate ….mmmmm! Want to come with us, let us know.)

A Bientot and happy holiday planning,

Wendy

Holiday Vacation in Paris: Paris Pastry, Party & Holiday Treats

Holiday Vacation in Paris: Paris Pastry, Party & Holiday Treats

The LA Times wrote about Paris pastries, and I am quoting below, because this is the time of year we start to think of sweet treats –the holidays are approaching and we are busy planning so that our holiday travelers experience the best of that Paris has to offer in the form of sweats and treats.

“The next time you’re in Paris, drop your concern about carbs and surrender to sugar. The jewelry-like pastries these top-tier tastemakers turn out make it worth putting aside your intestinal fortitude for a bit of heaven.

Pierre Hermé: In this chic shop on Rue Bonaparte in the St-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, a serious discussion is taking place between a well-dressed Frenchwoman in her mid-40s and the store clerk. The salesperson is inquiring about what cuisine and wines the hostess will be serving, the purpose of the occasion and even the dress code.

After gathering all the information he deems necessary, the merchant makes his recommendations. The hostess affirms his choices with a brief nod and, with gloved hands, he removes a selection of macarons from their place in the case and places them gently in a round box with orange piping that says simply, “Pierre Hermé.”

Pierre Hermé is one of several famous patisseries in Paris that have become well known for their macarons — a delicate cream-filled cookie with a crisp outer shell. Part of what has made these macarons so popular, despite their price tag of about $2.50 each, is the unusual flavor combinations, such as Arabesque, with apricot and pistachio; Mogador, made from passion fruit and milk chocolate; and Magnifique, a combination of strawberry and wasabi.

One of the top pastry chefs in Paris, Pierre Hermé has managed to marry the dense taste of an exotic cake with the light crunch of a sugar cookie — creating nothing short of a macaron movement.”

Bliss Travels Review: What I find most interesting are the places they chose to write about. Among them are Pierre Herme and Gerard Mulot, two renown pastry chefs with quintessential Left Bank shops. You certainly don’t want to miss the pastries at either. I’m surprised though that no mention was made of Pierre Herme’s “2000 feuille”. What we commonly call a “Napoleon” –a pastry confection piped with caramel and vanilla cream –is one of his best treats. The “real” name for this is Mille Feuille (thousand sheets/leaves). This refers to the paper thin layers of pastry that are piled below, between and above the filling. Chef Herme’s is called 2000 Feuille –an obvious nod to his opinion (accurate) of his pastry and its delicacy. So, all of this is by way of saying that the LA Times sure found some hot spots…Pierre Herme is no slouch. But, they didn’t find some of the best kept secrets in Paris pastry. (Or maybe they did but they didn’t want to publicize the places and change the nature of what they made and how they made it.)

 

The places we most enjoy frequenting, in addition to what the LA Times mentions are the little shops with small production of what can only be described as a cross between a gastronomic feast and a work of art. 

Whether they are items that are color coordinated for the holidays, double as decoration, or are little jewels packed with astounding flavor, as only the French can do, we encourage you to explore and try them all. They are a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth. The experience is Bliss! So, plan your pastry extravaganza through Paris, or come with us!