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!

 

 

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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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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!

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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!

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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; 6 Steps to Blending in in Paris

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.

Try your French out at a market with a simple "Une baguette, s'il vous plait!"

Try your French out at a market with a simple “Une baguette, s’il vous plait!”

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!

There are endless choices in footwear. Check out one of our past trips who were champs at this!

There are endless choices in footwear. Check out one of our past trips who were champs at this!

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.)

Avoid clothes that clearly define you as a tourist--save the souvenirs for after the trip!

Avoid clothes that clearly define you as a tourist–save the souvenirs for after the trip!

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…

Any Parisian cafe, big or small, can deliver an espresso that is to-die-for.

Any Parisian cafe, big or small, can deliver an espresso that is to-die-for.

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!

The Museum Carnavalet has a lovely inner courtyard  to lounge in on sunny days.

The Museum Carnavalet has a lovely inner courtyard to lounge in on sunny days.

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?

Take a moment to enjoy the day, like having a picnic outside!

Take a moment to enjoy the day, like having a picnic outside!

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!

A Bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Bliss Travels is the Feature Article in France Passion Magazine!


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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.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square on Bastille Day.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square on Bastille Day weekend. And that’s “no bull”!

One of our favorite meals is outside at a farm overlooking the Luberon valley!

One of our favorite meals is outside at a farm overlooking the Luberon valley!

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

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch in a private walled garden in St Remy before joining the public festivities and visiting Van Gogh’s Provencal sanitorium.

We are so excited about our Provence trips this summer. 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 or along the Mediterranean staring at the crystal clear water. Enjoy 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!

Our summer trips to Provence are some of our favorites for a reason. Come tour France with an insider!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Atlanta Has a Wine Tasting to Remember!

Sacre Bleu! Bliss Travels owner Wendy Jaeger recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to give some past clients a fabulous wine tasting evening. Featured wines came from Wendy’s personal cache and the vineyards that Bliss Travels visits on trips, so clients could “taste” their memories!

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Peaches Please blogger Morgan Perkins was invited to the evening of reminiscing, and was an enthusiastic guest–and writer! Here are some snippets from her blog post:

“As we sipped on the wines, Wendy explained where each bottle was from, including personal anecdotes about the vineyards and wine makers. This inevitably led to reminiscing by the folks who had been on tours with Bliss Travels. From the sound of it, everyone who had been on one of the tours had a wonderful time. One gentleman even brought a beautiful book of photographs from his vacation and much time was spent pouring over the pictures and memories.

From everything I heard over the course of the evening, going on on a tour with Bliss Travels is an amazing, one of a kind experience. I hope that one day I am in a position to indulge in vacation like that!”

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

To read the rest of the article, and see some more of the fabulous photos Morgan took throughout the evening, check out her blog!

Oh Blissful Indulgence- An Evening with Bliss Travels

Thanks for coming, Morgan! We hope to see you on a trip with us soon.

A Bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Dinner in the Home of a Paris Chef

Tour France: Bliss Travels has dinner in the home of a Paris chef

Have you ever dreamt of dining in the home of a chef in Paris? Maybe learning his/her secrets? Being treated to a special menu and feeling like a local as you sip wine in his living room, or peak into his kitchen?

Of course you have! We all wish we could do this!  Otherwise, how else can you explain the stunning popularity of the Food Network and our cult like obsession with “Celebrity Chefs” (all of whom we all know by name, and whose lives and travels we can intimately discuss, as if they were our own family)?

Our obsession with all things “food” is based upon our desire to get and insider’s exclusive access to this sort of experience! Bliss Travels has had the some extraordinary opportunities to do these sorts of “insider” foodie experiences. Our most recent, and, at the moment, favorite “insider” foodie experience, is our exclusive invitation to the home of a rising Paris chef for a gourmet dinner.  We truly enjoyed collaborating with this chef, formerly of Alain Passard‘s gastronomic Arpege, and loved having our clients visit the charming Paris apartment he shares with his wife and little (bien sur) Yorkie. We spent months creating a custom tasting menu and wine pairings to share with our clients. For sure, this will be something we do again and again! 

Our menu was truly special, as you can see below. An added bonus was the chance to  watch the chef plate his dishes and to enjoy them while learning how he made these signature preparations.  Here is our menu and some of the food photos of this truly “exclusive” dining experience.

Terrine of foie gras,  onion chutney and sauternes gelee with toasts

We paired this with a wonderful Champagne. And we watched as our chef showed us how he prepared this traditional holiday treat. (One of our foodie travelers, normally vegetarian, asked for, and received “seconds” of this dish, which she took for her breakfast the next morning (paired with a great fruit preserve the hotel was serving! Now, how often can you do that on a trip other than with Bliss Travels?)

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Endive salad with red onion, shaved parmesan, lemon, and truffle oil

 A refreshing segue into the meal. The bitter endive and the truffle oil paired beautifully with our Champagne as well as our first white, a white from Burgundy, and one of our most favorite villages, the picture perfect village of Meursault

Meursault, Narvaux, 2009.

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The famous Arpege  “perfect egg“ was our next dish.

I confess that I was so enraptured by the chef’s description of this dish, and dual temperatures of the one egg, along with the taste of this perfectly simple and elegant dish, that I forgot to take a picture!! We paired the egg with our second white, a rich, buttery Meursault Les Charmes 1er Cru, 2009. This was not just a  perfect ‘egg’ it was a perfect ‘pairing’!

Veloute of carrot, with tarragon

was an intense, non dairy carrot preparation made from caramelized carrots, cooked under pressure and reduced to a velvety richness. The two fold preparation of carrot (one caramelized, the other steamed led to this deep dark color. This dish had no meat and no dairy, and yet tasted richer than any beef based stock I’ve tried.

This rich dish led to the last drop of Meursault and a nice transition to our red wines.

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Salt crusted roasted beet root

Next our chef demonstrated how he made this absolutely perfect vegetable, salt crusted, intensely juicy and truly an unexpected star dish! We opened our 2007 , 1er Cru, Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin, made by a winemaker and friend in whose 14th century cellars we get to enjoy exclusive barrel tastings  (We do love Burgundy!)

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Pan seared beef with a parsnip puree, creamed spinach, sweet and sour peppers and a red wine jus

A 2007 Premier Cru Burgundy from Gevrey Chambertin

One client enjoyed this dish so much, not only did she have 2 servings (a nice little perk of being in the home of a chef, instead of a restaurant, but also she said this was the best dish she had ever tasted.)

 

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Last, but not least, a real surprise for all was the dessert

A moist and delicious Olive oil cake, served with stunningly good Greek yogurt ice cream, Nutella powder and chervil

The Nutella powder was the “dark horse”. Nobody really expected to love that –but he made this using a great trick of molecular gastronomy and turned what is (in my opinion) a cloyingly sweet “kid’s” dessert, into a sophisticated delicious (please, sir, may I have more) end of meal. This was served with a fortified sweet wine from the south west of France.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end (it never is). We finished with a big bowl of creme fraiche caramels to take home. Yum! An absolutely Bliss-ful evening we intend to repeat with the next group of special foodies looking for something truly unique.

2013-12-23 11.20.57Let us know what you think. And let us know what dishes you’d like to see in your  “dinner at home with a Paris chef”

A bientôt,

Wendy

A Culinary Tour de France: Bliss Travels Food Experiences!

Food is about pleasure, and nobody does food better than the French. Here is just a tiny sampling of  actual dishes we swooned over on our various trips through France.Whether it’s a Michelin starred gastronomic experience, a country auberge or tiny inn, or even a bistro, every single item was authentic and the best of its sort. That’s what all of the dishes below have in common: authenticity. 

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a stunning finale to a Burgundy tasting menu. This meringue with red fruits was the perfect end

We celebrated with incredible meals. Sacre bleu!

Tomato water sorbet, tomato confit, tomato gelee (frozen)….wow!

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Local goat cheeses, eaten on a plank on the Provencal farm where they were made

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A Burgundy “amuse bouche” of stunning variety

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The best bistro in Paris, bar none

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The famous chicken from Bresse

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Tomato tart and tomato soup, with shrimps,  to start our meal

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Picnic of roast pork and rosemary potatoes, back on the farm

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Paris Michelin starred dining

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The appetizer tray in Provence, our auberge! Merci Amelie et Simon

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Never underrate the perfect omelette. Nothing is better!

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Or the cheese course!

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Stunning and delicious salad Nicoise

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Crispy duck confit, made just for our group

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Edible spoons, zucchini soups, and tapenade in Provence, where else?

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A tasting plate brought to us by one of our favorite restaurant managers. Nacer, we miss you!

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With coffee there is always a sweet or three!

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Chocolate is rich, and necessary

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An aioli. Wow. We made this at an on-the-spot cooking lesson


I f you are hungry, contact us. We’ll book you on our next adventure!

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