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.
Tour France: A Surprise Engagement on the way to Burgundy
Janice contacted Bliss Travels a several months ago to come on our wine trip to Burgundy. She was interested in extending the trip –learning more about places to visit in France and about our various food and wine adventures. This was going to be her boyfriend, Jeff’s first time in France.
Several months later when she arrived in Paris on a crisp autumn day, Janice, blonde, bubbly, and full of smiles despite the jetlag, was still bursting with excitement as she introduced her boyfriend, Jeff, to the City of Lights for the first time.
The happy couple spent the next day exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the world—climbing the Eiffel Tower, strolling along the Seine, and even putting their own “love lock” on the Pont des Arts. But Jeff had more in mind than a sightseeing trip!
He was a bit nervous –trying to find the “perfect” setting. Should he propose during dinner? Afterwards? At the hotel? Jeff had no idea how things were going to proceed (and neither did Janice). After a romantic candlelit dinner at Le Reminet and Jeff’s favorite, hot chocolate, they wandered back to the hotel. There he resolved that the privacy of their little boutique Parisian hotel was the best place to state his “question”. Once back in their room, Janice was astonished—and delighted—to find Jeff getting down on one knee. “I was so excited, I’m not sure I remembering hearing anything besides ‘Will you marry me?’ ” laughed Janice, recalling the happy evening. But she immediately said yes—bien sûr!
As our little group of 7 enjoyed a picnic on the TGV trip to Burgundy the next morning, Janice and Jeff couldn’t wait to share their wonderful surprise and her stunning ring. As she told us the story, everyone asked if Janice was surprised. Jeff’s response was “nobody was more surprised than I!” I guess when love strikes, there’s nothing much you can do but follow through!
Jeff and Janice, we couldn’t be happier to celebrate your good news with you! Wishing you years of “bliss”!
Felicitations, nos amis!
Wine lovers–stay tuned for more tales from our trips to Bordeaux!
Saturday morning, Bliss Travels and our guests made our way over to Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage site best known for its Roman ruins (it was Julius Caesar’s favorite French town!) and stunningly preserved colosseum.
It is also the town where van Gogh famously lopped off his ear and painted one of his most well known pieces, the Cafe Terrace at Night. The cafe is still working to this day- we stopped and had drinks to cool off!
However, on Saturdays these beautiful ruins and even van Gogh‘s tumultuous history are overshadowed by the sprawling market that runs through the two main streets of town. Locals from around the Luberon region flock to this market, the largest around, to buy all manner of things. Mounds of burgundy cherries are sold next to blocks of homemade nougat and wheels of cheese that can weigh up to 60 pounds. Baskets of clucking chickens were stacked next to vats of black olives and woks of fresh Paella that three or four people could fit on!
After strolling through this gorgeous feast, we picked out our favorite foods–fresh forest strawberries (frais du bois), local goat cheeses, brioches, slabs of ham, spit roasted pork, a few bottles of wine, ‘donut’ peaches….amongst many other things!–and headed to a park surrounded by Roman ruins for the picnic of the decade! What a way to tour France.
Burgundy, the “Bourgogne” region of France, has been known for centuries for its incredible wines. But when the Burgundians, the nomadic Scandinavian tribe that gave the region its name, first settled the area, they remained unaware of the territory’s great potential.
This changed when the Romans took over the region in the 3rd century BC. Suddenly, vineyards started popping up everywhere. The Romans specialized in a fermented grape concentrate that was then diluted and flavored with water, honey, and herbs. The popular drink became synonymous with the region- Thank you, Romans! Even when they left and the region was taken over by Christians, the new owners merely converted the vineyards into another moneymaking process for abbeys and monasteries. After all, wine was necessary for taking the Sacrament!
Thankfully, these monasteries and abbeys also specialized in the written word–copying Bibles, manuscripts, and many numbers of important documents for posterity. Thus, the details of the vinification process were saved and passed on to the next wine growers in the area. Vital tips, methods, and experiments were dispersed through the region to maintain the distinctive tastes and excellent quality wines that are still enjoyed today. Many of these abbeys still operate vineyards today, and those touring France are often oblivious to these national treasures. Bliss Travels visits (and tastes) with gusto–because shouldn’t such a time-honored tradition be properly revered?
At the time, the Cistercians, the major religious group in Burgundy and thus the largest wine producer, knew that production costs would skyrocket if they finished the vinification process for all their separate vineyards in the same place. Therefore, they created cellars near each separate growing area, where the wines were processed and aged appropriately. Eventually, each vineyard region began to have recognizable characteristics. The Cistercian cheapness of the Middle Ages is the reason that we appreciate the different wine tastes today!
Because of this, we can now fully appreciate unique wines such Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and all the more specific wines that have stemmed from these grape godfathers. Curious about the wines of the region? Thankfully, Bliss Travels does gourmet wine tours to the Burgundy region where we indulge in the fruits of the Romans’ labor. In the meantime, check out some of our favorites Burgundy wines from the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits. We treat you to Grand Cru and 1er Cru treasures!
If reading about them simply isn’t enough, come with us in September for a insider’s look at the world of wine in Paris and Burgundy. Check out the video of one of our last trips to Burgundy right here! Sip the best wines in the world in 800 year old cellars, abbeys and monasteries, and private farms with stunning views of the French countryside. Pure Bliss!
Bliss Clients Create their Own Gourmet Meal
One thing Bliss Travels prides itself on is giving our clients unique insider experiences on our journeys through France, Spain, and Belgium. Since we customize each trip to suit the interests of the group, these experiences are always a little different. From private wine tastings in 800 year old cellars in Burgundy, to painting lessons in the lavender fields of Provence with a professional artist, to private tours of the Sagrada Familia Basilica of Barcelona with a seasoned art specialist as your guide, Bliss always leaves you with unforgettable memories.
For our clients touring France this May, this proved to be exactly the case! On our journey through Provence, this group of foodies were taken to a renowned restaurant to meet the head chef, a Michelin-starred creative genius and enthusiastic lover of cuisine. But of course things didn’t end there. The head chef led the group to the restaurant’s kitchen for a private cooking lesson, where they chopped, sautéed, and laughed their way to a gourmet meal.
Under the guidance of the engaging chef, who is also a TV personality here, the meal came out stunningly. It was promptly enjoyed with bottles of local wine hand picked by Bliss (Who turns down a local wine when the area includes Chateauneuf du Pape and the other great Cote du Rhone wines?) Of course, it’s not all food and wine. It’s also a great (and small) group of eight fun loving, interesting people that make these sorts of events a success. And this group laughed and enjoyed themselves late into the night.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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!
Want more information on the world’s most fascinating building site? Watch 60 Minutes’ special on the Basilica right here.
French Wine Tasting in NYC
This past Saturday we co-hosted a blind wine tasting of fine wines from several fabulous regions of France. This fun event was held at the NYC home of “frequent travelers” Kat & Mark. They graciously opened their lovely home on a perfect day, and stocked the tables with fabulous French and Spanish cheeses and delicious gourmet treats!
Getting ready for people
We tasted 5 wines, all from France.
Wine 1: Laurent Combier Crozes Hermitage white. A beautiful wine with floral notes and a rich bouquet. This wine is from just north of Chateauneuf du Pape. People don’t think of Chateauneuf du Pape as a town or even area that produces whites, but they produce excellent white wines. This is a very small part of production but the top ones are truly special –and hard to find in the US. We regularly highlight these when in Provence.
Wine 2: Meursault, Les Narvaux, 2010 David Moret. A great buttery chardonnay. Loved this wine (as I do all Burgundy wines). This wine has a bit more minerality than the Les Charmes, 1er cru, we like to profile on our Burgundy trips.
Wine 3: Auxey Duresses, 2010, Billard. A very nice pinot noir from Burgundy. However, Burgundy did not receive its due by comparing and tasting a village wine with the 1er Grand Cru classe from Bordeaux. Next tasting I will showcase wines from Burgundy that are equal in quality and ranking to the ones from Bordeaux. Because this region’s wines have such a “wow” factor -and the area itself is so stunning –it’s a shame to leave people thinking one region is superior to the other!
Wine 4: Les Amouriers, Vacqueyras, 2010. This grenache and syrah wine is also from just north of Chateauneuf du Pape, and a very accessible alternative to the big names (and prices) of Chateauneuf du Pape reds. Needs to breath for about 90 minutes to 2 hours as it is young. But is a good wine, full flavored and a great example of what the region can produce.
Wine 5: Chateau Pavie Macquin, 2007, her Grand Cru Classe. Predominantly merlot (84%) with 16% cabernet franc, this wine is truly a top wine. It surely overshadowed the other reds. It was smooth, rich and extremely well balanced. Still young, it was opened 2 hours before drinking. Next tasting, we will bring out the big guns in Burgundy to compare with Bordeaux. I think it will be a very tough decision for folks at that point!
Thank you to all of your who came. And for those of you who couldn’t make it, we hope to be able to hold “reunions” for other groups and more return travelers!
One final shot of those of us who went out for dinner at a cute French style bistro after the tasting.