Tour France: Bliss Travels Featured on “Places to Visit in France!”

Bliss Travels was featured in an article on Places to Visit in France as a great way to tour Paris for the Valentine’s weekend!

Places to Visit in France said:

Go with an “insider”!

This is our favorite option. You get alone time with your sweetheart while seeing the hidden, more intimate parts of the city that you wouldn’t get in a big group. One of our top choices is Bliss Travels, a luxury travel company that specializes in food and wine (so prepare for a gourmet trip). They are also offering a special Valentine’s weekend trip where everything is taken care of for you, but where you will not be with a group! Check out their site here: http://blisstravels.com/tour-france-valentines-day-in-paris

Read the rest of their article (and pick up some travel tips) at Visit Paris for Valentine’s Day. Sound tempting? Then check out Bliss Travels‘ special holiday deal on our Valentine’s Day in Paris package!

The "I Love You wall" in Paris is a beautiful reminder of your loved one!

The “I Love You wall” in Paris is a beautiful reminder of your loved one!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

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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: 5 Tips for the Holidays in Paris, revisited!

5 Tips on How to Have it All: The Best of Being Home for the Holidays & Getting Away!

 

Reblogging last year’s tips for holiday travel

The big debate is whether to stay home for the holidays or whether to get away. You might want a homey “white Christmas” with your special dinner, relaxation, and family, friends and gifts. You may also want to get away and just take a break from it all –you know, a vacation! So, how can you have it all?

1. Go Away just before the holidays or between Christmas and New Year’s, and return home a couple days before your “family” celebration! Why not? You can get away, relax, shop in a new and exciting environment (buying truly unique gifts for your loved ones.) You can pamper yourself a bit before the (joyful) work of hosting your family, cooking the meals and cleaning up the holiday messes.

2. Bring your favorite aspects of your “at home” celebration with you when you go abroad for the holidays.That’s right. Bring some of your gifts or that homemade special treat. Or plan that favorite meal. Why not bring your empty stockings and have them filled while you’re away on your relaxing vacation! In other words, bring a little bit of “home” with you –just don’t bring the oven or the dishes!

3. Seek out some of your holiday favorites in your new destination. Do you love love love Chestnuts at Christmas time? Fine. Enjoy them locally prepared while you’re away. Do you always have hot chocolate on Christmas morning, or roast goose or 7 fishes or a special dessert on your holiday? Great! See how the locals prepare it. (I can only speak to France, but the French do all of these things extremely well. So no worries for us!)

4. Enrich your memories and experiences. Do you always take a walk? Sleep in? Go to mass? Do it somewhere else. You’ll forever say “remember that year we went to Christmas mass or took our walk…in that special vacation destination. Trust me. In the years to come, you won’t be saying –”gosh, I wish we hadn’t taken that Christmas morning walk along the Seine in 2011. Our neighborhood is so nice.” Nor will you say, “I’m so sorry we missed our local mass. Notre Dame wasn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.” You’ll be reminiscing about how lovely it was back then, and those memories will bring a smile to your face!

5. Develop new traditions while you’re abroad that you can incorporate into your future holiday celebrations. We all love our favorites. Grandma’s cookies. The roast beef or turkey dinner. But, sometimes it puts a little zing in the holidays to add something new to the mix. Maybe, while you’re away, you’ll find something new you love to do, eat, drink, see….(I sure hope so). Then, next year, you can engage in that activity at home. I have a friend who brought me some very special tea and cakes from Europe  one year. Now, we make or buy those same items each year around the holidays. Not only is it a good memory, it’s a new and special treat.

6. Enjoy the company of others. Go with a group and/or bring a loved one, or a friend, or two. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. You can get cozy and share a room (since you probably won’t spend much time in it anyway, or you can live it up and do something super luxe.) You can enjoy your time with the people you travel with (even kids, who everyone worries won’t travel well, do, in fact, enjoy new locations. They’re interested and entertained and just as happy as you are. I know. Really. We do it all the time.) You can even travel alone and make new friends. Our experience from our small group trips is that people truly enjoy each other’s company and often remain friends and keep in touch.

5 Ways to Know: It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like….Paris at Christmas!

1. Christmas Markets…Biensur!

2. Bouche de Noel…Fanciful Christmas specialties in every window!

 

3. Bistrots are all wrapped up like pretty little presents!
4. Pizza is a thing that is served with truffles and sliced potatoes…OMG. You truly do want to lick the window. (The literal  translation for the phrase to “window shop” in French.)5. Macarons –in gold, with decorations, made to look like (yep, you guessed it) a Christmas Tree (or is that Treat).JOYEUX NOEL A TOUS!

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

You know –that moment after you’ve had lunch, and walked, and seen “everything”…there must be something else to do or have or see….cause this is so much fun!

So, how do you spend a day in Paris over Christmas week? Well, first you…

1.Find an out of the way, top of the top, Bistrot, with a star chef

2.You walk a mile and take the metro –to get there (and stimulate appetite

3.You order: Oysters Tartare with Cream of Lettuce or some other unfathomable but superb combination of ingredients

4.You walk the Christmas markets all afternoon

buying presents and drinking hot spiced wine!

  1. Enjoy the sights!

    Stay tuned for DAY TWO!

6 Holiday Shopping Tips: How to shop in France

Shopping, that “all American sport” is one of those cultural obsessions we share with the French. Paris is one of the shopping meccas of the world

And, although it’s done differently, it’s something, especially at this time of year that both the French and the Americans do with gusto! Holiday Shopping. Whether you visit the Christmas markets, the shops, Paris or Provence, here are some great tips for how to pick up the best gift and also make the experience one to remember.

Here are some tips to make the most of your experience.

1. The French are more formal than Americans in their commercial encounters. Begin each transaction –indeed, each entry into an establishment, with a formal “bonjour”. Always say “merci” and “au revoir” as well. We Americans like to pop in and out of stores and, if we aren’t seriously considering a purchase we don’t like to “bother” the staff. The French see it differently. Whereas we might find it rude to ‘interrupt’, they find it rude not to say hello and goodbye.

2. Comment on the items for sale. Talk about them. Ask questions. Find out where they’re from, or how they’re made, or how to wear them etc. There’s a lot of merchant pride and there are a lot of small artisans and producers who take great pride in their work, and they will likely show you even more special things, once they see that you care about their craft. Plus, you’ll learn a little something and connect with someone. (Bliss always makes it  a point to introduce people to at least one artisan producer or craftsperson on our trips so people can learn about the product but more so, connect with a different person and culture –the raison d’être for travel!)

3. When you make a purchase in the United States, you hand the money to the merchant and they put the change back in your hands. In France, the money goes on the little tray in front of the register and the change gets put there as well for you to pick up. Rarely do you see a “hand to hand” transaction.

4. More than likely, if you buy something, you will be asked if it’s “a gift”. If it is, it will be charmingly and uniquely wrapped for you. It’s so great to return home and give a gift that not only is unique, but looks unique. So, if it’s a gift, by all means say so!

5. Remember to visit some of the smaller shops and boutiques, as well as window shopping (or as the French phrase translates –licking the windows!) the big named designer shops. So you can get a taste of the region and culture instead of the world popular market.

6. If you’re in the countryside —Provence, for example, find out what the specialty of that town is, and then visit those shops. If you’re in Sault, it’s Lavender. If you’re in other places it’s pottery or paint pigments or cherries or a particular type of cheese or candied fruit…You get the idea. Local is extremely significant in France. And local means a very small area. (Let me tell you a story. One evening I was sitting at a friend’s dinner table, in a small village in Provence. She had a fabulously delicious olive oil on the table. I complimented her on it and asked if it was local (almost rhetorically, because I assumed it would be). She said no. I was shocked and said, “really?” Her response was telling: “No, it’s not local, it’s from my grandfather’s tree.” Now, that’s really local!!!

Have a Blissful Holiday shopping experience! And write us if we can help!Wendy@blisstravels.com

In Paris & Brussels, Tis The Season for Chocolate

Now that the weather outside is frosty (hear the tune in your head), it’s time for chocolate! Real chocolate. Delicate chocolates. Chocolates that don’t like too much heat because they are filled with real, fresh, flavored cream, or stamped and painted with gorgeous drawings, or melted and stirred into thick unctuous decadent drinks. Is your mouth watering yet?

Each winter –in both December and February (Valentine’s Day, anyone?) Bliss Travels visits the most magnificent chocolatiers and patissieres to see what new creations and exciting treats are available.  (And, we don’t just visit, we taste, and taste…and then have a glass of Champagne –whoops, got distracted. Sorry!)

This year is no different. Even if you can’t come on our Christmas week trip (where we do this in Paris) or our Valentine’s weekend or add on a visit to Brussels, you can still look at these amazing treats and learn what to find here. What could be better ?

Smaller than American confections, and typically more delicate, with thinner shells, these treats also have significantly less sugar, making them (in the opinion of Bliss Travels) practically a health food! (Truth: they are less fattening, and less addictive, because there is less sugar and nothing that’s chemical in them.) If you talk to an artisan in Brussels or Paris, they will tell you chocolate in proper “doses” is medicinal and very good for you.  I wouldn’t argue with that if I were you. I sure don’t!

Some of the flavors below include lavender and a fresh cream of tiramisu!
The chocolates in this photo are from Neuhaus. You can buy this brand in the US, but you cannot buy the fresh creams. They are too delicate to travel. The photo here depicts chocolates filled with a very light flavored whipped cream (this is not the cloying sweet gummy stuff we call “creams” in the box of assorted chocolates you get in the US). You must get these in BRUSSELS.

So, what to do here. Look for small batch chocolates, make by artisans. Look for higher quality (and darker, more pure) chocolates. Avoid anything with a list of ingredients with things you personally wouldn’t cook with. Look for smaller pieces, interesting flavors, freshest ingredients.

Then there are other things you can do with chocolate…If you’re in Paris or Brussels! Take a look at a typical, well done treat. (But, you have to know where to go!)

What could be a better gift than Chocolate –well, taking that person tasting in Paris –but, if you can’t do that, find the real thing here. It makes a difference.

We wish you a truly sweet season….And hope you’ll join us soon! It’s Bliss

If you want to know more, write me. I love to hear from people! Wendy@blisstravels.com