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: Christmas in Paris

A “snapshot” of the holidays in Paris

Here’s our “photo essay” of the experience. We hope you enjoy it and have a wonderful holiday season.

Tour France

From the Tour Eiffel to the Louvre….
Tour France Paris

And Santa’s of all sorts!DSCF0603DSCF0605So many great things to see….

DSCF0599Have a great holiday!

A Bientot,

Wendy & 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

 

5 Tips for Getting Lowest Airfares: Great Airfare Sales for the Holidays

5 Tips: How do you find the best airfares? 

Here are some tips to share:

1. Kayak.com –This is a great search engine if you know how to use it. Input your  area airports (not just the single specific airport) and then use flexible dates. A matrix will appear and you can see exactly what your options are. For example, if you are leaving from New York City and going to Paris -make sure to input “New York -all airports”. You may not want to go to Newark or JKF, but if the fare is $300 lower, you just might find you feel differently.

2. Search nearby departure airports. In the NY area, we are not far from Philadelphia. That means that for minimal trouble you can fly from Philadelphia too. Sometimes the smaller (relatively speaking) airports cost  significantly less. Almost all the flights from Philadelphia to Paris were $1000 roundtrip and they were NONSTOP!

3. Search nearby destination airports the same way. If you are going to Paris, why not fly into Orly? It’s small. Customs takes 5 minutes (really) and it’s closer to Paris than Charles de Gaulle, so transport is cheaper. When I did this search I found a $900 flight from Newark to Orly. For $900 you can arrive in Paris Christmas morning and stay until the 30th –and the flight was a nonstop!

4. Expand your definition of “nearby”. European destinations are often very very close together… a train ride away. For example, I just searched Newark to Brussels. Why? Because a train ride of a little more than an hour is all that separates those two cities (and Brussels is quite beautiful over the holidays). The fare was $850 roundtrip for a nonstop. That is amazing.  I do this for a living, and I haven’t seen this fare level in several years!

5. Keep track of sales. When you see one airline go on sale, that means the others are likely to follow suit, maybe not that day….but soon.

On this point, it’s important to remember the immortal words of Bogart…

“If you don’t get on that plane, you’re gonna regret it…maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” 

So, take that trip! Wherever you decide to go! “We’ll always have Paris….”

The flight sale prices we saw to London, Paris and Brussels were all in the $850-$1,100 price range, and were roundtrip, included taxes and fees and are sold directly by the airlines. Contact us if we can be of assistance. These are great deals. The best we’ve seen in a while, so if you want to go to Europe, don’t delay!

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.

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