Tour France: Lavender

images-2Tour France: Lavender, Poppies, Perched villages and colorful markets. In May and June you cannot help but celebrate the stunning beauty of Southern France. Van Gogh, below, painted this nearby. It’s striking in both its creativity, and it’s actual depiction of what Provence looks and feels like. The red coloration in the field probably represents the poppy fields that are so prevalent in May and early June.

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An amazing photograph taken by a client last June (2014). The field is just down the hill, and visible from our inn.

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Another great photo by the same client, this time of the painted buildings in a nearby village where we saw the ochre ‘mines’ (pigmentation used to make the paints on these buildings). 

 

 

 

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

Poppies and olive trees, some of the signature foliage of Provence.

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look!

The lavender fields of Provence smell as beautiful as they look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vines and poppies, side by side, irresistible.

 

 

 

Our October trip also features professional photography lessons!

Setting up for the photo…

Our clients loved to stop in the lavender fields when we passed them!

A quick pic!

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Tour France: Bordeaux & Barcelona. Spotlight The Sagrada Familia

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.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

The Sagrada Familia is a masterpiece 125 years in the making.

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.

Gaudi's tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

Gaudi’s tower feature unusual posts- even a pile of strawberries!

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.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the Basilica on this very spot a few years ago.

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!)

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

Even the ceiling is difficult to process!

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!

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

The entire building is covered in statues, all showing biblical stories.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

When the columns are lit, it looks like something out of a dream.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The Basilica towers over all other buildings in Barcelona.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

The stained glass windows throw incredible colors on the stone inside.

A bientot!

Bliss Travels

Want more information on the world’s most fascinating building site? Watch 60 Minutes’ special on the Basilica right here.

A Photographic Tour of the Best of Provence (One of the Regions of France)


Top 6 Reasons to Visit Provence

Last year I printed the top 4 reasons to visit Provence in the spring. But, really, there are so many more things to explore than just 4, and so many wonderful things to do and see all spring and summer (and fall). Here are Bliss Travels top tips for Provence.

1. Stunning scenery bathed in light that made world famous painters like Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet …..swoon. In May, there are poppies, cherry blossoms, almond blossoms, and all sorts of spring flowers. In June, the cherries are in full bloom. In July and August you have Lavender.bill m france 2008

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Our class topped the tart with cherries -not fresh like the ones here, found in June in Provence

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2. The Provencal Markets. Whether it’s the first fruit and spring vegetable, or the late summer melons, peaches and figs, the produce in Provence is unrivaled –and the crafts, crowds and street life are all showcased at the colorful Provencal markets.

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3. The Villages. They are beautiful and each one is a piece of art in its own right!

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3. Food. Mouthwatering, amazing, real, local, sustainable, gourmet FOOD.

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5. Wines. Provence is home to the Cote du Rhone and has many fine wines, Chateauneuf du Pape among them. It is home to Bandol, Tavel, Vacqueras, Gigondas and many many more.

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6. Festivals. The festivals in spring and summer are wonderful. Everything from fancy markets, to bull fights to street music, to games, to dancing, tasting and more. There are cherry festivals in May and June. Village festivals from May through August. Music festivals in June. Melon festivals in July. Lavender festivals in August. Bastille Day festivals –on Basstille Day (see our earlier post about this.)

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Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

6. Time on your own with your family and friends--even with all the activity! Provence is a place with lots of beautiful little corners, fabulous walks, quiet beaches, empty mountain tops, miniscule villages –all where you can see something new, and be away from it all — Be with yourself, your family or your friends, or your thoughts.

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If you’d like to learn more about Bliss Travels, small, custom trips –and how we provide exclusive access to things your typical traveler never sees, please  look at our website at www.blisstravels.com or our testimonials and  email us or call us at 609 462 6213. We have limited spring and summer trips available.

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

6 Holiday Paris Treats! 

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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….

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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)!

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

 

Tour France: October in Provence (video)

October in Provence…

On our recent trip to Provence we visited the Luberon and Chateauneuf du Pape.

What was extra special about this trip though was that people had the option to participate in daily photography workshops/sessions before or after sightseeing, and also that we had professional photographer, Anthony Bianciella traveling with us full time. That meant that he was always there to offer help and advice, or simply take on the spot photos for people. (Isn’t it nice to be in your own vacation photos for a change?)

Of course, before we sped down to beautiful Provence via TGV train, we spent a little time in Paris. Walking, sightseeing, photographing…

and, mais oui, dining -in this case, on the season’s first truffles. Truffles in a creamy polenta.

One of the highlights is always the Provencal scenery. The ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape compete for our attention with the changing colored vines, and the gorgeous Medieval villages… Hard to choose which is the best view.

This particular trip included some light hikes through the countryside as well as the ocher mines, sightseeing in various Medieval villages, and a day trip to Chateauneuf du Pape for some truly remarkable wines from some pretty great vintages (Beaucastel, La Nerthe, Vieux Telegraphe, Barroche…to name a few). Click on the “wine” and watch the video Anthony Bianciella made of our trip so that you can take a “virtual vacation” in Provence.

Our next trip to Provence with Anthony is this May….Everything will be in bloom. Poppies, iris’s, cherry blossoms. It is a gorgeous time of year to go to Provence. Some of Anthony’s Spring photos are below. Click on any of the photos to learn more about our May 2013 trip to Provence. It’s small, custom and pure Bliss!

flower boxes around every corner.

spring produce fills the markets.

poppy fields everywhere.

Tour France: Food, Wine & Photo Vacations in Provence

Tour France: Food, Wine & Photo Vacations in Provence

Nothing is better, in my opinion, than the food and wine in France. And what better way to continue to enjoy the experience other than to photograph what you are enjoying?

The meal begins with an eggplant crumble and some wonderful tapenade. Follow this with braised lamb and kidneys.

Chocolate, mais oui!


Cafe…apres!
And, of course…digestive! Of course, the only “real” choice was the Marc de Chateauneuf du Pape!

The perfect end to a lovely day! Bliss!

Tour France: Fall Vacation in Provence (Chateauneuf du Pape & Luberon)

Tour France: Fall Vacation in Provence (Chateauneuf du Pape & Luberon)

We arrived a few days ago. The weather has been crisp and cool, with sun just at the right times.

Paris: Walking and photographing.

The vines were changing when we arrived in Provence.We tasted in Chateauneuf du Pape —after a gourmet lunch in the village –filled with top wines. Thank you Andre!Tarte Tatin. Though not a “Provencal” recipe, is quite common in fall. Apples are everywhere.

And a walk through the “mines” where the Provencal pigmentation is found. That’s what gives the buildings in Provence their wonderful and characteristic colors.Come with us in May for our Provence trip. Contact us if you’d like more information. Only small groups. No buses. Custom itineraries and flexible schedules. Plenty of independent time as well as much to do with us if you choose..