Tour France: Cartier’s Grand Palais Exhibit in Paris

cartier_expo_0Ooh la la! Cartier, the “Jeweler of Kings,” has an opulent exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris from December 4th to February 16th. This is a must-visit experience and a great addition to a tour through France. And what a perfect add-on to a Valentine’s trip (you could get some ideas for the kind of ring or tiara she likes 🙂 ) Bliss Travels is currently offering a deal for the Valentine’s weekend trip (the special price is only offered through January 2nd). Check it out here! A romantic opportunity awaits!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It's simply a must-see!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It’s simply a must-see!

WWD gushes that Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara and Grace Kelly’s engagement ring are among the star pieces of an exhibition on Cartier opening in Paris today.

Billed as the most extensive show to date dedicated to the French jeweler, famed for its panther-themed jewelry and Tank watches, “Cartier — Style and History” is set to run at the Grand Palais until Feb. 16. It showcases more than 600 items ranging from fine jewelry and watches to decorative objects, many reflecting the influence of exotic locations like China and India. Most are drawn from Cartier’s extensive archives, but about 100 items are on loan from private collections.”

Cartier's signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit's displays.

Cartier’s signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit’s displays.

In an interview with the Guardian, the curator of this opulent exhibit, Laure Dalon, explained its significance. “Cartier is one of France’s iconic companies and is a part of France’s tradition and heritage. It’s not just the actual monetary value of the pieces but their social history, their owners and their place in the history of decorative arts. That makes them priceless, really.”

Hasn't every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Hasn’t every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Well said, Mme Dalon! We are delighted to recommend our clients see  this magnificent exhibit during their Valentine’s trip. We can even provide a private guide to accompany and tour this exhibit, and others! Add it to your checklist: we’ll see you there!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

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

Tour France: Romantic Parisian Proposals & Weddings

Romance in Paris…

Tour France

The best place to say “I love you” in the world!

Tour France I love you wall

This wall is a permanent art exhibit in Paris. “I love you” is written here in over 200 languages. (We even did an elopement ceremony in front of this wall –can you beat that?) Which just goes to say –What is more romantic than Paris? Parisian romance equals pure Bliss! Here are some of our favorite romantic memories of Paris. Perfect to look at as we approach Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter whether  you are truly planning something with that special someone or you simply want to get swept up in the fantasy.

Tour France Paris Romance

Last year in Paris for Valentine’s weekend, we saw beautiful romantic window displays all around. Even the crepe stands were decorated 🙂

Tour France Paris weddings

A Blissful Valentine’s Day in Paris!

Bliss Travels…to Paris for Valentine’s Day. What’s up in the city of romance, on the most romantic day of the year! Well, lots! Two of our clients were interviewed by French television and featured on TV, as they enjoyed the things we gave them (a bottle of Champagne, some treats, and a lock for the Pont des Arts). All of our clients enjoyed privately arranged, top, tasting menus special to Valentine’s Day. Meals of a lifetime! And, love was everywhere!

This wall is an example of living art in Paris. It says I love you in 250 languages!

as are the shops…
and the Parisian fountains…(even the empty ones)and the shop windows…
And, bien sur, the weddings themselves! Don’t forget those!  You can always elope to Paris!
Finally, to pay homage to the romantic tradition that resulted in Bliss Travels clients ending up on French television, here’s one of Anthony Bianciella’s amazing photographs of the very bridge on which it occurred!

We hope you can capture a moment with us to travel to France this spring or summer!

7 Chocolate and French Wine Pairings for Valentines!

Chocolate and Wine….

Much like wine, chocolate is harvested, fermented, liquified and “made” into the final product. The “terroir” and the “maker” bring much to the final product.

Cocoa grows near the equator, and the heat and type of plant (like wine) create distinct flavor profiles. Cocoa beans are harvested and then fermented. They are dried and processed and eventually ground, roasted and broken down. Finally, they go through a process called “conching”, which is akin to constant kneading–and determines the texture of the chocolate. At this point the chocolate is then used as a raw product for artisans and large manufacturers to make their bars, ganaches, clusters and other candies.

Each manufacturer adds his/her own special mixture of ingredients –vanilla, sugar, cream, spice, nuts. Different cultures tend to produce similarly styled chocolates. American chocolates tend to be sweeter, less pure (i.e. milk v. dark) and larger. Belgian and French tend to use much less sugar, rely on thinner more delicate shells for their filled chocolates, use pure creams in the centers (not ‘creamy’ sugar fillings),  and produce higher percentages of purer (i.e. more dark and less milk) chocolate.

This blog is going to focus on Pairing French Wine and Belgian or French Chocolate, of course!

Here are 7 tips and pairing suggestions to sweeten your Valentine’s Day at home or abroad.

 

1. Pair Champagne with chocolates. Especially with lighter less rich chocolates, or fresh filled Neuhaus creams. Also, this pairs well with chocolate fruit combinations.

 

2. Pair a French Burgundy (Pinot Noir) with mild, but rich dark chocolates, and dark chocolates with mild spice, roasted nuts or ripe berry fruits. So, consider chocolates with cardamom, hazelnut or dark cherries for these wines.

3. Pair Rhone wines, such as a  Chateauneuf du Pape (and other Grenache heavy wines) or wines with rich spicy flavor and high tannins with highly spiced complex chocolates that can match the power of the wine. So, consider chocolate and chili pepper or chocolate with pink peppercorns or strong tea flavors and spice mixtures as good combinations.

4. For purists, wanting to experience the depth of one flavor,  use a single origin chocolate with a single grape wine. You can focus on the subtly of each more easily.

5. Pair a dessert wine, we prefer a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, with a salted chocolate or salted caramel chocolate. Make sure you use a rich full flavored deep chocolate. Not a milk chocolate.

6. Have a Cognac with a chocolate –either complement it with a cognac flavored truffle or find a very low sugar, almost pure, dark chocolate.

7. Come with Bliss Travels where we do custom pairings and tastings of these things all over France, and in Brussels! At all the best spots! That’s why we call it Bliss!

What to Plan, Pack, Wear for Valentine’s Wedding in Paris!

VALENTINE’S DAY

The most romantic day of the year. Propose? Marry? Just escape from it all? Meet the person of your dreams? We’re doing our version of Romantic Bliss over Valentine’s weekend in Paris….What could be better than a romantic hotel, breakfast in bed, private chocolate and wine pairing from a world class chocolate maker, a star studded (Michelin, that is) dining experience customized to the occasion, a saunter through the best that Paris has to offer….And then the moment….

What would your moment be?

HOW TO PICK A DRESS FOR A DESTINATION WEDDING.

Pick something simple and elegant, or over the top stylish. Pick something you can pack easily so that your trip is effortless. Bring two pairs of shoes. One for the ceremony and dinner, and the other to walk around Paris, so you can get those cool photographs without also getting blisters! Think about what you’d like to wear to your dinner. Elegant, easy to travel with, sophisticated are the Paris buzzwords.

We arranged for a bridal shoot for Nicole Miller Philadelphia in Paris two years ag0, and her dresses work very well. Contact us if you’d like an introduction to Nicole Miller Philadelphia!

HOW TO PACK FOR A VALENTINE’S DAY WEEKEND IN PARIS:

Paris is usually not to cold. Typical weather in February should be about 40 degrees. This past Christmas was unseasonably warm. 50 plus! So, maybe this February will be as well! Whatever the weather, bring a coat, stylish scarf, boots, thin thermal socks (great for keeping feet comfy with all the walking. Pack a pocket umbrella too. I suggest great skirts and knit dresses (everyone was wearing them this season).  And, most importantly, pack a small carryall bag to bring home your special purchases! You don’t want to run out of room!

WANT TO BRING FAMILY AND FRIENDS?

Of course they can come! And we can entertain them. They will sightsee and wine and dine while you and your fiancé decide upon your final plans. They will attend your ceremony, whatever meals you like, and celebrate all over Paris with you…If you like. We arrange for a special itinerary for your loved ones so that they have as memorable a time as you.

 

Think of these images while you decide whether you want to experience true Bliss!

3 Myths & Some Advice on Weddings and Elopements in Paris!

So, you want to have your wedding in a place imbued with timeless romance….What could be more romantic than Paris (or Provence)? If you can think of something, let me know!

Myth 1: Destination Weddings are more expensive than weddings at home:

The average cost for a wedding in the United States is $26,542.00. This doesn’t include the honeymoon. The average honeymoon price is between $5,200-$10,000 for international travelers (depending upon whether you choose a luxury or standard honeymoon).

Destination weddings offer you the opportunity to combine wedding and honeymoon in ways that are very cost effective….And allow you to make your special day a truly unique and memorable experience. Elopements to Paris range from $10,000 to $20,000 and include the ceremony, reception, hotel, meals and “a honeymoon”.

And, where else can you get a background filled with jaw dropping beauty and world class sites? Champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower? Check! Romantic photos by the Seine river? Check! French pastries and great wines? Check!

But, it’s not just about money! It’s about the most important day of your life.

Myth 2: Destination Weddings are more complicated than weddings at home:

And Destination weddings  present wonderful opportunities to make your wedding day about you and your love for each other. 

People often think that these events are impossible and difficult to plan because of the distance. Not so. At Bliss Travels, it’s simple. We do everything for you (other than say “I do”)! You talk with us (in English, in the US). We design your unique wedding weekend or week. And then we make it happen.  Think of this as your chance to escape the clutter of daily life, leaving the minutia behind, so you can focus on the most important thing: Your partner and your ceremony.

Destination weddings are for couples who want to focus on each other and their commitment. These couples not only have a sense of adventure, they want to look back on their wedding day and remember each other, not the hoards of people, seating arrangements, and catering problems that typically dominate a wedding. Because you do not have these things to worry about when you go to Paris or Provence for your wedding, the day/weekend/week is much simpler! So, kick your feet up and enjoy your wedding!

Myth 3: You must either celebrate at home (with family and friends) or abroad, and miss out on family and friends:

Not so! You can eat your cake and have it too! Certainly, you may have a few people who wish to travel with you.

But, even if that’s not possible, it’s still possible to share your special day with your loved ones. We work with several photography partners who create DVD slideshows of your ceremony and entire weekend/week as well as video of your ceremony. These are edited, set to music, and presented to you soon after your ceremony. Thus, when you get home we can arrange a champagne reception for your family and friends where your guests get to view your special event!

So, if you’re ready to be the envy of your friends, create a weekend that is truly unique, and thoroughly enjoy yourself, give Bliss Travels a call!

Thanks to our great photography partners: Anthony Bianciella, Sarah Miller, and Bill Mathesius for allowing us to share their work!

5 Highlights of our Christmas Day in Paris…

 

  1. The Day starts with a stroll along the Seine (mais oui) to…
  2. Lunch. But, you must ask, what does one have for lunch on Christmas Day in Paris? Well, a mon avie (in my opinion), this is a meal meant for comfort and relaxation –not “white table cloth” fine dining. Just friends enjoying a great time….Now, don’t be confused. I don’t mean that the food should be “average”. It should be superb –just not “stuffy”. So, my recommendation (and our menu) consisted of Oysters or Salmon or Foie Gras… followed by Roast Leg of Lamb or Duck stuffed with Dried Fruits, or Scallops. You get the idea, I’m sure. Dessert was a made to order Buche de Noel of Chocolate, Chestnut, Clementine. And, I for one, have to say, YUM. It ranked as one of my favorite meals of the season.
  3. A stroll to see the City Hall of Paris  –location of Robert Doisneau’s famous “kiss” photgraph, and site of Rodin sculptures –and iceskaters!
  4. Then, it might be nice to stroll the Ile St Louis? It has such an aura. Of course, Bertillon is a requirement if you stop there! As is the Felini-esque show performed, as is usual, in the most interesting way possible, along a bridge on the Seine river.
  5. Finally –an evening stroll along St Andre des Arts and a stop at St Michel –and perhaps a wine and cheese somewhere (nod to Brooke!!).

Now, that’s a Christmas Day!

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

How to Fall in Love in Paris: A True Story

Paris is the city of Love and Romance. Mais Oui! And never more so than over Christmas and Valentine’s Day. This is a true story about finding love in Paris. One I like telling as I begin to plan for all the holidays.

About this time, two years ago,  Bliss Travels, was leading a group through France for a photo shoot of wedding gowns for Nicole Miller Philadelphia, when the first of three paralyzing snow storms hit the East Coast of the US.  The photographer and I arrived in Provence for our destination wedding photo shoot, only to find that the model and all of the clothing were snowed in at home.

Our intrepid photographer and I were sitting in a tiny village restaurant having a Christmas lunch with the town (yes, pretty much the entire town)

trying to decide how to photograph a destination wedding without a bride or bridal clothing when our waiter appeared-handsome, blue eyed and very photogenic. As we munched on pâtĂ© and warm toast, followed by a red wine soaked Provencal daube (for her) and a duck confit (for me) and the traditional 13 desserts (okay, it wasn’t a hardship!) we hatched a plan with the town councilwoman whose hospitality we were enjoying.

When we told her we’d like to hijack the waiter as our model and she saw the look in our eyes, she knew we were serious. She jumped up from the table and ran out of the restaurant to find the keys to the ancient hilltop church before anyone changed their minds. She needn’t have worried. Once we told Julien it was “pretend”, our waiter graciously agreed to put on a suit and tie and come with us to the astounding church whose origins date back to the 5th century, and say “I do”.

For the next 36 hours as we received frantic updates from our ‘bride’ saying she (and our wedding dresses) were in transit, Julien continued to show up for photo shoots with a bow tie and a grin.

Finally, on our last night in this little village, we invited Julien to dinner and told him that our “bride” would be waiting when he arrived. Secretly, Sarah and I joked that Julien could not possibly believe we really had a model on the way. There had been so many canceled meetings.  As this became more and more comic, we plied Julien with pre dinner aperitifs and attempted to convince him -over his laughs and eye rolls — that our “bride” did exist. At that moment, our “bride” , Mia Calona, sauntered in as if she was only “fashionably late” for a party.  Julien took one look at her, smiled and said “oui, oui” (without asking if it was pretend).

However, like any ‘marriage of convenience’, theirs was over before it it began.  Julien was off to see his family for the holidays and we left for Chateauneuf du Pape and Paris. We spent three more days of photography and then spent Christmas Day in Paris (which I highly recommend) together celebrating the success of our trip.

The next morning, another paralyzing storm hit the East Coast, and Sarah found herself stuck in Charles de Gaulle airport for several hours, unable to leave France. So, she struck up a conversation with another delayed traveler (yes, part French) and, you guessed it, they hit it off. Within weeks, he had moved to Philadelphia. Within months they were engaged. And, now they are getting married! So, finding love in the City of Light and Love is always possible.  Just ask Sarah!