Tour France: Our April 17th, 2014 Wine Tasting Tour de France

Wine Tasting: A Tour de France of Wines

Inside the private collection of the owners of Smith Haut Lafitte, and a tasting of their 100 point 2009 red!

Wine tastings are often the highlight of Bliss Travels trips.  No one does wine quite like the French, and we fully embrace their talents! Whether it’s a simple chilled rosé at lunch on a Provencal farm or a private barrel tasting with the winemaker in his 14th century cellar owner, or chatting with the technical director of a world famous chateau, Bliss always includes wines! And we treat these events as they should be treated: As relaxed fun!

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories to the evening on a recent trip to Atlanta.

Here are a few of our all-time favorites! And to learn more, watch our video of Burgundy or our our 3 minute video of our trips here!

Provence offers ancient perched villages, flawless sunny days, and miles of lavender fields. It's the most relaxing area in France!

Provence offers ancient perched villages, flawless sunny days, and miles of lavender fields. It’s the most relaxing area in France!

2012 Famille Abeille Rosé

Rosé: Côtes de Provence, France

Owner, Jean Abeille after a private tasting and tour of the winery, led by him.

$13.50 per bottle with the 10% discount.

Grapes: Grenache, Syrah-Shiraz, Cinsault, Vermentino

Area: This wine comes from a family-owned estate, which is part of Château Riotor, located in the heart of Provence in the commune of Cannet des Maures. The vineyards are only 30km from the Mediterranean, and enjoy a warm, maritime, Mistral-influenced climate.

Flavor profile: A delicate and refreshing rosé typical of Provence. Locals (and Bliss, of course) drink rosé at lunch for a perfect midday pick me up. Its gentle flavors reminiscent of fresh peach, clementine, pear and raspberry tend to be on the dry rather than sweet.

Pairs well with: soft pink fish, like poached trout.

Burgundy boasts of vineyards as far as the eye can see--many consider this the best wine region of France!

Burgundy boasts of vineyards as far as the eye can see–many consider this the best wine region of France!

White: 2012 David Moret Bourgogne Blanc

White: Burgundy, France

A trip to a wine maker's private cellar welcomed us to Burgundy. Not too shabby!

A trip to world class Domaine de l’Arlot (not open to the public) and a tasting held by their technical director. Not too shabby!

$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount on a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop

Area: This comes from one of the finest Cru holdings in the region, Beaune. Moret is known as one of the premier white Burgundy producers, using detail-oriented procedures to ensure the finest quality wines. Bliss clients stay in a privately-owned chateau on a vineyard, where we get a private tasting of the wine!

Flavor profile: Notes of honeysuckle, toasted walnuts and Anjou pear greet your nose, with rich fruits, lemon zest, minerals and elegant acidity filling your mouth in waves. The finish is long–peeling away the layers before your next sip.

Pairs well with: Epoisse, a bloomy cow’s milk cheese. Delicieux!

 

Burgundy calls to anyone looking for quiet, history-laden Medieval villages and incredible wines.

Burgundy calls to anyone looking for quiet, history-laden Medieval villages and incredible wines.

2011 Agnès Paquet Bourgogne Pinot Noir

Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir): Burgundy (Auxey-Duresses), France

$16.65 per bottle with the 10% discount based upon purchase of a case at Princeton Corkscrew wineshop

Area: The charming Agnès Paquet is based in Meloisy, in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune. Half of the vines for this cuvée are planted in her home village, the remainder coming from an 85 year-old plot in Volnay, adding depth and structure to the blend. The villages of Burgundy, like Meloisy, are known for their beautiful architecture and history (check out our blog post of what a trip here is like with Bliss!)

Flavor profile: This vibrant, fruit-forward red has a delicate aroma of red currant, cherry, raspberry and vanilla. Its balanced, medium bodied palate offers notes of ripe red fruit, caramel, vanilla and tobacco complemented by balanced acidity and silky tannins.

 

The Rhone Valley is known for its gorgeous castles and stunning hill views.

The Rhone Valley is known for its gorgeous castles and stunning hill views.

2011 Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras

Rhone: Rhone Valley, France

$21.60 per bottle with the 10% discount

Grapes: Primarily Grenache grapes, with notes of Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier.

Area: Climate-wise, the area is strictly Mediterranean (the eponymous sea is only 50 miles/80km to the south) and is therefore blessed with a long, hot, growing season, ensuring maximum ripeness for its vineyards. This, combined with the site’s south-westerly aspect, make it one of the most sought-after viticultural sites in the Rhone valley, which explains the density of vineyards in the area.

Flavor profile: Spice and fullness. After a few swirls of this dark purple wien, notes of blackberry, garrigue and tapenade come forth. The first sip fills your mouth, full of fruitiness, balanced tannins and acidity with a lasting finish. This is the “Grand Cru” of Vacqueyras.

Pairs well with: heartier dishes and meats, such as a good steak. Or, if in Provence –Lamb!

 

Bordeaux is as passionate about its wine as Burgundy!

Bordeaux is as passionate about its wine as Burgundy!

2010 Château Lalande Cru Bourgeois

Bordeaux: Listrac-Médoc, France

$20.25 per bottle with the 10% discount

Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dash of Petit Verdot

Area: The area produces some of the most sought after wines in France. In fact, some of the vineyards in the area resort to picking grapes with tweezers to get the most “perfect flavor.” These growers take their flavor seriously, as do we! On our trips here, we spend a day making our own wine and have cases shipped home. Bragging rights are definitely earned!

Flavor: Aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, and cassis rise from the glass. A little aeration brings out a wonderful balance of berries, plum, and minerality that coats the mouth pleasantly. A short time in oak barrels lends a beautiful silkiness that leaves a full, smooth blend.

Pairs well with: lamb in any form, as well as beef. Parfait, non?

 

Bordeaux's wine collection is no laughing matter!

Now you’ve gotten a good start to a wine tasting of monumental proportions. The next step? Drink them where they were created! Come on one of our “exclusive access, insider” food and wine vacations and visit the vineyards themselves. Make delicious memories! Contact Wendy (wendy@blisstravels.com) to learn more. We have trips to Bordeaux, Burgundy, Provence, Paris and all along the Mediterranean. We have even expanded to Spain!

Why not pair one of our destinations with our insider Paris experiences -like dinner in the home of a Paris chef! This month, our exclusive seasonal menu included the following:

Amuse Bouche of Foie Gras with Champagne
Caramelized carrot soup with quinoa and ginger, with a white Crozes Hermitage from the Rhone
Asparagus with Slow Poached Egg, Hollandaise, with a white Burgundy from Meursault, Premier Cru, Les Charmes 2009
Turbot with Cauliflower Puree and a White Asparagus Emulsion
Rabbit Roulade au Jus, Greens with a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, a Grand Cru Chambertin

Chocolate Cake, Strawberry/Balsamic Sorbet, Olive Oil Powder, with a Sauternes from Bordeaux

A bientôt,

Wendy Jaeger

owner, Bliss Travels

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Tour France; A Couple of Days in Burgundy

A couple of days in Burgundy are eye opening, mouthwatering, and never enough for a wine lover! This region shows off its grapes like no other in the world. Winemaking has been an integral part of the region even before recorded history, eventually earning it the title of Côte d’Or, the “Golden Slope,” because of the sheer number of rolling golden vineyards in the fall, and the value of the wines they produce.

A trip to a wine maker's private cellar welcomed us to Burgundy. Not too shabby!

A trip to closed to the public Domaine de l’Arlot with the the technical director –Wow. Not too shabby!

We hop off the train in Burgundy (almost regretting leaving our comfortable first class seats) and find ourselves in the charming town of Beaune. Walking down the cobblestone streets, we see the iconic tiled roofs of Burgundy, first designed to replicate the homeland of a noble woman from Flanders that the designer wished to woo. An entire region’s architecture created out of love—just like the nectar we have come to taste!

Our little group drops our luggage off at a small private luxury inn, attached to the home of a Burgundy winemaker. We enjoy a personal introduction to Burgundy as we visit his 14th century cellars, located just under our lodging. This is where we learn the unique qualities and process for making Burgundy wines from the expert himself.

We say “unique” because only two grapes represent almost the entirety of production: Chardonnay for white and Pinot Noir for red. The focus here is on the soil and the artful process of winemaking: nowhere else in the world is there such an emphasis on “terroir” and location. What is truly amazing is the variation in flavor that results from these two things. Winemakers here can’t blend grapes (since only 1 of each color is grown), and they can’t blend things grown on different plots of land (or they lose their ranking). “Terroir” is all.

Even the ranking of the wines is determined by which plot of land grew the grape, rather than the winemaker or Domaine. Each bottle bears the name of the plot, each so famous that everyone knows them and what they produce. Everyone in our group eagerly takes in each name to decide on a favorite!

Burgundy creates about 180 million bottles per year, but only 2% of these will get the regal ranking of Grand Cru. We taste about 15 Grand Cru –from Corton Charlemagne (white) to Echezaux (red), to Chambertin (red) and the mythical Clos Vougeot (red).  The flavor and depth have tremendous variety.

Another 12% of production is Premier Cru. These very fine wines are known by their village—Meursault, Puligny Montrachet, Gevrey Chambertin—and the plot of land in that village where the grapes were grown. One of our favorite experiences is tasting a Premier Cru Meursault “Les Charmes” from the barrel. By the end of our 4 day stay, we will have tasted 4 or 5 wines from this very same small parcel of land, all from different years and different wine makers. And, interestingly, we will be able to identify that the wines came specifically from “Les Charmes”—a source of pride for the group. The parcel really does have a distinct flavor, just as different winemakers put their own special mark on each bottle.

This is the intersection of nature and art. Burgundy is where we get to taste how they work together—not something we could do if we were in Bordeaux for example. In France’s other major winegrowing region, the winemaker can take grapes from wherever they want, and often mix different grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot…) in any way they choose. In Bordeaux you taste the skill of the winemaker, instead of a special plot of land or a single grape.

Wine tasting in the cellar is always a favorite memory with our clients!

Wine tasting in the cellar is always a favorite memory with our clients!

Both regions offer incredible wines and memories for wine lovers. There is nothing like tasting a wine at the vineyard it grew in, and we encourage any enthusiast to put the experience on their bucket list!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Atlanta Has a Wine Tasting to Remember!

Sacre Bleu! Bliss Travels owner Wendy Jaeger recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to give some past clients a fabulous wine tasting evening. Featured wines came from Wendy’s personal cache and the vineyards that Bliss Travels visits on trips, so clients could “taste” their memories!

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Bliss owner Wendy Jaeger brought fun stories and years of expertise to the evening.

Peaches Please blogger Morgan Perkins was invited to the evening of reminiscing, and was an enthusiastic guest–and writer! Here are some snippets from her blog post:

“As we sipped on the wines, Wendy explained where each bottle was from, including personal anecdotes about the vineyards and wine makers. This inevitably led to reminiscing by the folks who had been on tours with Bliss Travels. From the sound of it, everyone who had been on one of the tours had a wonderful time. One gentleman even brought a beautiful book of photographs from his vacation and much time was spent pouring over the pictures and memories.

From everything I heard over the course of the evening, going on on a tour with Bliss Travels is an amazing, one of a kind experience. I hope that one day I am in a position to indulge in vacation like that!”

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

Past clients brought books of pictures from their Bliss trips to reminisce.

To read the rest of the article, and see some more of the fabulous photos Morgan took throughout the evening, check out her blog!

Oh Blissful Indulgence- An Evening with Bliss Travels

Thanks for coming, Morgan! We hope to see you on a trip with us soon.

A Bientot,

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Dinner in the Home of a Paris Chef

Tour France: Bliss Travels has dinner in the home of a Paris chef

Have you ever dreamt of dining in the home of a chef in Paris? Maybe learning his/her secrets? Being treated to a special menu and feeling like a local as you sip wine in his living room, or peak into his kitchen?

Of course you have! We all wish we could do this!  Otherwise, how else can you explain the stunning popularity of the Food Network and our cult like obsession with “Celebrity Chefs” (all of whom we all know by name, and whose lives and travels we can intimately discuss, as if they were our own family)?

Our obsession with all things “food” is based upon our desire to get and insider’s exclusive access to this sort of experience! Bliss Travels has had the some extraordinary opportunities to do these sorts of “insider” foodie experiences. Our most recent, and, at the moment, favorite “insider” foodie experience, is our exclusive invitation to the home of a rising Paris chef for a gourmet dinner.  We truly enjoyed collaborating with this chef, formerly of Alain Passard‘s gastronomic Arpege, and loved having our clients visit the charming Paris apartment he shares with his wife and little (bien sur) Yorkie. We spent months creating a custom tasting menu and wine pairings to share with our clients. For sure, this will be something we do again and again! 

Our menu was truly special, as you can see below. An added bonus was the chance to  watch the chef plate his dishes and to enjoy them while learning how he made these signature preparations.  Here is our menu and some of the food photos of this truly “exclusive” dining experience.

Terrine of foie gras,  onion chutney and sauternes gelee with toasts

We paired this with a wonderful Champagne. And we watched as our chef showed us how he prepared this traditional holiday treat. (One of our foodie travelers, normally vegetarian, asked for, and received “seconds” of this dish, which she took for her breakfast the next morning (paired with a great fruit preserve the hotel was serving! Now, how often can you do that on a trip other than with Bliss Travels?)

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Endive salad with red onion, shaved parmesan, lemon, and truffle oil

 A refreshing segue into the meal. The bitter endive and the truffle oil paired beautifully with our Champagne as well as our first white, a white from Burgundy, and one of our most favorite villages, the picture perfect village of Meursault

Meursault, Narvaux, 2009.

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The famous Arpege  “perfect egg“ was our next dish.

I confess that I was so enraptured by the chef’s description of this dish, and dual temperatures of the one egg, along with the taste of this perfectly simple and elegant dish, that I forgot to take a picture!! We paired the egg with our second white, a rich, buttery Meursault Les Charmes 1er Cru, 2009. This was not just a  perfect ‘egg’ it was a perfect ‘pairing’!

Veloute of carrot, with tarragon

was an intense, non dairy carrot preparation made from caramelized carrots, cooked under pressure and reduced to a velvety richness. The two fold preparation of carrot (one caramelized, the other steamed led to this deep dark color. This dish had no meat and no dairy, and yet tasted richer than any beef based stock I’ve tried.

This rich dish led to the last drop of Meursault and a nice transition to our red wines.

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Salt crusted roasted beet root

Next our chef demonstrated how he made this absolutely perfect vegetable, salt crusted, intensely juicy and truly an unexpected star dish! We opened our 2007 , 1er Cru, Pinot Noir from Gevrey Chambertin, made by a winemaker and friend in whose 14th century cellars we get to enjoy exclusive barrel tastings  (We do love Burgundy!)

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Pan seared beef with a parsnip puree, creamed spinach, sweet and sour peppers and a red wine jus

A 2007 Premier Cru Burgundy from Gevrey Chambertin

One client enjoyed this dish so much, not only did she have 2 servings (a nice little perk of being in the home of a chef, instead of a restaurant, but also she said this was the best dish she had ever tasted.)

 

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Last, but not least, a real surprise for all was the dessert

A moist and delicious Olive oil cake, served with stunningly good Greek yogurt ice cream, Nutella powder and chervil

The Nutella powder was the “dark horse”. Nobody really expected to love that –but he made this using a great trick of molecular gastronomy and turned what is (in my opinion) a cloyingly sweet “kid’s” dessert, into a sophisticated delicious (please, sir, may I have more) end of meal. This was served with a fortified sweet wine from the south west of France.

Of course, that wasn’t really the end (it never is). We finished with a big bowl of creme fraiche caramels to take home. Yum! An absolutely Bliss-ful evening we intend to repeat with the next group of special foodies looking for something truly unique.

2013-12-23 11.20.57Let us know what you think. And let us know what dishes you’d like to see in your  “dinner at home with a Paris chef”

A bientôt,

Wendy

Tour France; Live TV Interview with Wendy Jaeger, Travel Expert of Bliss Travels

Tour France: Live TV Interview with Wendy Jaeger, French Travel Expert

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Click here for live TV interview with Wendy

Exclusive access and authentic experiences.
Bliss Travels specializes in giving our clients special experiences they cannot have on their own. (To read what our clients have to say, see the bottom of this post or our website testimonials).

We find special venues; unique, lesser known (or impossible to get into) restaurants; off the beaten path sights;  closed to the public vineyards; stunning ruins…and that’s where we take our clients. We combine the things you know you want to see (like that great Provencal market, or the home of that world famous artist) with the things you never knew existed, or only dreamed you’d be able to d0. Imagine being invited into the home of a chef and ‘hanging out’ while he cooks you dinner, or being asked to dine on the farm of local family, or invited into a tiny restaurant that opened just for you. Sound like Bliss?

629-BlissTravels-Oct2012 Tour France Vacations in Provence

The biggest “problem” we have at Bliss Travels is explaining to new travelers that we are not a big bus tour company. We’re not the people with the rigid “fixed” schedule who require that we see a zillion things from morning to night. We are a boutique travel company and we pride ourself in personalized experiences that are custom tailored to our very small groups of 6-12 travelers.

To learn more about our philosophy and our experiences, watch our live TV interview below. Then contact wendy@blisstravels.com to book one of our “one-of-a-kind” vacations to Paris, Provence, Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Mediterranean…even Barcelona!

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

The markets

Live TV Interview of Wendy Jaeger by Adam Bierman

See what our clients think!

"Thanks again for planning such a great vacation for Jeff and I.  We had a fabulous time and getting engaged on the trip was just the icing on the all ready delicious cake.  We are still wondering how we will be able to go back to drinking the wines we liked before after tasting so many fabulous ones on the trip"

“Thanks again for planning such a great vacation for Jeff and I. We had a fabulous time and getting engaged on the trip was just the icing on the all ready delicious cake. We are still wondering how we will be able to go back to drinking the wines we liked before after tasting so many fabulous ones on the trip”

“Thank you…, for an absolutely memorable vacation adventure. Your planning and attention to detail was absolutely superb. I felt immersed in the culture and lore of the land as you ferreted out exceptional sites for us to explore….Because of your passion for Provence and connections, we were privileged to really enjoy off the beaten path exceptional experiences….”

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“We had a blast on our trip and are still remarking on the joie de vivre exhibited by one and all! Great group of folks, great times and great food! Thanks again…for the splendid memories!”

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“The food (unforgettable meals), the wines (rose’s & your wine tasting), the art…, the people (us tourists, & all the drivers/tour guides), ALL the various places we would never have found on our own, AND YOU and Anthony! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you….we now have wonderful memories….”

Experience Bliss! Contact us now. wendy@blisstravels.com

http://www.blisstravels.com

 

Tour France; Exploring the Arles Outdoor Markets

Provence is known for its laissez-faire attitude, excellent food, and vivid, beautiful landscape. And all of this is captured perfectly in the enormous outdoor market of Arles, France!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome's- you can see the inspiration!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome’s- you can see the inspiration!

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!

"Cafe Terrace at Night" by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

“Cafe Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

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.

Every ingredient is so fresh...it's hard to buy just one of anything.

Every ingredient is so fresh…it’s hard to buy just one of anything.

Under the trees, we shared a beautiful day surrounded by good company, piles of delicious treats and centuries of history. What a day- and what a life! Provence is pure Bliss.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

Tour France; Bulls and Bastille Day in St Remy de Provence

Bastille Day, July 14th, la Fete Nationale…whatever you may call it, anyone in France will agree that it is the most entertaining holiday of the year. And this summer, Bliss Travels and our clients were lucky enough to celebrate with the French in St Remy de Provence during our July Provence trip!

The town square was bustling!

The town square was bustling!

Each region of France celebrates things differently. In Paris, there are Fireman’s Balls, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, and a huge military parade, amongst many other things. Provence has a different take on the holiday, especially in St Remy.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

One of the first bulls to run free in the square

Festivities begin the night before, with a unique tradition. The main square is suddenly sectioned off by a large gate, though the bars are far enough apart that people can squeeze through fairly easily. Everyone–from toddlers to grandfathers–gathers behind the gates, expectant and excited. Some of the bolder young men and boys strut into the unprotected center of the square as a van pulls up to each end of the gates. The van doors open suddenly and, one by one, enormous bulls (or taureaux) burst out into the square, only to be quickly corralled by experts on horseback. They guide the bull to the other end of the square, loading them onto the other van. Meanwhile, the boys in the center chase after the bull, trying to pull its tail and wrestle it to the ground.

Finally, all the bulls are brought to the same van. A brass band plays enthusiastically, the boys in the middle are shooed back to safety behind the gates, and the expectations of the crowd are nearly palpable. All are watching the huge van doors.

Suddenly, they are flung open and the entire herd of bulls comes racing through the town square. The cowboys on horseback chase after them, trying to keep them in line, as the crowd laughs and cheers and sings along to band’s galloping tunes. This carries on late into the night, as it has for decades. Everyone will be sleeping in late for Bastille Day!

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The wine lovers on the trip had fun exploring the cellar

The next morning, as promised, is a lazy one. Bliss Travels guests spent most of it wandering around the local Roman ruins, shopping, or relaxing at the pool. When night fell, we had dinner in a private wine cellar, toasting to Bastille Day and good company! The perfect weather of twilight encouraged us to take our desserts of fresh fruits and chocolat fondant (and wine glasses, of course) outside to be serenaded by a jazz band playing on the corner.

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

The Dancing Marie Antoinettes were a sensation!

Properly satiated, we meandered over to the town square to watch the fireworks with the locals. Afterwards, a large band playing everything from American Top 40 hits, to disco-era medleys, to timeless French classics kept St Remy grooving late into the night. Their Bastille Day song–complete with dancing Marie Antoinettes!–was a huge hit, and the perfect way to end the evening.

Though Bastille Day in Paris is incredible, we almost prefer the quirky and completely unique celebrations in the South of France. Bulls, bands, fireworks, and good food–what better way to celebrate? Come to Provence with Bliss next year to see it all for yourself!

A Bientot-

Bliss Travels