Tour France; Bliss Travels is the Feature Article in France Passion Magazine!


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Bliss Travels is so pleased to be featured on the front page of this luxury editorial magazine, which is owned and operated by the French Tourism Bureau! Read the rest of the article right here and get inspired by the author’s musings about our “insider” Provence travel experiences.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square on Bastille Day.

One of the first bulls to run free in the square on Bastille Day weekend. And that’s “no bull”!

One of our favorite meals is outside at a farm overlooking the Luberon valley!

One of our favorite meals is outside at a farm overlooking the Luberon valley!

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch just outside of van Gogh's Provencal sanitorium.

Bliss clients also enjoyed a beautiful late lunch in a private walled garden in St Remy before joining the public festivities and visiting Van Gogh’s Provencal sanitorium.

We are so excited about our Provence trips this summer. Enjoy 5 nights in the stunning Luberon region of Provence having the benefit of our exclusive access, and then live it up for 3 nights of festival activities or along the Mediterranean staring at the crystal clear water. Enjoy fireworks, bull fights, running of the bulls through the streets, community dances and markets. In addition to the special festival events, this  sophisticated town is home to an archeological dig, Roman ruins,Van Gogh’s residence, as well as wonderful boutiques, museums, galleries and sights. Not to mention an abundance of specialty wines and gourmet meals!

Our summer trips to Provence are some of our favorites for a reason. Come tour France with an insider!

A bientot,

Bliss Travels

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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

Tour France: Bastille Day Summer Celebrations in Paris & Provence

Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

Bastille Day celebrates the formation of the French republic and the overthrow of the French monarchy. This is traditionally symbolized by the storming of the Bastille (the Parisian prison) on July 14, 1789.  While there were many reasons for the revolution, the most well known and emblematic  is the excessive royal life that Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette led at the court of Versailles.

The pivotal moment that Bastille Day celebrates is the freeing of the prisoners from the Bastille. There were, in fact, very few prisoners in the Bastille at that time, so the significance of that event was more symbolic than actual. Each year, this holiday, much like our own July 4th, is celebrated with fireworks, parades, village festivals, huge Provencal markets, music and dances –and of course, the flying of the tri-color flag.

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The tri color flag is a reflection of the motto of the French republic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité — liberty, equality and brotherhood. This was one of several mottos used during the time of the revolution. The Fete Nationale (National holiday) is the largest annual celebration in France.

Paris attracts huge crowds for the celebration. Pedestrians and people picnicing fill every last space on every Seine river bridge, and along the banks of the Seine. They fill the parks around the Eiffel Tower as well. It is a party that begins in the morning with parades and goes late into the night with fireworks and public balls, live music.

 As spectacular as Paris is, and as big as the celebration around the Eiffel tower is, I have to say that the countryside is even better. There you can see fireworks over 100o year old villages, experience festival markets and surround yourself with authentic  ambiance in a way that is not possible in big cities (no matter how beautiful).  The advice of Bliss Travels: Enjoy the best Medieval Provencal village or Mediterranean “fete” possible for this holiday. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and often feels like time stopped  500 years before you arrived.

There’s a reason every major impressionist and post impressionist painter traveled there to paint!

Van Gogh’s interpretations of the countryside give one a sense of what it feels like to be in that “world” over a major national holiday.
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One of our favorite places to celebrate Bastille Day is St Remy, home of Van Gogh –and setting for many of his paintings. The celebrations here include markets, fireworks, bull fights, parades and music.

The markets wind through almost all of the streets of the old village. They fill every small square, and the periphery roads as well.

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Vendors give out tastes of their products. A sure sign that they are proud of what they are selling. In addition, during the celebrations surrounding Bastille Day, there is music and street performers all over.

The bull fights that take place over the national holiday in France are a game during which the bulls are not hurt (though, often, the participants do suffer some injury). The game is called the “course camarguaise” and involves taking a rosette from the horn of the bull and getting away before the bull can hurt them. The participants leap over the wooden fence that surrounds the main area of the arena while their team mates distract the bull. There is also the herding of the bulls by the “cowboys” and the running of the bulls through the streets of the town. This is a major reason to celebrate Bastille Day in the South –these unique events simply don’t happen in Paris!

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Herding the bulls through the town. The horsemen ride practically on top of each other to keep the bulls locked in their place. Their riding skill is amazing.

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Along with the Camargue cowboys are parades on horseback with traditional dress.

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The celebrations lead to group parties and meals –the Aioli is one of the most common (and best)!

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Tour France: Vacations in Provence and the MediterraneanDSCN0867If you want to learn more about what Bliss Travels does on Bastille Day or for other summer village festivals, contact us now! Hope to see you in Provence this summer!

Tour France: What is Bastille Day in Provence?

Tour France: What is Bastille Day in Provence?

Bastille Day –July 14, is the day the peasantry stormed the Bastille (Paris prison). The revolutionary spark was presumably lit by Marie Antoinette’s suggestion  about the starving peasantry to “let them eat cake.” Of course, we’ll never know her real intent. And, truthfully, by the time the Bastille was “stormed”, there weren’t many prisoners left. However, the day has become a major celebration in France, much like July 4th is for us in America.

Paris is lit up. There are parades, military services and fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. It’s truly a sight. But, we find our Bliss in Bastille Day in Provence.

If you tour France and have the chance to visit Provence on Bastille Day –you can find:

Stupendous special markets with special street fairs and fun fair attached to them

Group meals with Provencal specialties that entire towns attend (and you can too)

Running of the bulls through the streets

Bull fights (but not the kind that hurt the bulls)

Outdoor “toasts”

Parades

Evening balls and outdoor dances in town squares

And fireworks over stunning Medieval villages.

We have one such trip planned –and it’s going to be a once in a lifetime –probably 6 person –visit to Provence –where we spend a weekend doing all of these things–as well as wine tastings and a stay in the Luberon –the most beautiful part of Provence.

Tour France: Find Out About Summer Vacation in Provence (Bastille Day)

Tour France: Summer Vacation in Provence is spectacular.

Sunflowers. We stopped by the side of the road to photograph the sunflower fields.

Provencal Markets –All sorts of great foods and treats (see our earlier blog about how to shop the markets).

This particular Lavender field was a field we walked to –it was in a hidden, off road place. Up in the hills are Roman ruins that are not excavated, and also below –about a 1/2 mile walk is a watering hold where we went swimming. Not a tourist spot at all. In fact, a local friend showed it to us.

And, Bastille Day! What is Bastille Day and what are Bastille Day celebrations like?

See our next post. We’re going to tell you all about the fun activities and what you can do in France during BASTILLE DAY 2012.

A Bientôt,

Bliss Travels!

Provence (Luberon) Special July/August Itineraries!

A perfect week in July or August –These are truly special travel itineraries with exclusive access to events and activities not available anywhere else. One for a week of festivals, fireworks and bull fights. The other for a week of Luberon experiences with option to attend photography, painting or cooking lessons. Tell us what you would do differently (or in addition)! wendy@blisstravels.com

Bastille Week  Day 1: Tuesday, July 10th

–           Pick up Avignon 2pm and transfer to Provencal inn in a Medieval village.

–            A selection of local aperitifs and a privately guided walking tour through a medieval village and private tour of a 1000 year old church, not usually open to the public.***

–            3 course, gourmet “welcome” dining experience at an authentic Provencal restaurant.**

Day 2: Wednesday, July 11

–            Gourmet breakfast

–            Private transport to a perched Medieval village. Explore the ruins and the church, and wander through the gardens below. Panoramic views of the countryside

–             Private wine tasting of wines from Chateauneuf du Pape and  lunch in a 500 year old bakery not open to the public. The chef prepares a  4 course gourmet menu, specially designed by Bliss Travels. ***

–            Visit an artisan jam and sorbet maker in her home garden behind her olive grove and vineyard. Learn how this artisan works and taste her products.

–            Visit a winery and museum (The nearby village is where Peter Mayle lived when he wrote “A Year in Provence”.)

­Dinner on your own

Day 3: Thursday, July 12

–            Gourmet breakfast

–            Visit the largest antiques market outside of Paris to shop and stroll the stalls. And, visit one of the deepest springs in the world. Tour the spring and the nearby ancient paper mill **OR

–            Or,  take the morning to relax then spend the afternoon in a cooking lesson with a famous area chef, followed by a multi course gourmet dinner**

(Private transportation and translation/guide provided for both. 6 people for antiques market required.)

 Day 4: Friday, July 13

–           Gourmet breakfast

–           Tour a village designated as one of France’s “most beautiful” during  market day and visit the restored Chateau. Learn about the village’s illustrious history (home to Albert Camus and Henri Bosco)**

–           Special gourmet picnic on the Chateau grounds, and a tasting of area olive oils and goat cheeses will be included with the picnic**

–           Afternoon back at your hotel to relax, shop, hike or sightsee

–           Dinner on your own

 Days 5 and 6: Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15

–            Gourmet breakfast, with fresh baked breads and croissants, jams, local fruits, yogurt, coffee/tea and juices

–            Go to St. Remy for Bastille Day for the weekend festivities

–            Check into a luxury boutique property in the town center.  (Hotel has private gardens and a pool with magnificent views)

–            A private guide to take you through the sites and also help you to choose things you can do on your own

Weekend festivities include:

–            Markets and street fairs

–            Bull fights (Tickets must be ordered in advance)

–            Running of the bulls in the streets and cowboys herding the bulls in the streets (You will be accompanied to these, and all the traditions will be explained)

–            Parades and evening dancing

–            A group meal hosted by the town (eat with the locals)

–            Fireworks

In addition, you may tour the galleries and museums with a private guide or independently.  Nostradamus lived in St Remy. Van Gogh lived and painted in St Remy (his sanatorium is in the village). There is an important archeological dig and there are Roman ruins in several locations nearby.

–            Celebrate with a tasting menu at a Michelin starred restaurant. Dinner and wines included

Day 7: Monday, July 16

After breakfast, you will be taken to the Avignon train station where our trip ends.

All inclusive Provence:  and  $3,100 (without antiques market trip) to $3,300 per person in a double room.

–ONE room at $2,900 per person.

609 462 6213. wendy@blisstravels.com

AUGUST ITINERARYspecial extras, painting lessons by a renown Provencal painter, photography tips and on the spot sessions, hikes, Roman ruins and independent time to relax!

This trip is exclusive to a private group of 12 until the end of April.

Sunday, August 5:

-Pick up in Avignon at the TGV station. Private transfer to hotel/inn with stop for an olive oil tasting, at a working olive oil mill originally used by the Romans

-Privately guided walking tour through a medieval village, and a privately guided tour through a 1000 year old church with foundations made of Roman stone (not usually open to the public)*** (optional photography lesson)

– Have a gourmet dining experience under the stars

Monday, August 6:

–        Breakfast, with fresh baked breads and croissants, jams, local fruits, yogurt, cheeses, cereal and coffee/tea and juices.

–        Private transport to a tiny Medieval village. Hike to the top of the village to visit the ruins, and the church, or wander through the gardens below. You will have panoramic views of the countryside

–        A private lunch in a 500 year old bakery, opened just for use –with a specially planned meal of 3 courses and local wines (and an optional private wine tasting in the cave –no charge). ***

–        Visit a 2,000 year old Roman bridge and learn about the Roman roads in the area (optional photo tips)

–        Dinner on your own in the village

Tuesday, August 7:

–        Breakfast.

–        Learn to paint***/**** or have 1 on 1 photography instruction.  Capture the Provencal landscape with a renown Provencal painter or with our professional photographer

–        Local color: a 2 course café lunch at a local cafe

–        Visit the Bories village (ancient structures)  or hike the cedar forest.

Wednesday, August 8

–        Breakfast, with fresh baked breads and croissants, jams, local fruits, yogurt, cheeses, cereal and coffee/tea and juices.

–        Visit the local Ocher mines.  (This is where Provencal pigments are found). Take one of the walking tours and then explore the art in the village and enjoy a lunch on your own.  (optional photography session –color)

–        Afternoon/evening on your own to wonder the village, swim, hike or relax.

Thursday, August 9:

–        Breakfast

–        Option for a  second painting lesson or photography session*** /****

–        Lunch on your own

–        Private transport to a village designated at one of France’s most beautiful. Learn about the village’s illustrious history (home to Albert Camus and Henri Bosco). Tour the beautifully restored chateau

–        An early dinner in the form of a gourmet picnic on the Chateau grounds is included** and you have the option to remain to hear a piano concert in the Chateau that evening.  (Additional cost for tickets, and tickets are limited and subject to availability)

Friday, August 10:

–        Breakfast

–        Visit the local Provencal market set up outside your door.  (If you are traveling as a family, the kids/teens will have their own outing to the market this morning.) (optional food photography)

Choice to:

visit a secluded family run Auberge, built into the base of the cliffs that surround you.  Enjoy an authentic, traditional Provencal lunch and sip the local wines. Afterwards, you can hike through the ruins of a fort more than 1000 years old.

Or,  spend the late afternoon in a cooking lesson followed by a multi course dinner with wine pairing. **

–        (For families, kids/teens can also have a special local cooking lesson of more kid friendly specialties followed by their own dinner at the inn).***

Saturday, August 11:

–        Breakfast

–        Tour the largest most beautiful market in Provence. Pick up your gifts and favorites for a picnic on the train back to Paris.

Private transfer to the TGV  station in Avignon where our trip ends.

 Priced from $2,900 per person, all inclusive Provence.

609 462 6213. wendy@blisstravels.com to get on the list for a spot.

 

5 Reasons Why July 10-20 Are the Best Summer Weeks in Provence!

The best time to go to Provence. People always ask me that. The answer –well, apart from “anytime” –might not surprise you. For summer time, the best time is July 10-20. And here are my  top reasons:

1. Bastille Day in Provence! Paris is Paris. And Bastille Day is quite an event. But, in Provence, in certain towns and small cities, they have the running of the bulls through the streets. Imagine sitting at a cafe, having a rose, or coffee, and watching the French cowboys herd bulls through the Medieval streets. The boys and young men jump the barrier and chase the bull trying to hold onto his tail. And there are bull fights (the kind where the bull is not hurt.)

2. Fireworks over a castle or ancient fort. When the night sky lights up a castle and then the fireworks pop up over that, that might even be better than the Eiffel Tower. (This is a hard choice to make!)

3. It’s prime festival season. There are wine festivals, village fetes and all manner of special celebrations. Even a melon festival! That means there are parades, special markets, special tastings and lit up village squares where you dance the night away!

4. The best beach weather! The Mediterranean is great in July. The weather is great. The excitement level is wonderful. The sky is blue. And there are street shows to watch almost every evening -as you have your dinner outside looking at the sparkling sea.
5. Lavender. Need I say more? You are assured of lavender all July –and first half of August (depending upon the weather that season. And you are assured of lavender related festivals and special events!

Of course, we love Provence almost all year round! It’s Bliss!