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: Visit Paris with 60 Minutes & David McCullough

Tour France

Visit Paris with 60 Minutes & David McCullough 

The Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist site in the world, and sparkles over the holidays with Christmas markets, Carrousels and its very own Champagne bar.

People often forget the tremendous bond between America and France. Much is made of short term petty disagreements, and not enough is made of the historical ties and lasting bond between the two countries.

Americans have a long time love affair with France for so many reasons. The French helped us gain our freedom. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty. (Did you know there are two replicas in Paris…one in the Luxembourg Gardens and the other in the Seine river, near the Eiffel Tower.)  The French have a culture rich in beauty that many of our founding fathers mined in order to build our own nation. (Did you know that Benjamin Franklin lived in Paris or that he modeled much of Philadelphia, including its city hall, after the city of Paris?)

Paris City Hall is graced by Rodin statuary. Ice skating over the holidays in Paris

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson also lived in Paris, and there is a statue of him along one of the bridges crossing the Seine river?

Watch David McCullough’s interview on 60 Minutes to learn more about how Americans have viewed and learned from Paris over the years.

There is truly much to learn about the connections between our two countries. The writers who were inspired by their time in Paris…Hemingway among them. The publishers and book sellers who made literary history, like Sylvia Beech (a Princeton ex pat who first published James Joyce) and artists from all over the US who have found their inspiration in the beauty of Paris and Provence.

Whether you go on your own, or with us, we know you will be inspired and thrilled by your visit to France.

If a trip to Paris over the holidays is of interest to you, please look at the below photos and contact us so we can answer your questions.

We have 3 rooms left and flexible dates. We do only private events and sightseeing, such as our guided walk through the Christmas markets or our private Champagne and chocolate tasting –or our visits to the market streets. No more than 8 people doing or seeing things at the same time. Below are some photos of typical lodging and meals.


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!

Christmas Tastings….In Paris

How do you spend Christmas in Paris? From the culinary perspective, that is!

First, you must visit the markets for the seasonal treats.And, of course, visit the best pastry shops! We led a pastry and chocolate tasting to taste some of the best of what Paris has to offer….ho ho ho!After walking through the shops and munching on things like millefeuille, lemon tart, madeleines, candied chestnuts, and more, we took a stroll through  the Luxembourg Gardens and St Sulpice. Then we relaxed in our own private lounge, sipping real Hot Chocolate and sampling artisan pastries and a selection of 5 different chocolates and caramels.Of course, we also had “real meals”! Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas. We will. We’ll be dining in a cozy traditional bistro on French fare such as oysters, foie gras, scallops, truffles, lamb, bass and duck…What are your favorite holiday dishes to dine on if you are away for the holidays?

What says “Christmas” to you when you sit at your table? And, what would you try if you were in Paris –during the holidays or any time?

5 Ways to Know: It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like….Paris at Christmas!

1. Christmas Markets…Biensur!

2. Bouche de Noel…Fanciful Christmas specialties in every window!

 

3. Bistrots are all wrapped up like pretty little presents!
4. Pizza is a thing that is served with truffles and sliced potatoes…OMG. You truly do want to lick the window. (The literal  translation for the phrase to “window shop” in French.)5. Macarons –in gold, with decorations, made to look like (yep, you guessed it) a Christmas Tree (or is that Treat).JOYEUX NOEL A TOUS!

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

Christmas in Paris: It Must be Time for Something…

You know –that moment after you’ve had lunch, and walked, and seen “everything”…there must be something else to do or have or see….cause this is so much fun!

So, how do you spend a day in Paris over Christmas week? Well, first you…

1.Find an out of the way, top of the top, Bistrot, with a star chef

2.You walk a mile and take the metro –to get there (and stimulate appetite

3.You order: Oysters Tartare with Cream of Lettuce or some other unfathomable but superb combination of ingredients

4.You walk the Christmas markets all afternoon

buying presents and drinking hot spiced wine!

  1. Enjoy the sights!

    Stay tuned for DAY TWO!

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

5 Tips on how to find a GOOD restaurant in France

Everyone likes to eat well. But, just like not everyone knows how to cook, not everyone knows how to find a restaurant or pick a dish that  meets their expectations –especially when traveling to another country. Given that it’s Thanksgiving weekend (gobble, gobble) and we are only 3 1/2 weeks away from our Christmas week in Paris, I thought a few pointers would be helpful. What I’m saying is particularly true in France –though in general, this could be applied in other countries.

1. Get off the Beaten Track: While you may not be able to find the truly “off the beaten track” spots, you can, and should, avoid the huge boulevards in favor of smaller neighborhood streets. (Unless you’ve decided to eat in a very expensive world class gourmet restaurant, where the chef’s reputation and the gastronomic offerings support that sort of “store front”)  Why? Because the big tourist streets come with “big” rent. That means that to survive, the typical restaurant must make a number of culinary concessions just to pay their rent. They have to turn tables, buy bargain “product”, and, in general, crank out enough business to keep the lights on. So, don’t be seduced by the big, bright restaurant with the large dining room. Find a more intimate setting. You’re likely to have a better (and better priced) meal.

2. Read Menus: What is on the menu? Does it highlight a particular sort of cuisine? Do the dishes on the menu feature seasonal products? Do they have “blackboard” specials, or is everything special, every day? Other than the exceptional chef (who you are unlikely to “discover” as a tourist), most chefs have a particular cuisine that is their specialty, and a few signature dishes or techniques (cooking show video). I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Well, if the menu looks like it’s a United Nations manifesto –you may be dealing with a master of nothing. Also, if the menu seems to be the same 12 months out of the year, providing the diner with the comfort of eating the very same things in December as they eat in June, then it probably relies on packaged, processed or frozen foods. Things simply aren’t fresh year round! And fresh tastes better. Find a chef who knows what he likes to cook, is influenced and inspired by seasonal products and the food will be good. Look at the menu and see if you can identify the type of cuisine and that the products are seasonal.  For example, this Christmas in Paris, our menus will have things like scallops, chestnuts, foie gras, lamb, oysters, and chocolate (not on the same plate of course)!  Why? Because these things are winter specialties. In summer we see melon, tomato, peach, zucchini and similar produce dominate our meals.


3. Similarly, don’t read “English” menus. If it’s been translated, then they are telling you that tourism is their mainstay. You can have people cater to your “American” tastes when you’re back at home, right? Why not try something that speaks to the French culture? Find a restaurant with a French menu, in French, that’s market fresh, and ask them what their specialty is. Order the “prix fixe” (the set menu) even if you don’t know what the dishes are. They will be the market fresh chef’s specials of the day (not the left over meatloaf). Then, order the local wine to accompany the meal and sit back and relax.

4. Look at the patrons. Walk around, especially if you’re in Paris. If you’re in the countryside, you will be able to tell who is dining where by talking to people as well as doing a bit of “sightseeing”. As you stop and read the menus (all menus are posted outside the restaurant) look at and listen to the patrons. First, are there patrons? Second, are they local or tourists? What language are they speaking? If the answer is that the restaurant is full of people who look like a group you’d want to socialize with, and they are speaking French (for the most part), then it’s a good bet that this restaurant has something wonderful to offer! However, it also might be full and require a reservation. The places we go require not just reservations, but relationships. They are popular local spots (or open for us) and they have creative chefs…

And if you want that, then you may have to plan in advance (or come with us)!!! If you’re on your own, you’ll need to know whether “dropping by” is the best way to get a table (counting on last minute cancellations or snagging a late or early table) OR whether making a reservation for the next night or lunch is better. Some of this requires more information than you are likely to have as a tourist, but give it a try. If they’re too full, ask if coming back later or making a reservation for a different date or meal is a better idea.

5. Consider the Source! If you’re choosing your restaurants based upon recommendations –in books, by reviews, or because “someone” recommended it  (friend, concierge, person you meet while traveling), then it’s very important not just to listen to what they are telling you, but to listen to who they are so you know what they know! I don’t know about you, but I would consider a recommendation from a friend who lived in the area, and who was a chef or in the “food” world much more seriously than I would from someone I met while standing in line for a movie! But when people travel, all of a sudden, literally everyone they meet and everyone they chat with, has the “it” spot that they “must” go to! People blindly follow internet reviews or tourist guides, as does everyone else who’s traveling. Sometimes, I think that Air France should offer a shuttle directly from the plane to the restaurant being profiled by the “big guides” and save me the trouble of booking the same old thing for people! Again, if you’re not talking about the top few world renown Michelin chefs, who, of course, everybody knows, then seriously consider the source of your recommendation.

Nobody can guarantee a perfect meal, but find someone local, or in the food profession or with extensive travel experience in France  to recommend the dining experience that you crave. You’re more likely to have a “blissful” experience, than if  just blindly follow your neighbors’ brother’s cousins’ recommendation. Who knows what he considers “good”!

And, then Bon Appetite! How apropos to discuss eating well on Thanksgiving weekend!

Ideas for What to See Over the Holidays in Paris

Holidays in Paris!
Holiday shopping and Christmas markets…
Paris by night over the holidays is even more lit up!
The view is spectacular no matter what direction…Want to see more, watch our Paris Holiday video!This was us last year!

5 Tips on How to Have it All: The Best of Being Home for the Holidays & Getting Away!

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, 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.