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: 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)!

photo by Sarah Miller Photography

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!
Tour France Paris for the holidays

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

 

Tour France: 5 Tips for Holiday Wine & Cheeses Combos

5 Special French Wine & Cheese Pairings for the Holidays

There are so many great French cheeses, and so many great French wines. It’s almost too much to contemplate. However, we decided to profile the ones you are less likely to know about, and which, not coincidentally, go best with our favorite wines –those wines being Burgundy whites and reds, Provencal roses, Chateauneuf du Pape reds (and whites), and Champagne….(The pairings also have a seasonal element to them. The first and second pairing are ones we prefer over the holidays, while the 3rd  is a fall favorite. The fourth reminds us of Provence in the spring and summer. And the 5th is a fall and winter treat to have anywhere!)

1. Chaource: Chaource is a creamy cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind that is made in both Champagne and Burgundy. This cheese has been made since the 14th century. When ripe it gets extra creamy and almost liquid. It’s a great cheese for those who like creamy cow’s milk cheeses and want something with a rich, balanced flavor. Pair it with Champagne –which is a wonderful combination –the creamy rich cheese and the sparkling wine. Or pair it with a Chablis. The ideal way to have this cheese is after a wonderful roasted Turbot with beurre blanc. Drink with Champagne –preferably in Champagne or Paris , in nice chilly weather over the holidays!

2. Comte: Comte is a pressed cooked cow’s milk cheese. The young ones are fruity with a softer, pliant texture. The older ones are crystalized and have a stronger more sharp flavor. And if you find one that has been properly aged, it’s an unbelievably delicious cheese. The flavor of a great Comte is quite complex and hits you in different places on your palate. We have been lucky enough to find a cheese monger in Paris, who, over the holidays, carries a 48 month old “holiday” Comte that is truly remarkable with a full and deep complex flavor and crystallization that adds crunch and interest. It’s a remarkable find. This wine goes well with either a very light red (Beaujolais) or a very rich white (a full, rich, oak, Burgundy) in my opinion.

3. Epoisses: Is a stinky (really) raw cow’s milk cheese that has been washed while aging in a Marc de Bourgogne (a form of brandy from Burgundy). It is amazing. Because it is a raw milk cheese, you can only buy it in the US if aged more than 60 days. Thus, the best Epoisses is still found in Burgundy. Many people will tell you to pair this cheese with a red wine, since it is strong. However, I think the best pairing for this cheese is a white Burgundy. A full, round, buttery one. Try a Meursault Les Charmes, 1ere cru.  Or for more minerality, a Puligny Montrachet. And, do try it in France if you can! Every time we go to Burgundy, I make sure to have this cheese with a wine that fits this profile. We are never disappointed by this combination.

4. Banon: This is our absolute favorite Provencal cheese! It is primarily made of  goat’s milk which is washed in a marc (from Provence) and then wrapped in Chestnut leaves that are tied with raffia. Legend has it that it has been made since the first century A.D. This goes nicely with the scenery in Provence, which is also that old! When it is younger it has a creamy, slightly crumbly texture and a mild flavor. As it ages, it becomes creamier and runny. Both versions are delicious. This cheese pairs nicely (bien sur) with a Provencal rose. Also, though a crisp, slightly sweet white works. This cheese is best served with fruit before dessert, but is also good on a green salad as a starter or light lunch. We have a special cheesemonger we go to in one of the area markets who sells Banon “bien fait” (well aged and runny) and “moins fait” (creamy and younger) –at an astoundingly reasonable price. People line up 10-20 deep at the market just for her cheeses. They are Bliss!

5. Roquefort: Is a sheep’s milk cheese aged in caves with a strong flavor profile. It can be paired with a variety of wines. I like it with a Chateauneuf du Pape or other Rhone red. The full bodied reds compliment and stand up to the cheese. Of course, you can also have this with a port or other slightly sweet drink at the finish of a meal. Think about Roquefort served with roasted pears or figs –or even a fig confit — slightly sweet fruit breads or oat crackers and port. Yum.  Wonderful varieties of Roquefort can be found in the U.S. Pair it as we did below, with a Chateauneuf du Pape, Beaurenard 2007! Wow.

A post Thanksgiving gift of Chateauneuf du Pape and cheese reminded us of this past October in Provence! What a treat.

Have a Blissful Holiday Season!

A Bientot,

Wendy

5 Tips for Getting Lowest Airfares: Great Airfare Sales for the Holidays

5 Tips: How do you find the best airfares? 

Here are some tips to share:

1. Kayak.com –This is a great search engine if you know how to use it. Input your  area airports (not just the single specific airport) and then use flexible dates. A matrix will appear and you can see exactly what your options are. For example, if you are leaving from New York City and going to Paris -make sure to input “New York -all airports”. You may not want to go to Newark or JKF, but if the fare is $300 lower, you just might find you feel differently.

2. Search nearby departure airports. In the NY area, we are not far from Philadelphia. That means that for minimal trouble you can fly from Philadelphia too. Sometimes the smaller (relatively speaking) airports cost  significantly less. Almost all the flights from Philadelphia to Paris were $1000 roundtrip and they were NONSTOP!

3. Search nearby destination airports the same way. If you are going to Paris, why not fly into Orly? It’s small. Customs takes 5 minutes (really) and it’s closer to Paris than Charles de Gaulle, so transport is cheaper. When I did this search I found a $900 flight from Newark to Orly. For $900 you can arrive in Paris Christmas morning and stay until the 30th –and the flight was a nonstop!

4. Expand your definition of “nearby”. European destinations are often very very close together… a train ride away. For example, I just searched Newark to Brussels. Why? Because a train ride of a little more than an hour is all that separates those two cities (and Brussels is quite beautiful over the holidays). The fare was $850 roundtrip for a nonstop. That is amazing.  I do this for a living, and I haven’t seen this fare level in several years!

5. Keep track of sales. When you see one airline go on sale, that means the others are likely to follow suit, maybe not that day….but soon.

On this point, it’s important to remember the immortal words of Bogart…

“If you don’t get on that plane, you’re gonna regret it…maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.” 

So, take that trip! Wherever you decide to go! “We’ll always have Paris….”

The flight sale prices we saw to London, Paris and Brussels were all in the $850-$1,100 price range, and were roundtrip, included taxes and fees and are sold directly by the airlines. Contact us if we can be of assistance. These are great deals. The best we’ve seen in a while, so if you want to go to Europe, don’t delay!

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.


Tour France: 5 Tips for the Holidays in Paris, revisited!

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

 

Reblogging last year’s tips for holiday travel

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 or between Christmas and New Year’s, 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.

Paris for the Holidays: Tips & Travel Bargains

Tour France: Paris for the Holidays: Tips & Travel Bargains

Paris sparkles over the holidays. In so many ways. We find it pure Bliss and the best way to celebrate. Below are tips for bargains and beating the mad holiday travel rush.

Traveling over the holidays can be exciting –and a great deal. As the New York Times points out, holiday travel bargains can be found by checking flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and keeping your schedule flexible. In addition, they point out that purchasing 8 weeks in advance is ideal for airline bargains.

Trusted traveler programs also help make your trip easy and pleasant. Global Entry (apply through the US Government sites) can help you bypass long customs and immigration lines. While others may wait hours, you can proceed to a kiosk where you are allowed to use the automated system. This typically takes less than 5 minutes.

There are also “trusted traveler programs”. If you qualify, these can help you navigate airport security so much quicker!

The same sort of “ease” is true for vacations and hotels if you book early. Booking early can get you great deals and save you time and trouble later in the event that your favorite activities book up. If you book trips where transfers and activities are included, you will often save money and always save “hassle” and time.

Visit the big things: Notre Dame for Christmas mass –just for the experience. And the Christmas markets for hot spiced wine, delicacies, crafts, gifts and little trinkets.

 

But, don’t forget the less obvious, less touristic things. The holidays are a food and wine lover’s paradise. Champagne, oysters, scallops, foie gras, roast meats, truffles and chocolates…all winter fare. Don’t miss out! Try the French hot chocolate, thicker and less sweet that what Americans typically have. Try the homemade chocolates and seasonal pastries (we always do a private tasting and wine pairing over the holidays. Yum.)

And of course, non chocolate desserts!

And truffled pizza, mais oui! The best ever! This is really Bliss –in our opinion! Let us know if we can help make your holidays special.  Contact us now for great travel deals during or after Christmas.

 

Versatile Blogger Award

BLISS TRAVELS NEWS HAS been nominated for its first award! I hope you’ll read our blogs and look at our videos and give us more fabulous feedback!

There are three requirements:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

Wow! Thank you   MegTraveling for that nomination. I’m new to blogging, but just couldn’t stop myself from writing about the things that make me follow my Bliss! I enjoy your posts too!

2.  Reveal 7 things about yourself.

7 things about Bliss Travels:

I named it that because it’s True! I followed my Bliss to France!

I’ve been traveling to France for more than 30 years and find something new every single trip!

I’m hopelessly energetic about my topics and even dream about them (embarrassing)!

Our real focus is food and wine, even when it isn’t!

I’m camera shy, even though we do photography trips and people are always snapping my picture.

The people I work with are people I like –otherwise I don’t work with them.

I become friends with my clients. I can’t help it.

3. Nominate and link to 15 bloggers.

I’d like to nominate the following bloggers for their excellent photography, writing, topics and insights!

NicoleMillerPhiladelphia.blogspot.com

writingfeemail

Becoming Madame

Victor Tribunsky

http://anthonybphotos.blogspot.com

La Petite Pastry Monkey

Cushiontheimpact.wordpress.com 

Anuneduatedpalate.com

ENOFYLZ

Gusta.com/blog

On A Pink Typewriter

.emilialiveslife

Wineguys Radio and TV

SarahMillerPhotography

allyson, recipe ranger

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!

Black Friday Travel to Paris for Christmas Sale!!!

dFor Black Friday only, Bliss Travels is offering any of it’s Paris trips for sale at 10% off the retail price, if a deposit is made by the end of  Black Friday (anytime between now and the morning of Saturday November 26, 2011). The Ultimate Gift…Paris over Christmas at almost $1,000 off for two people!

That means $460 off for Paris over Christmas, per person! Must make deposit via paypal from the website by November 26th. Contact wendy@blisstravels.com  with questions.
Marketing never looked so good! Stroll with us, wine in hand.

 Enjoy the holiday in a new way!

Discover Bliss Travels – a personal, small group experience.