Video of Provence, Mediterranean, Paris

Watch our Video:

Our October trip to Paris, Provence and the Mediterranean.

Just as the song in the video says: you can do anything. Why not follow your Bliss?

You only live once!

Anthony Bianciella (our traveling photographer) produced this video of our most recent trip. It includes shots from all over the Luberon,  the Mediterranean,  and Chateaufneuf du Pape.

Yours Truly, on a Bliss-ful trip

A Bientot,

Wendy

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.

Paris: Top 6 Culinary Treats During the Holidays

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….

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.

foie gras by the “master” (photo by Anthony Bianciella)

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”.

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, 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 on the hen. Sublime!

 (And just as an aside, I have to tell you the most amazing story. I was in Provence, finishing a very small group trip, when a 2 star Michelin chef asked to speak with me to thank me for bringing my clients to his establishment. He asked what he could do for me, and I jokingly said, “you can give me a truffle” and pointed to the huge (and I mean huge) box of truffles sitting a few feet away….He laughed. And a few minutes later started barking orders to people in the kitchen. Within 30 seconds a bag was handed to me with 3 giant black truffles, and a warm thank you. I was in shock –and very, very grateful. I shared my good fortune with the people who had helped make the trip a success, and we used the truffles to make eggs, truffle butter, top pasta, and marvelous sandwiches with cheese. Yum.)

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. Highly recommend this. We visit several of the markets each year. One with art and antiques, one with traditional gifts and crafts…And always some with fabulous gourmet products.

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). One year, I insist, I’m doing this over the Holidays with a group. You don’t know what you’re missing!

Brussels, at Christmas (photo by Sarah Miller Photography)


Paris Postings…What’s Up This Season in the City of Light!

Paris is always beautiful. Paris has an excitement that permeates the air. Whether we’re strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens or visiting the Christmas Markets, there’s just nothing that’s better than a spin through this city.

Where else can you find a 1000 year old church (in which an emperor was crowned) built on the site of a 2000 year old church, which was in turn, built on the site of a temple to Jupiter? Oh, and just to make things a bit better, just around the corner is a place that serves the best “n’importe quoi” (anything) for dinner served with a glass of absolutely marvelous wine….Enough said. A picture is worth at least a few words. So, let’s post some from Anthony Bianciella, our favorite traveling photographer (and the one who will  be chronicling our holiday trip, making DVD’s of the highlights for everyone, and also offering one-on-one photography lessons, tips and help for people taking their own shots.)

Maybe just a little stroll before dark? Or if you’re too tired, a bike ride!

From whatever angle, the Left Bank is pretty close to perfect.But, what truly sparkles with beauty is Paris over the holidays. Not a lot of tourists. Lots and lots of lights. Christmas tree displays, mile long holiday marekts in every corner of town, decorations and different sorts of tress by every monument…

Even in the Chocolate shops! Look! It’s true. This Left Bank shop is a real gem, and quite beautiful over the holidays in particular (when chocolates won’t melt).

Next up…Gourmet treats ONLY served during the holidays!

Paris Hotel Rooms and Holiday Travel Planning!

We are planning our Holiday Paris Getaways.

We are always asked about the Paris hotel rooms. It’s really hard to tell “what you are getting”, especially when you are dealing with different cultures and different cultural expectations. People tell us nightmare stories about the room with the bath down the hall or the beautiful room –that was 40 minutes, and a subway ride– from anything they wanted to see.

So, to help people out, we wanted to post some photos of actual rooms we use, and to describe what people will  see when they turn the key in the door of their room!

We use only centrally located lodging –we prefer the Left Bank, in the 6th Arrondissement or the Right Bank in the 1st Arrondissement for people traveling with us. The hotels are always boutique. The hotels are always 3 or more stars.  We describe them on our website at http://www.blisstravels.com under each trip description. The hotels or Inns are always located in great locations within walking distance to the major sites and great restaurants and cafes. They are always charming and feel Parisian. The “luxury” ones have additional amenities, such as designer products, larger rooms, super luxe baths, and ultra gourmet breakfasts –sometimes even cool jazz bars or other hang out spots!

So, that all sounds good, but the real question is “what do we consider charming, boutique lodging in Paris”? Some of the below. These are what we call “standard” rooms in the 3 star hotels we use. So, if you’re coming to Paris over the holidays with us on one of our Paris Getaways  (http://www.blisstravels.com/parisgetaways.html#ParisTrip ) this is what you can expect for “standard lodging”. theds

Our Inns in Provence are equally charming and even a bit more spacious and luxurious than our standard rooms…

If you are booking our “luxury” lodging, then that includes larger rooms, Bose sound systems, robes, large, all marble bath rooms with special showers/tubs (rainforest showers, and the like), along with sitting areas in each room and many other special amenities, including “over the top” quality breakfasts each morning.

I hope this helps for those of you who have asked! Write or call if you’d like more info! You can also watch one of our client video slide shows on our homepage www.blisstravels.com

wendy@Blisstravels.com or 609 462 6213

5 Fab Tips for Stress Free Travel Days (to France)!

Get the most out of your trip from the beginning, with a little planning!

1. Plan in advance so you can use one of the airlines’ private lounges. If you’re not a high mileage flyer, check with your credit card companies. Some of them offer passes to the lounges if you’ve bought your ticket using their card. Some cards or airline programs offer passes to the lounges for signing up. So, before you purchase your ticket, check out the various offers.

2. How to prepare so you beat Jet lag. If you’re traveling from the US to Europe, start adjusting your body clock. The week before travel, start going to bed a bit earlier and waking a bit earlier. Try going to bed 10-15 minutes earlier each night. Your body clock will be set by 2 or more hours before you even leave!

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