Tour France: A Surprise Engagement

Tour France: A Surprise Engagement on the way to Burgundy

A guest on one of Bliss Travelstours through France got the best surprise during her time with us in  Paris!

A toast to the happiest couple!

A toast to the happiest couple!

Janice contacted Bliss Travels a several months ago to come on our wine trip to Burgundy. She was interested in extending the trip –learning more about places to visit in France and about our various food and wine adventures. This was going to be her boyfriend,  Jeff’s first time in France.

Several months later when she arrived in Paris on a crisp autumn day, Janice, blonde, bubbly, and full of smiles despite the jetlag, was still bursting with excitement as she introduced her boyfriend, Jeff, to the City of Lights for the first time.

The happy couple spent the next day exploring one of the most beautiful cities in the world—climbing the Eiffel Tower, strolling along the Seine, and even putting their own “love lock” on the Pont des Arts. But Jeff had more in mind than a sightseeing trip!

The couple eats a gourmet picnic on our TGV ride to Burgundy. Check out that ring!

The couple eats a gourmet picnic on our TGV ride to Burgundy. Check out that ring!

He was a bit nervous –trying to find the “perfect” setting. Should he propose during dinner? Afterwards? At the hotel? Jeff had no idea how things were going to proceed (and neither did Janice). After a romantic candlelit dinner at Le Reminet and Jeff’s favorite, hot chocolate, they wandered back to the hotel. There he resolved that the privacy of their little boutique Parisian hotel was the best place to state his “question”. Once back in their room, Janice was astonished—and delighted—to find Jeff getting down on one knee. “I was so excited, I’m not sure I remembering hearing anything besides ‘Will you marry me?’ ” laughed Janice, recalling the happy evening. But she immediately said yes—bien sûr!

As our little group of 7 enjoyed a picnic on the TGV trip to Burgundy the next morning, Janice and Jeff couldn’t wait to share their wonderful surprise and her stunning ring. As she told us the story, everyone asked if Janice was surprised. Jeff’s response was “nobody was more surprised than I!” I guess when love strikes, there’s nothing much you can do but follow through!

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

A private tasting at “closed to the public” Domaine de l’Arlot. The technical director himself conducted the tasting!

Jeff and Janice, we couldn’t be happier to celebrate your good news with you!  Wishing you years of “bliss”!

Janice wondered "how we will be able to go back to drinking the wines we liked before after tasting so many fabulous ones of this trip."

Janice wondered “how we will be able to go back to drinking the wines we liked before after tasting so many fabulous ones of this trip.”

Felicitations, nos amis!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Wine lovers–stay tuned for more tales from our trips to Bordeaux!

Our group loved exploring vineyards!

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Tour France: October in Provence (video)

October in Provence…

On our recent trip to Provence we visited the Luberon and Chateauneuf du Pape.

What was extra special about this trip though was that people had the option to participate in daily photography workshops/sessions before or after sightseeing, and also that we had professional photographer, Anthony Bianciella traveling with us full time. That meant that he was always there to offer help and advice, or simply take on the spot photos for people. (Isn’t it nice to be in your own vacation photos for a change?)

Of course, before we sped down to beautiful Provence via TGV train, we spent a little time in Paris. Walking, sightseeing, photographing…

and, mais oui, dining -in this case, on the season’s first truffles. Truffles in a creamy polenta.

One of the highlights is always the Provencal scenery. The ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape compete for our attention with the changing colored vines, and the gorgeous Medieval villages… Hard to choose which is the best view.

This particular trip included some light hikes through the countryside as well as the ocher mines, sightseeing in various Medieval villages, and a day trip to Chateauneuf du Pape for some truly remarkable wines from some pretty great vintages (Beaucastel, La Nerthe, Vieux Telegraphe, Barroche…to name a few). Click on the “wine” and watch the video Anthony Bianciella made of our trip so that you can take a “virtual vacation” in Provence.

Our next trip to Provence with Anthony is this May….Everything will be in bloom. Poppies, iris’s, cherry blossoms. It is a gorgeous time of year to go to Provence. Some of Anthony’s Spring photos are below. Click on any of the photos to learn more about our May 2013 trip to Provence. It’s small, custom and pure Bliss!

flower boxes around every corner.

spring produce fills the markets.

poppy fields everywhere.

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

Superb Wine Trips to Burgundy and Chateauneuf du Pape

Our current Grand Cru wine trip for September 2012 (on Lot18) has all but one room sold out.  I expect that one will sell in a matter of days.

So, due to popular demand, we are expanding our Fall Foliage in the Luberon to include an Ultimate Wine Experience:

LUBERON EXPERIENCE:
Fall Foliage in Provence 

(Ultimate Wine Tour too!)
October 18-23 in Provence 

 

Travel off the beaten track and see the real Provence. Experience things most tourists don’t have access to. The trip is led by the owner of Bliss Travels, who has 30 years experience in France, and the itinerary includes a personal pre trip consultation to customize the trips meals and daily activities to cater to the preferences of the travelers.
6 days and 5 night trip. Includes all lodging, pick up and drop off at the Avignon train station, daily sightseeing with private guide, 2 meals per day and wines, and private ground (van) transportation. $2,400 per person for all items in the below itinerary (not including the “Ultimate Wine Tour” below)

                      
Want more?

Have the Ultimate Wine Tour of the Cote du Rhone 
(6 night trip. 5 in Provence, 1 in Paris)
Paris (October 17-18) in a luxurious Left Bank boutique hotel with gourmet breakfast
a Michelin starred meal by one of Paris’ top chefs
a wine and chocolate pairing on the Left Bank
roundtrip hotel/train transfers in our Mercedes van
first class train travel to/from Provence (with a gourmet picnic and carefully chosen wines)
 an exclusive tasting and teaching session in the famed Chateauneuf du Pape
lunch in a castle
a walk through the vines of Chateauneuf du Pape
a multi course gastronomic meal with specially chosen Chateauneuf du Papes and Crozes Hermitage, and, last but not least
a private wine event and tasting of the best Cote du Rhones out there –which you get to help choose! All in the 1400 century cave/cellar, accompanied by a special meal prepared by the chef/owner.
This addition also includes all hotels, all sightseeing, all custom events, and everything in our regular October in Provence trip!
Price: $4,900 per person for all inclusive Paris and Provence travel and all wine events
 

 

5 Reasons Why Burgundy Once Again Surpasses Bordeaux!

Well, it’s official. Burgundy, the Gold Coast wines of legendary quality, are once again the preferred wines of wine lovers and experts alike.

Need further proof of Burgundy’s prominence in the world? Just look at the below results of the recent auctions, as reported by the Wine Spectator:Move Over Bordeaux: Burgundy Steals the Show at Asia Auctions

Recent sales lead top auctioneers to wonder if Bordeaux may be toppled as the premier blue-chip collectiblePeter D. Meltzer

Posted: November 29, 2011What’s top on the buyers’ wish lists? ….all of which have achieved record prices in recent sales. Vintages in demand include 1985, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2005.As a category, the 102 Burgundy listings tracked by the Wine Spectator Auction Index rose 16.42 percent from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011….

There are many reasons behind Burgundy’s escalating popularity. Limited supply contributes to Burgundy’s appeal. “The quantities of great Burgundies on offer are so small that we never get much to sell,” noted Sotheby’s wine CEO Jamie Ritchie. “By value, in 2010, only 17 percent of the wines we auctioned were from Burgundy. The realization that these wines are extremely scarce has created a new-found appetite.”

This is what we’ve been saying for years! That’s why we go to Burgundy. On our most recent trip, we focused on 1999, 2005 and 2009 wines. Yep, that’s right! And they were amazing! The 2007’s and 2008’s needed time and breathing space.

 Harvest in Burgundy. Our annual trip to discover the year’s harvest and tastes wines as they are being made! It’s unique to Bliss Travels !

Springtime in Provence, Paris, and Burgundy Too!

Some photos from last April and May. Our trips to Burgundy, Paris and Provence…A picture is worth 1000 words…or maybe more! I know it was Bliss!

Last May in Provence

We visited a beautiful farm to pick herbs, have a cooking lesson (Provencal cuisine of course) and photograph everything that was in bloom!

Who says you can't have it all?

Anthony Bianciella, our amazing photographer, makes the trip even more fun!

To Market...

And, after the market...in the shadows of a castle

You Here! With a glass of wine, looking at the artists and looking at the sights!

Grand Cru Tastings, by candlelight...It was like a dream!

Charming....what else can we say?

Except…luxurious  original appointments in our private Burgundy property. Only 4 rooms –and our 7 guests adored being spoiled, thoroughly!Murano chandeliers, original antiques…

and specially arranged private wine tours. This was a happy group!
No lines. No buses. We did it all custom and private!

A bientôt! See you all soon….And again! It was Bliss!

Wine Tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape

Our first day was in Chateauneuf du Pape, where it’s all about Grenache! That’s the grape that is used the most in wines from Chateauneuf du Pape. (Though it’s possible to use up to 13 grapes in the wine.) We tried pure grenache as well as wines with various combinations….And tasted them  it in an ancient cave (with Roman ruins) and a beautiful chateau.

 

 


Photography was hard to resist!
Now for three days in the Luberon! It’s simply the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

A private “welcome” dinner prepared just for us. And off to bed for a restful night in a Medieval village.