Friday, September 16, 2016

Grandiose! How else to describe the Cirque de Gavarnie? A hikers Paradise..

The great Pyrenean limestone circles owe their existence to the work of huge glaciers that have long since disappeared. Gavarnie, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, is the most celebrated of them all. 



 Firstly, imagine the scenery; you are in the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. There, astride the French-Spanish border, is the massif of Mont-Perdu that rises over 10,000 feet in altitude. To the south are the extraordinary canyons of Ordesa, Aniscle and Pineta. To their north, the land of cirques with the majestic Gavarnie and Troumouse, the greatest of all, and Estaube, the wildest. 

 In 1997, this ensemble of more than 30,000 hectares was given UNESCO’s World Heritage Site award, for both natural and cultural reasons. Only 27 sites in the world have received such an award to date. 

Gavarnie has long been a source of astonishment. Its reputation comes from the various explorations it has inspired. Botanists, scientists, romantics, painters, poets and mountaineers in search of exploits or sensations have, since the 16th century, made Gavarnie the cradle of what is known as ‘Pyreneism’. The cirque became legend when Victor Hugo, in his illustrious poem “Dieu”, described it as an “impossible and extraordinary object”, a “coliseum of nature”. 

 Just 1 ½ hour drive from Tarbes/Lourdes.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val - the village where the film, "The Hundred-Foot Journey' was filmed

1 hour and 20 minutes outside of Toulouse is the medieval village portrayed in the lovely film, "The Hundred-Foot Journey' was filmed. 
ere you can discover some of the locations where it was filmed. La Hale is still there ( the covered market) and the cafe de la Halle.
There is a lovely 3 star hotel, La Residence with 5 rooms; ask for the rooftop terrace room.
Drive out to the switchback road to get a great view of the village.


Friday, September 9, 2016

'Icon of Modern Art' In Paris - A must visit for any fan of modern art

'Icon of Modern Art' In Paris this Fall  You will be anxious to explore one of the most radical art collections of its time with The Shchukin Collection in Paris. 

 From October 22, 2016 through to February 20, 2017, The Foundation Louis Vuitton will host this significant exhibition of over 130 pieces with a particular emphasis on the art of Monet, Gauguin, Rousseau, Picasso, alongside works from Renoir, and Van Gough.



The exhibition pays tribute to one of the greatest Art patron of the early 20th century, Sergei Shchukin, the visionary Russian collector of French modern art.

 From the end of the 19th century, Sergei Shchukin, the important Muscovite industrialist, began to integrate himself into the Parisian arts milieu of the era, which tasked itself with defending the impressionist, post-impressionist and modern movements. Shchukin forged relationships with modern art dealers Paul Durand-Ruel, Berthe Weill, Ambroise Vollard, Georges Bernheim and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, and celebrated artists Monet and Matisse. These friendships heavily influenced the formation of his collection, which remains one of the most radical art collections of its time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Before Versailles: Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

For me ( to be honest with you) , forget Versailles and see the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Vaux-le-Vicomte, 45km from Paris in Seine-et-Marne, is one of the most important privately-owned châteaux in France. It is the home of the De Vogüé family, who opened it to the public in 1968 as a way of funding its upkeep – and to share with us the uniquely elegant building and resplendent 1,235 acres of gardens, all designed by the power team of the most celebrated artists of the 17th century: architect Le Vau, landscaper Le Nôtre and painter Le Brun, who then all went on to design Versailles. 

The château bears witness to a long and tumultuous history. Its creator, Nicolas Fouquet, was superintendent of finances under King Louis XIV and an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He surrounded himself with the best painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers. During a fateful celebration in honor of the king, in 1661, the lavish hospitality impressed the royal entourage so much that they declared the fête the best they had ever attended. 

 Outshining the king wasn’t the best policy. Voltaire wrote, “On August 17, at 6 in the evening, Fouquet was King of France, at 2 in the morning, he was nobody.” Whether or not jealousy played a part in what Fouquet was made to endure is debatable, but he was accused of malversation and thrown in prison during a harrowing 10-year trial. 

 The team at Chateau is kept busy enhancing the visitor experience. At a new welcome center, an introductory film tells the history of the château and your visit can be tailored according to the time you have available. 

Don’t miss the magical candlelit evenings when 2,000 twinkling candles light up the home and gardens, or the costumed grand siècle mid-summer picnic, or the Christmas events. 

 TIP: A new shuttle bus is available from the train station, making this a great day trip from Paris.

Friday, September 2, 2016

French Hamburgers? - OK, Don't sneer at that thought - The French Love American Style Hamburgers and have outdone the American's


 One of the forerunners of hearty, cooked-to-order burgers, the Big Fernand is where you go for the most French of French burgers. You can’t go wrong with any of the concoctions, which are topped with cheeses ( great French cheeses at that) you may never have heard of as well as a host of homemade sauces. And if you think you can, just create your own burger, choosing your meat, cheese, veggie, herbs, and sauce. Lines can be long, but the burgers come out quickly.

Bustronome - Paris Fine Dining on a Double Decker Bus as you Tour the Paris Sights

The gourmet dinner tour bus idea might seem a little tacky to you and somewhat of a tourist trap but think of this new way of touring Paris as a fine dinner cruise on wheels.



That’s what the Bustronome dinner tour is about. Enjoying fine French gastronomy as you keep your eyes wide open to capture Paris wonders. 

 Bustronome is first a restaurant with its chef preparing the fresh products in his kitchen on the first level of a modern double-Decker bus. Guests savor on the second level under a dome of glass windows properly seated and served a consistent gourmet level meal, by friendly staff.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Maison Plisson wants to become the Dean & Delucca of Paris

The Marais is full of delights and surprises, many of them in the culinary category. For visitors exploring the neighborhood, Maison Plisson is foodie heaven—think artisanal products from all around France and beyond (about 3,000 of them!), and daily seasonal dishes served in the store’s airy and modern dining room.
From delicious nut butters to pedigreed chickens, from fruit liqueurs to bio wines, from small producer cheeses and hand-cured charcuterie to picture-worthy patisseries, there’s something tasty for everyone! 
 Maison Plisson 93 Boulevard Beaumarchais Open 7 days a week



Friday, August 19, 2016

A different day trip from Paris - Strasbourg.........

If you are spending a few days in Paris and would like to do a “different” day trip, I highly recommend an excursion to lovely Strasbourg in the Alsace region. With the new TGV schedule, the ride is now less than 2 hours! 

 visitors should definitely experience the picturesque Petite France quarter with its waterways and ancient half-timbered houses. The magnificent Cathedral of Notre Dame, begun in 1015, had the largest spire in Europe until the 19th century! And, in contrast, the elegantly modern European Parliament building has been “home” to 785 Euro MPs who have represented the 27 countries of the EU since 2008. Walking around the city and enjoying a nice lunch makes for a wonderful day trip. 

 Or, you can choose to explore the city and the charming Alsatian countryside with its picture-postcard villages, enjoy wine tastings, and visit the medieval Chateau du Haut-Koesnigsbourg. 

 Call or email me for more details Howard.lewis@protravelinc.com 
or 310-691-7486

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Provins - A look back at French History with participation - An easy day trip from Paris back in time.....

A fall in fortune in the 14th century has had its payoff for Provins in the 21st century. Hundreds of years of obscurity meant that this one-time capital of the Counts of Champagne is today one of the France’s best-preserved medieval towns, earning UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2001. 

As a day trip, it’s hard to beat – just 80 minutes by train from Paris, with a multitude of sights to visit, including evening spectaculars that plunge the visitor back into the Middle Ages. The town is the upper part, capped by the 12th-century Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church and Caesar’s Tower and ringed partially by 5km of towering ramparts. Trains run hourly from Paris Est.



On Saturday afternoons, partake in an medieval lunch feast ( recreating a meal of those times) inside 12th Century Vaulted Cellar and to make it even more fun, rent a costume at the lunch event. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ideal Place- 'Angkor Wat' in the French Countryside

Located in France’s southeastern Drôme region, the Ideal Palace is an outstanding monument, unique in the world. This architectural work of art is reminiscent of the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Park Guell of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It was built by Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, a rural postman and self-taught artist, between 1879 and 1912. It's considered a masterpiece of outsider art, and visited each year by thousands of tourists.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Paris Ritz Hotel reopens and 'wow's the public


This week saw the much-awaited grand reopening of the Ritz Paris. The 118-year-old hotel, which closed its doors nearly four years ago, has undergone a €200 million refurbishment which includes a full update on all rooms, suites (pictured above is a grand deluxe room) and bathrooms, plus the world's first Chanel spa. The hotel closed for refurbishment in July 2012 after it failed to win coveted ‘Palace’ status – an award for the finest of five-star hotels in France.
I'll be visiting the hotel in September and will report back
Sophia Loren once said, “The Ritz is the most romantic hotel in the world because a woman really feels a man loves her if he takes her there."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Heritage Paris Restaurants saved by Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse, who's become the successful curator of a small cluster of "heritage" restaurants (Parisian addresses with noteworthy history and local personality) – Benoit, Allard and Aux Lyonnais) added the 1925 vintage seafood brasserie, Rech, to his stable.


The duplex restaurant, a soothing New England like mostly oyster-shell toned decor, it's one of the best places for a serious seafood feast in the city. Skillful young chef Adrien Trouilloud is supplied daily by Jégo Frères, a first-class fish monger in Etel on the Gulf de Morbihan in Brittany, (The best in my book) . Start with oysters or a carpaccio, and then tuck into skate à la Grenobloise or an impeccable sole meuniere (the best in town) – and don't miss the giant éclair for dessert. • 62 Avenue des Ternes, 17th, 


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Chambord - Loire Valley Favorite becomes new again

Chambord is my hands-down favorite of all of the Loire Valley chateaux.
 The one draw back, is that many of the scores and scores of rooms are empty, devoid of furniture. The Chateau is slowly trying to change that, by added period furniture, but its going to many decades to do, Chambord’s extraordinary scale seems to guarantee the château could never be completely refurnished. Nonetheless, starting this July it will be possible to see Chambord as it would have looked centuries ago when the king and his court stayed at the château, thanks to the new, augmented reality ‘HistoPad’. 


Walk into any empty room of the château, and these small iPads, become windows into the past. When a HistoPad is held up inside a room, a reconstruction of the historic décors — tapestries, furniture, etc —appears instantly, with pop up text and multiple interactive details.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Near Bordeaux, is the Dune du Pyla

This beach is Europe’s tallest dune at over 100 metres (350 feet). It’s an hour’s drive from Bordeaux and is literally dazzling. You will shield your eyes as much from the shimmering heat haze as the pristine sand. After you’ve taken in the panoramic views over the Atlantic and pine forests behind, there are miles of beaches to explore along the Bassin d’Arcachon. Take a ferry from Arcachon pier to Cap Ferret ( much like the Hampton's in New York) for the best view of the dune. To eat, head to the oyster cabanes, where fishermen set up tables and serve oysters, prawns, paté, bread and rosé wine.

Monday, May 16, 2016

One final nail in the coffin of the romance of rail travel - The end of Night sleepers within France and Europe.

France is set to say au revoir to the couchette, as the country’s department of transport prepares to withdraw overnight train routes from Paris. The French government, which owns the national rail operator SNCF, has said sleeper trains are too expensive to run; it has withdrawn financial add.
 The news is a further nail in the coffin for sleeper trains across Europe, and a major blow for any travelers trying to reduce their carbon emissions. Overnight services between France and Germany have also been dropped.

Monday, April 18, 2016

After your France River Boat cruise (Ama or Uniworld) , its time to 'down size' and take a French canal Barge

And Burgundy is one of my favorite areas and within Burgundy; the Nivernais canal is my all time favorite. Here is a video to show you the delights of Barge cruising - either taking a larger passenger ( 22 max) barge or rent one with your own with crew!



Friday, April 8, 2016

If you love the movies, as the French and I do, then here is an interesting tour you might consider when coming to the City of Lights

Ciné-Balade offers tours in Paris to discover how Paris has always been a center in the history of the cinema. 

Walking tours with interactive content presented on IPad Walk of Fame Tour Let's find out the movies that chose the city as a set. World famous stars from yesterday and from today left their mark on the splendid neighborhood. Legendary names are being whispered in the luxury hotels, the flagship stores, the squares and the famous museums : Hepburn, Chanel, Astaire. 
                                         ( guide - Juliette DUBOIS)
 Lumiere Tour In this tour, you will discover the mythical figures of the early stage of cinema in France : Méliès, Gaumont, Linder, the Lumière brothers and... the city of Light. What made Paris the birthplace of cinema , Inventors, directors, actors, businessmen all gathered their forces, creativity and money to create the magic of cinema.

 The magic is still alive and today directors keep on paying tribute to this long history. Midnight in Paris Tour Welcome in the Paris of the 20s, Woody Allen's and the Lost Generation's. Just like Gil in the movie, you will be travelling back in time and mythical writers and artists who found in those times a new home in Paris. In the Latin quarter, one of the most frequently shot in Paris, find back the locations and breath the magic and the whim of the New York director.

FYI: Some tours are in French only.................

Monday, March 14, 2016

In the London Telegraph this morning - '30 Places in Europe you must see before you die - The VAR"

This was the lead place to visit - the Var. For the 'right' traveler, this is one of the most magical spots in France and I spent a week here last year and it is truly magical, again, for the  'right' client. That client must crave quiet, total relaxation, satisfied with just sleeping in late, taking a cafe table in a small village and watch the daily French life unfold, wanting to eat well ( please  no- I can only eat gluten-free products here) 
YES! This is what  Provence looked like 70 years ago.
For the right person, its truly special, and for the wrong ( a type 'A' personalty for sure)  'person' they will be bored out of their mind and under-whelmed. 

Here is what the Telegraph wrote:

'Var, Provence, France From the aquamarine waters of the Gorges du Verdon, to the "soul-stirring" sight of lavender fields, the Var is the most beautiful part of Provence - and there's some serious competition for that title. Clusters of stone houses form tiny villages hidden between the weft and warp of winding roads in the Haut-Var, where you can expect good food, better scenery, fewer crowds and a taste of the real Provençal life that brought Peter Mayle (author of A Year in Provence) here in the first place.'

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's Spring-time in Paris ( Well Almost!) and that for any foodie can only mean one thing!!!! - Lamb from the Massif Central

Now at one of my favorite Paris bistros, Allard, they are for a limited time serving organic Lamb from the Massif Central.
It's oven-baked with Le Puy green lentils cooked in au-jus.
At the bistro, you choose the piece of lamb you wish to eat; it will be presented to you before being carved in the kitchen.
If you ever wanted to taste natural terroir in the atmosphere of an old-fashioned Paris atmosphere, than this bistro is for you.

                        To quote Jerome Kern, I love old fashioned things................
'I'm old fashioned I love the moonlight I love the old fashioned things 
 The sound of rain Upon a window pane The starry song that April sings 
 This year's fancies Are passing fancies But sighing sighs holding hands These my heart understands
 I know I'm old fashioned But I don't mind it 
That's how I want to be As long as you agree To stay old fashioned with me'

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

We Offer super custom Sporting events packages - Events/best seats/hotels/private parties access and more....

French Open - May 22 - Jun 5

Monaco Grand Prix - May 26 - 29

Wimbledon - June 27 - July 10

British Open - July 15 - 22

Of course in the USA: The Masters, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Kentucky Derby, US Open and many more



Provence - an old hotel is new again!

At the top of this medieval provincial village in Castillon-du-Gard, located between Nîmes and Avignon, on the doorstep of les Alphilles, a stone’s throw from the famous Pont du Gard, the Vieux Castillon – 4-star hotel that I used to love, but fell on hard time, but hurrah! 

Now the owners of H8 collection ( a young, vibrant group of new hoteliers) , who now also owns some of my other favorite French hotels such as in the Domaine de le Hauts de Loire , le Mas de la Fouque in the Camargue and Hotel Mont Blanc at the foot of Mont Blanc, has reopened in June after spectacular renovations a brand new hotel and yet has kept what made this place so special. 

The hotel now boasts 33 contemporary style bedrooms and suites, sporting shades of white, beige and orange, while straight and sophisticated stone furniture brings an edge of modern elegance. We love its swimming pool, which is apparently suspended in mid-air, its garrigue, vines and wonderful view that can be admired from the terrace. Chef Christophe Ducros’ cheerful cuisine with provincial aromas will delight even the most blasé taste buds.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cafe Constant - Near the Eiffel Tower - A lovely place to dine on the Left Bank

Small, affordable and atmospheric, this bistro is owned by Michelin-starred chef Christian Constant and just 10 minutes’ walk east of the Eiffel Tower. 
It has a zinc-topped bar, tiny tables squeezed close together, a lively fun atmosphere, friendly waiters, and a mix of locals and tourists. Prices are reasonable – €16 for a main dish such as beef stew or chicken – and everything is home-cooked. 
Among the desserts are enormous ice-cream-filled profiteroles, generously poured with chocolate sauce – sensational! • 39 rue Saint-Dominique, +33 1 47 53 7334, maisonconstant.com/cafe-constant

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Horror of horrors - Is this the end of French civilization?

It's a taboo subject for many French bakers, but an increasing number of local bakeries in France are selling croissants which are bought in frozen batches. In fact, some three quarters of croissants sold in France are mass produced in factories,

Monday, February 8, 2016

Club Med in France - NOW before you say anything......

Everyone loves the idea of the South of France in summer. But the reality? The crowds, the traffic, the high prices, the attitude? Not so much.


But at Club Med Opio in Provence--which reopened after a $40 million renovation--it's possible to avoid every one of those height-of-the-season hassles. Call it the kinder, gentler Cote d'Azur.
 Club Med Opio is a great base for exploring the famous hill towns of Grasse, St. Paul de Vence, Mougins and others. Cannes is down below at the seaside, just 16 kilometers away, with Nice and Monaco further up the coast.

The Club’s Excursion Desk organizes sightseeing trips and also works with guests to plan custom sorties. With three pools to choose from, there’s never a shortage of lounge chairs. With multiple bars and cafés, chilly drinks are always at hand.

The 435 rooms (which range from standard to balcony to suite) have cool stone floors, puffy white duvets and shiny red armories. Bathrooms are fitted with creamy stone sinks and showers big enough for two. A plasma TV picks up a few English channels and the A/C blows stronger than the legendary mistral. Club Med Opio offers tennis, golf, archery, trapeze, 4x4 treks, guided hikes, painting classes and other activities, either free or for a small fee. There’s a lovely spa, a well-equipped gym and a few exercise classes each day. A smart shop sells sparkly cover-ups, sunglasses and other resort essentials.

 At the legendary buffet, the chefs work to blend local Mediterranean specialties with “safer” international dishes, pleasing foodies and non-foodies alike. The choices are extensive, in fact, it would be hard to imagine even the pickiest eater going hungry. Local wines are placed on every table; beer, coffee, juice and soda you serve yourself. A second restaurant, at the golf course, offers table service and an à la carte menu.

 Club Med’s all-inclusive policy is a particular treat in summer when local restaurants are crowded and often very expensive. The savings can be substantial: in this part of France it’s common to pay 5€ for a café au lait and 60€ or 80€ per person for a mediocre bistro meal. The Club Med no-tipping policy is a convenience as well.

 If you’re thinking that a stay at Club Med Opio means giving up any of the pleasures of a French country vacation, that’s simply not the case. After a day of hiking, you can kick back on a deep terrace couch, Pastis in hand, and watched the sun set over the valley.

The scents of lavender, jasmine and pine perfumed the early evening breeze.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Art of the Kiss in France - La Bise


In general, gently touching your cheek to your recipient’s while pursing your lips and making a kissing sound does the trick. In Paris, you  start with the Left check (of the other person)  to check and yet in other parts of the country you start on the right!
If not sure, wait for the other person to start first.

. How many kisses: It depends on the region, so observe the people around you and follow suit. 
Here is a map showing regions and how many kisses to plant.