Friday, February 10, 2017

Sèvres porcelain, the grandest of ultimate luxury, artistic ceramics, was favored by European royalty, the aristocracy of the 19th century, and 20th century

Nestled in the picturesque Saint Cloud park outside Paris, the Sèvres factory is a temple to craftsmanship. Some of Europe’s most beautiful ceramics have been made here since 1740. Today, 120 potters use skills and techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation over three centuries

Open to the public in certain areas and a private visit can be arranged in the closed off areas.
The place to stay nearby is the very romantic Inn - Les Etanges de Corot in Ville d'Avray

This is my favorite place to get hidden from the hustle of Paris and enjoy long walks, great food and drink, a wine spa and just a beautiful retreat and yet only 15 minutes fromParis. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A hidden corner of Brittany - The English Cotswolds comes to France

the Brière Regional Nature Park covers a 49,000 hectare surface area. In the heart of this reserve, the Grande Brière Mottière marsh, which extends over 7,000 hectares, offers a series of canals, reed beds, wetland meadows, peat bogs and islands, among which the Fédrun island.

 Boat trips are put on to explore the flora and fauna of Brière. From the bell tower of Saint-Lyphard church, there is a panoramic view of the marsh and surrounding area! 
The Brière area is also unusual in that it is covered with no less than 3,000 thatched cottages!
I love this area and always during my visit, I have lunch at the enchanting La Mare Aux Oiseaux restaurant, located in the heart of the park, the dining room just oozes charm and the cooking of Eric Guerin is not to be missed.




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Food makes people happy....so when it comes to cheese shops in Paris...

L'Elysee Palace ( The French White House)  and I agree that Nicole BARTHELEMY'S cheese shop is one of the best places to go and buy your cheese. It's open 8:30am to 1pm and then 4pm to 7:15pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

La Verna Cave - The Largest Cave system in the world and can hold 10 Cathedrals the size of Paris Notre Dame

..and one can fly a hot air balloon inside also.................

Located about 45 minutes outside of the city of Pau ( next to the French Pyrenees ), it can be visited almost all year.


Follow in the footsteps of the first explorers, accompanied by a qualified caving guide and ardent enthusiast of the La Pierre Saint-Martin cave system. Starting from La Verna, this visit is a good introduction to caving. The narrow passages - where crawling would be required - can be avoided, but the terrain is rough, without paths. The visit takes you 
upstream all the way to another big cave room: 



Monday, February 6, 2017

The Highest train in Europe - Southwest France

The Petit train d'Artouste is a narrow gauge tourist railway situated in the French Pyrenees close to the Spanish border, some 55 km (34.2 mi) south of the town of Pau. 

The line runs high above the headwaters of the Gave d'Ossau, and provides access to the Lac d'Artouste, a semi-artificial lake in the mountains at an altitude of over 6,562 ft 

 The train runs from late May to late September. In July and August it runs from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and until 3:00pm at other times. Advance booking is advisable. 

To reach the train you take a 10 minute cable car ride from the Lac de Fabrèges. The train ride takes about 50 minutes and it’s then a short walk to the Lac d’Artouste. 

 Please be aware that in peak season you are only able to stay at the top for about 1 ½ hours.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Crown Jewel of French Seafood - only in Season!!! La Coquille Saint-Jacques

Considered to be one of the most elegant shellfish in the world, scallops are truly the jewel in the crown of St-Brieuc bay in France. 

In France as in other European nations, food is only served in the time that it is in season, unlike America, where you can get any food you want at anytime, even thought its not the best outside of its season. Hurrah for the French!

Harvesting this delicious seafood is a veritable race against time, as not only is the scallop-fishing season only open from October to the end of April, but even during the season, fishing is restricted to 45 minutes twice a week, to protect the species. And so the fishing ports of Erquy, Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Paimpol take it in turns each year to organised the Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques, to mark the closing of this intense fishing season.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to eat French Cheeses - a minefield of etiquette in France

Today in France, there are over 400 cheese varieties and the French are the largest consumers of cheese in the world.  Not having cheese everyday is like the French saying " A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye,



a Cheese being made is only one part of the a story, from there it needs to be aged properly and that's called Affinage and there are shops that buy the cheese from the producers and then age it and these are the only people to buy from.

As far as etiquette, cheese with a meal is always eaten after the email meal and before dessert. One never eats cheese with crackers ( in France) but only with bread, normally dark bread. Also, when cutting cheese there are strict ways of doing it and not, but the most important is when you are faced with a pie-shaped cheese, you never cut the nose off ( the most favorable part) but cut it at an angle so everyone gets a slice that had part of the nose. 
With soft cheese, the French also eat the rind ( another very favorable part) and with the hard one, most do not, but you'll get points with the locals if you do. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

La Tour d'Argent, a French Institution Makes a Comeback

One of the great pleasure in my life was always dining at the formal restaurant, La Tour d'Argent overlooking the Cathedral of Notre Dame and having one of their numbered ducks.  Founded in 1582 and run in the 20th century by the Terrail family, it was the place, for once in your life to dine at. Having three stars for so many years, after the Death of Claude  Terrail, it slipped from three to two to one Michelin stars and was the place to avoid , only visited by tourists and the food was lacking.
Today, under then leadership of chef Philippe LABBE, he has brought back brilliance once again to the kitchen. The duck is still there plus a host of new dishes for the 21st century.



The service many tell me a bit to formal ( I love that!) 
The restaurant has become an excellent place to dine again and the views? WOW!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

French King Louis XIV sure knew how to party - explore that history in Paris only for this winter time.



This exhibit—running through March 26—explores how Louis XIV used entertainment as an instrument of power. 3D images help recreate the dazzling spectacles which took place on a daily basis at the king’s lavish palace. 

A trip to the Château de Versailles is also an opportunity to try chef Alain Ducasse’s elegant new restaurant, Ore, which is located in the recently renovated Pavillon Dufour.

Monte-Carlo: A Unique Luxury Shopping Experience



Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer presents an all new shopping experience in the Boulingrins Gardens, just a stone’s throw away from the Place du Casino. The Monte-Carlo Pavilions consist of 5 superb pebble-shaped spaces, with a total surface area of 2,500 m², large enough for twenty shops. With their rounded, futuristic shapes, the pavilions are located between the avenue de la Costa and the Place du Casino. All pavilions are unique, each with a different shape and size ranging from 220 to 600 m² and a ceiling height of maximum 10 m. The temporary pavilions are meant to last 4 years, which corresponds to the duration of the renovation works at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and the Sporting d’Hiver.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lascaux 4 opens in December to rave reviews

A new replica of the stunning Lascaux cave paintings was unveiled Saturday in the Dordogne region of southwest France, more than seven decades after the prehistoric art was first discovered in Montignac, the village at the foot of the hills where the original cave complex is located. 

The new project dubbed "Lascaux 4", which opens to the public on Thursday, aims to recreate the sensations experienced by the four teenage boys who found the cave on September 12, 1940. The spectacular prehistoric art is thought to be 18,000 years old and has been on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites since 1979. 

But tourists have been kept away from the original site since 1963 because the carbon dioxide they exhaled was damaging the paintings, wreaking havoc with the cave's fragile ecosystem. And the early work preparing the site for visitors had also disturbed its environment more than the authorities anticipated. "Lascaux 2", an earlier copy of the site, opened in 1983, but it reproduced only 90 percent of the cave's wall art, 

The new version marks "the first time that we've reconstructed the entire Lascaux cave", "Lascaux 4" took a team of 30 workers four years to complete at a cost of 66 million euros 

. Housed in a half-buried building of concrete and glass, it replicates the dimensions, the artwork and colors of the original cave.

I visited Lascaux 2 this year and was wowed! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Taste of Telline - - Unforgettable.

One of the most emblematic foods of the Camargue ( south of Avignon in Provence) is the telline, a small, flat, pearly shellfish, pale yellow and violet inside, found in estuaries providing a mix of salt and fresh water. According to tradition, these delicious mollusks were first fished and eaten right here, so long ago that no one remembers when. They were traditionally found buried two to three inches down in the sand and gathered by workers walking backwards, dragging baskets with built-in rakes. It’s a pleasure to eat these delicate shellfish. They can be found in regional markets, washed and cleaned of sand, and on the menus of many restaurants. They’re often served as a nibble with aperitifs, or as a starter, with an olive-oil mayonnaise thinned with a little of the cooking water. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cassoulet -a gift from the French gods...

Cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole originating in the south of France,, the home is in Carcassonne ( the largest medieval city in Europe) containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck pork skin and white beans 
The dish is named after its traditional cooking vessel, the cassole, a deep, round, earthenware pot with slanting sides. The best place in France to try this classic dish in at Auberge des Lices ( in Carcassonne).


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.