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.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Epiphany in France and for food lovers that means only one thing - Galette des Rois

Yesterday was Epiphany In New Orleans, my friends buy King Cakes and in France it’s the same, Galette Des Rois. They’re called Pithiviers, named for the town in the Loiret (south of Paris) where they allegedly originated and is how I know them and eat them often when I am there in the region.. 

There are two kinds of Kings Cakes in France; one is layers of puff pastry filled with almond cream, and the other is a circular yeasted cake, more popular in the south of France, festooned with colorful, sticky candied fruit, ( the kind you’ll find in Nawlins). 

Although the ones from the south look more festive, there’s something appealing to me about munching on flaky, buttery puff pastry with a layer of crème d’amandes stuffed inside.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Biking and hiking in France with Butterfield and Robinson - Just the best way to tour the amazing corners of France

The luxury biking/hiking company, Butterfield and Robinson has many programs that cover France and for anyone ( even people like me who are not that much into biking) is a great way to see the French Countryside with a great guides, wonderful state of the art bikes, fabulous inns and hotel and meals in Michelin restaurants and as George and Ira Gershwin once penned,'Who could ask for anything more!'.
 Among the many places that I love in France, an area almost unknown to most tourists, are the islands of France off the Atlantic Coast. Among those in the know, the Ile d’Oléron and Ile de Ré are the most famous and fashionable islands along the French Atlantic Coast, nestled secretly between Brittany to the north and the vineyards of Bordeaux to the south. This is a land of flat seaside biking, sail boats and enough oysters to make for one shucking good time.
 I vacation here often and its like the feeling of being on Cape Cod, but just less people and more quite and cozy.


Also, I love the area of Eastern France known as Alsace, which I visit often..







Monday, January 4, 2016

Salt - no one today including some French chefs, no longer salt their food enough, and it drives me crazy!!

One of my favorite BBC television shows, was 'Pie In The Sky" starring the late lamented actor, Richard Griffiths as Detective Inspector Henry Crabbe,  a long-serving police officer in the fictional county of Westershire, England. Although very much his own man and an independent thinker, he is not a maverick, nor has he any particular neuroses; indeed, Crabbe is a highly intelligent, gentle and thoughtful man of high moral principle. On the other hand he does have one passion in life: food. He dreams of retiring from the police to run his own restaurant serving good English fare. The show focused on his crime solving abilities and also his cooking at his restaurant, "Pie in the Sky'

One of the things I loved about the show and his character, was that when he ate out, he always brought along a lovely salt shaker which he used a lot, because the food was not properly salted. You laugh, but I don't, because I find most restaurants I go to in the United States, I find there is a lack of salt in their cooking and most dishes albeit look wonderful, taste flat. 
What the heck is the matter with chefs today? I have begun as of late, taking my own salt shaker and using it quite often on meals that I am served. 
It's not just me, David Lebovitz of France fame, also takes his own salt shaker and as  I, finds even in France, the chefs are not using salting properly. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Its France, Its Astaire, Its Hepburn - what can I say...............



This finale musical number by Ms Audrey Hepburn and Mr Fred Astaire in the 1957 Paramount Pictures' Funny Face is one of the most endearing,revering,and inspiring romantic scenes ever photographed on the silver screen.The entire sequence (set in the picturesque Le Chateau de la Reine Blanche) is remarkably interspersed with brilliance,elegance,exuberance,jubilance,and romance. Ms Hepburn's beauty and poise (in her Givenchy's well-designed bridal silk gown) are solidly stunning. And Mr Astaire's charm and fervor (as the leading man and the dance master) are validly defining. 'S wonderful! 'S marvelous! That they should care for me! 'S awful nice! S' paradise! 'S what I love to see!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One of the most beautiful areas and hotels outside of France - OH My Gosh, I can't believe he said that?

Just across the border in North-Eastern France is the lakeside city of Lausanne ( known in France as Lac Leman). Here on this most beautiful lake you'll find anywhere in the world, is the sophisticated hotel Beau-Rivage Palace. It's one of my favorite hotels in the world.


Located in 10 acres of private gardens, the Beau-Rivage Palace commands breath-taking views across Lake Geneva to the majestic French Alps beyond. It's a WOW!!!!
All 168 magnificent rooms, including 34suites, are fully equipped with the latest technological features. The spacious individually decorated rooms with elegant furnishings and high ceilings are a hallmark of all accommodations. Most of the rooms have superb views of Lake Geneva and the Alps beyond. 


Their restaurants provide guests ample cuisine from which to choose. The gastronomic restaurant "Anne-Sophie Pic at Beau-Rivage Palace" holds 2 Michelin stars. The "Café Beau-Rivage" serves brasserie-style fare. The refined sushi restaurant "Miyako Lausanne" offers you exquisite sushi prepared on the spot. The Lobby Lounge welcomes you in a contemporary yet cozy ambiance. The BAR provides a retro-chic atmosphere with delicious signature cocktails. In the adjacent sister property Angleterre & Residence, "L'Accademia" offers fine Italian cuisine and boasts one of the best terraces in Lausanne

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Markets in Strasboug..The Christmas Capitol of France and just the MOST marvelous place to spend a day for a few days during the season

If you are going to be in France during December, it is worth your time to stop in Strasbourg, a picturesque city in the Alsace region...what a magical Christmas atmosphere! It deserves its reputation as the 'Christmas Capitol' of France.



 The Strasbourg Christmas market is a vast outdoor public space spreads all over the Old Town which sells anything to do with Christmas. It is locally called Christkindelsmärik (Marché de l’Enfant Jésus) and is one of the oldest in Europe. In 2014, the Christmas market of Strasbourg was voted “Europe’s best Christmas Market”. The little stalls made of wood (called châlets) sell decorations, local products and craftsmanship, without forgetting “vin chaud” (mulled wine), Christmas cakes, biscuits and gingerbread.

 Since the opening of the new high-speed-train between Paris and Strasbourg in 2007 (TGV Est-Européen), which links the two cities within 2.45 hours, a day spent in the capital of Alsace’s market has become an extremely popular outing for Parisians.