At long last we are happy to announce the publication of Intoxicating Greater Paris: Loire, Valley of the Kings. The Loire is one of the most beautiful valleys in France. It's home to 300+ aristocratic châteaux (castles) sprinkled like Renaissance jewels across the countryside just an hour by train outside Paris.
Built by the kings and courtiers of yesteryear, these fabulous estates are now open to the public. But not just for sumptuous tours and memorable dining--but also for weddings, garden shows, Christmas celebrations, and romantic overnights.
Among my favorites are: Chenonceau, the pretty women’s château much loved by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de’ Médici; stately Chambord, François I’s king of castles with 425 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases; Chaumont, the fantastic castle and queenly host of the International Garden Festival; Ussé, Sleeping Beauty’s castle where Charles Perault’s princess still awakens to her true-love’s kiss; Azay-le-Rideau, the diamond estate on a lake, and dozens of others.
Along the way, we visit the pretty towns of Tours (the cradle of the French Language), Amboise (the handy tourism enclave), Blois (regal center of historical Loire); modern Orléans (Joan of Arc and noted jazz locale), Saumur (equestrian and Cadre Noir haven), Chartres (home to the famous cathedral), and Le Mans (24-hour auto race darling that attracts fans the world over).
But there’s more! Did you know that some of the most famous wines and cuisine in France come from the Loire? Chinon, Sancerre, and Vouvray are some of the wine stars of the region. And yes, we also taste some of the Loire's memorable cuisine like chèvre goat cheese and mushroom tarts, famous dishes like Boudin blanc, Canard au Muscadet, and Jambon de Sancerre plus much-loved desserts like tarte Tatin. But not just as appreciative diners! We’ll take some cooking classes and learn the secrets to French cheese and macaron making too.
We’ll fly the Loire skies in a hot-air balloon, cycle the pretty byways along forests and vineyards, hike and picnic at the burbling river’s edge, and wander the most splendid gardens and mushroom caves on the planet. Come and join me in my journey, along with local expert Christy Destremau American-French owner of France Off the Beaten Path Tours, as we bring you the delights of Intoxicating Greater Paris: Loire, Valley of the Kings.
We invite you to sample the Loire delights in our new book now available on Amazon worldwide and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ePub formats. We also include tour guide and tour package recommendations for visiting this area of France. Among these are France Off the Beaten Path Tours at https://www.traveloffthebeatenpath.com.
France Off the Beaten Path Travel helmed by American turned French mom, wife, and travel pro Christy Destremau, offers popular tours for groups, couples, or individuals who long for an unmatched, hands-on experience in France.
Endorsed by Forbes, Travel & Leisure, Fodor's, and Conde Nast among others, I can add my own two-thumbs-up to the long list of raves for these stellar group venues.
Christy, and her knowledgeable guide staff, are all English speakers who live in France by the way. In 2016, the company celebrated 22 years of five-star small group, walking, gourmet foodie, wine and cultural tours exclusively in France.
One of the elements I particuarly like is the all-inclusive packages that Christy offers to popular locales in Provence, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, and Champagne. (All of these are reachable by high-speed train directly from Paris or London by the way where you meet your tour guides upon arrival.)
Each inspiring itinerary is geared to the best of the region. Plus all guests are afforded deluxe transportation, superb historical hotel accommodations, sumptuous French meals, classified regional wines, and cooking classes delivered by celebrity Master and Michelin-starred chefs in their professional kitchens.
The best part is the insider information and hand-on personal experiences guests receive as they travel the region. Guests get to tour the private wine caves in Bordeaux, for example, often with owner-experts.
They go deep into the Champagne caverns in Reims to sample hundred-year-old bubblies that sell for thousands.
They enjoy shopping at the street marchés and quaint villages. They learn cooking tips from chefs who sometimes become friends for life.
And since Christy and her staff take photographs of every aspect of the tour, guests go home with a four-color electronic album with them as the "stars" of their trip--plus memories and stories for a lifetime.
I can highly recommend these France Off the Beaten Path tours--whether you're a single, a couple or a group who wants to sample the delights of France. Go to https://www.traveloffthebeatenpath.com to learn more about these fun tours, as well as dates and rates.
I get asked often what my favorites are when visiting Paris. So here's my 2016 list:
Breakfast: Angelina’s, Poilâne, Erik Kayser, Bread & Roses, Coffee Parisien, Frenchie to Go
Lunch: Angelina’s, Framboise, L’Avant Comptoir, Les Cocottes, Taillevent, Les Fous de L’île
Bistros or Restaurants: Bistro Paul Bert, Cuisine de Bar, Le Timbre, Ma Bourgogne, Septime, Georges, Chez Paul, Aux Lyonnaise, Le Fountaine de Mars, Le Soufflé, L’Estrapade, Chez L’Ami Jean, anything on Rue St. Dominic on the Left Bank
Medium-Priced Hotels: Lyric Hotel, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel Langlois, New Orient Hotel, Hotel Beaubourg, Hotel Madeleine Plaza
High-End Hotels: Four Seasons Hotel George V, Hotel Le Six, Hotel Luxembourg Parc, The Ritz, Hotel Plaza Athénée, Mandarin Oriental, Le Bristol Paris, The Peninsula Paris, Le Meurice, Park Hyatt Paris (go to any of these for an aperitif to “live the life” if you can’t afford to stay overnight)
Apartment Rentals: parisaddress.com, parisstay.com, parisvacationapartments.com, vrbo.com
Museum Must-Sees: Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou, Grand Palais, Petite Palais, Rodin, Carnavalet, Pantheon
Walks: Paris-Walks, Discover Walks, New Paris Tours, Hidden Paris, CityFreeTour
Sights: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre, Champs-Élysée, Arc de Triomphe, Luxembourg Gardens, Marais, Catacombs, Palais Garnier, Versailles
Shopping: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Le Bon Marché, shops along Rue Saint-Honoré, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and any place on the Left Bank
Street Markets: Rue Cler, Raspail, Mouffetard, Bastille, Montorgueil
Things to know:
· Say hello (bonjour), goodbye (au revoir) and thank you (merci) in French each time you enter and exit a Paris establishment
· Take an inexpensive walking tour or red bus tour of Paris to get oriented
· Look for brides & grooms. This IS the wedding destination of the world
· Be patient; the culture enjoys a leisurely pace
· Wear good walking shoes
· Bring wash cloths (they don't use these in France)
· Have euros with you when you arrive so you don’t have to find an ATM or bank right away
· Get a Paris Museum Pass in advance to save time and trouble
· Stay at accommodations near the main area you want to visit
· Use the Paris Metro app to get metro directions fast
· Stay alert and avoid big crowds
· Avoid on-the-street ATMs in Paris
· Walk up the Eiffel Tour—faster then standing in line (take the elevator down)
· Eat at least one high end meal, then try medium-end, low-end, and street crêpes to sample all that Paris has to offer food-wise. And of course don't miss the street markets where you can buy goodies for a picnic, then enjoy your lunch perched on a wall overlooking the Seine. (It's free!)
· Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy jazz or a wine bar. Try O Château or Le Bristol
· See my book Intoxicating Paris for more tips on maximizing your enjoyment of Paris
In the wake of new terrorism in the Brussels Airport and the user-friendly metro (I’ve been in both), I felt it was time to comment. I will be in Paris and the Loire in June. I will be in London, Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Paris in October. And I may be in France for the holidays. Bottom line? I will not be deterred from showing up in the places I love. But I WILL travel smart. Here are some tips for discerning travel.
1. Travel light and move rapidly to your destination. Mobility is your friend—and schlepping loads of luggage is no longer chic or prudent.
2. Have backup copies of your passport, driver’s license, tickets, etc. in at least two places. I also keep a set “in the cloud” so I can access my details even if my phone, computer, or laptop are inoperable.
3. Learn emergency phrases you might need. In France, these might include “Help me” (Aidez moi) or “Stop bothering me” (Arrête de m'ennuyer).
4. Look for police or military in your immediate vicinity; they will assist you if you need help or direction.
5. Stay savvy. Have your bag or valuables in front of you not behind you in some huge backpack. Don’t become so engrossed in conversation that you forget to be aware of your surroundings.
6. Wear good shoes in case you have to move quickly. Don't panic, get yourself to safety.
7. Avoid big crowds or stay on the outskirts of a huge gathering. Go early or go late to avoid throngs of people. Buy city or museum passes to allow you quick entry so you don't have to stand in line at various sights.
8. Have fun and enjoy your right to travel no matter what. --PJ