France with Maggie

SweetsFrance is an absolute favourite destination for me. It presses all the buttons I love, culture, food, wine & art and so much more!

Air France began nonstop service this spring from Vancouver to Paris, the flight operates daily except Tuesday & Thursday. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the service. In economy class we were even served a nice glass of French champagne. The food was good, and they even had an ice cream service! The back galley had snacks and non-alcoholic beverages that you could help

yourself to throughout the flight. I found flight attendants to be pleasant and very attentive.

Upon arrival at Paris we boarded an Air France bus that took us to Montparnasse station. The bus cost is 17.50 Euros per person per direction (payable in cash to the drivers, however, you can buy tickets online using a credit card and a small discount may apply). It is efficient and cost effective, you need not be an Air France passenger to take the bus and it also serves Porte Maillot-Etoille (central Paris) and also from CDG to Orly.

For more information see: http://www.francetravelplanner.com/go/paris/trans/air/af_bus_cdg.html

Our first night we spent at an adorable new hotel located near the Napoleon museum, Hotel le Cinq Codet (www.le5codet.com). This a small hotel (boutique style) that is very modern. I was lucky enough to stay in one of their loft suites, the bedroom was in the upper part and had a nice soaker tub. The rooms made efficient use of space, spotlessly clean, modern and funky tasteful, I very much enjoyed my room. This hotel is 4.5 to 5 star! Corporate rate in high season will run you 359Euros.

We also toured a lovely classic hotel that was fabulously situated near the Champs-Elysees. The Napoleon, a small boutique hotel was very recently renovated and the rooms are luxurious and well-appointed; much more in the belle epoque classic Parisian style. The hotel has a small spa and does have meeting room space. www.hotelnapoleon.com. High season corporate rate will run at 342Euros, I would say also a good 4.5 to 5 star property!

The Peninsula Paris – This hotel is magnificent, It is elegant, modern but with classic design. Everything in the room is very high tech, may be one of the most beautiful rooms I have stayed in. Rates in high season 950Euros. The website describes this hotel as a modern day palace, I could not agree more. http://www.peninsula.com/en/default

The Sights of Paris

Galleries Lafayette

Lido de Paris – located on the Champs Elysees. Our first night we attended the Lido de Paris, not my cup of tea but for those that like the lavish girly shows it is fun. The dinner and show is approximately $130USD, the dinner is passable. I was surprised that one

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need not dress up, some did but many people just came in jeans.

Shopping- Galleries Lafayette –located at 40 Haussmann in the very fashionable fashion district. This department store is on three corners of the intersection. The original store (dedicated to fashion for women, children, books and souvenirs) is so beautiful it is well worthwhile to go in, the roof terrace affords you beautiful views of the Paris skyline! Across the street you will find the Lafayette Maison & Gourmet (If you are a foodie and you want to gather items for a lovely picnic I recommend that you visit). For men, on the other corner, you will find Lafayette Homme! Keep your receipts, if you spend more than 150Euros the store has a counter that you can have the VAT refunded to you!

Galleries – Time was short so we had the opportunity to visit only one & it was the recently reopened the Musee Picasso is in the Le Marais district, so beautiful and charming! Cost of entrance is 11 Euros, the building itself is lovely!

Taxi

Car Service – the very French way – We used a car service one evening to see the sights and the used a classic convertible Citroen, the car is not built for comfort but is certainly a very fun and exciting way to see the city. Priced for 60Euros a person.
http://www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com/EN/index.html

Wine Tasting – De Vinis Illvstribvs – this is a MUST DO. We were hosted by the charming proprietors: Lionel & Dominique Michelin (they are related to the Michelin star family). The building (16th C) is located not far from Notre Dame in the heart of Paris and on a beautiful cobbled twisted road. The wine tasting takes place in the cellars (so much charm and history). The Michelins purchased the shop from an old gentleman that had served the likes of Ernest Hemingway!

Tastings with dinner start around 120 Euros a person.
www.devinis.fr

Walking Tours – a lovely way to really know a section of Paris you really want to get to be on more intimate terms with. The tours are private and escorted by born and raised Parisians. The tours are generally free with a tip for escort you can give at end, approx. 11 Euros per person
www.discoverwalks.com

Beach

After Paris we were on to the South of France. We took an hour and 20 minute flight from CDG to Montpellier (the flight was on older aircraft, very basic service) where we spent 3 nights. Montpellier is the 3rd largest city on the Mediterranean in the South of France it is a superior wine growing area, the Languedoc-Roussillon region. There is a lovely town square where all the action happens, this is a great springboard area to settle in as you are a 3 hour drive from Barcelona, 2 hour drive to Marseilles & a 1 hour drive to Avignon.

Hotel: Grand Hotel Midi, this hotel is a 4 star property and it opened the day we arrived (after extensive renovations), quite a few bugs to work out, my room flooded! It is has a funky vibe to it and once they are organized I am sure it will be great. High season corporate rates are approx. 290Euros

Recommended Restaurants:

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La Diligence – www.la-diligence.com/en: this is deserving of a Michelin star, wine, food and service – SUPERB, it is charming stone building and they are renowned for their whiskey collection.

La Voile Bleue –www.lavoilebleue.fr – This was a spectacular location, right on the beach, it is a pop up restaurant that changes locations each season. Food was very good but it was the vibe of being open and on the beach, the stark white & fluid blue color of the restaurant really added to the total ambience!

Le Petite Jardin – www.petit-jardin.com – Very charming and they actually did have a garden area that you could sit in. Food was more casual but nonetheless delectable.

SIGHTS TO SEE in the Area

Le Pont Diable – 11th Century Romanesque bridge with fabulous views of the Herault Gorge, they have a huge bathing area at the site

Le Guilame

Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert- a historic beautiful medieval village (Unesco World Heritage Site), it is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France and I have to agree. It is in the mountains and was settled by a cousin of Charlemagne (Guilhem), the Abbaye is stunning and truly feels like a holy sanctuary!

Uzes – A market town and it is one of the most picturesque, where you can buy sheep, tablecloths, fine French milled soaps, fashionable jewelry and clothes and great food. The town is lovely and offers a beautiful Relais & Chateaux hotel, La Maison d’Uzes, www.lamaisonduzes.fr, the hotel is from the 17th century (3 houses amalgamated together), it has a rather lovely spa with a roman bath. Rates in high season around 320Euros per night. I would also recommend the Begude Saint Pierre Hotel, hotel is right near the Pont du Gard (another fabulous bridge and Unesco World Heritage Site), a great site with good canoeing. This hotel is close and offers an oasis, a fabulous restaurant and rooms that are very lovely, a former post house that went through extensive renovations! The owner is very hands on and the service is 4 star plus!

I would not hesitate to do this trip all over again!