How to Calm a Grumpy Husband in Paris

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Grumpy husbands and Paris just do not go together. Not when it is a trip of a lifetime that you’ve been anticipating and dreaming about.

You see, it was our first trip to France. I had never really imagined that I would one day  be going to France of all places. It seemed like a fantasy world too far away and too mysterious for an upstate New York girl to aspire to. But then one day, out of the blue, my husband asks, “How would you like to go to France for our ten-year anniversary?” “Yes!” I exclaim. Thus, I started researching, compiling information, dreaming, and expecting it to be everything and more. After all, it was France—a place I had only read about from time to time in the pages of Victoria magazine, a world of romance and charm, far far away.

So we finally arrive in Paris after flying all night and manage to pick up our car rental. I know, it sounds crazy to get a car rental in Paris. But we were heading into the countryside after a few days and thought it would be a good idea. So now, being in a foreign country and not speaking any French, we try to make our way out of the most confusing airport we have ever encountered—Charles de Gaulle. It takes us forever just to find a way out of this maze. We hit the road like we are on a racetrack, cars going 90 miles per hour—insanity!

My stressed out husband is about to have a meltdown. Somehow, we finally make it to the center of the city in search of our hotel. We drive round and round the traffic circles by la Place de la Concorde, being passed by “sweet,” little old french women who are driving 90 miles per hour. We can’t find the street where our hotel is located, and so we continue to drive in circles. Suddenly, to my devastation, my husband blurts out, “I hate Paris!” My heart sinks. I’ve been dreaming about this place for so long. I don’t care what goes wrong. This is Paris! This is France! And we’re going to love it! At that very moment, when my beloved uttered those words, the Eiffel Tower lit up, the tree-lined Place de la Concorde lit up, the city came alive with brilliance and sparkle. We drove in silence.

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Shortly after, we found our hotel. We carry our luggage up two flights of stairs and plop it down in our very tiny Parisian room. It had been a long day. We venture out for our first bite to eat in the City of Light. We don’t make it far when we stumble upon a little crêpe shop. This seems like just what we need at the time, something not intimidating but simple.

So we sit down and decide to order our first crêpes in Paris. Out they come. My husband cuts into his and the rich chocolat just oozes out. He takes a bite, looks up with a smile, and says, “I love Paris!” So there you have it! Just feed a grumpy, stressed out husband a chocolat dinner and all will be good.

À bientôt!

 

Semur-en-Auxois—A Burgundian Jewel

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Without a doubt, Semur-en-Auxois is the most picturesque and photogenic of the Burgundian villages to be explored. You truly won’t be able to put your camera down as you make your way around the ramparts and down to the banks of the River Armançon, which winds its way through the charming village.

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This medieval village has it all—character, charm, prettiness, romance, mysteriousness. Though the smaller nearby village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain still remains my favorite, Semur-en-Auxois is a must see on a visit to Burgundy. In fact, you can combine the two villages on the same day if needed, making sure to go to Ferme Auberge la Grange in Flavigny for lunch.

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One can’t help but get lost in this romantic and pretty village, from the winding cobblestone streets in the medieval center down to the picturesque banks of the river.

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Semur-en-Auxois is about 45 minutes from Beaune and the charming, notable wine-making villages of the region. Near Beaune is where I prefer to stay and then travel out a bit to explore. The villages of Meursault, Pommard, and Villers-la-Faye have all been excellent locations to stay. From there it is an easy and scenic trip to Semur-en-Auxois.

À bientôt!

 

Maubec—Pure Enchantment

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While I love the popular Luberon villages as much as the next person, I’m always on the hunt for the authentic, remote, captivating places that one just dreams about for years to come. I kept hearing mention of Maubec as a small, authentic French village and had it on my list of villages to visit one day. I was not disappointed. It made our top memorable evening experience of the trip! In fact, we returned two more times in a two-week period.

Old Maubec, sitting at the foot of the Luberon, is quiet, mysterious, peaceful; yet it is just minutes away from the bigger villages. It’s the type of place one would love to return to at the end of a day of sightseeing for peace and serenity.

For an unforgettable experience in ambiance, it is an absolute must to arrive in the evening for a simple, delicious meal at la Bergerie, which is a pizzeria with an outside terrace overlooking the vineyard and the picturesque baroque edifice illuminated at night. It is pure enchantment!

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La Bergerie might not be a Michelin-starred restaurant, but the food is very good. Serving delicious, creative pizzas and hearty regional dishes, it’s the kind of place where locals go. In fact, we recognized the cook from a café in Gordes who was there eating with his family. But again, it’s the enchanting ambiance that is memorable.

Make sure to arrive before dinner to walk the mysterious cobblestone streets around the belfry. You will feel like you have gone back in time.

Pure enchantment indeed. À bientôt!

Biking the Route des Grands Crus

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The Beaune to Santenay cycling route is an absolute must—a never to be forgotten experience—when visiting this region of Bourgogne. This 44-kilometer round-trip route will take you into the heart of the prestigious vineyards on the Route des Grands Crus while you pass through one charming storybook village after another.

To start, you can pick up your bikes at Bourgogne Randonnees in Beaune. The friendly staff will help map out your route and provide tips on where to stop for wine tastings. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to bike 44 kilometers while stopping to taste wine along the way. J’aime la France!

After a short distance of cycling through traffic in Beaune, you will reach the peaceful bike route. The first village you will come to is Volnay. It’s hard to resist the temptation to leave the bike route and explore every nook and cranny of these picturesque villages filled with charm.

The next village you will come to is Pommard, which produces some seriously good vin rouge that is described as masculine compared to its neighboring Volnay that produces a more delicate, or feminine, red from the pinot noir grape. Oh so many great opportunities for tasting in this village! But we have a long way to go.

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The winding bike route through the vineyards as you approach Pommard

As the route takes you past Pommard and into the center of the next village, you will just want to pinch yourself. The charming village of Meursault is the most dreamy of them all. Here is where you will definitely want to stop for un café while you sit in the village square in front of the château.

From here it’s down the hill—which means you will have to come back up—and on to Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, where the terroir contributes to the world’s greatest chardonnays being produced. There are ample spots along the way to stop and have a picnic on the side of a stone wall overlooking the world-renowned Puligny vineyards. Or you can have either an elegant lunch at le Montrachet or a tasting lunch at la Table d’Olivier Leflaive, both located in Puligny-Montrachet.

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At this point, if you can still make it on and up the hill to Santenay—or perhaps leave that for another day by car—you will cycle by more beautiful vineyards.

You’ve made it, hopefully. If so, there is another charming square with a beautiful fountain and more restaurants for lunch if you timed it right. We made it to Santenay one time at 1:50 p.m., plopped ourselves down at a restaurant, and ordered just a bottle of wine as a reward before making the long ride back. Of course, this was probably completely unacceptable etiquette. But at the time, we didn’t know any better. Nonetheless, we were served a bottle of wine.

If you can find the energy to make it up just one more little hill before heading back, you will be brought to the most picturesque château—where naturally there is wine tasting—and a fairy-tale-like turret above the village of Santenay.

Now, it’s a long trip back to Beaune. But what a gorgeous ride it will be! And what better way to end the day than at le Clos Carnot, because I think it should be about apéritif time!

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À bientôt!

 

Let’s Escape to the Alsace Today

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One word comes to mind when I think of the Alsace—ridiculous! Because that’s what I kept saying as we visited one Alsatian village after another on one of our yearly sojourns to France. Yes, the Alsace has ridiculous charm! Bordering both Germany and Switzerland, the region is filled with color and character. At the same time, I kept missing my beloved Burgundy with its more subtle, mysterious charms—its single pop of color against the ancient gray stone. Nevertheless, I would go back to the Alsace in a heartbeat. What’s not to love?

The village of Kaysersberg was one of my favorites. I just loved this darling little white house with blue shutters. No doubt it is one of the most photographed houses in the Alsace. It is absolutely adorable!

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Kaysersberg is loaded with charm as you explore the winding, cobblestone streets past brightly painted half-timbered houses with colorful window boxes all nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains along the river Weiss.

The Alsace is a dream for walkers and cyclists with its endless mountain views to be discovered. Next time we escape to the Alsace, let’s talk about the food.

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À bientôt!