An Alpine Village With European Flair

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Dreaming of getting away to a winter wonderland and being nestled in the snow-dusted landscape of a charming, remote French village—perhaps in Bourgogne, Alsace, or Annecy—with nothing but the sound of bells going off every hour and the crackling of a fire enticed me.

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Pure bliss. I almost had my husband convinced. If only the price of an airline ticket was not so high, perhaps my fantasy would have come true. Instead, close to home, we found Alpine charm with some European flair in the Adirondack Mountains—Lake Placid. What a delightful little mountain village!

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Lake Placid is well known for hosting the Winter Olympics in both 1932 and 1980. It is a popular destination year round for outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy skiing, hiking the 46 High Peaks, ice skating, rock climbing, and a host of other activities. The main street of the village is lined with shops and restaurants all along the smaller—yet oh so charming—Mirror Lake.

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The Mirror Lake Inn is the place to enjoy a meal in the most elegant setting with a view of the lake. There are two restaurants, the View and Taste Bistro, as well as an informal place right on the lake called the Cottage, which is a good place to get a snack or a light meal to warm up with after outdoor activities. We loved the elegance of the Taste Bistro and thought our meals were pretty good—not Fournil good of course, but still good. However, the atmosphere was five star.

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The Lake Placid Lodge, which is a member of the Relais and Châteaux association, looks like the place to go for a special meal or occasion. We stopped by for a glass of wine in order to check the place out and get a view of Lake Placid itself, since the lake is more hidden and secluded than Mirror Lake. Quite a special place! We had a peek in the wine cellar, which is used for private dinner parties. We were told that much of the woodwork was salvaged from Burgundy of all places.

We, however, stayed in the inviting Dartbrook Lodge in the scenic Keene Valley, not far from Lake Placid. Designed and furnished by local artisans, the lodge has beautiful, rustic cabins and suites in the style of the Great Camp tradition.

We chose the South Center House, which was very nice and cozy. Since we were the only ones staying at the lodge, it was perfectly quiet. I would probably pick the Halcyon House next time, which is detached and thus more private. The Ausable River runs right along the property, making for dreamy winter walks.

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There truly is much beauty to be found and appreciated in all parts of the world. No blue shutters here. But a lovely Adirondack color!

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À bientôt!

A Discovery at the Top of Bonnieux

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One day while taking a walk up the very steep road behind Bonnieux, I saw signs for la Bastide de Capelongue and Édouard Loubet, Relais and Châteaux. Curious, I kept walking. I continued up past the village and onto a side road. I soon came to the grounds of a gorgeous resort. As I discreetly explored the grounds, I saw across from the bastide a sign for la Bergerie.

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The electronic gates were open, so I made my way in. What I found was a cozy, intimate restaurant set on the beautiful grounds of la Ferme de Capelongue, which is a more informal part of the bastide. La Bergerie restaurant looked outstanding! I excitedly made my way back down the hill below the village of Bonnieux to share my discovery. I made a reservation and back we went.

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Not only are the grounds beautiful but the inside of the restaurant is gorgeous, rustic, and inviting. Arriving at 7:00 p.m., naturally we were the only ones there. This is France of course! The waiter was hysterical as he told us that he still needed to get dressed but to go ahead and have a seat on one of the cozy couches and he would bring us an apéritif shortly.

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While we enjoyed our apéritifs with delicious tapenade and bread, we were brought two chalkboards showing both the menu of the day and suggestions of the day.

At 7:30 we chose a table and ordered a bottle of wine from the domaine of Édouard Loubet, which we thought was wonderful! For our first course, we chose le melon de Bonnieux et jambon and sardinillas de Galice à l’huile. Now, I don’t normally like melon, but this salad was delicious! Provençal melons of course!

I guess I got distracted and forgot to photograph properly our main courses and will spare you the photos of half-eaten plates, but we chose la belle entrecôte Charolaise and pavé de saumon. The salmon rated highly with the dish I had at le Petit Café. Along with our courses, we were served a side of ratatouille and gratin de pommes de terre. While the chefs cooked right in front of us, baskets of freshly baked bread were being brought out from a separate kitchen.

We certainly didn’t need dessert. But with an ambience like this, we were in no rush to leave. So we ended the night with la tarte du jour and tiramisu.

La Bergerie was a highlight of our recent trip, and we hope to return again.

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À bientôt!

The Most Romantic Village of the Luberon

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Here’s a tip! When your husband asks if you would like to be dropped off in the village of Lourmarin for the day, you just say “Yes!” You don’t question it. You just go. You won’t be disappointed.

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Romantic is the best word to describe it. Classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France, Lourmarin is intoxicating. It’s a place that instills a need for one to return to again and again, each time discovering a little more. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves along with shady plane trees and charming cobblestone streets filled with cafés, restaurants, and boutiques, it is pretty much every female’s dream.

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If you can break away from relaxing and people watching at one of the many enticing cafés spilling out onto the streets to walk up to the Château de Lourmarin, otherwise nicknamed the Villa Medicis de Provence, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views looking back on the village. This picturesque Renaissance château offers tours and has many art exhibitions and concerts in the summer months. Gorgeous olive groves are behind the château and country lanes to meander.

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On the way up to the château, why not stop off at les Caves du Château to taste the wonderful regional wines of the Luberon. The Château Fontvert is also located right nearby for tasting.

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An absolute must is to visit Lourmarin on Friday—market day! This is perhaps the best market in the Vaucluse department of Provence. Live music in the streets and adorable baby goats to pet all add to the excitement as well as gorgeous linen aprons and fabrics and stand after stand of deliciousness.

Visit the village of Lourmarin and experience the intoxication yourself.

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À bientôt!

Histoires de Bastide—A B&B With a View

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On our recent two-day French Riviera adventure, we stayed at the amazing Histoires de Bastide in the most charming of villages, Tourrettes-sur-Loup. After much online searching and scrutinizing of every bed and breakfast in the Côte d’Azur, we settled on this one, and boy was it a find! I selfishly don’t want to share but want to keep this all to myself because it was that good.

Histoires de Bastide is a guest house on the side of a cliff with a stunning view of the village and of the sea off in the distance. It is made up of four guest rooms, two on the second floor and two on the first, all with the same amazing view that will make you think you have crossed the border and gone over into Italy.

The gracious owner, Sandrine, who lives just a short distance away, comes over in the morning to prepare a delicious breakfast with fresh croissants, breads, homemade jams, and fresh-squeezed orange juice all served on the outside terrace with a view that makes it hard to leave. Yet, the sea beckoning in the distance awaits.

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Histoires de Bastide was a perfect base away from the hustle and bustle to further explore the French Riviera. And the village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup? A medieval dream we’ll talk more about next time.

À bientôt!

Goult—A Secret Luberon Gem

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While most tourists visiting the Luberon head right for the spectacular villages of Gordes and Roussillon, there lies tucked away in a world all its own the quiet, refined, and classy village of Goult.

Classy is the word to describe this quaint little village with its photogenic little square of plane trees, ancient buildings, and the lively Café de la Poste.

As you make your way up from the village square, you will pass a beautiful boutique, an antique shop, a fromagerie, and the most adorable épicerie with a separate fruit and vegetable room across the street.

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From here you can continue to wander the charming streets and narrow passageways filled with elegant intricacies as you find your way to the windmill at the top.

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There are at least three popular restaurants in the village, which are usually fully booked by locals. So reservations are a must. La Bartavelle, on a narrow street above the main square, seems to be the most popular with locals and foodies alike. In addition, there are le Carillon and la Terrasse, which are always booked. Another casual yet enjoyable option is to order a pizza from the pizzeria directly across from the Café de la Poste and take it to the café to eat while ordering drinks.

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Yes, Goult is still a bit of a secret from the mass crowds. In fact, one gite rental binder recommends Goult with a big “Shh!” Meaning, don’t let the secret out.

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À bientôt!

Le Petit Café in the Majestic Oppède-le-Vieux

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Some things just don’t change. Don’t you love it when you return to a place and it feels like nothing has skipped a beat while you were gone? Like le Petit Café located in the breathtaking Oppède-le-Vieux. The same white dog sitting on a spool in the center of it all.

We had another amazing meal at this restaurant. It really is an extremely enchanting place in the evening, located in the very ancient village square. This time we parked our car a good 15 minutes away so as to enjoy a surreal walk before dinner with a backdrop of vineyards, the Luberon mountain, and the ruins of Oppède. This made for a romantic yet scary walk back later in the dark, all the time wondering if a wild boar would present itself.

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Being that le Petit Café is a Mediterranan-inspired restaurant, what better way to start our meal than with the most delicious olives and bread! For our main course, we chose the côte de veau with lemon and vegetables and the pavé de saumon à la plancha with risotto and ratatouille. The food was so fresh and delicious that this restaurant is now number three on our list of Provençal favorites.

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And for dessert, crème citronnée sur lit de fruits and tiramisu maison. Voilà!

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Happy and content, we must now venture in the dark back to our car through the enchanting Oppède-le-Vieux. Can’t wait to return to le Petit Café.

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À bientôt!

Beaune—A Jewel of Bourgogne

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After much writing about Provence, it’s time to get back to Burgundy. After all, that’s where it all got started. Yes, Provence is intoxicating, and it has its hold for sure. But Burgundy, and really all of northern and central France, has the type of charm portrayed in fairy tales. Filled with sleepy villages, châteaux, rolling hills, vineyards, and canals, Bourgogne is the essence of charm.

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The town of Beaune, a jewel amid the most dreamy of winemaking villages, is often considered the wine capital of Burgundy.  Though I usually prefer small, sleepy villages, the larger town of Beaune is one classy place, filled with fine restaurants, cafés, museums, wine cellars, and gourmet shops.

It’s an absolute must to sit at a café on the Place Carnot looking out at the charming carousel, medieval rooftops, and enchanting cobblestone streets.

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Wine tasting opportunities are endless. Though a bit touristy, the Marché aux Vins, right by the famous Hospices de Beaune, is a very fun, casual experience. The cellar offers a self-guided tasting tour, where you help yourself to the wine as you walk from barrel to barrel through a candlelit cellar. I can handle that!

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Not to be forgotten is the outdoor market, held on Wednesday and Saturday morning. Filled with gastronomic specialties, this market is one of the most beautiful markets in France. The medieval village comes alive on market day. The regional delights abound. There is also a small section of brocante stands set up, where many treasures await—perhaps an old Dijon mustard jar or a vintage coffee grinder.

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One can get lost for days with much to do in this town. Beaune is truly a Burgundian jewel of culture and elegance. A visit must also include a drive—or better yet a bike ride—on the Route des Grands Crus through the famous winemaking villages of Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Santenay, all surrounded by gorgeous vineyards.

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À bientôt!

The Riviera in Two Days

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I have avoided the Riviera when visiting Provence, figuring that it would be too busy, too ritzy for my taste. Well, after finally deciding to give it a try—after all it is the Riviera—all I can say is “I get it!!!”

I now see why it is so popular. It is gorgeous! The stunning mountains, the blue sea, the colorful flowers, the Italian-style villas dotting the hillsides are all like something out of a painting.

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Instead of planning too much on our two-day adventure, I wanted just to get a taste of the Côte d’Azur and perhaps save some for another time. I also wanted to avoid the crowds. But I have to say, everything seemed calm in the month of September, while the weather was still balmy.

Our first stop along the way from the Luberon was Gourdon in the Alpes-Maritimes department of Provence. This village has been on my list for some time based on this picture.

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From Gourdon, we headed to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we had a reservation at an amazing bed and breakfast for the night, which I will write more about later. The village itself was the most charming of medieval villages with gorgeous views, and I must go back.

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The following day, we drove to Beaulieu-sur-Mer. We parked our car and walked the Promenade Maurice Rouvier to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to explore the peninsula.

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Once arriving in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, we first made our way to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a beautiful rose-colored villa with nine gardens overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

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From there we continued along the coastal path and stopped at Paloma Beach for a dip in the Mediterranean. The water was so warm and calm, and the stunning mountains made it surreal. We continued along the path, taking in more stunning scenery.

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As we made our way back to our car in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, we stopped for a drink along the coastal path and then started on our almost three-hour ride back to the Luberon. Needless to say, I must return to spend more time in the Côte d’Azur. Though I can’t give up my Vaucluse region of Provence entirely.

À bientôt!

Another Encounter at a French Spa

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In keeping with my newfound tradition in Provence of getting a massage while my husband bikes Ventoux or elsewhere, I made an appointment at the new spa at la Coquillade resort. Now, please note that I don’t stay in these places but just indulge in a little treat now and then by getting a massage and enjoying a glass of wine on an amazing terrace at these luxury resorts.

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That being said, I made my reservation and was confirmed to have a massage at 4:00 p.m. with Gilles. All sounded great. Well, when I arrived for my massage, “Gilles” was a handsome, 6’2 Frenchman. Um, awkward!

You see, while that may be the norm for the French, we folks from New England are still a bit on the reserved side. Hmm. What to do? Well, I told myself, ‘It’s just like a medical treatment.’

That treatment was in a beautiful room—thankfully dark—and extremely thorough. By the time I left, I was so relaxed it didn’t matter if it was Jill, Gilles, or whom it was. La Coquillade is a five-star resort. A wonderful place for a spa treatment, a meal, or just an apéritif on a terrace.

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À bientôt!

Le Fournil—The New Gold Standard

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Over the last few years, I’d been hearing mention of le Fournil in several gite rental binders, and it had been on my list of restaurants to try. It did not disappoint! In fact, with each bite we were asking, “How soon can we get back?”

Le Fournil is located in the center of the beautiful village of Bonnieux and set in a natural troglodytic cave. The menu is Mediterranean inspired with the freshest ingredients and the most simple yet refined dishes.

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During the summer months, it is absolutely enchanting to sit at a table outside in the evening by the 17th-century fountain.

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For our menu, we chose the poisson du jour and the porc du Ventoux with pommes de terre. Both were outstanding!

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And for dessert, the chocolat du jour with apricot sauce was crazy good.

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Thanks to le Fournil, nothing tastes as good since returning to the States. Now, we can’t help but compare everything to it. It’s hard to choose between le Fournil and our other favorite restaurant in Provence, les Remparts, written about here. But I think you will agree that le Fournil deserves to be the new gold standard.

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À bientôt!