Friday, January 21, 2011

France Awarded Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in Europe

Recommend Magazine, one of the leading travel trade publications of North America, recently issued their 14th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards, in which France was, for the 11th year, awarded as the Sexiest Romance/Honeymoon Destination in Europe.

Indeed, beyond France’s romantic “piece de resistance,” Paris - a.k.a. the “City of Love” - every corner of France is about romance. Like Recommend states it: “Roads to romance wind through France, hugging Mediterranean and Atlantic shores, passing beneath snow-capped Alps and Pyrenees heights, linking picturesque villages and treasure-filled historic towns.”

According to the France Tourism Development Agency, more than half of American visitors to France are repeat travelers.

For romantics, Paris is usually the centerpiece, and over the next two years, the Paris luxury brand – with Asian accents – is in for a big expansion. Just opened in October, the Raffles Royal Monceau, whose guest attractions range from a private library and art gallery to a 100-person cinema. This month, Shangri-La Hotel Paris becomes the second new entry, occupying a building originally built in 1896 as the home of Roland Bonaparte, Napoleon’s great-nephew. Here, rooms boast an exceptional Eiffel Tower view. Mandarin Oriental Paris, set to open in mid-2011, will be home to Michelin-star chef Thierry Marx. In the summer of 2012, look for the debut of the Peninsula Paris in the former International Conference Center of the French foreign ministry.
And, no doubt, hotels with a “palace” label fill many a romantic traveler’s dreams, and palaces will get new meaning when France awards a handful of hotels displaying “excellence, perfection, luxury and timelessness,” a special palatial class rating – only one fifth on the 100 five-star hotels in France are due to receive this honor. This is an extension of a new hotel classification system under which previously rated French four-star-luxe hotels were moved into the five-star category. This official classification of hotels makes them more transparent and helps travelers pick the right place to stay. Beyond Paris, the top region for U.S. visitors is Provence/Cote d’Azur, where the romance of France stretches from Marseilles. Always a favorite here is Antibes, which just celebrated the 50th anniversary of its famous Jazz Fesival.
Get inspired with some of France Cruises romantic trip selection:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sparkling Champagne Meets Lively Paris

Wine appreciation has reached new heights in Paris, producing a region prolific in wine bars, champagne tasting workshops at prestigious Parisian wine merchants,  and other popular champagne-related activities. 

Hervé Rousseau opened the Flûte l’Étoile in Paris after testing his restaurant concept in the New York with two Flûte bars. His recipe includes a lounge atmosphere that gives guest a VIP welcome, great finger foods, exciting and diverse venues and both charitable and educational events.
 Customers can relax and sip champagne while noshing on finger foods like Pétrossian caviar, smoked salmon and foie gras, Androuet cheeses, bread from the Kayser bakery, chocolate from the Maison du Chocolat, and champagne macaroons from Ladurée. 

The capital's first wine bar, Le Dokhan’s bar offers an Empire style decor and luxurious yet intimate atmosphere for guests. Aside from offering more than 60 different prestigious champagne labels, the sommelier presents three different vintage wines, per week. Wine fans can frequent this Champagne bar inside the Hôtel Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s, in the Trocadéro district. 

The champagne bar, Call Me Bubbles on the heights of Montmartre hill serves up a "happy hour" type of experience for patrons, with select bottles of champagne served in flute glasses champagne glasses. Champagne is also served in department stores just like clothing and home decor. At the Bar à bulles at Galeries Lafayette, shopping is enhanced with a glass of water or sparkling champagne. To truly grasp champagne's impact on the Parisians culture, consider the ability to sip choice champagne  at the Bar à champagne de la tour Eiffel for a memorable moment.

Golden OdysseyThe Parisian love affair with the bubbly drink does not end there; everything related to champagne can be learned about during workshops and seminars, or enjoyed through wine-themed activities. Espace Nicolas Feuillatte is a prestigious wine merchant who also offers workshops. Sommelier Christian Ghion facilitates workshops for small groups, explaining the differences between wines, different  types of grapes, the bottling process, with the highlight being able to taste three or four different wines throughout the workshop. Champagne barge cruises and tours are also popular, and even wine-themed cruises in general. Caves Taillevent helps people choose  the perfect wine for their Christmas and New Year's holiday's with advice from sommeliers and access to varieties of wine from champagne houses of Reims.

Wine enthusiasts have another way to enjoy Paris, and those interested in trying something new will find plenty to do. Wine has been incorporated into the daily lives of the French people for centuries; they have successfully turned a natural resource into a profitable and popular product in demand all around the world. There seems to be no end to the ways wine can be enjoyed.
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