Friday, April 27, 2012

Cassis on the Riviera

The rampart of rock soars straight up; we crane our necks to see the top. Scattered across the vertical face, nearly 1,000 feet high, are stunted windswept junipers that cling bravely to the odd crevice. The layering and subtle colors of stratification turn the cliff into an abstract canvas painted by a giant…”

Tom Koppel, travel writer and journalist, and his wife, Annie, journeyed to the south coast of France to uncover something atypical; a place unlike the rest of the trendy towns around the coast, such as  Nice or Cannes.

He ventured to the hidden gem of Cassis by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Dramatic cliffs, spectacular fjords or “calanques,” and medieval castles are only the beginning.

Read all about his invigorating experience here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Most Beautiful Villages of France: Burgundy

Medieval, cobblestone streets, and magnificent abbeys and century-old chateaus abound the “Most Beautiful Villages of France” in Burgundy. So much to discover, and so little time.

Châteauneuf / Côte d''or
Chateauneuf-en-Auxois is a pretty hilltop village watching over flat open country and the Burgundy Canal. Châteauneuf is best known for its 12C Chateau, which once played an important defensive role for the road leading to Autun. The medieval streets reveal many fine merchant houses from the 14th -16 centuries, built in yellow-white stone and having several interesting facades to discover as you take a stroll around.

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain / Côte d''or
Perched high on a rock, Flavigny-sur-Ozerain brings the old world Burgundian charm to life. Known for its religious buildings - above all the church of St. Genest and the Benedictine abbey of Saint Pierre - , the tiny town is also interestingly a city of craftsmen and traders. Venture along cobblestone streets into its alleys; the source of its hidden charm with turreted houses and other medieval architectural details.

Noyers / Yonne
Enter the well-preserved medieval city of Noyers, curled up on the banks of the River Serein. Inside the town walls, there are half-timbered, 15th century stone houses, pretty squares and arches leading to narrow cobbled streets. Additionally, take one step onto Place du Marché-au-Blé or Place du Grenier-à-Sel (Wine, Corn Market and Salt Storehouse Squares), and you’ll catch a glimpse of the town’s thriving period of farming and trade.

Semur-en-Brionnais / Saône et Loire
Heritage enthusiasts will relish Semur-en-Brionnais, the formal capital of the Brionnais region where Hugues de Semur was born, founder of Cluny Abbey. The fascinating 9th-century Château St Hugues is the oldest castle in Burgundy. Take a walk to romanesque Church of Saint Hilaire with its tower displaying eight arches and columns, and the Maison du Chapitre famous for its painted chimney breast.

Vézelay / Yonne
The charming village of Vezelay sits high on a hilltop overlooking onto the Monts du Morvan. Home to beautiful stone Romanesque houses that are mostly cafes, galleries and gift shops and the magnificent St. Madeleine Basilica - a brilliant work of Romanesque art and architecture that contains relics of Mary Magdalene herself – the village personifies typical Burgundian character. Vézelay and the abbey are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Venture to Burgundy's beautiful villages along a Hotel Barge Cruise!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Classical, Choral, and Folk Music at the Rencontres Musicales de Vezelay in Burgundy!

Inspiring. Religious. Beautiful. Between August 23th - 26th, 2012 the enchanting village of Vézelay in Burgundy brings the rich sounds of classical, spiritual, gospel and liturgical music together in one room during its annual "Rencontres Musicales de Vézelay."

Vézelay, dubbed "One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France" and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a charming town perched high on a hilltop in Burgundy.

Home to stone Romanesque houses and the magnificent Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene - a brilliant work of Romanesque art and architecture that contains relics of Mary Magdalene herself - it personifies typical Burgundian character.

The village will host the 4-day festival, showcasing 10 concerts of vocal and instrumental excellence with the best choirs and orchestras from all over Europe. They perform timeless religious masterpieces from the Renaissance to present day beneath the Basilica and along its surroundings. This concert will fill your soul with spiritual renditions of sacred classics and contemporary ensembles, creating an overall uplifting celebration of voice.

See the "Rencontres Musicales de Vezelay"in Burgundy from a Hotel Barge Cruise!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Most Beautiful Villages in France: Brittany

The spectacular region of Brittany, located along France's northern shore, boasts rugged coastlines with breathtaking views. And impressively, she hosts five of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.

The wonderfully-preserved quaint village of Locronan earned its unique name through its hermit founder Saint Ronan, who founded the town in the 10 century. Small as it may be, the village managed to become one of the leading producers in the sailcloth industry. Today, the village still contains beautiful Renaissance houses and a stunning 15th church.

Sitting southeast of Saint-Brieuc is the charming medieval village of Moncontour. With a walk around the town, one will discover rich medieval buildings and 17th century gentry houses built from the proceeds of the linen trade. And just like its neighbor Locronan, the walled town had a booming industry producing some of the finest linen in the world, peaking during the 17th century. Visitors shouldn’t miss touring its magnificent baroque church of Saint-Mathurin with its ornate clock tower and lovely stained glass windows.

Situated in the countryside of southwest Brittany is the flower-filled town of Rochefort-en-Terre. The charming village is decked with vibrant flower displays, such as wisteria and germaniums. In the heart of the village lies its main square, which is dotted with bustling cafes, craft shops and restaurants. Explore its cobblestone streets and you’ll find half-timbered houses, 19th-century architecture, and delightful quaint hotels.

Le Faou
Le Faou lies in the Brest harbor. The village was once a bustling port with the transport of oak and especially beech wood from the trees that stood in forest of Le Cranou. Since the 16th century, the village has kept many corbelled houses built of shale and granite and also the church of Saint Sauveur.

Perched between land and sea is the pristine village of St. Suliac, impressively overlooking the Rance estuary. Back in the day, fisherman would reel in their cods by the coast of Newfoundland while the statue of the Virgin de Grainfollet watched over them. Discover its locally-renowned treasures: A tide mill, old salt marshes, and menhir of Chablé.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Good Taste: It’s Bordeaux on a Budget

Who said you couldn’t enjoy some exquisitely-tasting wine for under $40?

And mind you, these budget-friendly finds aren’t your typical, over-the-counter bottles with funny brand names. They’re actually from the renowned wine region of Bordeaux!

During a Bordeaux wine-makers dinner hosted by the Fig Tree Restaurant in San Antonio, TX, award-winning journalist Tanji Patton debunked the myth that good wine must put a dent in your wallet.
  • Chateau Mongravey, Margaux – A perfect blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot. With wonderful flavors of black cherry, cocoa and vanilla, this steal pairs exceptionally well with food.

  • Chateau Fonbadet, Pauillac – Take cherry, dark fruit and vanilla flavors with 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, and a hint of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, and you got one heck of a delicious steak wine.

  • Chateau Picque Caillou, Chateau Haut-Brion – We cannot neglect the goodness of white wines! The Picque Caillou comes with 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. The wine has citrus flavors of a Sauvignon Blanc, but the Semillon with its pear, saffron, and vanilla elements deliciously softens the wine. Indulge with grilled fish, or any type of seafood for that matter.

Craving to sample an array of Bordeaux wine in the real Bordeaux region? Set sail on hotel barge Mirabelle to savor 7 days of everything Bordeaux.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Atlantic Coast

Villages across the Atlantic Coast in France are dotted with small white houses and gorgeous hollylocks. It may not seem sound so spectacular, but once you step foot in one of the following five, you will understand why they made the list of The Most Beautiful Villages of France.
Sitting proudly at the tip of Ile de Re island, Ars-en-Ré shines with its 40-m high church steeple. Workers today still continue to farm the famous Fier d’Ars salt marshes, which is what the village grew up around back in the 11th century. Places to visit include: the Church of Saint Etienne, the L’Huîtrière de Ré oyster farm, and of course, the church steeple and salt marshes.

A short drive from Royan lies Talmont sur-Gironde, overlooking the Gironde estuary. The lovely village, founded as a bastide town in 1284 by Edward I Duke of Aquitaine, still has the same layout as it did 700 years ago. Hollyhocks run rampant, as do small alleys and – what else – white houses. Today the symbol of the Poitou-Charentes region, the superb Church of Sainte Radegonde, continues to be protected by ramparts. Catch a tour of this magnificent church, and history and fishing museums when dropping by.

At a glance, Mornac-sur-Seudre comes off as a typical fishing port. But inside, one will discover more than just boats. The little village devotes itself to oyster farming and the salt produced by its marshes. A stroll around will allow one to discover small white houses and striking pink hollyhocks everywhere. Visitors should see the Church of Saint Pierre, and the marshes (salt, oyster farming, etc.)

La Flotte
All year long, La Flotte endures boats coming and out … and the village wouldn’t have it any other way. The charming port town welcomes boats every day, beautifully lining the shores across cute shops and restaurants. The streets are decked out in flowers and the low-roofed houses’ white painted walls provide a riveting background to the blue and green shutters. Highlights include the Fort de La Prée, Maison du Platin, and remainds of the Cistercian abbey of the Châteliers.
Vouvant's Melusine Tower

The beautiful walled village of Vouvant is sits on a hillside overlooking the River Mère. Legend has it the town’s trademark Tower of Mélusine was marvelously built in a single night by Fairy Mélusine, an ancestor of the Counts of Lusignan. The majestic 11C Romanesque church rightfully deserves a visit. Other places to see include: the Church of Sainte Marie and Nef Théodelin, an exhibition chamber.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Everything Bordeaux in "Bordeaux World Heritage & Its Wines" Guide Book

The title says it all – "Bordeaux World Heritage & Its Wines."

The 324-page guide by Laurent Moujon, Bordeaux resident for 20 years, focuses on the city of Bordeaux in France, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its world-famous wine regions.

Intended for English-speaking individuals, the guide provides excellent content on everything there is to know about the world's major wine industry capital. It covers everything from the history and heritage to the city’s exciting festivals. 120 pages are dedicated to the city itself and 200, unsurprisingly, detail great information on its wine. For those that want something more aesthetically pleasing, the guide contains hundreds of pages filled with color photos. In addition, the book touches the wine routes of the vineyards of Bordeaux, from the renowned Saint Emilion, known to have some of the finest wines worldwide, to Medoc, home to Bordeaux’s “Great Classified Growths.”

The four main themes mentioned throughout the book include:
• Accommodations (where to stay) – Everything from quaint, 2-star boutique hotels to deluxe chateaux
• Restaurants (where to eat) – From top gourmet eateries to local brasseries and wine bars.
• Shopping (where to shop) – Luxury boutiques, authentic craft shops and more. ‘
• Attractions (where to go and what to do) – Of course, sites of interest are included like the wine trail to St-Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.
Wine connoisseurs and those planning on visiting the city shouldn’t think twice before purchasing this homerun.

For more information on, or to purchase "Bordeaux World Heritage & Its Wines," click here.

Planning on exploring Bordeaux yourself? Discover it aboard a Hotel Barge Cruise!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Most Beautiful Villages of France: Alsace-Lorraine

This storybook village proudly stands as the birthplace of winegrowing in the region. Visitors will marvel at the century-old houses with pointed roofs, and beautiful floral decorations along the cobblestone streets, which has won many renowned awards throughout Europe.

Decked out in bright flowers, this village proves to be rich in religious architecture, boasting 16th century houses, and a fortified church and cemetery. For a glimpse of romance, head to the Butterfly Garden.
Think half-timbered houses and Geraniums. Typically of the Wissembourg’s region, Hunspach hosts 18th and 19th century old black and white homes with timber frames with Geranium flowers blossoming at the windows. Some buildings here actually contain glass windows that arch towards the street, enabling the people to see outsider the room without being seen themselves.
It’s all about wine-making in the sleepy village of Mittelbergheim, located at the foot of Mount Ste Odile (the highest peak in Alsace). It’s surrounded by vineyards and holds the Zotzenberg Grand Cru. Notably, the townhall holds the "Weinschlag," a book that holds rich information about the vineyards and wine since 1510.

Riquewihr is a hidden treasure all on its own. It’s a mix of stunning architecture and fine wines. You’ll find the castle of the Dukes of Württemberg and an array of 15-18th century homes, boasting flower-decked balconies and sculpted windows.
Situated on the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg, Rodemack goes by "Petite Carcassonne Lorraine” because it continues to be surrounded by miles and miles of ramparts. To enter, one must go through the fortified gate of Sierck, impressively built by the residents back in the day.
Charming and quaint, this village surrounds itself with green hills in the Vosges Mountains and dates back to the Gallo-Roman times as the location of La Croix Guillaume shows. Religion also runs deep here, with the priory and its twin-towered church each with three onion-shaped domes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pastis: The Soul Drink of the South of France

Credit: Roger Morris
Southern France’s heart belongs to Pastis.

Just ask Roger Morris, Special Contributor to The Daily Meal.

During his week-long cruise along the renowned Canal du Midi aboard the charming hotel barge, Caroline, he discovered more than just breathtaking landscapes and medieval architecture.

He found the “soul drink” of the region: Pastis, a licorice- and anise-flavored liqueur that kicks your senses into high gear.

Click here to read his first-hand account:

Experience the tasty aperitif yourself on one of our Hotel Barge Cruises!
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