Fall in love with Paris, the City of Light, as you visit the Notre Dame, Louvre and Versailles. Take a cruise on the Seine and a culinary gourmet walk through the Left Bank, then live it up with dinner atop the Eiffel Tower. Then travel to a luxury villa in Provence and visit Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Pont du Gard, Provencal villages and vineyards. Take a wine appreciation class and a private cooking lesson.
Paris - The City of Lights
Long considered the epitome of style, Paris is the most glamorous city in Europe. It is at once deeply traditional, village-like and famously cosmopolitan. While such contrasts may be the reality of any city, they are the makings of Paris: the tiny lanes and alleyways of the Quartier Latin or Montmartre against the monumental vistas from the Louvre to La Défense; the city of street markets and old-fashioned pedestrian arcades against the giant underground commercial complexes of Montparnasse and Les Halles. At times, Paris can feel inhumanly magnificent, the arrogance of its monuments encompassing the chilly pomp of the Panthéon...
The Parisian Chic
Fashion has been an important cultural export of France since the 17th century, and modern "haute couture" originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris is considered one of the world's fashion capitals, and the city is home to many of the premier fashion houses. Historically, many of the world's top designers have been French, including Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent. The women of Paris have always been the world leaders of a classic, sophisticated look, that certain je ne sais quoi which has held such mystique for style-conscious women everywhere. With their all-encompassing and distinctive style, the Parisians are in a league of their own.
The Scent of Lavender
One cannot really separate Provence from images of purple lavender fields, the heavenly lavender scent in the air and the distinctive taste of lavender infused dishes. Lavender is an herb rich in history and culture. Long prized for its scent and healing properties, it is also one of the most beloved plants in the garden. Ranging in colors from vivid sun-soaked indigo to a subtle violet-white, it evokes within a sense of calming and rest through its heady and unmistakable aroma. Lavender is rich in aromatic molecules called esters, which are antispasmodic, pacifying, and non toxic, while other molecules give it its antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory powers.
When you look back to the 14th century, Avignon was the "the" place to be: home of the popes and the capital of Christendom. Today, the popes are long gone, but the legacy left by their "court of splendor and magnificence" makes Avignon one of Europe's most beautiful and interesting medieval cities. Dominating Avignon from a hill is one of the most famous palaces in the Christian world. The headquarters of a schismatic group of cardinals who came close to toppling the authority of the popes in Rome, it is part fortress, part showplace. Palais des Papes dates back to year 1309, when Pope Clement V fled to Avignon to escape political conflict in Rome.
Provence evokes images of sun-drenched fields, fragrant lavender, and rustic villages. Famous for dishes such as bouillabaisse and ratatouille, this serene region of southern France is also a food lover's paradise. With it's strong emphasis on fresh ingredients from the countryside such as olives, tomatoes, zucchini eggplant, and lemons, Provencal cuisine has earned the nickname "la cuisine du soleil" (cuisine of the sun). One bite and you'll understand why. As with every section of France, the culinary profile of Provence is influenced by its climate, geography, and proximity to neighboring cultural influences.
For the French, cooking and eating is a philosophy, a way of life and an expression of self. French cuisine is a unique, cultural experience. Preparing and savoring French food is an art that takes a lifetime to master, yet requires that time stand still to appreciate its splendor. It is a pure, nearly religious, sensory experience. What once was subsistence is now an object of daily, living art. But succulent foie gras and airy soufflés, truffles and hundreds varieties of cheese, champagne and butter croissants haven't always been the fare of choice in France. French cuisine has evolved over the centuries of social and political changes.