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.
The City of Lights
From the ornate architecture and glamorous French couture, to the heady aroma of café au lait and warm croissants wafting on the breeze, Paris defines the nuances of living art. Paris is the city of love, of fine food and fine perfume. It is the city of museums, galleries, arts and fashion, but above all, it is the City of Lights. Paris has the quality of light that makes it seem like an image floating in the midair on invisible waves and currents. In spring when we'll travel to France, the evenings last forever and when the day finally fades, the spectacle of lights takes your breath away. Nothing surpasses the excitement of the beautifully illuminated sights of Paris, seeing the softly glowing lights of the city from the Seine boat or from the Eiffel Tower or the illumination as you stroll along the Champs-Elysees at twilight. There is also the crimson and violet light that seeps through the narrow, stained-glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle, the glitzy dancing lights of cabarets and stages of Montmarte, the lit-up fountains and city squares, the sparkling Pyramid in front of the Louvre and the dazzling spectacle of lights at Georges Pompidou Center.
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.
Did you see the movie "Ratatouille"? I loved this animated film which was an Oscar winner. It reminded me again that French food is about much more than sustenance. For the French, cooking and eating is a philosophy, a way of life and an expression of self.
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. Classic haute cuisine was made famous by its intricate preparation, by using the finest ingredients, by emphasizing the cooking techniques and artful plate presentation.
The emphasis during our Provence and the Alps Tour will be not only on the sights, but also on the soul of Provence. What is it about? Provence evokes images of sun-drenched fields, fragrant lavender, and rustic, dreamy villages. Famous for dishes such as bouillabaisse and ratatouille, this serene region of southern France is a food lover's paradise and great food is a crucial part of the spirit of Provence. With 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.
The Scent of Lavender
One cannot really separate Provence from images of purple lavender fields, the heady lavender scent in the air and the distinctive taste of lavender infused dishes. Provencal chefs have been incorporating lavender into their cuisine for many centuries. It lends a floral, slightly sweet and elegant flavor to many dishes, from ice cream to roast chicken.
Avignon, one of the most beautiful cities in France, is ancient, full of history, life, youth, art, music and activity. Thanks to its architectural and artistic heritage, Avignon is also one of the most important Gothic ensembles in Europe.