Last-Minute Holiday Shopping 2014

Pretty French Trays from Quel Objet

Pretty French Trays from Quel Objet

Champagne from Henri's Reserve

Champagne from Henri’s Reserve

Romantic Treasures from Alpen Schatz

Romantic Treasures from Alpen Schatz

Phew, there’s so much to do! As I reported in my last post, I’ve been busy with a move and the start of ski season. Although I don’t have many gifts to buy, I do like to send out a few. I’m going to make it super easy and get online this morning to order original products of quality and charm you don’t find all over the internet.

Check out my Online Shopping Page for my hand-curated collection of boutiques. Read the descriptions carefully to find out how you can benefit from a 10% discount. Most of my purveyors have told me that goods can arrive by Christmas–by regular mail–if orders are placed by mid-day today. Some have even noted that Friday is the last day. And, of course, there’s always priority shipping to be extra sure of a December 24th arrival. In any event, it’s best to ask each establishment if they can indeed fill the order in time. (Some, such as Telluride Truffle, are pretty swamped.)

Go ahead and check out these lovely boutiques. You’ll be glad you did and so will your happy gift recipients. Remember to follow the instructions to receive your 10% Bonjour Colorado discount.

Happy shopping!

Organic Catnip Toy from Purrfect Play

Organic Catnip Toy from Purrfect Play

Skiing Beats Moving

Snowy Telluride

Snowy Telluride

That would be moving to a new place, of course. Because as a general rule, I do believe motion is lotion and you get some of the best motion when skiing.

Ski season is off to a great start here in Telluride. It snowed a ton in November, then we had a dry spell, now with fifteen inches of fresh over the weekend, we’re set up nicely for the onslaught of holiday visitors due to arrive late this week.

I’ve been working out early season glitches such as numb toes, goggle marks and other assorted woes. It takes a while for my feet to become accustomed to wearing ski boots again and damn, I just can’t seem to adjust my goggles on my helmet the way I did last year. I’ll work it all out and as a Telluride ski instructor, soon I’ll be spending eight-hour days in my ski clothing and equipment for stints as long as ten to fourteen days in a row. In the beginning of the season, I sometimes wonder how I do it, but fortunately I throw it into gear, work through the initial aches and pains, and then fall into the swing of things like skis gliding on the snow.

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Grateful for My Friends in France and Belgium

Laughing with Marie in a Paris Café

Laughing with Marie in a Paris Café

My Petit Dejeuner in that Café

My Petit Dejeuner in that Café

Toasting Life Chez Michèle et Loic

Toasting Life Chez Michèle et Loic

Zee Sunday Brunch Spread

Zee Sunday Brunch Spread

Pain, Vin et Fromage Chez Steph et Véronqiue

Pain, Vin et Fromage Chez Steph et Véronqiue

I’m big at counting my blessings year round. As challenging as life can be, I try as much as possible to pause and feel truly grateful for all that I have in my life.

There’s so much for which to be grateful, especially when it comes to love. There’s nothing like feeling love and appreciation. There’s nothing like feeling valued. There’s nothing like feeling your heart swell with love–day after day after day.

I was blessed with an outpouring of love during my recent trip to Europe when friends in France went out of their way to meet with me for coffee, organize special dinners, include me in on Sunday lunches and chat with me at great length over leisurely breakfasts and afternoon teas. My friends in Antwerp entertained me all weekend long. And throughout every encounter, I felt a connectedness with my European friends that made it feel as though I had just seen them the week before. (It had, in fact, been many years.)

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Telluride’s Secret Spas

Hot Stone Massage at The Spa at the Hotel Madeline

Hot Stone Massage at The Spa at Hotel Madeline

Spa-going is underrated.

Frequent spa goers know how an hour at a spa can transform you; and if you’re lucky enough to spend the better part of a day being cared for within a soothing space, you can leave brand new.

As I’ve written before, Colorado’s mountain towns boast some exceptional spas. Whether attached to a resort or not, our Rocky Mountain state knows how to meet the therapeutic and beautification needs of those visiting and residing in our rugged, sun-saturated environment. What better way to recover from a big day on the slopes or an energetic snowshoe in the valley? Indeed, focus on health and well-being permeates most every facet of our lives in Colorado, especially in Telluride where feeling good is more of a basic need than a luxury.

Below I’ve outlined a few of my favorite T-ride spas that might not be on every visitor’s radar. Smart locals, however, have them on speed dial.

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Highlights from My France Trip 2014

Steve and I Capping Off Our Last Night in France at Julien in Paris

Maribeth and Steve Do France: Capping Off Our Last Night in France at Julien in Paris

Oysters and Vin Blanc at Lake Hossegor:  One of Many Delightful Meals in France

Oysters and Vin Blanc at Lake Hossegor: One of Many Delightful Meals in France

Hossegor Surf at Sunrise

Hossegor Surf at Sunrise

Pâtisserie Française

Pâtisserie du Golfe in Hossegor

Biarritz at Night

Biarritz at Night

Glorious Contrasts:  Steve Headed Out to Surf at the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz

Glorious Contrasts: Steve Headed Out to Surf at the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz

Tapas at Bar Jean in Biarritz

Tapas and Wine at Bar Jean in Biarritz

How silly of me to think that I could work in a few blog posts while traveling through France during these past few weeks! Really.

That was my intention but I’m afraid I failed mercifully at the task. Instead, I was busy experiencing life in France rather than taking time to write about it sur place. Sure, I took tons of notes and I will be churning out stories from this trip–both here at my blog and in updates of my guidebooks–in the months to come. (I’m also doing a downloadable guide for A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, so the information will serve there, too.)

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Keurig and Company Kill My Coffee, Tea and Me

Housekeeping Trying to Get My Keurig to Work on a Recent Hotel Stay

Housekeeping Trying to Get My Keurig to Work on a Recent Hotel Stay

I’m practically on the eve of departing for a big trip to France and I’m excited about many things:  the flakey croissants that taste far superior to most sold in the U.S., the fabulous runny unpasteurized cheeses  you can’t find stateside (unless smuggled in), slightly chilled red wines such as a good Fleury, rich French stews such as a daube Provençal or a boeuf aux carottes, a savory couscous, the perfect omelet–well, you get the picture. As much as I love France for its beauty and the French for their joie de vivre, I guess I am most looking forward to their food and drink.

Coffee and tea rank tops on that list, too. I’m more of a tea drinker and the French do tea–in my humble opinion–as well as the English. By mid-morning I love a good coffee, whether it’s a creamy café au lait or an espresso ladened with lots of sugar. Yes, the French do it right at home, in restaurants, cafés and hotels. It has been a while since I was in France but last time I checked, they still hadn’t adapted the American tradition of having a coffee pot in hotel rooms. Mais non, their approach was always far more civilized and if you wanted a coffee or tea–even in small, modest hotels–they’d bring it to you. And it would be delicious, served on a little tray accompanied with cold or hot milk and often un petit pot of hot water.

For breakfast, they always gladly delivered your hot beverages to your room–with or without a basket of pâtisseries, something that is tout à fait normale, or common practice. Having breakfast in bed always has been more the norm in France than not. I’m praying that this tradition has been upheld.

If I enter a hotel room–not to mention more than one or two–and find those stupid personal coffee makers à la Keurig, I think I’ll have a fit. Who ever was so stupid to invent those devices? I had a huge experience with them on a ten-day trip this summer where they were proudly displayed at every coffee station inside and out of the rooms. I can’t tell you the aggravation I had getting them to work properly–they didn’t half the time. And if they worked, often the coffee was cold. I had a few excellent cups of coffee and tea from them but none was worth the aggravation. I even had to call housekeeping a couple of times to help out and they ended up scratching their heads.

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Road Tripping in the Great American West

Mt. Crested Butte

Mt. Crested Butte

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

There’s nothing like a good, old fashioned road trip to give you a terrific sense of freedom. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that you go under your own steam–that you’re not reliant on a plane, train, bus or boat to get you to your destination. The fact that you’re the captain of your ship means that you can leave when you want, go where you want and stop at whatever strikes your fancy along the way. Maybe it’s liberating because if you take your own vehicle, it’s like bringing your personal living room on the road. Whatever the reason, road tripping is so damned much fun. And there’s no doubt that it’s even better in the great American West.

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Jefferson, France, Wine and Radio

Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, America’s founding father, primary author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, was perhaps America’s first and most devoted Francophile. During his time as minister to France, he lived in Paris five years where he resided in an elegant residence on the Champs-Elysées and entertained his American and French friends with fine food and wine from his newly-adopted land. In Paris, he became truly serious about the pleasures of the table.

Funny how that sounds familiar, since that happens to most of us when we go to France. And wine is always a big part of the equation. Thomas Jefferson was one of the leading figures in facilitating the importation of wine into the U.S. from France and other European countries. Widely recognized as the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur of his day, Jefferson was a staunch advocate of the virtues of wine throughout his life. “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage,” he once argued.

“Here! here!” I say. How true that is–just like a satisfying meal; if it’s delicious, you don’t need to overeat, whereas if you’re not satiated, you’ll likely keep on eating–or drinking–until you are. (I’d say that’s part of the problem in America today.)

I’m thinking a lot about Jefferson these days because I’m in full-on French experience mode, planning a trip to my beloved land where I lived eleven years (in Paris). This devotee of French culture, gastronomy–and the human experience in general–also comes to mind, since Monsieur Jefferson aka Clay Jenkinson is going to be in Telluride, Colorado this Sunday and I plan to go to hear him and say bonjour.

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