Mother’s Day Gift Ideas-2015

Lovely Lily of the Valley

Lovely Lily of the Valley

It’s almost May 1st, or May Day, a holiday widely celebrated in Europe. My favorite part of this fête nationale in France is the muguet, or lily of the valley, that delicate flower with droplets of blooms that resemble little white wedding bells. You can enjoy its fresh, redolent scent in Diorissimo, a signature fragrance of the House of Dior. Christian Dior’s favorite flower was, in fact, le muguet, one of the most beloved symbols of happiness in France. On le premier mai en France, most everything is closed, but you can still find all kinds of bouquets of muguet sold throughout–from street corners to flower shops.

Telluride Truffle Mother's Day Gift Box

Telluride Truffle Mother’s Day Gift Box

Telluride Truffle Spring Gift Box

Telluride Truffle Spring Gift Box

Ruth's Toffee

Ruth’s Toffee

Pink Champagne from Henri's Reserve

Pink Champagne from Henri’s Reserve

Voilà there’s one terrific gift idea for the lovely lady in your life for this Mother’s Day. Read about many more at my Online Shopping page. Many of the online boutiques I feature actually showcase European goods or goods of such fine quality that they could pass for European made. Telluride Truffle and Ruth’s Toffee are such examples and indeed the quality of their products rivals some of the delectable treats I’ve sampled from France’s top chocolatiers. What mom wouldn’t be thrilled to receive some sweets from these two Colorado-based confectioners! Pay close attention to the instructions on my Online Shopping page to receive a 10% discount on online orders from these two purveyors and all others highlighted on that page (and below).

Nothing says holiday like bubbly, especially when it’s champagne. Send mom a beautiful bottle of champagne rosé from Henri’s Reserve to celebrate her. I promise she’ll be tickled pink.

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Showcasing Cartier at the Denver Art Museum

Tempting Tiara from the Cartier Show at the Denver Art Museum

Tempting Tiara from the Cartier Show at the Denver Art Museum

It’s been snowing like crazy here in Colorado these past ten days. We had a couple of bluebird days in the middle of two huge storms, which made our sparkling blanket of snow diamonds shine all the more brilliantly.

But let me tell you about the other kind of diamonds–the real ones, prized stones whose glistening facets have held people in rapt attention for centuries. These stones become even more magnificent when they have been placed into exquisite settings by world renowned jewelers such as Cartier. You’ll see an avalanche of them as well as emeralds, rubies, sapphires, onyx, turquoise and other precious and semi precious stones that have been crafted into fabulous jewelry and objets at Brilliant:  Cartier in the 20th Century at the Denver Art Museum (DAM), a world-exclusive exhibition open–now for extended hours–through March 17th.

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Wishing You the Best for 2015

Skiing is Fun

Skiing is Fun

How are you, dear reader?

I wish you good health, love and joy in this new year. It might seem like these well wishes are coming a little late, but strike it up to the French in me. In France, it’s tout à fait acceptable to extend new year’s wishes–both verbally and in writing–through January 31. I love how most everyone you encounter in France echoes choruses of “bonne année, bonne santé” throughout the whole month of January. I’m sure that this year those wishes are even more sincere.

After a super busy holiday season teaching skiing day after day at the Telluride Ski Resort during an extremely cold period of time, I finally collapsed from a mega head cold and sheer exhaustion (perhaps partly brought on by my big move the first part of December). I spent a whole week on the couch, one marked by the tragedy of the events that unfolded in Paris. So very sad. Like so many, my heart ached for all involved and for my beloved France. I checked in with my friends in Paris to express my love and support, many of whom attended the demonstration that was held a week ago today. Vive la France! Vive Franco-American friendship and may the French forgive us for the faux pas of not sending proper representation on their important day of solidarité.

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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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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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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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The Good Life France

Paris Celebrating Bastille Day Last Night

Paris Celebrating Bastille Day Last Night

Ahhhh, la France. I never let le quatorze juillet go by without celebrating France. Even though I’ve been busy bopping around  Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, this year was no exception. I’ll let you know soon what I did in this hot, desert land to toast the richness of my beloved France on its Fête Nationale, but first I’d like to share with you a slice of The Good Life France. Before I left Telluride, I interviewed Janine Marsh, founder and editor of this terrific website/blog for my Travel Fun radio show.

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