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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The Riches of Paris and The Riches of France Now eBooks

The Riches of Paris:  A Shopping and Touring Guide

The Riches of Paris: A Shopping and Touring Guide

If you’re headed to Paris soon or are just an armchair traveler that enjoys curling up with your eBook, may I recommend my books, The Riches of Paris:  A Shopping and Touring Guide and The Riches of France:  A Shopping and Touring Guide to the French Provinces. They’re perfect for Francophiles interested in knowing more about the places they’re discovering.

The eBook versions of my classic guidebooks come just in time for spring/summer travels to the French capital and the provinces of France. How handy it is to pull them up on your mobile device or eBook reader to find out about the most interesting places and products to savor.

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Passport to Paris at the Denver Art Museum

The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet

The Beach at Trouville by Claude Monet

THIS JUST IN as of February 5:  The Nature as Muse:  Impressionist Landscapes from the Frederic C. Hamilton Collection of DAM has been extended through March 24.

Allez vite, vite, vite! Go fast! Only about ten days remain for you to see the magnificent Passport to Paris exhibition at the Denver Art Museum (DAM). I went earlier in the month and it felt like I was transported to Paree for an hour and a half of sheer delight. Truly my heart sang as I wended my way through the suite of three exhibitions that make up this show, a smartly-chosen trifecta that focuses on French art from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. From the grand works executed during the reign of Louis XIV through the more well known paintings of Poussin, Boucher, Pissarro, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and other greats, here French culture and society are revealed to the visitor in one of the most effective manners I’ve ever seen. As you saunter through the galleries that make up this show, it’s easy to understand how Paris became the center of culture and the tastemaker for all of Europe.

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Susan Herrmann Loomis: On Rue Tatin in Normandy

Susan Herrmann Loomis with a Tarte Tatin, Her Signature Dessert

Susan Herrmann Loomis with a Tarte Tatin, Her Signature Dessert

L'Heure de l'Apéritif at Susan's Cooking School

L’Heure de l’Apéritif at Susan’s Cooking School

“Apples are a huge part of the cooking here in Normandy,” says cookbook author Susan Herrmann Loomis on the phone from France during a Travel Fun interview with me.

And to most of us they’re such a big part of fall and Thanksgiving, so tune into the our chat below if you’d like to add a French twist to your holiday feasting. I met Susan briefly some twenty-five years (yes—a quarter of a century) in Paris at an American women’s function when I first moved to the French capital. At that time she was working as an assistant to Patricia Wells on The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, one of my all-time favorite books.

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