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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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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Ljubljana, Slovenia: Where European and Balkan Culture Live On

Lovely Ljubljana

Lovely Ljubljana

I don’t often write about a place I haven’t visited. It’s even more unusual that I report on a destination with an almost unpronounceable name. At least for me. I wrote down my own phonetic spelling as Loo bee ahna, simply because I sometimes say words in my head as I write them, especially when they’re different. And I’ve been having trouble with this one.

This minor conundrum is slowly changing since I learned from two well-traveled Telluride locals, my friends Amy and Eileen, that Ljubljana is not only easy to pronounce but also an up and coming destination, one which should be put on any savvy traveler’s list. From what they both told me, in fact, I’d say Ljubljana has arrived and you should move it toward the top of your places-to-visit inventory, especially if you’re looking for good value in a European city where you’re not going to bump into Americans–or other tourists–at every turn.

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Adventure Travel Love for You and KOTO

Hiking Mt. Wilson:  Adventure Travel at Its Best in Colorado

Hiking Mt. Wilson, a 14er: Adventure Travel at Its Best in Colorado

I think it’s so cool that we have some of the best adventure specialists based right here in Telluride, Colorado. It makes sense, since Telluride and the outlying region provide the perfect terrain for heading out and exploring the great outdoors whether you’re cycling, hiking, skiing, fishing, climbing or jeeping. Some of these guiding greats have done so well in the region that they also conduct tours beyond southwestern Colorado, as far away as the other side of the globe, in fact.

A few of these companies have generously offered tours to KOTO’s current fundraising campaign. I’ll be chatting more about these adventure specialists on tomorrow night’s Travel Fun, a special live edition of my talk show on travel, which airs Thursday, September 17, A LITTLE EARLIER THAN USUAL at 6:20 pm mountain time.

I have been doing this show for almost eleven years and you can find many of my interviews posted on my blog as podcasts. If you have enjoyed Travel Fun, I encourage you to contact me to make a pledge or a donation. You can also show your love by snatching up one of the below tours at a deeply-discounted price. Thanks to Lizard Head Cycling Guides, Telluride Mountain Guides, Telluride Adventures/San Juan Outdoor Adventures and Telluride Offroad, here’s what I have to offer:

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FlipKey and Me

Ski In/Ski Out in Telluride Where Your Instructor Meets You at Your Rental

Ski In/Ski Out in Telluride Where Your Instructor Meets You at Your Rental

Biarritz Beauty

Biarritz Beauty

Vacation rentals have been experiencing tremendous growth from Telluride to Tokyo–the key is to make sure you land one that delights you. That means it’s a good idea to consider verified guest reviews for the properties you’re considering and FlipKey, a vacation rental service largely owned by TripAdvisor, provides that and more.

Paris Rental

Paris Rental

The “more” includes terrific photos and descriptions about each destination along with expert input. Voilà, that’s where I come in, since I’m now one of FlipKey’s experts for Telluride, Colorado.

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The Thrill of a Bike Race

The Start of the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen

The Start of the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen

Sexy Cyclists

Sexy Cyclists

More Good-Looking Guys

More Good-Looking Guys

I’m here at my desk amid piles and piles of papers, cards, brochures and miscellaneous other remnants from an action-packed trip to the USA Pro Challenge, which took place here in Colorado last week. I also just spent a couple of hours going through a slew of images from time spent at this exciting bike race. I met cyclists and bystanders, travel suppliers and promoters, journalists and commentators, fans of all ages, shapes and sizes, avid cycling enthusiasts, amateur bike riders and tons of folks just out for a good time.

There’s nothing like a big sporting event to bring people together, especially when it’s on wheels and it travels to different locations along the way. Many people followed the seven days of racing–an extraordinary route that began in Aspen and finished in Denver as it traversed some of the world’s highest mountain passes, most scenic valleys and most beloved Colorado destinations. I hit the USA Pro Challenge in Aspen, Crested Butte and Gunnison and boy, did I soak up every minute of fun I could find within that four-day period.

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    This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Maribeth Clemente. This blog sometimes accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content. The owner of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, Web sites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for certain posts or advertisements, she always gives her honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blogger's own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.
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