French Life Paris Podcasts Restaurants Travel: French Life Paris Podcasts Restaurants Travel
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There are so many websites and blogs on Paris that you can spend hours—if not days—perusing them in an effort to find the information you’re seeking for the City of Light. Want to check out the hottest restaurants? How about some up-to-the-minute fashion news? Or even better, do you need to find just the right place of lodging for your dream trip? Girls Guide to Paris provides this and more.
I chatted with Doni Belau, founder of this dynamic site on Paris and other French destinations, during a special April in Paris Travel Fun interview last month. Click on the play button below to listen to what Doni has to say about yet another of her “passion projects.”
Indeed, Doni is a woman of many passions. I was familiar with Girls Guide to Paris for a while although I came to know Doni from Susan Viebrock, a connection here in Telluride that does her own information-packed website/blog, Telluride Inside…and Out. Susan wrote a story that showcased Doni’s philanthropic works in the post TAB Welcomes Honorary Beneficiary: Ubuntu Africa. TAB, or Telluride Aids Benefit, is an organization that raises money for HIV/AIDS education, advocacy and NGOs. They put on many fun and happening events throughout Telluride Gay Ski Week. This year, Doni’s organization, Ubuntu Africa, was one of the beneficiaries from funds raised by TAB. Doni actually came to T-ride, my town, for the events, yet unfortunately we did not meet up in person. (She actually found out about TAB from Kittie Lingeman Brown, a former resident of Telluride that now lives in Paris.) Doni talks about that experience and her impressions of Telluride—particularly the fabulous TAB Fashion Show—in the below interview.
Back to Paris and specifically Girls Guide to Paris. With 100,000 readers/month consulting her site, Doni has good reason to be proud of the baby that she breathed life into in 2009. On the phone from New York, Doni talks about why she likes Paris so much and how she started this site which has turned into a fantastic resource for Paris and beyond. Doni spends about a third of her time in Paris every year, however, like many other people, she’s aiming to claim Paris home more and more.
“Paris is my first love,” Doni says. “To sum it up in one word, it’s beauty. You can’t convince me that there’s another place so beautiful,” she continues. Our interview turns into a full-on chat when I share my impressions of Paris as well. After having lived there eleven years, I have a few things to add and not surprisingly, Doni and I agree on everything.
Listen to Doni highlight the various features of Girls Guide to Paris, including her top Paris restaurant picks and the eighteen downloadable tours, most of which she created. You’ll also want to check out their Travel Club and the fixed pages that make the site like a guidebook on the web. Plans are in the works for an eBook and an eMagazine.
It seems as though there’s no end to Doni’s passionate projects! Bravo to you, my dear, and keep up the good work all over the world.
Note that in the interview, Doni cites Segway tours as a fun way to visit Paris. Read my story, Tour Mania Versus Zee Segway, on the Paris Segway Tours here.
Click on the play button below to hear Doni Belau talk about Girls Guide to Paris.
Art & Culture Food & Wine French Life Paris Shopping Travel Writing & Books: Art & Culture Food & Wine French Life Paris Shopping Travel Travel Writing Writing & Books
With ski season behind me, I suddenly have a voracious appetite for reading. I always want to read and to me, it’s one of the most relaxing and enjoyable activities in the world. But during ski season I’m exhausted in the evenings and tend to just zone out in front of the TV and then head to bed before there’s time for a leisurely read. (Also, I often stay up late when engrossed in a good book and that certainly doesn’t gel with a ski instructor’s need for a long, fat sleep.)
Being the Francophile that I am, I love reading books set in France. Whether it’s Paris or the provinces, if the writing is rich, I relish being instantly transported to my beloved land. So you can only imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered Jaqui Brown’s charming website/blog, French Village Diaries. There you may delve into an abundance of book reviews on books relating to France and then shop in her online bookstore which features titles she has reviewed and more. Jacqui, a Brit that moved to France in 2004 with her British husband, scours the internet for the most interesting reads on her adopted country. That’s how she found my book, A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France, and then wrote it up at French Village Diaries.
I’m happy to be connected with Jacqui, a woman who’s passionate about everything French and life in France in general. Sure, there are many ladies like her (and me), however, with Jacqui and her writings I feel a special kinship. Perhaps it’s the combination of books and France that resonates so much with me.
I also delight in many of Jacqui’s blog posts and recipes. Saturday she posted a Provençal Style Yoghurt Cake with Olive Oil and Quince. I wrote about the first olive oil cake I ever tasted in A Tour of the Heart, one of the most memorable culinary experiences of my travels. Enfin, I found a recipe that seems to correspond with the memory I’ve preserved of that incredibly moist and flavorful treat.
Now, I can’t wait to make that olive oil cake. And then sit down and savor it with tea and a good book, one that takes place in France, bien entendu.
Aspen Colorado Skiing & Snowboarding Travel Vail: Aspen Colorado Skiing & Snowboarding Travel Vail
How do you book travel? Do you go directly to websites such as Expedia.com to check out any alluring offers they’re showcasing? Or perhaps you’re more destination or theme oriented and and you sift through info. at sites such as Ski.com and On the Snow.com? Do you troll the Internet for stories from travel publications and blogs to read about places from a firsthand perspective? Or maybe you flash on video and photo postings your friends have put up on Facebook?
All the above are valid ways to research and book travel and it should come as no surprise that people are turning even more to the Internet and social media for all, including travel planning. This is some of what I gleaned last week from the Mountain Travel Symposium (MTS) I attended in Snowmass, Colorado. The largest gathering of mountain travel professionals in North America, MTS also marks the beginning of the sales cycle for the next ski season. Attendees come from around the world to conduct business and to learn about what’s new and happening in the snowsports industry. This year’s 38th annual MTS brought together leaders and innovators from the ski and travel tech industries to provoke conversation and solution-seeking ideas for the1,200 professionals gathered at this dynamic event.
That included moi and like many others, I forfeited one of the season’s best powder days last Wednesday morning to listen in a few exciting presentations. Rob Torres, managing director of travel for Google, and Erik Hawkins, industry manager for travel North America at Facebook, peppered the audience with facts and figures about the exponential growth both companies are seeing in travel. They also showcased some of their latest technology including Google glasses which look like conventional eyeglasses except for their small, voice-activated camera that allows the user to do hands-free recording of sensational travel experiences. Torres also talked about “Generation C,” a group defined by their passionate mindset for video and introduced Hangouts, a virtual photo log of places and destinations being posted and shared by hundreds of photographers.
Hawkins revealed that Facebook research confirms the influence of friends in choosing travel destinations; apparently travelers are eighty percent more likely to visit a destination recommended by a friend through social media messages, photos and video. And as a result, mobile bookings are increasing rapidly. “Exponential growth in social media sharing is doubling every two years.”
Both speakers emphasized the importance of connecting and engaging their customers, a theme reiterated by Hari Nair, Vice President of Expedia, Krista Parry, Senior Vice President at Powdr Enterprises and founder of Snowmamas and Anne Taylor Hartzell, founder of Hip Travel Mama, the headliners of a presentation on blogging. All emphasized the importance of doing more than just “pushing” information on potential travel planners.
How does that translate for you? It means you’re going to see more big travel suppliers and perhaps lodgers and other companies teaming up with bloggers to educate and inspire you about travel destinations and products. They’ve also started to encourage you, the consumer, to share your travel experiences on their sites as you can see at Expedia’s find yours. All stressed the importance of storytelling, something I’ve engaged in here at my blog, Bonjour Colorado, for almost five years. (That’s also been the approach I’ve used in my books, including the four guidebooks I wrote and my recent travel memoir, entitled A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France.)
So continue to be Internet savvy and see how that will point you in the direction of your next travel adventure. The world is a most alluring place and there are plenty of people out there—professionals and nonprofessionals alike—looking to tell you about the next destination you might want to visit. And it appears that big travel companies and other travel suppliers will be right there with them offering trip planning ease at the touch of your finger tips.
More MTS and Spring Skiing Scoop
They’re a fun crowd, all those MTS folk, as you can see from the images in this post. Most are snowsports enthusiasts, people that love to have a good time on and off the slopes. The MTS welcome reception at Elk Camp in Snowmass, sponsored by Snowmass Tourism and Aspen Skiing Company, elevated spirits higher than some of the nearby towering peaks. Just before loading the gondola with my boyfriend, Steve Togni, GM of Mountain Lodge Telluride and a guy that’s attended MTS for over a decade, we were served margaritas, concocted with habanero-infused tequila, delicious libations that made the ride to the mountaintop all the more merry. Once there, we mingled with ski industry aficionados, many of whom came dressed in retro ski attire. We bopped around sampling all kinds of tasty treats from the food and wine stations set up within this large on-mountain restaurant. We marveled at some of the spectacular fire and ice entertainment provided before heading back down the mountain.
All this took place during a super snowy week that offered some of the finest skiing of the season. Fortunately we did make it out onto the mountain a few times and even enjoyed some fine winter snow. How I love those big blue cruisers at Snowmass and the spectacular, sprawling vistas from up top at The Cirque!
Now here’s the good news for all of you: It has been snowing in the Aspen/Vail area all this week as well. Really dumping! So much so, in fact, that Aspen Highlands, which is to remain open through this Sunday, decided to reopen the weekend of April 27-28 as well. (Snowmass closed April 14.) Vail, which officially closed last Sunday, just decided to reopen this weekend. I skied Vail last weekend and had a stupendous time. I felt amazed by the amount of snow they had and the extent of their terrain. (Somehow I had forgotten that Vail is so huge and has so much to offer.) Wow, what a spring!
We’re having a big snowstorm here in Telluride as I write this. We closed the first Sunday of April, however, I’ve been having fun playing elsewhere and also catching up at my desk. (Snowy days are good for that, too.)
Happy spring! Happy travel planning!
Thank you to Aspen/Snowmass, Jeremy Swanson and Mountain Travel Symposium for the above images.
Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel: Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel
I love travel. Yes, it can be terribly tiresome but it usually brings about some of the most unexpected and exciting happenings. Case in point: Last week I stayed at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, one of my favorite properties in Colorado. It was to be a stopover with my friend, Mary Dawn, on our way back from combined promotions (for my new book and her delightful alpine goods) in Denver and Breckenridge as we made our way toward Telluride, Colorado, home base for us both. I was planning to just chill and recover from almost five weeks away, soaking up all the amenities of this first-class resort. But what an adventure it turned out to be!
The stay started out quietly enough. We had both settled into our luxurious digs replete with full kitchen and glorious beds piled high with comfy pillows in a variety of sizes, half of which we wanted to take home. I padded down to The Westin’s newly renovated fitness center the first morning to see how I could begin to restore myself after way too much time at my desk followed by extensive travel. This beehive of fitness fiefdom was still buzzing with activity at 11 a.m.—no wonder since it’s one of the preferred athletic clubs of the Vail Valley. I peeked into their fully-equipped pilates and spinning rooms before opting for the solitude of their yoga studio where I was thankfully in time for a much-needed class. Susan, the yoga director, took special care to address my needs, those of a weary travel writer that hadn’t devoted much time to being fit since last ski season ended. Thanks to her and the calming surroundings of this specially-designated yoga oasis, I felt one step closer to being whole again.
After chitchatting with the staff about all the doings at the hotel, I learned that the resort was in a flurry of activity largely due to the Audi FIS Birds of Prey World Cup Men’s Race that was taking place at Beaver Creek during that period. “Yes, I saw the gates and skis piled up in the lobby when I checked in last night,” I said. “I had totally overlooked the fact that that was going on. Then someone told me the Austrian team was staying here,” I added.
“Come back later in the afternoon to see the athletes working out,” a couple of the staffers exclaimed practically in unison. “It’s quite the show—with all those good looking guys lifting weights and swirling in their hula hoops,” one chuckled.
Sadly, my afternoon passed all too quickly up in my room at my laptop and by the time I sauntered down to the fitness area at 5:45p.m., all the studly dudes had left. Darn, I thought. There’s nothing like checking out world-class athletes in action and I missed it.
That evening, however, on the tail end of a most enjoyable dinner at Cima, the Westin’s signature restaurant and a Richard Sandoval creation, Mary Dawn wasted no time getting in on the World Cup fun. “Would you please tell those guys over there Grüß Gott?” she kindly asked the waiter. Already it was clear they were part of the Austrian ski team, so why not send the classic Austrian/Bavarian greeting from the Alps over to them? Why miss out on some Euro schmoozing? Three guys bopped over to our table and sidled into the curvilinear booth faster than you can say hooray. We enjoyed trading cross cultural stories and experiences until the wee hours of the morning. Since MD lived in Germany six years and is fluent in German, she particularly enjoyed the exchange. My French experience (eleven years in Paris) brought less to the table yet we were all in a bon vivant mood nonetheless. Fortunately our Austrian ski team companions were comprised of the director, a coach and a technician or else I can’t see how they would have been able to race the next day.
As I prepare to head out on a five-week journey—here, there and the other place—I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the pitfalls of travel. Yes, I love to travel. But it’s not always easy as I outlined in Traveler’s Woes: Internet Hassles, Hotel Pet Peeves and What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One: Packing. I’m also recalling the wise words of a dear friend that I elaborated on in Travel Lightly: Something to Remember During the Busy Holiday Season and Always. Yes, it helps if you get your mind straight, if you lower expectations and anticipate that it will not always be smooth sailing. (I don’t like to manifest a negative happening, however, it does help to be pragmatic.)
I’m trying to get a handle on my packing trauma by having begun to lay out my clothing, accessories and other assorted stuff last Sunday. This allows me to contemplate my piles. It all looks good so far, however, stuffing it into my bags (one duffle, plus a carry on with wheels) will be the real challenge.
Right now I’m considering the fatigue of it all, so I better start tapping into “travel lightly”—as in light in spirit—big time.
There will inevitably be many wonderful meals out and there’s no doubt that even some of the finest establishments will trigger something in me that will make me cringe. It happens all the time. Am I a pill? Maybe. But consult my list of restaurant pet peeves and I’ll bet you’ve been irked some, too:
In today’s modern world of WiFi, iPhones, texting and the like, we don’t expect to encounter major Internet difficulties when traveling. Sure, there are still remote destinations (especially here in the Great American West), when good, fast and reliable Internet connections can be a little sketchy, however, even in those remote areas, access to email and the worldwide web is being improved upon almost daily. In any event, “getting away from it all” is part of the allure of a lot of those places—you just have to be prepared to “unplug.”
But if you happen to find yourself in a well-developed area within the U.S. on a four-night stay in a large hotel—one that regularly holds conferences to boot—I find it pretty normal to expect that I’m going to enjoy flawless high-speed Internet access as soon as I fire up my laptop. Not. That was most definitely not the case during a trip to Utah last week and instead, I spent four agonizing days trying to do something as simple as logging onto a website or sending an email with an attachment (a very small one, mind you).
Colorado Hotels Telluride The Rockies Travel: Colorado Hotels Telluride The Rockies Travel
Wow! What a week it has turned out to be! The colors are really going off here in Telluride and from what I hear, most of Colorado—especially at the higher elevations—is exploding with a spectacular show of gold, orange and even a bit of red (more unusual for the West). This autumnal festival of colors came upon us fast and furiously this year. Less than a week ago it was still very green and summer-like—come to think of it, it was summer.
I’d say we’re pretty much at peak now and all over you see people oohing and aahing about this extraordinary riot of colors which has arrived almost ten days early this year. I might go so far to say it’s the most beautiful fall foliage season I’ve seen yet in Colorado although in truth, I think we all tend to forget how drop-dead gorgeous it is here in the Rockies this time of year.
And I’m optimistic it’s going to be great way beyond peak. It hasn’t started snowing much yet. Aspen, Vail, Telluride and Beaver Creek—all the stunning high-mountain resorts—have been blessed with a few dustings, however, our autumn vistas are not yet backdropped by snow-capped peaks (another unusual occurrence for this time of year). This is when the fall foliage viewing really takes your breath away; sure, the snow knocks some of the leaves off the trees but it’s worth it to see the striking contrast of golden aspens flanking the mountainsides of bright-white peaks.
Pet-Friendly Travel Travel Writing & Books: Pet-Friendly Travel Travel Writing & Books
I’m feeling batty. Or maybe I should say catty, as in catlike—not spiteful. My cats and I have been cooped up all summer long working on my book, “A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France.” It has been a productive summer, but now we’re bored, tired of being inside all the time, weary of looking in the fridge or staring at our dish to see what kind of savory treat might perk us up in between time logged at the desk and on the couch.
Lately I’ve been dreaming about cat vacations. I’ve actually been fantasizing about taking a trip with my two babies, Leo and Clara. So I googled it. And boy was I disappointed with what I found. I read about a cattery—a cat boarding place—in England and then perused a piece on soothing cat vacation stress. I saw an article on cats and vacations from petMD and gazed at lots of pictures of people’s cats on vacation. Cat Island Vacations on TripAdvisor came up along with Kenya Vacations, experts in big cat safaris. My interest was piqued by Artistique Acres Pet Resort, but I was in the end disappointed to learn that their cat cottage presents just another option for boarding your cat.