Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fête des Mères & Chateau Olivier

Today is Mother's Day in France!! Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is celebrating today.  In France it's called La Fête des Mères or La Fête des Mamans.  It's celebrated the same here, as it is in the States - Mothers get to be queens for the day!  I swear every flower or chocolate shop had huge lines yesterday! For us it's been a fairly quiet day.  

I had to work this morning...yes, you did read that correctly - I worked on Mother's Day.  It's one of those tourism situations, where I was scheduled to give the city tour of Bordeaux later this week and due to changes with the docking schedule of the river cruise, the tour got moved to this morning.  I love giving this tour - it's so fun to share about the history of the city, point out different monuments and buildings - so I figured for a few hours early this morning - it would start my day off well!

We will be officially celebrating tonight.  But to be honest, I felt like I already celebrated last night.  My expat group held our annual Spring dinner at the most stunning location - Chateau Olivier - A Grande Cru Classe des Graves vineyard located just on the outskirts of Bordeaux.
The Chateau itself - still a private home
Just look at that castle, who wouldn't feel like a king or queen while they were here? This beautiful chateau has a very long history, dating back to the 11th or 12th century.  There are written records as far back as 1273.  The Black Prince even lived in Chateau Olivier in the middle of the 14th century.  

Another important historical note is that this chateau also passed through the hands of the family of Montesquieu. (I think architecturally some of the buildings look similar to Chateau La Brede - Montesquieu's home -Take a look- HERE).  By the late 1800's the Bethmann family bought the chateau and they continue to run it today.  
One of the Cellar buildings
The moat around the Chateau
Château Olivier wines received official classification of Grande Cru Classe in 1953, for both red and white varieties. If you have a chance to visit this chateau located in Leognan, it's just so beautiful!
Loved all the ivy, vines and flowers all over the property
The Back entrance to the Chateau - over the moat
As you can tell from the photos, this is a stunning property - very peaceful & idyllic.  It was the perfect setting for a wonderful Spring dinner. We started outside with a tour of the Chateau and then had a tasting of some of their wines - while we stood in the gardens admiring our surroundings.   

We then moved inside to a banquet hall for our dinner.  The menu was excellent - a cold gazpacho soup with shrimp to start, then pintade (guinea fowl) served with a melody of delicious vegetables and finally ending with a chocolate fondant cake.

So after that scrumptious meal in such an enchanting setting - it's really hard to top.  I'm very appreciative of a quiet day today and a small family celebration!  I already feel spoiled!

So Happy Mother's Day  & I hope everyone had a wonderful day (and/or weekend) not matter how you celebrated!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Upper Style by Claude Boscher - A relaxing morning at the salon

An Oasis in Bordeaux!
Have you ever found a place to get your hair cut where you feel right at home?  Sort of like the hair stylist coming to you - in your home!  Well, we have such a place in Bordeaux - it's called Upper Style by Claude Boscher.  This boudoir-style apartment salon, located on Cours George Clemenceau, is truly like experiencing your hair being done in someones stylish and beautiful house.
One Saturday morning a little while ago, I got to experience one of the most relaxing and wonderful hair styling and coloring experiences ever.  I'm probably like so many of you - it's really hard to find a stylist and salon that I love. To top it off, as an expat here in Bordeaux- there is always that French/English language barrier.  That first time experience - that first appointment - the one where you know that the stylist doesn't really know you, yet or you're not sure how you will really look when you leave. I have to say - after my experience at Upper Style - all my anxieties and stress melted away.
You will feel genuinely spoiled and taken care of there by both Claude and his partner Joel.  From when you first walk in and you are greeted by them to the end when you walk out feeling fresh and new! Claude initially meets with you and talks about how you like to wear your hair, how you style it, and what your thoughts are about your look.  It's a wonderful approach to allow you to relax and place yourself in the hands of an expert!
An expert he is - Claude has been styling hair since the 1980's.  He started out modestly in a small town in Northern France.  He eventually moved to Paris and then New York working with the Group Jacques Dessange on Park Avenue.  He was an instructor for the Dessange school in New York but has also worked with other salons, including Salon Pierre Michel, one of the best known salons in New York.  Additionally, Claude has worked such renowned events as the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, along with participating in numerous photo shoots for magazines, television shows; major brands such as L'Oreal & Victoria's Secret. 

He has chosen to bring his high-end skills to Bordeaux and grace the city with his beautiful salon.  It's an added bonus that Claude is bilingual.  He has a wonderful way of putting you at ease and pampering you at the same time!!  His intention is to individually take care of each client with the greatest service. They do not receive more than two clients at a time in order to concentrate totally on his/her needs.

Claude and his partner Joel, fell in love with the city of Bordeaux and decided to open their intimate and exclusive salon in the heart of our precious jewel! I'd say we were the lucky ones to benefit from their unique approach and expertise!  It was so nice meeting them and knowing that they love this city as much as I do!! I often have English-speaking friends or tourists ask me if I know a hair stylist who speaks English - well - here you go! - For anyone in the Bordeaux area, or just visiting, who is looking for an incredible stylist and pampered experience, Claude and Joel welcome you anytime.

Upper Style by Claude Boscher 
61 Cours Georges Clemenceau, 33000 Bordeaux
05 56 23 43 14

Check out their website - Upper Style

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Saint Emilion - It's not only about the for families too

Quintessential photo of vineyards and the town of Saint Emilion
Easter afternoon - 
Chateau Soutard & Saint Emilion
Chateau Soutard
I feel like I have been trying to write this post for weeks - but life as usually, gets really busy around here.  Whose life isnt' busy?  Here's how we spent our Easter afternoon - enjoying some special time in Saint Emilion.  We started our afternoon at Chateau Soutard - Grand Cru Classé chateaux in Saint Emilion just on the outskirts of the town.  One of the things I loved about this Chateau, besides it's beauty was that for that particular afternoon it was very family friendly.  The event began with a visit to the Chateau and an egg hunt for the kids.

There were then pony rides for the younger children and table/umbrellas for the adults to sit and enjoy the sunshine.  We just enjoyed wandering around the property, while my 2 younger girls kept getting back in line to ride the pony loop.

The landscape of Saint Emilion, itself is stunning - I love how the vineyards stretch out along the hillside and the fields of wildflowers!

After we enjoyed over an hour at the Chateau, we took the kids into the town.  It's funny, my husband and I have visited Saint Emilion several times both together and separately with friends.  I think because it's known for its wine more than anything else - it's a place, I don't often think to visit with the kids.  But this medieval village has loads to offer families and we all spent a great afternoon wandering around the cobblestone streets.
My oldest and youngest at the viewpoint
I think she wanted to hold the sword too!

A little history about this town - originally called Ascumbas.  St. Emilion was named for a Benedictine monk, Emilian who arrived in the 8th century.  He made such a strong impact on the town that it eventually took his name.  The town back then was the center of religious life.  Monks carved an entire church from one single piece of limestone beginning in the 9th century and taking 300 years - this church still exists in the hill and it said to be the greatest monolithic church in Europe.

As time passed, the town prospered for many reasons and eventually became fortified to protect itself from invaders.  During the 12th century, the town became even more fortified with an addition of a moat, gates, the City keep, the King's Tower and the inner ramparts built to strengthen the fortifications.

Unfortunately this town suffered a decline during the 16th to 18th centuries and during the French revolution, many residents moved out leaving the town an easy target for revolutionaries and vandals who further damaged the town and at one point Saint Emilion, itself was deserted.

In the mid 1800's with the growth of the wine trade and commerce related to it, a new prosperity was brought to the region.  Saint Emilion began developing a reputation for its wines, so traders and tourists returned to the area.  The town today is a result of this re-birth from the 1800's and today is a beautiful, quintessential village and a "must see" for travellers to the Bordeaux area.
Cloisters of the Collegiate Church

As a family we enjoyed wandering the streets, seeing the cloisters of the Church and a little shopping.  Since we arrived late in the afternoon and it was Easter Sunday, we didn't take advantage of climbing the bell tower or touring the monolithic church - but I know my girls would have found both a lot of fun and very interesting!

The steep way down the hill!
Amazingly - It was Easter Sunday and many stores were open.
A fun shopping Square on the lower side of the town.
Love all the bright colors against all the  blond limestone buildings!

The whole town is built on the side of a hill - Most of the buildings were constructed from the limestone which came from underneath the town
Saint Emilion had been protected by UNESCO, as a world heritage site since 1999.  It definitely is a fun town for a family to spend an afternoon or part of a day.  Wine is certainly a large part its history, but I think it's just as fun for families to come tour around, climb up and down the hills and absorb the history of this place!  In another post, I will talk more about the macaroons that were developed in this area, some of the older buildings and of course all the "very cool" caves that run underground!!  This beautiful place has so much to offer!!
View of Saint Emilion from Chateau Soutard

Friday, May 2, 2014

Girl's Guide to Paris/Europe - Super wonderful E-Magazine

Girl's Guide to Paris
The travel website for women who are traveling to Paris.  It's a great site for all things "Parisien".  The writers truly know the city inside and out and will give you advice as to what to see and do.  It's a great site and their walking tour apps are awesome. (I say that truly from personal experience - used several on our last trip to Paris!!).  The founder of this website, Doni Belau was recently featured in Forbes Magazine. 

This year, they have expanded and created an beautiful, informative e-magazine - Girl's Guide to Europe.

Are you interested in learning more about different cities in Europe?

Do you love to look at stunning photos of cities and places in Europe?

Are you planning a trip to Europe and can't decide where to go?

Then take a sneak peak of the current edition HERE:

In the current full edition I have the privilege of  2 featured articles.  The first is a piece about my mother/daughter getaway to Montpellier with my oldest daughter and the second is a photo essay about Dali's Spain.  Both were fun to write and I hope you will all enjoy them.  In the next issue, I am also featured with a photo piece about a quaint countryside village outside Stockholm, Sweden.

The cost of the e-magazine per month is less than one cup a coffee.  It's fun and very informative - sends you dreaming off to the next place to visit on your bucket list.  

Hope you will check it out.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

La Fete du Muguet - May Day & Labor Day in France

Today is La Fete du Muguet or May Day in France

It is the day that we wish our friends and family much happiness by presenting them with bouquets of Lily of the Valley!

Individuals can be found on many streets selling bunches of Muguet or Lily of the Valley.

So Sweet!!

Today is also a French National Holiday - Labor Day.

Wishing everyone much happiness 
on this wonderful day!!

What are you going to do today?  
We usually head out to a local park for a walk or a nice bike ride together!
Would love to hear your plans for the day.

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