Monday, December 23, 2013

Provence Calendale Traditions-

Provence, month-long festival of Christmas is called in Provencal "Li Calendo".  It starts on the Feast of Santa Barbara, December 4 and lasts to Epiphany, January 6.  The ancient traditions and rituals include setting nativity scenes filled with the usual nativity characters but also with santons - exquisite hand-crafted little figurines representing characters of the local village life-- the shepherd, the baker, the peddler, the farmer, the postman, etc..  

Another Provencal Tradition is the Gros Souper and the 13 Deserts.  At the Big Supper before Christmas eve mass, the table is set with three tablecloths on which three candlesticks are placed along with three plates filled with wheats. This is to represent the Trinity. A buffet of seven
different dishes is laid out along with 13 deserts (the number representing Jesus and the apostles) and include precisely:

4 mendiants, each symbolize a religious order: 
  • Dried figs (Franciscans)
  • Almonds (Carmelites)
  • Raisins (Dominicans)
  • Walnuts (Augustinians)

Fougasse or pompe a huile (a flat bread flavored with olive oil and herbs); 
and an assortments of fresh fruits, candied fruits, nougats and cakes.  They will remain on the table for three days and each guest must taste each one of them.

Bon NouvéJoyeux Noël!

tags: Provence, christmas traditions in Provence

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Enchanted France Spring Tours 2014

Enchanted France is offering three small group escorted tours to France in Spring 2014 and will feature Paris, Provence, Normandy and Loire Valley.  Enchanted France tours are designed to offer an intimate and authentic travel experience in France with a high level of quality and personalized services.  These culturally enriching  expeditions are perfect for first time as well as more seasoned travelers; for travelers who like a structured group program as well as independent travelers who like a certain amount of flexibility yet have a bit of structure.  We hope you can join us in 2014 for unique travel experiences in France. The tours will be running in succession to one another during the month of May so it may be advantageous to sign for more than one tour to sample different French regions. Space is limited as groups are limited in size. 

Paris and Ile de France Adventure
7 days/6 nights

Date: April 27-May 3, 2014 

This is a unique cultural adventure through Paris and the Ile de France, the historical cradle of the Kingdom of France. Since the time of Childebert I, Paris was the administrative and cultural capital of the French kingdom while the surrounding countryside was the pleasure ground of the kings and where they built beautiful retreats.
This tour covers Paris’  history, architecture, art and savoir vivre.  It will venture outside of the capital to Chartres, Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte. 
SoJoin us for this one-of-kind tour!!.

Tour highlights include:
  • In Paris visit:  Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle,
  • Walk in the footsepts of Impressionist painters and visit the  Orsay Museum  
  • Explore  Le Marais and 17th century architecture
  • Outside of Paris:  visit castles of Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte and tour Chartres cathedral
  •  Stay in charming hotel in Paris
  • Gourmet meals
Provence Escapade
7 days/6 nights
Date: May 3-9, 2014

Provence is always a favorite region of France to discover. Join our small group to explore the many treasures of sunny Provence from its rich historical past to its unique traditions and savoir vivre. You will discover beautiful architecture dating back to the Romans and magnificent landscapes of fragrant hills, lavender fields, vineyards and picturesque villages. More importantly, on this journey you will find your senses stimulated in so many ways from the special light that inspired the impressionist painters to the smell and taste of the many Provencal specialties.
Medieval heritage: Avignon's Pope's Palace; Ste. Trophime Cathedral; Abbaye de Senanque
  • Roman architecture : Pont Du Gard ; Arles' Arena and Vaison la Romaine
  • Irresistible Provencal towns: Avignon ; St. Remy de Provence; Aix en Provence
  • Picturesque perched villages: Gordes; les Baux; Roussillon
  • Savoir vivre :: colorful markets ; Chateauneuf du Pape wine tasting; olive oil tasting
  • Beautiful landscape : Alpilles Hills; Luberon National Park; vineyards and Olive groves
  • Charming hotels in the heart of Avignon
  • Gourmet meals
  • A/C minicoach transportation in Provence
  • Fully escorted and expertly guided
  • Small intimate group


Normandy and Loire Valley Castles
8 days / 7 nights

May 11-18, 2014

Come discover Normandy and the Loire Valley Castles
You will first visit Normandy, a land rich in history, tradition and gastronomy. From Monet’s garden in Giverny to the Mont St. Michel you will discover towns with rich architectural heritage, verdant landscape of apple orchards and fields framed by hedge grows where cows graze contentedly. On this 70th year anniversary of the Normandy D-Day Landing will visit the memorial sites of Omaha Beach, Juno Beach, Pointe du Hoc and Sainte Mere l’Eglise.  The tour will then continue to the romantic Loire Valley where the Renaissance castles built by the Kings of France will enchant you. In this tour you will have a chance to taste the gastronomy and the specialties of these two regions—cider and cheese in Normandy and the velvety wines of the Loire Valley.
  • Monet's Garden in Giverny
  • Rouen Cathedral
  • Normandy D-Day Landing sites 
  • Mont St. Michel Abbey
  • Castles: Chenoceau, Amboise, Chambord, Villandry
  • Manor Clos Luce

For information contact Enchanted France
Tags: france tours, Paris tour, Normandy tour, Loire Valley tour, Provence tour

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Reasons to visit Strasbourg

Strasbourg is one of the most picturesque towns of Europe.   Tucked in the northeast corner of France on the border of Germany and only about 2 and a half hours by high speed TGV train from Paris, the capital of Alsace beckons visitors especially this time of  year  when the town sparkles of a thousand lights , christmas decorations adorn the facades of shops, restaurants and houses and  streets are bustling with eager shoppers. Here are five reasons to make Strasbourg your destination of choice during  the holiday season and anytime of the year.

Strasbourg Christmas Market
OT Strasbourg-Emilie Cottier
One of the most appealing reasons to come to Strasbourg in December is to visit its famed Christmas market, the oldest one in France, a more than 400 years old institution.  It is in 1570 that the first Christkindelsmarik (Market of Christ Child) took place.  The Christmas market spreads along many streets in the historic center and especially in front of the Cathedral and the lively square --Place  Broglie.  Strollers make their way through the market tempted by the wares of the many sellers installed in 300 wooden chalets selling local arts and crafts, Christmas ornaments and gourmet delicacies.  The scent of cinnamon,  mulled wine and savory sweets fill the air while carolers' voices entertain shoppers. Every year a giant pine tree, the tallest in Europe, is set and on Place Kleber and decorated with Christmas tinsels and ornaments to the delight of children of all ages. 

Strasbourg Cultural Heritage
Strasbourg is appealing anytime of the year for the wealth of its historical heritage and its architectural beauty.  The French Minister of Culture has just recognized the importance of Strasbourg's preserved patrimony and has attributed to it the distinguish label of "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (City of art and history).  

OT Strasbourg-Genevieve Engel
Its most prized landmark is the Cathedral Notre Dame, a masterpiece of gothic architecture. Built between  1015-1439, the cathedral is distinguished by it is pink sandstone facade so richly carved and decorated; scenes from the Old and New Testaments adorned the central portal. Its spire stretches up gracefully 142 meter from the ground, one of the tallest in Europe. Inside, the cathedral counts many treasures among which are the stained glass windows dating from the 12th to the 14th century, the St. Pancrace's altar designed by Hans  Hammer dating from 1522, fourteen magnificent 17th century tapestries and its Renaissance astronomical clock with a mechanism dating from the 19th century - a masterpiece of engineering , artistry and craft .  One of the magical moment to take place every day is at 12:30PM when the astronomical clock show takes place with its parade of apostles. 
Astronomical Clock

Strolling through Strasbourg offers many delights. One particular neighborhood La Petite France District has been classified as Unesco World Heritage site.  This picturesque neighborhood alongside the Ile River, once the district of the  tanners, millers and fishermen  is lined with 16th and 17th century timber-framed houses. 

Strasbourg counts many museums among them the Palais Rohan, which holds a collection of  paintings from the  Renaissance to 1870 including works by Botticelli, Veronese, Canaletto, El Greco, Rubens, Goya, Delacroix, Corot and many others.  At the bottom of  the cathedral, the Musee de l'Oeuvre Notre Dame concentrates on art from the Medieval and Renaissance periods that illustrates mainly Strasbourg and the Upper Rhine region's past.  Modern and Contemporary art is housed in a museum right in the historic center and features a collection of fine art from the 20th century, graphic as well as photographic works.  

Gastronomy of Alsace
Strasbourg, as the capital of Alsace, is renowned for its gastronomy- a mixture of hearty german food and French gourmet sophistication.  Some specialities include Choucroute, a dish of pickled sauerkraut and assorted sausages; Baeckoff, a stew of meats, potatoes and spices simmered in Alsatian wine; Flammekueche or Flambe tart, a thin pastry filled with cream, onion and bacon pieces. The local deserts are non pareil such as the Bredele cake for christmas, the Kugelhopf and the Alsatian cheese tart. Strasbourg Winstubs (Alsatian bistro)  are renowned for serving delectable local cuisine in a cozy and  convivial setting. 

Wine and Beer of Alsace
Alsace has a long and rich culture in vineyard cultivation.  Its wines are renowned the world over for their quality and unique terroir.  There are 7 distinct AOC's named for their grape variety - Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Tokay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sylvaner.  When in Strasbourg, visit the historic wine cellars of the Hospices de Strasbourg . In this magnificent 600 year old vaulted cellar a selection of local wines are stored; one barrel  contains wine from 1472!!

Let's  not forget the Alsatian's beer tradition --In fact the first brewery in Alsace was founded in Strasbourg in 1260.  Famous brands brewed outside of Strasbourg include Kronenbourg, Fisher and Karlsbrau . 

Crossroads of Europe
Photo: OT Strasbourg
Yves Noto-Campanella
Strasbourg has always been at the crossroads of Europe since the middle ages when the city was an important trade center.  Today it is the seat of the European parliament and other European institutions like the Council of Europe with its European Court of Human Rights .  Members meet each month for 4 day long sessions of debating, law drafting and voting. Public can visit the chambers during plenary sessions.

As you see, there are many reasons to visit Strasbourg during the festive holiday season as well as throughout the year and visitors come back for encore year after year.

Visit a France Destination Specialist to arrange your trip to France and beyond.

tags: Alsace, Strasbourg, Strasbourg Christmas market