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A Day in Champagne with Tasty Side to Life Tours

Champagne, Tasty Side to Life ToursSince becoming à la mode among French and English nobility in the 18th century, Champagne has symbolized royalty, celebration, and the elite. However, few are familiar with the other side to the unique, bubbly beverage; one that’s close to the earth, rooted in the terroir, and reliant on the men and women who spend their lives in the vines, artfully and painstakingly toiling, experimenting, and taking risks to produce a blend that honors and embodies the complexity of the land. Champagne was born of an accident and a regional envy of Burgundy’s acclaimed reds. And today, tourists still prefer the Loire and sunnier Provence to Champagne, the country’s second least visited region. But a new generation of passionate organic and biodynamic growers is changing that.

Champagne, Tasty Side to Life Tours

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Posted in Tours and Classes, Travel | No Comments »

Experiencing the Wine Harvest in France

HiP Paris blog. Experiencing the wine harvest in France. Fun (but backbreaking!) work.

It’s been a belle année in France and the annual grape harvests are upon us. Due to the beautiful summer weather and almost ideal conditions throughout the year, the harvest – or vendanges – are taking place much earlier than last year. Sun-soaked southern winegrowing regions, like Beaujolais and Languedoc-Roussillon, began their harvests in mid-August and cooler regions, like the Loire Valley, will start the harvest in these first few weeks of September.

Taking part in the vendanges is almost a rite of passage for French youth. Broke high school and college students often take advantage of this opportunity to make some money before the school year starts, while spending time under the sun and making friends from all around the world. In smaller vineyards, the vendanges feel like a family affair, with communities forming among the harvesters who come back year after year. I kind of think of the vendanges as the French version of summer camp, only instead of making lanyards you’re helping to make wine.

HiP Paris blog. Experiencing the wine harvest in France. Well-tended, hand-raised grapes must also be harvested by hand.

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Posted in Travel, Wine | No Comments »

Heimat: Chef Pierre Jancou’s New Paris Restaurant

Heimat Restaurant: Pierre Jancou's latest gastronomic bistro near Paris' Palais Royal

I knew we were in for a treat at Heimat the minute we walked in the door. For one of Paris’ most anticipated new restaurants, located in the swanky Palais Royal neighborhood, my expectation was to encounter that certain form of snobbery that increases the closer you get to the center of the city. But the greeting at Heimat is just the opposite; despite being housed in a stony cellar space on rue de Montpensier, the welcome is warm, as is the lighting and the conversation that fill the cavernous yet cosy dining rooms.

Pierre Jancou, the man behind Racines and Vivant, seems to have stepped back from the pretense of his earlier exploits in opening Heimat. It offers a legit list of natural wines, but clearly has an interest in making these wines, and the food they are paired with, accessible to a curious lunch crowd. Heimat joins a handful of comfortable dining spaces – Café de la Nouvelle Mairie and Le Siffleur de Ballons also come to mind – that prove that natural wines have found their home in Paris, and the restaurants that serve them no longer need to have an achingly cool aura or inflated prices.

Heimat Restaurant: Pierre Jancou's latest gastronomic bistro near Paris' Palais Royal

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Posted in Food, Restaurant Reviews | 2 Comments »

Loches: A Glimpse into Historic French Countryside in the Heart of the Loire Valley

HiP Paris Blog, Loches, Isabel Miller-Bottome DSC_0313

On a hill overlooking the Indre in the heart of the Loire Valley, Loches remains one of the best-preserved medieval cities in France today. With its shadowy cobblestone streets, sweeping views of the enclosing forest landscape, and lively marketplace and cuisine, Loches has a particular authentic charm difficult to find elsewhere. A half-hour from Tours and a three-hour drive from Paris, it’s an off-the-beaten-tourist-path detour for visitors of the Loire region, as well as an easy weekend getaway for Parisians seeking a breath of fresh air.

HiP Paris Blog, Loches, Isabel Miller-Bottome DSC_0335

I find the best way to learn about French history is simply to wander and take in the historical sites themselves. Loches may be a quiet city today, but its sundry past features some of France’s most fascinating characters: Joan of Arc, Anne of Brittany, and King Charles VII and his notorious, “favorite” official mistress, Agnes Sorel.

HiP Paris Blog, Loches, Isabel Miller-Bottome DSC_0264

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Posted in Travel | 3 Comments »

Living A Dream: The Search For An Old Stone House In the French Countryside

Buying a House in Burgundy, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Paige Frost 3

Paige Frost

It started on a whim. We were vacationing in the South of France near the idyllic medieval town of Roquebrun, about an hour’s drive from Montpellier.  Its sun-baked stone facades are built up into a cascading hillside; a smattering of cafes and merchants dot its central tree-lined street. At the foot of the village, the Orb River meanders through the densely green valley, inviting swimmers, fishermen and kayakers to partake.

Buying a House in Burgundy, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Nebojsa Mladjenovic

Nebojsa Mladjenovic 

It’s a hidden gem in the Herault region of Languedoc-Roussillon, affectionately known to locals as Le Petit Nice.

Glancing up the hillside at Rocquebrun’s ancient buildings — from my perch on a sunny cafe terrace — it was impossible to miss the sign hanging on a nearby iron balcony: A Vendre. The house faced the river offering what appeared to be an unbroken view of its lazy waters, arched stone bridge and the rugged valley beyond. It looked too good to be true. I had to see inside.

Buying a House in Burgundy, HiP Paris Blog, Photo by Andree & Edward

 Andree & Edward

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Posted in Homes, Travel | 3 Comments »