- 1st Arrondissement,
- 7th Arrondissement,
Treat your senses to the best of France, from the lavender fields of Provence to the sidewalk cafés of Paris. Discover Provençal pleasures with your family as you kayak the waters under an ancient aqueduct, sample the wines of a country vineyard, and sail through the wind on a mountain crest bike ride. Then it’s off to Paris by bullet train to indulge in the avant-garde – from the heights of the Eiffel Tower to the shops of the Champs Elysées – before bidding adieu to your delectable adventure.
Tour of Provence
Le Passage, France
Aix-en-Provence 13100, France
Tel: 33 4 42 37 09 00
In a former candy factory is a mini village (there's also a cooking school, a wine shop, and an épicerie) offering Aix some overdue modern cuisine. Reine Sammut, one of the top female chefs in France, started the restaurant. She moved on in 2005, but her former chef de cuisine, Franck Dumont, is at the helm of this fashionably playful kitchen. Enjoy "gravlax" of beef with hand-cut fries and wasabi mayonnaise, or dorade à la plancha—medium-edgy dishes that match the branché Tribeca loft decor of exposed aluminum pipes, tall red banquettes, and white chairs against dark slate walls and floors. Some say it's an overpriced pose with patchy service, but all of Aix seems to be coming anyway.
Cezanne's Hillside Painting Activity
Chateau de Beaupre
Wine Tasting and Nougat Noshing
See + Do
Pont du Gard, France
Vers-Pont-du-Gard 30210, France
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this is one tourist attraction that's well worth the drive and crowds. The spectacular Roman-built bridge is worthy of a Romantic painting—three elegant layers of arches, 1,200 feet long, span two rocky precipices with the Gardon River flowing 160 feet below. The original structure is an aqueduct running from springs around the small town of Uzès to the city of Nîmes, a distance of 31 miles. No cement was used in the construction, making the architectural marvel all the more impressive. The Pont has been a tourist site for hundreds of years—Louis XVI had his engineers shore up its structure for visitor traffic, and the span got a major makeover under Napoleon III in the 1870s. Visitors can scamper about on the bridge with little keeping the overly adventurous from plunging over; however, walks along the highest archways, where the actual aqueduct is, are available only via tours offered by the site's staff—maddeningly enough, hours are unpredictable and are only available on-site. A spiffy new visitors center offers interactive museums and other educational exhibits, but the bridge itself is really the whole show.
Jacquou le Croquant, France
Aix-en-Provence 13100, France
Tel: 33 4 42 27 37 19
Southwestern French cuisine is the raison d'être of this refreshingly casual, energetic restaurant. The entire staff seems to be of college age, including the chefs, who cook out of a semipublic kitchen, and the casual, friendly wait staff, some of whom still have braces on their teeth. The interior decor is negligible; go for the sun-filled narrow garden at the back, where you'll share the space with in-the-know locals. Duck and goose are everywhere on the menu, including the Starlette salad, a rich mix of marinated sautéed rabbit livers, duck rillettes, and foie gras atop some token greens. The house specialty is a tourtou of duck, a stuffed warm crêpe that is creamy, warm, satisfying, and pleasantly unlike the regime of olive oil and shellfish that reigns everywhere else in Aix. Wines are cheap, local, and cheerful. Jacquou may not be straight out of a Peter Mayle book, but it's a refreshing jolt of youth and energy in this sometimes sleepy-feeling region.
Opens daily at noon for lunch and 7 pm for dinner, April through September, and Tuesdays through Saturdays, October through March.
See + Do
Dreams of owning property in the region are often born in this template of a Provence village: The dramatic limestone cliff is covered in red-roofed buildings set at vertiginous angles among olive trees and scrubby vegetation, with views of fields and vineyards for miles around. The village is not above taking advantage of its visual charms: There's a Sotheby's real-estate office on the town square for impulse purchases. Aside from the sweeping vistas that greet you at every turn, the town is fairly standard, with a central square and a few decent restaurants (beware lunch closing time; after 2:30 you're out of luck, with no exceptions), a ruined château, and a church. But the streets are slanted at an especially steep angle, and those views sneak up on you when you least expect it, whether you're exploring an alley or trying to find the church stairwell. A quick trip to the cliff-side village of Roussillon is also in order if you're in the neighborhood. It's worth it just for the drive through the vineyards, especially in fall, when the grape leaves change colors, lighting up the fields in gorgeous reds, yellows, and browns.
Ochre Cliffs of Roussillon Tour
See + Do
Paris Walks, France
Tel: 33 1 48 09 21 40
The best approach to seeing the French capital is with a lot of shoe leather and a good guide, which is why it's so much fun to join a Paris Walks tour. Owned and run since 1994 by Peter and Oriel Caine, a charming British couple, the tours are exceptionally well-priced and easy to join. Reserve by phone, fax, or e-mail, or just show up at the appointed place and time as announced by flyers found in many Paris hotels. Themes range from Hemingway's Paris to The Da Vinci Code (yes, still) to a "Saints and Sinners" tour of the Marais, each offering a lively mix of history, art, and local lore delivered by highly qualified Anglophone locals. Each tour lasts about two hours. Paris Walks also offers private tours to Paris neighborhoods, museums, or out-of-town destinations such as Monet's house and gardens in Giverny, or the D-day beaches of Normandy.
See + Do
Musée du Louvre, France
Paris 75001, France
Tel: 33 1 40 20 53 17
The world's most famous museum, originally a royal residence, usually elicits one of two strong reactions from those who've never been before—exhilaration or dread. The most reasonable response may be a mixture of the two, since it's a lot of work to see even a small part of it. What's needed is some strategy. Download a floor plan from the website before you show up, and arrive with a list of what you absolutely can't miss (Leonardo's masterpieces, Veronese's like-it-or-loathe-it Wedding at Cana, Caravaggio's superb Fortune Teller, Michelangelo's Dying Slave sculpture, etc., etc.). If you're coming in summer, buy your ticket in advance on the website, and use an alternative entrance instead of I.M. Pei's mobbed glass pyramid (the best access point for first-timers is the Porte des Lions entrance, which drops you off almost directly at the Mona Lisa). No matter how you find your way in, prepare yourself for crowds: Attendance at the Louvre has gone up by over a million a year since the release of The Da Vinci Code, which is the subject of the most popular tours and audio guides now, much to the chagrin of authentic art lovers and historians. Try to see the most famous pieces at lunchtime or during dinner on Wednesday and Friday, when the museum is open until 10 p.m. Keep in mind that some rooms are closed on a rotating weekly basis; if you have your heart set on seeing something beyond the traditional masterpieces, check the website to make sure it'll be accessible. And don't forget that your ticket is valid all day long—you're not a bad person if you want to go sit on a bench in the gardens of the Tuileries or the Palais Royal for a time-out.
Open 9 am to 6 pm (until 10 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays). Closed Tuesdays.
Oustau de Baumanière, France
Tel: 33 4 90 54 33 07
There's nothing trendy, deconstructed, or reconstructed about this classic of the region, chef Jean-André Charial's domain for the past three decades—it's just right as it is. The stone-walled restaurant with its arched windows, wood-beamed ceiling, and iron carriage lamps plus its shaded garden tables is neither too dressy nor too louche, and likewise the menus, rigorously simple and based firmly in the cuisine of the Baussenque region. Pride of place goes to what's just been picked from the extensive gardens, and any arlequinade de legumes printaniers or ballade dans notre jardin or petits farcis (a Niçois dish of stuffed vegetables) on the menu should be seized upon—few chefs dare to give a nice young vegetable its head like Charial does. Fillets of red mullet with basil—a signature dish—are similarly deceptively simple; suckling pig roasted at low temperature with fennel confit and a leg of lamb en croûte are showier, but still sublime. Afterwards, try to save room for the impressive cheese board—all are from this region—and for another Baumianière signature, the crêpes soufflés au Grand Marnier. The 30 bedrooms, by the way, are wonderful, with a mix of modern and traditional furniture. Some even have outdoor terraces.
See + Do
Eiffel Tower, France
Paris 75007, France
Tel: 33 1 44 11 23 23
It's hard to imagine just how avant-garde this tower of cast-iron girders was when it was built in 1889 to celebrate the World's Fair and the centenary of the French Revolution. The great majority of Parisians loathed it, and the press brayed on about how it was an industrial pimple on the face of the city. But a century and then some later, the elegant slope-legged tower has become the quintessential symbol of the City of Light. Its latest attraction is a mantle of 20,000 flashbulbs, originally installed to celebrate the new millennium, that glitter for ten minutes every hour on the hour after dark. So, do you need to actually visit it? Well, yes, and not just if you happen to be proposing publicly to Katie Holmes. It's a fascinating example of early industrial architecture, and the panoramas really are swell. Go at night to skip at least some of the teeming masses. Or better still, book a table perched 400 feet up on the second level, at the Jules Verne restaurant. Now part of the Alain Ducasse empire, it attracts savvy local families and visitors alike with French classics (33-1-45-55-61-44).
Open 9 am to 12 midnight between June 15 and September 1; open 9:30 am to 11 pm during the rest of the year.