- 6th Arrondissement,
Planning my dream tour in France to explore art, food and wine.
La Bastide de Moustiers, France
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie 04360, France
Tel: 33 4 92 70 47 47
Alain Ducasse is no mere chef with a growing worldwide empire of exceptional restaurants and a constellation of Michelin stars, you know. No, he's also a hotelier. He's been president of Châteaux et Hotels de France for some years, but he only actually owns four places, of which this 17th-century bastide was the first. Set in the Alpes de Haute Provence near the Gorge du Verdon, it's a heavenly, peaceful spot, selected by Ducasse himself originally as a place to lay his head during motorbike forays. Now he's rarely here, needless to say, but the kitchen team, headed by Eric Santalucia, is school-of-Alain through and through. The 12 rooms vary quite widely in situation (few are in the main building) and decor details, but they share a romantic, pastel-shaded country air with Salerne floor tiles; in one, the bathroom is open to the bedroom through an archway; a couple have sleep lofts, others private terraces. The park has a small pool; huge vegetable, fruit, and herb plots for kitchen use; and a small menagerie of child-friendly domestic beasts (not for kitchen use).
Hôtel Le Rhul, France
Marseille 13007, France
Tel: 33 4 91 52 01 77, Fax: 33 4 91 52 49 82
This grand three-star hotel on the Corniche offers nothing but sea-view rooms, half of which have small private terraces. Aside from vistas across the Bay of Marseille, one really stays here to take advantage of the restaurant. It's a signatory of the "Bouillabaisse charter" to uphold the strictest traditions of the famed seafood stew, and the kitchen does a superb job of keeping the faith. As a lunch spot, it's long been favored by the rich and powerful, including former president, Jacques Chirac.
Hôtel le Saint Grégoire, France
Paris 75006, France
Tel: 33 1 45 48 23 23
Tucked away on a narrow street between Montparnasse and St-Germain-des-Prés, this 20-room hotel, in an 18th-century mansion, is popular with fashionistas, the literati, and stylish French visiting from the provinces. All rooms are done up in a classic Gallic tour-de-force of floral chintz curtains, white-varnished furniture, and embroidered coverlets. Oil paintings, framed mirrors, and Oriental accent rugs abet the impression of being a guest in the private house of some very refined Parisians, and the English-speaking manager is on hand for restaurant and shopping recommendations or information on the latest gallery shows. Wi-Fi is available in all rooms, and breakfast is served in the vaulted stone cellar.
Philippe Chez Dubern, France
Tel: 33 5 56 79 07 70
Something of a Bordeaux institution for fresh fish and shellfish, this restaurant once occupied a warren of rooms cluttered with fishing objets, but moved, in 2006, to a new address in the heart of town with enough space for a terrace, a brasserie, and a restaurant. Chef Philippe Téchoire, the son of a fisherman, trained at the Cordon Bleu, and his focus is naturally on outstanding fresh fish and produce, plainly and beautifully presented in such dishes as the seafood platter, turbot with fresh grapes and mushrooms or grilled in a salt crust, and brochette de coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallop shish kebabs—which sounds so much more refined in French).
Dinner only, closed Sundays.
Café du Musée, France
Tel: 33 5 56 44 71 61
Designed by Andrée Putman and hung with photographs by Richard Long, the rooftop restaurant at the Contemporary Art Museum is a fashionable lunchtime haunt with a good-value menu. The menu changes four times a year, but you might find foie gras terrine scented with vanilla, or ceviche of daurade (sea bream) marinated in ginger.
See + Do
Médoc Wine Region, France
Rent a car and head north of the city into the Médoc, home of Château Latour Martillac (Chemin de La Tour; 33-5-57-97-71-11; www.latour-martillac.com), Margaux (33-5-57-88-83-83; www.chateau-margaux.com), Lafite-Rothschild (20 Rue du Rajol; 33-5-65-59-26-83; www.lafite.com), and Mouton-Rothschild (33-5-56-73-21-29; www.bpdr.com), among other celebrated, if less rarefied, domains. It's possible to visit all four, but generally only through an appointment made at least a week or two in advance and, with occasional exceptions, only on weekdays.
One vine may look much like another (those producing the greatest wines are in sight of the Gironde estuary), but it's a diverting drive nonetheless. And the châteaux you pass on the D2 are magnificent: Margaux with its grand Ionic portico; Pichon Longueville with its candle-snuffer turrets (Pauillac; 33-5-56-73-17-17; www.pichonlongueville.com); Palmer with its fancy ironwork roof, above which flutter the French, Dutch, and United Kingdom flags to reflect the nationalities of its owners (Cantenac; 33-5-57-88-72-72; www.chateau-palmer.com); Cos d'Estournel, a fantastical faux-Indian palace with pagoda-style turrets hanging with bells (Saint-Estèphe; 33-5-56-73-15-50; www.cosestournel.com).
Of course, names like these have no need to flirt with tourists or prostitute themselves by selling from the gate, but there's nothing to stop you gawking from the roadside. And there is a definite pleasure at mentally ticking off the names of the domains you recognize and bottles you have drained. Have lunch at one of the many scruffy riverfront restaurants overlooking Pauillac, the Médoc's principal town, whose whole raison d'être is the wine trade.
See + Do
École du Vin, France
Tel: 33 5 56 00 22 88
The city's École du Vin offers thorough but inexpensive beginner and intermediate courses (in English) on appreciating the local wine and identifying your own tastes. Sessions range from a two-hour intro to vineyards, grape varieties, blending, and wine tasting to four intensive days exploring Bordeaux's Médoc, Sauternes, Pessac-Léognan, and Saint-Emilion appellations.