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Saint James Paris, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 14 01:24 PM

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You like your vacations to be a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll. Well, it just so happens that the hottest number in Paris these days also happens to be its most sylvan: The freshly refurbished Saint James is a little slice of Loire château life in the City of Lights.

Set on the site of the world's first hot-air balloon launch, in 1783, this 19th-century property is all high-flying whimsy, thanks to boho goddess Bambi Sloan's redesign. A riot of patterns--toile and stripes, brocade and herringbone--lends a playful decadence to the 48 rooms. As a hotel guest, you can rub elbows with tony locals at the Saint James's private social club, or visit the luxurious spa that has gemstones as its theme. And after an exhausting day of shopping and Champagne sipping, where better to escape the flurry of Paris than the hotel's perfectly manicured gardens, hidden away behind mature trees?

Photo: Davide Lovatti courtesy of Saint James Paris

Maison Ladurée, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, September 07 11:47 AM

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When recounting the great New York City cupcake wars of the early 21st century, sugar-charged historians will note August 30, 2011, as the day everything changed, when chocolate and vanilla, red velvet and peanut butter all banded together against a new common enemy: the macaron at Maison Ladurée's new Upper East Side shop.

The first stateside outpost of the venerable Parisian patisserie presents a pastel crayon box of a Belle Époque teahouse. Chocolates, fruit jellies, and miniature pastries vie for attention, but Ladurée's signature sweet is the double-decker macaron--two feather-light crispy shells sandwiching a soft, chewy center--a delicacy the company lays claim to inventing in 1930. There's classic caramel with salted butter, black-currant violet, rose, and pistachio, as well as seasonal flavors like almond Morello cherry and strawberry-mint. Sound the death knell to Upper East Side diets.

Photo: Courtesy of abbietabbie, Flickr, Getty Images

Holographic Gate Agents, Orly Airport, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, September 01 07:00 AM

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Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger had Total Recall and Princess Leia begged for Obi-Wan Kenobi, we've been waiting for our hologram fantasy to become a reality. Now, at Paris's Orly Airport, we're one step closer: holographic gate agents.

An image of an airport employee beamed onto an acrylic silhouette greets passengers and displays gate information. Orly's virtual assistants can be found in Hall 40 of Terminal Ouest, the airport's testing ground for emerging technologies. These agents always smile, never take a bathroom break, and don't go on strike (yet). It's a strange new world, indeed.

Photo: Courtesy Aéroports de Paris / Jean-Pierre Gaborit

Maison Martin Margiela Hotel, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, July 18 12:23 PM

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Amid the hand-sewn baubles and boundary-bending styles of this month's Haute Couture Week in Paris, something sexy launched that we all can slip in to: the Maison Martin Margiela hotel.

The 17-room hotel near the Champs-Élysées dates back to 1864 as the homestead of Princess d'Essling--but under Margiela's postmodern eye, it has been elevated to the realm of stagecraft. White-on-white on grays and black, it's all sharp lines, furnishings faceted like diamonds, and elaborate trompe-l'oeil paintings. Think a little surreal, a little Kubrick 2001, and a whole lot of jaw-dropping cool. Style like this never goes out of season.

Photo: Courtesy of Martine Houghton / Maison Martin Margiela

L'Opéra Restaurant, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, July 07 11:32 AM

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After 136 years on the drawing board and three near launches, L'Opéra Restaurant at Paris' legendary Palais Garnier finally opened to the public on Monday. And it's every bit as theatrical as you'd expect.

Starchitect Odile Decq's huge white-plaster shapes curve organically around the restaurant's columns, and deep ruby chairs and carpets add Puccini-esque drama. The food from chef Christophe Aribert of Grenoble's two-Michelin-starred Les Terrasses is equally showstopping. Star dishes include roasted guinea fowl, creamed artichoke and foie gras soup, and two versions of house-smoked salmon (classic, with blini and caviar, and contemporary, with brioche and a horseradish and mustard sorbet).

Our inner fat lady ain't singing here. She's eating.

Photo: Courtesy of L'Opéra Restaurant

Cité de l'Océan et du Surf, Biarritz, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, July 06 10:56 AM

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Something swell just hit the beach in Biarritz, France. The new Cité de l'Océan et du Surf is a museum dedicated to all things oceanic, including exhibitions on tides and currents and an outdoor kiosk catering to local surfers.

Architect and surfer Steven Holl collaborated with Brazilian artist Solange Fabião to create the building's arc, which seems to crest out of the landscape. The cobblestone exterior mimics the texture of the surrounding white-sand beaches, while the overall structure looks like a skateboard half-pipe. Land sharks won't be able to skate its curves, but they can show off their kickflips at the on-site skate pool. So whether you prefer to board by land or by sea, you'll never be bored.

Photo: Courtesy of Steven Holl

Château Les Carrasses, Languedoc, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, June 10 07:00 AM

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Provence, we love you, but after a New York Times best seller and a Russell Crowe movie extolling your beauty, it's time to bid you adieu. We've been seduced by the lesser-known Languedoc and its charming new hotel, Château Les Carrasses.

There are 28 new suites and villas (10 with heated private pools) within this 19th-century château complex. The modernized interiors have a country-chic charm, with traditional French furniture and a sand and cream palette, while the private gardens and terraces (complete with barbecues) give the whole place an air of self-contained luxury.

The original winery is up and running once again, with the first bottles ready to uncork this fall. In the meantime, you can sip other local vintages in the Orangerie, rumored to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. Book now before the writers and movie stars get wind of it!

Photo: Courtesy of Chic Retreats

Ralph Lauren's Classic Sports Cars, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, April 22 01:27 PM

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The fashionable set rarely summers in Paris (that's what the Riviera is for). But Ralph Lauren is breaking with tradition by sending some of his favorite cars for a summer sojourn at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the western wing of the Louvre.

Starting this weekend and running through August 28, the museum will exhibit 17 automotive gems from the designer's extensive collection, including a 1938 lipstick red Alfa Romeo 8C (pictured), and a 1955 Jaguar XKD that would look right at home in the Batcave. Still in perfect working order, the cars are more than worthy companions to the museum's more famous masterpieces. It's not like the Mona Lisa can take you for a spin along the Champs-Élysées.

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Furman

Orient-Express Art of Travel, Europe

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, April 05 04:01 PM

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Seeing a masterpiece is one thing, but living it is another. That's the idea behind a partnership between the National Gallery in London and Orient-Express, which has launched 13 new train journeys this spring that expose travelers to famous paintings and the regions that inspired them.

You might view Monet's soft-focus landscapes before chugging through the French countryside to the artist's home in Giverny. Or perhaps you'll get lost in the vibrant Venetian cityscapes of Canaletto before riding the rails down to those self-same canals and waterways. National Gallery experts travel with you on Orient-Express's gilded Art Deco train--a masterpiece in itself.

Photo: Courtesy of Orient-Express

Hotel Crillon le Brave, Provence, France

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, February 14 04:20 PM

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So, let's say--hypothetically, of course--that you forgot to get your special someone a present for Valentine's Day. Well, lucky for you, in Provence they like bad behavior. The Hotel Crillon le Brave will even reward your negligence by taking it off. But because she's a lady, she's taking it only half off ("it" being her rates, of course).

Book now for March or April, and you'll get 50% off your stay at this 32-room storybook hideaway of restored 16th- and 17th-century stone houses. Use these bargain prices for a romantic weekend of truffle hunting or a steamy cooking course. Or just hole up with your lucky Valentine and a bottle of local wine. Now that beats a diamond heart pendant any day.

Discover France: Tour de France Routes

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, February 03 02:48 PM

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The calves, the controversy, the climbsit can only be the Tour de France. And if you've got the legs (and lungs) for it, you can get out in front of the pack this July with a Tour de France itinerary from the experts at Discover France.

These eight-day cycling trips follow the same routes as the pros, over the most fearsome mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees and through fields of lavender in Provenceat times just a few hours ahead of the peloton. VIP access allows you to interact with the event's cyclists, and they'll even lend you a yellow jersey so you can commemorate your personal victories.

But our favorite part? With all that pedal-pushing, you won't have to feel bad about having an extra pain au chocolat--or three.

Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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