Art & Culture on a European Luxury Vacation

European Luxury Vacation, Luxury Villas Los Cabos, Destination Homes, Elite Vacations/Rentals,Europe is one of those places where history is embedded in every corner, and France is not an exception. Your Elite Destination Homes retreat would not be the same if you did not immerse yourself within the art and culture while staying in Paris. When you choose to stay at one of our destination homes; Le Triomphe, Rue du Four, or Rue Saints Peres, you will have all that you need to enjoy the sights, sounds, and lifestyle of a Parisian. Below we have listed a few must-see museums to experience the rich traditions and artwork of the past and present during your European luxury vacation.

MUSÉE d’ORSAY

If you want to get a taste of artwork from late 1800’s through early 1900’s, this is the museum for you! You will be enthralled to walk through 60 years of art history from Impressionism all the way to the Pont-Aven School. That means, Van Gogh, Courbet, Manet, and Monet. This beautiful museum is set within its architectural feat, an impressive metal and glass structure which once was an old train station. We recommend that you enjoy a sip of coffee and a treat from their onsite café.

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Petit Palais

This little museum makes our list for art and culture in Paris, just steps from its big brother (Le Grand Palais). Full of painting and sculptures from the 1900’s, this is an Art Nouveau fan’s dream come true. With beautiful knick knacks, furniture, and jewelry, among other artwork, you will enjoy the fine art of Petit Palais. Originally built for the World’s Fair in 1900, this small museum is the perfect spot to see some amazing pieces. We recommend you take a break while visiting and enjoy the courtyard which the museum encompasses.

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The Louvre

We cannot leave The Louvre off of any museum must-see list! This fantastic palace is home to the world’s largest museum and boasts some spectacular artwork (roughly 35,000 pieces). Not only will you experience three separate wings: Denon, Sully, and Richelieu. The mazes of passageways and galleries this triumphant museum houses is as equally impressive to its’ outside, one of the most well-known and iconic architectural designs of the western world. There are a handful of restaurants for you to choose from within the museum, everything from French café fare to an elegant restaurant, The Grand Louvre. It can be an awful lot to take in, so, we recommend that you visit this museum more than once during your trip as you will not want to experience more than two galleries at a time. Take your time at this one; it will be well worth it in the end!

We know that while Paris can seem like a bustling city, it is jam packed with excellent museums and world-class restaurants for you to try. As you travel around this gorgeous and historic city, it is hard to not stop in a museum or two or five! They are practically everywhere you go, which makes finding one to visit, not difficult at all. When you stay with Elite Destination Homes, we will make sure you can see everything you want to while on your vacation of a lifetime. Make sure your elite vacations is one to remember as you spend your days and nights getting to know the City of Lights.

Paris by Sail

By John Pollack | Paris

John Pollack is an accomplished author and journalist who won the 1995 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships and was a Presidential Speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Earlier, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Spain, as a field assistant in Antarctica, and as a strolling violinist on Mackinac Island. You can learn more about his adventures in his books The Pun Also Rises and Cork Boat.

For those hoping to see Paris by boat, there is no shortage of willing vessels. Most common are the Seine’s long, glass-enclosed tour boats that – glittering with the flash of a thousand cameras – slip through nighttime waters past the ancient towers of Notre Dame.

For those with a few more sous in their pockets, luxurious private yachts await at the Arsenal Port La Bastille marina, on the Right Bank, not far from the site of the fearsome prison whose storming came to symbolize the French Revolution. And if a more bohemian experience is what you seek, some of the old houseboats that tie up along the Left Bank will even rent you a bunk for a night, though these colorful barges rarely, if ever, leave their stone quais.

But for those with a true spirit of nautical adventure, I recommend setting sail on a more whimsical voyage aboard one of the toy ships that, for at least a century now, have heeled before the winds sweeping the Grand Basin at the Luxembourg Gardens. Yes, these diminutive vessels are too small to accommodate anyone but a Lilliputian, but they are nevertheless grand in their capacity to carry one’s imagination.

For those drawn to the water, the emotional pull of a boat – even a toy boat – is hard to describe. But John Masefield, who as a young, penniless vagabond crossed the Atlantic aboard a windjammer in the last days of sail and eventually went on to become Britain’s Poet Laureate, captured the feeling well in his 1902 poem, Sea-Fever.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea
and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song,
and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn
breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of
the running tide
Is a wild call and clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds
flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the
sea-gulls crying.”

And so it was that, on a recent June morning as I walked through the Gardens with my friend Olga – clouds scudding overhead and gravel crunching underfoot – we decided to run off to sea.

There was no need to go far, nor even to stow away. For a mere two euros, a young, somewhat indifferent French harbormaster with a dwindling fleet handed us a bamboo pole and command of a red, gaff-rigged Moroccan sloop. The moment I began carrying our little ship to the water, its sails seemed to snap with impatience.

It’s important to note that these little tall ships at the Luxembourg Gardens are not radio controlled. In fact, they’ve probably changed little, if at all, from those that Ernest Hemingway referenced in A Moveable Feast, his classic memoir of 1920’s Paris. The accompanying bamboo pole, which a captain can use to gently shove his or her boat off, offers one only modest control, and then only when the boat is within a few feet of the basin’s edge.

As it happened, our little Moroccan ship needed no such encouragement or direction. Once in the water, sails tightly hauled, it set off smartly on a beam reach in hot pursuit of a Yankee clipper flying the Stars and Stripes. With not a moment to lose, I set off running for the other side, circumnavigating the fountain while trying not to collide with the little children who – each clutching their own bamboo pole – raced in pursuit of their boats, too. I don’t know who among us was more gleeful.

Half an hour later, having survived the ferocious typhoon of a spouting fountain, the placid indifference of Moby Dick, and the depredations of a marauding pirate ship, Olga and I returned our dripping vessel to the harbormaster. Rejuvenated by our unexpected voyage, we continued onward afoot, into the Latin Quarter, with vague intentions of finding a good boulangerie.

And this, in essence, characterized our week in Paris. We wandered as our desires carried us, guided not by a list of museums or monuments or must-see attractions, but by the winds of whimsy and serendipitous discovery.

Admittedly, it takes some determination to break the demands of popular expectation, especially when it comes to visiting a city as famous as Paris. Just look around, and you’ll see more than a few visitors who are so intently focused on commemorating their experiences that they see much of the city only through the digital screen of their camera.

Now, I’m not entirely immune to the lure of popular attractions. Did we see the Eiffel Tower, and snap a picture? Yes, from a distance. But the Arc de Triomphe? In that, we failed even to try, and let the Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile grace others, too. But if our Paris was a little more eclectic, it was still just as enthralling.

From a narrow, cobbled street, we watched an old man in a blue smock sit high atop a scaffold. Oblivious to the world below, he carefully lettered French prose onto an old stone wall, his slender brush dipping – every few strokes – into a small can of paint. Later, we picnicked on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes, listening to the music of a distant carousel and savoring a delicious, runny cheese that stank like the innards of a junkyard tire. Such is the perfection of random moments.

One special pleasure in this city of haute cuisine was, ironically, dining by candlelight in our EDH apartment on Rue du Four, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. With seared tuna and an arugula salad, a bottle of white wine and old jazz on the radio, it seemed the perfect, relaxing Paris evening after a long day on the cobblestones. It reminded us that staying in a pied a terre – not just a nice hotel room – can change one’s entire perspective on a foreign city. Yes, we had voyaged to Paris from distant ports, but still felt entirely at home.

Too soon, our brief Parisian idyll ran its course and vacation ended. Olga returned to Ibiza, and I – after eight hours jammed into coach next to a fat man with halitosis – emerged into the honking cacophony of a humid Thursday night in New York City. Not surprisingly, the journey, the jetlag and this sudden, jarring juxtaposition with Paris left me feeling a little deflated.

It was almost midnight when I finally made it back into my walkup studio in Greenwich Village. I was grateful to finally be done schlepping my duffel through airports and subways, and happy to drink the cold bottle of beer I found waiting in my fridge. Then I lay down in my own bed, turned out the light and, too exhausted to dream, fell into a sound sleep.

Now, as I write this essay a few days later, the clock tower down my street is tolling the hour, much as the bells must be tolling, an ocean away, across the Île de la Cité. And as I listen to them pealing across the rooftops, the sails of my imagination are once again filling, and a red Moroccan sloop carries me toward distant shores.

Yoga On the Road: Barcelona, Paris & NYC

By Bill Bisanz | Paris, New York

On a recent trip to three of my all-time favorite places I practiced yoga…everywhere. Normally my trips, whether for work or pleasure (this was both), are a departure from my normal routine. For sure travel is meant to be a break from the ordinary but why miss out on the extraordinary parts of the ordinary just because we’re on the road.

With this in mind I set out to maintain some of the same practices that help me feel happy and balanced when I’m at home in St. Paul, e.g., yoga, exercise, meditation and food. Yoga was the easiest of these to integrate into the jam-packed days of big-city travel and exploration. Waking up at 6 or 7 and going to bed at mid-night or later and in between meandering around these magnificent urban cathedrals, yoga is a great way to stay balanced while integrating so many new experiences.

In Barcelona, I practiced yoga in two studios – Yoga Studio Barcelona (www.yogastudio.es) and Happy Yoga (www.happyyoga.com) both located adjacent to the Placa Universitat about a five minute walk from Placa Catalunya. I would very much recommend both of these studios. For those of you who like vegetarian food, there is a simple but quite good vegan place called Veggie Garden at 3 Calle Dels Angels, very near both of these studios (try the great smoothies).

In Paris, Elite’s apartments are on the left bank in the St. Germain neighborhood so that is where I tend to spend most of my time. Oddly there seem to be more yoga studios in Barcelona than in Paris and there are more studios on the right bank in Paris, than near our homes on the left. Fortunately, I was introduced to a studio on the left bank Rasa Yoga (www.rasa-yogarivegauche.com), where we enjoyed a couple of different class types. By far my favorite was the Ashtanga class with Malena, a sexy Argentinian who glided as easily between English, Spanish, French and Sanskrit as she did across the floor of the yoga studio.

New York is home to my favorite yoga teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra; true spiritual teacher and gentle man. (www.dharmayogacenter.com). Dharma has been teaching yoga for over 40 years and I find this community to be welcoming warm and inspirational. Can’t say enough about what an amazing experience it is to visit and practice with this group of yogis!

Besides the yoga we enjoyed a rocking good time with our friends in Paris at the timeless Chez Castel, a private club so exclusive it doesn’t even have a website, facebook page or sign at the door. We also crashed the Paris marathon on Sunday morning for a few miles as well as David Lynch’s new club, Silencio. So the trip wasn’t all yoga, meditation and veggies!

Returning from my recent trip to Barcelona, Paris and New York City, I’m again struck by the unique opportunity to be inspired that travel offers us. Exposure to new ideas, people, perspectives, experiences are the reasons that those of us who love to take our journeys on the road just cant stop travelling.

Paris from a “Newbies” point of view

By Laurie Flum | Paris

Paris in the spring….I’d heard so much about it; in the movies, from friends…well you know. So when my job sent me to Paris I can admit my slightly introverted personality was a bit anxious about the trip. How would I get around, EUROS instead of dollars? – Hmmm, and what about the language barrier when I’m standing lost in the middle of the city!

Well from the moment we met the cab driver things were looking up. His English was excellent and he was so proud of his heritage as he told us all about Paris during the drive from the airport. Paris is LOVELY, from the consistency of the architect, to the beauty of the parks and the cleanliness of the city. The continuity of the cities ebb and flow relax you as you navigate your way through the city. You can walk for miles and never run out of old churches, statues, parks, museums and a never ending list of wonders.

There are a lot of stairs and a lot of walking, but then that gives validity to the enormous amounts of food you eat. Foods that are so outrageously rich you have no choice but to consume vast amounts and try as many as possible. Try the Loic Raison Cidier Breton – it is a delightful Cider Ale and ranks up there with the almond croissant from Gosselin Bakery, the Beef Bourgeon at a small side street cafe or the café crèmes at any of the many bistros.

The Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum are everything and more than you’d expect. Landmarks unlike anything I’ve ever seen and are overwhelming in their design and beauty.

I’ll go back again soon – maybe with my daughter. I now understand why she threatened to move there when she studied abroad for three months.

Go to Paris!

Laurie Flum

Love, Light & Gastronomical Delight

By Adrienne Clairmont | Paris

 

Paris is, without a doubt, one of the singularly most intoxicating places on earth. Without meaning to you can stumble into the world’s best Pâtisserie or Fromagerie and experience pure bliss with each bite that you take of the macaroon or triple-cream cheese. And of course, unless you are very careful, you will never be able to find that same corner shop again. In my opinion, however, that’s half the fun.  As a lifelong Francophile, and a Parisian at heart, I was the happiest person on earth when the opportunity was presented to me to study abroad in Paris while completing my undergrad. While I was there, I had some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

 

Paris is a city best seen on foot, and one of my favorite walks is the famous Champs-Élysées. The glittering strip is home to the best shopping in the world, and beyond that, a window into the different eras of French history. I have always been attracted to the bohemian Paris that gave rise to the impressionist movement, as well as lending inspiration to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo. One of my favorite things to do after a morning walking around was to grab a cup of café au lait, sit at one of the sidewalk cafes, and watch the world go by.

I would highly recommend attending sunrise mass at Notre Dame. In my opinion, it is the best way to fully take in the stained glass. The cathedral is positioned so that as the sun begins to rise, the first rays of the morning gently touch the glass, slowly illuminating it from the bottom to top, until all of the colors are glowing. I don’t think I heard a single word from the service; I was so transfixed by what was happening. Afterwards, I would recommend grabbing a nutella crepe from one of the many sidewalk stands in the area and going to visit Les Bouquinistes- the booksellers whose open-air stalls are arranged along the Seine.

One of the city’s must-sees is Père Lachaise Cemetery. It is home to some of the cities most celebrated figures – such as Edith Piaf. You will also find the graves of other notables such as Oscar Wilde, Frederick Chopin and Jim Morrison. Another one of my favorite areas of the city is the artist’s quarter of Montmartre. There you will find Sacre Coeur, the original Moulin Rouge, as well as any number of street artist’s who will sketch your portrait for a few Euro.

In the city of love, light and gastronomical delight you will regularly find yourself falling head over heels. Every day is an opportunity for a new adventure and each of those adventures will remain unforgettable.

 

Running Shoes and Coffee

By Kathryn Lynden | Paris

There are two things I could not live without.  A pair of running shoes and coffee.

I have been blessed with the gift of travel, and my absolute favorite thing to do in any new city is to tie on my running shoes and hit the streets. I never quite know where I am going, but that is the beauty of the journey.  I let my feet take me wherever they want to go.

In Paris, after 7 days of work (did I really just say that?), I kept the 8th day open.  I woke up very early, had a large cup of coffee, put on my running shoes and headed out.  It was so early the streets were empty, I ran down the middle of the street.

I believe the most magical time of day in a city is before it wakes. I encountered real life — an old man was walking his dog, a few young kids were stumbling home, a shopkeeper was sweeping his sidewalk, I could smell coffee brewing. Nothing was moving fast, except my feet.

As I passed Notre Dame, the sun was rising right behind that magnificent church.  I wound through a maze of streets and found myself at the Panthéon. From there I could see across the city to the Eiffel Tower – it looked tiny. I set my intention to run to the Eiffel Tower passing as many of the Paris landmarks I possibly could along the way.

My first stop was Jardin du Luxembourg.  The cute Parisian fireman were running in the park, I joined them.  They look inquisitively at me and asked, “You are not from Paris are you?”  “No” I answered, “Why?”  “Paris girls do not run like you.”  I think it was my baseball cap that gave me away.   I took it as a compliment.

Onto St. Sulpice, where I saw the famous Meridian Line from the Da Vinci code.  I continued down rue du Buci, lined with trendy restaurants and Paul’s Patisserie, where I devoured the most amazing almond croissant.

The Musée du Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries were right across the Seine River.  I stopped at the Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies, which I had always wanted to see but had never taken the time.  Next, the Place de la Concorde, the largest public square in Paris, to the Petit Palais where I peeked into the windows to see the current exhibit. There were extremely large slabs of metal tilted in awkward positions, I decided not to go in.

I stopped to shop on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with a break at Ladurée for one of their famous macaroons and a café latte. I ran up through the Arc de Triomphe, then down and across the golden eagled Pont Alexandre Bridge. On the other side I saw hundreds of people sprawled on the green grass in front of the Les Invalides.  I slowed to a stroll.  Couples who were very fond of one another were spotted in between the shirtless soccer players. I definitely took my time.

I picked up the pace and by dusk I approached the Eiffel Tower. I had to go up. The sun was setting. The city lights came on.  The sky lit up with the whirly bird toys the vendors were selling below.  At the top I took the time to thank those that have given me this great gift of travel.

Under the lights of Paris, I ran down the Seine River all the way home and drew a hot bath.