After a long hiatus from Europe, I was ecstatic to be invited to a luxury travel conference in Cannes (ILTM) and quickly planned on taking full advantage in being in one of the most beautiful countries of the world! Fortunately for me, I had recovered from COVID two months prior and carried my doctor’s note of recovery like my most valuable possession. I never took a single test, I only needed my vaccine card, doctor’s note, and Health Pass that I was able to easily obtain in France. I flew into Nice and pleasantly was upgraded to business class for a mere $650! The plane ride was a quarter full and surprisingly a delightful experience.
Immediately when I arrived at my gorgeous hotel by the sea, Hotel Le Negresco, I had to get out and stretch my legs. I took a stroll up the promenade and enjoyed witnessing the sea on my right and vibrant restaurants and hotels on my left. I hiked up to the Castle of Nice and enjoyed the views. Oh, how I missed Europe! On my tour of the hotel, I was informed that when the fashionista daughter took over she re-designed the hotel with bold, eccentric and fabulous French art and décor. Truly, you feel like you’re staying in a museum! Famous Kings, Queens and the Beatles have stayed at this world-renown hotel. I loved the live music every night and enjoyed the delicious wine and tapas. Exceptional tapestry and authentic walnut woodwork make up the bar. Being walking distance to old town and plenty of restaurants and bars was a real plus. I miss this hotel every time I think about it!
I took full advantage of being in southern France and spent two days exploring the fascinating Côte d’Azur. I visited glitzy Monaco, surrounded by luxurious yachts and containing more high-end stores than I can count! People watching was my favorite part. I next explored the charming village of Eze (situated between Nice and Monaco) and was blown away by the views, particularly from the botanical garden! I enjoyed wandering around the windy streets and checking out the art galleries. This “village in the sky” is a must-visit for anyone venturing along the French Riviera.
My adventures continued the next day with a visit to one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera- Saint Paul de Vence. I enjoyed exploring this castle-like town, checking out the boutique shops and enjoying the views. Next, I ventured to Antibes– home of Picasso for much of his life. I took in the seaside views, strolled along the windy streets and viewed Picasso’s art in the Musée Picasso. The sculpture terrace was quite unique! This is a perfect day trip on your way to Cannes from Nice.
Already mesmerized and pleasantly impressed by the French Riviera, I arrived in Cannes – excited about travel and ready for a five-day intense ILTM Conference. I stayed in Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf St Barth– a stone’s throw away from the conference center and plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes. Being walking distance to the Christmas market and old town was a plus! There are more luxury hotels here than in Nice- making it a popular city for conferences and festivals. Cannes motto is fitting: “Life is a Festival.” I enjoyed that each hotel had their very own uniquely decorated beach bar you could visit. The conference was a huge success- I got to meet with hundreds of travel partners, learning about countless regions of the world and making new connections. I cannot wait to bring this knowledge to my clients- and have already started doing so!
Audrey Hepburn once famously said, “Paris is always a good idea.” I couldn’t agree more! I last visited Paris 24 years ago and I forgot just how magical it is. I was spoiled as I got to stay at the three best hotels in the city and receive a four-day amazing tour by Dorchester Collection! Upon arrival, I was exhausted from the conference and more than happy to relax and feel like a princess in my luxurious room at Le Maurice- the very first Parisian palace! Located in historic Paris- the views were stunning! My favorite part however was the spectacular décor of the hotel. We ate at word famous Le Dali- named after a loyal customer. This Michelin-star restaurant served up, in my opinion, the best food in Paris! Breakfast was equally magical and held in the spectacular Versailles-styled Alain Ducasse Restaurant. I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at the sparkly décor!
The next morning I participated in my first nude drawing class. The first few minutes were awkward, but soon we started to enjoy learning various techniques to sketch the models. I have no idea how they hold challenging poses for so long! We giggled peeking at everyone’s drawings, and I think everyone improved by the end! That evening we were spoiled with a private, after-hours tour of the impressive Picasso Museum. Housing over 5,000 pieces, this collection is the only one in the world to present both Picasso’s complete painted, sculpted, engraved and illustrated oeuvre and precise record. Certainly worth a visit, and splurging for a private visit is a major bonus!
It’s tough to go up from here, but our next overnight visit was Hotel Plaza Athenee – located in the heart of Paris fashion. It’s no wonder Sex and the City filmed here and Carrie cherished her glamorous experience. This is “Dior, Dietrich and diamonds” and where icons and trends are born. I enjoyed the cozy courtyard with an ice-skating rink. My suite was large enough to host a party with 24 friends! Walking distance to the Eiffel tower and other key landmarks, if you are a fashionista this spot is ideal.
An adventure I would never choose on my own to do, but I’m so glad I got to experience it, was a retro car tour experience. We zipped through the streets of Paris gawking giddily at sites along the way. Winding through these narrow streets and staring at European architecture with the wind blowing my hair back was an unforgettable experience!
Our ride took us to the Salvador Dali exhibition at Atelier des Lumieres- the first digital art museum in Paris. What a wild and fun experience! I sat on the floor and watched the immersive art experience in awe. Lit up unique works of art by Dali and Gaudi showcased on the wall. The digital exhibition is accompanied by the music of Pink Floyd. I can’t recommend this out of the world experience more!
The evening was perfectly planned with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour at Palais Garnier Opera– the most famous opera house in the world! The façade and interior combine marble and stones, gilded bronze, gold, iron framework and other materials. The budget was estimated at over 20 million gold francs, making it the most expensive building of it’s time! The opulence was obvious, but seeing a show here is nothing short of spectacular.
One of my favorite things to do in Europe is wonder around and get lost. I enjoyed an afternoon on my own and explored what is left of Notre Dame cathedral. The sad live music out front was fitting and I couldn’t help but ponder when this beautiful church was going to be fully restored. I next wandered up Avenue de l’Opera to Galeries Lafayette Rooftop Terrace and enjoyed the spectacular views of Paris! I bought a few souvenirs for my family.
That evening I stayed at Hotel Esprit Saint Germain, a 5-star boutique hotel situated in the heart of Paris on the Left Bank. Elegant, chic, comfortable and unique are all adjectives I’d use to describe this wonderful Virtuoso property. I felt as though I was in a private residence and wanted to reside in my large suite for months. I enjoyed the proximity to boutique shops, local restaurants and the Luxembourg Gardens. The complimentary drinks past 2PM, welcome cheese platter and welcome bottle of wine were an added bonus! I shared all of the above with a great friend I met two years ago in Buenos Aires who happened to be in Paris at the same time- what a small, delightful world!
All good things must come to an end. My time in Paris, and France in general, was fantastic. I am so glad I went, and I cannot wait to return. “Paris is not a city, it’s a world”
If you are thinking of visiting France, please reach out! I’d love to connect and help make your trip memorable.