France is always a favorite among luxury travelers. And why shouldn't it be? From fine wines to haute cuisine and superlative fashion, France is the embodiment of luxury. Here is the latest news from France.
Travelers to Europe this summer will be pleased to learn they can journey by high-speed train from Paris to Barcelona and on to Madrid. Set to debut this month, the new link will shorten the trip from 15 hours to 9 hours. The train from Barcelona to Paris would only be 6 hours. Previously, Spain was disconnected from France’s high-speed rail network because of differences in track gauge. In recent years, Spain has improved rail infrastructure- withhigh-speed trains connecting Madrid to multiple other cities around the country- and the link to France is imminent. The New York Times points out that “passengers currently have to transfer from Spain’s AVE trains to France’s TGV trains near the border.”
Fans of the bestselling book, Lunch in Paris, will be pleased to learn that author Elizabeth Bard has embarked upon another epicurean venture: this time, in the south of France. Teaming up with husband Gwendal, Bard is launching Scaramouche: Adventures in Ice Cream, “an artisanal ice-cream company inspired by the unique flavors of Provence.” The grand opening will take place in Cereste, France on April 26, 2013. The duo have been hard at work taste-testing different ingredients, scouting the perfect delivery truck, and attending ice cream trade shows. This promises to be a must-stop shop for summer travelers to France. For more information, visit www.scaramouche-icecream.com.
February saw the highly-anticipated release of the annual Michelin Guide to the top tables in France. There was only one new Michelin three-star winner (La Vague d’Or in Saint Tropez had that honors), leading France 24 News to declare that the venerable guide was quite “stingy with their stars” this year. Five new restaurants picked up two stars, and 39 new restaurants snagged one star, including both La Cuisine and Il Carpaccio at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Hotel, and 114 Faubourg at Le Bristol in Paris.
Big news in the hotel world. Hyatt Hotels Corp. has taken over management of a four-hotel portfolio in France which Starwood Capital Group sold to a Qatari investor last year. The contracts begin this month. The hotels include the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, which will be rebranded a Grand Hyatt; the Palais de la Mediterranée in Nice, which will become the Hyatt Regency Nice Palais de la Mediterranée; Concorde Lafayette in Paris, which will be rebranded Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile; and the Hotel du Louvre which will eventually become an Andaz after an extensive, multi-year renovation. Between the Cote d’Azur and Paris, these four hotels occupy some prime real estate in highly touristed destinations. The Hotel Martinez has long been a favorite of Hollywood stars attending the Cannes Film Festival, while the Concorde Lafayette boasts a bar, “La Vue,” with some of the best views over the City of Light.
It’s a big birthday year for the iconic Parisian palace hotel on Avenue Montaigne (aka Carrie Bradshaw’s digs in the City of Light). The Hotel Plaza Athénée is celebrating its centennial in style—from the special Harcourt Baccarat cocktails served at the bar (pictured) to the 100th anniversary bash on April 20th, 2013, when François Delahaye, Chief Operating Officer of the Dorchester Collection, will bury a time capsule at Versailles to honor the hotel's first 100 years. Special events and packages will be available throughout the year, including a chance to see the sold-out production of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. (Package includes one night in a junior suite deluxe or superior suite with VIP welcome; American breakfasts; two box tickets with a cocktail in a private lounge during intermission; and supper for two at Le Relais Plaza.) Located at 25 Avenue Montaigne, the Plaza Athénée first opened its doors on April 20, 2013 at the same time as the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and quickly became a glamorous hot spot for Parisian society and A-list celebs.
A once fashionable meeting place for the international jetset in St. Tropez has been given a new lease on life, thanks to a dramatic makeover by acclaimed designer Sybille de Margerie (responsible for the lovely look of the guest rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Paris). From its glam heyday in the 1960s and 70s when it welcomed movie stars and musicians, Hôtel de Paris was shuttered in 1992. After two years of non-stop renovations, the legendary hideaway is back on the French Riviera scene. Outfitted with all the latest technology and designer furnishings, the 52 rooms and 38 suites are a feast of color- with a rainbow of hues accenting the walls, curtains, and fabrics. Top digs: The Presidential Suite with its private terrace offering views over the Saint Tropez harbor. One of the absolute highlights (and there are many!) is the pool with a transparent glass bottom- suspended over the lobby so that bathers are visible from below. There’s also a “My Blend by Clarins” Spa and a fitness center with all the latest Kinesis and Technogym equipment. Michelin-starred chef Georges Blanc is at the helm of the gastronomic restaurant, Le Suffren Café by Georges, while cocktail aficionados will find their bliss at the Atrium Bar and happening rooftop lounge.