I love Paris in the Winter…..

The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris in January

I Love Paris in the Winter……….

Paris simply thrills, whether you are a first time visitor, or you have lived here a lifetime. We have arrived on a cold night in January, this time staying on the Ile St. Louis, which has a timeless neighborhood feel and is a stroll away from the little bridge that leads to the Cathedral of Notre Dame on the neighboring Ile de la Cité. I cannot imagine anything more beautiful than the intricate stone tracery of  those flying buttresses, set off, lace-like against the  blue-black night. Or I could not until I entered. No matter what your beliefs, the Cathedral is breath-takingly glorious, and the combination of its soaring arches,  massive monumental columns in the chiaroscuro of candlelight, the wavering perfume of incense, and the voices of a choir, is an evocative experience not to be missed.

When Vernon Duke composed "April in Paris" in 1932, he chose not to call it "January in Paris". But while January may not be the acclaimed time to be in Paris, it is still wonderful. Paris charms and seduces at any time of the year. And in January, the bistros seem cozier, the Museum Expositions more irresistible, and the oysters are in season. And besides, its when they have the best sales! If you are a shopper you won’t want to miss out.

While France, in a gesture of Franco-American solidarity, has just lost its Triple A rating at one of those fine rating agencies that were so prescient about the financial crisis that they helped precipitate, no evidence of the consequences are immediately visible. There is still an accordionist playing "La Mer" at the bridge connecting the Ile St.Louis to the Ile de la Cité, the Louvre is still packed with visitors, the restaurants are still serving delicious food, and Carla Bruni is still feeding her baby at the Elysée Palace.

With the French Presidential election only 4 months away, politics is in the air and on the air, but for a visitor to Paris, it is possible to be unaware of all of that. What you cannot be unaware of is the cornucopia of culture available in this city. Whatever your interest, and whatever your French language skills, Paris has something fascinating for you. From museums devoted to even the most arcane activities, to performances of every kind of art, Paris doesn’t just have it, it flaunts it. And this is January ! Exhibitions at the Grand Palais alone currently include (i) the fascinating exhibition devoted to Gertrude Stein’s and her brothers’ influence and relationship with the great painters of her period, with many works of the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne on display, (ii) La France en Relief – From Louis XIV to Napoléon III – Relief maps and models of fortified towns were produced for military purposes from the reign of Louis XIV to the end of 19th century. These incredible objects of quality and size shed light on a range of historical phenomena, including the development and setting of borders, siege warfare and fortifications, map-making, and the transformation of the town planning and the landscape, (iii) Hair & Science – Hair is at the same time familiar and mysterious, revealing its secrets and multiple facets in this exhibition. These are followed by further fascinating events over the coming months. At the Louvre, in addition to its unsurpassed permanent collections, special exhibitions include (i) Georgio Vasari – Drawings from the Louvre – to mark the fifth centenary of his birth, the Louvre pays tribute to Giorgio Vasari, Italian painter, architect, and writer, with an exhibition of the finest of his drawings in the museum’s collection, (ii) Fantin-Latour, Manet, Baudelaire: the Hommage à Delacroix – It was 1863, a seminal moment in the history of art in France: the year Manet sparked a scandal with his Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, and the year of Delacroix’s death. Shocked by the lack of official recognition, for the next Salon, Fantin-Latour created his Hommage à Delacroix. At the Musée d’Orsay, special exhibitions include Degas and the Nude and Imressionism and Fashion.

This is the tip of Paris’ cultural iceberg. We cannot spend too much of our time investigating the iceberg further as we have been adding to the Commendable Rental’s portfolio of Paris properties. Andelightful addition is an exceptional property in the 7th arrondissement, a penthouse we have christened, l’Orchidée. It’s close to Les Invalides, and a stroll from the Eiffel Tower. On the 7th floor of an elegant 1932 building, this apartment has balconies over a wide boulevard with a close up view of Les Invalides itself, and a distant view of Sacre Coeur on Montmartre. It is wonderfully decorated, with quality furnishings, refined taste, and stunning modern art. It offers impressive principal rooms with picture windows on both sides, two gorgeous large bedrooms with elegant bathrooms, and an open plan kitchen to die for.

Also,a wonderfully cosy apartment at Le Marais, we’ve called Le Rose Violet. Just two minutes from the magnificent Place des Vosges, this is a charming and attractive romantic hideaway with a library/study that is so comfortable that it might keep you there reading instead of seeing the attractions of Paris.

As the charms of winter give way to the glories of spring, and as the chestnuts begin to blossom, and asparagus fills the markets, so do the Paris activities reach full flower. Vernon Duke’s song will soon be timely. Stay tuned, we will keep you up to date.

Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris Facade

 

30 January, 2012, Susan and Adrian Doull


Ski Time Pleasures, Chalet Treasures

Kloster's Chalet l'Ours

Ski Time Pleasures,  Chalet Treasures  

             ……..  Rediscovering Klosters

 

I have to confess that I am a ski addict and have been since I first buckled into a pair of skis some unnamed years ago. When the first snow comes, I want to tone-up, pack-up and head for one of my favorite mountains.

This year I rediscovered an old friend, Klosters, in Switzerland.The quality of the mountain infrastructure, its lifts, its ski terrain, its snow should put it at the top of anyone’s list as a great ski spot. Klosters earns top marks with its kilometers of pistes and trails, and its endless off-piste possibilities, and its breath-taking high mountain scenery that makes the Alps such a sought-after destination. But Klosters has so much more.

Klosters is a that rare Alpine location where traditional alpine charm, privacy if you want it, a village ambiance, great food, and night life, plus fantastic skiing all come together. The snow this year is extraordinary. Think 5 meters! The variety and extent of the ski terrain is truly stupendous. You will find many days of opportunities for sedate skiers looking for some sun and lunch along with some fresh air and exercise. But there is also plenty of truly challenging off-piste adventures for the experts, who ski anywhere at anytime! We skied with some of those experts, in the company of local ski guides who exchange their summer farming activities for this more sporty and social pastime. The guides were interesting characters themselves, entertaining and of course, so impressive not only in their skiing, but in their knowledge of where every tree and rock might be lurking, and as important, where a cosy restaurant could be found at lunch time !

We skied fast,carving racing turns with Kurt to lunch at the Gotschna Restaurant at Serneus and slightly,frightening powder runs through the trees with Georg to the restaurant at the Parssen Hotel near Kublis. These are charming eateries, thoroughly comfortable and atmospheric family-run places with delicious food. It is understandable that Klosters is and has been a preferred site for European royalty. However, habitués William and Kate were not spotted on this trip.

There is a vibrant social life at Klosters, even in the low season mid-January weeks. We went to see flood-lit Polo in the Snow. Dressed in warm coats, we found flowing champagne and delicious food in a heated tent added to the pleasure ! We enjoyed dinner at the “Wynegg”, a Klosters’s standby with a great Vegetarian platter for non-meat eaters), and typical Austrian dishes, like schnitzel for carnivores. Another night, we ate at the Alpenrosli, which requires a serious taxi drive up the mountain, but results in a gorgeous view over the village. We abstained from sledding down the mountain after dinner – an activity we had undertaken in earlier, less prudent years!

However the highlight of our evenings was dinner at Chalet l’Ours as the guests of its charming and talented owner. She has created what must be one of the most beautiful and delightful private chalets in the Alps, (and its available to rent, fully staffed, to families and small groups, through CommendableRentals. Though steps from the center of Klosters, we enter through a Lantern-lit, snow flanked passage. The chalet offers four luxurious bedrooms, with large, beautiful bathrooms, and inviting details, like fur coverlets. We were charmed. Despite the fascinating guests, one’s eyes could not resist wandering to observe the countless little touches that only someone with talent and taste would have imagined. With knotty-pine paneling throughout, cozy fires, and a delicious dinner cooked and served by the chalet staff, it was a truly luxurious Alpine experience. Dinner started with Champagne and “amuse-bouche” Thai Prawns and a crème of cauliflower and truffles served in front of the fire, and continued to a beautifully laid dining table with candle-lit and picture windows displaying the snowy mountain landscape. The chef was truly talented, and the dinner perfect. 

Situated on a slope that is in the town, Chalet l’Ours,with its dark wood and red-shuttered exterior, has lovely views over the Klosters village and valley, and is just minutes walk from the Gotschna Cable Car. The Chalet is available for rent; it is difficult to imagine a better place anywhere in the Alps. See it now in the CommendableRentals portfolio.

On our last day we were able to see another of the very few private chalet rentals available in Klosters – the Chalet Marmot. This too has been lovingly decorated in an alpine idiom, and is the perfect spot for a large extended family or a group of friends, as it sleeps up to 11. We are very pleased that this too will soon be in the CommendableRentals portfolio.

20 January, 2102, Susan Doull, 


 

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