We know that Tulips come from Holland, but did you know that begonias come from Belgium? Every year Belgium produces around 60 million begonias, 80% of which are exported. And it is with this flower that this magnificent Flower Carpetis created in the city centre, right in the Grand Place. This beautiful creation lasts for only 5 days, lasting as long as the begonias do.

The Floral Carpet requires in excess of 300 flowers per square metre, and, because they are such a hardy plant, they are the perfect flower for creating these wonderful carpets. Since they grow in such a huge variety of colours, creators can come up with gorgeous, colourful designs.

The carpet employs graphic designers, horticulturalists, colour specialists, numerous artists, artisans and volunteers who spend a mere two days placing the hundreds of thousands of flowers in place – 2,000 m2 in fact, of flower carpet. From design to completion, each carpet takes more than 12 months work to complete.

You can see the creation from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, with viewing also available from the balcony of the Hotel de Ville. It costs €5 to get in, but is necessary in order to see the panoramic view of the carpet from above. Seeing it at ground level is one thing, but getting the full effect from above is simply breathtaking. It’s the sheer size of the carpet that is amazing. It’s the combination of the different colours of the flowers, the brown of bark chips and the green grass that makes it so spectacular. Also the location – right in the middle of the city centre, in the main square of Brussels, surrounded by century-old buildings – makes it even more perfect.

The Flower Carpet started in Brussels in 1971 with the theme ‘Ornamental Arabesques’; this was followed in 1976 with ‘Parks and Gardens’, then again in 1979 with ‘Bruocsella’ Millennium. One year later they created another design to celebrate Belgium’s ‘150th Anniversary’. This year’s design theme is the ‘African Continent’, featuring patterns from the tribes of Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria, Botswana and Cameroon.

In 1986 they decided to hold the event every two years. Next one will be in 2020.

Enjoy the finest luxury travel experiences in France and Belgium with Destination Artisans. Discover private clubs, art collections, wine estates, prestige villas, yachts, helicopter tours and more.


I recently visited Fragonard in Eze Village. Fragonard has been creating perfumes and cosmetics since 1926 and they offer free tours at their factories in both Eze Village and Grasse. Eze Village being the prettiest of the 2 towns, I chose to do a tour here. Unlike the distribution and marketing strategies of the leading French perfume brands, Fragonard and Galimard (another similar perfume house) sell their perfumes direct to the customer through their own stores in France and direct to the public at the end of the tour. The other difference is that you are buying concentrated perfume at a fraction of the price.

The production house at Eze Village makes the soaps, hair products, creams and cosmetics whilst the factory at Grasse produces the perfumes. They produce 2,000 soaps per day and all done by hand to obtain the best results. A bit of trivia – it takes 1 ton of jasmin flower to produce 1kg of essential oils, and it takes 3.5 tons of rose petals to make 1kg of essential oils. So next time girls, when you ask why is perfume so expensive, it’s for this reason. Essential oils is the basis of perfume production. To make parfum, (concentrate), this takes 24% essential oils and 76% alcohol. To make eau de parfum, this takes 15% essential oils; eau de toilette takes 10% and eau de cologne takes 5% and the remainder is made of alcohol and perfume water.

Fragonard import flowers from all over the world, including eucalyptus from Australia!

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the ‘noses’. These are people employed by the perfume houses to smell fragrances and to create new perfumes. I was told that it takes 3 years of study at a private ‘perfume’ school, located in Paris, Versailles or Grasse, then a further 7 years of an apprenticeship is required. Today there are only 50 ‘noses’ in the world, they are not supposed to drink, smoke or eat anything too spicey, plus they are very well paid and only work 2 hrs per day. In that time they smell up to 250 essences per day and can recognise 2,000 fragrances. What a job!

At the end of my tour and after spraying myself with countless florals, orientals, fruits, I bought a couple of bottles and came out smelling beautiful!


In St Paul de Vence, up a steep hill lies the Fondation Maeght. A unique museum dedicated to art, founded by Marguerite and Aime Maeght to present modern and contemporary art in all its forms. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the building of the Foundation with Catalan architect Lluis Sert by integrating their works into the building and gardens: the Giacometti courtyard, the Miró labyrinth filled with sculptures and ceramics, mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat, a pool and stained glass window by Braque, a Bury fountain.

Designated as being of public interest, the Maeght Foundation is autonomous. It is not linked to the National Museum Administration and receives no funding from the State.

They currently have a ‘Miro and his Garden’ exhibition. Being a huge fan of Miro, this certainly was as good as the permanent exhibition at the Fondation Miro in Barcelona. What I love about Miro was his absolute creativity in all mediums. Besides painting, he was brilliant with ceramics, sculptors and even tapestries, and Fondation Maeght have all represented.

My favourite room had about 12 oil paintings (painted in the late 60’s -70’s), using his recognisable strong colours of black, red, blue, green and yellow. The way he used black lines both thin and thick to outline the subject is almost childlike. I think strategically the fondation hasn’t placed chairs in the middle of this room, as I’m certain people would sit for ages looking at the paintings in this particular room.

If you are a fan of Miro, then this Fondation is definitely worth visiting.


Last Saturday I went to the fabulous Vaux le Vicomte Chateau. Outside of France little is known about this beautiful chateau which was the inspiration and model for the Chateau de Versailles.

In the warmer months every Saturday, between May and October, as evening falls, over 2,000 candles are lit throughout the château and gardens, the chateau is closed between 5.30 – 8.00 pm in preparation. And what a site it is! Just beautiful. With the sparkling lights of the candles, complemented by classical music in the background, looking out onto a section of the garden, stretched out in a chair, sipping champagne (of course), the rest of the world seemed so very far away. You felt almost like being trapped in time.

Arriving before 5.30 pm while it’s still light is a must as from the top of the castle from the roof top dome you have a panoramic view over the castle grounds. Quite spectacular!

It’s worth mentioning a brief history of this extraordinary castle. Vaux was the tragic setting for the downfall of Nicolas Fouquet, who was a faithful minister in the court of Louis XIVth who paid the price of life imprisonment, because of an embezzlement he did not commit, the jealousy of others and also because he went a little too far in his lavish hospitality, making the King quite overawed and envious. Vaux was also a haven for leading French artists, writers, poets, painters and sculptors who gave the best of their talents to the glory of Vaux.

In the early seventeenth century, between the royal residences of Vincennes and Fontainebleau, a small castle stood at the confluence of two small rivers. The domain was called Vaux-le-Vicomte. In 1641 a 26 year-old parliamentarian, Nicolas Fouquet, purchased the estate. Fifteen years later the first stone of a unique masterpiece was laid; it was to be the finest château and garden in France. This achievement was brought about through the collaboration of three men of genius whom Fouquet had chosen for the task: the architect Le Vau, the painter-decorator Le Brun and the landscape gardener Le Nôtre. They were not alone; the poet La Fontaine, and the playwright and actor, Molière, were amongst the celebrities who were part of the social circuit at the Chateau.

Today the visitor sees a castle completely furnished and open entirely to the public. Unlike other castles, where many of the rooms are out of bounds, you can see just about every room at Vaux le Vicomte. You will see the state apartments, private cabinets, the dining room, the kitchens and cellars in the basement.

But the most jaw dropping were the rooms: the furniture from the 17th century, the ceilings, the walls, the colour, the magnitude of the expense and the detailing was really amazing! Each room, one more beautiful than the next. No expense has been spared. AND taking of photographs with a flash was allowed!

The most fascinating room of all was certainly the ballroom. It had the WOW factor. In front of our eyes we were watching the setting of a seventeenth century court dance. I won’t give too much away, but the room seemed to have been extended and that people from another century were dancing in the room. It worked very well and captured everyone’s attention, we were all transfixed.

There are plenty of other things worth seeing like the Horse Carriage Museum, a unique and private collection of 18th and 19th century carriages; the Fountain Show where the fountains are still gravity fed, the same way as they were in the seventeenth century and even a Moliere play performed under the stars.

And lastly, it’s a great place for kids and grown ups wanting to dress up. Children’s activities are organised like Easter egg hunts, riddles, treasure hunts, costume tours, and children’s theatre. Everything is designed to enable them to discover this page of French history. It was a terrific afternoon and evening spent at Vaux le Vicomte. Highly recommended!


Montpellier has a lot to offer, it is a medieval city where in the town centre you will find Place de la Comédie, Faculté de Médecine, Place Royale du Peyrou and the Fabre Museum. The Museum des Beaux Arts in particular is exceptional and the ancient medical school (an important part of the city’s history) is very interesting. Up 90 stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and you have lovely views over the city.

Lunch I would recommend La Brasserie du Theatre, a gorgeous arte nouveau building with good service and food.

Next stop Perpignan, a city situated almost on the Spanish border has certainly a Catalan flavour. Plane trees and Palm trees coexist along the wide sun-drenched avenues. There is a lovely Museum here that has sculptures by Maillol who came from Perpignol.

Dinner was at the Restaurant St. Jean in the heart of the old city.

The following day we stopped in the seaside town of Collioure, considered the jewel of the rocky coast. The small Catalan port nestles in a sheltered bay in the Mediterranean Sea while directly behind are the Pyrenees mountains.

For lunch we visited a vineyard and restaurant called Domaine de Rombeau which I highly recommend. The food was very good and the staff were very nice considering during peak season the restaurant can cater for hundreds of people.

We then continued to the Memorial Rivesalte, a moving museum and memorial to the different groups of refugees who were detained on this site, first housing the Spanish refugees from the civil war, then undesirables from WWII (Roma, Jews, Communists) and eventually Algerians. It was very moving and the architecture of the museum was extraordinary. You would never know there was a museum.

We then continued to the Abbey of Fontfroide, a remarkable Medieval Abbey with an exquisite cloister and church, the Abbey was founded in 1093.

Our next destination was Narbonne, a charming town with an ancient Roman history. Founded in 118 BC, this town is none other than the very first Roman colony to be established outside of Italy. There are splendid vestiges of the Roman city, with part of a Roman road that was recently uncovered that passes through the town square.

We did visit the 13th century cathedral that was never finished, very impressive nonetheless. Just 30% of it had been completed, this cathedral has one of the tallest cathedral ceilings in France. Just extraordinary.

From Narbonne we continued to Carcassonne, known as a fortified medieval town, is the largest intact Medieveal city in Europe.

We checked into our hotel, the Mercure just a 5 minute walk from the entrance to the ancient city. I literally was given the best room of the hotel, room #43, their junior suite, with views looking directly to the fortress. The evening lights so nicely positioned to light up the fortress and in the morning it was bathed in yellow morning light.

We then went to the fortress for a tour. The town is splendid, but of course pretty touristy. We met with a guide who was dressed as a knight. If you can’t dress up as a knight in Carcassone, where can you?

A couple of hotel recommendations, the Hotel du Donjon, 4* a boutique hotel with only 38rooms situated within the fortress walls and the nearby Hotel de la Cité, 5* the jewel of the crown. The hotel began at the beginning of the 20th century and the decor is an interesting and successful mix of Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic. Celebrities, presidents and aristocrats would stop here between Biarritz and Nice or Biarritz and Paris (including Winston Churchill and Walt Disney, to name just two) and you can look at the old register to see their signatures and comments. It is so elegant, understated and perfect.

Dinner was at the 1* Michelin hotel restaurant the Barbacane. Simply wonderful and delicious.


Starting in the city of Geneva, my first night was at the sublime hotel La Reserve overlooking Lake Geneva. A 5* property situated in the heart of a 10 acre park with private access to the lake.

Colonial-inspired hotel designed by Jacques Garcia with wonderful light fittings in the sitting areas and restaurant of different coloured birds. The hotel has 102 elegant rooms and suites.

The hotel has a spa including 17 treatment rooms and offering the unique “Nescens better-aging programs”.

The hotel also has 5 restaurants and bars including the Tse Fung, a 1* Michelin restaurant, quite unique as it is an Asian restaurant.

Next day we drove back into France and to the region of the French Alps, stopping for lunch in Mègeve, then overnighting at La Bouite, a 5 star Relais & Chateaux property, near the Val Thorens resort. This family run hotel is a 3* Michelin restaurant with nothing formal or stiff about it. The father and son duo run an impeccable restaurant and hotel, quite unique in ever way, certainly for special occasions.

From here we drove to Chamonix, one of the most famous and oldest ski resorts in France, where we stayed at the Hotel Mont Blanc. Situated in the centre of the village, Chamonix and hotel are open all year round. The highlight was taking the gondola to the top of Mont Blanc, over 3,800m high with spectacular views of the snowy mountains.

The following day we changed scenery and drove to the region of Provence. From the snow capped mountains to fields of olive trees and vineyards, what a contrast. We drove to the medieval hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence where we stayed overnight at the beautiful Baumaniere Les Baux de Provence, in the heart of Les Alpilles. What an incredible property. Spread out over 20 acres, the rooms are located in 5 different houses. The hotel has 3 pools, a spa and 2 restaurants, the Oustau de Baumanière being the 2* Michelin restaurant and La Cabro d’Or the more casual of the 2. I had the priledge of eating at the Oustau de Baumanière, from the amuse bouche to the final petits fours, it was one of the best meals i have had.

The next morning we visited the Carrier de Lumiere, an exhibition of Picasso and other Spanish Masters. Words can’t fully describe the visual and emotional effect it had on me upon opening the door and walking into the cave. The paintings are projected onto the walls and floor of the cave along with music. This sound and light show was amazing, beautiful and the highlight of this trip.

From here we drove to the village of Uzès where we had lunch at the 1* Michelin restaurant at La Maison d’Uzès. Arriving on a Saturday we had time enough to visit the markets with a wonderful variety of foods and spices and hand make and organic products from the region.

Our last night was at the gorgeous 4* property of Le Vieux Castillon. Should really be a 5* property. Our dinner was wonderful with all the trimmings, the hotel has a spa with Occitanie products and a beautiful outdoor pool with views over the region.

The region of Provence is by far my favourite region of France.


If you love tennis and would love the chance to step onto Centre Court, then taking a Behind the Scenes tour with Destination Artisans is the way to go. For an hour and half with your own personal guide discover Roland Garros from the players’ side.

Your guide will explain to you the history of Roland Garros and share some amazing trivia. Did you know that if a player refuses to give an interview after a match they can be fined! André Agassi was penalized to the tune of $25,000 once because he refused to give an interview after losing a match!

During this exclusive tour, you will have the opportunity to visit press rooms, the men’s or women’s locker rooms and the interview room. It’s fun – we all got a turn to sit in the interview seat and have our photos taken!

Our guide told us a little anecdote about Steffi Graff. Apparently the top 10 players each year get to choose which locker they want and for good luck or superstition many pick the same one time after time. Steffi Graff’s favourite was No 19 so after her final match at Roland Garros the French Tennis Federation presented her with the actual locker door and in her honour replaced it with the number 18bis.

From the locker rooms you’ll along the same corridor and up the same steps and then out onto centre court just as the players do.

Also part of the visit is the Roland Garros museum. The museum’s permanent collection is a bilingual multimedia exhibition showing movie archives from 1897 to today.

There are summaries of games, exclusive interviews with French Open Champions and collections of old programs, tickets and racquets dating from the late 1800s.

You’ll get to see the original jacket worn by Henri Lacoste with the famous stitched crocodile logo.

This was definitely worth a visit – as a tennis buff, I had a lot of fun!


There is nothing like Burgundy in the fall. Our guide met us in the lobby of our hotel for a full day of cycling. I wasn’t sure if I could take a full day but I certainly was going to give it a go – drank my protein shake and put on the spandex suit like a true pro.

After adjusting our bikes for us and giving us a run down of the day’s activities we were on our merry way. It was a glorious autumn day – ideal for discovering the Côtes de Beaune on bike.

We cycled for the first 2 hours on paved roads which was easy enough for this couch potato. Our guide stopped from time to time to point out renowned vineyards with pithy bits of trivia. Apparently, it’s the soil that makes all the difference and the best wines in France come from Burgundy!

We had lunch with a local wine grower who showed us his stone cellar before sitting down to a scrumptious wine-tasting lunch. We were served 7 different wines with a full explanation, selected carefully to go with our lunch menu.

Even if I was feeling a little tipsy, the afternoon ride back to our hotel in Beaune was pleasant enough. We passed through several villages, including Pommard, Volnay and Meursault.

All in all we cycled about 30 kms with plenty of stops along the way. What a fabulous way to explore this part of France!


For my birthday celebration last night I chose to dine on board Paris’ finest dinner yacht. I had heard many great things about this dinner cruise and wanted to try it out for myself.

Well of course I was not disappointed. As soon as I arrived at the port 2 of the crew members where waiting outside to welcome me and once on board the Maître d’ took me to the outside lounge while I waited for my friend to arrive. For an autumn night it was very mild outside and I sat sipping my champagne while I waited.

Once my friend arrived we were shown to our table and it was time to depart. The dinner cruise is more like a moving restaurant, if you are expecting something touristy then this is far from that, there is no commentary in 5 languages on what is on right and what is on left. What is offered is a gourmet 4-course dinner, a ‘tasting menu’ on the River Seine by chef Guy Krenzer, on an exclusive and very elegant European yacht.

As a starter we were offered lobster, which was deliciously meaty and tender; a chicken dish, which was served at the carving table, followed this. At the end of the main course we stopped by the Eiffel Tower and arrived just as the light show started. Each of the women was given a red blanket to put over our shoulders as we went upstairs on deck.

We waited here until the end of the light spectacular then went back downstairs for the return cruise back to Port Henri IV. On the return we enjoyed a cheese platter, followed by a profiteroles dessert and coffee.

This would have to be one of the most elegant dining experiences I have had whilst in Paris. This floating gourmet restaurant offers 14 individual tables all placed alongside the windows to give you the maximum views, Italian leather furniture, beautiful porcelain, outdoor seating, discrete lighting, linen drapes, impeccable service and a 2 ¾ hour cruise on the Seine.

Highly recommend it for a special occasion!


A quick 2-hour TGV journey from Paris takes you to the heart of French food country, the gastronomic capital of France – Lyon. Every year, food lovers from around the world flock to the city’s Michelin-starred restaurants, however I chose to try its more humble LBL’s – Le Bistro Lyonnais – otherwise known as bouchons.

Historically in the 19th century, when the city was the center of the booming silk industry, the workers – on 18 hour shifts, had lunch in tiny inns which they called “bouchons” – named after the dried branch bouquets which owners would hang up outside the establishments. These were (and remain) typically family-run establishments, have the ubiquitous red and white checked tablecloths and offer a welcoming, home-style atmosphere to them. They were often started by entrepreneurial mothers, who’d given up working in the home of nobles and la bourgeoisieand have been handed down generation after generation.

The meals were hearty to help the working class get through their long workdays – close to we’d call “comfort” food today. And the wine – Côte du Rhône, with its hints of grapefruit and pepper.

A traditional Lyonnais menu centers around meat and fat, particularly pork and the insides–or offal. Far from awful, the typical fare includes andouille(made from the stomach of a pig), tripe(again made form pig or cow’s stomach), or boudin noir(blood sausage, made with pork, fried onions, fat, and blood).

I have in the past tasted andouille and boudin noir, so this time I opted for something quite different: Quenelle de Brochet sauce Nantua. Good choice! This meal was so delicious I found myself soaking up the sauce with my bread at the end – something I very rarely do.

The quenelle is a dumpling made from eggs, butter and flour, has a mousse-like consistency and is traditionally made with pike fish and a crayfish sauce. I highly recommend it, it is one of the gems of traditional Lyonnais cooking.

For my second meal I chose Gateau de Foie Blond de Volaille. This translated is cake of chicken white liver. It was a tiny round cake that came with a tomato sauce with green olives, button mushrooms and bite sized polenta cakes. Unfortunately, there was lots of parsley in the recipe, which I don’t like. I It was not to my taste – but it is popular.

Now that I am back home, I’m going to search for the nearest Lyonnais-style bistro and order some quenelle and cochonnailles (pig-things). My mouth is watering at the very thought!


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