The Mediterranean and the spectacular destinations we can show you are on track, thankfully, for summer openings to tourists. We are all eager to get back showing our clients what makes these areas so special. As we ease out of our lockdown in most of Europe, our tour guides and drivers are just as ready as we are to introduce you to their breathtaking regions and unique towns.
When we plan your tailor made vacation, we piece together, bit by bit, the perfect tours, excursions and transfers for your family and friends. These are all led by local drivers and professional tour guides that we know personally – so we can be sure that they are the best. Though we don’t get to meet all of our clients personally (unfortunately), our guides and drivers are an incredibly important part of what makes your trip come together seamlessly. We rely on them to make sure that you can experience these areas through the eyes of someone who knows the area intimately.
This week, we chatted with some of tour guides and local experts in France in la belle France, one of our most popular destinations. They were so happy and eager to share some of their expert tips and fantastic stories. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to meet them yet, here’s a chance to get to know them. And for those of you who have had a trip with them, say salut to an old friend!
1. What do you love about being a tour guide in France? Why did you decide to become a guide?
Youri, (above) our wine expert and local professional guide in the Burgundy region: Since I am a private tour guide in France, I meet many different people from all over the world. Each of them with their own personality and level of wine knowledge. Therefore, each tour is different and interesting. I have to make sure that the tours are tailored to each guest so that they have the best experience possible. Since everyday is different. I never get bored. I like to understand people and create a link with them so that they all have a special experience.
I was born and raised in Burgundy and my entire family is from here. My father was a cook and my great-grandfather was a barrel maker. Burgundy is in my blood. I know it like the back of my pockets. I love giving my guests a ‘full immersion’ of my home. It is not a job for me, it is part of my life and I love to share it.
2. What is a destination or site that you most enjoy taking guests?
Rosa, (below) our incredible culinary expert and local chef (and by default, tour guide!) in the amazing French Riviera based in Nice: The Cours Saleya market is a must for anyone visiting Nice for the first time. But I have a special fondness for the Libération market, which attracts more locals and has a vast selection of fresh local produce, fish, meats and cheeses to choose from.
3. What is your best moment with clients that you can remember?
Youri, Burgundy: I have had so many special memories that it is hard to pick just one. As a tour guide in France, I am fortunate to have many. However, one stands out. Once I was with a man from New York who during his tour started to cry. He was able to drink one of his favorite wines, a Vosne Romanée Premier Cru « les Petits Monts » with the winemaker while overlooking the Most famous Pinots noirs Grands crus in the world « Richebourg, Romanée Saint Vivant, La Tâche,La Grande Rue and of course the emblematic Romanée Conti ». At that moment I wasn’t working, my client had become a friend. When you are with your friends, you want them to have the best and be the happiest they can be.
4.Your recommendation for the best time of year to visit your country/city/town and why ?
Fouad, (below) our local expert for southern France and the Côte d’Azur: The best time to visit France is May, June and September, October because the weather is perfect and the area is still not crowded with tourists.
Youri, Burgundy: Every season in Burgundy has its charm so this is a hard question. Each season will give you a different and interesting experience. Fall is, of course, exciting because of the wine harvest and the colors of the vineyard. In October the colors of the grapevines change and the vineyards become golden. Winter is relaxing since the work in the vineyard is finished. The winemakers have time to leisurely enjoy sharing wine in their cellars. There are not many tourists and the weather is cold and there may be snow. The best time to enjoy the cozy restaurants! Spring is beautiful with the wildflowers, new vine shoots and wonderful smells of the countryside. I also very much like summer, and in particular August. Many of the local people are away on holiday so there is more space to enjoy the countryside. It can be very hot but it is not crowded. And the winemakers are not taking vacations so they have time for us!
Rosa, French Riviera: My favorite months are April, when we see the first asparagus, peas, fava beans, artichokes and strawberries, and September, when the summer heat finally subsides but you can still enjoy the beach and fill up on juicy summer fruits. But I also think it’s an under-appreciated region in the winter, when the sun shines almost all the time and you can be outdoors enjoying hiking and cycling.
5. What you find most exciting or inspiring about your area?
Rosa, French Riviera: I chose Nice because of its unique local culture, which has a strong Italian influence that is reflected in the food. I liked the idea of teaching dishes that can only be found in Nice, like petits farcis (little stuffed vegetables) and tourte de blettes (a sweet pie made with Swiss chard).
Fouad, Côte d’Azur: Unique – the beauty offered by the proximity of the sea to the mountains. Exciting – a wide variety of attractions close to nature for everyone and for all taste. Inspiring – light, good living, inviting to all-round reflection. The region can reveal the artist who “sleeps” within you. It makes me proud to be a tour guide in France.
Youri, Burgundy: The wine! Unlike many regions in France, Burgundy uses one grape for its red wine, Pinot Noir, and one grape for its white wine, Chardonnay. We do not make wine from blends of grapes. The unique thing about the wine made in the Burgundy area is that with the varied ‘climate’ of the area, each vineyard creates wine with its own fingerprint and personality. That’s what makes tasting wines in my areas definitely so exciting.
6. Which place do you love to visit in their country?
Rosa, French Riviera: There are so many beautiful regions in France, but I have wonderful memories of tasting the briniest oysters and the sweetest mussels in Cancale, Brittany, in a simple shack next to the sea. I think there is a theme here!
Youri, Burgundy: Burgundy is my home and so I don’t like to stay away from it for very long! However, I love Normandy with its delicious cheeses and beautiful beaches. Though I don’t like the noise and stress of the city, I enjoy going to Paris since it has so much history everywhere you go. Anywhere you look, you find important links to France’s past. I also like Chamonix in the mountains. The summertime is lovely and the winter skiing is great.
Fouad, Côte d’Azur: The amazing mountain villages and natural parks in south of France.
7. If you could give a tour to anyone (from the past or present), who would it be?
Rosa, French Riviera: When the Obama family came to our region, I secretly hoped they would discover me and sign up for a class, but it never happened!
8. Personal favorite restaurant?
Fouad, Côte d’Azur: le Local restaurant & Nine fifty located in Nice harbor or les Maurettes restaurant in the Var (located in the middle of the vineyards).
Youri, Burgundy: In Burgundy, Bernard Loiseau. In Dijon I love the Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge,which belong to the chef William Frachot. It has 2 Michelin stars but I think that it deserves 3, it’s so wonderful. In Beaune, I recommend the Hostellerie de Levernois restaurant. It’s located in an elegant hotel set in the middle of a lovely garden in the countryside. My favorite local dish is called oeufs en meurette which are eggs poached in red wine. It’s so delicious that I would eat it every day!
Rosa, Nice: Armand Crespo runs several excellent restaurants in the Nice Old Town, my favorite of which is Bistro d’Antoine, where you’ll find updated bistro cooking at very reasonable prices.
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