The Palace of Versailles outside Paris is to transform one of its satellite buildings into a luxury hotel.
L’hôtel du Grand Contrôle, the traditional home of the chateau’s treasurers, is to be converted into a luxury hotel with 23 bedrooms. Some will look out over The Orangerie, the palace’s elaborate greenhouse, and others will have a view of the Swiss ornamental lake. The hotel could be ready as early as the end of next year.
A concession has been granted to the Belgian company Ivy International SA to renovate and develop the building, which dates back to the 17th century but is currently in a dilapidated state. The work is expected to cost 5.5 million euros (£4.6 million/$7.3 million).
Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage site deemed one of the crowning achievements of 18th-century French art, is one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions.
The development paves the way for a series of French projects aimed at exploiting the economic potential of listed buildings while securing their renovation.
Another royal palace, the Chateau of Fontainbleau, south of Paris, is preparing to appeal for bids to develop its listed Heronniere barracks next year. “We have to find a purpose for these buildings to avoid them falling into ruin,” said Jean-Francois Hebert, President of Fontainbleau. “One of the ways will be to set up an upmarket hotel complex.”
by Andy Moreton/AFP
Luxique offers you a choice of accommodation at some 70 luxury hotels in Paris,including the Trianon Palace in Versailles.
I’ve just spent a long weekend in the northern French city of Lille, where there’s some fine architecture and some appetising specialities: moules et frites (mussels and French fries), gaufres (waffles) and crêpes (pancakes).
The city, which is close to the border with Belgium, used not to be a hotspot for tourism, but that all changed in 1994 with the arrival of the Channel Tunnel, linking the United Kingdom with the European mainland.
Lille suddenly found itself at the centre of a triangle connecting London, Paris and Brussels. Ever since then, tourists have been able to take the option of stopping off from the high-speed Eurostar trains and spending a pleasant break in Lille, where French life’s at a slower pace than in Paris.
The Eurostar link has, of course, transformed the place, with the huge Euralille shopping mall evidence of an economic boom. In 2004, the city was European Capital of Culture.
But not everyone, it seems, has benefited from the largesse brought in by tourist Euros. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many beggars in such a relatively small city. Men and women with pathetic paper cups were squatting on street corners, beside automatic cash machines and on church steps. Sometimes they approached while you were out walking.
A few were alcohol-fuelled, but in the main these were simply the dispossessed and desperate – a sad sideshow in a modern, thriving city.
by Andy Moreton
There’s been a big fall in the number of British people going abroad for their holidays.
Last year, there were ten million fewer trips – a drop of 15 per cent, the biggest annual reduction since the boom of cheap package holidays in the 1970s.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the deciding factor for many was the fall in the value of the pound against the euro and the dollar. Many opted to stay in Britain for what’s become known as a ‘staycation’.
Visitors to the most popular foreign destination, Spain, fell by 2.2 million to about 11.5 million last year. France was down 1.1 million visitors to 9.8 million, Italy down 760,000 to 2.6 million, and Portugal down 720,000 to 1.8 million.
Trips to the U.S. slumped by 20 per cent – 820,000 – to 3.2 million last year, while the most dramatic turnaround was the 41 per cent fall in visitors to Mexico after it was identified as the source of the global swine flu epidemic.
Trips to Spain have been falling steadily since 2006, and separate research predicts that Mediterranean resorts will no longer top the destination league table for Britons by the end of 2011. It’s thought they will be overtaken by those in the ‘Mett’ – Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
by Andy Moreton
When these stats appeared in the national press, many people posted messages to say that there were bargains out there ready to be snapped up. Start with an affordable luxury hotel from Luxique!
The popular Pompidou arts centre in Paris now has a smaller cousin 170 miles to the east.
The Metz Pompidou will have no permanent collection of its own but will show, in six-month or yearly rotations, parts of the vast collection of 65,000 contemporary works held by the Pompidou in Paris, most of which are never displayed.
There are also spaces in the spectacular new building for other contemporary art forms, including cinema, modern music and dance.
Metz, the capital of the Lorraine region, is hoping to recreate the success of the European arm of New York’s Guggenheim museum, which has transformed the fortunes of Bilbao in northern Spain since 1997.
The director of the Metz Pompidou, Laurent Le Bon, said: “For us it’s a little French Revolution – yet it’s such a simple thing. We are just saying that the big collections are for everyone, not just for Paris.”
This is the first stage in a drive to decentralise the French state’s enormous art collection. A branch of the Louvre will follow in 2012 in Lens, a former coal town only an hour from the Channel Tunnel.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique has an extensive selection of luxury hotels in France – including some of the best that Paris has to offer.
The French have traditionally been fiercely protective of their language and are forever trying to halt the incursion of Anglo/American phrases.
Another campaign has just begun, with the word ‘buzz’ top of the hit-list. Linguistic experts see this as particularly crude, and intend to replace it with the word ramdam (doesn’t seem much more refined or French to me, but hey…)
Apart from ‘buzz’, there are a number of other words that young French people have picked up from their constant diet of English and American TV programmes, films, music and social networking. These include ‘chat’, ‘talk’ and ‘newsletter’. Their alternatives – to be placed in French language dictionaries – are éblabla, debat and infolettre.
Some of these alternatives emerged from a competition among schoolchildren and college students to identify French-sounding words for 21st century mid-Atlantic- speak.
The campaign has the full support of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who’s frequently pointed to the proliferation of English words as nothing less than the spread of a bland, corporate, American-style culture. “Defending our language, defending the values that it bears, fundamentally means fighting for cultural diversity in our world,” he said.
However, some Anglicisms stubbornly remain. Most common is le weekend, but there are also post-its in the office, and les air bags in cars.
by Andy Moreton
Discover France and the French language, and book a luxury hotel in Paris and many other cities through Luxique.
For the fifth year in a row, France has topped a list of the best places in the world to live.
International Living magazine’s 30th Quality of Life Index surveyed almost 200 countries across nine categories, including cost of living, culture/leisure, environment, and safety/risk.
“In France, life is savoured,” said International Living publisher, Jackie Flynn. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that France is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, where there is so much pride in all the small details. The French love little window boxes filled with flowers, tidy gardens, pretty sidewalk cafes and clean streets.”
International Living paid particular attention to provincial France, praising the affordability and services outside Paris, especially for retired people and their families.
Australia jumped up the rankings from fifth to second place on the strength of its economic recovery, while the US dropped from third to seventh. International Living claimed that sustaining the ‘American Dream’ had escalated out of the reach of many.
5. New Zealand
7. United States
The UK’s position? A lowly 25th behind the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you book some of the finest luxury hotels in Paris and in many other areas of beautiful France.
The Alpine ski season has begun earlier than usual thanks to unseasonably heavy snowfalls.
Last weekend, skiers and snowboarders enjoyed outstanding conditions for this time of the year. There were significant snowfalls across Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland – some up to 20 inches deep. The Austrian resort of Kitzbühel had earlier set an 80-year record by opening on October 24th.
Ski tour operators welcomed the early snow, saying it had helped stimulate sharp increases in bookings, which would go some way to countering the effects of the economic downturn.
Betony Garner, of Ski Club of Great Britain, said:
“The crucial thing is that the temperature has been staying low so the snow is settling – some resorts are blanketed like it’s the middle of winter.”
Many Alpine resorts had been becoming increasingly nervous about the unseasonably warm weather of late, which saw temperatures as high as 18C (65F), fearing a repeat of the dire season of 2006/7.
by Andy Moreton
Heading for the piste? Check out Luxique’s selection of luxury Alpine hotels in France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria.
I’ve written before about messages-in-bottles, but one found on a beach in Cornwall in south-west England is the ultimate in romance and heartache.
Coastguard Martin Leslie was clearing debris from the shore at Praa Sands when he found the bottle, sealed with candle wax.
It contained a lock of hair and a three-page letter in French, dated September 25th. In it, an unnamed woman pours out her feelings for her lover, who, it’s clear, has returned to his wife.
She understands the inevitability of the situation, and recalls happy times:
“These magic moments are pure secret. The secret of life and pleasure without limits. In twenty years, it will still be here, the previous moments of happiness. When life gets dreary, we will be able to tap into these memories to remember what it is to live again.”
She finishes by saying she hoped to find another man like him with whom to live ‘a beautiful life’.
There was no address or any other clue to her identity, but it’s reported that the French media are on the case.
by Andy Moreton
Learning a foreign language can be an extremely tricky business, particularly when it seems to defy logic.
Take French, for instance. Who would imagine that hotel de ville meant a town hall?
One British tourist in the town of Dannemarie in the Alsace region certainly didn’t. The weary woman, spotting the impressive looking building and the magic word ‘hotel’, popped in to use the toilet before trying to find the check-in desk.
But as she was in the loo, officials finished a meeting, left the town hall and locked the front door. The result was that the woman spent the night on chairs in the lobby, despite shouting for help and turning the lights on and off to try to attract attention.
Her plight went unnoticed until the following morning when a passer-by spotted a notice in fractured French that she’d posted on one of the glass doors.
The woman was said to be in her thirties and a university graduate (she clearly didn’t major in French). If she’d been just over the border in Germany, she probably would have decided to avoid the town hall there – it’s called the Rathaus.
by Andy Moreton
For real luxury hotels in France, check in to Luxique’s carefully-selected list.
Politicians in France are once again debating one of the more contentious issues in France – whether shops should be allowed to open on Sundays.
French laws are much more restrictive than those in the US and UK, for example. Sundays have been protected since 1906, although bakers, butchers and other small shops are allowed to open until noon.
Carole Landry, a journalist based in Paris, says keeping retail businesses closed has helped cement the tradition of the Sunday family meal that many in France still hold dear.
But there has been a clamour for change over the past twenty years, with recent polls suggesting that a majority of the French believe shops should have the freedom to open on Sundays. Paris’s temple of shopping, Galeries Lafayette, has said this would create between 300 and 400 jobs and boost sales by 10 per cent.
If passed, this amendment to the law would allow shops in designated tourist areas and special commercial zones to open on Sundays.
President Sarkozy has long been a strong supporter of change. After a recent visit by Michelle Obama, President Sarkozy asked: “Is it normal that on a Sunday, when Madame Obama wants to go shopping in Paris with her girls, I have to make phone calls to get them to open?”
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers a choice of a wide range of luxury hotels in Paris and many other French cities.