Château des Hauts de Loire Hotel Domaine Hauts de Loire near the Loire Valley castles Depending upon your schedule, seeing the Loire Valley castles along the Road to Happiness (Route de Bonheur) can be as short as a few days or as long as a summer escape. My three-night mini excursion brought me, and newest Gal Pal Gail, to the Loire Valley where enchanting castles, charming Relais & Chateaux hotels and the best in food and wine awaited us. The journey began…

rp_lion-dor-1024x683.jpgCharming villages dominate the landscape in the Loire region of France. The boutique hotels of the Relais & Chateaux are among the finest in the area. Grand Hôtel du Lion d’Or (Golden Lion) was the first stop in gal pal Gail and my three night mini “Route de Bonheur” – road to happiness and we were thrilled to find such a wonderful Loire Valley hotel.

Rum baba: Sponge cake, soaked in rum-flavored syrup with strawberries Rum baba: Sponge cake, soaked in rum-flavored syrup with strawberries Approachable and effervescent two-Michelin star chef Jean-Luc Rocha at Hotel Cordeillan Bages in the heart of the Bordeaux wine region in Pauillac makes staying at this Relais & Chateaux property owned by the Cazes' family, a dream come true for foodies like myself. Delicious eye-candy, plate after plate came my way when I dined there on my last visit to area.

Cordellian bages hotelOriginally a 17th Century Monastery, and later used as a guesthouse for the spirited wine family Cazes’ visitors. Chateau Cordeillan Bages Pauillac has been a relaxing oasis for the past 30 years. Perfectly situated next to one of my favorite wineries, Lynch-Bages (also owned by the Cazes family), it was a wonderful hotel to chill out in and spend a peaceful couple of days. 

DSC_0330While not a New Year's Eve destination this year, the Best of 2014 travel for me included multiple trips to Paris. Speaking from experience, nothing beats a New Year or Bonne Année in the City of Light. My first time seeing the Eiffel Tower at night was on New Year's Eve, 1990 with Mr. Weekend In Paris. It was the 100th anniversary of the tower and the excitement of the occasion was palpable. Of course the evening was all the more special since Mr. Weekend In Paris' birthday is at midnight! I instantly fell in love with the iron lady of Paris and my grandmother's heritage. France, you are in my blood!