Friday, January 30, 2015

Valentine's Day Swiss Alps Ski Trip~

Celebrate Cupid's Day in the nation that just repatriated its gold and decoupled from the Euro. They're not just about fine chocolate, Swiss watches, stellar beers, and the Large Hadron Collider, Bebe. The Swiss, who gifted the world with Ursula Andress who played Honey Rider in James Bond's Dr. No...are also known for getting frisky around a bank vault, too. ;) 

Just two hours from Lake Geneva, and also in the SW French part of Switzerland, the Crans-Montana resort rises high above the Rhone Valley in the Valais Alps where you can quaff fresh forest air as you drink in views from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc...

At the elegant Le Crans Hotel sip cocktails by the fire, take saunas, soak in the Jacuzzi, swim in indoor or outdoor heated pools, and indulge in spa treatments. Enjoy the resort's starry night Alps-views and artwork meals served with the finest wines anywhere. In the AM, hit the hiking trails that ring five local lakes, or cross-country ski over snow-laden links that in Fall will host golf legends at the Omega European Masters event...

Famous Swiss Who influenced the US include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the humanist philosopher born in Geneva in 1712 whose “Social Contract” formed the basis of the US Constitution. Carl Jung for his concepts of collective unconscious, archetypes, and individuation that influenced American psychiatry, philosophy, literature, and films and thus culture from its roots. Tina Turner--now a Swiss citizen living just outside Zurich gave us a resonating theme in her: Simply the Best: (HERE).

Happy Weekend...Thank you so much for stopping by~

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Champagne, Château, and Chocolate Cake~

Château les Crayères in the capital of Champagne 
Baudelaire's ideal of luxe calme et volupté

Where streets overflow in the liquid gold

Which way to the champagne?
Gorgeous image by Don Forbes~

While Swiss scientists coax their Large Hadron Collider to, 'Go find Daddy the God particle'. And seminars stuffed with white-coated researchers argue over which decaying subatomic particles created the Big Bang. Here at French Heart HQ I have the real need-to-know in the roll up to Valentine’s Day.

The above images from the bucolic Reims and Epernay area--in the Champagne Region of France--pinpoint the precise epicenter of the original Big Pop of champagne. Where bubbly was first invented by Benedictine monk, Dom Pérignon. And, from where every drop on earth of this deliciousness still flows today.

Here in this fount of celebration and luxury--Château les Crayères in Reims remains the most cashmere cozy locale in the entire Milky Way. An ideal for a Fine Romance. A decorous point to start the sip and skip from one glammy estate to the other: Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon—and 100 others are all here.

And then, when day is done, may everyone eat cake. Devil's Food Cake. With Sour Cream-Fudge Frosting Cake. A dark-matter cake from Bon Appetit that explodes in a mouthful of yummy cake.


1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ounce high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt, Perugina, or Valrhona), chopped
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


8 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt, Perugina, or Valrhona), chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
Organic roses (for garnish)

Equipment: 2 5-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides

Preparation for cake:

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter two 5-inch cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper; butter parchment. Combine cocoa powder and milk chocolate in medium bowl. Pour 1/4 cup boiling water over; whisk until mixture is smooth. Whisk in buttermilk.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in another medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars, oil, egg, and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and cocoa mixtures; beat until blended (batter will be thin). Divide batter between pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out with some crumbs attached, 28 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks; peel off parchment. Turn over; cool on racks.

For frosting:

Place chocolate in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Add butter and stir until melted, then add sour cream and corn syrup and whisk until smooth. Let frosting stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about 20 minutes.

Using serrated knife, trim top of cakes to make level. Cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 1 cake layer, cut side up, on platter. Spread 1/4 cup frosting over, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread 1/4 cup frosting over, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with third cake layer, cut side up. Spread 1/4 cup frosting over, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with remaining cake layer, cut side down. Spread 1/3 cup frosting over top and sides. Chill until frosting is set, about 30 minutes. Keep remaining frosting at room temperature.

Arrange roses atop cake and serve while Marilyn Monroe sings you, 'A Fine Romance' (here) And, then, make everyone swoon with this fabulous pasta: (here)

Stylish Roman Provence Wine ~

In Arles: Hotel-Particulier  

A short drive away in Nîmes...Ancient Roman waterworks...

Vincent Van Gogh painted this region obsessively,
His famous picture of a cafe in  Arles...that's still there.
Where the Gladiator was filmed. Love that movie. Clip: (HERE)
Let's Sack Roman Provence in Style~
Ruins of the Diana Temple in Nîmes~
Somewhere a photo exists of my then teenage son siting on the edge...
his feet dangling over the side... #FacePalm

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble”
~ So wrote Augustus, 1st Emperor of Rome, on his resume...

Prior to 28 BC--Arles and Nîmes were colonies of the Roman Empire sited along the Via Domitia--built in 118 BC to link Italy with Spain. Today Nîmes, is a chic walkable town in the Languedoc between the Mediterranean Sea and Cévennes mountains. At its heart is the gorgeous Jardins de la Fontaine, first civic garden of France...

The city’s population was 60,000 in its Augustan Age when defining features were set in place: the ring of ramparts and towers, the ancient masterwork Pont du Gard aqueduct--a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Maison Carrée Temple...a leading example of preserved Roman Empire architecture today. And the best-preserved Roman arena in France, locus of filming for the Gladiator film, for concerts, and replica Ancient Roman events. Other relics include the Temple of Diana...Goddess of the Moon, sister of Apollo.

Wine production in the region dates back to the Greeks, while bottles of local AOC Costières de Nîmes are produced between Nîmes and the western Rhône Delta, characterized by fresh coastal sea breezes, the gorgeous nature, and dedication to the ancient artsy perfection that surrounds winemakers...  

Thank you so much for stopping by: Starry, Starry Night

A Secret Miracle Making Paris Saint~

Generations of Paris faithful knew the hidden secret. And now tourists on Trip Advisor Paris have affirmed this mystical, out-of-the-way spot, too. Voting it #14 out of 624 Paris attractions with a collective 92% approval rating: (HERE) That's remarkable considering the overwhelming number of attractions in The City of Lights, and the savviness of Trip Advisor users, too.  

A Selection Of Their Comments~

“Visit here! It's a lovely church -- but the story of St. Catherine is even more amazing. It's wonderful to see so many people visit her shrine.”

“In my travels I've been to many churches but this one felt very holy.”

“It was so beautiful that when the mass finished I was crying like a child…”

“Amazing to see people from the whole world coming there to pray, with such confidence.”

“Beautiful! I feel very blessed to have celebrated a mass in the chapel where it all began back in 1830.” 

“This chapel is a saintly place in the heart of Paris. Must see for devotees of Our Lady of Grace. You won't believe how Holy it is.”

“The Chapelle de la Médaille Miraculeuse is the place to go to be blessed and feel good!! It is a place full of energy and enchantment!”

“It's an amazing discovery in Paris...the grace and the spirituality that you feel in the premises. It is a small place..with big miracles...”

In 1830 the Blessed Virgin Mary Saint Catherine Labouré at a chapel on rue du Bac, on the Left Bank, close to the Seine, the Sorbonne, the Musse d’Orsay, and the popular Bon Marche Market, and to request the creation of a Miraculous Medal. 

I know rue du Bac from staying at a boutique hotel on the narrow street for a couple of weeks...where the simpatico atmosphere sunk deep into my bones. 

Last night, I dreamed of staying on the Ile Saint-Louis where, after a stroll around the island at the heart of Paris, I’d walk the 1.7 miles to The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal...where apparitions appeared to Catherine Labouré on three successive days...

The earthly remains of Saint Louise de Marillac and the heart of St Vincent de Paul, founders of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, are also held in the chapel; where St. Catherine Labouré, a Marian visionary, rests in a glass coffin at the side altar.

Saint Vincent de Paul showed her his heart three times. Shortly after, Catherine saw Christ present in the Sacred Host, and on the feast of the Holy Trinity, Christ appeared as a crucified King. She also received three visits from the Blessed Virgin Mary including the request that a medal be created with the invocation: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." 

From May 1832 onwards the medal has performed miracles for the faithful. A short video of "The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal”: (HERE).

If you haven't visited the close-by Sainte-Chapelle behind Notre Dame, it is so exquisitely engineered that the mind reels to contemplate that its consecration predated Saint Joan of Arc's birth by 164-years: (HERE). Thank you so much for stopping by...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Cathar Village Of Cordes-sur-Ciel In Languedoc~

Last night, at a talk on the Languedoc-Roussillon the speaker referenced the slaughter of the Cathars with scant context given the immense cultural impact. Pondering this, I searched for the Cathars amongst my nearly 900-posts, a short piece follows. In the coming weeks, I'll expand on their positive relevance to humanity in a troubled age:

Cordes-sur-Ciel, meaning rocky heights above the clouds, is an official “Most Beautiful Village of France” with a history that belies its storybook appearance...

Located in the Département du Tarn, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, land of the musical language of the Cathars. The first literary language of Europe since classical times--was the language of the Occitan people who flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries in what was then Occitania. 

Fortified Cordes-sur-Ciel was built between 1222-1229 by the Count of Toulouse for Cathars fleeing villages burnt down by order of Pope Innocent during his Albigensian Crusade--when 500,000 were slaughtered. 

Despite persecution the Cathars achieved a 13th century Golden Age that dawned on Templars, Troubadours, and the Holy Grail--and with an ancient secret scroll containing secrets of Jesus in their safe-keeping...

At the time, Esclarmonde de Foix, was considered the mystical Cathar’s Joan of Arc—a royal leader dedicated to a spiritual life of high culture, art, learning, and music

The Cathars did not eat meat, rejected the feudal system and organized churches. They refused to pay tithes to the Catholic Church. They erected defensive walled cities on high promontories along a route in the Pyrenees from near Cordes-sur-Ciel to Carcasssonne. The latter today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited locations in Europe.

Dedicated to following their Goddess known as the Pure One, the Cathars claimed to follow a secret Book of Love attributed to Jesus who'd passed it to John the Divine. Transmitted through the centuries, it was adopted by the Knights Templar and the Cathars as the foundation of their Church of Amor, or Love. 

They believed the purpose of life was to become worthy of the light of the Holy Spirit. Their Troubadours praised high ideals and creativity by singing about love, honor, courtesy, chivalry, and gentility. 

Today, Cordes-sur-Ciel's population of 1,000 lives within the preserved 13th and 14th-century Gothic setting located in the Gaillac vineyard region. What's not to like, oui?

The novel below is based on the true story of Esclarmonde de Foix--as a window into their history and lives. Château de Foix: (HERE). Thank you so much  for stopping by~