France Three Ways: Land, River and Sea

June 24th, 2021

As of June 18, France moved the United States to its “green list” of countries, which is open to unvaccinated travelers as long as they submit a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test that was taken within 72 prior to boarding. Previously, the U.S. was on France’s “orange list” of countries, and only vaccinated leisure travelers could enter from the U.S. carrying with them a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test. According to luxury travel agency network VirtuosoFrance is the #3 international destination being booked by Americans this summer. The border opening comes just in time for big news in the country.


As the saying goes, Paris is always a good idea, but the City of Light seems to be having an extra special moment right now. Recent openings include the iconic, LVMH-owned department store La Samaritaine which emerged from a 16-year closure this month and the highly anticipated Bourse de Commerce, the Tadao Ando-designed museum housing the Pinault collection. Dedicated to the history of Paris, Musée Carnavalet, the city’s oldest museum, reopened last month after being closed for four years. In other art news, the Musée Jacquemart-André will debut a Botticelli exhibition (September 10 –  January 24, 2022) – just off the heels of the record-setting auction at Sotheby’s. La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa is a pick for those looking for discreet luxury. The 40-room property is located in a c. 1854 Haussmann-style mansion that was once owned by the Duc de Morny, step-brother of Emperor Napoleon III. Thanks to an exclusive new service, guests will receive the La Réserve treatment from the minute they step outside their doors. The service will include a private car transfer from their home to the airport and a VIP meet-and-greet and fast track to their plane.

A pick for groups and families, the La Réserve Paris Apartments overlook the Trocadero in the 16th arrondissement – meaning unbeatable views of the Eiffel Towel. The top floor apartments can be connected to create a nearly 4,000-square-foot pied-à-terre. The building has its own private street entrance and guests buying out the top floor would receive a key for private elevator access. The flats have a large kitchen and the pantry and wine cellar come fully stocked. Large balconies can accommodate intimate dinner parties prepared by a private chef. Furniture can be rearranged to guests’ liking and even a home gym and cinema can be set up.

Nestled within a Mediterranean jardin overlooking the Cote d’Azur is the cliffside retreat, La Réserve Ramatuelle. The Palace hotel reopened on May 12, 2021, lifting the veil on a refreshed lobby, two Michelin-starred restaurant, and terrace helmed by none other than Jacques Garcia. Garcia is no stranger to the brand having designed La Réserve Geneva, La Réserve Paris and La Chartreuse de Cos d’Estournel, the Bordeaux home of founder Michel Reybier. He took inspiration from the 1950s and 1960s when Cocteau, Picasso and Picault brought their creativity to the French Riviera. A special touch is the sculpted lights designed by Julien Capron, grandson of the famous Vallauris ceramic artist Roger Capron. Julien also designed the handmade jars and artwork in the library comprised of blue and green ceramic tiles.

Guests shouldn’t miss La Réserve à la Plage, the hotel’s beach club which opened in 2019 on the famous Pampelonne Beach. Designed by Philippe Starck, the open-air setting and wood and rattan décor create a bohemian atmosphere that perfectly fits the coastal Mediterranean locale. Guests of La Réserve Ramatuelle have the advantage of a complimentary shuttle from the resort to the beach (a less than 10-minute ride) and have priority when booking the restaurant and beach chairs.

Located in the heart of a 200-acre vineyard in Bordeaux, La Chartreuse de Cos d’Estournel is the private residence of hotelier Michel Reybier. The Cos d’Estournel vineyard is one of just 14 Chateaux ranked as Second Growth in 1855. Available exclusively for buyouts, the Jacques Garcia-designed house is decorated in a mix of European antiques and Asian tapestries has six bedrooms and two suites; a library; dining room; hammam; indoor and outdoor swimming pools; and a wine cellar, of course.

The 14-room La Maison d’Estournel in the Médoc region has no shortage of outdoor activities; an ocean, rivers and vineyards can all be found nearby, after all. Experiences include fishing on the Gironde River, a private visit the oldest lighthouse in France still in operation, and biking along the Bay of Arachon followed by lunch in an oyster farmer’s hut. Adults can’t have all the fun and kids get in on the action too, with farming classes complete with friendly donkeys, sheep and chickens; street art workshops led by a local painter; and surfing lessons on the coast with a professional.


Collectively known as Belmond Afloat in France, Belmond’s fleet of seven luxury barges are available for private charters accommodating anywhere from four to 12 passengers. More akin to floating villas, the barges feature a dining room, lounge and sundeck as well as private floating pools. Each barge also comes equipped with bicycles for rides into the local villages or to peddle alongside the barge as it floats down the canal. The week-long itineraries are all-inclusive and completely customizable to meet the individual needs of each guest. Belmond is launching two new itineraries this August including a vintage champagne tour with accommodations on Belmond Pivoine. Families and friends will enjoy the best of vintage champagnes with exclusive access to the region’s leading vineyards, Maisons Ruinart, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, and Krug. For an in-depth look at the annual grape harvest, opt for the week-long journey on Belmond Amaryllis filled with Grand Cru wine tastings; a masterclass on the ancient art of cooperage, where the group will try their hand at creating a wooden barrel by hand; and participating in the time-honored pigéage, or grape-stomping, with Belmond-only access at Domaine Drouhin-Laroze.


Returning to its roots, PONANT, the leader in luxury expeditions, is offering 15 sailings along the French coastline this summer. Departing on July 2, Le Bellot – the fifth installment in the PONANT EXPLORER series featuring the world’s first underwater lounge, the Blue Eye – will sail roundtrip from Saint-Malo on eight-day itineraries exploring the Breton Coast. Highlights include the brand’s namesake islands, Ponant Islands, and a stop at the island of Houat, home to less than 200 inhabitants all year round. Other sailings include circumnavigating the island of Corsica with stops in the seaside resort of Saint-Laurent as well as Roccapina Beach with its granite lion, a rocky outcrop of pink granite naturally shaped by erosion into the form of a crouching lion.

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