Friday, January 30, 2015

New: Sweet Rooms for Rent in St. Remy

After leaving this old St. Remy Maison du Village sit empty and rubble-filled for many years, the owner finally agreed to sell: to next-door neighbor Mireille Mazel-Pera and her husband Jean-Pierre de Detugny, who run the Atelier Pera gallery downstairs. “I'm the artist," Mireille told me, "and Jean-Pierre’s the comedian." 

Originally from the Languedoc, the couple has been in St. Remy ten years...and they’d had their eye on the 17th/18th-century ruin almost since day one. With the ink barely dry on the compromis de vente they began a total renovation, and were just rounding the home stretch when I visited them earlier this month. 

This is a small but stylish house, filled with art, antiques, custom fixtures, lovely linens and lots of pretty decorative touches. Christened as Harmony Home, it’s brand new on the rental market for 2015. The old stone walls and graceful archways are still there but beyond that, Mireille explained, everything else is brand new, such as the large windows at the front and back that let in a surprising amount of light. 

Pass through the welcoming foyer and you’ll find three bedrooms on two floors, each with its own en suite bathroom and pretty amenities, plus a spa/exercise room (with a large Jacuzzi, Power Plate and stationary bike), a small but comfy kitchen (with a round dining table)...and a perfect little terrace overlooking St. Remy’s tuiles rooftops and 14th-century church spire. What’s really nice is that the bedrooms may be rented separately—in which case guests share the kitchen, terrace and spa--or the house can be rented as a whole. 

There's a TV in every guestroom, Wifi throughout, A/C upstairs and—wait for it!—an elevator. This a terrific option for anyone who wants a reasonably priced pied a terre in a historic setting, with all the modern comforts, in the heart of one of Provence’s most-popular villages. 

This is not a B&B with breakfast service--you’re on your own there--but tea and coffee are provided and the local boulangeries, cafes and a newsstand with international papers are just outside your door. For those who speak no French, Jean-Pierre will happily do the meet-and-greet in English...and since the couple lives and works right next door, there’s almost always someone around to help. 

The house is listed on the French site Le Bon Coin, on Airbnb here and on its own website here. Opening rates are 100€ per room per night (minimum stay four nights) and 500€ per room per week. If you're renting by the room, you'll share the kitchen, terrace and spa room with other guests. The whole house can be rented for 300€ per night or 1500€ per week...and monthly rates are negotiable.

Harmony Home, Impasse Jaume Comte, St. Remy de Provence, +33 (0)4 32 60 12 95, +33 (0)6 62 50 20 87,

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cool New Google Translate Update!

The good folks in Mountain View, California have just updated Google Translate, creating a fantastic tool for foreign travelers and anyone struggling to learn a new language. Basically you speak into the mic...and the app speaks back in the language of your choice. For those of us who learn better visually than aurally, the app lets you see the translated phrase as well as hear it. The new update is for both Android and iOS.

"When talking with someone in an unfamiliar language, conversations can... get... realllllllly... sloowwww," Google says. "While we’ve had real-time conversation mode on Android since 2013, our new update makes the conversation flow faster and more naturally." 

Once you've downloaded the update, go to Translate and tap the mic to start speaking in your selected language, then tap the mic again and the app will automatically recognize the language being spoken. For the rest of the conversation, you won’t need to tap the mic again—it'll be ready. Go for it! Now you can ask directions to the autoroute, tell the waiter that you're fromage intolerant and chat up anyone in French with relative ease....if you speak slowly and enunciate, of course.

The instant translation currently works for translation from English to and from German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. More languages are coming. Pretty soon you'll be able to communicate with just about anyone on earth...a fairly remarkable thought.

The Translate app has also been updated for written text. It already lets you use camera mode to snap a photo of text and get a translation for it in 36 a street sign, for instance, or a restaurant menu. But this new update lets you instantly translate text using your camera. While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text and you’ll see the translated text overlaid on your screen—even if you don't have an internet or data connection. You can also use your finger to highlight and then scan just the part of the text you want translated. I tried it and it works...but nowhere near as smoothly as the voice translator. The voice translator rocks!

Merci, Google! Now if only you could make an app to help me find my phone in the bottom of my handbag when I'm searching for a French phrase and need it right away...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Generator Hostel to Open in Paris Feb 1

Generator Hostels will open their first Paris hostel on Feb 1, bringing their worldwide total to nine.

With 950 beds in five room categories--including private rooms with private terraces--this is the largest Generator so far. Amenities include "bespoke" beds, en suite bathrooms, power showers, fast and free WiFi and interiors designed to evoke a boutique-hotel experience. Generator's slogan is ''affordable luxury."

Generator Paris sits in an old office building in the 10th arondissement, a 15-minute walk from the Gare du Nord (and the Eurostar). It's close to Buttes-Chaumont Park, art galleries, vintage shops and the cafes by the Canal St. Martin. 

They have a 24-hour bar/lounge with large screen TV, breakfast service from 7 am to 10 am, a cafe serving ''locally influenced" food from noon to 10 pm,  snack machines, a chill-out room, a 24-hour laundry room, 24-hour reception, luggage storage, a multi-lingual staff and a shop for buying tour tickets and such. There will also be occasional events such as live or DJ music, art collaborations and more. 

The London-based company, founded in 1995, already has "design-led" hostels up and running in Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, London and Venice. Properties in Rome and Amsterdam are coming soon. .

Rates begin at just 25€ per night. To see all room categories and prices for Paris, click hereThe full website is here

Photos: Paris photos haven't been shot yet but these four renderings should do in the meantime. The room photos are from the Generator Hostel in Barcelona: a private room, female shared room, premium room and private quad.

*Hostels not your thing? Then check out the new, moderately priced Paris hotel options here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Own a Piece of Monte-Carlo Hotel History

As part of a four-year, €250-million renovation at the five-star Hotel de Paris, its owner--Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer--will stage a major auction of the hotel's fixtures, furniture, linens, tableware and art from January 25 to 30. 

Artcurial, the prestigious French auction house, will do the honors; they handled recent auctions at the Hotel de Crillon and the Plaza Athénée in Paris. 

The auction takes place in the Hotel de Paris' Salle Empire and will be preceded by a four-day exhibition, January 21 to 24. The exhibit will trace the history of the decorative items and will be displayed in a trail around the hotel. 

All told, some 4000 lots containing 10,000 items will go under the hammer, including furniture from two restaurants, the lobby and the garden; furniture from 138 suites and rooms (including the 210-square-meter Winston Churchill Suite); 400 items of tableware; and monogrammed bath linens. Total value is estimated at €1 million.

The Hotel de Paris will remain open throughout the renovation, with a limited capacity of 53 rooms and suites. Its famous façade overlooking Casino Square will remain untouched, as will the historic spaces such as the lobby (with its equestrian statue of Louis XIV, said to bring luck to those who touch it),  the American Bar, the Empire Room and Alain Ducasse's Michelin three-star restaurant Le Louis XV. (Attention Foodies: Seventeen pieces from Le Louis XV will be on auction.)

"This exclusive sale heralds the first stage of our renovation, which is part of a major metamorphosis of Casino Square," explains hotel director Luca Allegri.  "The Société des Bains de Mer is also remodeling the Sporting d’Hiver, which will bring a new feel to the whole of Monte-Carlo and improve its offering of residences, shopping spaces, gardens and venues when fully completed in 2018."

(Allegri, for his part, says he hopes to purchase something from the Churchill Suite, the hotels' most-luxurious apartment. Located on the 8th floor, it offers private access, two bedrooms, two bathrooms...and splendid views of the harbor, the Rock and the sea. Sir Winston Churchill was a loyal Hotel de Paris guest starting in 1945 and stayed several times in this apartment. The penthouse replacing it will be considered the jewel of the newly done property).

Built in 1864, Hotel de Paris was inaugurated shortly after the magnificent Monte-Carlo Casino.  It was created by Francois Blanc, the founder of the Société des Bains de Mer, who had made his fortune at the Hamburg Casino. His goal? To give the arid Spélugues Plateau--at that time covered in olive, lemon and orange trees--a sumptuous setting for gambling and luxury which would draw "the international elite." To build it, Blanc brought together some of the most-talented designers from France and abroad; the Belle Époque architecture is the work of French architect Godinot de la Bretonnerie.

Eroll Flynn celebrated his wedding here; James Bond stayed here in GoldenEye (1995). Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dali, the Prince of Wales, Alexandre Dumas, Baron Haussmann and Prince Napoleon have all been guests.

The redo will impact both public areas and guest rooms, with rooms being enlarged and the number of suites increased. A new garden courtyard will be created along with a new fitness, spa and pool area and a “rooftop villa” with private pool and garden. Architects Richard Martinet and Gabriel Viora have been entrusted to do the lavish update while maintaining the spirit and integrity of the original design. 

The Société des Bains de Mer now owns and operates four casinos, four hotels (Hôtel de Paris, Hôtel Hermitage, Monte-Carlo Beach, Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort) and 33 restaurants including the Le Louis XV, the flagship of Alain Ducasse's empire. (For my story about the restaurant's 25th Anniversary Party, click here.) 

A team of 20 Artcurial employees worked seven months preparing for this sale, with 40 days spent on inventory alone. Leading the sale will be auctioneer and managing partner Stéphane Aubert and co-president Francois Tajan.

Founded in 2002, Artcurial staged 123 sales within 20 specialty departments in 2013 alone, generating sales of €178.1 million. (One recently auctioned piece, La Rivière, a sculpture by Aristide Maillol, brought in €6.1 million and was the year's third most expensive auction item in France.)  Based in Paris, they have offices in Milan, Brussels, Vienna and China, and stage travelling exhibits in the US and Asia.

To see the full auction catalogue with lots of great historic photos, click here. For the auction details, see the Artcurial website here. Finally, for still more info and other art-world happenings (including the Feb 5 charity auction of Pope Benoit XVI's Harley-Davidson, at the Grand Palais in Paris), click here.

Photos: (1, 2) The hotel night and day. (3) This wool-and-silk lobby rug (made in 1962) measures 10.4 x 6.7 meters and is signed "Iran – Daroshtareh – Naïn." It's the most valuable item being auctioned and is expected to bring 10,000 to 20,000€.  (4) Chairs waiting for new homes. (5) Set of 12 “Constellation" plates from the restaurant Le Grill, in Pillivuyt porcelain, marked "Constellation - Le Grill - S.B.M. Monaco."  (6) Teak terrace furniture. (7) Winston Churchill stayed regularly at the Hotel de Paris, starting in 1945. He had his own 210-square-meter suite which he decorated to his own taste, first on the 4th floor and then on the 8th. Churchill often painted early in the morning on the balcony, dressed in his dressing gown. Furniture and objects from the suite to be auctioned include this model boat. (8) A pair of signed "Funny Valentine" chairs by Jean Charles de Castelbajac for Ligne Rosset. (9) You need this grained-leather mini bar, no? (10) This pair of 20th-century "Feuilles" (leaves) lamps in gilded, burnished metal are expected to bring €600 to €800. (11) A set of four lavishly adorned Louis XIV-style torchères, in carved and gilded wood, is estimated at €5,000 to €8,000. (12) More stuff!   (13) Salvador Dali in the hotel kitchen in 1949, photographed by Robert Oggero. (14) Charlie Chaplin lunching on the terrace, 1959. (15)  The hotel and Casino Square in 1910.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

If You Live in the UK but Love France...

The annual France Show--the UK's biggest celebration of all things French--happens at London's Olympia on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, January 23 to 25. You'll find roughly 170 exhibitors promoting French food, wine, tourism, vacation ideas, finance and legal help, entertainment and more, all under one roof.  (To see all exhibitors, click here.) Roughly 15,000 attendees are expected. As in previous years there will be a French market, cooking demos, tutored wine tastings, a language theater, a chance to play pétanque and entertainment.

The France Show also hosts the largest French Property Exhibition in the UK, so if you're hunting for real estate, this is a great place to start. Plus, there's a French property auction on Saturday Jan 24, starting at 12:15, with 57 properties for sale. Full details about the auction properties can be seen here.

Tickets are £16 at the door or £12 in advance. But readers of Provence Post can get a special discount price of £8; order online using the promotional code TP44 or by phone, by calling +44 (0)1242 264777 (£1 booking fee will be charged for all phone orders). Children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult are free.  

For all the show info including directions, hours and a schedule, go to: