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The Aude Valley: Birthplace of Sparkling Wine

When you think sparkling wine, you might think of Champagne or Prosecco and the respective areas of northern France and Italy where they’re from. However, the title of “Birthplace of Sparkling Wine” is hotly contested by a lesser-known region in the south of France, the Aude Valley.

Situated along the Mediterranean, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, this region is home to dozens of wineries that specialize in bubbly. Talk to any of their owners, and they’ll tell you that long ago, when the countryside was a religious battlefield, fortified monasteries sat on the top nearly every mountain. The monks there lived simple lives and got by selling whatever they could make at provincial markets. Some focused on honey and mead, others on simple breads. One monastery that specialized in wine was particularly pious, and the monks were too busy praying to properly attend to their barrels, allowing their forgotten wines to go through the fermentation process a second time.

Sparkling wines use the same grapes as some traditional reds and whites, but go through a second fermentation process that takes them from flat to bubbly. Today, this process is pretty scientific, and involves changing temperatures and monitoring the pressure of the stainless steal containers in which the wine ferments. Back in the day, seasonal temperature changes and wooden barrels stored in cave-like basements could get lucky and end up with the same result, though less consistently. Legend has it, once the Aude Valley monks discovered how to make sparkling wine, prayer fell second on their priority list.

While the true birthplace of sparkling wine is hard to pin down, the Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire claims to be the first place in the Aude Valley to make it. Located off the beaten path, this monastery turned abbey turned museum brings you back in time. You can see where barrels of wine sat, waiting for the perfect moment all those years ago and a gorgeous courtyard where it must have been sipped. Plus, you can buy a bottle made the old fashioned way by the abbey, though it is now made off-site, and visit the little village center just outside the abbey’s walls.

If you want to go deeper into the 13th century, visit Carcassonne. This fortified city looks like something out of a history book, though inside is arguably more exciting. The stores and restaurants inside vary from medieval-themed to modern, and strolling around them takes a solid day. Travelers can check out the innermost castle, La Cité, to learn more about the fortress’s history before finding a seat outside to sip some local bubbly and snack on a local favorite like melted goat cheese salad or wild boar.

Another great day trip in the valley is Perpignan. This city mixes modern storefronts with ancient buildings. The Perpignan Cathedral and the Palace of the Kings of Majorca will bring you back to when this region was highly sought after by France and Spain. The influence of these two countries can be seen in the food and the culture of the city, which is proud to be part of the Catalan Region today. Be sure to visit one of Perpignan’s outdoor markets for fresh, local food and goods before traveling south to one of the seaside towns.

More focused on the region’s wine than its history? There are plenty of small, local wineries in the valley. My personal favorite, Salasar, has a tiny storefront in the small village of Campagne-Sur-Aude. Open to the public a couple days a week for informal tastings, this store also serves as the bottling plant for the company’s whole operation. If you’re looking for more of a wine tour, the drive from Limoux to Perpignan takes you past lots of wineries, and gives you a great view of the mountains and the Regional Park of the Catalan Pyrenees, Le Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes.

Regardless of what brings you to the Aude Valley, know that you’re trip will be unique. While the region is technically in the south of France, it isn’t as well known as other areas in le Midi like the French Riviera or Provence. The coastal cities get crowded in the summer, but once you get a little inland, everything slows down. Bustling outdoor markets wind down to one-man village shops, long highways become narrow cobblestone streets, and the sounds of the city drop away to reveal the sounds of nature. It is a place for those looking to explore, relax, and taste some of the original sparkling wines.


5 Charming Small Towns In France You Need To Visit

5 Charming Small Towns In France You Need To Visit

Paris is a mine of gems, stacked with so much beauty for a traveler to experience to keep them nostalgic for life for the City Of Light. But before you immediately book your trip to Paris, consider this! The charming small towns of France are truly magical. Today, we want to spotlight five of the most quaint and delightful small towns in France for you to add to your travel itineraries!

What we love most about including this small towns into your travel plans is that it gives you a deeper, more authentic look into French lifestyle and culture. It’s important to travel for historic sights, it’s true! But, we believe seeing a varied glimpse into a place and its people is enlightening and educational.


An alpine town in the south of France, where Lake Annecy empties into the Thiou River. The old town (named Vieille Ville) of Annecy touts such a charming landscape, with cobble stoned streets, winding canals banking the brightly colored, slightly wonky homes. And just north, overlooking the city below, the former home of the Counts of Geneva houses a fantastic museum. Annecy is like the opening scene of Beauty & The Beast come to life. Each little quaint detail will be sure to appeal to any fairytale loving traveler’s dreams.


Just off the banks of the Herault gorge, the Medieval village of St-Guilhem-le-Désert awaits. Filled with burnt umber stone houses, ancient towers, opulent churches from ages ago, St-Guilhem-le-Désert feels like a relic of the past. This UNESCO jewel is the perfect spot for any traveler who wants a taste of what it must have been alive during the European Renaissance.


A lush playground of historic relics, Strasbourg sits pretty in the northern corner of France, snuggled up to the Germany and Switzerland borders. Strasbourg is the capital city of the region and is the formal place of the European Parliament, but despite the metropolitan perks, it still holds true to its blended German and French influences in culture and architecture.

Peruse the medieval bridges, canals lined by half-timbered homes, the old town square and nosh on sausage and sauerkraut dishes in the traditional wine rooms. Strasbourg perfectly encapsulates the many influences of the many cultures it is surrounded by. It’s the best of both worlds for a traveler hoping to see a new side of French life.


A commune in the heartland of Provence, best known for its stunning, sweeping rows of lavender fields.

Gordes sits atop a plateau and is filled with homes made from gray stones, a castle and storied church. Gordes village is quaint as it is ancient. Find yourself leisurely walking through the local markets, winding alleys and admiring the beautiful old doorways, arcades and restored stonework.

No stop in Gordes is complete without a look at Sénanque Abbey, a 12th century abbey overlooking purple fields of fresh lavender in the summer time.


Art lovers and appreciators should flock to Giverny to pay homage to Claude Monet and the impressionist art movement that started in this village. Yes, Giverny is Monet’s former home and famous gardens, where his world-known water lily series stemmed from. The water gardens await travelers who hope to soak in the beauty that inspired the impressionists so long ago.

When sitting down to solidify your itineraries in France, we hope you add one of this charming small towns!

Each one as something special and unique to offer. Each one brings a new cultural glimpse at French lifestyle, giving you a more well rounded look at the country and its people!

Europe Instagrammer's Guides Photography

An Photogenic Guide To Paris

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Paris, the City Of Light, has been my home away from home for about a half of a year now. Learning the ins and outs of this romantic city has been a joy of mine in these past few months. I’ve started collecting my favorite coffee shops, hidden locations to see its world famous sites far from the crowds, and boutiques and cafes with unique beauty all their own. Today, I’m sharing my Instagrammable Guide to Paris with you all!


In between my adventures around the globe, I’m constantly booking my favorite Parisian hotels last minute using Hotel Tonight. It’s my favorite little trick to finding gorgeous lodgings when I’m flying in and out of Paris for a day or two. The ease of booking with their website and app is incredible! And I always find some absolute stunners! You can get $25 off your stay by using my promo code: nyakoub too! 

Grand Pigalle Hotel

Pigalle is sort of like the Brooklyn of Paris. It’s stacked with street art, bustling bars and a lively night life scene. Plus, it’s within walking distance to  Notre Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe. The Grand Pigalle’s design is a perfect combination of classic French architecture and Brisih design. I love it’s quirky details – from the pineapple shaped door knockers, metallic wall papers and martini-patterned carpets. The Grand Pigalle also has some of the best views of Montemartre, making it the perfect place to start your days of photo adventure from!

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Hotel Bachaumont

Hotel Bachaumont is centrally located in the chicest area of Paris, in my opinion! Sentier is filled with endless restaurants, shops and is super close to the Louvre and my favorite pedestrian only rue – Rue Montorgueil. Art deco lovers will absolutely love this space!

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

The Hoxton

It honestly doesn’t get more Instagrammable than this hotel! The Hoxton’s spiral staircase, vintage vibes and perfect mash up of old and new has made this hotel one of the most picturesque in Paris!

An Instagrammable Guide To ParisAn Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Eat / Drink

Pink Mamma

Right down the street from Grand Pigalle Hotel is one of the most picturesque restaurants from the Big Mamma Group. Every corner and detail is photo worthy! And the food is just as good as the aesthetic!

20bis Rue de Douai, 75009 Paris, France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Au Rocher de Cancale

Closely situated near the Hotel Bachaumont is another one of my favorite cafes in Paris! I could easily spend hours working here (in between snapping ‘grams every second).

78 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Le Train Bleu

Who knew that this breathtakingly gorgeous restaurant was tucked away in the Gare de Lyon train station?! Le Train Blue has a pricey menu, but it has a  super friendly staff. If you don’t plan on staying for lunch or dinner, at least take a peak inside the next time you’re waiting for your train at Gare de Lyon!

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Cafe Kitsune

For the chic fashionistas, this coffee shop is a staple in Paris and is within walking distance from Hotel Bachaumont! Right in the heart of one of the most picturesque parks in the city, Palais-Royal.

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Merci Cafe 

Books, coffee, vintage vibes, a carefully curated department store and a red vintage Fiat that greets you at the entrance. This place couldn’t be more Instagrammable if it tried. Merci cafe is located in the Marais, another trendy and totally beautiful neighborhood of Paris.

111 boulevard Beaumarchais 75003 Paris France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris


This might be the most Instagrammed cafe in Paris – and for good reason! The design here is so adorable and cool at the same time… and it’s also a great place for coffee and brunch!

54 Rue de Saintonge, 75003, Paris, France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Cafe de Flore 

This iconic cafe is a must when visiting the St. Germain area. So many beautiful details to see!

172 boulevard Saint-Germain 75006 Paris France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris


Pigalle Basketball

I love this super colorful basketball court in Pigalle, right down the street from Grand Pigalle Hotel. Watch locals and spectors alike hang out in this unexpected colorful corner of Paris.

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Rue Montorgueil

One of my favorite rues in Paris, this pedestrian street is lined with restaurants, cafés, bakeries, cheese, flower shops and more. You can easily spend an entire afternoon walking and window shopping down this street, taking in the picturesque store fronts.

Rue Montorgueil Paris

Le Mur des Je t’aime

This translates to “The Wall Of Love” in English. This work of art is a must see for couples visiting Paris. See the wall covered in “I love you’s” 311 times in 250 languages. It’s a touching reminder of how beautiful love is. 

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

29 Avenue Rapp

For the Art Nouveau fans out there, this door is as good as it gets!

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

La Maison Rose

This infamously pink chateaux is worth the hike! I love the surrounding neighborhood alleyways and overgrown ivy!

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Rue Crémieux

This is the epitome of Paris charming visitors. This cobblestoned back alley is so Instagrammable, it’s insane! Hidden in the 12th arrondissement, this “secret” alley is colorful and features shutters and quaint details unlike the opulent French architecture Paris is known for.

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Coulée verte René-Dumont

Paris has their own version of New York City’s famous Highline in Bercy and the linear elevated park just as s beautiful as NYC’s. This part is super peaceful with tons of greenery, Paris street views and art along its 4.5 km walk.

1 Coulée verte René-Dumont, 75012 Paris, France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

You’re probably wondering why a mall is on our list… but hear us out! The Galeries Lafayette is not only stunning on the inside, with its stained glass ceiling, but what most people miss is their rooftop view on the 7th floor with spectacular views! It’s a great place to snap sunset photos and avoid the long line that you’d be waiting in if you went up to the top of the uber touristy Arc de Triomphe.

40 boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

The Abbey Bookshop

Hidden in a little alleyway in the Latin Quarter, walk through the maze of books and be greeted by the friendliest owner from Canada.

29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, France

An Instagrammable Guide To Paris

View of Eiffel Tower from Paris Métro Line 6

Prepare for the shot one station before approaching the Passy – Bir-Hakeim station to catch a unique frame of the Eiffel Tower through the Paris Metro windows.

Paris Metro France


Paris is already such a beautiful city, but I hope these hidden gems add another layer of charm to your visit in The City Of Light!

Sponsored by Hotel Tonight. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. All opinions are my own.

Europe Playlists Tech

Missing Paris? Listen To Our “Lost In Paris” Playlist

Missing Paris? Listen To Our "Lost In Paris" Playlist

Music has the amazing ability to transport us to intimate memories, time periods of yore, and familiar and distant places. It might be, perhaps, the most intimate art form. For a Dame Traveler craving an adventure and not quite able to up and go… music can give us wings. Let’s transport to anywhere in the world, just by putting on our headphones, ladies. We’ve been thinking a lot about making resources that are meaningful and unique for you. And with that, we’re loving the idea of making occasional playlists to inspire wanderlust. First up, our Lost in Paris Playlist. Perfect for a gal missing the city of light.

Filled nostalgic French songs that will beckon you to the Belle Époque and the swing 1920s and dreamy classical pieces written in the languid, romantic style of the culture, we’re loving listening our Paris Playlist on dreary days. Buff up on your French, or don’t bother at all! Hearing the beautiful language mixed with lush instrumental backgrounds is a dream. One of our favorite things to do in Paris is to get lost walking around the city with a croissant in hand while listening to this list.

Don’t forget that you can download the playlist on the Spotify app and have it ready anytime (even if you don’t have wifi)! Just click the download toggle and Paris awaits you anytime and anywhere you go. Enjoy!

Lost In Paris Playlist

Enjoy the beautiful music of France’s capital city. One that has captured the minds, hearts and memories of millions. It’s no wonder we find ourselves missing dear Paris. It’s our hope that our Lost In Paris Playlist sets your desire to visit the City Of Light into a tizzy… but also gives you a sense that you can experience a slice of it no matter where you are.

What other playlists would you like for us to make? Comment below.
We’re having so much fun making these! 

Europe Hotels Luxury

Hotels We Love: Hotel Plaza Athénée, Paris

You know one of those “pinch me” moments when you’ve seen a place on Instagram or in the movies so many times and then you finally see it for your self and you can’t believe your eyes? Well this is how I felt the moment I walked onto the most romantic balcony in the world located inside the Hotel Plaza Athénée, Paris. I had the opportunity to stay at both of the Parisian Dorchester Collection properties and although Le Meurice and Plaza Athénée, Paris offer two very different experiences, the staff made me feel right at home and both places offered unforgettable memories.

Whehter you’re into window shopping or serious shopping, the Plaza Athénée, Paris is located in the heart of Haute Couture Paris on the ritzy Avenue Montaigne with stores like Gucci, Armani and Christian Dior leading up to the popular Champs-Élysées avenue.

The hotel caters to many styles by offering classic rooms in the French Regency style or the more modern Art Deco design. Nonetheless, the Plaza Athénée is known for being one of the most stylish hotels in the world so you can’t go wrong with either. Whether you stay in a suite or a deluxe/superior guestroom, you’re bound to have a ton of space and either a view of Avenue Montaigne or of the hotel’s stunning courtyard. iPads are also in each room making the 24/7 room service seamless.

La Terrasse Montaigne
Since our visit fell during the month of October, the courtyard terrace was closed and replaced by a beautiful art installation but we ended up having lunch on the terrace that lines Avenue Montaigne and it did not disappoint. Great for people watching and a light lunch, we ordered the sashimi which was super fresh and the club sandwiches.

Alain Ducasse
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I caught a glimpse of the hotel’s Alain Ducasse restaurant, newly redesigned by Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku. It’s truly something out of a dream.

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All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I was invited as guest by the Dorchester Collection. As always, all opinions are my own.