Visual Xanax: Travel to the Height of French Alpine Chic

Purposeless winter in the city starts to lose its charm right around the time it’s appropriate to bring the Christmas lights down. Discarded pine trees litter street corners and gutters, and the salt meant to keep us from cracking our heads open on ice has begun to do a real number on our boots. Now is the time to escape, even if that means never leaving our desks. It’s why we’re traveling, visually anyway, to Meribel, France.

We’re checking out so we can check in to Chalet Les Brames, from wherever we happen to be — like you, that may mean a cluttered desk in a chair that could eventually kill us. But forget all that, and travel with us to the height of French Alpine chic. We’re going skiing!

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Easy access to the slopes makes a rising early for a full day of skiing a dream, deep soaking tubs make aprés-ski even more enjoyable, and if the luxurious lodgings aren’t entertainment enough, the town center of Meribel is a chauffeured car ride away.

If this dose of Visual Xanax wasn’t enough, click here to book your actual stay at Chalet Les Brames.

Images courtesy of Chalet Les Brames

Want To Stay With Psychics At Designer Kathryn Ireland’s French Chateau?

It’s one thing to see celebrity interior designer Kathryn Ireland’s highbrow makeovers on Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Decorators, but to actually live in her chateau in the South-of-France countryside for seven days? A dream – that’s actually a reality. It’s been announced that Kathryn is opening up her 50-acre property this September for an over-the-top, spirituality-focused getaway retreat. Retreat = public = you don’t need to be on a VIP guest list to attend. Hollywood’s top psychic/intuitive, Aiden Chase, will lead the very first Cote d’Azur holistic jam, coined "The 7 Senses Retreat."

I recently interviewed Aiden on what to expect for 2013, and just last week he was appointed an A-List psychic by Hollywood Reporter. He’s also going to be joined by Hallmark Channel’s Lexi Beermann (of Hollywood Pet Mom), and the whole thing is produced by seekretreat.com, who knows a thing or two about this sorta stuff. 

This is the first time Kathryn has extended her home-away-from-home to the public, and the first time Aiden has flung himself this far with his own insanely faithful fans. As far as I know, the retreat is going to be an unforgettable, altruistic experience. 

And, yes, there will be wine. Not only is the retreat inclusive of all meals, daily maid service, access to beautiful grounds that look over vineyards, outdoor pool and gardens, but there’s going to be daily healing meditations, daily yoga, and tons more for what one would consider a very happy bunch of enthusiasts. 

Secure your spot on the retreat here

Scientist Scrapes Bowls for Resin, Upends French Wine World

Just days after I wrote about the rock-star status of booze archaeologist Patrick McGovern, he’s back in the news with an iconoclastic discovery. The discovery is that, contrary to established lore, France didn’t pioneer winemaking. They were, in fact, taught how to do it by the friendly, share-and-share-alike Italians, who brought their grapes and winemaking techniques over to France some time around 500 B.C. How does McGovern know this? Science, of course. Like so many college kids, he scrapes the bowls he finds lying around for resin. In his case, however, the resin he found in ancient wine containers in the south of France was pine resin, which was likely added to pots of imported Etruscan wine to keep it fresh as they schooled the Gauls in the art they’d one day perfect. Given the not-always-friendly rivalry between Italy and France, this has to sting a bit. But not as much as another French wine fact you don’t hear about very often: French wine grapes actually grow from roots imported from America, after a blight of aphids wiped out French vineyards in the mid 19th Century. In other words, Italy invented French wine, and America saved it. I think the word you’re looking for is merci

It was called the Great French Wine Blight, and I first learned about it from Tom Standage’s awesome book A History of the World in 6 Glasses. All these nasty little aphids started chomping on French grapevines, sending winemakers into a tizzy about what to do about it. They tried everything, even setting toads underneath each plant to slurp them all up. The only thing that would save the French wine industry turned out to be grafting French vines to aphid-resistant rootstock imported from spunky upstart country America.

"… two French wine growers proposed that the European vines be grafted to the resistant American rootstock that were not susceptible to the Phylloxera. While many of the French wine growers disliked this idea, many found themselves with no other option. The method proved to be an effective remedy. The following "Reconstitution" (as it was termed) of the many vineyards that had been lost was a slow process, but eventually the wine industry in France was able to return to relative normality."

And so the takeaway here is that French wine, still undisputedly the finest on the planet, has historical roots in Italy and biological roots in America. Of course this wouldn’t be a big deal if the French didn’t take such pleasure in dissing wines from both Italy and America, but since they do, I think the two nations can take a polite little bow today and utter those precious little words, "You’re welcome."

[Related: Cheers to Science, and Beer, and Using Science to Justify Your Beer-Drinking; More by Victor Ozols; Follow Me on Twitter]

The 10 Most Surprising Facts About The South Of France

The French Riviera. Cote d’Azur. That Mediterranean Coast With The Croissants. No matter what you call it, there’s one image that comes to mind: wealth, in the form of private, pebble beaches; yachts with their own Wikipedia page that are worth $210 million and owned by Saudi billionaires; and bronzed French men, too. And while that’s all there – oh, is it there – you’ll also find a lot more that you wouldn’t expect. Having just returned from my mother-daughter bonding trip to the French coast, here are the top 10 surprising facts about the south of France.

1.     Between the hours of 2pm and 7pm, no restaurants serve food, which completely explains how the French stay thin. For Americans (me), this is devastating. Bring trail mix.

2.     But French people really do eat a lot. I saw so many fit women devouring –and finishing – dessert samplers filled with profiteroles and crème brûlée at lunch, which means either it’s probably all genetic, they only eat one meal a day, and/or their ingredients are just a lot fresher and less manufactured than ours so they don’t need to be vegan.

3.     While St. Tropez is as glamorous as you think it is with its $12 cappuccinos from Sénéquier Café and white sand-covered floors in L’Escale, the serene cobblestone village Ramatuelle just 20 minutes away provides the calm you may crave amid the wild nights and opulence.

4.     Five days in, and you realize you might as well be on the island of Manhattan, standing in the middle of the Meatpacking District with a bag of very fresh baguettes, because that’s totally what the coast feels like; the wealth, the rosé, the nightclubs, the fashion, and everyone looking like they’re ready to go out – at 2pm.

5.     The cappuccinos really aren’t better than at NYC places like Bee’s Knee’s, and they’re a lot less strong. I missed that spot.

6.     If you’re an American, you will feel both incandescently happy to be there and devastatingly insecure because no matter how many suede black heels, pastel blazers, and satin scarves you wear, you will fall short of looking like “them.” The French folks look both effortless and effortful, since they’re naturally good looking and, on top of it, impeccably put together.

7.     Elton John bought a massive house in Nice that overlooks the entire city, can be seen from the main port, and is next door to a castle.

8.     Nice feels like a mixture of Barcelona cosmopolitan and St. Tropez charm. And the building in Cannes where the film festival takes place – the Palais des Festivals – looks like a convention center in Kansas.

9.     Monaco is its own country, and the language and food of choice: Italian. Want the best? Head to Le Pinocchio, right by the Prince’s Palace.

10.   Leave your sneakers at home. You’re in French country now, suga.

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Phoenix Returns to Provide You With ‘Entertainment’

When you mix your new album on the same recording equipment that made Michael Jackson’s Thriller, one of the greatest pop achievements of the past ever, there’s a lot of pressure to make something good with it. That’s what French rock group Phoenix are setting out to do with their upcoming album, Bankrupt!, the follow-up to the well-liked Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, recorded with the mighty console they purchased on eBay. 

The album isn’t due until April 22nd, with the band already lined up to tour this summer and play a number of festivals including Coachella and Primavera Sound, but yesterday, we got our first preview with the release of lead track, "Entertainment." The results certainly lead up to the name—a bouncing beat, synths for days and a single that will be in your head for days, but you’re not too sad about that fact. Listen and check out the neon-lit lyric video below. 

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The French Are Just Handing Out Awards to Bruce Willis Now

Bruce Willis, who is an expert on guns and politics, was over in France this week, promoting his new film You Know What’s So Die Hard? This Goddamn Franchise. Obviously, the Parisians love Bruce Willis. I was there last year, and I couldn’t go into a cafe or brasserie without hearig one of the hot jams from Willis’s debut album, The Return of Bruno (they love his cover of "Under the Boardwalk"). Because of all of Bruce Willis’s contributions to global, high-brow culture, the esteemed Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti bestowed upon Sir Bruce the honor of Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. It’s about time! Did you feel that the world felt more settled and serene this morning? Now you know why. 

[via Hollywood Reporter / Videogum]

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French First Lady Had 3 Boyfriends, Continues To Be Cooler Than American First Lady

Zut alors! French First Ladies continue to be cooler than Michelle "Eat Your Vegetables" Obama in every conceivable way possible, especially with the new bombshell that Valerie Trierweiler, unmarried "companion" to President Francois Hollande, once juggled three boyfriends simultaneously. Giiiiiiiirl

The accusation/bragging right is from a new book called La Frondeuese, which translates to The Troublemaker and also tells you everything you need to know about French dudes with virgin/whore complexes. The book alleges Trierweiler was not only juggling her ex-husband Daniel Trielweiler at the same time as Hollande, but also conservative French politician Patrick Devedjian.

While I most certainly do not advocate having sex with conservatives, I have to give Ms. Trielweiler a bro-tastic high five for this one. Why let creeps like DSK have have all the fun? She does not agree, however: according to the Huffington Post, both Trielweiler and Devedjian are suing the books’ authors. Said a co-author, in typical French fashion, "We are casting no moral judgments, nor are the French. We live in a modern society and who would cast the first stone in this type of situation?" Agreed. Everyone should just chill out. There’s no shame in the game. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr.

Madonna’s Swastika Gets Her In Trouble In France

Ever the provocateur, Madonna has now gotten herself in a tangle with France’s far-right political party, the National Front, after showing an image of their leader Marine Le Pen with a swastika on her head in a concert in Paris on Saturday.

During the song Nobody Knows Me, a video playing in Madonna’s concerts throughout her world tour has shown images of famous faces, including an image of Le Pen with a swastika on her forehead. In the video, Le Pen’s face morphs into Madonna’s face bedecked with a Hitler mustache.

The National Front — which is loathed for being racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic — had warned the Material Girl it would sue if she played the video in France. Le Pen herself put it after a Tel Aviv concert, "It’s understandable when aging singers who need publicity go to such extremes." Catty!

The far-right group made good on their threat today: a National Front spokesperson vowed to sue Madge for "public insult." Yes, that’s actually a thing. Oh, God, they are soooo French.

Please, frogs, don’t give Sarah Palin any ideas. Her face was also used in the video. And once you get her started on this, we won’t hear the end of it. 

Soccer Star-Turned-Actor Eric Cantona Putting in Bid to Become President of France

Is America’s political scene not quite insane enough for you? It’s all good, because as with the American Revolution, the French have once again come to our aid. Today, Eric Cantona, former star of Manchester United turned acclaimed actor of the silver screen, announced his bid for the presidency of his home country. 

Cantona has reportedly sent a message in the Liberation newspaper to mayors across the country asking for support, as election laws state he will need the backing of 500 elected officials by the end of February in order to make his candidacy viable. In his appeal, he describes himself as an "engaged citizen" and calls for an end to various social injustices. 

Cantona was an entertainer on the field, so it came as no surprise that he went into a relatively successful acting career, including notable roles as Monsieur de Foix in Elizabeth and a fantastical version of himself in the 2009 dramedy Looking For Eric. But his best career performance came during a 1995 press conference, where he addressed an incident in which he was convicted of assault and received a hefty ban after "kung-fu kicking" an opposing team’s fan. He told reporters, "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." We can’t wait for the campaign speeches. 

Clip below: