THE WINTER WONDERLAND THAT IS VIENNA

Souvenirs de mon week-end à Vienne pour Riviera Buzz. Souvenirs from my weekend in Vienna for Riviera Buzz.

With its baroque architecture and fairytale castles, its rich cultural life and world-class museums, Vienna is a wonderful place to visit…all season long.

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The Austrian capital is a great place to visit any time of year, but come the holiday season, as the air becomes crispy and the blue Danube turns grayish-brown, Vienna literally transforms itself into a wonderland, thanks in part to the many Christmas markets that pop up all over the metropolis. The streets are gorgeously decked out with sparkling lights, bows and other tasteful decorations, while many wooden huts sell handmade toys, painted ceramics, ornaments, local delicacies as well as mugs of Glühwein, the famous spicy mulled red wine.

Once you get into the holiday spirit, it is the perfect time to wander around and explore all the marvellous sights the city has to offer. One of the major tourist attractions remains the Schönbrunn Palace, comparable in grandeur to Versailles, which will take you on a romantic whirl in the footsteps of Empress Elisabeth, aka “Sissi”. Even without the gardens in their summer splendor, the rococo-style former residence of the imperial family tells the story of a glorious era that started with Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette’s mother and the only female Habsburg ruler, and ended at the end of World War I, with the death of Sissi’s husband, Emperor Franz Joseph.

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The elegance and pomp of the famed Austrian dynasty is also reflected in the architecture of the Hofburg, the imperial palace (pictured in lead image), comprising many different architectural styles, from Gothic and Baroque to Renaissance and classical. In many ways, a “city-within-a-city”, the spectacular monument, with its many squares and gardens, occupies an area of some 59 acres and hosts, among many other attractions, the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum, the Austrian National Library, and the famed Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzan horses.

But the castle is not the only landmark that defines the city centre. The nearby St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was built in 1147 AD has indeed been the heart of Vienna for centuries. With its two impressive features, the gigantic roof and the imposing tower, it was the tallest building in Europe for a long period, measuring almost 137m. It houses many art treasures like the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulchre of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), and the Gothic winged altar.

A few steps away, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s 18th-century summer palace, the Belvedere, is home to a stunning art museum that includes the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection and what is probably the artist’s most famous work, The Kiss, a gold-brushed, mosaic-like painting portray of a couple locked in a tender embrace on a bed of flowers.

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For the sweet-toothed among you, a visit to one (or more) of Vienna’s numerous cafes is a must. Take this opportunity to try some of the country’s most famous pastries, like the Linzertorte, a rich, buttery tart layered with fruit preserves, and which is widely thought to be the world’s oldest-known cake, or the Sachertorte, a delicious chocolate confection filled with apricot jam that fits perfectly in the grandiose décor of the 19th-century Café Sacher.

Of course, no stay in Vienna would be complete without an evening at the famous Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), shaped like a horseshoe. Music is indeed the city’s legacy to the world, and winter is the season for ballgowns and waltzes. However, if you cannot score tickets for the New Year’s concert by the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra, fear not — the music of Mozart and Strauss can be found in many of the concert halls throughout town on a nightly basis.

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Both Austrian Airlines and Niki offer daily direct flights.

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NADIA FRY HELPS TURN YOUR WEDDING DREAMS INTO REALITY

Entretien avec Nadia Fry pour Riviera Buzz. Interview with Nadia Fry for Riviera Buzz.

Nadia Fry had always dreamed of running her own business, and recently decided to launch her own wedding planning venture.

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Born in Latvia, Nadia Fry has spent many years working in the field of luxury. She recently launched her own wedding planning company, putting her organizational skills and creative vision at the service of couples who have big expectations for their special day.

First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Nadia Fry, I was born in Riga, Latvia (Baltic States). My parents are originally from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Following studies in Latvia, England, Italy and France, I have worked in different luxury environments. Most recently, I spent seven years in the yachting industry. I am married to an amazing Frenchman, and we have two beautiful children, Jules and Naomi.

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What inspired you to become a wedding planner?

I have always dreamt of running my own business, and a couple of years ago, I felt I was ready for it. To be a wedding planner means putting all my knowledge, experiences, passions, talents together in order to help people live their dreams.

What is your signature style?

I love nature. Even if every wedding is very individual, I prefer bohemian, rustic, and vintage styles. My favourite parts are the floral design and the coordination of the wedding day, when I can use my creativity and foreign language skills.

In your opinion, what are the required qualities to be a good wedding planner?

First of all, you have to be a nice person, very open-minded, able to manage stressful situations, multifunctional, creative, and have good taste.

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What do you find the most challenging about your work?

The biggest challenge is meeting my client’s expectations while respecting their budget and creating the dream they have in mind!

And the most rewarding?

When the couple trust you completely and when they are happy with the organisation of their wedding.

Have you already noticed any hot wedding trends for the upcoming year?

More and more people like natural styles, where you can see a lot of green decoration with eucalyptus, olive, rosemary branches. White is still used a lot, but often it is mixed with bright colours, like purple, blue, pink, and so on. Natural materials are used for the decoration, like wood, linen and stones. Simple things.

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What advice would you give to couples who are in the midst of planning their special day? How involved should they be in the whole process?

It is very individual, actually. People think that a wedding planner is an additional cost, but the reality is that thanks to a wedding planner the couple can save time and money, because wedding planners are in contact with the best suppliers and can benefit from the best rates. Some couples give free rein to the wedding planner, some other only delegate one part of the organisation. Well, the best thing to do in any case is to choose a person / wedding planner that you trust.

Your company organizes weddings in the south of France and the south of Italy. As for you, do you have one favorite spot in particular?

Well, there are so many magic places and it is not easy to pick.

In the South of Italy, I prefer Villa Scarpariello, an historic castle built on a sea cliff. This noble and enchanting aristocratic residence is situated in Marmorata di Ravello, one of the most exclusive and panoramic towns on the Amalfi Coast.

In the South of France, I would recommend getting married in the charming little villages of the Mercantour, like Saint-Martin Vésubie. Only an hour from the airport, you find the most beautiful and preserved natural grounds in the beautiful mountains with a true warm hospitality. This was my personal choice when I got married four years ago…

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Finally, what do you like about the French Riviera?

It is an amazing place! For me, it is magical to sit on the beach and see the mountains capped with snow. Italy is very close. Every town by the sea has its own charm and style. The little villages around are talking history and it seems that you are in a different reality.

Many thanks to Nadia for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about Nadia’s work, be sure to visit her website

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All photos courtesy Nadia Fry

JOËL ROBUCHON’S NEW VENTURE A CHOCOHOLIC’S DREAM

Un vrai paradis pour les gourmands à Monaco. A real paradise for the gourmands in Monaco.

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It is a dream come true for the region’s chocolate lovers … a place that literally looks like the Willy Wonka factory, right in the heart of Monaco.

Located in the lobby of the luxurious Hôtel Metropole, French Chef Joël Robuchon’s Chocolate Bar has been delighting local customers with dark gold in all its forms and in many variations since mid-November. With the festive season just around the corner, no doubt that many more gourmands are going to let themselves be tempted by this decadent experience.

This bar is a big first for the French culinary master, who counts more Michelin stars than any other chef, and operates over a dozen restaurants around the world, from Bangkok and Hong Kong to Las Vegas, London and Paris. With little fat and lots of inventiveness, Robuchon is known for creating big flavours that always surprise his clientele on all occasions.

Just want to have a drink with a friend? Why not try the Tiramisu cocktail, which blends Cocoa liquor, Kahlúa, vanilla syrup, Grey Goose Vodka and liquid vanilla cream, or the non-alcoholic Metropole Choc, a mixture of Valrhona Grand Celaya frappé, cotton candy syrup and marshmallow. In addition to the hot chocolates, various teas are available like The Poire Belle Hélène tea (Black tea with a mix of blue tea Wuolong, pear, almonds, cocoa nibs and roasted bean shells), or the Chez Mamie tea (a blend of black and green tea with cocoa, cinnamon, almond and orange). And of course, for those with a sweet tooth, the menu also includes plenty of delicious desserts, all made with superb cocoa beans from South American and Africa.

As the chef himself points out, chocolate is very good for cardiovascular problems and helps fight stress, tension, and depression. So, what are you waiting for?

The Chocolate Bar is open daily from 3pm to 6pm.

CONTACT DETAILS
Chocolate Bar
Hôtel Metropole
4 Avenue de la Madone
98000 Monaco

 

All images courtesy Hôtel Metropole

REBEL POET RENAUD BRINGS HIS PHÉNIX TOUR TO NICE THIS DECEMBER

Un concert à ne pas manquer ce mercredi à Nice. A not-to-be-missed concert this Wednesday in Nice.

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Get in the festive mood with acclaimed French singer-songwriter Renaud, as he returns to Nice this December as part of his Phénix tour.

Many thought his career was over after alarming reports that he had relapsed into alcoholism and depression, but, just like a phoenix, French singer-songwriter Renaud seems to have risen once again from the ashes with a new album released last April and a new tour that will take him to the Nikaïa in Nice on the 14th of December. Not a small feat for an artist who has been around for more than 40 years and sold millions of albums.

Often compared to Bob Dylan because of his protest songs, his left wing ideological views, and his colourful language, the rebel poet still speaks his mind with his vindictive slang, even though he appears to have acquired a newfound serenity.

Renaud burst onto the French music scene in 1975 with “Hexagone” and “Camarade bourgeois”, in which he expressed his disillusionment and angst. But if he has kept railing against society’s ills and the establishment ever since, with songs like 1985’s “Miss Maggie”, a fierce yet humourous diatribe against British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the artist has slowly abandoned his signature folk-rock approach over the years for a more mainstream pop sound, showing a more tender side in the process, and offering more intimate and introspective records.

His latest effort, the self-titled “Renaud”, is a perfect summary of this evolution. In “Hyper Casher” for instance, he no longer compares Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Armenian genocide, but instead pays tribute to the Jewish victims of the latest attacks in France – “May they rest in Jerusalem, on their ancestral home, in the sun of Israel, I want to devote this poem to them, tell them they are dear to us, that we will never forget them” – while in “J’ai embrassé un flic” (I hugged a cop), he expresses his gratitude to law enforcement officers, years after hurling bricks at them during his rebellious youth.

Despite the years and all the hardships, Renaud still remains a very unique and individual exponent of the Chanson Française.

Renaud plays the Palais Nikaïa in Nice at 8pm on Wednesday, 14th of December, 2016. Tickets range in price from 36 € to 43 € and can be purchased through all the usual outlets or booked online.

CONTACT DETAILS
Palais Nikaïa
163, bd du Mercantour
06100 Nice

Tel: +33 4 92 29 31 29

Image via Renaud website

This Is Why I Chose to Receive Cancer Care in France

On m’a demandé d’écrire sur mon expérience avec le système de santé français lors de mon combat contre le cancer…Voici mon récit pour IHadCancer. I have been asked to write about my experience with the French Healthcare system during my battle with cancer…Here is my story for IHadCancer!

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Getting cancer is hard enough in itself and patients should never have to worry about money during those difficult times. So when I found out that I had cancer, I left behind my beloved American life to go back to my native France.

“If I ever got cancer, I would immediately go back to France.”

This is what I would always say to myself whenever I was upset or felt a little homesick. It was meant as a joke. After all, I was in my early thirties, was healthy and living the American dream to the fullest. But even though I could not imagine my life anywhere else other than in San Francisco (where I had already spent nine years), I knew that a life-threatening illness could put a serious dent in one’s budget. Little did I know then that this dreadful hypothetical would present itself to me.

I was in France when I received my cancer diagnosis and suddenly there was no other place where I wanted to be. I needed to be near my family and surrounded by people who spoke my native language. I was terrified and felt like a little girl, so I needed reassurance and the absolute certainty that I would understand every single word that would be thrown my way. But more importantly I wanted to use any and all resources I could to receive the best care through the most affordable avenue possible.

Because I am a French citizen, I was still covered by the French healthcare system. Being a welfare state that spends 56% of GDP on public spending, my higher tax rate translated into 70 percent of all my medical bills being reimbursable by France and my private insurance picked up the remaining 30 percent. The French state has more control and a commitment to transparency that affords them greater bargaining power to keep prices low.

Even though I didn’t have the “carte vitale” — the country’s method of payment for State medical expenses that provides automatic reimbursement — I was still qualified for the coverage. My only catch was that I had to pay the costs upfront, but even then, France’s medical payers system allowed me to get my reimbursement within five to ten business days. Also in France, the sicker you are the more coverage you get. So if you have a long-term illness that requires a long treatment such as cancer, all the costs for surgeries and therapies are picked up by the government. As long as I followed my doctor’s orders I did not have to spend a dime, whether it was for a medical appointment or a cab ride to the hospital.

Only the expenses that were deemed “sources of comfort,” like the wigs or an individual room, were not totally covered, but then again most of them were paid by my private insurance. And after a full year of treatment I do not believe that I have paid more than $400 from my own pocket.

I was also considered an “absolute priority” patient and thus did not have to wait for any examinations. I had a biopsy the day after my gynecologist found a suspicious lump in my breast and the surgery to remove the tumor took place barely two weeks after I was diagnosed with cancer.

A real first-rate system, yes, but the French system is first and foremost the most humane! It is regaled by the World Health Organization as the “close to best overall health care” in the world. For me, it is still almost too good to be true. When my doctor gave me the all clear I told her that having been unproductive for so long, it was high time for me to start paying my due to society. But she didn’t laugh with me. She told me in a matter-of-fact voice that “Our health care system may be expensive and the taxes raised to maintain it may be high, but seeing people as young as you getting a second chance makes it totally worth it.”

Fighting cancer is never a walk in the park, so not having to think about money during this difficult period was an enormous gift. I feel very blessed to have been able to focus on one thing only: my well-being.

Photo courtesy of Gianluca Cosetta.