Critic At Large... Ruta Lee
C”™est La Belle Vie
By Ruta Lee
Aug 25, 2010 - 6:46:02 AM

FRANCE—We just returned from a totally delicious and sensual French experience. We were among the lucky passengers including Tom Levyn, who has served as Beverly Hills mayor many times, and his lovely Allison, former Miss America; Mary Ann Mobley and handsome hubby Gary Collins; and über interior designer Erika Brunson, winging to France on our “hostess with the mostess” Paula Kent Meehan’s glamorous G4.

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Pictured (left to right): Ruta Lee, Paula Meehan, and Allison Levyn celebrating Paula's birthday aboard "Sojourn"

This golden blonde aircraft took us to Dijon, in the heart of France’s wine country where we were welcomed aboard Paula’s magnificent canal/river boat, “Sojourn” by our eager and hospitable crew.

Barging is one of the most sought-after vacation pleasures and on the five cabin/ en suite “Sojourn”, dreams are fulfilled. This floating hotel, designed by internationally acclaimed Erika Brunson, puts you in a sunlit country French salon, surrounding you in glass enclosed comfort affording passengers all the beauty of the unparalleled French countryside.

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Pictured (left to right): Gary Collins, Allison Levyn, Mary-Ann Mobley, Luther Wethers, and Ruta Lee.

Haute cuisine and regional wines were selected and prepared with love by chef extraordinaire Katherine Frelon (this beauty is a must for a TV show) and exquisitely introduced and served by Lorna Anderson. Every meal brought us the best dining experiences I’ve ever had and what a pleasure to acquaint ourselves with the wines of the region. We sipped our way through the rivers and canals of Burgundy in total pampered luxury... sometimes walking or bicycling (from lock to lock) to work off a few happily gained pounds. Bravo and merci to the captain and crew of “Sojourn”, the most enchanting bateau in France.

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Shina & Ruta (Deck of Sojourn)

Part two of our French adventure took us north to Paula’s “Chateau De Songes” in the Alsatian wine region near Strasbourg. This city, home of the EU, is a sophisticated gem to be explored. Fine dining, shopping, art and history, mixing the old and new of Europe makes Strasbourg a truly romantic highlight.

It’s all a stone’s throw from Hangenbieten Village and the Chateau de Songes. This elegant five-bedroom-plus guest house country manor, also designed by Erika Brunson, is a Van Gogh palette of colors with an emphasis on comfort plus luxury. The media theater and winestub party room are much used entertainment centers. Sprawling verdant lawns and foliage are home to countless wild birds and their musical contributions. The solarium swimming pool is for year-round use.

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Tom, Nicola, Allison, Ruta, Jacky, Webb & Luther

One of the many pluses is the fact that Strasbourg’s Entzheim International Airport, with private jet facilities, is five minutes from the Chateau. However, not a sound is ever heard from an aircraft. Other pluses include the many ancient towns, wineries and historic castles to visit, all on the “Route du Vin” and within minutes of the Chateau. The wines of this region are worth exploiting and please don’t miss the local favorite, Tarte flambée”¦ super tasty!

The golden G4 plane, “Chateau de Songes” and canal / river boat, “Sojourn” are all available for charter. If you win the lottery, use all three and take me with you. In closing, let me comment that the barge charter fee includes all incredible meals, fine wines, land tours, guides and services”¦ a real bargain when you consider European hotel and service tariffs. 



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