SISJ TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE – MY FRENCH ADVENTURE WITH PEUGEOT: PART 1!
Bonjour mes amis! I have finally returned from my European road trip with Peugeot. Now is the time for me to truly reflect on the most wonderful 12 days spent with the Peugeot team. From Paris to Majorca (Spain), to St Tropez and Annecy – I have experienced the very best of rural France and everything in-between. Today I am sharing with you my first five days of the journey or as I’ve been calling it ‘My Peugeot Love story’ – part 2 coming soon. Enjoy!
DAY ONE (PARIS) : After an incredibly long (but very comfortable business class!) flight, I touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I was greeted by my Peugeot driver and was steadily driven to my hotel in peak hour Paris traffic! After a quick freshen-up, I headed out to the local patisserie to refuel with some cliché French treats, of course. With the rest of the Peugeot group not arriving until early evening, I had the day to myself to explore Paris all over again!
I begun my morning at one of my favourite places, Musée du Louvre. When I was in Paris last I spent two days immersing myself in as many different exhibitions as I could. I think you would need to spend a good month, 8 hours a day to cover half of the museum properly! This is a must-see for all visitors. After enjoying some quality me-time, I headed back to one of my favourite squares in the centre of Paris – Place Vendome. I then made a B-line for one of my favourite cafes, Café de la Paix, where I enjoyed a beautiful solo lunch. With no time to waste, I then found my way to one of the world’s most exquisite shopping precincts, Galeries Lafayette. As I lost myself in the stunning architecture and retails spaces, I bought one of my favourite perfumes, Un Jardin sur le Nil by Hermes. My final stop before dinner was a walk through the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries in the autumn sun with some ice-cream – cheesy but a must-see! These gardens in full-bloom are something very special (and romantic!), so ensure you add these to your list next time you are in Paris.
With my very tired twinkle toes, I got ready for our first group dinner and of course, to meet the rest of the group! After a brief get-to-know-you session, we convoyed through the city of love to the amazing Maison Blanche. Perched on the roof of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées at 15 avenue Montaigne, Maison Blanche overlooks Paris, offering a stunning view on the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, and Seine. The food was divine and we were lucky enough to be joined by two Peugeot representatives: Didier Richard – Internationalal Director of Operations and Alexandre Guirao – Communications Director. Put this restaurant on your list, the view is incomparable!
DAYS TWO & THREE (PARIS – MAJORCA) : With our early morning rises already underway, we sheepishly headed back to the airport to catch a chartered Peugeot plane to Majorca, Spain. Majorca has been somewhere I have always wanted to visit, so I was even more excited at the concept of being able to drive the new Peugeot 508 model as well! This elegantly sculpted vehicle was a pleasure to drive – both in the touring and hatch model. I was also lucky enough to be partnered-up with motoring journalism royalty, Paul Gover (also a previous Australian rallying champion!). This made for a very smooth and fun ride, through the narrow and tight roads through the mountains.
After an afternoon of driving (and yes, I drove!), we settled into our very spacious rooms at the Hilton. To give you an idea, this room had 3 separate zones and a giant spa bath in the enormous bedroom – not so fun when you are travelling alone though! We then joined-up with other media from around the globe, for the Peugeot 508 press conference and cocktails. This was my first international press conference for a car, so I was loving every moment of it! While also trying to work on my French.
The next morning I woke to a beautiful and balmy morning for an early breakfast, before we again hit the road. After experiencing the touring (sedan) model the day before, I opted for the hatch model for our second day exploring Majorca. This was one of my fave days of driving, taking the beach and mountain courses. The hatch drove beautifully and the punch was there when you needed it – come on, when in Spain drive as the Spaniards do! The high quality interior has been designed with quality time on the road in mind. They have achieved a harmonious balance between style and functionality, which is always important for women (cup holders, hand cream and coin storage… the list goes on!). The keyless entry with the start/stop function is also a plus for girls-on-the-go. Once our scenic drives were completed, we caught another Peugeot chartered flight back to Paris, where we then jumped onto a train to Lyon. Arriving for a 9pm dinner at Cour Des Loges, the wait was worth it! We feasted on a three-course dinner and laughed well into the Witching Hour. Lyon is an absolutely beautiful and much more peaceful than Paris – another must-see.
DAY FOUR (LYON) : You guessed it, another super early morning for the Australian Peugeot team! I was getting good at putting on my make-up in darkness by now too! Day four was our biggest drive, travelling over 300km from Lyon to St Tropez, via Chateau La Coste (Provence) for lunch. Our journey out of St Tropez in our brand spankin’ new Peugeot 308 touring was fantastic! I hit the road with my driving bud, Tegan Lawson – Lifestyle Editor at Car Advice. Of course we had our girlie playlist pumping through the Bluetooth, nibbled on lollies and complained about men all the way to lunch – standard! There is something so, so beautiful and peaceful about cruising through the rolling hills, olive groves, cherry orchards and the rural back roads of Provence. While I love the energy and thrill of driving in Paris (as a passenger, for now!), you truly got lost along the roads to our lunch stop. It was also helped by our incredibly responsive and controlled driving experience in our little beast, ‘ Betty’.
After a wonderful cellar door tour and three course meal at Chateau La Coste, we were back en route to St Tropez. Of course we made time for a quick photo shoot and for our food coma to dissipate before we did this! The next leg of the trip for much more challenging, as we curved round and round the mountainous country-side outside of St Tropez. The overwhelming feeling of excitement of “are we there yet, are we there yet” was felt throughout the car!
As we pulled into our resort, I could feel myself almost exploding with excitement like a little girl! I was home! After a record breaking turn-around time of getting ready for dinner, we all made our way into the town centre – the harbour. Arriving just on sunset we were able to capture St Tropez at its finest. We then made our way around the water front, enjoying some of the BEST people watching in the world! In fact I got so caught up in the boats and the people, that I managed to take a very ungracious fall over the cobblestones! Lucky for me I fell straight into the arms of a lovely Frenchmen, aka, David! This was the first night we were joined by David Descottes – Oceania Area Manager for Peugeot. Ladies, my advice to you would be ditch the glamorous heels and go for the comfortable flats (how embarrassing!). Alternatively, you could conveniently arrange to also fall straight into the arms of a local! As I pulled myself together and the embarrassment started to wear off, I found myself standing on a private balcony overlooking the harbour. It was like something out of a Cary Grant film and I was his leading lady! I will never forget those moments, overlooking the evening’s buzz of the harbour as the sun went down. It’s kinda-nice knowing very important people – thank you Peugeot! After our canapes and drinks concluded, we made our way back to our hotel at Tiki Beach for dinner under the stars (as if this night couldn’t get any better!).
DAY FIVE (ST TROPEZ – ANNECY) : Day five started off like any other, make-up under a spotlight, an over-eating attack on the buffet breakfast and a sneaky croissant (or maybe more!) for the road! I teamed-up with my gal-pal Tegan again, as well as Mitchell Oke from Car Advice, for our St Tropez to Annecy road trip. Before hitting the freeway, we journeyed back into town to do some filming down at the harbour. The crisp air, the empty restaurants and the sound of flag poles tapping in the wind, were very telling of the night that was! Gone were the Lamborghinis, Range Rover Vogues and party cruisers – they were all tucked-up in bed! The peaceful harbour was the perfect backdrop for us to film our sexy red beast for Car Advice (see pic below). We did what we needed to do and soaked-up our last St Tropez rays, before hitting the road. Our scenic journey was particularly beautiful and I enjoyed my own ‘home-office’ from the back seats of our Peugeot 308! Every day I’m hustling!
As we pulled into the main township of Annecy, I was blown away! The incredibly grand architecture, with obvious Swiss influence – being close to the border, was exquisite. With the beautiful Lake Annecy and the surrounding mountainous backdrop (from the water up!), was breath taking. It reminded me very much of Lake Como in the north of Italy (also very close to the Swiss border). We travelled for about 15 min around the lake, heading towards our amazing hotel, Le Palace de Menthon. The whole time I felt like I was filming the trailer for a James Bond movie – we had the car, we had the beautiful location… And, we had the Bond girl… Me (I wish ha!).
FOR PICS & MORE INFO ABOUT MY STAY IN ANNECY, STAY TUNED – PART 2 COMING SOON!
Maison Blanche image courtesy of http://www.identitebook.com/en/taste/terraces-with-eiffel-tower-view/