Celebrate the end of winter than with a trip to see the myriad of spring flowers that bloom around the world during this cheery season. Three cities in bloom during this cheerful season are highlighted in Air France’s Destination of the Month feature, and I’m delighted to share more about each of them here.
One of the most famous places in the world to visit in spring is Japan, notably Kyoto to see the sakura (cherry blossom), considered the most beautiful of Japanese flowers. While it’s difficult to predict peak blooming times, this usually happens at some point between late March and the first few weeks of April. According to 2018 cherry blossom predictions, there is still time to plan a quick trip.
The food-obsessed city of Osaka is the gateway to Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Kobe and other famous points of interest in Japan. Cherry blossoms bloom abundantly in Osaka too, especially at the Osaka Castle which is one of the country’s most famous castles and played a significant role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century. While admiring gorgeous spring blooms, you’ll be able to
- There is still time to catch hanami season, the practice of enjoying spring in Japan, which of course involves appreciating the many cherry blossoms. Blooms are predicted to last through March and to the end of April if your plans include traveling north from Osaka which is easy to do via shinkansen (bullet train).
- Have kids with you? Did you know that there is a Universal Studios Japan in Osaka complete with Harry Potter World?
- Take a day trip to Nara with its temples dating back to the 8th century and famous resident deer.
- Visit Dōtombori, a 400-year-old canal now lined with pedestrian walkways and restaurants.
- Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto: A new luxury hotel with an 800-year-old ikeniwa (pond garden) at its center that has been built to blend in with nearby temples.
- St. Regis Osaka: A skyscraper with a zen garden and elegantly-appointed rooms located on the Champs-Élysées of Osaka, Midosuji.
- Ryokan Kurashiki: Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that have been in existence since the 18th century. Kyoto is famous for them, and this particularly well-located one is a bit more modern with WiFi and flat-screen TVs in the rooms.
- kushikatsu: Kebabs of pork, chicken, seafood, or vegetables that are skewered on bamboo sticks, breaded, fried and served with dipping sauces.
- hakozushi: Known as “Osaka sushi” it’s compressed into perfect square and rectangle shapes.
- Okonomiyaki: Japanese savory pancakes usually with eggs, green onion and meat topped with condiments. It’s often referred to as Japanese pizza.
I love the bright white color and that every seat has direct aisle access. The seat transforms into a fully-flat bed that is a generous 6’5” in length. Full-sized down pillows and soft duvets are provided for a good night of sleep in the sky. That is, after you’ve sipped champagne and dined on cuisine created by Michelin-starred grands chefs (great chefs) like Régis Marcon, Michel Roth and Guy Martin.
The hills north of Nice bloom with spring flowers, which makes sense as Grasse is often referred to as the world’s capital of perfume, which has been big business here since the 16th century. The city produces of a third of France’s aromas which also includes aromas for food flavorings. The traditional Provencal town is full of pastel orange buildings that house shops, cafes and restaurants. Grasse is only about 40 minutes from Nice by car.
Fly Air France to Nice, the gateway to the rest of the French Rivera, one of my favorite places. It’s impossible not to relax here and while exploring nearby towns like Grasse.
- Musée International de la Parfumerie: Inside this 18th-century building, there’s no better place to learn this history of perfume through bottles, videos, and other artifacts. Explore the Les Jardins du MIP onsite which is home to plants used during perfume making.
- Grasse Cathedral: It’s a national monument and 12th-century Roman Catholic church with three works by Rubens and one by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a French painter native of the town, inside.
- Visit one of the several perfumeries (Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard) that offer daily tours and demonstrations.
- Hotel du Cap Eden Roc (Antibes): Glamorous accommodations bordering the Mediterranean Sea that are favorites of dignitaries, royalty and celebrities alike.
- Le Saint Paul (Saint-Paul-de-Vence): It’s a Relais & Chateaux hotel with stunning hilltop views over the Medieval village and Mediterranean.
- La Bastide Saint-Antoine (Grasse): Another Relais & Chateaux hotel in the center of a five-hectare olive grove overlooking the Cannes bay.
- Salade Niçoise: Eat this famous salad of olives, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and anchovies in the city where it originated.
- Pissaladière: Order this delicious caramelized onion tart typically served as an appetizer.
- Petits Farcis: A stuffed vegetable dish that traditionally uses leftover meat and rice as the filling. Vegetables used could be peppers, tomatoes, zucchini or onions.
While any time of the year is a good time for Paris, spring is a particularly fantastic time to explore the city’s over 100 gardens in bloom. The weather is also perfect for outdoor cafes, sightseeing, day trips to Versailles, carousel rides and more.
It’s the city on this list that you’re perhaps most familiar with, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the many fabulous things to do in Paris. Fly Air France to Paris, the gateway to the rest of France and beyond.
- Book a scavenger hunt in the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay (fun for kids and adults, trust me).
- Shop the flea markets (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen and its seven hectares is the largest antique market in the world).
- Take a private Seine River Cruise (we took one in a Venetian water taxi specially retrofitted for the Seine) with champagne in hand.
Eat (this list could be miles long):
- Macarons: This goes without saying that the best macarons are in Paris from Ladurée to Pierre Hermé.
- Crêpe: There’s no better way to enjoy Parisian gardens in spring than with a sweet or savory crêpe in-hand.
- Baguettes (and all the other baked goods): I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like a proper Parisian baguette eaten plain, in a sandwich, for breakfast, etc.
- Esprit Saint Germain: This intimate left bank boutique hotel is a favorite of many travel agents for its top-notch service and attention to detail.
- Le Royal Monceau: This palace hotel (one step higher than a five-star hotel) is just steps from the Champs-Élysées with Philippe Starck designed rooms and suites.
- Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg: A fashionable five-star property in the heart of Rue de Faubourg’s designer shopping that was an 18th-century townhouse. It’s been redesigned by Didier Gomez and has some excellent larger rooms and suites for families.
Air France has all of the information you need to plan your next trip to the City of Lights from top places to eat now to day trips from the city.
Where will you travel this spring?