The 11th edition of French Affairs is currently wrapping up at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Organized by Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency, this annual event is the largest gathering of American tour operators and French travel industry suppliers in the U.S. This year, Atout France is hosting 65 representatives of 57 American tour operating companies and nine industry-related companies to meet with 54 French exhibitors from regional and city tourism offices, incoming agencies, airlines, hotel groups, transportation companies, monuments and cultural institutions.
In all, the conference is bringing together an estimated 150 travel professionals, including Atout France staff.
Details from the conference are still emerging, but there has been plenty of travel-related news from France in recent months. For example, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris has extended its opening hours so that more visitors have a chance to venture underground into the Paris Catacombs. Historically, the lines have been very long—sometimes requiring a four-hour wait—because the number of visitors is limited to 200 people at a time. The underground tunnels are part of a labyrinth of quarries from where stone was extracted to build many of Paris’s monuments. A half-mile stretch of the Catacombs is lined with the bones of six million Parisians, transferred from the Cemetery of Innocents and other medieval-era graveyards in the late 18th century.
In an effort to improve the visitor experience, the Catacombs will now close at 8 pm, with a last entry at 7 pm (previously the site closed at 5 pm). This has already significantly reduced the wait time. Tip: Because most guidebooks suggest going early in the morning, we recommend taking advantage of the new hours and queuing at the end of the day. Note that it’s a 1.24 mile trail, with 130 steps down and 83 steps up, and it’s not suitable for people with heart or respiratory problems. Admission is 10 euros, and entry is free for those under 18 years of age. For more information, visit the official website: www.catacombes.paris.fr.
Similarly, three of France’s most popular attractions will stay open seven days a week next year. Previously, the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and the Musée d’Orsay were only opened six days a week, so visitors would juggle their schedules accordingly. (The Louvre currently closes on Tuesdays, while the Orsay and Versailles are closed on Mondays.)
According to the Culture Ministry, the move “will improve the reception of the public and will allow more access to the works.” It will also bring a welcome jolt of revenue to the economy, with the creation of new jobs financed by the increase in ticket sales. (Full-price tickets to the Louvre cost 12 euros per person; 15 euros for the Palace of Versailles, and 11 euros for the Musée d’Orsay.)
|Photo of Versailles via Wikipedia/Marc Vassal|
Then there are the hotels. As we reported last month, The Peninsula Paris is officially open for business, close to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysée. Inside, the 100-year-old building has 200 rooms, including 34 suites—five of which have a private rooftop. It also has six restaurants and bars, including a panoramic rooftop bar—L’Oiseau Blanc—with a 360-degree view of Paris; the Peninsula Spa; a private reception room; and Paris’ first above ground Cigar lounge.
Paris also is buzzing about the opening of Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée following the palace hotel’s 11 month-closure for renovation. Notably, the superstar chef is making waves for his new sustainable approach to French haute cuisine. While not solely vegetarian, the menu focuses on “line-caught fish and vegetables from the 'Queen’s Garden'” (at the Château de Versailles) along with organic grains, according to Le Monde.
Dishes include black rice cooked in the oven with shellfish, squid and octopus; Mediterranean fish with bulgur wheat in a tagine; and Anjou grown quinoa and seafood. The new menu will retain “palace prices” of €380.
And finally, when it opens in December, Club Med Val Thorens Sensations will become the resort chain’s flagship new-generation ski resort. The property will have direct access to The Three Valleys, the largest ski domain in the world, with 372 miles of pistes for exploring. Ski season will run from November through May at the resort.
Club Med Val Thorens will have 384 rooms from 248-square-feet and up, including 12 Deluxe Rooms, five Junior Suites and six Suites. Novices and experienced skiers alike will be able to take lessons from the Ecole Ski Francais while on-property, and beyond Alpine and Nordic skiing, guests can also try snowboarding.
Even better, with Club Med’s new City Stop option, guests can add on a stay in Paris when headed to or coming from one of Club Med’s French ski resorts. Flights, premium hotel accommodation and airport transfers will be arranged by Club Med, freeing guests up to explore the catacombs, the Louvre, Versailles and the Musee d'Orsay.