Did you get shut out of popular places like France and Italy this summer? Consider those countries—and other favorites in Europe—for a winter trip instead, whether during the festive holidays or in the less-crowded moments in the new year. The same charming scenery, insider experiences, and great food is still available for the taking, as these readers found out last winter.
“Highlights included a market tour and curated cooking class in the beautiful home of a French chef near the Eiffel Tower…”
“Jennifer planned a delightful trip for us to Paris over New Year’s 2022, with a good mix of culture and relaxation. Highlights included a day trip to Reims, complete with an intimate lunch with champagne pairings at a family-owned champagne house; a market tour and curated cooking class in the beautiful home of a French chef near the Eiffel Tower; and a private wine-and-cheese tasting at a historic wine shop with a young sommelier highlighting new and emerging winemakers from lesser-known regions in France. Jennifer checked in with us regularly during our trip, seamlessly managing a few last-minute, unforeseen itinerary changes. Cannot recommend her highly enough—and am looking forward to all the fun she has in store for my return trip to the Champagne region with my friends later this year! —Katie Hausfeld
“All of our activities were private and felt safe—from a cooking class to a river cruise on the Bosphorus…”
“In January 2022 Karen and her team planned a perfect multigenerational trip to Istanbul for our family! We were met off the plane and moved swiftly through the airport with VIP service, then transferred to our vehicle. All of our activities were private and felt safe—from a cooking class to a river cruise on the Bosphorus (which I definitely recommend, to get an overview of the city when you arrive). We had the same driver each day in an immaculate vehicle equipped with wifi and always bottles of water. Our guide, Cenk, was fabulous, so knowledgeable and he knew all the hidden gems to take us to—even diverting from our planned itinerary once he got to know us and had a better idea of things we would enjoy. Most of the trip was not that different from how it would have been pre-pandemic, other than the mask wearing. In our short trip we were able to hit most of the highlights of the city without feeling rushed, thanks to Cenk. A couple of months before the trip we weren’t sure if we felt safe traveling to Istanbul at this stage in the pandemic, so I reached out to Wendy. Wendy suggested I speak with Karen, and I’m so glad I did!” —Lauren Schor
FRANCE AND PIEDMONT
“We wanted to do a road trip around France so we could see as much as we could…”
“At first we were a little hesitant to travel, but we were more than ready to pack our bags for over a month and finally go somewhere! Now, looking back, I don’t even know why we were worried. In terms of Covid, we felt safer in France than here in the States.
We wanted to do a road trip around France so we could see as much as we could, while still having a few days in each place to relax. Philip and Evane created a perfect itinerary for us. We have driven in a handful of other countries, but we didn’t know what to expect driving in France. Philip and Evane advised us on what parts of the trip would be best to drive ourselves vs. which would have lots of traffic or headaches so it would be best to have a driver. We had a few days in Paris to adjust to the time change before going to Champagne, where they arranged a private visit to Veuve Clicquot. In Lyon, our private guide took us to his family-owned winery in the Beaujolais. Philip and Evane even added the Piedmont region in Italy (since I told them how much my dad loved Italy and us being so close by), filling our time there with lots of Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Then we drove to Nice but stayed in smaller St. Paul de Vence with day trips around to see Eze, Monaco, Antibes, and all the spots along the Riviera.
Philip and Evane mapped out some smaller and cool towns that we could stop at while on our drives and provided great lunch restaurant suggestions at each stop. My dad’s favorite was in Dolceacqua, overlooking one of the bridges that Monet painted, while on our way from Fossano to St Paul de Vence. We are beyond thankful to Wendy for putting us in contact with Philip. It was a trip of a lifetime where it never felt like too much time in each destination, but it will always never be enough!” —Devan Ullman
“Our favorite experiences were exclusive visits to the Galleria Borghese and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj…”
“Nancy and I were lucky to have spent the first week of 2022 in Rome on a trip planned by Jennifer and her team. Jennifer arranged for us to stay at the Hotel Eden while we were in Rome. The staff at the hotel were so nice to us and looked out for us during our stay.
Jennifer also arranged some great experiences during our time in Rome. By far, our favorite experiences were exclusive visits to the Galleria Borghese and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj with Alessia, our favorite guide during this trip. Alessia was able to navigate both galleries so that we saw the most we could during our limited time and her knowledge of the art in each location was outstanding. Two other experiences which were highlights during our trip were a day trip to Naples/Pompeii with our guide Liberata and driver Salvatore, as well as a lovely food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood with Luca where we got to sample some Roman delicacies.
We always felt looked after by Jennifer and her team. They would check in daily to see if we needed anything and they would lay out the itinerary for the next day. This was important to us during this time of Covid and in fact they made the call to cancel a planned outing when the tour guide tested positive for Covid. They offered to arrange another experience but Nancy and I decided to spend the day exploring Rome on our own. We feel so fortunate that we have found Jennifer and know that everything will be spectacular on a tour which she has arranged.” —Kevin Haney
HUNGARY AND POLAND
“On the Danube, a private boat to see the lights of nighttime Budapest…”
“The absolute best thing we asked Gwen to add for us was VIP arrival and departure service at the airports. When we landed in Warsaw, we were whisked off to a private lounge, and the staff took our passports and handled all the details for us as we relaxed in the lounge. No lines, no frustrations with procedures, no stress. It was worth every penny. In fact, we loved it so much, we asked Gwen to add the VIP departure service to our flight leaving Budapest at the end of the trip. Once again, we hung out in a private lounge as everybody took care of our paperwork. We were escorted through private security and then to a private transfer right to the door of the plane where we were the first to board. Fantastic!
Other highlights of our trip to Poland and Hungary included:
I appreciated Gwen being willing to make changes for us as we moved through the itinerary. It was such a relief to know the logistics were handled and we had someone on call should anything change or become difficult.” —Sarah Wade
MILAN AND PIEDMONT
“We went to a Barolo village and had the chance to visit a Barolo wine cellar for a private tasting and tour…”
“We were so very fortunate to be able to experience an impromptu trip to Milan and the Piedmont region in early January 2022—and we could never have done it without Jennifer. First, the trip was initiated and planned in less than three weeks. Jennifer provided excellent advice on how to insure our trip and how to minimize risk if we found ourselves in the unfortunate circumstance of testing positive for Covid while we were abroad or before travel. Even though we are vaccinated, knowing I had a way back home to my children if we tested positive allowed me to enjoy the trip and not worry. The trip itself was glorious. We went to a Barolo village and had the chance to visit a Barolo wine cellar for a private tasting and tour. Our guides in Torino and Milan were excellent, and we relished the opportunity to take in The Last Supper and other masterpieces with no crowds. Like NONE. In Piedmont, the weather was mild and we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors. And our vaccine and booster allowed us to eat in restaurants with other vaccinated people and not put our health in jeopardy. Our private transfers and drivers were professional and masked at all times, and we honestly felt safer on the trip than we do at public places at home. We made some wonderful memories and cannot say enough about how this trip abroad gave us a much needed change to start 2022.” —Gina Melton
PROVENCE AND THE FRENCH RIVIERA
“We didn’t just tour this small museum; Philip arranged for the museum director to spend three hours guiding us through it…”
“Our two-week trip to France in December focused on Provence and the Riviera. Philip created a wonderful itinerary focused on memorable experiences and lesser-known sights. The hotels he chose were excellent; we especially liked Mas de Pierre in the hills northwest of Nice. Our rooms in all hotels were both comfortable and spacious—a combination less often found in France. Philip suggested a glassblowing class in Antibes, and my husband and I made three glass pieces each (two vases, one bowl, two perfume bottles with fancy stoppers, and my favorite, my jellyfish in a glass globe). The Riviera has lots of museums, but Philip sent us to one of his favorites, the remarkable Museum of Classical Art in the hilltop village of Mougins. We didn’t just tour this small museum that intersperses antiquities with Old Masters and modern art; Philip arranged for the museum director to spend three hours guiding us through it. What an enlightening experience.
Philip also arranged black truffle hunting outside Salon de Provence, which was interesting and surprisingly educational. (They use dogs now, not pigs, because dogs can be trained with food to back away from a truffle it finds. Pigs don’t, which is why many truffle hunters are missing fingertips.) We had a delightful seven-hour private cooking class in Aix-en-Provence with a former chef who emailed us all the recipes for the dishes we’d made. We went horseback riding in La Camargue, the wetlands area south of Arles between the two branches of the Rhône River. La Camargue is famed for its white horses, bulls raised for French bullfighting (the bullfighters have to snatch a ribbon from between the bull’s horns, not kill it), and pink flamingos. We had fun riding through this region on the ranch of a former bullfighter and seeing the bulls and horses he and his elegant wife raise.
A don’t-miss experience was Hotel Mirande’s Table d’Haute dinner in Avignon. We dined in the hotel’s tiny cellar kitchen on a nearly all-French evening (except the chef and sommelier, who spoke English), which tested my vocabulary but engaged us with locals and Belgian tourists.” —Jan Heininger