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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Little Known Ways to Spend Family Holidays

Active families need active holidays

The sunny summer weather presents tons of opportunities for creative getaways that combine exotic locations and calorie-burning excursions. If you and your family are an active bunch, then lounging in a beach chair just won’t do. Instead, pack your trainers or hiking boots and jet off to more exciting destinations. Coming up short on ideas?

Check out some of these top active family holiday options:

Alpine Adventure Holiday

Cool crisp mountain air, villages straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, and gorgeous landscapes are just a sliver of what is waiting for you in the Alps. Though most associate this great European mountain range with winter holidays, it is just as appealing in the summer months. The French Alps in particular are home to several mountain biking and adventure sport havens.

The alp chalet during the summer time

Winter chalets are transformed into lovely summertime residences where families can relax in between cycling, hiking and horse riding excursions. France alone has hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres of pristine mountain roads that offer incredible views. You can choose to go it alone or take a tour on a bicycle, on foot or on a horse. Tours feature everything from beautiful Alpine landscapes to idyllic villages seemingly untouched by time. To enjoy the best of the Alps in the summertime, we recommend that you head to popular destinations like Morzine, Les Gets or Alpe d’Huez, where you’ll be spoilt for choice for luxury chalets, delicious food and lots of sunshine.

Underwater Adventures in the Red Sea

Looking for all the luxury of an all-inclusive holiday with a touch of excitement and adrenaline? Look no further than Egypt’s Red Sea resort areas. The shoreline is lined with all-inclusive 4* and 5* star resorts offering all the amenities you could imagine and then some. This is especially convenient for families with younger children, as these resorts tend to have babysitting and play facilities catered especially to kids. The best part about a Red Sea holiday is, naturally, the sea! Octopus in Red SeaWarm, crystal clear and full of amazing coral reef habitats, the Red Sea offers some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the world. Many spots are just a few hundred metres from the shore and are full of colourful fish and corals. On land, you’ll also find yourself within striking distance from amazing cultural destinations like Petra in Jordan, Jerusalem and Luxor. Your best bets for an activity-filled Red Sea holiday are in resort towns like Sharm El Sheikh, Taba and Hurghada.

African Safari

 

A trip to Africa combines adventure, activity and amazing wildlife all into one. South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Kruger National Park are best suited for family holidays. If you’re travelling with younger children (under 12), the Eastern Cape in particular is ideal. Consisting of lush green rolling hills and beautiful plains, the Eastern Cape is home to ‘The Big 5’ (elephants, lions, buffalos, leopards and rhinos). Giving your family the opportunity to see these amazing creatures in their natural environment makes for an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening holiday. There are plenty of great safari-themed hotel and accommodation options available in both the Eastern Cape and Kruger National Park. Each day brings another opportunity to set out onto the beautiful African plains to view animals up close. There will also be plenty of time for you and your family to learn about the area’s history and native culture.

Families who enjoy activities and adventures are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a summer holiday. Whether it’s wildlife, culture or a pure adrenaline rush you’re after, there’s something out there for you. The important thing to keep in mind when booking a holiday for yourself and your whole family is to make sure you address the needs of everyone. As a general rule, it’s best to pick a versatile holiday destination that includes multiple activities that all family members can enjoy. In the end, remember that a summer family holiday is all about having fun and spending quality time with your loved ones. Whatever you end up choosing, you’ll be sure to end up forging lifelong memories together.

Featured images:

Mikey D is a freelance writer, who enjoys acctivity holidays from mountain biking to kayaking.

Top 10 French Green Ski Resorts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Eco friendly way of livingPlanning a ski vacation in the middle of the summer doesn’t sound very intuitive. It pays off though to stay one step ahead of the crowd and look for available accommodation options without a last-minute rush.

How about going “green” for your next ski trip by choosing one of the most eco-friendly ski resorts in France?

French skiing is world-renowned. The premier ski resorts cater for all levels of skiing and snowboarding from breathtaking black runs or off piste for advanced skiers and boarders, to resorts where the whole family can enjoy the slopes at a more relaxed pace.

We are all becoming more aware of the impact we have on the environment and ski resorts are now implementing measures to help reduce their carbon footprint. However, some resorts are more aware than others.

Let’s look at the top 10 French Ski Resorts for “Green Skiing”

Top 10 french green skiing resorts infographic

The Infographic above is showing the top 10 Eco ski resorts that are situated in and around Europe. All the Information is neatly contained in 10 cable cars each one has a bespoke graphic and description showing the most popular activity the resort is known/specialises in for example Meribel is great for partying as has amazing bars and great nightlife making it not as child friendly as say Les Gets which caters for familys and is better if you want a more relaxing break, along with that each cable car has a ‘green rating’ in a percent neatly wrapped up with a graphic surrounding it. The Infographic goes up from 1 (the most un eco) cable car to the 10th (which is the most eco 100%) – The last graphic showing that it is the most eco friendly resort in Europe by a large green crown. Which has been realised by recycling, traffic reduction and green building policy to name just a few projects that has helped the resort become green king!

Top 10 Hidden Gems for Your Next Trip to Europe

City Skylines Paris London BerlinEven though Europe has a wide variety of wonderful places to experience, it immediately conjures up pictures of London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, and other traditional destinations. Many travelers miss out on the other treasures in Europe. The next time you explore your getaway options we recommend the following hidden gems which will bring you the most of your travel experience.

1. Scotland, a part of the United Kingdom with all its brave history attached

Haze over Edinburgh Castle

Haze over Edinburgh Castle (SMHutch Photography on Flickr)

Scotland has far more to offer than golf courses, Sean Connery, and castles. The late summer season provides festivals displaying dance, music and theater. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh offers seventy acres of green houses and lush gardens.  Tour the many world-famous Single Malt Scotch Whisky distilleries.  Enjoy the incredible fresh and smoked local seafoods.  A trip to Pinney’s of Orford, that offers arguably the best smoked salmon in the world, is a must. Visit the Highlands for outdoor adventure, home of the Loch Ness.  Not just the home of “Nessie” the fabled Loch Ness Monster, but also a center for culture, festivals, and the arts.

2. Hungary. Once a major political power Hungary has a great history

Dunabe River Bank

Dunabe River Bank in Budapest Hungary. Photograph by Jon Hicks/CORBIS

Budapest, one of the most beautiful and historical cities in Europe. It offers a balance between the old and the new cultural renaissance. Budapest is the home to many therapeutic public baths, including Széchenyi Spa, Budapest’s largest public bath. Enjoy 18 indoor and outdoor pools –fed by mineral springs – as well as several steam rooms and saunas under Baroque-style domes. Experience the incredible acoustics inside the Budapest Opera House, considered to be among the best in the world. Built in the 1880s, the Budapest Opera House stands as one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Europe. Catch a staged opera performance by Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, or Wagner.  A visit to Europe is not complete without visiting Budapest with its rich culture and wonderful food.

3. Portugal was the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires

Alfama Lisbon roof tops on hill side

Alfama, the old part of Lisbon. Photo credit: Miguel Vieira Creative Commons license

Portugal is situated on the right bank of the river Douro. Lisbon is a cultural mecca steeped in history with wonderful cuisine, wines, and of course, the best selection of Port Wine, from obscure vintners throughout the country. Porto is one of the oldest European centers, and registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Its settlement dates back many centuries, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire.  Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost province, has become the country’s most popular travel destination, with some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches, some of the continent’s top golf courses, magnificent cliff scenery, fantastic grottoes, and warm year-round climate.

Dona Ana Beach. Algarve, Portugal

Dona Ana Beach. Algarve, Portugal. Photo credit: Lacobrigo under Creative Commons copyright

4. France is not all about Paris

Pont de Pierre in Bordeaux, France

Pont de Pierre by Olivier Aumage under CC-BY-SA-2.0-fr license

For many people the word Bordeaux is synonymous with wine. But the region gives yearlong musical and theatrical programs to its local people and millions of tourists. Also, of note is the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum regularly organizes temporary exhibitions in the Gallery of Fine Arts. It also features a cultural program of events, concerts, conferences, and film screenings.  Essential works from the 16th to the 20th century, including Perugino, Brueghel the Elder, Pietro da Cortona, Van Dyck, Van Goyen, Rubens, Chardin, Magnasco, Corot, Delacroix, Matisse, Kokoschka, as well as a large collection of Bordeaux artists Odilon Redon, Albert Marquet and Andre Lhote.  And of course, the wine tastings, tours of the wineries, and cuisine are among the best in the world.

5. Austria. Was Mozart a good alpine skier?

Old Town Salzburg Salzach River

Photograph by Jiuguang Wang under Creative Commons

Salzburg is situated here and it is the home for many popular composers. It has so much to offer, particularly in July and August while the festival of Salzburg occurs, jam-packing drama, concerts and opera by famous performers from all over the world and composers into a period of 28 days. Mozart’s home is open to the public. The rooms of the residence have been maintained to show his style of life.

6. Ireland, look beyond the Temple Bar

Temple Bar in DublinThe capital city, Dublin, is a fascinating mixture of culture and architecture dating from medieval times to modern. The Chester Beatty Library houses an incredible collection of  manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The rich collections from countries across Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe open windows to the artistic treasures of the great cultures and religions of the world. Egyptian papyrus texts, beautifully illustrated copies of the Qur’an, the Bible, and European Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are among the highlights of the collection. In its diversity, the collection captures much of the richness of human creative expression from about 2700 B.C to the present day.  Don’t miss the Guinness Brewery.  The pubs and cafés provide tremendous entertainment and local color. Day tours are available showcasing the beautiful coast and lush green countryside.

7. Germany. What’s the oldest city here?

Cologne city view across the riverMunich, Berlin and Frankfurt are definitely great destinations, and very popular. But, Cologne, Germany’s oldest city, is an incredible place to experience culture and beauty. Located on the banks of the Rhine River, the beauty is astounding. Cologne Zoo was founded in 1860 and is one of the oldest, yet also one of the most modern zoological gardens in the world, with an elephant park covering 20,000 m² and the Hippodom, a unique re-creation of an African river valley landscape with hippos, Nile crocodiles and antelopes. The Cologne Cathedral is the landmark centerpiece of the city reflecting the best of Gothic Style architecture.

8. Czech Republic. Karluv Bridge is just the beginning!

Charles Bridge PraguePrague is rapidly becoming the premier destination for sophisticated travelers in Eastern Europe.  The city has a wonderful sense of humor, reflected in their nightlife and cosmopolitan feel.  At the same time the traveler is surrounded by churches, towers, and historical buildings, and parks—some dating back to the 14th century.  Burn a witch in effigy, decipher a 15th century clock.  The Astronomical Clock has been ticking and pulling in the crowds since 1490. Every hour on the hour, from 8am to 8pm, wooden saints emerge from trap doors, while below, a lesson in medieval morality is enacted by Greed, Vanity, Death, and the Turk.  Prague is a very popular wedding destination as well.  Enjoy a wonderful Michelin rated dinner, clubbing afterward, and don’t forget to try the most popular beers, Pilsner Urguell and Gambrinus.  Czechs are very proud of their beer.

9. Spain, be seduced by tapas and Flamenco!

Seville Cathedral AndaluciaSeville provides travelers with a wide variety of great choices.  Be seduced by the Flamenco. Graze the incredible Tapas Bars in Barrio Santa Cruz. Visit the Seville Cathedral–the cathedral is the largest gothic construction in the world at present, started in 1402, and the third largest cathedral in the world.

10. Italy. No longer the heart of the Roman Empire but what about its heritage?

Beautiful panoramic view of old city - Florence, ItalyOf course there are Rome and Venice, both wonderful—but Florence in the Tuscany Region is a treasure not to be missed. Beautiful countryside with the feeling of the 15th century.   Overload your senses at the Uffizi Gallery, housing the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance Art, followed by a visit to the Galleria Dell Accademia to view works of Michelangelo including the masterpiece “David”.  Enjoy incredible food in the city’s innumerable great restaurants or enjoy a simple picnic in the country with antipasti, a chianti riserva, smoked meats, artisanal breads and cheeses,  and some of the best olive oils and vinegars the world has to offer. A tour to Florence is a journey through time.

Today’s travelers have unlimited choices of how to spend their precious time away from their every day routine.  Before you decide on your next holiday destination, please take a moment to fill out the ESTA visa form and submit.  Our expert travel consultants will ensure that your next traveling experience will be truly memorable.

Have fun and enjoy!!!

A traveler’s guide to Paris

Paris the beautiful, Paris the greatWHAT TO EXPECT:

Paris is just about the most elegant, beautiful city on earth… in other words very different from London (in London they say “Paris is boring,” but don’t believe it). It’s also very organized—notice all the little green men cleaning everything. It has great vistas, great museums, great monuments, and best of all great food! That said, if you don’t speak French, don’t expect much from the natives. They believe anyone interesting and informed is going to learn French—and generally they have been right! Learn as much as you can and struggle along. And DON’T ever forget to say “Bon Jour” (hello) every time you enter a shop, cafe, or restaurant and DON’T forget to say “Merci” (thank you) every time you are served by someone or leave a shop, cafe, or restaurant. Otherwise you will identify yourself as a hopeless, rude bore unworthy of much attention. Regardless of what you’ve heard the French are not rude—they are in fact unfailingly polite—so make sure you are too or you will feel their wrath.

Gargoyles site on Paris rooftops

Paris gargoyles on the terrace of the so called Notre Dame de Paris

The absolutely first thing I experienced was the smells, the most delicious smells ever, everything around me came into my nose and made me want to eat it! It was such a relief after London!
~Lily has all her olfactory faculties intact.

All of the glamorus people walking about it is easy to stick out like a soar thumb. But if dressed accordingly Paris can be one of the most hospitably places. REALLY. The Parisians have this reputation of looking down on Americans, but as long as you put some effort in to fitting in to their world, nothing can stop you.
~Stella is as glamorous as anyone.

WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:

THE LOUVRE
We shouldn’t have to tell you why you ought to go here. It’s possibly the most famous art museum in the world and with good reason. But be careful: it’s GIGANTIC. Just take a section at a time, you can’t do the whole thing at once or you’ll be dead after four hours. Take one wing and enjoy.

The Louvre Pyramid at sunset Paris

The Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre) is a large glass and metal pyramid, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon) of the Louvre Palace

Ugh. The Italian hall—all those mannerist—just one mediocre painting after another. And it feeds you right into this tiny little room where the Mona Lisa hangs, and where all the tourists who have no interest in painting have only come because they were told that they should. None of them are even LOOKING at this painting that they paid all this money to see, all are just wandering around aimlessly. You have to get as far away from the Italians as you can to enjoy the Louvre at all…
~Isaiah actually loves mannerists…in moderation anyway.

The entire group got lost trying to get out and wound up in the African section which surprisingly was the one of the BEST sections in the entire museum. Beautifully arranged, and wonderfully exhibited. Definitely worth the excursion to the basement.
~Tyson still refuses to carry a map

Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa

One of the most iconic portraits in the world, the Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

THE GARE D’ORSAY
Quai d’Orsay
The Louvre is for classic paintings… the Gare d’Orsay is for the more modern. It’s also a beautiful museum, a converted train station hence it’s name. You make your way to the back where the escalators are hidden to go up to the impressionists—Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas—for whom the museum is famous, but don’t forget to look for the grand model of the Paris Opera, under the floor… it’s a great view of Paris a century ago, and the model is truly outstanding.

The D’Orsay museum, besides being the mecca of impressionist art, has the most pleasant, comfortable atmosphere. Maybe it is the greenish tone to the light, or the towering ceilings in the main entrance hall, something about it makes me feel as if I am neither in the past nor the future.
~Stella loves open spaces.

It’s filled to the brim with beautiful paintings and it’s a very well laid out museum, but the great surprise comes when you’re wandering along and suddenly you come across this very, very large canvas of a vagina—and it’s MASSIVE—and people are backing away, wanting to look at it, but at the same time really uncomfortable. It’s called the “Origin of the World,” by Courbet and it’s something else.
~Isaiah is still traumatized.

L'Orangerie

Château de Versailles – L’Orangerie

THE ORANGERIE
If the Gare d’Orsay didn’t sate your appetite for impressionists you’ll want to see this (what was once private) collection of first rate stuff. Just walk through the Tulleries when you get out of the Gare d’Orsay. It’s the building just before Place de la Concord.

The center stairway of the Pompidou in Paris

The exterior of the Museum Pompidou, showing the center stairway

THE BEAUBOURG (Centre Georges Pompideau)
OK. Time for a real modern art bonanza. This museum (huge, but then, aren’t they all?) is a mind-boggling event- just wander around and enjoy. We couldn’t get our students to leave, they were enjoying it so much.

The Beaubourg was so awesome… we spent six hours there, had lunch, saw all the exhibits, visited the Hitchcock show… we just kept wandering and gawking. My favorite place in Europe!
~Stella loves Hitchcock

Now this is my kind of museum. Where else can you see psudo-sacriligious drawings by Patti Smith and giant video “bottoms” by Yoko Ono on the same floor!
~Isaiah loves Yoko Ono’s bottoms.

RODIN MUSEUM

Augusto Rodin's famous sculture, The Thinker, at his home in Paris

One of the most iconic sculpture portraits of the 20th century, Rodin’s Museum houses The Thinker

77 Rue de Varenne
Auguste Rodin is apparently the most famous sculptor to come out of France. The palace that houses his collection used to be his studio when he and a dozen or so other artists took over the place when it was on the verge of being demolished. Wander around the expansive sculpture gardens, sit and have a refreshment in the outdoor cafe, and, of course, tour the house with all his works. Rodin lived here, carried on his affairs, and did a monumental bunch of work. The “Gates of Hell” never looked so heavenly.

LE MUSEE DE LA MUSIQUE
Get ready for a surprising, unforgettable trip. You put on headphones and wander near glass encased instruments which begin playing as you approach. You’re taken on a magical mystery tour of musical history, and you’ll come away humming lots of great tunes from great composers. An education unlike any other for which you’ll be grateful the next time you head off to the symphony.

Costumes for the Russian Parade, by Picasso

Costumes for the ballet Parade (The Russian Ballet, Opera)

PICASSO MUSEUM
You could do worse than spend a morning with one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, even if you haven’t ever gotten into his work. This museum has so many outstanding examples of what he did best, it just might change your mind. And if it doesn’t… just fixate on the building, one of the great examples of a French “palace” called “hotel”. Note: take a map, or you might never find this place.

COMEDIE FRANCAIS
2 Rue de Richelieu
What? You can’t speak French? Never mind. You’ll not forget your chance to see a Moliere comedy and keep guessing what they’re saying. No frowns! This company is one of the world’s finest and if you go around to the left side from the front door, around the corner from the entrance, you’ll see a little window. If you show up an hour or so early at that window you can see a great show for less than five dollars. If you can’t figure this is a bargain of a lifetime LEAVE PARIS IMMEDIATELY.

WHERE TO EAT:

Around noon head to one of the great outdoor markets, (try MOUFFETARD) buy some terrific cheese, a baguette, some fruit, some salami (if you like it) and of course, a little wine, and go off to one of the little parks to eat (remember to bring a knife to cut things). It’s the most Parisian thing you can do and WHAT GREAT TASTES! One excellent place for a picnic is at the tip end of the Ille St. Louis, opposite from Notre Dame. Take stairs down to the water and watch the boats pass in the shade of weeping willows.

Fresh fruit and vegetables in Paris

Fruits and vegetables in the rue Mouffetard in Paris.

Ahh, The markets! MERDE! They smell like the epidemi of summer: fresh fruit, flowers, and sunlight. But in Paris everything smells good—even the subway. I invite everyone to smell the subway in Paris, maybe it isn’t fresh cut grass or expensive perfume, but I swear you will never smell anything quite like it.
~Stella

There are falafel bars near Notre Dame, in a little side street called RUE DES ROSIERS which runs parallel to the Seine. It’s often packed so you can’t miss it. Very good food for very little money. Outdoor crepe stands are also good there but beware of the restaurants in that street—most are just tourist traps.

If you’re on a tight budget (and you usually are) save up for at least one great meal, because that’s what Paris is all about. Here’s two or three great ones that aren’t TOO expensive.

A LA BICHE AU BOIS 45 Ave Ledru-Rollin
Here’s one of the few family bistros left in Paris, and here’s a time for you to have a 5 course meal at least. You need a reservation at night, but you can just wait in line for lunch. We had excellent food AND an excellent battle of ideologies inspired by the cutlery there.

Ronald: Stop threatening Lily with your knife!
Isaiah: I’m NOT threatening her… I’m making a point!

Parisian cafe culture

Go to La Place Royal for an exquisite dining experience.

Lunch at BAR VOLTAIRE on the Quai Voltaire across from the Louvre. (NOT at the restaurant next door, which is one of the most expensive. Ask for the PLAT DU JOUR and you’ll get something terrific from the same kitchen, and you also get a terrific french atmosphere. Also one of the highlights is CRUDITIES which is a salad of vegetables, outstanding.

LE PETITE PASCAL 33 rue Pascal
A terrific neighborhood bistro, fairly inexpensive. Lovely food, an atmosphere of locals and you’ll be treated well.
BUT…. IF DADDY’S PAYING:

WILLI’S WINE BAR
13 rue des petits champs
ph: (33) 14.26.10.50.9
World famous. Brilliant food and wine. You’ll need a reservation.

Try the BOUILLON RACINE
3 rue Racine (on the left bank)

Or LE BOOKINISTES
53 Quai des Grands-Augustins
ph: 01.43.25.45.94
People line up for this kind of cuisine.

WHERE YOU WANT TO GO:

You’ll notice most places you want to be in Paris serve coffee. Consider it a national pastime. Some people play sports… others are more civilized.

The beautiful Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges, a historic town square, is the perfect meeting point for celebrations.

PLACE DES VOSGES
Wander through the HOTEL SULLY (right off the Rue de Rivoli down from Bastille) and go into the back garden. Keep going through the door at the end and you’ll wind up in the PLACE DES VOSGES the first of the grand places, architecture all of the same kind. It’s pretty impressive, and the cafe at the end has great coffee and croissants in the morning.

MARCHE ST. CATHERINE
Around the corner from the PLACE DES VOSGES (turn left if you walk a block toward the Picasso Museum) there’s a little square filled with inexpensive cafes you might want to try.

CAFE BEAUBOURG
Right opposite the Museum. Everyone who’s anyone, and ever wanted to be someone, plus a lot of folks that just want to be around them, hang out there, all day and night. It’s great for breakfast—eggs the way you want, the best coffee, juice, croissants, toast all for $12 (well, we didn’t say Paris was cheap.)

On Saturday and Sunday evenings sit upstairs, so you can watch the review. Just go for coffee if you’re needy, but if you can afford it go for lunch, dinner, or just a snack.

CAFE FLOR

Another hangout for the snotty set. Cafe Flor has the best hot chocolate in the world!

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This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers

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Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons, from top:

Paris…, Paris…, by Ӎѧҧ@Ҷҿ

Paris gargoyle, By Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_on_3th_SEPT

The Louvre Pyramid at sunset, Paris, by Marco Boekestijn

Mona Lisa, by Joaquín Martínez Rosado

Château de Versailles – L’Orangerie, by Panoramas

Stairz, By Nicolas Hoizey

Close up of The Thinker, By Brian Hillegas

Costumes du ballet Parade (Les Ballets russes, Opéra), by dalbera

Magasin, by besopha

La Place Royal, by BurgTender

Today has been ok., by piermario

Paris, by Moyan_Brenn

Paris – The City of Love

Paris won me over.


The first time I ventured to the city of love I was fifteen, accompanied by my family, exhausted after six weeks of non-stop travelling, encountered terrible weather and wasted two of our four days at Euro Disney. Don’t even bother. If you want Disneyland, go to California, I learnt my lesson.


The second time I went to Paris was purely to see a friend. I was going to bypass the city having nearly written it off after my first disastrous trip. Thank goodness I didn’t. Paris certainly deserved a second chance. It is, after all, the city of love.


There are some areas in Paris that are obvious must-see tourist attractions; The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Versailles Palace, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde. However, as in any city, there are hidden gems that many tourists unwittingly bypass.


If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want to try something a bit different, give these suggestions a go.


1. Check out Saint Severin Church in the Latin Quarter.

This Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest remaining churches standing on the Left Bank and continues to be used as a place of worship. The building was started in the 11th century, however many of its features date from the 15th century.
This church is worth checking out primarily for its ancient stained-glass windows which were inspired by the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. This little gem is right in the middle of the city, and hardly any tourists know of its beauty so make sure you check it out on your wanderings!


2. Shakespeare and Co Bookshop, right by the Notre Dame.

This shop is what I would classify as an ‘adorable Parisian shop.’ It’s traditional and rustic with lots of nooks and crannies. Any book from here would be a great addition to any library.
The shop opened in 1951 as Le Mistral, and was renamed in 1964 as a tribute to the original Shakespeare and Co Bookshop which shut down during the German occupation of Paris. The shop has featured in popular films, Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris.





3. Picnics by the Seine River

There’s something about a picnic in Paris that seems more magical than a picnic anywhere else. There are a few grocery stores around the inner city which are perfect for picking up some picnic worthy food – cheese and crackers, pastries and fruit, wine… When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like sitting on the banks of one of the most famous rivers in the world and taking in the Parisian scene. Definitely give it a try!


4. Montmartre

This 130 meter high hill in the north of Paris is one of the most popular neighborhoods to explore. Primarily known for its white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on the hill’s summit, this neighborhood also has a strong nightlife. While you’re exploring this area, make sure you check out the vineyard, vigne de Montmartre. It is the most famous of the Parisian vineyard and while its wine is rather expensive the earnings are used to help social institutions, so you can feel charitable at the same time!


5. The Cinematheque Francaise near Bercy

For anyone who loves films, The Cinematheque Francaise is quite a find. It holds the world’s largest collection of film archives, movie documents and film related objects. The Cinematheque also screens films around around the world daily – perfect if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare!


6. Le Marais

This impressive district of Paris holds many architecturally outstanding buildings which also hold a lot of historical significance to the area. The area has become a fashionable district over the past fifty years, becoming home to many art galleries, trendy restaurants, and fashion houses. While you’re in the Marais district, be sure to check out the Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris. It is placed on the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and was built by Henri IV from 1605-1612





7. Christmas in Paris

If you happen to spend Christmas in Paris make sure you stop by Galeries Lafayettes, the ten-story department building in the 9th arrondissement. The Christmas decorations and their giant Christmas tree is quite an extravagant site and sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.


8. Jardin des Plantes and Luxembourg Gardens

Jardin des Plantes is France’s main botanical garden. It covers 28 hectares and is one of seven departments of the Museum national d’historie naturelle. The gardens house a labyrinth which makes exploring the gardens especially inspiring.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens is the second largest public park in Paris. It covers 22.5 hectares and is the garden of the French Senate. It is integrated extremely well into the city life around it which makes it very popular and easily accessible for all. Many French locals enjoy strolling through the park, playing chess, reading, enjoying the cafes or puppet theatres and renting a toy sailboat.
There are many nooks and crannies to explore in these gardens and they also make an excellent place for a spring or summer picnic.





9. Bois de Vincennes

This English style park to the east of Paris is one of those ‘gems’ that frequently are bypassed by tourists in favor of the Eiffel Tower and other such attractions. The park is three times larger than New York’s Central Park and four times larger than London’s Hyde Park with 2,458 acres to its name. Bois de Vincennes was originally a hunting preserve for the Kings of France but now features four lakes, several sports venues, a zoo which is home to many unique animals such as Asian elephants and a heard of mouflons, playgrounds and expansive gardens.


10. Rue Mouffetard

Rue Mouffetard is a personal favorite and one of the most vibrant and lively streets I’ve come across in Paris. The street is in the 5th and is part of Paris’s oldest neighborhoods. The street, which is mainly pedestrian, has many restaurants, shops, cafes and open markets. Definitely one to check out, if not for the shopping then at least for the atmosphere!







Shakespeare and Co Bookshop image (c) Laertes
Rivoli Marais Image (c)Wikipedia

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