There are so many iconic French foodie experiences, it's hard to know where to begin. Surprisingly it's often the simplest ingredients executed to perfection that produce the tastes we crave long after returning from a trip to France. While many famous French confections ooze with...
When you think about the term ‘cheap accommodation’, what comes to mind? Visions of dingy shared hostel dorms with iron bunk beds and thirty people to each bathroom? Subsistence meals from all-you-can-eat buffets? Poor security and sketchy neighborhoods?
These types of lodging certainly exist, but cheap doesn’t automatically mean substandard. If you want to save stretch your budget when traveling, there are plenty of youth hostels and cheap hotels available that will give you a great stay. Here are some of our favorite top value hotels and hostels:
Here are some Paris travel tips that will make your journey safe, comfortable and fabulous. I’m always spouting, “When you see a super great deal – make yourself drop everything and go!” That’s exactly what happened to us last month when Linda and I had the opportunity to fly off to Paris at a fabulous promotional rate. We had a little over 2 weeks to pull our trip together, so we focused in right away. Here’s what we did:
#1 A Quick Brush Up On Our High School French
Linda found a terrific language learning program – EarWormsLearning.com. Despite the crawly name, the concept is amazing. They believe that you learn better, faster and with more recall when you learn with music. So their language lessons come with music playing in the background. We loved it and listened on our iPods all the way to Paris.
And for extra reassurance, we picked up a quick translation guide – 30 Words ($9.95). These are terrific passport sized accordion folded translations of tourist phrases that are waterproof and tear-proof – perfect for toting around.
Paris Greeters, a volunteer organization of amiable Parisians who look forward to welcoming visitors to their city are changing the impression that Paris is a less than friendly city, one tour at a time, every day.
As Linda and I make our away across the city from the broad perfumed boulevards of the Champs Elysee to the gritty, lyrical lanes of the Left Bank, we are giddy with anticipation. We are about to meet a new friend that we met a few weeks ago online thanks to the Paris Greeters organization. Our Paris Greeter / guide, Laurent, has volunteered to show us his city on this particular Saturday afternoon. We’ve been in touch by email to set a time and place to meet, discussed our mutual interests, and exchanged photos so we can recognize each other outside the Metro station.
Within minutes of meeting we are talking, laughing and already appreciating the nuances of Left Bank neighborhoods and seeing French culture through new eyes. Beyond a litany of Louis’ and their royal accomplishments (how DO they keep 18 Louis straight?) we stroll by a Pierre Herme´ pastry shrine (you really can’t call it a bake shop when there are 50 people waiting in line to get in the door!); then on to Gelati D’Alberto where the iced delights look like rose blossoms, and of course we can’t resist ogling the decadent cheeses and fragrant produce at an open market. Oh to be a Parisian on market day! Laurent schools us on choosing restaurants to dine in, “NEVER enter a restaurant that has ‘French Cuisine’ on the sign or menu”, he admonishes, “they are just for poor unsuspecting tourist!”
Local food markets give a glimpse into the soul of a destination. The crops that local farmers grow and the culinary creations that food artisans produce speak to the history of the location and the traditions of its citizens. Nothing is more pleasing and engrossing than roaming among the stalls of a neighborhood farmer’s market or the grand food halls of a metropolitan city. In China I was almost afraid to look (bugs on a stick?!), in Vancouver the smells and colors were dazzling, in Hawaii I found vegetables I had never seen before in my life, and the markets in Rome and Paris were sensuous. Now that it’s harvest time around the world, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a luscious food market wherever you roam – here are some of the world’s favorites:
New York – Chelsea Market, a hub of foodie activity
San Francisco – Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, large Organics Markets, operates 3 times per week
New Orleans – Crescent City Farmers Market, Uptown and Downtown fabulous fruits
Seattle – Freemont Sunday Market – more than fruits & veggies – treasures of all description
Hawaii – Hawaii Farmers Markets Online, several gorgeous markets on every island
Vancouver – Granville Island Public Market, The ethnic diversity of Vancouver makes this market a sensory explosion
Mexico City – Mercado de la Merced, nirvana for chili pepper lovers – every color of the rainbow!
Beach It In Paris – yes, Paris!
Each July and August since 2002, Paris creates its own beaches right along the banks of the River Seine (by the Pont Neuf, Notre-Dame and Pont au Change). Industrious crews bring in over 3,000 tons of sand to create an urban beach right along the city’s beloved Seine River, for all Parisians (and visitors) to soak up some rays and participate in (my favorite activity) – eye popping people watching! But it doesn’t stop with sand – we’re talking palm trees, chaise lounges, umbrellas, hammocks, wifi, games and books, grassy lawns and raised decking – a sun lovers paradise for sure! Find all the details at Paris Plage
Swim The Seine, really – no pollution involved
A number of giant swimming barges (floating swimming pools) have been anchored along the banks of the Seine creating the illusion of being able to swim in the river. Perhaps the most notable is the Josephine Baker, where a 25 meter pool can delight 375 swimmers at once. After your refreshing swim, relax in the cafe, on the sun deck, or work out in the gym facilities. Their sliding roof makes this spot perfect on any day, in any weather. Here’s where you can find all the info on the Josephine Baker Swimming Pool.