The Paris Series (Part 2) – Sainte-Chapelle

Among the many things that Paris is famous for, its collection of museums is second to none. There are over 50 museums and noteworthy monuments in and around Paris. There are of course many very well known ones including the Musee du Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Picasso and monuments including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Chathedral, Chateau de Versailles and more.

One of Paris’ greatest jewels, and often overlooked sites, is Sainte-Chapelle. As you walk down Boulevard du Palais, you’ll see a line of people that appear to be waiting to enter the Palais de Justice (a large building from 1868 that still functions as a court house). Behind the entrance and in the courtyard is what they are actually waiting for – the entrance to Sainte-Chapelle. (Unlike some other museum sites, your Paris Museum Pass does not get you queue-cutting access here).

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Sainte-Chapelle is a royal medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the 1200s and Louis the IX of France. Although damaged during the French Revolution, Sainte-Chapelle contains one of the most extensive and beautiful collections of stained glass anywhere in the world. As you enter the chapel, you’ll see a sample of stained glass and a gift shop. Look for the stairs on either side of the room to ascend a very narrow staircase to the second floor and you’ll enter the main room. You will be awestruck. It is absolutely spectacular and breathtaking !

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The Paris Series (Part 1) – Like A Local

Although I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) neither time really counts. In spite of the considerable travelling that I have done, Paris was a new destination. While it’s great to see the tourist sights like everybody else (i.e. the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre,  Notre Dame Cathedral), it’s also great to “get local”. Find the food stands, small shops, cafes and squares where the locals go. While you can find some great guide books, maps and apps to help (Rick Steves immediately comes to mind),  why not actually have a local take you on a tour and show you the neighbourhood favorites?

So I linked up with a local food tour called the “New Parisian Palate” (formerly “Bobo Palate”) with Context Travel. Context is a network of specialists and scholars who act as private guides and lead small groups on walking tours through some of the world’s greatest cities. Tours include archaeology, art history, cuisine, history, urban planning, environmental science, and classics.

Our small group met outside of a bistro in upper Marais. We began our tour with a walk and talk through the iconic “Marche des Enfants Rouges” (the oldest covered market in Paris dating back to the 1600s).

Our walking tour continued for the next 2 1/2 hours and included various stops in the market, a bakery, butcher shop, prepared food and foie gras shop, a cheese shop, a wine and Armagnac shop and a chocolatier. All along the way, the small bites and samples never stopped.

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The French are proud of their history, culture and country. And so they should be. Our guide explained how French food tastes were slowly changing, becoming more modern and incorporating flavors and food ideas from around the world. She pointed out new shops and even food trucks to support the “new Parisian Palate”. With most stops, our guide either purchased samples or gathered food in a bag for our end of tour “party” (wine, cheese, pate, baguette).

446  If you’re thinking of a walking tour, here’s 3 bits of advice:

  1. Take a Context Tour. They are immersive and well worthwhile and get you feeling like a local (and less like a tourist). The group is limited to 6 and led by a local expert.
  2. If you take a Context food tour, don’t eat a meal beforehand (nor will you be able to eat a meal after).
  3. Take your tour in the first few days of your trip if you can. You’ll get a better feel for the city, culture, local area and the places that you’ll want to return to later.

I want that local perspective wherever I go. I want to dive into the destination and its culture. And I want to get local.

Travel Product Review – Travel SIM

Travel SIM

Travel SIM – Yes or No?

You’re about to depart on a trip and you’re thinking about how you’ll stay in touch. Do you turn off roaming and data and jump on wireless when you can or do you use your phone abroad with data? I’ve done both but I prefer to be in touch, use my GPS apps and check email periodically. In my travels, having a cell phone is a must for driving directions (think roundabout) , destination information (the next town) and in case of emergency.

 

Travel SIM

 

Travel SIM – Your Best Option

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to pass on your cell provider’s international travel plan and go for a SIM card instead. A SIM card saves on roaming and data charges while keeping you completely connected. TravelSIM is my top choice because its prepaid (providing cost control), works in over 170 countries and incoming calls and messages are free. You buy it online and it’s delivered within a couple of days. You also get great “bars” in destination (cell reception) because you’re using a local telecom provider. Make sense?

The small challenge here is installing the SIM card. You’ll need to remove your current SIM card and insert your TravelSIM card. It’s easy – use a pin to open the SIM card slot (a thumb tack or paper clip both work); take out your current SIM card; put in the new SIM card, and Voila! Your phone will need to be “unlocked” for the new card to work (if it’s locked, the new SIM card won’t work). Contact your service provider or a cell phone unlocking service.

 

If by chance you didn’t buy a SIM card in advance, you can still buy when you arrive in destination (at the airport, train station or bus station). Just look for a store that sells SIM cards. The cards will be cheap and in many cases an employee will insert the SIM card for you.

 

Travel SIM

Travel SIM – The Bottom Line

You can save a lot of money and get a lot more high-speed data by planning ahead and buying a Travel SIM card.  If you are traveling to multiple countries, you will probably need a separate SIM card for each country unless you buy a TravelSIM card that features multiple countries and zones. If you get a new SIM card for travel, you will be using a different phone number from your regular one. To simplify taking a smartphone abroad, use messaging apps like What’s App or iMessage to maintain your identity and end-to-end encryption. A SIM card for travel keeps you in touch and keeps you off unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Safe Travels!