The Paris Series (Part 2) – Sainte-Chapelle

Among the many things that Paris is famous for, its museums is second to none and includes lesser known Sainte-Chapelle. 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).

393

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 small 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! A very worthwhile visit!

405

406

394

404

400

407

The Paris Series (Part 1) – Like A Local

There’s nothing better than going to a “new” destination, and experiencing it like a local. I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) but 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, Sainte-Chapelle), it’s also great to immerse yourself like a 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 favourites.

So I linked up with a local food tour called the “New Parisian Palate” (formerly “Bobo Palate”) with Context Travel. Context is a tour company with private guides (local specialists and scholars), who lead small groups on walking tours in the world’s greatest cities. Tours include archaeology, art, classics, cuisine, history, and more.

Paris Walking Tour

418

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.

420
450
435
431
445
444
437
448

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).

Summary – Paris Walking Tour

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 in the following days.

I want that local perspective wherever I go. I want to dive into the destination and its culture. And I want to travel like a local, especially in Paris.

Dublin Like A Local

Walking across a bridge over the Liffey River in Dublin

I’ve been to Ireland 5 times (so far) and I’m starting to feel like a local in Dublin. I have the good fortune to have some great Irish friends so going to Dublin is not a typical tourist experience. It’s almost like a homecoming. I’m picked up at the airport and driven around town like visiting royalty. The trip is mostly planned out with pub nights (almost every night), dinners and visits to local, worthwhile venues. It’s great fun and provides a very local perspective.

Dublin – As a Local

The Bleeding Horse Pub in Dublin

Dublin As a Local

As a local, you DON’T go to Temple Bar (“it’s too damn expensive”); you don’t go to the Guinness Storehouse Tour (“I already worship Guinness- every night”); you don’t limit your shopping to Grafton Street (“stay north of the Liffey with fewer tourists”).

As a local, you DO go to your “local” (the pub in your neighborhood where you know almost everyone who walks in the door); you do have your regular shops (like the Bretzel Bakery where they know you and your order as you walk in); you do order multiple drinks at last call (because the barman can’t leave or kick you out before you are done).

Dublin – As a Tourist

As a tourist, you should go and see the Book of Kells, Christchurch Cathedral (the basement is spooky), and the Kilmainham Gaol Tour (Old Dublin Jail from the 1800s). Entrance to all museums, including the National Gallery, the National Museum of Ireland and Trinity’s Douglas Hyde Gallery, is free. In Dublin, you’ll notice a lot of taxis – there are in fact more taxis in Dublin than in New York City! Dublin is a great town with lots to see, lots to do and lots of great people.

Walking down Richmond Street in Dublin

Conclusion

Whatever you do, enjoy Ireland and its culture. There’s a good time to be had wherever you go. But don’t call an Irishman (or woman) “British” (the Republic of Ireland is not part of the U.K.). And don’t stop for the weather, i.e. rain. It’s either about to rain or will rain sometime later in the day. Bring rain gear, a wool sweater and enjoy. It’s all part of Ireland. And being in Dublin like a local.