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).
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 !
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 favorites?
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.
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.
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).
If you’re thinking of a walking tour, here’s 3 bits of advice:
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.
If you take a Context food tour, don’t eat a meal beforehand (nor will you be able to eat a meal after).
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.
As Europe’s peak travel season winds down and most people are returning to work and school refreshed from their summer vacation, the sleepy vineyards sweeping the French countryside awaken for the annual harvest. Foliage begins to turn, days and evenings become pleasantly cooler. And the picturesque back roads call out to be traversed, beckoning in one of the best times to visit France. There’s no better time than autumn to channel your inner wine connoisseur and rent a car in France. The following list is a compilation of five lovely wine regions and scenic routes fringed with vineyards that beg to be explored. Each of these destinations is sure to make for an unforgettable experience.
Alsace Wine Route
The Alsace region is situated along a narrow plain, which is bordered by the Rhine River to the east and the Vosges Mountains to the west. Why not rent something special for your trip, like a Mercedes SLK Roadster in Strasbourg? Put the top down and leisurely make your way south along the Route des Vins d’Alsace (Alsace Wine Route). This 170 km stretch of roadway begins in Marlenheim and ends in Thann. Take your time and discover the Alsace vineyards, castles, and charming villages that dot the way.
Bordeaux Wine Route
Six distinct wine producing territories branch out from the heart of the Bordeaux region. The beauty of visiting this location is that you can create a unique tour of the wineries based on your specific taste. Sample the fine red wines north of Bordeaux, and the sweet or dry white wines south of the city. Offering an excellent array of grape varietals, colors, and tastes, you won’t be disappointed when visiting this southwestern area of France.
Provence Wine Route
South of the Alps and north of the cliff-lined Mediterranean Sea is the Provence region, a part of France that is celebrated for its rosé wine. Start your journey by driving west along the coast with your rental car in Nice and making frequent stops to appreciate the villages and scenery, follow the 200 km course to Camargue, a town just east of Montpellier. The Provence vineyards are divided into eight appellations, and there are about 350 winemakers along the way.
Burgundy Wine Route
A two hour car-ride southwest of Paris leads into the rolling hills of France’s Burgundy region. Renowned for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards here yield some of the country’s finest wines. Burgundy has five territories, and Route des Grands Crus (road of great wines) takes you through Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. It is the area’s most popular drive and is close to 60 km. Clearly marked road signs make this itinerary very easy to follow.
Only 160 km east of Paris, yet seemingly worlds away from the city of light, is the highly regarded Champagne region. Sparkling wine can’t claim the name Champagne unless it originates from here. There are five circuits that wind their way through each of the appellation territories. The Coast Bar route is the longest at 220 km, and the shortest courses are Montagne de Reims and Massif of Saint Thierry, each of these is 70 km.
Before setting off on any trip in France, it is important to note the country’s new driving law, which requires every vehicle to have a breathalyzer on hand. Avoid the possibility of needing to use one of these devices by staying at a lovely Chateau when choosing to indulge in a few glasses of regionally produced wine.
Poet Arthur Rimbaud— who used a one-way ticket to get to Paris— once compared the sensation of love to the feeling of late night walks “beneath the green lime trees of the Promenade” after filling up on beer and lemonade in “rowdy cafes and their dazzling lights.” One-way tickets litter the streets of Paris, where young lovers meet like living symbolist poems, walking, kissing, and perspiring upon weathered cobblestones and beneath delicate corinthian cornices. Young romantics can count on feeling overwhelmed with options when it comes to the task of planning the perfect day in the City of Love. To mitigate your planning anxieties, we’ve gone ahead and planned the day for you. Je vous en prie, mon amour!
Located in the northeast of the city in the 19th arrondissement, the park offers visitors a wide variety of features: including a breath-taking grotto with cascading waterfalls, a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the breathtaking Temple de la Sibylle, which sits on the top of tall cliffs, high above the the manmade lake at the park’s center. Purchase an inexpensive bottle of red wine, a fresh block chevre cheese, a baguette, some tupelo honey, and some salumi at a nearby grocery store and head to the park’s center. Ask an attractive stranger to join you for a picnic, and admire blue skies and puffy white clouds as a gentle breeze brushes your cheek. When was the last time you partook in a summersault competition? Have you ever stood on your head for an extended period of time? Les Buttes Chaumont welcomes youthful spirits, warm (and occasionally inebriated) conversations, and contented silence. Two minds, one Les Buttes Chaumont.
La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin
On 9 rue Champollion in Paris’ Latin Quarter, just a few blocks from La Sorbonne,La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin greets every evening with its brightly lit marquee. Featuring retrospective masterworks, films by Godard, Kubrick, Allen, Antonioni, Fellini, Cassavetes regularly hit the screen. The screening rooms are small and cozy; the vibes are hospitable and warm. Take your new friend’s hand in your own and get lost in the illustrious and timeless world of the silver screen.
10 Bar in Saint-Germain des Prés
Saint-Germain des Prés— an area in the 6th arrondissement of Paris— was once the home of existentialist movement. Coincidentally, the area is now home to one of the best bars in Paris: 10 Bar. Founded in 1955, 10 Bar claims to attract a “record crowd every night” as the “only sangria bar in the capital.” Go early and queue up some choice tunes on the bar’s classic jukebox. Grab a seat next to the massive organ-shaped mahogany mirror in the back and tell the person sitting next to you at the bar about the strangest dream that you’ve ever had, then take a few spins on the dance floor. When you’ve had your share of libations and wildness, take a short cab ride to the luxurious Hotel Bel Ami. Just a short walk away from the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, and Musee d’Orsay, Hotel Bel Ami will help to keep the romance alive!
Picture yourself at lunch in Paris, sitting at a sidewalk café, eating salade niçoise and gazing at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Perfection, non? Doesn’t get much better than that.
Unless, of course, you were dining in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
This is the magic of self-catering. Skipping the restaurant meals in favor of a grocery bag full of goodies can lead to magical travel memories of perfect picnics, exotic delicacies and adventurous eating. You’ll also save a little money along the way. Start turning meals into memories with these tips for successful self-catering.
Word of warning: Once you start shopping local markets, you may never go to a restaurant again. When food becomes this much fun, you won’t want to. Barcelona’s La Boqueria, for example, is a vibrant sensory experience, awash in color and sound. It’s a photography buff’s dream. Here, you can sip a cup of fresh-squeezed juice in any flavor imaginable while you stock up on authentic Catalonian lunch fare — plus some goodies to enjoy while people watching from your balcony during a siesta at Arc La Rambla.
Locally Made Goodness
Seek out small shops. You’ll find delicious, fresh-made local fare, with the bonus of a more personal touch. Since meeting new people is one of the best parts of travel, visiting friendly mom-and-pop shops makes for a truly special travel experience. Bakeries are a great place to start; try stepping out of your hotel in Paris and follow your nose to a fresh-baked baguette. It’s hard to imagine a greater joy than ripping off warm hunks of bread on your way to the Champs-Élysées.
With self-catering, where you eat is just as important as what’s on the menu. Casually enjoying a leisurely meal in an iconic location is an experience you’ll never forget. While enjoying a stay in any of these family-friendly New York City hotels, take the gang for a picnic in Central Park. The kids will love playing in the green expanse while you all fuel up for a visit to Strawberry Fields or the Central Park Zoo.
To truly feel like a native Londoner on your next U.K. visit, join the locals enjoying their lunch against the backdrop of St. Peter’s Basilica. Or enjoy a picnic in St. James Park, with a view of Buckingham Palace.
Explore, Experiment, Enjoy
Travel is all about new experiences. Start with these tips, and then experiment away. Whether it’s sun-dried tomatoes and ciabatta in Rome or dolmades in Istanbul, you’ll soon be crafting your own incredible self-catering experiences and turning meals into memories. Bon appétit!
From the face of Big Ben to the top of the Eiffel Tower, would you choose London or Paris? All of Europe’s capital cities certainly hold a lot of attraction for tourists. Both London and Paris offer travelers great hotels, top-notch cuisine, thought provoking museums, beautiful parks, and landmarks that hold significant and rich histories. How do these two cities stack up against each other from a tourist appeal?
London or Paris? – Museums
We can’t talk about museums in London and Paris without admitting that The Louvre is the most famous attraction in this particular arena. Just across the river from the Verneuil Patio Saint Germain de Pres, the Louvre displays some of the world’s most popular works, from DaVinci’s Mona Lisa to the statue of Winged Victory. No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop at this most iconic museum. However, it is important to note that London has a variety of immense collections as well to rival that of the famed Louvre. Take a look at the classic works and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum (one of the world’s oldest), or go modern and check out the Tate Museum. The National Gallery, near The Grand at Trafalgar Square, holds over 2,000 paintings to explore. This one has to be a tie, with the majesty and appeal of the Louvre being met by the variety of the London museums.
London or Paris? – Parks
An afternoon relaxing in a sprawling city park is one of the true joys of urban traveling. Both London and Paris offer great green spaces, some mere minutes from popular London and Paris hotels. Spending a day in London? The central Hyde Parks is of particular appeal, with a lake, gorgeous trees, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Regent’s Park is a massive 410 acres, and Victoria Park offers the athletic types a multitude of sporting fields. Paris also has some lovely green space, most notably the Tuileries Garden on the way down to the Arc de Triomphe (visible from Hotel Champs Elysees Mac Mahon). In the end, this one has to go to London. You just can’t complete with the variety and beauty of its many green spaces.
London or Paris? – Restaurants
Another joy of traveling to a new city is enjoying the cuisine the place has to offer. Both London and Paris have some great eats. Staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Chelsea? Don’t miss lunch at The Dairy, a restaurant nearby with an ever-changing seasonal menu and craft beers. Paris travelers can delight in Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athénée, with simple seasonal ingredients and a modern environment. In the end, this one has to go to Paris. And we haven’t touched on all the neighbourhood possibilities in Paris. French cuisine just offers diners a wider variety of unique culinary experiences.
London or Paris? – Landmarks
There are a plethora of landmarks and historical sites to visit in both London and Paris. London, of course, has Big Ben: the home of parliament and the most featured landmark in the city. It also boasts the London Eye (an iconic Ferris wheel), Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London (London Bridge, while famous in song, is overshadowed by the famous Tower Bridge). While London certainly has a lot to offer, head west to Paris and you find the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge and the Notre-Dame de Paris with all its pensive and unique gargoyles. There’s no way to pick a winner in this fight.
In the end, the showdown between London and Paris has to be a tie. Both cities offer everything from cheap hotels to fancy, five-star restaurants. With a variety of parks, landmarks, and more, a traveler could find the perfect vacation at either one of these internationally famous cities.
Let’s take a look at today’s travel trends and where we travelled. Where are the world’s tourists and business travelers coming from, and where are we all going? Some of the answers in this graphic from Hipmunk will surprise you. Bet you can’t guess which country’s residents take the most frequent trips, or what the top destination was in the 2010s. Spain and France remain popular as destinations, but where do the Spaniards and the French go when they want a vacation? If Americans aren’t going overseas much, where are we going? This infographic packs a lot of data into a small space. It gives a fascinating glimpse into worldwide travel patterns with a focus on what Americans have been up to for the past forty years or so. Take a closer look at where we’re all going, where we’re coming from, and which destinations are falling in and out of favor over time. Then tweet @thehipmunk and let Hipmunk know where you’re going this year.