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

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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).

Summary – Paris Walking Tour

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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.

Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

If you are day dreaming about a visit to Amsterdam, you may also be dreaming about visiting the best museums in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is home in fact to more than 50 thought provoking and interesting museums. Here is a partial list of some of the very best museums in Amsterdam:


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This museum is located on the beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. The canal district itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, and its history is told with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. It’s a very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is synomous with the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with both Dutch people and tourists alike. If you love tulips, botany, or history in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is one of the world’s most thought provoking and popular museums. The main building of the museum is the actual hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her diary during World War II. As you walk through the rooms of the house, you’ll easily imagine how hard it was to live there during World War 2. The original diary is on display at this location. This is a must visit (I’ve been twice) but get there early because the lines can be long. Here’s my post on the Anne Frank House.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
NEMO is a hands on museum and is very popular among children. It’s a must visit if you’re on vacation with kids or adults who are interested in science and technology. The “I Amsterdam” City Card or Museumkaart will get you free admission.

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a bizarre collection and learn about some of the oldest and cruellest torture methods in history. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. Most of the artifacts on display were actually used which makes this museum just a little more disturbing.

National Maritime Museum
The museum contains many artifacts associated with shipping and sailing and is dedicated to maritime history. The collection here contains world maps, models, paintings and weapons. A replica of the 18th-century ship Amsterdam (which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies), is located in the waters just outside the museum.

Van Gogh Museum
The world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work is located here and needless to say is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam. In addition to seeing many of his works, you’ll learn about the man himself and his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
Dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, this is the Dutch national museum. Over 800 years of Dutch history is showcased with national treasurers and artifacts. The museum is located in the Amsterdam South borough at the Museum Square, and is very close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

These are just a few of the best museums in Amsterdam, but there’s many more. There’s also the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, and the Houseboat Museum among others. Amsterdam’s museums make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any other interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

Muskoka in the Fall (by Air)

Muskoka in the fall is something special. And Muskoka in the Fall by air is even better. A float plane is a real adrenaline rush. Screaming down the lake to take off and rising above the trees. Landing on the water is an equal rush. The views are great. North of Toronto is Muskoka – cottage and lake country. Thought I would share a few photos: