I just returned from a once in a lifetime experience that had been on my France bucket list for quite sometime – a French barge Cruise on the Canal du Midi aboard the Athos.
Located in the Languedoc region of France, the Canal du Midi is a 300 year old very unique stretch of water and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The canal itself is about 150 miles long and runs from Toulouse to Sète and tops out in the Mediterranean.
It was originally designed for trade to transport goods like wheat, textiles and wine by barge, before the invention of railroads. But in the early 1990′s, some of the boats were renovated into luxury vacation barges and a new tourism sector was born.
If you’ve followed me, you’ll notice I don’t talk about cruises. I’m not a fan of the typical cruising experience, which is generally ginormous ships that resemble floating cities with millions of people, food buffets and aggressive itineraries. That type of travel doesn’t appeal to me.
But a barge cruise seemed the antithesis of a cruise, a slow travel experience, with just a handful people on a small vessel, only covering a short amount of ground per day with more focus on local food and wine. And that’s exactly what it was.
Here are some reasons I think you should consider a French barge cruise along the Canal du Midi.
1. The Scenery
Some of the most amazing scenery. A mixture of poppy fields and vineyards, postcard pretty. An old house here and there, beautiful bridges, aqueducts and charming villages, all surrounded by the backdrop of the canal, which is lined with Cyprus, Plane and Umbrella Pine trees. Dappled sunlight that dances across the water through the leaves. It’s very serene. And as you’re driving to and from daily excursions, you get to relax and enjoy different views of the French countryside.
2. The Slow Pace
The barge travels about four MPH and you have the ability to get on and off to either walk or bike (they have bikes onboard) along the towpath and meet up with the boat or just take it easy on deck, read a book, take a nap, chat with fellow passengers or the crew. It’s a very relaxing vacation or it can be more active – you get to choose. Another bonus – absolutely no seasickness, so if you’re prone to that on ocean liners, you won’t need to worry here.
3. The Weather
The Canal du Midi is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France. The area boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year. And though it can be windy and a there can be a chance of rain – during the season, which only runs from April through October, you’re almost guaranteed good weather.
4. The Locks
The locks are an amazing feat of architecture and engineering. Some are very small, but others, like the Nine Ecluse, a succession of eight locks near Fonserannes are a downright marvel. Water gushes in to fill up the basins with the power of what seems like Niagara Falls. And it’s fascinating to be on the barge to be part of it all.
5. The Crew
They pamper you, but not in an annoying way. Very unobtrusively. They ask before you even board what your favorite drinks are and if you have any food allergies. They know the area well and are knowledgable, entertaining and happy to tell stories about their time on the barge. They really want you to enjoy your time on board (and off) and will go out of their way to make you happy.
6. The Food and Wine
We had some absolutely amazing meals on board. Every day when we stopped in a new village, one of the guides would make a run to the boulangerie and the chef would shop for local specialities at the food market. The food was fresh, gourmet, local and it was plentiful. We ate like royalty.
We enjoyed a cheese course every night at dinner which included a variety of local cheeses.
And since the Languedoc is a huge wine region - all of the wine was local as well. We had a nice mix of red, white and rosé and the bottles flowed at lunch, dinner and apéro for as long as you wished. It was expertly paired with our meals and both the chef and wait staff would describe every course and each wine in detail, which was a nice touch.
7. It’s All Inclusive
Everything from soup to nuts is included on the trip. You pay one price which includes the barge, transportation to and from the barge, the crew, all of your meals on board, all of your drinks, wine, cocktails (as much as you want) and all of the excursions. You don’t need to worry at all about handling money or bringing it along with you, unless you wanted souvenirs or to buy something during one of the excursions.
8. The Excursions
We got to visit some pretty amazing places. Each barge has a choice of the places they visit and create their own itinerary, but the Athos included the villages of Pézenas, Carcassonne, Capestang, Narbonne, Marseillan and Minerve. We also got to visit the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery, a covered food market in Narbonne, a local olive cooperative and had time one night to walk to the Oppidum d’Ensérune with our guide. It was a nice mix of history, food and charming villages.
Stayed tuned, I’ll be posting more about my trip over the next few weeks – you can look forward to posts on my favorite photos, what to pack and also a day-by-day account of exactly what the trip was like.
Disclosure: I was a guest aboard the Athos barge. All opinions and photos are my own.
So, what do you think? Would you take a barge cruise along the Canal du Midi?
There are many ways to get from Paris’s main airport, Charles de Gaulle, to central Paris. Depending on budget, travel style, time of day and where you’re staying, one is likely to work better than another. Here is an overview of the choices you have.
The standard, good old-fashioned taxi, is still my favorite, most direct, and reliable way of getting from Charles de Gaulle to the center of Paris. You’ll see signs directing you to the taxi stands at every terminal.
It’s always best to make sure you get in line at the taxi stand and only take a licensed Taxi Parisien. Ignore any annoying hawkers inside the airport trying to offer you a ride. Head right to the stand, queue and wait your turn. The line moves quickly, but if you have no luggage to collect at the carousel, you’ll get into the line faster, which is one of many reasons to become a carry-on only traveler.
On my last trip, my taxi driver whisked my luggage away to the trunk and handed me a cold bottled water before opening my car door. I paid €54 from the airport to the Marais in rush hour traffic. I’ve never had a bad taxi experience and they are always professional.
There is also talk of making a dedicated commuter lane, which may get you to Paris even faster if you’re traveling during work hours.
Cost : Depending on traffic, time of day and your final destination, expect to pay between €50 – €70.
This long time option connects the airport with Paris’s Opéra area, which is the 9th arrondissement. Depending on time of day, the bus runs every 15 to 30 minutes and the trip takes 75 minutes. The coaches are air-conditioned, they serve every terminal and there is plenty of room for luggage. Tickets are available at automatic ticket machines at the airport.
Cost €11, one way.
Technically called Les Cars Air France, this reliable bus service operates two lines that service Paris, 7 days a week. Line 2 runs from CDG to the Place d’Etoile, between 5:45am and 11pm, and takes about an hour. Line 4 runs from CDG to Gare Montparnasse (with a stop at Gare de Lyon) from 6am to 10pm and takes 75 minutes.
These leave every 30 minutes and service almost every terminal (though some require an extra connection). Tickets are available online, at airport vending machines and even on board.
Cost : Line 2 €17; Line 3 €17.50, one way.
A brand new shuttle service owned by the British company EasyJet just launched a new shuttle service called easyBus. The buses run in both directions between the Palais Royal/Louvre area and Terminal 2 at CDG, making this the option that gets you closest to the actual center of Paris – the 1st arrondissement.
The trip takes 45 minutes to an hour and tickets can be purchased online.
Cost : Prices vary based on time of day you travel, but currently range from €2 to €10, one way.
The RER B line runs from Terminal 2 or Roissypole from Terminals 1 and 3. Stops on this line include Gare du Nord, Châtalet, Saint-Michel/Nôtre Dame, Port Royal and a few more options as the train heads south towards Orly.
I’ve done it before, and doing it your first time does require prior planning and can be a bit confusing as you need to buy your ticket at the airport and then navigate your way to the RER station and beyond. It’s also notoriously hit with technical problems and can be very unreliable.
This option is also not recommended if you have a ton of luggage, or if you’ll be hopping on during commuter times, as the trains are crowded, as are the Metro stations you may need to connect with in order to get closer to your final destination. The other dreaded thing you need to worry about that makes this a risky option – STRIKES. And we know how the French love their strikes.
Cost : €10, one way.
Popular shuttle vans like Parishuttle or Bluvan take up to eight passengers at a time from CDG to Paris. These will bring you directly to your destination, like a taxi, as opposed to a bus just dropping you in a central location – but that also means you’ll have other passengers to drop off as well, so your trip can take longer depending on which order you’ll be delivered.
Parishuttle requires you to call them from the airport to get your pickup location, while Bluvan has dedicated pickup spots at each terminal.
Journey time on a shared van is impossible to determine – based on how many others to pick up, at what terminal, how many stops en route to Paris and what number you are in the queue. Could be an hour, could be three days.
Both require you to book online, in advance. I’ve heard and read stories about their unreliability, so use caution and book at your own risk. In case of delayed flights or very late arrivals, you may have a bit of a problem, as they tend to only wait one hour. And since these are prepaid services, you’ll need to request refunds if for some reason you miss your ride or you decide not to use them.
Cost : Prices start at €25 one way, per person for shared rides. There is a charge for extra luggage. Both also offer private transfer options.
What’s on the horizon?
A new high-speed express train that links Charles de Gaulle to the center of Paris is planned. The line will run from CDG to Gare de l’Est in a mere 20 minutes. Sadly, since this will be part of the French Railway system, it will also be subject to – you guessed it – strikes. Ticket prices are predicted to be a hefty €24, but that’s still half the price of a taxi and will get you to the city faster.
Construction is set to begin in 2017, but the project is planned to take eight years to complete, so you’ll just have to a plan a trip to Paris and try it out for yourself in 2023!
Heading to Paris soon? Don’t miss one of these tasty Paris food tours!
The United Kingdom is a land filled with thousands of years of history spanning a multitude of cultures. One of these is the Roman Empire, who ruled over the British Isles for over a hundred years starting in A.D. 43. Eventually the Romans left England around the fifth century A.D., as noted by the BBC, but not without leaving us with a wealth of historic sites and ruins.
I’ve already shared where to see Roman ruins in France and also Etruscan ruins in Italy, but for those looking for an Italian or Roman-themed vacation and aren’t quite able to make it to the famous boot-shaped country you can find plenty of history in England. These are a few of favorite sites to see for the Italophile in all of us.
You knew I had to talk about this one. Hadrian’s Wall is the single most visited tourist attraction in all of Northern England and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987. The ancient wall was constructed early in the second century (122 A.D. to be exact) and extends for 73 miles between the River Tyne and the Solway Firth. English Heritage has a terrific timeline of the rich history of the wall in addition to historic events that take place at the site throughout the year.
You’ve got to start somewhere and there’s no better place than the British Museum. British Airways writes here that the museum plays host to an incredible 7 million objects in its collections. That makes this museum one of the largest in the world! Don’t forget that what we know today as London was originally a Roman settlement dubbed Londinium, so it’s no wonder there are so many Roman artifacts in this massive collection. You can see bronze busts of the Roman emperor Hadrian, ancient Roman mosaics and much more to whet your appetite for antiquity. The Museum of London also has some terrific pieces and exhibitions. However, if you can only make it to one, make it the British Museum if for nothing other than its sheer size and scope.
This awe-inspiring Roman villa was constructed during first century A.D. and is suspected by some to have been a vacation home for Roman governors during the occupation. The site has something for everyone, from art-lovers to kids. Parents will be wowed by the heated bath-suites, house-church and beautiful mosaics, and kids will be entertained by getting to try on period-accurate Roman costumes and recreations of traditional board games. It’s no wonder the Telegraph called Lullingstone one of Britain’s 50 best secrets.
With nearly 500 years of Roman rule, there are more forts, historic sites, statues and artifacts than you can shake an ancient spear at. You don’t have to go to Italy to satisfy your interest in the rich history of the country and you’ll be amazed by how much you can find right in England’s backyard.
Which of these Roman ruins would you visit on your trip to England?
The Puglia region is a fascinating combination of unique history, culture and of course some of the best food and wine that Italy offers. I learned so many things about Puglia on my trip, and I took a copious amount of notes. What better way to share all of the facts with you than a bulleted list of the things I found most interesting from this very scenic region.
Did you know :
Traveling, seeing the world, experiencing life in different places and getting to know people from different cultures is eye-opening and essential for a well-rounded world view. It’s exciting. And thrilling. It makes you feel alive and everyone deserves the opportunity to try it.
I know many who would like to travel, but say they just can’t afford it. I don’t think it’s an excuse. I really DO think they believe that, but it doesn’t have to be true. You change your perspective to change your situation. You have to DO something. It really depends how important travel really is to you.
If you make traveling a priority, an important goal in your life, and then take the necessary steps – you CAN make it happen.
A little sacrifice now can help you travel later.
So, if travel is important to you, here are 9 easy ways to save the money to make it happen:
1. Ditch Starbucks. Or Dunkin’ Donuts. Whatever your go-to brand. Those four-buck-lattes add up, so make your own coffee at home with a French Press or Bialetti.
2. Ladies – skip the mani/pedi. Learn to do your nails at home. Or keep it simple – neat, trimmed, filed and moisturized. Save even more by coloring your hair at home instead of the salon. Splurge on a good haircut though.
3. Cut the Cable Cord. I did this recently and I save over $70 a month. HELLO, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
4. Instead of a full three-course meal and bottle of wine at expensive restaurants – treat yourself, but find cheaper alternatives. Think Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Burger Joint, Sushi or Pizza. If you must do the fancy restaurant thing – why not have a glass of wine at home and order just an appetizer or entree? Also, seek out happy hour deals in your area.
5. Skip the movies. Instead, rent DVDs for free from your local library or grab a Redbox movie.
6. Round-up all of your loose change (check the car, sofa cushions, pockets, zippered compartments in old purses), bring it to the bank and deposit it right into your vacation fund! Make it a habit by keeping a collection jar and cashing it in when full.
7. Use less fuel. Either bike or walk when you can, schedule your errands into one trip, carpool to work with coworkers – there are lots of ways to save on gas! Go a step further and examine your auto insurance. You may be overinsured and can save money by stepping down coverage and lowering your premiums.
8. Don’t ‘shop’ as a hobby. Stop buying stuff you don’t need, and make do with what you have. If you do need (not want) something, try buying used instead of new. This includes things like – the latest miracle skin potion or the tech gadget of the moment (I’m talking about you Google Glass and Apple’s iWatch). And for the love of GOD- please unsubscribe yourself from daily deal sites like One Kings Lane, Zulily etc.
9. Sell stuff you already own. There are tons of things you can do without or that you don’t use. Why not round-up things you don’t need or have duplicates of and sell them on Ebay, Craig’s List or have a yard sale? All the proceeds can be used for a vacation – and you get the added benefit of decluttering your house at the same time!
Doing only one of these things isn’t going to pay for an entire vacation – but combine them and you’ll see it all add up over time. It’s fun to track your progress and watch your money grow. Get the kids involved too!
In time, you’ll be able to start planning that trip you think you can’t afford.
What are some ways you have saved in order to travel?
There is so much new in Paris this year, it’s been hard to keep up! New museum openings, new services cropping up and even a new Paris tour that I’m offering.
I’ve already covered What’s New in France this year which also contains some Paris highlights, but there was more than enough happening to create a stand alone post for Paris. I keep adding to it as things pop up – so make sure you check back often.
New Museums, Tours and Attractions
> After a six-year restoration, amid lots of drama, the Picasso Museum finally reopened. The new space at the Hôtel Salé is more than double the size of the old, showcases more than 400 works in a fabulous space, and includes a garden and courtyard.
> A newcomer, the Louis Vuitton museum opened in a beautiful Frank Gehry designed building that some say resembles a spaceship or glass sails. In true Paris fashion (pun intended) there is also a restaurant on site.
> Speaking of museums. The three most visited museums will soon be open seven days a week! This will make your planning much easier. The big three are the Louvre, Versaillies and Musée d’Orsay and technically new hours don’t take effect until 2015, but I know you’ll be planning early, riiiiight?
> The Eiffel Tower recently revealed a new glass floor. Those who are able to handle the feeling of walking on air and seeing 200 feet straight down to the ground have been having fun with all the photo ops provided. Those with vertigo or a fear of heights should probably skip it!
> 25 years after shutting down, the Piscine Molitor has again reopened. Swimming in this luxury pool, in the 16th arrondissement comes with a hefty pricetag - daily entrance fees run about $245. Nope, that’s not a typo.
> Are you familiar with Vélib’? It’s a bike sharing program in Paris. Well, this year the city launched a similar bike sharing program for kids! It’s called P’tit Vélib’ and it’s a great way for families to explore Paris.
> I’ve partnered with a local to offer a new Paris tour. This one is a relaxed walking tour in the Marais, exploring history, architecture and includes a real French breakfast, private lunch at a century-old bistro and a cheese and wine lesson.
New Travel & Apps
> Great news if you live on the East Coast of the U.S. A new all business-class airline, La Compagnie has started offering round-trip flights from New York’s JFK to Charles de Gaulle in Paris.
> Paris airports are now offering free unlimited WiFi at both Charles de Gaulle and Orly.
> It seems like every big city has a new taxi smartphone app and Paris is no exception. The city launched Paris Taxis, a free app for both iPhone and Android. It’s not an Uber-style app where you actually order and pay for a ride, it’s more to let a driver see you or to tell you where the closest cabs are.
> History, art and literary types will find the Travel by Art app worth a download. The 2o tours of Paris explore the lives and walk in footsteps of greats like Ernest Hemingway, Edith Piaf and more. Maps can be used offline, without an Internet connection. The app is free, but requires in app purchases for some tours.
Are you planning a visit to Paris and are stuck or overwhelmed by all the options? Click here to see how I can help.
When it comes to Italy, less is more. Which is why I sing the praises of slow travel and slow food in Italy. Taking it easy, savoring every moment and not packing too much into your vacation. Staying in an agriturismo, (farm stay) or on a vineyard in Italy is really a perfect way to relax and adopt a slower pace on vacation. And isn’t that what vacation should be about?
But where do you find these gems?
From where to stay, where to eat and places to either drink wine or visit vineyards and wineries – here are some invaluable resources that will help you find and connect with places that also share and appreciate the slow pace of travel and support sustainable travel.
Italy Slow Travel, Food and Wine Guidebooks
This book is in its 17th revision, which means it’s been around for quite sometime. It’s available in English and basically combines both traditional places to stay with local flavor and character with places to eat and drink that celebrate regional cooking and recipes. It’s packed with over 2100 entires!
Available through Amazon (affiliate link)
Whether visiting Italy and wanting to visit and taste or if you just want to explore the best producers from home, this is a must! The book not only includes reviews but gives some back story on the wine makers and favors those who have adopted sustainable and natural winemaking practices. As a bonus, if you bring a copy of your book along some producers will offer a 10% discount!
Available through Amazon (affiliate link)
Drop-dead gorgeous photography is the big draw with this coffee table sized book that features over forty hand-picked places to stay. Though you’ll never take this on vacation with you, it does give you a good description of rural life in Italy and practical information about many destinations. There are even some local recipes featured.
Available through Amazon (affiliate link)
All of these books make excellent reference guides at home when you’re planning – but no one is going to carry a tome around in their luggage on the road, no matter how tasty the contents may be!
The good news – many of them are available as apps, so you can take them on the road.
Italy Slow Travel, Food and Wine Apps
The reviews are in Italian, but the names and maps make it easy enough to navigate. Instead of high-end Michelin starred places, you’ll find more affordable spots where it’s all about the food. It’s a steep $8.99, but if you’re really passionate about eating in slow food approved establishments and you travel often to Italy, it may be worth it.
Think of this as the counterpart to the app mentioned above. Also $8.99, where the osterie app has food and wine selections, the locande version will list places to stay. You can browse authentic inns known for their charm, hospitality and slow pace. It covers all 20 regions, and has suggestions for hotels, B&Bs and farmhouses. In Italian.
I’m pretty sure you can figure this one out! This app is the Slow Food’s guide to the wineries in Italy. It contains reviews for over 400 wineries and 3,000 wines! New features added recently include over 700 restaurants and wine shops in the U.S. that carry the mentioned wines. The detailed maps for both Italy and the U.S. makes it an essential travel tool. If you’re a wino, you’ll need this one.
This app is written in English, with a good humor and covers more out-of-the-way places in Umbria. It’s got great photos and maps and is a reasonable $3.99. A big bonus is the offline capability – you can use it without an Internet connection!
All of these apps are available for iPhone, but since Apple updates iOS frequently, I can’t make any guarantees if the latest versions of the apps work with updated software.
If you’re a food and wine lover heading to Italy, but don’t have time for the reasearch, I can help!
Let me plan a custom foodie adventure?
Over the years I’ve researched and booked many Paris apartments for my clients, so I know a thing or two about the process. I’ve also written about how renting an apartment isn’t for everyone.
For those who are new to the process and are considering renting and booking an apartment on your own, there’s a helpful new e-book resource you should have.
It’s called The Paris Vacation Apartment Guide: Rent with Confidence – Learn Where to Stay Without Getting Overwhelmed, Ripped-off or Scammed! and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy for review.
The book is available as a download to an e-reader and is divided into the following sections:
Part Un – Answers the who, what, why, where and ifs of Paris apartment hunting
Part Deux – Detailed look at the arrondissements (neighborhoods) of Paris
Part Trois – Resources for rental agencies
Part Quatre (A little of this, a little of that) – General tips and warnings on everything from riding the bus and Metro to popular scams
I read the book from cover to cover and I’m sharing my thoughts on the book.
What I liked:
I’m all about the practical advice – and Robyn’s book gives heaps of it. I especially like that she’s clearly explained the differences between apartments in the U.S. vs. France in terms of everything from space, set-up, how building floors are numbered, appliances, what’s included and helpful tips.
Her suggestions for first time visitors to consider being closer to the city center rather than staying further away just to save money is spot on. She points out the trade-off between saving a few pennies, but spending more time on public transportation to get back and forth to the sights visitors come to see. Time is money after all.
She includes a Monoprix and a food market for every Paris neighborhood. Foodies and those who need to shop for last-minute items will really love this information!
The book also lists and details reputable rental companies to work with, most of which manage small pools of apartments, which saves first timers much of the legwork. I’m familiar with most of the rental agencies and companies recommended and I’ve worked with several of them.
They aren’t the only game in town, and I’ve had lots of success working with others, but they are definitely a great, safe place to start.
What would make it even better:
I would love more detail on the arrondissement maps. The current links bring up a general Google Map with a pin showing the location of each arrondissement. It would be nice if her recommended rental streets within each area were highlighted, as well as the Monoprix, food market and Metro stations.
This would make it so much easier for the person doing apartment research to quickly and clearly see where an apartment is in relation to the great resources she mentions.
Along the same lines, street names mentioned in the text of the arrondissement section could be bolded too. For now, I’d suggest highlighting them on your eReader to make it easy to locate and refer back to later.
For those who have no idea of rental costs, examples from both ends of the spectrum would be useful, because as she points out – there can be a huge difference in the price. A spacious professionally decorated apartment in the tony Saint-Germain vs. a privately owned tiny budget studio in the Marais listed on VRBO might be a great study.
The guide has a very comprehensive section covering all twenty arrondissements. While I totally agree with the advice that you can choose to stay in any one of them and have a good experience, there may be a bit too much detail, especially if the goal isn’t to overwhelm.
Perhaps a more succinct way would be to list a travel style or personality and suggest a few appropriate areas. For example – if you want views of the Eiffel Tower and don’t mind paying top dollar - stay in x arrondissement. If you want a hip vibe and exciting night life consider y and z neighborhood. You get the idea.
That said, if you are really interested in an in-depth description of all twenty neighborhoods, you’re going to get it here.
So, if you’ve always dreamed of finding an apartment for your Paris vacation, and you have the time and patience to do the research and book on your own, this guide is definitely worth the download – especially since it’s a bargain at $2.99.
I was given a complimentary download of this e-book for review purposes. As always, the opinions are my own.
Paris, one of the most famous and beautiful cities in the world: We are all aware of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but what about those secret, lesser known must sees that are hidden within the historic city?
Here are five of the most interesting sites and activities for a first timer or a Paris regular, that are somewhat off the beaten track.
1. Covered Passages
The covered passages of Paris are an existing remnant of the rise of the middle classes during the Nineteenth Century. These quaint passages can be described as early incarnations of indoor department stores and malls. Less than thirty of these passages still exist in modern-day Paris.
Two of the most famous can be found behind the Palais Royal – the Galerie Vivienne and nearby Galerie Colbert. It’s a wonderful way to experience old culture and a perfect spot to visit when it rains.
2. Canal St. Martin
The picturesque Canal St. Martin is often overlooked by many first time visitors in favor of sites with bigger names, but Parisian locals will tell you it’s hard to find a more beautiful spot in the entire city. The calm and quiet location is perfect for an evening stroll with a loved one. Visitors who enjoy a more structured approach can join one of the walking tours available in the area or hop on a Canauxrama barge for a ride on the canal.
3. Marché de l’Olive
The Rue Riquet neighborhood, languidly stretching from the edge of the 18th arrondissement to the end of the quay of the canal in the 19th arrondissement, was noted as an area famous for its collection of bustling Asian supermarkets and slew of smoke-filled bars and cafés.
The covered Marché La Chapelle is one of the more favored local spots where tourists or foodies can pick up batches of delicious fried tofu, ingredients for Korean staple Kimchi, and other eclectic Asian delights one would normally have trouble finding at the traditional markets.
4. Charming Belleville
Home to one of the city’s more alluring Chinatowns, Belleville has a charm all its own and a distinct bohemian feel. Originally the area was a wine-making village where locals would meet up at country cafes known as guinguettes. Now it’s a working class neighborhood, a mix of cultures and cuisines, and a haven for artists.
Artists and craftsmen in Belleville excelled in everything from woodworking, painting, performance arts, sculptures, photography, video displays, as well as other popular forms of modern street art and graffiti. The Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers de Belleville takes place each May. Artists open their doors for a few days to interested onlookers and tourists, showcasing their work and studio space.
Make time for a visit to the popular Parc des Buttes Chaumont and the lesser known Parc de Belleville,which happens to be the highest park in all of Paris. If you don’t mind the climb, you’ll be rewarded with fabulous panoramic views of the city!
It’s pretty well-known that the South of France is littered with Roman ruins, but the good news for history buffs is that Roman roots can also be found in Paris.
Known as Lutetia by the Romans, many hints of Paris’ ancient past are scattered throughout the city. They include a coliseum, pillars, walls and even thermal baths. The Roman Baths at Cluny and the Archaeological Crypt located near Notre Dame both hold interesting secrets and discoveries about the city’s Roman history.
The Roman amphitheatre, Les Arènes de Lutèce is one of the most intact examples and is used today for concerts and the impromptu game of petanque. More info on a self-guided tour of Roman Paris can be found here.
Need more off the beaten path ideas for Paris? Click here to see how I can help.
It’s not easy to learn a new language. Frankly, it’s not always at the top of the list when planning a trip to a foreign country either. Sometimes it doesn’t even make the list.
But if you’ve decided that France is a destination you should visit, then I highly recommend learning some basic French words and phrases that will not only ensure a better travel experience, but will show respect to the locals, which is very important.
One thing to remember – France is very proud of their language, so don’t be surprised (or offended) if someone switches immediately to English when talking with you. It’s still a good idea to start out in French. Oh, and did I mention, learning a new language can be fun?!
Here’s what I recommend learning if traveling to France:
1. Learn basic French greetings and use them often, especially when arriving or leaving a hotel, shop or restaurant. Hello (bonjour), goodbye (au revoir) good evening (bonsoir), good day (bonne journée). Please (s’il vous plaît) and thank you (merci) are a must.
2. Learn yes (oui) and no (non).
3. Learn the correct way to address someone – be it a man, women or young women. Monsieur or Madame.
4. Learn to count to at least 10, the days of the week and how to tell time. This will come in handy for deciphering opening and closing days/times for restaurants and museums, or reading train and bus schedules. Another thing to keep in mind, France generally follows military time.
5. Learn how to ask a French person if they speak English (parlez vous Anglais) and know how to respond if they ask if you speak French. Assuming you don’t, say (désolé, non parle pas Français). Don’t forget to front load the question with your pleasant greeting words – like Bonjour Madame, or Pardon, etc, etc….. remember, those French are all about the manners.
6. Learn some question words. You know the ones. How, Who, What, Why, When and Where. Perhaps the most important would be where (où), since you will likely be asking for directions. Asking for the bathroom (où sont les toilettes s’il vous plaît) is a popular and important one!
7. Learn the most important vocabulary words for your trip. Words like restaurant, hotel, train station and museum will certainly come up quite a bit during travel. But if you’re a shopper, wine lover, foodie or history buff – then it may be a good idea to research common words or phrases that you’ll use often. Don’t overload your brain with lots of shopping phrases if you don’t plan on visiting stores, try to stick to your theme.
8. If you have an allergy to a certain food or need to eat gluten-free (sans gluten) or organic (bio) – well, you best commit phrases like that to memory. You can also save them in your phone, or carry around an index card with those phrases written down. If you’re afraid of not being able to pronounce the phrases correctly, you can just whip out your phone or index card and voilà!
French Language Resources