Posts Tagged by paris

How About Spending Christmas in Paris?

Enjoy Christmas in Paris

Paris is a beautiful city any time of year, but at Christmastime it can be magical. A trip to Paris can be a romantic holiday for couples or a fun family vacation. Here are some of the things you can see and take part in during your Christmas trip to Paris.

Light Displays

At Christmas time, visit the Champs-Elysées. From the Place de l’Etoile to the Arc de Triomphe, lights are strung along trees for a distance of two kilometers. The lights usually begin around the end of November and end in early January.

More than ever, Paris lives up to its name the ‘City of Light’. From November to the beginning of January, the Christmas illuminations on the avenue des Champs-Elysées, on avenue Montaigne, in Place Vendôme, the Montmartre district, Bercy Village and in many other places across the city make Paris more magical than ever!

The department stores in Paris also have wonderful light displays. Check out the district near the Opera Garnier and gaze at the beautifully lit display windows. They go all out and truly create works of beautifully lit art. The Galeries Lafayette is a top tip from Richard Nahem at Eye Prefer Paris.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Christmas Notre Dame Paris – © French Moments

Every Christmas Eve, the churches and cathedrals of Paris will open their doors to everyone for an evening of festive chanting and prayer. Nothing, however, compares to Notre Dame Cathedral with its flying buttresses, bell towers, menacing gargoyles, and soaring spires. You can revisit a thousand years of history in one trip to this historic site in Paris — reaching back to medieval and Gothic times. At Christmastime, there is a gorgeous light display here each year and an enormous tree is decorated and lit up for the public to view. Check out the intricate nativity scene. In addition, Notre Dame has a beautiful, peaceful Christmas Eve service that is breathtaking both visually and in it’s significance.

Can’t make it to Notre Dame, try another of Paris’ cathedrals like St-Eustache, Sacré-Coeur or La Madeleine.

Ice Skating

Winter sports are becoming popular in Paris. On the floor of the Eiffel Tower, there is an open-air skating rink that is open only during that time of year. There are various rinks throughout Paris during the holidays as well. (The Eiffel Tower rink does tend to be crowded, despite Christmas being the “off” season for tourists.) Rent some skates – kid’s skates are free as is entry for everyone.  There are even areas where children can go sledding at some locations.

Disneyland Paris

Main Street U.S.A. lit up with Christmas decorations for the holiday season

The Parisian Disneyland is fully decked out for Christmas celebrations. Fun and festive events are scheduled throughout the Christmas season, from late November to early January. There are parades and Christmas markets at Disneyland Paris, too.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is transformed into a shimmering winter scene with lasers, lights and fountains, with a nightly fireworks display.  Enjoy meet and greets, sing-a-longs and lots a special Disney-style pixie dusted holiday magic.

Christmas Markets

These quaint villages are not just in Disneyland, Paris. These markets have become a holiday tradition from the Northern Alsace region. They consist of wooden booths arranged like a miniature village. Delicious treats are served from these booths, such as gingerbread and spiced wine.

Marché de Noël Montparnasse, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

The Christmas Market at Montparnasse     ©OTCP-Amélie Dupont

Christmas markets are the perfect place to pick up Christmas decorations, festive objects, regional produce and arts & crafts. You can find decorations for your Christmas tree, some cool ideas for Christmas presents and specialty foods to make your Christmas meals even more delicious.

Some of the more popular markets in Paris are near Saint-Sulpice church, on the Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres, under the Grand Arch in La Defense, and on the Champs-Elysées.

Dining

The main meal eaten during the holiday season in Paris, and throughout France, is called Reveillon, and it’s a long meal served either after Christmas Eve Mass. While mostly private or family meals, you can find many places that will welcome you to try traditional Christmas treats like vin chaud, buche de noel, beaujolais nouveau, escargots and caviar. One of the best things about holidays in Paris is dessert – 13 of them! Representing Jesus and the 12 apostles, watch for brioche surrounded by dried figs, raisins, almonds and nuts, as well as fresh fruits, cookies, fudge and cakes like a yule log.

13 Desserts – Ville Verde

Although crowds of tourists are lower during winter, expect restaurants to be fully booked or closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Make reservations well ahead, or consider celebrating your Christmas Dinner on a day that is not the 24th or 25th of December. Restaurants create special Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve menus that are filled with the bounty of the season — fresh oysters, foie gras, truffles, chestnuts and champagne. Few places capture the nostalgia and peace of Christmas like Paris. It combines the slow pace of a small town with the glitz and beauty of a big city holiday.

Don’t forget the many, many bakeries that dot the entire city. This is the time of year that they pull out all the stops.


I would venture to say that spending the Christmas holiday in Paris is one that won’t soon be forgotten. The special traditions, foods, sights and experiences will cheer even the most stubborn Scrooge in your bunch.

 

10 of the Most Luxurious Honeymoon Suites Ever

10 of the Most Luxurious Honeymoon Suites EVER!

If a private lanai, your own personal butler service and 17 pillow choices sound like ingredients for your perfect honeymoon, look no further than these sleek hotel honeymoon suites. Full disclosure: They don’t come cheap!

  1. Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suite at Rosewood Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico

    rosewood mayakoba in riviera maya mexico

    The best part of the gorgeous Deluxe Overwater Lagoon suite is the super-secluded, serene outdoor shower. The second-best part? The private plunge pool on the suite’s terrace, which overlooks picturesque mangroves. Your butler (trust us—it will feel like he knows what you want before you do!) will bring you anything you need, from homemade guacamole and a refill on your room’s supplied bottle of top-shelf tequila to chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne (from $700, RosewoodHotels.com).

  2. Dhoni Suite at Cocoa Island in Makunufushi, Maldives

    cocoa island dhoni suite maldives

    Picture this: The two of you are dropped off by boat onto Cocoa Island, one of the tiniest, most unspoiled Maldivian islands in the far-flung Indian Ocean. You quickly check into one of the fabulously sexy rooms, like the Dhoni Suite that juts over a turquoise lagoon, providing infinite water views, complete privacy, a truly unique ambience (each suite is styled after local dhonis, or fishing boats) and luxe details you might not expect from the rustic-chic exterior (think: an all-white Balinese daybed, 42-inch plasma-screen satellite television, in-room Wi-Fi access and airconditioning). Then get ready to connect like castaways (from $850, ComoHotels.com/cocoaisland).

  3. Royal Suite at Burj Al Arab in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

    jumeirah burk al arab dubai

    You’ll feel like royalty at Jumeirah’s Burj Al Arab’s Royal two-bedroom suite. Your private elevator opens to a bi-level world of opulence (there’s a 24-karat iPad and 17 choices for pillows, for starters). In this 2,600-square-foot oasis, you’ll find two master bedrooms, two Jacuzzis and a movie room (crazy, right?). Again, pretty insanely priced but we had to share (from $11,009 per night, Jumeirah.com).

  4. Orchid Suite at Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu

    halekulani hotel orchid suite in honolulu hawaii

    Discreetly tucked off the shores of honeymoon hot spot Waikiki Beach, the ocean-level, 2,365-square-foot Orchid Suite allows newlyweds to completely relax in a personal tropical paradise (there’s a private lanai and garden) with an almost-too-pretty-to-believe postcard view of the majestic Diamond Head crater. If that’s not enough to entertain you two, you don’t have to leave the room just yet—have your coziest date night ever in the luxe home theater (from $7,000 per night, Halekulani.com).

  5. Grand Luxe Suite at The St. Regis Bal Harbour in Miami Beach, Florida

    st regis bal harbour miami beach florida

    South Beach has its fair share of white-hot hotels, like the Delano and Fountainbleau, but if you’re not looking for the South Beach club scene (or to venture out of your room at all), head north to The St. Regis. Specifically, book the ultra-chic Grand Luxe oceanfront room that towers over the bustling, jet-set coastal playground of Bal Harbour (on the northernmost tip of Miami Beach). Seductively glam metallic decor, 400-count luxurious bed linens, a supersize oceanfront balcony off the bedroom and the ability to call on the resort’s super-capable—and always attentive—team of butlers 24/7 will make leaving your room seem like a crazy concept (from $729 per night, StRegisBalHarbour.com).

  6. Springs Villa at Nayara Springs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

    nayara springs la fortuna costa rica

    Secluded by the lush jungle foliage of Arenal Volcano National Park, the über-private Springs Villa at this adults-only boutique hotel will instantly transform your honeymoon into a luxe Tarzan-and-Jane fantasy vacay. Inside, you’ll find a dreamy four-poster bed swathed in netting and strewn with rose petals by your private attendant. Outdoors, you’ll enjoy the personal hammock for lounging with your better half, friendly resident monkeys and a plunge pool fed by nearby mineral hot springs (from $590, NayaraSprings.com).

  7. Butterfly Suite at The Caves in Negril, Jamaica

    the caves resort butterfly suite negril jamaica

    Hovering over the Caribbean Sea on dramatic cliffs, the quiet and quaint Butterfly Suite at The Caves resort is a serene second-level hideaway. Even though it’s an all-inclusive resort (perfect for honeymooners looking to avoid thinking about, well, anything other than each other), you won’t find any over-enthusiastic entertainment staff trying to get you to join in on pool games. But cliff jumping into the ocean is definitely an option (from $560 per night, IslandOutpost.com).

  8. The Erotic Suite at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas

    erotic suite in the palms fantasy tower las vegas nevada

    Christian and Anastasia of Fifty Shades of Grey could have more than a little bit of fun in this totally over-the-top, extremely evocative room (appropriately named The Erotic Suite) in the Palms’s Fantasy Tower—and so would any newlyweds with a healthy, um, imagination. Go ahead and suds up in the unique shower that comes with sexy mood lighting, then take a spin on the room’s round rotating king bed with a mirror overhead (we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried!). Remember: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (from $3,000 per night, Palms.com).

  9. Suite Chaillot at Shangri-la in Paris

    shangri la suite chaillot paris france

    Starting at $25,519 for the night, this suite is a super-splurge—but we just had to show it to you. Amour already seeps out of Paris’s pores, and the elegant 1,175-square-foot one-bedroom Suite Chaillot room—situated in the former mansion of Napoleon Bonaparte’s great-nephew—takes romance to scandalous heights with in-your-face views of the city’s iconic symbol of love, the Eiffel Tower. In what feels like your own Parisian apartment, you can gaze at the monument (and each other) snuggled beneath a cloud-like feather duvet or while sipping champagne on your corner terrace. It sure beats standing in its mile-long lines—so not romantic (Shangri-la.com/paris).

  10. Aviary Cottage at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont

    twin farms aviary cottage barnard vermont

    Set within 300 serene woodsy acres, this all-inclusive resort’s contemporary Aviary Cottage is stylishly outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, a sleek red-leather king bed and an indoor stone hot tub and fireplace (seriously, you could legitimately spend your entire honeymoon here—and we wouldn’t blame you one bit!). Relax after wedding planning (and finally laugh about that crazy thing your cousin did at your reception!) over a glass of vino in summer or a spiked cocoa in winter (all-inclusive rates from $2,475 per person, TwinFarms.com).

Take a European Vacation Without Blowing The Budget

 

European Vacation

Travelers have cited Europe as their most desirable destination for years. The reasons are simple. There are so many countries to visit in such close proximity that you can literally travel from country to country in hours.  Nowhere else in the world do so many cultures converge in such a small area and with such easy travel available. We went to Europe for the first time this year and learned some valuable lessons about how to stay on budget without missing out on the good stuff!

Aside from planning the purchase of the airfare, the cost of lodging, sightseeing and food all come into play in your European vacation.  Once the airfare is taken care of, there are tips for getting around Europe and enjoying all it has to offer, even when your budget is tight.

Simple Digs

For those who love the experience of diving into the culture of a region, a stay at a five-star hotel isn’t going to make it.  Not only are these hotels somewhat removed from the experience, they are very expensive.family hostel

Instead, staying in hostels and campgrounds around Europe will give you the freedom to explore the region fully, and without barriers.  With just a knapsack on your back and a satchel with a bite of food and fresh water, you can take off anytime to visit festivals, find outdoor music events, or stop at the local street vendors to enjoy real homemade food, beverages, or to find a trinket or two.

Hostels are not just for college kids and they’re very family-friendly these days.

Or…Luxury Living for Less

If you are not the type to go backpacking across Europe, you can find affordable motels, hotels, and bed-and-breakfast places.  Do the research first, either online or with a travel agent.  You can often find discounted rooms with groups, or last minute deals.  Don’t forget to look into ‘boarding’ situations.  There are some big, old houses, even castles, that feature rooms for boarders at reasonable rates.

Don’t be afraid to book out-of-the-way accommodations to save money, like cottages, farms, or places in small villages. The travel options in Europe are often very modern, fast, and convenient to many cities and towns.  A couple subway or train stops, and you’ll be right in the center of the city, enjoying the sights. A B&B offers double the warmth and cultural intimacy for half the price of a hotel. You’ll find them in most countries if you know the local word: Husrom is Norwegian for sobe which is Slovenian for Gästezimmer which is German for rooms in a private home.

We rented an apartment in Barcelona that was in a fabulous location, but even better…had a washer and dryer!

Cheap Sightseeing

One of the great things about travelling and exploring Europe is there is so much to see, so much history. Once you get your accommodations settled, you’ll be wanting to see the sights.  Oftentimes, your hotel will offer discounts for admission to the most popular attractions and landmarks.  Map out your destinations and see if you can get a package rate if sightseeing is big on your agenda.

When we first arrived in each of our recent destination cities, we took advantage of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours (we affectionately called them the HOHO”.) Most were the double-decker buses with an open top and all came with earphones that plugged into a recording of a tour guide (available in many different languages.) They really helped us get the lay of the land, see lots of things we would haven otherwise seen, provided inexpensive transportation around the city and allowed us to plan where we wanted to “hop off” and see more. All for about 20 euros or less per person for a 24-hour pass.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour in Paris

From the top of a HOHO bus in Paris

Churches and cathedrals are almost always free to go in and look around. There may be a fee to enter a special section or to climb a bell tower, but Europe’s churches are treasures!  Additionally, museums offer free admission days and are free for visitors who are disabled (bring your placard – it will also typically allow you to bypass long lines and use separate entrances.)  We enjoyed Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame and il Duomo, for example, for free. What an experience!

Each country has something unique to offer, whether it’s the natural beauty, great landscapes, architecture, ocean views, and, of course, the people. Because of this, many things you want to experience will not cost you a thing. Just bring along your camera and enjoy the  experience, just for the cost of a memory card.  Of course, there is no charge to view many attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Arc de Triomphe and the Colosseum from the outside.

When you do pay, something that we took advantage of was that my daughter is 25 years old. In most European countries, especially on the train, those who are 12-25 years old are consider “Youth” and pay a lower fare/fee. Children are even less expensive.

The Off-Season

There’s something to be said for experiencing springtime in Paris and we’re all familiar with the need to travel in summer when the kids are out of school. However, if you’re able to swing off-season traveling — October through April in Europe -you’ll not only get cheaper airfare, but also find more budget rooms, spend less time in lines, and meet more Europeans than tourists. The sights in big cities like London, Paris and Rome are interesting any time of year.

Roman Forum

We traveled in May and found Rome, Paris and Barcelona already bustling and very crowded with tourists. Lines to get into the popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and Sagrada Familia were long. The line to see the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica stretched across the square and down the street.  Bonus piece of advice: get tickets ahead of time for everything you can!

Vatican Museum Entrance

Free Breakfast and Picnic-Style Dinner

Whenever possible, we booked a hotel that included breakfast with the room. This didn’t mean chain hotels or fancy prices. We stayed a small hotels, but still enjoyed a continental breakfast – fruit, pastries, meat, cheese, breads, cookies, juice, coffee.

breakfast buffet

We grabbed an extra apple or orange, a packet or two of cookies and Nutella, and made a ham and cheese sandwich for snack later in the day.  Stock your hotel room with drinks and munchies upon arrival. You can have a picnic meal on the train or in a park. Many grocery stores have wonderful deli sections.  Bakeries and fruit stands are common and small “take away” stands are both yummy and a bargain.

ham and cheese

 

When you make Europe your vacation destination, it doesn’t have to mean bankruptcy is right around the corner.  Whether you want a cozy stay in a country inn, the freedom to explore with just a pack on your back, or all the comforts of a city hotel, with a little planning, you can find the right way to enjoy your European vacation and stay within your budget.

 

 

Too Much Love in Paris? Au Revoir Love Locks!

Love Locks

Locks fastened to a Paris bridge to signify eternal love might not be so eternal after all.

Paris authorities have announced that all the “love locks” fastened to the railing of the Pont des Arts bridge will be removed, citing structural risks to the bridge and public safety, the BCC reports. Part of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the locks last year, and city officials have already tried to prohibit couples from adding more locks. “Love locks” have long been popular with tourists in Paris who want to leave behind a romantic token in the City of Love.

Paris is to remove padlocks symbolically fastened to one of the French capital’s main bridges by couples. In Paris, the craze began in 2008 on the Pont des Arts, which spans the 150 metres between the Tuileries gardens and the Musee d’Orsay. It has since spread to all footbridges across the Seine. Tying a ‘love lock’ on to the Pont des Arts before throwing the key into the River Seine beneath has become a tourist tradition in recent years.

When Olivia and I visited Paris this month, we found lots of visitors enjoying the bridge and still adding their own locks. We were told that locks were already being removed from the outer edges of the bridge in an attempt to draw any new locks to the open space on the sides rather than continuing to pile them up across the bridge – taking the stress off the center of the bridge.  It really is an amazing display of love, but I can see how 45 additional tons added to a 200 year-old bridge could render the structure unsound.

love locks bridge T&O

In fact, part of the bridge collapsed under the weight last year. Therefore, close to a million padlocks are expected to be cut off beginning June 1, 2015 as they now pose a safety risk. The Pont de l’Archeveche, near the Notre Dame cathedral, will also have locks removed from its side. The metal grilles on the side of the Pont des Arts, which date back to 1804, will be replaced by paintings over the summer, before transparent panels are put in place later this year.

On Friday, a statement by the city council said the tradition “has led to two big problems: significant damage to our heritage, and a risk to visitors’ security”. Venice has also struggled to deter tourists from attaching locks to the Rialto bridge, and in New York, amateur locksmiths launched a campaign to remove locks from the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s an unfortunate outcome to a well-intended tradition. I’m glad we were able to see this phenomenon before it’s dismantling and will watch for all the new ways that couples choose to symbolize their “eternal love” in the beautiful city of Paris!

Love Locks Bridge Paris