Chateau hopping & tour shopping

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vauxlevicomte

So you want to head out of Paris for the day and favor the grand architecture of the fairytale chateaus. Here are some tips that can save you time and money.

Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainbleau are practically neighbors and can be visited together in 8 hours with plenty of time to tour the gardens and get some lunch. By train and shuttle it can take hours to get to VLV.  From Paris Gare de l’Est, take the direct train Line P (in the direction of Provins). Get off at the Verneuil l’Etang train station. Direct trains every 60 minutes (travel time 35 minutes). Add to that waiting in line, purchasing tickets and taking the same route back from the Chateau. Inexpensive, headachy.

fontainebleau

Fontainebleau is about 35 miles away from Paris. For $20 you can get there via public transportation. Trains leave from Gare de Lyon station regularly and the train ride is about 41 minutes. The train will be heading to Montargis. When the train arrives at Fontainbleau Avon station there are two options for getting to the chateau. There is a bus that leaves from bus station next door to the train station at the arrival of each train.

Now, I never thought I would recommend a tour because I like getting to places the cheapest way possible. But after researching this 2-castle trip and visiting each chateau website, I arrived at the decision that taking a tour cut out alot of grief (which train, timetables, avoiding lines).

The good news: for about $70 you can visit both via a deluxe air conditioned coach. Includes price of admission (you skip the lines), audio guides (or tour guide depending on $$), no extra walking or worrying.  Leaving Paris at 9:00, you get back around 6:00, just in time for cocktails.

The best companies to book with are Expedia and Viator. Their packages are very similar and one or the other always has a deal. I don’t recommend the ParisVision site…wonky confusing and you pay in euros.  Expedia represents them and you pay in dollars and immediately can printout your voucher, price a little cheaper.

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Then there’s the Vallée de la Loire, one-hour away from Paris.  This tour adds up to a twelve hour day, but taking in 3 chateaus and being delivered to each door (price of admission included) by deluxe bus for around $177 is a real deal! You get to see the beautiful countryside out the window and can choose the audio guide or personal tour guide. Time to wander the grounds is taken into consideration. Again, I found the most economical way to see the chateaus I love the best is reserving through the Expedia site…Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau (they even have one that’s a little pricer that includes wine tasting). Through Viator (a TripAdvisor company), the price for Chambord, Chenonceau and Amboise is $169, tour guide included. Note, you travel by van.

“Leave the driving to us” is now my motto. I like to maximize my vacation time, maybe you do too.

 

 

 

 

What’s going on Paris September 2016

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A rundown of events that are worth seeing:

 

gleyreNEW

Charles Gleyre (1806-1874). The Reformed Romantic Member
from 10 May 2016 to 11 September 2016
1 rue de la Légion d’Honneur – 75007 Paris
Musée d’Orsay – Saint-Germain-des-Prés – 7e Arrondissement

PARISpipe

René Magritte. La Trahison des Images (The Treachery of Images)
Exhibition
from 21 September 2016 to 23 January 2017
Centre Pompidou – Place Georges Pompidou, Paris

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Barbie
Exhibition
from 10 March 2016 to 18 September 2016
Les Arts Décoratifs – Musée des Arts Décoratifs – 107 rue de Rivoli, Paris

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Fête de la gastronomie
Celebration
from 23 September 2016 to 25 September 2016
Paris et Ile-de-France – ., Paris

The Fête de la Gastronomie is all about food and cooking

JardinsOrient

Jardins d’Orient (Gardens of the Orient)
from 19 April 2016 to 25 September 2016
1 rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard – 75005 Paris
Quartier Latin – 5e Arrondissement

boucheron

Edme Bouchardon, De sanguine et de marbre
Exhibition
from 16 September 2016 to 05 December 2016
Musée du Louvre – Musée du Louvre, Paris

 

heritage

European Heritage Days
Exhibition
from 17 September 2016 to 18 September 2016
Tout Paris

Discover or rediscover Parisian museums and monuments over one weekend. Lines can be long, so choose your favorite and arrive early!  Free.

 

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Oscar Wilde, l’impertinent absolu
Exhibition
from 28 September 2016 to 25 January 2017
Petit Palais – Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris – Avenue Winston Churchill, Paris

Homage to one of the most famous Francophile writers in English

 

 

 

The time to go to Paris is NOW

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If you detest standing in line or just being in crowded places your timing to go to Paris has never been better.  Visibly noticeable are the shortened queues at the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay,  Eiffel Tower, bateaux mouches, and special events.

paris2016Eiffel

The regional tourist board head has called it an “industrial disaster” since so much of Paris relies on visitor spending. The Ile-de-France figures for 2016 reflect big drops:

A 46.2% decline in Japanese visitors compared with the same period in 2015
A 35% decline in Russian visitors
A 19.6% decline in Chinese visitors
A 5.7% decline in visitors from the US

After recent major terror attacks in France, Paris is now seen as “less safe”.  So it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons. I myself will take a chance on Paris. Some vacation rental landlords are willing to “talk turkey” and reduce the rent especially if you’re booking within a month’s time frame. Hotels too probably will soon be forced to offer more affordable rates.  A little direct negotiation with the front desk could mean extra savings for you.

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I’m hoping tourists regain their confidence and Paris returns to its superstar status of being one of Europe’s most visited cities.  After all, 14.97 million international visitors adds up to a lot of croissants.

concordeNoWorriesParis

As well as a lot of sold guidebooks:  No Worries Paris, a photographic walking guide.

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Packing for Paris. Fitting in street style.

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WhatToWear2016

No one wants to look like a dweeb, unstylish, unhip, touristy. Just what are they wearing in Paris? What’s trendy? If you do your research on the internet you’ll come up with hundreds of opinions. Pinterest has all sorts of looks to sort through. Fashion houses, magazines, blogs featuring beautiful models in eyecatching yet unpractical ensemble are misleading. There is no ONE answer, it’s all about you and the confidence you have with what suits you. At the end of the day, after walking all over the city, one factor comes to mind:  comfort.  So start with that, just don’t look sloppy.

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A good rule of thumb is to sit in a cafe on a hip street like Rue Montorgueil and watch the passerbys. You’ll end up with load of ideas that you can immediately take to Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marche, Zara, H&M or cool little boutiques in the Marais. The right purse, scarf, shoes all add up to one great “feel good” look just for you.

Some links that will serve you well:

http://dresslikeaparisian.com/what-to-wear-in-paris/

http://www.parisinsidersguide.com/what-to-wear-in-paris.html

http://travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-wear-in-paris-packing-list-and-capsule-wardrobe-ideas/

ParisWhatToWear

http://photoparismode.com/paris-fashion-show/index.php/paris-street-style/2015-printemps-ete-rtw

http://www.whowhatwear.com/staple-pieces-that-were-once-trends/slide23

Confusing?  Understandable. Just start with the basics, go light, come back chic/cool.

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WhatToWearNoWorries

Paris apartments: a few good picks

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Tourists are in luck this year. There are a glut of vacation rentals at attractive prices. We all know the probable reasons.

I recently trolled the scene at HomeAway/V.R.B.O. and other reputable agency sites and have come up with the following recommendations. Note: I don’t accept kickbacks, the listings are strictly my own.

A few tips: 1. Always check out the square footage. 2. Read the reviews. 3. Know if there is an elevator, if not how many steps to the apartment. 4. Street or neighbor noise?  5. Internet a must.  6. Proximity to metro/public transportation/city center. 7. Go to “street view” in Google Maps (see if there is construction going on). 8. Kitchen…stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave?). 9. Bathroom….nice shower?  10. Where’s the bed? Is this really a studio? Foldout?  11. Fall: When does the heat get turned on? 12. Don’t be afraid to ask the landlord questions. 13. All inclusive price?  Refundable deposit…when. 14. Who will be there to give you the keys (fee if your plane is late?)  15. How do they accept payment.  Make it easy. Normally you don’t have to sign contracts, give them your passport number. Book using Visa or PayPal most secure. Bank transfers costly.

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The apartments:

Three from Welcome2France.com, an agency easy to work with offering a nice range of properties:

Champs Elysées – Faubourg Saint Honoré III
http://www.welcome2france.com/?apartments=633&situation=Paris

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Passy – Trocadero I
http://www.welcome2france.com/?apartments=673&situation=Paris

Saint Germain des Pres – Prince
http://www.welcome2france.com/?apartments=584&situation=Paris

Some others I randomly chose that are well priced on HomeAway/V.R.B.O.

Rue De La Roquette  https://www.vrbo.com/285742    Average $97/night

Rue Danielle Casanova – PARIS 1  https://www.vrbo.com/1462482a   Average $126/night, sleeps 4

Apart Galerie Vivienne  https://www.vrbo.com/960784a  Average $129

In upcoming blogs I’ll be showcasing more vacation rentals that I consider bargains.  Here’s hoping you find the perfect “home away from home.” Once you unpack your bags and are settled, start walking…….

NoWorriesParisCover

The No Worries Paris guidebook

 

Goodbye Bill

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Bill Cunningham, one of the original street-style photographers died on Saturday in Manhattan.

I met him in Paris on several occasions. We were both on the same quest….capturing the excitement of Fashion Week. From years of experience, he knew the who’s who, had all the show addresses (many big houses keep theirs secret), had front row seats (sometimes he was content just to photograph the comings and goings), and ALWAYS, come rain or shine, wore his blue signature shirt. He stood a little stooped (who wouldn’t at 87), had crooked teeth, and a smile that crept up to his eyes. If you said “hi”, he didn’t respond because, like most photographers on the job, the shot takes precedence over everything. Dedicated, humble, never pushy, always carefully selecting his subject, he was an original and I will truly miss him.

bcunninghamNoWorriesParis

9 pet friendly Paris hotels

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Let’s face it. We all love our dogs and miss them big time when vacation time rolls around. Long plane rides are prohibitive and most hotels don’t entertain the canine crowd. But there’s good news. Some hotels in Paris are realizing pet lovers are big business and  opening their properties to pampered poodles, discriminating daschunds and reluctantly . . . goofy golden retrievers.  Be sure to heed the weight limits in these listings:

SAINT JAMES PARIS
43 Avenue Bugeaud, 75116

The mansion was originally built by the widow of French prime minister, Adolphe Thiers, to provide a learning centre for some of France’s most talented students. Double rooms from $400.75. Owners charged 30 euros per dog.   http://www.saint-james-paris.com

Pantheon

HÔTEL LES DAMES DU PANTHÉON
19 Place du Panthéon, 75005     www.hotellesdamesdupantheon.com/en/

The fifth and sixth floors have panoramic views over Paris’ rooftops. $140/night. Small dogs under 10kg can stay for £15 a night

FOUR SEASONS George V Paris
31 Avenue George V
Paris 75008

Rooms from $1375/night. One pet under 7 kilos is allowed for no additional fee.

HOTEL DE BUCI
22 Rue Buci
Paris 75006

Rooms start at $230/night. One small pet is allowed for no additional fee. Please note that pets are not allowed in the breakfast area.

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ATEL NOUVEL EIFFEL HOTEL
5 Rue Des Volontaires
Paris 75015

One pet is allowed for a fee of 15 euros per night. Please note that pets are not allowed in the restaurants or bar.  $87

NouvelHotelEiffel

BEST WESTERN EMPIRE ULYSSES , 3 Rue De Montenotte, Paris 75017
Pets are welcome for an additional fee of 5 euros per night. $134

HOTEL LE COMPOSTELLE LE MARAIS
31 Rue Du Roi De Sicile
Paris 75004     http://www.lecompostelle.com/en/

One pet is allowed for no additional fee. Please note that pets are not allowed anywhere in the public areas.  $123

SEVRES SAINT GERMAIN HOTEL, 22 Rue Saint-Placide, 75006 Paris    $139

HÔTEL DUPOND-SMITH
2 rue des Guillemites, 75004

Dogs stay for free, and the hotel can provide bowls and food on request.   $300

Now, go walk the dog. Here is your guide, all walks are free.

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Paris: make your night magical

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A quick fix to tired feet or general walking malaise can be had for a pittance. Bateaux Mouche prowl the Seine in style and if you don’t mind feeling like you’re on a cattle car smooshed together with a lot of other international tourists, get over it and buy a ticket.

Seine_NoWorriesParis

A ‘bateau mouche’ is a term used generically for such tourist boats on the Seine and does translate literally as “fly boats” (“fly” meaning the insect); however, the name comes from the fact that they were originally manufactured in boatyards situated in the Mouche area of Lyon.

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Time your cruise:  Daytime cruises take about 1-1/2 hours.

High season (April to September)
10•15am – 11•00am – 11•30am – 12•15pm
1•00pm – 1•45pm – 2•30pm – 3•00pm
3•30pm – 4•00pm – 4•30pm – 5•00pm
5•30pm – 6•00pm – 6•30pm – 7•00pm

Low season (from October to March)
11•00am* – 12•00 – 1•00pm – 1•45pm
2•30pm* – 3•15pm – 4•00pm – 4•45pm – 5•30pm*
6•15pm – 7•00pm – 7•45pm – 8•30pm* – 9•20pm
Extra departures on weekends from 10:15am
A minimum of 50 passengers is required for the boat to leave the quay

Fares: It’s  best to go directly to their site. Lunch and dinner cruise prices can change. Click here: http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en/tarifs.php  The company has nine general cruise boats and 6 restaurant boats.

Board here: Pont de l’Alma
75008 Paris
Metro: Alma – Marceau

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“Nighttime is probably the right time to be with the one you love” when you’re in Paris. The boats blast the banks with light and all the monuments look pretty sensational. Seasick prone? Not a problem, the super wide hulls are totally stable. Best seat, front row…but of course. Shimmery and golden as they glide the river, this boat ride is a nice time-out. Of course there are other boats that basically cruise the same route, but this one has been on the job since 1949. Experience counts.

Once you’re rested, refreshed and ready to hit the town, get back on track with No Worries Paris, best walking guide for the city of light.

Healthy fix for chilly spring in Paris: lentil soup

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Easy recipe:

3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery stalks plus chopped celery leaves for garnish
1 cup chopped carrots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar, ham or sausages (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

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Transfer 2 cups soup to blender and puree until slightly lumpy – don’t over swirl and make it into babyfood. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar, if desired. For non-vegetarians consider adding some sausage or ham. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with celery or cilantro leaves.

Suggest peppery Bob’s Redmill petite green lentils. buy them here

FYI:

With 25% protein,  the lentil is the vegetable with the highest level of protein other than soybeans.

Provides  antioxidants such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, which bind with and destroy free radicals, reducing oxidative damage to cells.

Have high content of tannins, phytochemicals that prevent cancer growth, making them a good addition to any diet.

Good source of important minerals like iron, magnesium, and zinc. Iron deficiency causes anemia while zinc is one of several nutrients necessary for fending off infections.

Where to get a good  bowl of lentil soup in Paris?

Restaurant Dominique Bouchet
11 rue Treilhard, 8th arr.

Les Papilles 30 RUE GAY LUSSAC
5th arr (not always on the menu) – their delicious cauliflower soup an alternative

 

April showers Paris? duck in here

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AT THE POMPIDOU

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From 6 April to 1 August 2016, the Pompidou Centre presents an exhibition on one of the 20th century’s leading artists: Paul Klee. This retrospective, featuring 250 works by this major figure of modern art, looks at the career of the artist through the prism of irony. Originating in early German Romanticism, this satire and detachment enabled Paul Klee to be creative and paint whilet at the same time denouncing the policies and ideologies of his time.

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The exhibition is organized around seven themes: ‘Les débuts satiriques (Satirical Beginnings)’, ‘Klee et le cubisme (Klee and Cubism)’, ‘Théâtre mécanique (Mechanical Theatre)’, ‘Klee et les constructivismes (Klee and Constructivism)’, ‘Regards en arrière (Looking Back)’, ‘Klee et Picasso (Klee and Picasso)’ and ‘Années de crise (Crisis Years)’.

11am – 9pm. Closed on Tuesday

€14. Reduced rate: €11. Free for children aged under 18.

Metro: Rambuteau (line 11), Hôtel de Ville (lines 1 and 11), Châtelet (lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14)
RER: Châtelet-les Halles (lines A, B and D)
Bus: 29, 38, 47, 75

AT QUAI BRANLY MUSEUM

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PERSONA: Now until November 13, 2016

At a time of major debates on transhumanism and artificial intelligence, the Quai Branly Museum presents an exhibition for understanding the mechanisms by which the cultures of the ancient to the most contemporary, “inject person” in objects.

The shaman who summons the spirits through a statuette taking the features of the gods, the child who has a passion for his security blanket, all those who converse with the pet, mutual friend of everyday life … everywhere, the boundaries between the human and all that surrounds it seem more and more permeable, raising broader questions of cohabitation between man, object, animal and machine.

Musée du quai Branly
37 Quai Branly
75007 Paris 7

Closed on Monday
Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday: 11:00 am-07:00 pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday: 11:00 am-09:00 pm