Top 10 Culinary Finds in Paris

Traveling with a rather picky 12 year old doesn’t really lead itself to a culinary adventure, but we did have a few of my Parisian favorites and a few standbys to get me through!

20190119_111510

10. At the airport upon our arrival, the child was starving! With a classic mixte brioche sandwich with ham and cheese and an eclair, we were ready to tackle the train to Paris!

20190121_123412

9. Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!!

20190121_103612

8. Speaking of Disneyland Paris…did you know they serve MEAT IN A CONE as a snack?

20190119_191250

7. Gelato. Need I say more?

20190121_142143

6. Coffee? Tea? Nope. Vin Chaud, or hot mulled wine. Only in Paris, people!!!

20190119_181618

5. Dinner our first night. While Charlotte enjoyed a hamburger (ugh!) I marveled at burgundy braised beef with shallots, button mushrooms, whipped potatoes and FOIS GRAS that absolutely MELTED in my mouth!!! I’m hungry now!!!

20190120_135118

4. Lunch for day 2 – a Hawaiian Poke Bowl! Confession – I do not even LIKE some of the things in this bowl – the avocado and mangoes in particular BUT…sitting outside in a Parisian cafe inspired me to try new things! It was delightful! I did NOT, however, eat the cilantro. I think it tastes like soap and you cannot tell me otherwise!! hahahaha

20190120_134750

3. Well, I am not generally a wine drinker but I was in PARIS!!! A glass of wine was a requirement. And they don’t have wine types that Americans are generally familiar with – no Chablis, Chardonnay and pino grigios on every menu. I cannot tell you what this one was named…but it was lovely!

20190122_190539

2. The Macaron. NOT a macaroon!!! The macaroon is made from coconut and generally does not have a filling. The French MACARON is wonderfulness in your mouth. A delicate dance of almond flour cookie shell and buttercream or ganache filling. Traditional French flavors include lavender, rose, pistachio, lemon and chocolate. If you haven’t ever tried this bit of magic in your mouth, check out La Maison Navarre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You will be delighted with authentic French cooking, macarons, crepes and the most amazing French Onion Soup on the entire planet!!!

20190121_212038

1. Last but certainly NOT least – my absolute favorite, most amazing French culinary staple….the crepe! And my crepe of choice is nutella and banana!! Every day/night of our visit involved at least one crepe! Our go-to crepe stand was just around the corner and was a part of an Gyro shop! The guys there were fantastic and I endeared them immediately with my elementary Arabic skills – we were fast friends and they were happy to see us daily!

20190123_120349

Our last crepe of the trip!!!! It was kind or our lunch that day!

 

I hope you enjoyed this picture journey of our culinary experience in Paris.  We weren’t fancy, but really enjoyed each meal we took together and really, isn’t that the point?

Tips for Traveling to Paris, Part 2

Did you read Part 1?  These are some basic tips for traveling to Paris – but really, when you plan to travel anywhere!!!

  1. Decide on a basic plan of touring and prepare. We bought our tickets ahead of time to save waiting in long queues.  During the winter months, this isn’t as important, but there still were lines for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.  We didn’t have to wait in those – we just walked right in!!!!  Also, figure out how you are getting from the airport to your destination.  Explore mass transit options – they are usually VERY user friendly, as the whole continent of Europe is accessible by train and many people use them.  Trains tend to be less expensive and an adventure all on their own.  Also, we have downloaded on to our phones city maps from Google Maps that can be accessed even if we are off line.  These have been fabulous for Paris and Italy for both driving directions and walking city streets!  I highly recommend doing this as you prepare for a trip!

20190119_172000

 

  1. Don’t be afraid of the unknown – life is full of them – they make the ride more interesting! You hear about pickpockets in airports and train stations and tourist sites.  There are pickpockets in the US, too.  Just be aware or your surroundings.  Hold your important things close and pay attention.  For Paris, I had a little pouch I carried around my neck under my jacket that had my Euros, copies of our passports, keys to the apartment and my ID/credit cards.  For Italy, we had cross body purses that had IFR protection for credit cards and anti-theft straps so they couldn’t be cut.  Also – be sensible.  Don’t venture off the beaten path and if you are worried walking at night, get a cab.  Don’t be sacred!  Live life!!!
20190119_191509

This is the wonderful street action just around the corner from our AirBnB!

 

  1. Be flexible – I am a planner, but even the best laid plans can take a sharp right turn! Learn to roll with it! I have found that the greatest character building, memory making experiences have come out of adversity.  On this trip, we faced with some unexpected closings, some inclement weather (although I loved the snow) and pockets of protesters.  We had Plan Bs available when necessary and turned any lemons into lemonade – and hopefully Charlotte learned that there can always be a positive outcome if you look at a situation the right way.
20190122_114144

What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

 

  1. Off seasons – I had some amazing deals come up this past summer for European travel this winter. People were afraid to jump on board because it was going to be cold weather.  They really missed out!  Winter in Europe is generally milder (is was 35 degrees here to the 3 degrees at home while I was gone) and the crowds are way thinner.  What does that mean?  Fewer queues, better prices and more opportunities to experience something different.  Don’t be afraid of the off season – it makes travel affordable for many!
20190120_124403

I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

 

  1. Learn some French – or whatever language is spoken where you are visiting.  I learned some French in high school and have since been using it here and there when I have the chance.  To prepare for this trip, I have been listening to French lessons on my phone via Audible (an app) from a company called Pimsleur.  I used them to learn some Italian before my trip to Italy.  Want to know why some Americans think the French don’t like them?  Because we travel to places like Paris and don’t even attempt to speak the language.  We try to engage everyone in our loud American voices and think if we speak English louder the French will understand.  Guess what?  Most of them speak a little English – if you at least attempt some niceties and smile, it will go a long way!  Learn how to greet people and say, “thank you”, “please”, “where is the……”, “I would like……” and “goodbye”.  Your experience will be must better!!!

These tips can be used in most new situations.  I hope you find them helpful and maybe a bit entertaining!!!

Tips for Traveling to Paris – Part 1

 

I have to admit that six years ago when I made my first trip to Europe, I came to Paris reluctantly.  I had heard it wasn’t friendly for Americans and I just wasn’t excited to visit.  I couldn’t have been more WRONG!  Here are some tips for traveling to Paris – but I think the info applies to any trip you take!

  1. Plan, plan, plan! Being a Travel Professional, I have access to thousands of great opportunities out there to get YOU to the destinations you want to visit!  In fact, I have had a couple of clients take advantage of great deals through one of my favorite vendors for 6 nights in Italy or Paris/Barcelona.  Hotel, round trip airfare and breakfast included for the bargain deal of approximately $800 per person.  YES – you read that right!  Want to know the catch?  It’s winter travel.  Guess what?  It’s winter at home….but the Notre Dame won’t come visit you!

20190122_105248

 

9.  If you do your own planning, search everywhere and start early – our flights on Norwegian Air cost us a TOTAL for direct, round trip flights between Boston to Charles de Gaulle, $670 TOTAL for both of us!!!! That included us paying for a bag to go under the plane!  It’s not a scam.  Pack a backpack and go for it!!!

8.   Pack light – Packing is always a challenge.  I actually start packing a month ahead of time by slowly collecting things in my bedroom that I don’t want to forget.  They start a hill of random items on my window seat and I slowly weed out the things I really don’t “need” and keep the things I can’t live without.

7.  Packing for Paris – For this trip, since we were traveling on a low-cost airline (Norwegian Air), we had to be overly aware of our luggage. With the lowest fare, we each got a carry on (like a backpack or small rolling suitcase) and a personal item (like a small purse) – both items not to exceed 10 kilograms (22 pounds).  I brought 3 pairs of leggings, 3 tunics, something to sleep in and my unmentionables plus the clothes on my back.  One of the tickets we purchased was the slightly upgraded fare and for that we got a piece of luggage to stow under the plane.  Low cost airlines are FABULOUS – but read the fine print!  Seriously!!!

20190123_095907

 

6.  Where to stay? If you don’t know, ask a professional (ME) or someone who has been – Paris is HUGE!  And there are definitely better places to stay than others.  Our AirBnB was in Saint Germain-du-Pres – an awesome location with a lot of street life and close to EVERYTHING!  Our AirBnB was around $150 per night (others were less expensive but we loved the location and wanted a place with its own washer and dryer).  There was a gorgeous hotel right across the street for about $150 per night if staying in someone’s apartment isn’t your style.  You can find deals, too – like getting a package price from a Travel Professional (ME).  Just ask!  I’ll give it to you straight!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Up next, Part 2!  Don’t go too far!

Lights and Sights of Paris in Winter – our trip in a nutshell!

Paris is known as the City of Lights – and Paris did not disappoint!  With a glittering Eiffel Tower and some Christmas decorations still on display, we enjoyed the beautiful twinkle that Paris had to offer.  We also enjoyed a LOT of sight seeing in a short amount of time.

We visited the Louvre (bought tickets ahead of time on line and printed them out) on our arrival day to help us get through the jet-lag.  We have always flown overnight to Europe so arriving around mid morning and staying awake until bedtime has been great advice for concurring jet-lag!  We visited the Louvre in the late afternoon – around 3:30pm and this was a great time to visit – the crowds were thinner and we didn’t feel rushed anywhere.  Of course, we saw the Mona Lisa and roamed around aimlessly for about 2+ hours before we got board and headed out.  I’m just not a museum person but you can’t go to Paris and NOT go to the Louvre!

The next morning, we walked to a rendezvous point to meet up with a great guide named Peter.  We took a 2.5 hour bike tour of Paris with another couple and had a fantastic time!  It was a Sunday so many cars were off the road and we felt safe enjoying the morning seeing some pretty cool places.  We popped into the Marais – a trendy and chic neighborhood on the right bank of Seine.  We rode through the plaza of Notre Dame and learned some history there.  We rode to and through the courtyards at the Louvre.  We rode to the Place de la Concord and saw the glitz and glamour of the set up for Fashion Week!  We rode over to the Eiffel Tower and our guide shared some great tips about the city, the history, and what Parisians do!

Monday we went to Disneyland Paris – I already wrote about it so all I will say is that we planned ahead, got our tickets on-line the week before the trip, knew where we were getting the train in Paris to take us directly to DLP.  It was a super fun day and I am glad we took the trip!

Tuesday – our last full day – we scooted around the city on electric scooters for much of the day!!!  It was snowing so the city was magical!  We scooted to Notre Dame, fed some birds and walked into the cathedral.  We wanted to go up into the towers but they were closed because of the snow.  We picked up the scooters again and took them to the Eiffel Tower to check out the snow!  We took some pictures, then scooted all the way back over to the Jardin des Plantes where we visited the small zoo they have there!  It was pretty fun and we saw some beautiful creatures enjoying the snow!  After a bit of a rest in our apartment, we walked to the Latin Quarter (about 8 minutes away from us) and walked through Saint Severin church (one of my favorites for it’s Gothic style) and finished up some shopping in the narrows of the Latin Quarter.

Wednesday, we woke up late, packed up and headed out to Notre Dame one last time for some bird feeding!  We scooted back to the apartment, had our last crepe, finished packing and hoofed it to the train for the airport!

We had a fantastic quick trip and SO worth every single minute and penny spent!!!!  We made memories we will never forget!!!  Check out some of our funny selfies and be sure to keep and eye out for my Hints for Traveling to Paris!

20190123_120349

Our last crepe! Nutella and banana, of course!

20190120_100213

I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!!

20190119_122401

Our first selfie in Paris!

20190121_123412

Well, who doesn’t eat hot dogs at Disneyland Paris?

20190119_122401

The arrival!!!!

20190120_123544

Eiffel Tower!!!!

20190121_115935

Sleeping Beauty Castle was so pretty!!!!

20190121_144241

From the other side!!!

Top 10 Favorite Pictures from Paris

Many of you followed my fantastic mother/daughter adventure to Paris this January.  You can catch up on the highlights in my Travel Diaries, but I wanted to take a minute and post my favorite pictures from the trip.

I love so many things about travel, and one of them is making memories that turn into the stories of our lives.  Being able to share this special time with my daughter was precious in so many ways and I hope she will look back on it with as much fondness as I know I will!

20190119_122401

Our first selfie in Paris!

20190119_152918

I love Char’s look – so adorable!

20190120_100213

I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!!

20190120_124403

I love this one with the Eiffel Tower in the background!

20190122_114144

What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!

20190122_125423

The Eiffel Tower was closed due to the weather, but we scooted all the way there to take in the rare sight!

20190123_120349

Our last crepe! Nutella and banana, of course!

img_20190121_190152_404

What a beauty!

20190121_151840

Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!!

20190119_191234

The first gelato of the trip! Kinda like the first gift of Christmas!

 

AirBnBs…my thoughts!

Being a travel agent, I often get asked to book AirBnBs.  I can’t do this for you, and some travel agents might steer you away from AirBnBs because they can’t make any money off of it, but I won’t do that.  It seems hypocritical.  There are definitely times when AirBnBs just don’t work for me – when we went to Quebec, a hotel was better – it was cheaper and more convenient!  When we go to Disney, we stay ON Disney property.  We’re going to Vegas in April and we are saying on the strip!  But if the opportunity arises that an AirBnb works best, I will jump on it!

For our trip to Paris, an AirBnB was perfect!  It was affordable, it allowed us to stay closer to the action (we are staying in the Latin Quarter just a few blocks away from Notre Dame and across the Seine from the Louvre), it allows us to make some meals at home and one of the best features…we pick AirBnBs that have a washing machine – so we can pack lighter!  An important feature when you are traveling during the winter months!

Our host, Marjolaine, was super responsive to questions, very helpful with tips, and set us up perfectly with directions and anything we needed!  Her father, Carlos and his wife, Jacy, met us at the apartment and explained everything we needed to know.  Carlos made me a coffee while he explained the ins and outs of the apartment, gave us personal recommendations for places to eat and see and generally made us feel welcome, safe and cared for.  I have their phone number and can reach out with any needs if one arises and we feel very at home here!

Here are some pictures of our AirBnB.  In case you love it and want to stay here, this is the link to check it out!  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4147207?guests=1&adults=1

20190119_132930

This compact AirBnB is perfect for 2 or 3 people! Check out that drawing loft above the kitchen!

20190119_132828

The view from the front door. Living room straight ahead, bedroom on the left and bathroom on the right.

20190119_133021

The beautiful windows looking out over a courtyard and the city rooftops!

20190119_132937

The ADORABLE bedroom!

20190119_132957

Rooftops GALORE! We are on the 7th floor – there is an elevator that gets us to the 5th floor and we walk the rest of the way!

20190119_141513

Char, two windows down!

20190119_141537

From our windows, you can see the top of the Eiffel Tower!!!! A lovely surprise!

We have had great luck so far in our AirBnB experiences – we have stayed in half a dozen at least in France, Italy and the UK and have enjoyed each experience!  If you have any questions about a stay at an AirBnB, let me know.

Paris Diaries….The Arrival

 

Friday night, my daughter and I embarked on a fantastic journey!  Since September, we have been planning a little mother-daughter adventure to Paris!  My family visited Paris six years ago and for about the past two years, my daughter has been asking to go back.  I found some fabulous airfares on Norwegian Air, booked us an AirBnB and here we go!  Paris or Bust!!

We will only have four nights in Paris, so we are jamming it full of activities, sightseeing and food!!!  Our plans included the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, climbing the towers of Notre Dame, a bike tour of Paris, visiting Jardin des Plantes, Disneyland Paris, walking around the Latin Quarter and making our way to Montmartre.  All tickets have been purchased ahead of time to avoid any queues and even though it’s winter – it’s winter in Maine where I live, so the 40 degree days of Paris in January will be like a heat wave!!!  Oh and I have been brushing up on my French!

Here is a picture diary of our first day – well, half a day since we arrived in Paris at the airport around 10am and made it to the city via train around noonish…..

20190119_122401

The arrival!!!!

20190119_152918

Char with the famous Louvre glass pyramid!

20190119_153243

This is the art hanging in the pyramid right now – it is a “throne” that was created by artificial intelligence. The message is that we need to be wary of AI – foretelling of a time when AI will take over the world hence, the throne.

20190119_160621

Mona Lisa! Look at that smile!

20190119_163442

A mosaic floor – part of the Islamic Art display at the Louvre! Talk about impressive – this example was HUGE!

20190119_173446

A shot of the towers of Notre Dame from Ponte du Carrousel.

20190119_191250

A rose shaped gelato for my princess!

20190119_191509

This is the wonderful street action just around the corner from our AirBnB!

20190119_122340

We pop out of the metro and the phone comes out!!!

Quebec – Day 3

This was our final day in Quebec and on our big adventure north.  We decided to stay in the city this day (Friday) and really enjoyed the festive feel of freshly fallen snow and had a wonderful time out and about all day!

We all slept in and got our start after a nice breakfast at our hotel.  We stayed at the Hotel Royal William – this is outside the old city and maybe a 15 minute walk (uphill) to the walled city, but for the fabulous cost for  two rooms for three nights, we couldn’t pass it up!  The rooms were spacious, well kept and the included breakfast was adequate (cereal, pastries, yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit and cheese, coffee, tea and juice).  I would absolutely stay there again with pleasure and we enjoyed the walking each day.  Anyway – at the end of the day, it’s all downhill!

So, the snow – I mean, could it have been more gorgeous?  Maybe if it would have been a tad warmer, but if you’re embracing winter, you WANT a winter wonderland and we got one!!

20181228_094129

On our way to the old city – our hotel, the Hotel Royal William, was two blocks behind us and to the left!

20181228_095844

One of the old city gates. Did you know that Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico City? Pretty cool place for this history buff to visit! It was seriously like visiting France in my back yard!!!

20181228_101218

That’s the Chateau Frontenac far in the background!

We strolled to the city and stopped at all the shops – my daughter loved poking around shops and her money always burns a hole in her pocket!  We got some trinkets and moseyed up to Chateau Frontenac to toboggan again, then found our way to Chez Ashton – a chain of fast food restaurants that specializes in poutine.  Thanks Marie-Andree, for the recommendation!  We enjoyed the Quebec must-eat then scooted on our way again!

20181228_120806

Traditional poutine at Chez Ashton.

20181228_110436

Lined up for the toboggan ride!

The afternoon saw more walking around and touring, including Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec.  We hit the lower city again, rode the Funicular UP (we got smarter as our visit went on) and HAD to toboggan one more time – and by this time, it was freezing rain so the operators had to spread salt and sand at the bottom of the run because people were sledding OVER the barrier!

IMG_20181228_175354_179

The Lower City was bustling! We had a great time exploring this unique, European feeling Petit-Champlain section of Quebec

IMG_20181228_175206_802

I took this on the way UP the funicular – it reminds me of a Thomas Kincade painting.

IMG_20181228_174716_853

A good icing on top of the cake!

Before we left the Lower City, we HAD to try this classic Quebec maple masterpiece.  It was SO good!  Check this out!

My friend, Marie-Andree – who happens to be from Quebec, asked her dad about some fondue recommendations and we got a great one!  We had some amazing Fondue at La Tyrolienne and were so full we could hardly drive back to our hotel!  Fondue = FUNdue!!!!

20181228_185732

Our appetizer..bread dipped in cheese!

20181228_192751

Everyone got a platter of thinly sliced beef, then there was shrimp and chicken to fondue as well!

20181228_203451

Dessert – chocolate and maple fondue with fruit!

20181228_203604

My favorite – banana dipped in chocolate.

Our three night escape was the best ever!!!  It went by so fast and we all had a great time!  The drive home was long but we reminisced about the great experiences we had – our favorites were the Siberia Station Spa, tubing, the ice hotel, the toboggan ride and fondue!  Thanks for taking this journey with us and we HIGHLY recommend Quebec City for families, couples and friends!  In a few weeks I’ll share our next “experience” trip – hold on to your hats because we are going to Paris!!!

Check out a short video of our second toboggan run!

 

 

Quebec City – Day 2 – Part II

The second half of our day today was spent at Valcartier Resort.  This place is super cool – COLD, in fact…still about 12 degrees – but hey, we said we were embracing winter with this trip and did we ever!!!

This resort is HUGE!  They have a very cool themed hotel lobby/bustling hub with tickets for activities, restaurants, shops and more!  The resort boasts an indoor water park (we did not do this, much to the two 12 year old’s dismay…since we ARE embracing winter, an indoor water park just didn’t seem right!), two dozen tubing runs, an ice skating path THROUGH their ghost town of summer delights (outdoor water park) that you begin right from the central hub building, and Valcartier is the home of Quebec’s own ICE HOTEL, or Hotel de Glace!

OK – so here is the focus of this short story…the ICE HOTEL.  It was open for tours, and drinks, but not yet for guests – that starts on January 4th.  And as fabulous as it might have been to stay there, the hotel is kept at a balmy 13 degrees, so aside from being pretty pricey, I just don’t think it’s my thing!  But, I have never seen anything quite as amazing!  There is a chapel, the main hotel building boasting a gorgeous lobby, grand hall, ice bar WITH ice seating, a discotech and four rooms were on display – more under construction down the hall!

Check this out…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is the link to Valcartier if you want to check it out!  https://www.valcartier.com/en/  On tap for tomorrow….well, it will be snowing in Quebec City, so get ready for some amazing pictures of the old town and lower city!

Quebec – Day 2 – Part 1…The Siberia Station Spa

OK.  Raise your hand if you remember that Warrant song, “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away”?  Well, today I think I found it.  This morning, we visited the Siberia Station Spa for their morning “family hours” (special hours from 9am-noon during holiday break to include families) and I am pretty sure I found winter heaven on earth!

I am not going to waste a lot of words here because in this case, a picture speaks a thousand words and I have a lot of pictures!  Let me just briefly explain the Siberia Spa concept and then include a few of my observations, then let the pictures tell the story!

The Siberia Station Spa is modeled after Scandinavian spas – the magic takes place in three acts; hot, cold, relax.  It’s THAT simple – go somewhere hot, partake in something cold, then find a place to relax….then REPEAT!

The hot option……there were plentiful options for everyone – hot tubs, infrared saunas, traditional saunas and a eucalyptus infused steam room (OH MY GOODNESS!!!)

Cold….well, since today was about 11 degrees, the COLD portion of this adventure could simply be walking from a hot spot to a relaxation spot, but I am proud to say all my people took full advantage of the ice cold plunge pools more than once and benefited greatly from them.  They were AWESOME!!!  There were a number of ice cold pools in the vicinity of each hot offering and from time to time, you can even dip in the gorgeous babbling brook that abuts the spa (this was closed today).

Relaxation – the options were fabulous.  There were a number of yurts – all with swinging chairs and warmth – one had windows facing towards the river and my favorite was toasty warm with a huge wood burning fireplace in the middle!  Other relaxation offerings were a beautiful windowed-in pergola and a dream zone – a huge barrel dug into the hillside (Hobbit-like) with cushioned bench seats and relaxing music.

Some important details…..the Spa is about 15 minutes from the old town of Quebec City.  We paid $27 Canadian dollars each for this special family time.  Typically, children are not allowed and with good reason – the whole point of this place is to relax!  I have kids – and they are not relaxing!  Bathing suits are MANDATORY as are footwear – think flip flops.  You may bring your own robes and in this weather, I highly recommend it!  You may also rent them for $7 Canadian.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I cannot rave enough about how amazing this place was!!!  I cannot wait to come back here with just my hubby, a book and more time!   We are scheming ways we can make one of these places at our house!!  hahahahaha

Here is the website if you want to check it out on your own – http://siberiastationspa.com/home/