Showing posts with label paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paris. Show all posts
Thursday, July 13, 2017

58 Tour Eiffel Review

Eiffel Tower restaurants

There are certain restaurants in which you need to manage your expectations. Meaning, don't walk in hoping to be wowed, overwhelmed or stunned. The result, I have found, is a better dining experience overall. Paris's 58 Tour Eiffel, the brasserie-style restaurant, on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower is one of those restaurants.

Why We Decided To Eat At 58 Tour Eiffel

We have never climbed any of the platforms at the Eiffel Tower while in Paris because, candidly, we didn't want to fight the tourists or wait in line. On our most recent trip, spanning November and December 2014, we decided to go for it but still didn't want to do the lines so we opted to eat at one of the restaurants, which also grants you access to the Eiffel Tower. We didn't want to do the over-the-top foodie destination that is Jules Verne (especially with a three-year old) nor did we want to do the buffet. Instead we tried 58 Tour Eiffel, knowing full well it would probably be mediocre food and poor service.

We were right about the food. The service? Not that bad.
Sunday, May 10, 2015

Paris Travel Tips | VIDEO

paris travel tips, paris hotels, paris restaurants, pont alexander bridge

"Paris is always a good idea."

Audrey Hepburn said that memorable line in the movie Sabrina. It's the truth. 

It's the truth. From the heat of summer to the chill of winter, the French capital consistently offers history, culture, diversity, entertainment and plain old fun. We haven't even talked about the food.

Where should I stay? What museums are worth my time? What stores should I visit? What day trips should I plan? Where should I eat? 
Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Best Paris Restaurants Right Now

This blog post has moved over to my new website, 
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Day Trips From Paris: The Champagne Region

How To Visit Champagne From Paris, Visit Champagne Houses, Visit Champagne Vineyards

If you're in Paris and have even the slightest interest in wine, making a day trip to Champagne should be on your list of "Must-Dos". The terrain is gorgeous, the wine and food are magnificent and it's a relatively easy region to access....once you figure out to get there.

The first time we tried to visit Champagne was in June 2013. I consulted a number of my friends who work in the wine industry and represent the likes of Dom Perignon, Moët & Chandon and Ruinart in the states for help. They told me it would be impossible to get into of the Champagne houses for a tasting. Taking that into account, we didn't make any advance reservations. We ended up visiting not one but two houses without any advance reservations on that trip but it cost us. A lot.

On Thanksgiving 2014, we visited Champagne again having learned our lessons: we made tasting reservations in advance for only one house and took the train to get there. It was a much more enjoyable experience and affordable to boot.
Monday, December 8, 2014

5 Observations About Paris

Paris, Eiffel Tower, Carousel on the Place du Trocadéro
Christmas carousel on the Place du Trocadéro next to the Eiffel  Tower

We're back from 10-plus days in Paris and are already planning a trip for 2015. Friends ask "Why do you continue to go back to a place you have visited so many times?"

Many reasons, really. In a foreign country, no matter what it is, you will always find something new to love and appreciate no matter how many times you visit. We enjoy revisiting favorite experiences like people watching at the George V hotel or visiting the Christmas markets. But we also enjoy discovering new places, like we did on our visit to Château de Fountainebleu.

Regardless, there are some things I distinctly noticed on this trip. Here are my most recent observations. Please tell me what you think in the comments section.

Better Kids Meals

We took our daughter, Jordan, with us for the third straight year. This was the first time she was able to eat pretty much what we did. At many restaurants, there are kid's menus but they're nothing like we have in the States. There isn't a chicken finger or mini pizza to be found. Most kid's menus consist of a steak or hamburger patty and potatoes, guinea fowl (offered everywhere), fish and vegetables or sausage and potatoes.

Kids meals in Paris, Restaurant Astier, French Kids Eat Everything
Jordan eating her steak and potatoes at Restaurant Astier

Jordan, who is going through the fussy eater phase, usually ate the steak and potatoes after filling up on a ton of bread. Interestingly, by the end of the trip she was much more interested in trying what we were eating. I had an epic seafood tower at Bar a Huitres on our last night. She wanted to try my clams as well as my husband's fish soup. I guess there is something to be said about French kids eating everything (I love the book, btw).

It's Not All Three-Course Gourmet Lunches And Wine

Don't be fooled that every French meal is a three course feast with wine. Parisians will eat a grab and go meal faster than you can break a baguette. Because of that, I think there's a real need for more fast-casual spots in Paris.
Fast casual dining Paris
The checkout line at the Monop'

On multiple occasions when I tried to grab a quick lunch while walking the city, I ran into lines 20-30 people deep. At the popular fast-casual London export Pret-A-Manger, there were at least 50 people in line to buy a quick sandwich or soup. At the Monop', something akin to an upscale grocery store, the lunch line was at least 25 people deep.

Tex-Mex in France, Tex-Mex in Paris, Tex-Mex, Old el Paso
This was at our local grocery store.

Other things I saw: diet food and the French version of DIY Mexican food, Old El Paso. I swear I could make a fortune opening up a Tex-Mex joint in Paris.

French Formality is NOT Rudeness

I have blogged about this before but the French get a bad rap for being rude. They are polite and expect more of the same. In the half a dozen times I have been there, on trips of 10 days or more, I have only encountered one rude waiter. One. That's it. For the most part, everyone has been cordial, warm and downright fun. Flirtatious, even.

RELATED: My Paris Travel Tips Video

A simple 'bonjour', 'au revoir', 'merci' and 's'il vous plait' go a long way. Take it a step further and practice your high school French. You will be rewarded with an impromptu French lesson and perhaps a new friend. Every time I spoke (really bad) French, it was appreciated and complimented.

They want politeness, manners and....

Dressing Up Still Counts

Despite how much more casual we seem to be getting as a society, people still dress well in Paris. Tennis shoes are a dead tourist giveaway. I wore Cole Haan and Alexander Wang booties with black denim jeans all over the city and felt fine.

I had an in-depth conversation about this with an Air France flight attendant. Her point was clear: their city is beautiful. They are a formal country and expect our appearance to reflect that. That is just one woman's opinion but her point is well-taken.

Interestingly, I didn't see a lot of makeup. I noticed more women sporting a natural face, not the done-up face I usually wear and see in Texas.

RELATED: 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant Review

Et Finalement, Everyone Smokes.

Yep, they still do. I saw a few e-cigarettes. They might be slowly catching on but the classic Marlborough Light still rules. 

What Do You Think?

Despite what any cynic says, Paris is still one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Being there is an inspiration. While the country is overwrought with exorbitant taxes and bureaucratic red tape, it's a magical place.

Christmas in Paris
Le Village Royal, Paris
What do you think? Am I totally off or spot-on? What have you noticed in your travels abroad? Please share in the comments section!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Great Paris Restaurants You Need To Try

This story has moved to
Monday, September 29, 2014

Paris Travel Trips Or How To Meet The Man Of Your Dreams In France

arc de triomphe, paris
Arc de Triomphe
I was standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe on one of those magical Paris November days: cool but not bone-chillingly cold. While crouched on the ground and angling for the perfect shot of the famous monument, I heard a man say "Pardon, madame."

"Oui, monseiur" I said, standing up to fix my eyes on one of the most beautiful human beings I'd ever seen. I'm talking Michael Hutchence at Wembley Stadium hot.

"Would you take my picture?" he asked, obviously noting I was some random tourist.

"Pas problem," I responded, trying to impress this Frenchman with my high school English and wishing this experience was happening to me about five years ago.

I snapped the shot. He asked for my phone number while I was in Paris, jolting me back to reality. That jolt was apparent.

"You are here on holiday?" he asked with a sly smile. "Or with the airlines?" he said assuming I was a flight attendant. This wasn't Mr. Michael Hutchence look-a-like's first rodeo.

"Um, actually," I stammered and looked my left. "I'm here with my husband and daughter", pointing to Jim and Jordan.

"Quelle tragédie," he said.

Yes, it was. On my fifth trip to Paris, my first with my family, I finally had the stereotypical "flirt with a Frenchman" experience. Oh, what could have been.

On The Bright Side
Thing is, it wasn't a tragedy. It was further proof of the city's allure. In Paris, you never know where the day will take you or who you will meet. The struggle of getting there, dealing with potential language barriers and the dollar's weakness in relation to the euro are ALWAYS forgotten when met with the beauty of a city that inspires romance and a sense of adventure.

paris with a baby, paris with a toddler, paris with kids
At the Parc du Forum des Halles, November 2012
I have visited Paris and met neighbors from Dallas, oil barons from Dubai, new friends from Portugal and moguls from Austin. The city is one that breaks down those walls that we construct around us going through our daily existence.

Then there was the Michael Hutchence look-a-like. Damn....

Why Bring This Up Now? 
The husb, the kid and I are heading back to the City of Light this November (a great time to go). It will be the third straight year we've made the trip with Jordan.

It's gotten to the point where I am constantly asked about my favorite Paris stops. Those who take my recommendations are rarely disappointed.

paris with kids, paris with toddler
Paris with Jordan & a new friend at the Trocadero, 2012
I believe that traveling well is a sport. In the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite Parisian adventures with you. From where to eat and sleep to secret shops and brocantes, I'll be spilling all my Parisian beans. Pardon, haricots. I'll even tell you how to get to Normandy and Champagne, the latter being a monumentally more difficult affair than it should be.

Heading To Paris Soon? 
I've written about Paris a ton: Here's how to rent a Paris apartment.  Paris avec bebe. And with a baby again. Looking for a great app to keep up to speed with Paris happenings? Hotel Pavillon des Lettres has you covered. Just search "Paris" on my blog and you'll find a bounty of travel treasures.

Explore Some Favorite Parisian Finds

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How Women are Changing the Travel Game

Love this story in Forbes about the influence women yield when it comes to travel decisions.  

Casa Batllo in Barcelona
"Women are fueling an explosive growth, making 80% of decisions and expected to spend more than $125 billion this year," writes author Cecilia Rodriguez

This reflects the norm in my life and in all the relationships I have had.  I have always been the one longing to get the heck out of dodge.  

Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, England
What's also interesting is that the "average adventure traveler is not 28 and male but 47 and female, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. 

Why is that?  Is it because these women are facing an empty nest and experiencing an "Eat, Pray, Love" epiphany?  Perhaps.  

Whatever the reason, do it.  Travel is one of the few things that costs money but makes you richer.  And don't be afraid to do it alone.  I have done Barcelona, Paris, Israel and many domestic trips solo.  Sure, there are certain safety issues you must consider but the joys of solo travel range from self-discovery to being able to tell some great stories down the road.

Jerusalem's Old City
Travel Tips for the Single Gal on the Go
Read this for my travel trips for single women

So if you're on the fence about planning that trip this year, don't be.  Do it.  Life is too short not explore this wonderful world and experience the best of it. 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Closer Look at The Parisian Diet

Eat sumptuous food and lose weight? On The Parisian Diet you can do it.

La Duree
Parisian Diet mastermind Dr. Jean Michel-Cohen is a popular French nutrition expert. He released a cookbook Light French Recipes: A Parisian Diet Cookbook here in May.  There are three phases to the diet:
  • The Cafe Phase - a kickstart, lasting 8-10 days which includes plenty of liquids
  • The Bistro Phase - a 2-3 week period in which you consume fiber and protein-rich meals
  • The Gourmet Phase - the longterm phase you maintain until you reach your ideal weight. 
The main tenets of his diet are simple:
  • Quality, not quantity - meaning smaller portions of food.  No supersizing.
  • Savor your food and avoid mindless eating.  A meal is a ritual in which to celebrate, not chow down at your desk.  I have a bad habit of doing this. 
  • Don't deprive - skip a salad if you don't love it!  Instead eat a smaller portion of something you love rather than a large salad you'll hate consuming. 
It's somewhat along the lines of Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat.

I tend to lose weight when I visit France (and any other foreign country, for that matter).  But what's interesting when I visit France is that I indulge.  Granted, we usually walk about five or more miles a day but there isn't one bit of restraint.  We eat cheese, drink wine, eat desserts, macarons and sumptuous, multi-course meals.   Here's the thing: the portions are small and the ingredients are fresh.

Here is a typical Parisian vacation diet, in pictures.


I visited Eric Kayser every morning to pick up pastries. 
This was my daily breakfast which is a departure from my normal routine of a green smoothie, oatmeal or toast and peanut butter.  We would get four pastries: one for me, my husband, my daughter and one to share.  Notice how these aren't huge.


Lunch at Ma Cocotte
This was a normal lunch.  We would usually also have salad and dessert....and a few more glasses of wine.

The final meal of the day was either one of two things: a blowout dinner or not much at all.

Dinner at Maxim's

Dessert at Maxim's

Treating my daughter like a queen! 
We celebrated my birthday in 2013 at Maxim's at around 10pm one evening.  Sure it's touristy but it was a wonderful experience.

Crepes, cheese, champagne and fruit for dinner
On other nights, after having a large lunch we would eat a smaller dinner featuring what you see above.  The thing about dinners in Paris is that there is no late night snacking, something I struggle with at home.  Once the kitchen is closed, it's closed.  No more food after dinner.

The ubiquitous bottle of wine
We had wine at almost every meal.  Generally a bottle split between the two of us.

Oreos! Mon dieu!
Don't think the French are perfect.  Look what I found at the grocery store...processed food!

The Takeaway 
The Parisian Diet isn't a new concept.  It's one that most nutrition experts advocate: eat real food, smaller portions of it, be mindful when you eat and enjoy your food.

Whether in Paris or not, that's something most of us can do every day.

What foreign eating principles do you like? I love the Mediterranean approach to eating. Please share your favorite foreign diet concept in the comments section.

Buy the Books Mentioned in this Post:

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Most Fattening Food Around the World

Part of the fun of travel is eating.  I believe that you can learn so much about a foreign culture by simply popping into bar, ordering a local drink and appetizers and chatting up the bartender and patrons next to you.  Those are truly some of my best memories.

Banana Nutella Crepes/image via Wikimedia
Some of those memories are made with some of the world's most fattening foods.  I would live on Nutella and banana crepes if I could.  This is a calorie nightmare though: Two tablespoons of Nutella is 200 calories (110 calories from fat), the crepe itself is fry-cooked batter and usually topped with whipped cream.  At least there's some fruit, right?  I'm going with that.

Paris, 2010
Not a sweet fan?  Try gruyere crepes like the ones I had in Montmartre one night.  I died and went to food heaven.

Other fattening travel foodgasms I've had?  The expected, like a typical breakfast of Churros dunked in jello-thick chocolate in Spain.  The most random?  A cheese-wrapped hot dog (or polser as they're called in Denmark) stuffed in a bun from a street vendor in Copenhagen.  Don't judge.  It was fabulous.

Smarter Travel lists 10 of the most fattening foods around the world.  It's such food porn, it's worth discussing. Breakfast Churros dipped in chocolate and Nutella crepes are both on the list.

Georgian Khachapuri/Image via Wikimedia
How about Khachapuri from Georgia?  It's a bowl of bread stuffed with melted cheese, topped with an egg and a large pat of butter.  It actually looks pretty good.

Aligot/Image via Wikimedia
If you're in France, you MUST try Aligot.  It's a mashed potato dish with butter, cream, garlic and melted cheese whipped together in gorgeous thick dish.  Don't ask about the calories.  Just don't.

Jalebi/Image via Wikimedia
Jalebi - this is a deep-fried dough that is soaked in a sugary syrup.  Eh, not so much.

Deep Fried Mars Bar/Image via Wikimedia
Perhaps the lamest one on the list?  A Deep-Fried Mars Bar from Scotland.  Please....that's just an appetizer at the State Fair of Texas.

Read the complete list here.

What About You?
Share your favorite travel memory in the comments section!

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Brilliant App to Help Plan Your Trip to Paris

The New York Times briefly mentioned this app produced by Le Pavillon des Lettres in Sunday's Travel section.  I was immediately interested.  I know the hotel well and thought it would do a good job with a digital offering.

I had no idea how thorough it would be.  I have paid for Parisian guide apps that aren't nearly as extensive.

The app has the obligatory hotel information and the weather.  Let's be honest, at the end of the day, it's a marketing tool.

It also had timely suggestions for events going on in the city.  This past Sunday it featured Chinese New Year's celebrations.

It offers fun itineraries for Paris with children featuring various shows and parks like Le Jardin d'Acclimation.  Here are my two cents on what to do in Paris with children.

It also suggested a Golden Age itinerary that can have you experiencing Parisian life like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald did in the 1920's.

This isn't necessarily groundbreaking stuff but it's packaged well, offers a quality offline map and features stunning photography.

If anything, it's a great diversion for times when you're craving a trip across the pond.  Which for me right now, is about once a day.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How To Rent A Great Apartment In Paris

How to rent a paris apartment, paris apartment rental
Image via Guest Apartment Servies

Renting an apartment in Paris is a smart if you will be there for an extended period of time or want the flexibility of cooking your own meals and doing laundry. You can usually get more space for a better price than you would pay for a hotel room.

Finding a vacation rental apartment in Paris is not easy. I have stayed in gorgeous ones and ones that are great in photos, awful in person. Here are a few questions you should ask an apartment service before committing to a rental:
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • Do you charge for electricity? 
  • Do you offer maid services? 
  • Do you have air conditioning?  Many don't.  If it's a hot summer, you will suffer.
  • What time can I get into the apartment?
  • What happens if I lose the keys? 
  • Do you have an emergency service if something breaks?
  • Do you allow children?  Some don't.
  • Will you offer an apartment walk thru to show me how to use the unfamiliar Parisian appliances?
  • Will you provide concierge services: help with side trips, reservations, etc?
  • Are the photos online a fair representation of the apartment? (During our November 2014 stay the photos did not accurately represent the apartment. It was awful).
  • When were the photos taken. 
We decided to go the rental route for our 10-day Paris trip in June 2013.  I am an avowed hotel lover.  I love the romance, nostalgia and luxury of a classic hotel.  That luxury doesn't come cheaply, particularly in Paris, so we opted for the space and practicality of an apartment.

I ask friends who had rented apartments in Paris.  They suggested all the usual suspects: VRBO, AirBNB, Homeaway, Haven in Paris, etc.  I consulted Travel and Leisure magazine's awards issue and saw they suggested Guest Apartment Services for Paris apartments.

After much research, wrangling and debate, we decided to go with Guest Apartment Services. I like the gorgeous and hip options Haven in Paris offered but Guest Apartment Services fit our location and pricing needs better.

We settled on their Narcisse apartment, a classic 700-square foot beauty on the Ile St. Louis. A great location, a gorgeous space at about $250, give or take, a night for a 10-day trip.  Done!

Approximately two weeks before our trip, we received an email from Christophe, one of Guest Apartment Services owners, who informed us that there would be renovation work on the building during our stay.  There would be scaffolding surrounding the structure and noise from 8am until 5pm every day.  Not great if you have a baby.

Paris Apartment Rental, guest apartment services review
View of Snowdrops entry and dining room. It REALLY does look like this!/Image via Guest Apartment Services

He offered us an "upgrade" to Snowdrop, a sleek, contemporary 754-square foot unit right across from Notre Dame, located in an apartment building at 19 Quai de Montebello. We hemmed and hawed.  We didn't know the neighborhood as well and, according to the map, it looked to be right on a busy street overlooking the Seine River.  We worried about the noise keeping us awake at night.

We stuck with it because, as I learned, summertime apartments in Paris are a tough get.

So how was it?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why Traveling to Paris with a Baby is Just Like Getting a Full-Frontal Neck Tattoo

"You're doing what!?!?!"

I imagine that's how my boss would respond if I told her I was shaving my head, getting a full frontal neck tattoo and going on TV sporting the new look.

That's also the response both friends and strangers give me when I tell them my husband and I are taking our 20-month old daughter to Paris on Sunday.  It's actually the second time we have taken her across the pond.  While it's a challenge, the joy of spending time with her far outweighs the stress of the plane ride and unexpected "surprises" we might encounter along the way.

Jordan on the carousel at the Trocadero
There are a few reasons she's going with us:
  • I rarely get to spend time with her so when I am not working, caring for her is fun and actually feels like a holiday. 
  • A cute bébé is a wonderful conversation starter.  Last time we were there Jordan charmed the gruffest Parisians, which is a bit of an unfair stereotype.  (More on that here)
  • She travels for free in our lap until she's two.  Okay, she only travels free domestically, we pay taxes on international travel, but it's still a pretty good deal.  We're taking advantage of this as long as we can. 
All that aside, having THE screaming baby on a plane can be an arse-whip of epic proportions.  Her first flight was to Cabo San Lucas which she handled like a champ.  She's also done LA twice and New Orleans.  Here are a few tips to handle travel with a little one.   

We place a premium on sleep above all else.  Jordan was sleeping through the night at six weeks old and hasn't wavered from that.  A well-rested baby produces a happy baby and sane parents.

Jordan asleep on the plane

When traveling to a different time zone, we start adjusting her sleep schedule about a week prior.  For example, when Jordan went to LA, we started keeping her up about 30 minutes later each night a week out until she was on the Pacific time zone.  Ultimately, two days before we left for LA, she was going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 10am.  This was a tough adjustment for us but saved us during the trip.  Coming back to Dallas, she had an easier time falling asleep at her normal 8pm. 

As we prepare for Paris, which is currently seven hours ahead of us, she is going to sleep earlier.  This week, we have been putting her down between 6:30-8pm.   This is a little more difficult as the sun is still setting but the process of "winding down" earlier is effective.

On the Plane
No real secrets here: plenty of diapers, a change of clothes and a good attitude.  She has been a good flyer in the past but I know she's going to cry.  She is done using a pacifier but we are debating bringing it for the airplane ride.   We will also bring an iPad loaded with plenty of games, Dora the Explorer and Bubble Guppies episodes.  

We also have this little survival kit that includes meals for the plane and lavender oil which we will rub on her feet to help her sleep.

Once There
A good stroller is key.  We like the Joovy Groove Umbrella stroller because it's mobile and easily collapsible.  It's also one in which she can nap when we recline it.  This is huge.  We found out while we were out exploring the city, she would take her naps in the stroller.  We would simply put a rain cover over it and she was good to catch a few ZZZZ's. 

Jordan napping in her stroller at the Louvre
While Jordan pretty much eats when we eat, we were flexible with her meals.  We dreamed of lavish lunches and dinners in bistros and brasseries but we usually ended up eating lunch in the park which was fine.  It was just easier.  Having picnics turned out to be fun and a change from our typical routine. 

Picnic in the park
Most restaurants didn't even high chairs but, again, patience and a smile went a long way.  If she went crazy during a meal, we took her out of the establishment and tried to calm her down.  She's a bit more cantankerous now, so undoubtedly, this will be a test. 

Charming the owner of L'Epigramme on the Left Bank
The Takeaway
It won't be perfect and there will be meltdowns.   Mentally preparing for that is half the battle.
Breaking the perfume bottle!
There is no real formula for success for the unpredictable adventure of traveling with a little one.  Part of the joy is changing diapers in the park, breaking a perfume bottle at Hermes, making new friends at a playground and charming the elderly French nounou who has seen it all.  All things we did, btw.

Making friends at the park
Preparation, flexibility and a good attitude WILL help you and the family enjoy the trip and come away from it with memories that will last a lifetime.