A different kind of Spring break

 

garden

Have you been in this city for longer than a week? Do you need to escape it? Paris offers a host of attractions, but if you are staying long term, you might be interested in what lies further afield. If you go to the world famous Musee D’orsay, you’ll get a chance to see some of the best impressionist artists in history. Perhaps the most famous of whom is Monet. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at a painting of Monet and think, hum, that’s just an hour out of Paris?

 

For many tourists who are here for a week or 10 days, the surrounding areas are normally limited to the Palace at Versailles and its beautiful gardens or a trip with the family to Disneyland (Florida’s little cousin). But there is a lot more to do than just those things. Giverny is a perfect mix of culture and nature. Ok, so it probably will not be at the top of everyone’s list of things to do, but it’s definitely worth it.

 

Despite having beautiful parks, the city can be a bit overwhelming at times. The tourist destinations can be crowded and stuffy, especially during the Summer. The small town of Giverny is only 75km ( roughly one hour by driving) north west of Paris. Monet actually lived here and painted most of his famous landscapes (such as Waterlilies Bridge) in his garden. Today, his home has been turned into a museum and you can walk freely around his beautiful and huge garden. It will be difficult to imagine that Paris is on your doorstep.

 

Giverny offers a break from Paris and its easily reached by car or train. In Paris, there are several luxury car rental companies in the city which will help you to travel in style. But if you are going to use public transport (which is excellent by the way), the train is quick, clean and efficient and also more cost effective. The train leaves regularly from Saint-Lazare station (another scene of a famous Monet painting) and takes just over an hour. Many (but not all) of the train services have a first class option if you want to travel with a bit more comfort. Entry tickets to his home and garden cost around 10 euros. But it’s worth noting that it only opens from March to November. Its closed during the winter except for special occasions.

 

The town of Giverny itself offers a delightful insight into rural French life and has a host of interesting and authentic restaurants offering amazing local cuisine. It’s the perfect day trip to get away from it all, explore some nature and escape the sounds of the city for just a couple of hours and see some art that you won’t see on the walls of the musuems in Paris.

 

Parlez – French…….. please?

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If you are like me, you probably really struggle with learning foreign languages and can barely master the English language. As languages go, French isn’t as difficult as say, Chinese or Russian. It’s got more or less the same alphabet and our own language borrows heavily from French. Words like difficult or interesting, are very easy to pick out when reading a French text.

 

If you are planning a short trip to Paris, it’s not really necessary to learn to speak French and despite what you have heard, it is possible to survive in the city for a few days with the basics of Bonjour and Merci. Visitors to the city, who only plan to spend a few days, will generally hang around the typical tourist areas, such as the Champs de Mars, to see the Eiffel Tower. Paris is a global city and the largest city on the continent of Europe. So, if you intend to stay in the popular districts around the famous landmarks, you can expect to encounter a reasonable level of English. Reception at the Lourve, for example, will understand you if you ask for a map, however – “avez-vous une carte” – will go down a treat with the locals. Likewise in restaurants. In the popular places of Quartier Latin, your waiter or waitress will probably understand the menu in English and will be able to help you.

 

However if you are planning to stay a bit longer and go beyond the typical tourist haunts of this great city, then yes, it is a good idea to get some French expressions, questions and answers ready to use. A good example of this, is the metro system. The metro is designed for locals, so if your metro card breaks or you don’t understand the map, don’t expect an English speaking attendant to be ready at every station. The French language dominates everyday life in this city and while the level of English is improving because of tourism, its not reasonable to expect everyone to understand you, particularly older people.

 

If you speak English, make sure it’s slow and with a smile and don’t be afraid to use your hands. If you’re going to try some French expressions, watch your accent. A good tip, is to try and mimic the most sterotypical French accent using English and then just transfer it to French. You might think you sound ridiculous but trust me, you are more likely to be understood. The list below are some phrases we at welcome2france think you will find helpful.

 

Je ne comprends pas. – I don’t understand

Je ne parle pas français – I don’t speak French

Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plait – Could you speak more slowly, please.

Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît. – Could you repeat that please.

S’il vous plaît, je cherche…… – Please, I’m looking for (whatever you are looking for).

Avez-vous…. – Do you have…. ?

Avez-vous une table pour deux personnes? – Do you have a table for two ?

A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? When does it shut ? L

Combien ? – How much ?

Ou sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît ?

Where is the toilet / washroom, please ? Listen

Ou est-ce qu’on peut trouver des restaurants, s’il vous plaît? – Where are there some restaurants, please ?

Un café et un café au lait, s’il vous plaît. – A coffee and a coffee with milk please.

 

 

If you are interested in learning the French language, Paris offers the best schools in the world. Check out places such as Alliance Francaise, Berlitz, and Accord Escole de Langues. Welcome2France offers apartments within walking distance of some of the best schools.

My one love and I …. in Paris…. !

dog in paris

Last year, I had three weeks annual leave from my job and I decided I wanted to go somewhere. It had always been my dream to visit France and in particular the City of Love. Ever since I was a child and saw the iconic Eiffel Tower in a movie, I made a promise to myself that one day, some how, I would get there. I came very close about 5 years ago when a family tragedy forced me to go to London at the last minute. Paris was only a train ride away. Only 2.5 hours by train and only 20 minutes under the Channel Tunnel. But I never made it there. Why? Well, I couldn’t quite remember but I’m sure if was something connected to a lack of time and money. But last year I finally made it.

 

I decided to reserve a luxury apartment in the city in the most elegant district I could find. My plan was to rent a bike, so I would have access to the whole city very easily. My other plan was to eat, eat, eat. I love bread and I had heard and read a lot about the variety on offer. In fact, I had read an awful lot about Paris before I went. Whether it was recent politics to the history to the typical tourist information I wanted to absorb myself in the city and reading about it seemed like the best idea. But I didn’t bank on one problem.

 

I didn’t have anyone to go with. All of friends either couldn’t get the time off, or didn’t have the money, or, the most annoying excuse of all, – “I’m going to wait till I fall in love before I go to Paris”. Well, I hadn’t fallen in love but I wanted to go all the same. But I really wanted a partner. I searched and searched and in the end, without really knowing what I was doing, I took the only living thing I love must in the world …….– my dog. You might think it sounds sad, but I can’t be the only person who has done it or indeed thought it.

 

I have heard and read some horror stories online about people who travel with their pets and it needs to be said, that the French love their paperwork. There is paperwork and red tape for just about everything, it seems. But I was lucky as Clare (my dog, yes I know it’s a human name but I like it) had all the necessary paperwork in order. If you are traveling with your pet and you don’t know whats needed, then do the research. Pettravel.com is a great help to many people, offering good, solid advice. If you don’t do the research, don’t take your pet. You may be denied entry and I have read about this happening. Your pet must have a passport (not literally of course). For Americans, the animal “passport” is also known as an Annex II certificate. This certificate shows that your pet has all the necessary vaccinations that it requires, which includes but not limited to rabies. You need to make sure that your dog or cat also has a microchip.

 

When it comes to the paperwork, its not as complex as you think, but you need to be on the ball. Use FedEx to send your documents. This ensures that it is recorded, if lost. The USDA is amazing for advice and contact your regional department if you have questions about the paperwork. The rules for most of the European Union countries are the same, so its worth noting that if you have taken your pet from the States to say, Spain or Italy, the rules for France are pretty much similar.

 

The airline I traveled with was Air France and they were very helpful and accustomed to passengers traveling with animals. You can relax and know that your pet is safe. I can’t say Claire enjoyed it that much though, she looked a little shaken when I picked her up at Charles de Gaul airport. But I can’t blame AirFrance for that. If you are traveling with a dog, remember Air France has weight restrictions which are a bit stricter than typical American airlines like Delta. Exiting CDG airport was a lot simpler than I had ever dreamed. When I was in the UK 4 years earlier, I felt like I had been given a grilling by customs. Maybe it was because the police had no guns… I’m not sure. The French customs guy barely looked at my passport and I’m sure they even noticed Claire.

 

Claire and I took a taxi and made our way to our beautiful two bed apartment. Don’t go thinking I paid for a bedroom for the cat, that would be silly. I reserved a two bed room property hoping I would someone else to come with me. Not such luck. But I thought about canceling and finding a pet friendly studio in the same district but I just fell in love with the property from the online pictures and despite pushing me slightly over budget, I just couldn’t part with it. It was spacious with plenty of light and right beside the Eiffel Tower in the 7th district. Ok, you couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower from my balcony but the rental company assured me that I could have a great view from the public roof terrace and they were right.

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Paris was actually not as dog friendly as I has had imagined. I had this image of adorable dogs everywhere in the city but this is not really the case. If you do your research online, you’ll find that there is a French law (“Arrêté du 23 novembre 1979 portant règlement sanitaire du département de Paris, to be exact for any of you legal academics reading this) which states that dogs are not allowed anywhere where there is food, so this includes restaurants and food shops. In my experience this law is rarely enforced but I struggled to understand how to work around the system.

 

There were many occasions when I left Claire at home because I saw a fancy restaurant I wanted to eat in, only then to go to the restaurant and find mini dogs popping out of peoples handbags. If you have a small dog, it seems like you can take it just about anywhere and no one will notice. I tried, on a few occasions to bring Claire to the grocery store to stock up on some basic supplies.No matter where I went, for the entire 3 weeks, I was turned away by some rude attendant shouting in French. It was a bit embarassing but I didn’t really mind as it encouraged me to go to the local outdoor food markets, which were so much better, cheaper and had fresher ingredients and it also encouraged me to eat in restaurants and not stay indoors.

 

I was lucky enough to go to Paris in May. The weather was amazing and Summer was just starting but it wasn’t too hot just yet. If the restaurant had a terrace, I was generally permitted to sit down outside and enjoy my food and noticed a lot of other people doing the same thing with their dogs. It goes without saying that your dog needs to be on leash at all times, although in larger parks you’ll see dogs walking around freely. Most of the laws around dogs are not really enforced which is a good thing for owners but confusing and unreliable. Take, for example the metro.

 

There are a lot hazy rules about the metro in Paris. In three weeks, I saw two elderly people smoking and nobody said anything. I can’t imagine this happening in New York or London. The rules for dogs is basically that large dogs are not allowed on the metro. But if they have a leash and a muzzle most of the metro attendants are very lenient. In fact, I brought Claire on the metro several times and no one said anything. A nice French waiter told me that its normally cool just don’t take them on the metro – during rush hour 7.00 to 9.30 and 16.30 to 19.30. Makes sense I suppose. The same rule applies for buses but its important to note that RER ( that’s the regional train service that goes to the suburbs and further afield from Paris), dogs can always travel on these trains but you need to purchase a special ticket first. Don’t panic if you don’t know how to ask for a dog ticket in French. At the ticket counter, I just pointed to Claire and looked confused. The attendant understood and printed another ticket (2 euros) for her. Not bad, just don’t forget the leash and muzzle.

 

I was lucky enough not to read all the info I could find online about dogs in Paris. There is a lot of very different opinions out there and some people report having a horrible time and being mistreated because they have a dog and dirty streets of dog droppings. I can say, it might affect certain aspects of your trip and little bit more taxing but its interesting to note that for every 7 people in Paris, there is one dog. Dogs are everywhere. And when I say that Paris wasn’t as dog friendly as I imagined, I mean that although dogs are everywhere, they are not allowed everywhere. But people are generally friendly to dogs and have their own. In fact, Claire got much more attention that I did. I was quite envious.

 

But before my envy kicked in, I decided to give Claire a bit of a treat. You see, my logic (which the animal lovers will completely understand) was that I felt a bit guilty seeing the museums and the sights while for a large part of some of the days, she was at home, in the apartment. Ok, it was a really nice apartment, there was plenty of space for her to walk around but still, I decided she needed a treat. So I went online and found a really nice dog groomer in the area I was staying in. In fact, the dog groomer was just around the corner from my building and was apparently one of the best in the whole city. This is one of the reasons I love trip advisor. Never underestimate the amount of information that you can find on trip adviser, its not just restaurants and monuments.

 

The dog groomer wasn’t cheap but a holiday is a holiday and apart from the bi-annual trip to the local budget vet in my district, Claire has never really been to a dog groomer and why should it be only me that gets to see the City of Lights in style, luxury and elegance. In 5 hours, Claire got a bath, a haircut, her nails cut and a host of other things that I couldn’t understand. I just liked the look for the building, the smell of coconut lotion and the man that took her. I was 200 euros poorer when Claire came out but she seemed very very happy indeed.

 

All in all, as a tourist who plans every part of their visit before they go away, take my advice and don’t read too much that’s out there. Contact the USDA and make sure your pet has everything they need, after that, just go with the experience. The unknown is a great way to talk to locals and ask them questions.. if they can speak a bit of English of course. But if you can enquire in French, then already you’re a better tourist than I am.

 

Finding a pet friendly apartment in Paris is not easy. Welcome2France has a whole range of options which really helped me. You can contact one of their specialists today.

5 Paris Museums Perfect for Children

Every family vacation is never complete until the kids get to visit Disneyland or the Jardin d’Acclimatation along Bois de Boulogne. Although the city is overrun with plenty of gardens and memorable landmarks, many families still find it difficult to find child-friendly destinations within the city’s inner districts.

If your travel itinerary is too brief for a day trip to Disneyland Paris, these 5 Paris museums for children should make good alternatives.

Musée de la Contrefaçon (Museum of Counterfeits)

No one likes counterfeits, but when they’re posed right next to their real counterpart in a wide museum, these counterfeits can be pretty entertaining for teens and children of all ages. The first museum in our list may not be your usual children-themed museum but the Museum of Counterfeits still makes for an interesting stopover if you want your kids to see how forgers have tried, time and again, to make clones of Louis Vuitton bags, expensive colognes, and even expensive children’s toys from cheap material.

How good are your kids’ eyes for identifying fakes from the real deal? Test their detective skills at the Musée de la Contrefaçon at 16 Rue de la Faisanderie, 75116.

Musée de la Contrefaçon

Musée des Arts Forains

A real children’s museum, Forains features the private collection of Jean-Paul Favand, a child at heart. Musée des Arts Forains is composed of three rooms each featuring a unique set of funfare objects: the Venetian Lounges, where you can find automatons performing an Italian opera and where you can ride a merry-go-round, the Theatre of Marvels, where you can find amazing pieces from the Belle Epoque, and Fairground Art Museum, where you can find 19th century games and exhibits.

Musée des Arts Forains

Musée de la Magie (Museum of Magic)

Also known as the Académie de la Magie, the Museum of Magic is a private museum located in 11 Rue saint Paul, 75004. It is situated next to the Museum of Automata so if your children find the magical props to be a little less convincing, their next door neighbor exhibits automatons from the 17th to the early 21st century. The museum is only open in the afternoons and an admission fee is charged from both adults and children.

Musée de la Magie

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs is not exactly a child’s museum either, but we know kids are easily entertained by visually appealing exhibits. If your children prefer something more inclined towards architecture and design, schedule a family trip to Musee des Arts Decoratifs in 107 Rue de Rivoli, 75001.

Oftentimes, the museum management invites designers and artists from all corners of the globe to showcase their work here. Before securing your tickets, make sure to check the exhibit schedule. Who knows, you might just get to meet the biggest names in the arts and design industry.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Musée de la Poupée

If you have little girls in your family who love dolls, the Doll Museum just might be the perfect museum to add to your travel itinerary. The museums at Musee de la Poupee are mostly vintage, porcelain dolls– they are extremely rare, extremely valuable, and amazingly beautiful and life-like. It took real artists to create these dolls although they may look like simple toys.

You can visit Musée de la Poupée at 22 rue Beaubourg, 75003.

Musée de la Poupée

Paris to Offer Free WiFi in CDG and Orly this July

CDG free wifi

CDG and Orly will offer free, high-speed wireless internet to all travelers starting 1 July 2014. (Photo Credits: Fred Dufour / AFP)

Paris’ busiest airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, will begin offering free wireless internet services or WiFi starting this 1 July 2014. Although the exact internet speed has not yet been confirmed, airport authorities are confident that by 2014, tourists and visitors at the airport will enjoy high-speed wireless internet without further charge.

The decision to make wireless internet free for all in Paris’ airports is part of a tourism campaign. According to Augustin de Romanet, CEO of Aéroports de Paris, the move hopes to make traveling more convenient for tourists entering and leaving Paris or Europe via these two airports. “Our standards for welcoming passengers have to be at the highest possible level… offering free, unlimited wifi sends a strong message to that effect,” he adds.

Upon implementation of this new rule, CDG and Orly will become the first two free WiF-ready airports in Europe. To access the CDG or Orly WiFi, passwords will not be needed and service bandwidth is unlimited; however, for traveling entrepreneurs or heavy internet users, additional speed may be purchased. This feature will be introduced to internet users in CDG and Orly soon.

As Aéroport Charles de Gaulle celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, visitors to the airport can expect better services and more convenient additions to make their trip memorable and comfortable.

Previously, the web may only be accessed in CDG or Orly through the airport’s computer areas.

Within Proximity: Louvre Palais Royal

This is the first series of “Within Proximity”, a regular log about the best neighborhoods in Paris to stay in and the best destinations within walking distance to a Welcome2France Paris apartment. Subscribe to our blog and newsletter for more Parisian getaway tips.

The heart of Paris is one of the most magical addresses to stay in and successfully booking an apartment in this district means you get a front row seat view of the best sights and sounds in the city. The first arrondissement is one of the smallest districts by land area and yet, it is jam packed with the most memorable tourist spots and landmarks in the country.

The busiest and most crowded parts of any capital is usually the most expensive and this is true for the 1st arrondissement. However, what the Louvre lacks in affordability, it makes up for with ease and comfort: due to its size, you can easily walk to the Louvre museum or the gardens without breaking a sweat with your apartment as the starting point.

Sights and Sounds in the 1st Arrondissement

Aside from the eponymous Musee du Louvre, the first district is also home to palatial parks and gardens. With the Louvre apartments as your starting point, you can easily reach the following destinations on foot in 15 minutes or less:

Jardin de Halles

Commonly referred to as the lungs of Paris, Jardin des Halles is the highlight of the 1st arrondissement with its wide collection of gardens and vast picture-perfect environment. The garden is situated close to the Les Halles metro station.

Jardin des Halles

Walking Time from the apartment: 5 Minutes

Louvre Museum

Home of the famous Mona Lisa, you can find the Louvre Museum just a mere 10 minutes away from our 1st district apartments. Aside from the exhibits found in the museum, you can also go for a stroll at the nearby garden or take a gander at the stunning glass pyramid which the Louvre is known for.

Musee du Louvre

Walking Time from the apartment: 10 Minutes

Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Home to beautiful pieces of artwork that double as interior decor, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs boasts stunning interior that remind you of Renaissance Paris. The pieces found here are as valuable as the building itself.

Musee des Arts Decoratifs

Walking Time from the apartment: 9 Minutes

Ponts des Arts

Earlier this month, Ponts des Arts was reported to have fallen on one side due to the weight of the locks attached to the famed portion of the bridge known as the “bridge of love”. While the bridge is still open to the public, make sure to schedule a quick visit.

Ponts des Arts

Walking Time from the apartment: 9 Minutes

Musee Grevin Wax Museum

Although technically located within the 9th arrondissement, Musee Grevin is only 12 minutes away from the heart of Paris. The museum not only houses wax creations of popular personalities, it also exhibits artistic creations and includes an entire hall of mirrors.

Musee Grevin

Walking Time from the apartment: 12 Minutes

Jardin de l’Oratoire

Located within the grounds surrounding the Louvre, this small garden is the perfect rendezvous as well as the ideal destination for a long, romantic walk. The garden also offers a view of the Seine.

Jardin de l’Oratoire

Walking Time from the apartment: 5 Minutes

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf was at one point the newest bridge in Paris, hence, the name: Pont Neuf which means “New Bridge”. However, today, Pont Neuf is also the oldest bridge in Paris having been built long before the city’s modern bridges and buildings were constructed. Pont Neuf, despite its promising name, features Renaissance-era architectural designs and engraving.

Pont Neuf

Walking Time from the apartment: 11 Minutes

 

Part 2 – Updated! The Mega-List of the Oldest Places in Paris

Comite Champs Elysees

It’s a fact that Paris is filled with tons of surprises but these landmarks and buildings, which have stood on the same spot for hundreds of years will leave you with your jaw wide open in amazement.

If you are looking for history, a great story to share with friends and family back home, or perhaps an experience you will never forget, visit the oldest landmarks in Paris. Many of these landmarks are older than you– some are even older than Paris itself!

Oldest Cafe or RestaurantCafé Procope in 13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 75006

Cafe Procope first opened its doors to patrons in 1686, making it the oldest restaurant in Paris that has never closed*. If you do the math mentally, Cafe Procope is exactly 327 years old.

Le Cafe Procope

The man behind Cafe Procope was the Sicilian chef, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. Although Cafe Procope is a fine dining restaurant today, it started out as a coffeehouse serving light meals and coffee made from exotic beans. To add to the exotic ambiance, the waiters of Cafe Procope served esteemed clientele who were mostly nobles and artists in Armenian clothing.

You can find Cafe Procope in along the 6th district, right in front of Comédie-Française, also another interesting landmark to visit.

Oldest Pastry Shop: La Maison Stohrer in 51 Rue Montorgueil, 75002

Now 283 years old, La Maison Stohrer has never moved from its original address in rue Montorgueil. That’s what you call dedication!

Le Maison Stohrer

I’ve written about La Maison Stohrer before, as a pastry shop where tourists can get fine Parisian treats, but if you want to visit a historical landmark, La Maison Stohrer also makes for the perfect candidate. Although La Maison Stohrer no longer serves pastries for the king, you can still find delights fit for royalty when you visit their only shop at the second district.

The variety of dishes at Stohrer have also expanded over the years. They now serve breakfast, double as a bakery and do catering for receptions and parties.

Oldest Wine Shop: Caves Auge in 116, Boulevard Hausmann, 75008

Caves Auge is what many call a mecca for wine enthusiasts. Outside, wine distributors offer free wine tasting, and inside the shop, you can find the widest selection of spirits and brews.

Caves Auge

This wine shop has been serving enthusiasts for about 163 years. It first opened its doors in 1850 and has since been giving free drinks and serving Beaujolais Nouveau every November.  When you get to the shop and its closed, try to check the website for their calendar of activities.

Oldest Candy Shop: A la Mère de Famille in 35, rue du Faubourg-Montmartre, 75009

If you find yourself standing outside of A la Mère de Famille during a stroll around the city, rest assured, your sweet tooth led you to the doors of this 252-year old candy shop, or confectionery.

A la Mère de Famille

A la Mère de Famille has been operating in the same spot, in the same building and street since 1761. If that’s not a clear example of dedication and longevity, I don’t know what is! The shop started out a bit like La Maison Stohrer, a place where you can find pastries and Debauve & Gallais, Paris’ oldest chocolate shop (see below), but it has since evolved from making sweet bread and chocolate into candies, candied sweets, and basically, anything with a hefty sugar content.

Oldest Chocolate Shop: Debauve & Gallais in 30 rue des Sts-Pères, 75007

Like La Maison Stohrer, Debauve & Gallais, founded in 1800, supplied the royal house of France with freshly made, chocolate creations: cakes, cupcakes, candies, bread, filling– you name it, Debauve & Gallais delivered.

Debauve & Gallais

But today, Debauve & Gallais no longer serves royals exclusively. Anyone with a craving for something bittersweet is welcome to their shop at 30 Rue des Saints-Pères. They have built quite a fan base among popular personalities, but anyone who loves chocolate (and who doesn’t!?) has a place here, in Debauve & Gallais.

Oldest Department Store: Le Bon Marché in 24 Rue de Sèvres, 75007

It’s no wonder why Parisians are so fashionable. Their oldest department store has been in business, selling the best and most fashionable effects, since 1838.

Le Bon Marche

It’s hard to miss Le Bon Marche. It is not only a department store today, but also a landmark which tourists frequent to find souvenirs and other trinkets. Le Bon Marche has gained quite a status in Paris– many visit it for its great deals (coincidentally, “Le Bon Marche” translates to “a good deal” in French) and for the historical feel which still emanates from the building, 175 years after it opened.

Le Bon Marche operated from a smaller building in 1838, but Louis Auguste Boileau later commissioned the construction of the 4th storey building we see today in 1867.

Oldest Covered Market: Enfants Rouges Covered Market in 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003

Open since 1615, the Enfants Rouges Covered Market is, and has always been, the best source for exotic food you can eat on the go, fresh vegetables, and simple snacks. The regular vendors include a sandwich stand, small stalls for Thai and Moroccan food, and of course, France’s pride and joy, crepes.

Les Enfants Rouges

It’s not hard to miss the market: it is located between a narrow street, despite being called a “covered market” and the only indicator you’ve reached it is when you see a sign like the one above. There are plenty of food markets in Paris, this just happens to be the oldest, and perhaps, the most popular; no trip to Paris is ever complete without a visit through here. Whether you’re here to taste the food or just to see more of the lively Marais district, include Enfants Rouges Covered Market in your list of places to visit.

Oldest Fresh Market: Marché Maubert in Place Maubert in Saint-Germain, 75006

It is not clear when Marche Maubert exactly opened but loyal patrons say it has been around since the Medieval Ages. You could say Marche Maubert is lucky– one of the many reasons why it has stuck around for so long even after the Hausmann buildings overhauling of the entire city is because of its location.

Marché Maubert

Source: Elizabeth Olson Porter

There are so many things you can find  in Marche Maubert: from fresh flowers, to fresh fruits, to fresh meat and veggies. As the oldest fresh market, the name is a dead giveaway that most of the produce found here come straight from someone’s backyard garden.

Oldest Tea Shop: Mariage Fréres in 13, rue des Grands-Augustins, 75005

The oldest tea shop in Paris first opened its doors to tea lovers as far back as 1854 by brothers Henri and Edouard Mariage. This once cozy tea shop located in Luxembourg has since grown into the popular gourmet tea shop it is today, serving thousands of guests every month with a wide variety of teas and flavored drink concoctions.

mariage freres

Mariage Freres

The selection of teas at Mariage Freres range from common to exotic, to French fusion. Aside from tea, you can also find tea gift sets, tea cups, and tea paraphernalia from Mariage Freres which you can take home as souvenir.  If you’re looking for something truly unique, you can also find tea-based perfumes here.

Oldest Flea Market: Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt in Porte de Clignancourt, 93400

For odd trinkets, household decor, and aluminum ware, nothing beats the (more or less) 100-year old flea market at Porte de Clignancourt. It’s right outside tourist traffic so you will not find Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt on most tour itineraries, but like Paris, it is easily accessible by bus.

Les Puces de Saint-Ouen

Going through Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt can be a bit confusing for first-time visitors. With around 14 smaller markets in the flea market, you will have a smorgasbord of options before you.

Oldest Church: Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres in 3 place St-Germain-des-Pres, 75006

There are plenty of churches and abbeys situated around Paris and many are, to this day, considered landmarks and heritage sites for the French, but the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is just a little more special. Built under the command of a king and blessed by a Saint, the Abbey of Saint-Germain-de-Prés is the oldest church in Paris.

Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres

This structure is literally older than the country. Built in 990 and accomplished in the 16th century, Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres is one of the most popular landmarks in the city that has withstood the tests of time and history. It has served its role as a church, prison, infirmary, and even, as a weapons stockroom.

If you are a lover of all things related to science, math, and philosophy, you can pay your respects to Rene Descartes who is interred here.

Oldest Garden: Jardin des Tuileries in Louvre Museum, 75001

The heart of Paris is literally a garden. Located in the 1st arrondissement, Jardin des Tuileries is one of Paris’ most loved tourist attractions and most iconic parks in the city. It is situated between Musee du Louvre and Place de la Concorde, both of which are also historical destinations you have to visit on your first day in Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries

The Tuileries Garden was not always just your average park. In the past, it served as a personal zoo to one of France’s monarchs and was also a location for a public circus. Things have clearly changed though and while the Tuileries Gardens no longer host animals or ferris wheels, it is still a beautiful landmark you should not miss seeing!

Oldest Zoo: Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Jardin des Plantes, 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005

What started out as a herb garden is now one of the largest, most visited zoos in Paris– and not to mention, the oldest. Originally designed as a royal herb garden, the garden became a zoo when Parisian scientists decided to house animals here, originally for research purposes. The herb garden was eventually “re-purposed” and it is now home to different birds, reptiles, and average-sized animals.

Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

 

Oldest Pet Cemetery: Le Cimetiere des chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques in Asnières-sur-Seine, France

Le Cimetiere des chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques

Oldest Square: Place des Vosges in 14 Place des Vosges, 75004

Place des Vosges

Oldest Tree: Locust Tree in Square René-Viviani, North of Saint-Julien-le-Pauv, 75005

Locust Tree in Square René-Viviani

Oldest Fountain: Fontaine des Innocents in Place Joachim-du-Bellay, 75001

Fontaine des Innocents

Oldest Clock: Charles V Clock on the side of La ConciergerieQuai de l’Horloge

A public clock should be hard to miss, but you can’t say the same for the clock found on the wall of La Concierge. Many people have missed it while many others have mistaken it for a modern addition because of the vibrant paint job.

Charles V Clock

But what many do not know is, that the clock on La Conciergerie is actually Paris’ oldest, functional time teller. Think of London’s “Big Ben” but French.

Oldest Stone House: Auberge Nicolas Flamel in 51 rue de Montmorency, 75003

You might have heard of Nicolas Flamel before, but you

Auberge Nicolas Flamel

Oldest Bridge: Pont Neuf in Ile de la Cite

Today, it sounds ironic when someone sets a rendezvous with you on Pont Neuf and la

Pont Neuf

Oldest School: Ecole Des Mines in 60 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006

 

Ecole Des Mines

Oldest Ballet School: Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris

Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris

Oldest Passage: Passage des Panoramas in 10 rue Saint-Marc, 75009

The modern equivalent of a passage is an arcade. Stores and

Passage des Panoramas

Source: Remi Jouan

Oldest (Private or Public) Museum: Musée du Luxembourg in 19 Rue de Vaugirard, 75006

Musee du Luxembourg

Oldest Bank: Crédit Municipal de Paris in 55 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 75004

Crédit Municipal de Paris

Oldest Library: Bibliothéque Mazarine in 23 Quai de Conti, 75006

Bibliothéque Mazarine

Oldest Bookshop: Librairie Galignani in 224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001

Librairie Galignani

Oldest Piano Shop: Fournitures Generales Pour Le Piano in 85 rue Pascal Paris, 75013

Fournitures Generales Pour Le Piano

Source: Linus Magnusson

Oldest Fashion House: Lanvin in 22 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008

Many of Paris’ fashion houses started out as small stores which w

Lanvin

Oldest Kitchen Appliances Store: E. Dehillerin in 18-20 Rue Coquillière, 75001

E. Dehillerin

Oldest Art Store: Magasin Sennelier in 3 Quai Voltaire 75007

Magasin Sennelier

Oldest Candle Shop: Cire Trudon in 78 Rue de Seine, 75006

Candles, candles everywhere!

Cire Trudon

Oldest Cinema: Studio 28 in 10 Rue Tholoze, 75018

If Studio 28’s facade looks familiar although you’ve never seen it in person, chances are, you’ve seen Amelie a couple of times in a row.

Studio 28

Oldest Committee: Comité Champs-Élysées

Comite Champs Elysees

Source: Autoplus.fr

Discovering the Wonders of Rue Cler on Foot

A View of Rue Bosquet

This week, we look at the tiny, quiet and cobbled streets of Rue Cler in the 7th arrondissement. This market street is home to a number of tiny French cafes and shops which native Parisians frequent especially during seasons that call for al fresco dining and a little sightseeing. For tourists, there are plenty of attractions and dining destinations in this street that can make your vacation more memorable.

Why stay in rue Cler?

For one thing, rue Cler is within proximity to a number of beloved French restaurants, such as Le Bosquet, a French café with al fresco dining so you can see Parisians walk by while enjoying your French onion soup, La Maison du Sushi Rive Gauche, where you can find French-Japanese fusion cuisine and behind it is a smaller bistro called La Taverna that serves delicious Italian meals. Staying in a comfortable Paris apartment near these restaurants means you can skip cooking and have a seasoned chef prepare your meal instead.

La Maison du Sushi Rive Gauche

La Maison du Sushi Rive Gauche

La Taverna

La Taverna

Le Bosquet

Le Bosquet

Rue Cler is not just a street for food enthusiasts though. Smaller streets and paths that intersect it are also home to a variety of tourist attractions: the Eiffel Tower, for example, is just 5 minutes away from rue Cler and rue Bosquet. The grand attraction and the garden that surrounds it is reachable on foot or via Velib. If your interests incline towards French’s military history, the French Army Museum in Invalides is but 7 minutes away on foot.

Upon reaching the Army Museum, you can easily reach other attractions like Napoleon’s Tomb (Le Tombeau de Napoleon) located along avenue de Tourville, Musee de Plans-Reliefs, Musee de l’Ordre de la Liberation, and Musee de Histoire Contemporaine.

Le Tombeau de Napoleon

Le Tombeau de Napoleon

Located right across this complex of museums is the smaller Rodin Museum where you can still find the legendary French sculptor’s studio along with a few of his unfinished work.

Since the 18th century, rue Cler has been home to masters of gastronomy, the arts, fashion, and culture. This bustling street’s reputation still hasn’t changed; if anything, it has only gotten better.

If your dream accommodations in Paris consist of living in an apartment near the Eiffel Tower while staying far from the noise and fanfare that frequent it, your best compromise is staying in rue Bosquet, rue Cler or along Champs de Mars. It is only 5 minutes from the Eiffel Tower and far from noise.

A View of Rue Bosquet

Paris Christmas Markets of 2013: Where to Go, What to Expect

Gare de l'Est

Christmas markets are very common across Europe, but to tourists, seeing a Christmas village appear in the middle of a busy metropolis such as Paris can be puzzling. How can one city accommodate so many Christmas markets and life-sized Christmas villages? The secret is in the location: most Christmas markets and Christmas villages in Paris today are situated in open, often not-crowded places. La Defense, for example, commands quite a handful of visitors during the off season. Since it is off the tourist path, tourists find it difficult to gauge just how vast the land around La Defense is, but visiting during the Holidays and seeing La Defense find room for hundreds of stalls, over 350, should be enough to tell you that La Defense has enough room for holiday merrymaking.

As we noted in our newsletter for the month of December, three of the busiest and biggest Christmas markets to visit are in La Defense, Champs Elysees, and Trocadero. Even outside of the holidays, these three locations are frequented by tourists; evidently, the visits tend to increase over the Holidays and New Year’s.

However, if what you are looking for are smaller Christmas markets that are equally enjoyable as the Christmas Markets in La Defense, Champs Elysees, and around the Eiffel Tower, try the following locations:

Where to go: Montparnasse Christmas Market
Dates open: 15 December 2013 – 4 January 2014
What to expect: Alsacian treats and other provincial French delicacies. Wine is also sold by some vendors in the area.

Montparnasse Christmas Market

Located just right in front of Tour Montparnasse, this 40-stalled Christmas Market is perfect for a small, intimate shopping. Since it is not so crowded or jampacked with tourists and natives, you should be able to easily navigate through the crowd of people without having to worry about dodging hundreds of visitors every time. Many people are starting to realize that the Christmas Market in the Montparnasse area offers quite a variety so expect a bit of a crowd build-up nonetheless.

Where to go: Notre Dame Cathedral
Dates open: Second week of December
What to expect: arts, crafts, classic French cuisine served during the holidays

The Notre Dame Cathedral is a popular tourist attraction, but the equally interesting Christmas Market in the area has often been overlooked. In recent years, the Notre Dame Cathedral Christmas Market carried some simple arts and crafts, but this time around, the market here will add French mulled wine, chocolates, delicacies, and other French favorites. La Defense will carry similar items so if you find it too tiring to take the metro to La Defense, the Notre Dame market should be a good alternative.

Where to go: Republique
Dates Open: 7 December 2013 – 15 December 2013
What to expect: a carrousel, some community games anyone can participate in, waffles, musical entertainment

A newly renovated square was recently opened in Place de la Republique. If you want to see the changes first or spend your holidays at the Christmas market here (which is opening for the first time), make sure to schedule a visit. The Republique Christmas Market will only consist of 50 vendors, but the selection will be varied. Games, mascots, tents, and gourmet cuisine are just a few things you should expect in this area.

Where to go: Gare de l’Est
Dates Open: 29 November 2013 – 14 December 2013
What to expect: Mostly Alsatian

Gare de l'Est

The location itself hints at what you should expect Christmas markets in this area will be selling: mostly Alsatian goods like wine, pretzels, and other delicacies from the eastern side of France. Because the Christmas market is located within the train station grounds, expect a bit of a crowd when shopping for some Alsatian-made goodies.

Other Christmas Markets to Visit:

Maison de l’Alsace (in Champs Elysees)
Open from 24 November 2013 – 23 December 2013

Place Vendome
Open from 1 December 2013 – 31 December 2013

Saint-Sulpice, 75006
Open from 1 December 2013 – 24 December 2013

Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 75006
Open from 15 November 2013 – 6 January 2014
One of the longest running Christmas markets in Paris

Place de la Nation, 75011
Open from 1 December 2013 – 24 December 2013

Montmartre, 75018
Open from 6 December 2013 – 5 January 2014

10 of the Most Beautiful Libraries in Paris

There is no doubt about it: when it comes to intricate architecture and well-decorated buildings, Parisian structures always take the cake. Paris is the birthplace of so many architectural revolutions, an example of which would include the Hausmann renovations.

Aside from popular chateaus in and around Paris, Parisian libraries also portray the talent of French architectures of yore. You can see these displays of art by visiting ten of the most beautiful libraries in Paris.

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne is the largest library in Paris today. You can visit it, as a school visitor to the University of Sorbonne in 47, rue des Écoles, 75005. The library houses books relating to Medicine, Pharmacology, Law, and Letters.

Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne-2 Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne-3 Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne-4 Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne-1

Richelieu Library

Located a few blocks away, in the 2nd arrondissement, is another library known for its oval reading room, one that may remind you of the oval office in the White House. The Richelieu Library was opened to the public in 1868, making it one of the oldest centers for learning in Paris.

Richelieu Library-3

Richelieu Library-1

Richelieu Library-2

Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal

In the beautiful Marais district, you will find this library dedicated to military history and all things related to the French Arsenal. Of course, there are several sections of the library dedicated to other topics. Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in 1 rue de Sully, 75004 is the ideal destination for all those interested to learn more about France’s military history. The library itself is houses in a military building.

Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal-1 Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal-2

Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris

 Most libraries in Paris contain collections of manuscripts and other works of art by French writers and philosophers. The Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, for example, houses works pertaining to Paris as written by French writers. You can learn more about Paris’ history from this library than from anyone else.

Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris-1 Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris-2

Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand

For avid supporters of women’s rights, Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand in the 13th district may be a good place to get some R and R and to browse over works by popular women’s rights supporters and writers. The library and vast collection of novels and magazines found here were started by Marguerite Durand.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Located not too far away from the Marguerite Durand Library is another large repository of books and knowledge. One of the largest libraries in Paris today, the government-run library houses works from all over the world as well as valuable collections by French writers, most of whom are natives of Paris.

American Library in Paris

It has become more difficult for foreign exchange students to find books and other works of art in the English language, but the American Library in Paris has always supplied this need. Opened in 1920, the library is where you can find a vast collection of creations in the English language, as well as in French.

Bibliothèque Sainte-Barbe

Bibliothèque Sainte-Barbe was only founded in 2009 but it has become a top favorite for tourists and locals alike. The library’s modern interior and smart furnishings make it a top hit among architecture students as well as enthusiasts of modern interior. Aside from its interior, which has left many Parisians impressed, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Barbe is also where you can find one of the widest collections and categories of books.

Bibliothèque Mazarine

The oldest library in Paris yet would have to be Bibliothèque Mazarine in the 6th arrondissement. It is believed that construction on the library began as early as the 1600’s; others insist that Bibliothèque Mazarine was built prior these years. Either way, being Paris’ oldest library must be enough recognition for this landmark.

Médiathèque Musicale Mahler

It is uncommon to hear musical instruments in a  library but the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler has managed to bend this rule time and again. In fact, the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler is not just any ordinary library: it is a library dedicated to musical instruments. Expect to hear some violins and clarinet whenever you are visiting.