How To Enjoy (And Then Book) The Meal You Want In Paris.

DSC_0026The word enjoy keeps coming up again and again in my writing about travel and Paris.  Enjoyment. Pleasure. Adventure.  That is what we seek when we travel. And far too often we create expectations that can’t be met or we don’t do the simple things needed to make sure our trip is maximum good and minimum bad.

Eating, and in particular eating out, in Paris is a prime example of this yin and yang of joy and pain in travel and for that matter life.  Get it right and the moments become magic for you and those who share them.  Get it wrong and you pay top dollar or euro to be disappointed and wind up yelling at your kids.  Or wife.  Or just pissed at the world.  Not good.

For many of us travel to Paris means food, at least after the sightseeing is done.  Paris despite some articles to the contrary has a dynamic healthy restaurant scene  It offers a broad variety of places to eat ranging from tourist traps to Michelin starred palaces of gastronomy to trendy hangouts. This post will guide you through what we have learned over the years of eating in the City of Light with some simple rules to follow to help you have a good time.  It’s an overview so take it at that.

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Before you do anything else, do your research.  We are lucky to live in an era of abundant food blogs and information. At the same time, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of writer on the subject, so here are a few research tools for you to follow:

IMG_2096When you do the work think about your budget.  Stay comfortable with whatever choices you make.

Try not to travel to far from where you are staying, especially if your trip is less than a week. Keep it local.

Go out to lunch instead of dinner.  You will save up to 50% of the bill most of the time.

Look for the prix fixe menu.  This set menu will reduce your bill significantly as opposed to ordering a la carte.  Many restaurants offer a variety of prix fixe menus, appetizer and main, main and dessert or appetizer main and dessert and several choices from each category.

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Once you have narrowed your search start reading.  Our favorite food websites include:

NY Times Paris. http://www.nytimes.com/travel/guides/europe/france/paris/restaurants.html

Lots of comments on what is going on the food scene.

Time Out.  A detailed and accurate guide to Paris eating.  http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants-cafe

You can use Fodor’s, Trip Advisor or even Yelp once you have narrowed your choices, I don’t find the sites easy to work with when searching or innovative.

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Blogs.

I enjoy these blogs a lot:

www.parisbymouth.com

www.davidleibovitz.com

www.thepariskitchen.com

Ask your friends where they eat, it seems obvious but they may know someone who has a tip.

And of course, enjoy our own Yellow Flat guides to the 7th and 15th.

The Roses.

A couple of other things to note:

Many restaurants close on Sundays.

Tipping in Paris is not expected as service is included in the bill.  If the service is good you can ’round up’ your check making sure to leave a few extra euros to show you were happy.

Many restaurants have an English menu or someone who can help you.  Remember, they want to sell to you.

Tap water is safe but doesn’t taste very good.

paris

Now you have found some top choices.  The next rule is to make a reservation.  It is worth the effort, Parisian restaurants are crowded and you don’t want to spend vacation time waiting in line.

There is an online system that allows you to search and find the restaurants website.  If you aren’t directed to it automatically, most will have an English translation, look of the letter EN or a UK flag.  From there you will find the reservation policy.

And most importantly, there is an excellent on-line reservation site is known as the Fork.  You can find it at http://www.thefork.com/city/paris  It works. Use it.It also has lots of guides as well  to every area and type of food.

If that does not work then call the restaurant.  That’s right.  Even if your French is scary bad if the restaurant is well know someone will speak English.  If not, find a friend (or travel agent) who speaks French and have them help.

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There is not enough time and too many choices so enjoy every meal, even if it isn’t what you dreamed it would be.  And if you aren’t comfortable where you are, do what my French father in law would do.  Walk out and find another place to eat.   Then again he had five children and his wife with him but that is another story.

As always we invite you to share your comments with the Yellow Flat community!

Salut!

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How To Enjoy Your Vacation In Paris.

eif quiet

 

-This traveler’s opinion on how to enjoy your vacation Paris.

I started into the business of renting apartments for vacation because I enjoyed the experience of staying in them while I was on vacation.  It gave me a sense of adventure and reality that I never found in hotels.

Yet where you stay is only part, albeit a critical one, of what a vacation means.  Vacation is personal time, something we often lack in our daily lives.  It’s freedom, away from the boundaries of home. What you do on vacation, and in all cases what you don’t do, is what defines this precious time.  It will make all of the difference in your trip.

young in the park

So here is what I learned over these years of being an American tourist in the city of Light and what I want to share with you:

I want you to travel with purpose.    Now, just what does that mean?

Let’s start with what you do.  As you plan your trip and well before you leave ask yourself this question:  Why am I going to Paris?  And once you answer it (and if you can’t then skip to the second part of this article) prioritize those reasons.  It is not hard to find the experiences you are looking for There is an overload of information on the web, you will find what you need quickly and easily and there are plenty of resources to turn to.

There is another key lesson about what you do in this great city:  Don’t try to do it all.  Paris is a big city and that means travel times, traffic and all of the things that can go wrong.  Prioritize and then localize.  That means planning.   You need to shape your trip around your priorities.

Here is an example, if you are going to eat, then search for Paris food blogs and go from there.  Start with parisbymouth.com.  It is always current, deep and unbiased.  When you have found a number of restaurants you like then base other activities in the same district to maximize your time.

Be open to new foods and tastes.  Ask your server what they would eat or what the chef recommends.  It won’t always work but when it does the magic that is vacation starts to seep into your experience.

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That is the easy part. Now here is the hard one, how to work on what you don’t do.  That is right, you have to work on it. I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but you need to set aside time not to do things.  Vacation is about leisure and discovery and it doesn’t hurt to prime the pump.

Let me give you some suggestions:

If you are following my suggestions you are looking to localize your day.  That is critical.   The less ground you cover the better you will do it and the more you will enjoy it.

Plan a walk a day.  Walk to one of your destinations and give yourself plenty of time to be surprised by something along with way whether that is a park, a bakery or a view.   Have an apple tart for breakfast.  Treat yourself.

tarte tatin

If you get tired then find transport.  Never exhaust yourself unnecessarily.

Sit.  You may never do this in your day-to-day life so sit.  Sit on a bench. Sit in a café.  Watch life unfold.

Explore life as locals live it.  Pick something you like to do be it sports, yoga, a work out or a bike ride and do it.

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It’s a funny balance, to prioritize yet plan enough so that you hit your must haves and leave enough space for leisure and surprise.  You may not get it right the first time but any effort will yield results.

Finally consider extending your trip.  An extra day in Paris means the difference between being rushed and finding the center of what a vacation is all about.

My last blog was on the top 25 things to do in Paris.  Next, I will write about 25 steps you can take to help you do less on your vacation and places where less is more.

I hope to see you there one day, looking out at the Seine smiling and watching the river go by.  Take an extra moment and let it all seep in.  Remember, you are on vacation and it takes a little work to make great things happen.  Or not.

bridge on seine

 

 

 

Paris. Paris. Paris.  The Top 25 Places to Visit.

Paris. Paris. Paris. The Top 25 Places to Visit.

 

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It seems that there is always too much to do when you visit Paris.  As a consequence,  planning your days can be confusing.

 To honor this city we love and to help you plan your trip,  I created this list of the top 25 places that I want visit when in Paris.  Most of these attractions are well-known and I assure you that all are worth seeing.  So let them speak for themselves.

1. The Eiffel Tower.

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There are many reasons why this is the number one tourist attraction in Paris.  Over more than 1,000 feet high, this iconic wrought iron structure was constructed for the 1889 World Exposition.  Ride the elevators or climb the stairs, photographic opportunities are everywhere.  Make your reservations in advance, it is always crowded.

2.  The Louvre.

The world’s most visited museums, the Louvre Museum is located in the Louvre Palace with its signature glass pyramid  entrance. Housing a collection of more than 1 million objects, it is home to some of the world’s most famous art works including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and the statue Venus of Milo.

3.  Sacre Coeur.

montmartre

One of the most dominant landmarks in Paris is the striking white-domed basilica of the Sacre-Coeur. Situated at the city’s highest point on Montmartre hill, this stunning basilica draws many tourists every year to see its marble architecture and gorgeous interior.   Take time to visit the Montmatre neighborhood around it.

4. Notre Dame.

The world-famous Notre Dame cathedral stands more than 400 feet high.  This marvelous church is considered a supreme example of French Gothic architecture. A tour of this 13th century masterpiece is mandatory.  Take time to visit its home, Ille De La Cite and the wonderful Ille St Louis, both located in the middle of the Seine.

5.  Versailles Palace.

OK, it is not in Paris, but the Palace of Versailles, is one of the largest and most opulent castles in the world and the one day trip to take. Home to  2,143 windows, 1,252 fireplaces, and 67 staircases, the Castle is one of the most visited attractions in France.  This amazing 18th century castle was home to King Louis at the time of the revolution and is now a UNESCO heritage site.  Save time for a long long walk in the spectacular gardens.

6. The Arc De Triomphe.

arc de tri

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe was constructed in 1806 to memorialize the triumphal battles of Napoleon Bonaparte. Standing 164 feet high and 148 feet (50 by 45 meters) wide, the arch reliefs depicting victorious battles. Beneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI.

7. Musee D’Orsay.

A mandatory vist for art lovers, the Musee d’Orsay houses the world’s best collection of impressionist paintings. Located in a former railway station, this grand museum showcases works by famous artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Cezane, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir and Jean-Francois Millet.  Spectular in its own right as a building, it has recently been remodeled again.

8.  Centre Pompidou.

Centre George Pompidou, named after a former President of France was completed in 1977.  The architecture is a love it or hate it cacophony colors, cables, boxes, and tubes. It is home for a public library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and major art exhibitions.

9.  Jardin Du Luxembourg.

The Luxembourg Garden is the second largest public park in Paris. Perfect for a picnic or stroll among beautiful lawns, artistic statues and fountains.  Take a jog, breathe, take a break from all that touring.

10.  Moulin Rouge.

moulin rouge

Toulouse-Lautrec adored Moulin Rouge, and he certainly had good reasons to do so. Located in the vicinity of Montmartre in the Paris red-light district of Pigalle, this remains the symbol of cabaret.  The show is not cheap but you can feel old Paris in the air even in today’s world of non smoking laws.

11.  Musee de L’Orangerie.

Located on Place de la Concorde. fine collection of Impressionist art, notably the most famous of Monet’s Water lilies series.

12  Les Invalides/Napoleon’ s Tomb

Home to the remains of Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte (b.1769)m this magnificent memorial built between 1843-53 and now serves as his final resting place. The giant sarcophagus that houses his remains is staggering. On the grounds is also the Musée de l’Armée, the French war museum.

13.  Place De Concorde.

At the east end of the Champs-Elysées is Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris with grande vistas in every direction. It was here that the French King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and many others were guillotined during the French revolution. A 3200 years old Egyptian obelisk anchors the center of the Plaza.

14.  The Bateaux Mouche.

Bateaux Mouches are open excursion boats that show you a very unusual view of the city from along the river Seine.  Especially fun at night.

15.  The Grand Palais.

Built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, the Grand Palais reflects the work of three different architects, each of whom designed a façade. In 1994 the wonderful glass-roofed hall was closed when bits of metal started falling off. After major restoration, the Palais has reopened and houses major expositions.

16. The Champs Elysees

The Avenue des Champs-Elysées links place de la Concorde with the Arc de Triomphe. The avenue has symbolized the style of Paris since the mid-19th century and remains a popular tourist destination overflowing with shoppers. A must walk and some of the most expensive coffee in the world but hey, think of the view.

17.  Musee National Rodin.

The Rodin museum occupies the home and gardens where the sculptor lived in the final years of his life. The Kiss, the Cathedral and the Walking Man are exhibited indoors.  Many of his individual figures or small groups that also appear in the sculpture garden.

18.  Musee Quai Branly.

This unusual modern ‘living’ building is surrounded by trees on the banks of the Seine.  A showcase for non-European cultures. Dedicated to the ethnic art of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas.  Full of rare treasures and featuring regular unique expositions.

19.  Cimetiere Du Pere Lachaise.

Can you feel the ghosts of Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf in this large swath of green just to the north of The Bastille? Take time for a long walk in the most famous cemetery in Paris.

20.  The Petit Palais.

The ‘Little Palace’ is overshadowed by its big brother, Le Grand Palais across the road. But ignore it and you’ll miss out on one of Paris’s loveliest fine arts museums. The building, built for the 1900 for the World Fair, is lit entirely by natural light and sits around a pretty little garden an exceptional spot to enjoy a coffee and cakes.

21.  The Paris Opera (Palais Garnier)

The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera.  Open for tours and home to an aggressive musical menu.

22.  Les Catacombes.

This is a 3,000km (1,864-mile) tunnel network that runs under much of the city. With public burial pits overflowing in the era of the Revolutionary Terror, the bones of six million people were transferred to the catacombes. The bones of Marat, Robespierre and their cronies are packed in with wall upon wall of their fellow citizens. A damp, cramped tunnel takes you through a series of galleries of bones and more bones.

23.  Places Des Voges.

Paris’s first planned square was commissioned in 1605 by Henri IV and inaugurated by his son Louis XIII in 1612. Now a place of refuge in the Marais surrounded by galleries and shops.

24.   Pont Alexandre II

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This stunning bridge is another great excuse to stroll across the Seine.  Phenomenal views in both directions and particularly beautiful at night.

25.  Le Sainte Chapelle

Located in the center of the city on the Île de la Cite is a small Gothic chapel constructed by King Louis IX from 1238-1243.  A remarkable visual experience, as the entire upper tier of the chapel is surrounded by enormous stained glass windows.

Don’t agree with these choices?  Want to add to this list?  Then please comment.

 

 

 

L’Astrance. Magic Moments Behind The Trocadero

Elegance does not beat you over the head.  It should not.  It does not beckon to you.  In fact, you need to look for it.  Yes, just a little bit further down the block, and wait, over there,  yes there it is.  Almost hidden on a quiet street just behind the Trocadero in the 16th behind a brown curtain in a small dining room with no more than 15 tables is the space where L’Astrance spins its magic every day.

Lobster with Corriander Flowers

Lobster with Coriander Flowers

You have to work to get into L’Astrance.  I had read that getting a lunch reservation was difficult and it was.  You call on the first of the month and with the time difference we could never get through.  We finally broke down and asked a friend in Paris to help us out and she did.

Do what you need to do to get in.  It is a meal and an experience to remember.

We walked into the restaurant at 1:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon.  It was 1/2 full mostly Japanese tourists.   It quickly filled. What followed was a 3 hour extravaganza of tastes, smells, sights and pleasures.  A feast for the eyes, mind and mouth just as an exceptional meal should be.

The "Chicken Milk"

The “Chicken Milk”

The restaurant works on a simple formula, two menus at lunch at 70 and 110 euro and a wine pairing for 50 euro should you desire.   To say that this a value is not doing it justice.  The bill came to under $250 US with one of us drinking. I can’t imagine having more fun for the money.

I am not going to go over what other more serious food critics can tell you.  Suffice it to say the kitchen has a fine hand and an asian influence in the cooking style and that it was selected as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 2013 by someone.

Instead, let these photos guide you through the journey they took us on.  Plate after beautiful plate arrived.  Amuse bouche, starters accompanying dishes several mains several desserts I mean it was a show.  Dishes were light, flavors forward.  Aggressive.   Yes, this Michelin Star restaurant was fun to eat at.

And the wine service was genuine and warm, as our somellier worked the room pouring from magnum after magnum you could see his passion in his choices and the explanations he have us for each serving.

Service was flawless smooth and believe it or not funny.  That’s right funny.  These guys had a dry wicked sense of humor and they didn’t try to force me out of French into English like so many would do.  When I was caught checking out the plates of our neighbor table, they gently chastised me, “Monseiur, your eyes should be focused on the beautiful woman across from you.”  They were right.

So on with the visual show, I will get them in order and try to remember each plate as it arrived.

The amuse

The amuse

The first small course.  Amuse 2?

The first small course. Amuse 2?

The lobster up close

The lobster up close

crispy spinach roll over peanuts

crispy spinach roll over peanuts

Exquisite Turbot over seaweed and greens.

Exquisite Turbot over seaweed and greens.

At this point we had consumed quite a bit of a wonderful Sancerre and were feeling very good when our waiter announced the next course.  The finest pigeon Trocadero, pulling our leg a bit.  This bird had not been caught down the block.  I overcame my usual reflex against small bird dishes and enjoyed.

Pigeon 3 ways

Pigeon 3 ways

Them Tiny Bones

Them Tiny Bones

It went on from there to desert after a palette cleansing sorbet of piment d’espelette, spicy and refreshing.

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The Roses.

The Roses.

No not enough.  More.

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More.

Amazing Madeleines.

Amazing Madeleines.

It’s not like every dish was what I wanted.  Some were over the top, others stunned.  A few were less than I wanted them to be.  But everything was consistent with a vision in the kitchen.  I will be the first to say that I do not regularly eat in restaurants like this and that I had some trepidation about going.  There was no need to worry and I can not wait to go again to see what else this kitchen can produce.

Finally we ordered coffee and just sat there enjoying the moment. A few minutes later we emerged into the warm Paris afternoon giggling.

 

L’Astrance.  4 Rue Beethoven, Paris 75016.

01 40 50 84 45.

15 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat and maybe 30 minutes back.

 

10 Great Things To Do With Kids In Paris

Many visitors to Paris ask this question frequently.   “I am so excited to be visiting the city, but  what do I do with the kids?”

Paris can be a daunting challenge for families.  It is one of the reasons why we love short-term vacation rental apartments like the Yellow Flat.  Nothing better than being able to hand your tyke a bowl of cereal and a seat in front of the TV at 9am instead of calling room service.

Still, this question remains a tough one and I am often at a loss to help.

The bloggers at SRSCK, a Dutch blog with great articles and photos have just published a piece on this subject with some great ideas, but it is in Dutch.  So, with their permission and the aid of modern technology, we have translated it into English.  If you want to see the original just follow this link:

http://srsck.com/2013/08/04/top-10-wat-te-doen-in-parijs-met-kinderen/

So please enjoy the English version (with a few of my comments and edits).

In Paris you do not get bored for a second. Apart from being a city that appeals to the imagination, it is also a city that has everything. Well, almost.

Paris, nice big city (c) unicellular via Flickr.com

Paris, nice big city (c) unicellular via Flickr.com

Culture, nature, sports and games, you name it and you will find it in Paris. For all tastes and all ages especially for children because there is a huge range of activities and interesting places. We put together a top 10 for our highlights for kids in Paris!

Musee Grevin

This wax museum in Paris has a collection of images of about 300 images. The museum is similar to the Madame Tussauds in Amsterdam, well at least what the images are concerned, then, the atmosphere is in fact very different. Where Tussaud modern series, plays Grevin on old French charm and bygone times. The museum has therefore been around since 1882.

Gandhi in the museum (c) Christophe Recoura for Grevin

Gandhi in the museum (c) Christophe Recoura
for Grevin

The museum was conceived by Arthur Meyer. He was a journalist and pictures were still very little used in the press at that time so it seemed fun using wax to show how the people he wrote about looked his readers. He asks Alfred Grevin to help him. Grevin is a sculptor, cartoonist and costume designer, an artist so! Since then, the museum expanded course. There is a recently opened in Montreal in 2014 and one in Prague.

Pierrot in the museum (c) Christophe Recoura for Grevin

Pierrot in the museum (c) Christophe Recoura
for Grevin

The images are divided into different areas according to themes such as singers, political figures, historical figures, characters from children’s books and cartoons, actors from home and abroad and more. You’ll ao against Obama, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Frankenstein, Louis XIV, Picasso and Marsupilami. Calculate about 1.5 hours to see the Musee Grevin. On the weekends, except during school holidays, there are also special guided tours for children (from 7 to 12 years) in which the children are dressed up and also look behind the scenes. Everything is done in a fun way but is in French.

10 Boulevard Montmartre Paris

Metro Grand Boulevards or Richelieu Drouot

www.grevin.com/

The Parks of Paris

To do in the parks (c) all Srsck

To do in the parks (c) all Srsck

In the parks of Paris, there is a lot to experience. That in itself is 10 great things and in the parks you will find playgrounds, a zoo, a Ferris wheel, carousels, museums and much more. We have article on the best parks of Paris for both children and adults.  (note:  this piece will follow soon on Yellow Flat).

Flight experience

(C) Flight Experience Paris

(C) Flight Experience Paris

This is a very special experience, but it is suitable only for older children The minimum age here is 10 years and the minimum length is 1m40.  In this experience, you control a plane in a simulator, where you “sit” in a Boeing 737-800. The simulator is completely closed so you really feel like in an airplane.

(C) Flight Experience Paris

(C) Flight Experience Paris

You can opt for a flight from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. You will be guided by an instructor, the instructors are all too real pilots. There should be one person playing for pilot and two people as passengers in the back.

Flight Experience.  6 Quai De La Gare  Paris

Cirque d’hiver

The cirque d’hiver real circus lovers will certainly appeal. It is a classic traditional circus in a beautiful historic building. You really feel like you are sent back in time. The circus was founded in December 1852. The Trapeze movie from the 50s with Gina Lollobrigida, Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster is included here. The circus is in any case often been the scene of movies and events.

Phenomenal, new show every October 2013

Phenomenal, new show every year. October 2013 through the end of February 2014.

Since 1934, waving the famous circus family Bouglione here with the scepter. Bouglione’s always come with new shows. It is recommended to the extent possible to buy tickets in advance as the shows always get quickly. Tickets can through the website of the Cirque d’Hiver be purchased.

110 Rue Amelot Paris, metro Files du Calvaire.

Cinéaqua

(C) CineAqua

(C) CineAqua

Cinéaqua is a very nice and super aquarium in Paris at the Trocadero. There are not only aquariums but also cinemas and a theater in the complex. There are more than 40 basins with countless fish, sharks (32 species!) And marine animals from all over the world.

(C) CineAqua

(C) CineAqua

There are also various workshops and activities for children. Oh, and there is a Japanese restaurant!All in all a very nice aquarium and fun for the kids for a day.

5 Avenue Albert Du Mun, Paris.  www.cienaqua.com.

Boating on the Seine.

A nice change from the metro is a boat. The kids will also like to determine from the mythical Seine to explore the city.

Paris from the water (c) Couscous Chocolat via Flickr

Paris from the water (c) Couscous Chocolat via Flickr

Boating is also helping many different companies and both day and evening. The Bateaux Mouches are the most famous and offer many different options. Besides just off topic, or just the contrary: it’s fun to Paris before you leave the animation film “A Monster in Paris” look. A very nice movie then the children will recognize all of the film on the Seine and speed that makes the whole vivid for them.

Another way to enjoy the Seine is the Batobus.  This systems uses boats going up and down the Seine as transport.  Reasonably priced at 15 euro for the day or 18 euros for two days of unlimited rides with 8 stops at key destinations such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Musee D’Orsay.

For more information go to http://www.batobus.com/english/

Cité des Enfants at the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie

The Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie in La Villette is a huge complex of five floors of anything and everything about technology and science. The building is to be found among others: a planetarium, an IMAX theater and a museum. A portion of the center is specially designed for children: La Cité des Enfants.

Cité des sciences (c) George Kiwi via Flickr.com

Cité des sciences (c) George Kiwi via Flickr.com

It is divided into two areas, one for children aged 2 to 7 and the other for those aged 5 to 12. There are all sorts of games and activities to do. Tests The program is interactive and children will not get bored here. It is worth also just to check what exhibitions there. These change regularly and are often very nice. For example, there now until August 18 an exhibition about the projects, designs and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.

Cite Des Enfants.  30 Avenue Corentin Cariou, Paris.  www.cite-sciences.fr

Cites des Science.  Same.

La tete dans les nuages

La Tete dans les nuages ​​Paris

La Tete dans les nuages ​​Paris

La tete dans les nuages ​​is a great arcade (1500 m²!) with fun games and games for all ages. I would not linger too long because the money goes here quickly but just half an hour if it rains for the children long enough and they find it super fun. Also fun for the kids is the mini bowling here.

5 Boulevard Des Italiens Pris.  www.itdn.com.  Metro Richelieu-Drouot.

Ballon de Paris

Ballon de Paris (c) Groume via Wikimedia

Ballon de Paris (c) Groume via Wikimedia

Climb into a huge balloon and see Paris from a height of 150m. Paris looks great from high altitudes and some balloon offers respite from the view from the Eiffel Tower or from the famous Ferris Wheel. There can be up to 30 passengers in the balloon. Always check in advance the website of the Paris Balloon because they depend on the weather and sometimes not fly. That is always indicated on the site.

Great views of Paris (c) Ballon de Paris

Great views of Paris (c) Ballon de Paris

This attracation can be found in the Park Andre Citroen located in the 15th and a great place to hang out and watch the French locals actually enjoying themselves.

Ballon De Paris, Park Andre Citroen, Paris 75015.  Nearest metro Lourmel

Musée en herbe

This museum is especially designed for children from 3 years to 103.

Musée en herbe for the little ones

Art for the little ones (c) Musée en herbe

Exhibitions are also arranged so that they will appeal to children. Currently, an exhibition of my great hero Hundertwasser on the program (until January 2014). Really fun!  Visit the site of the Musée en Herbe to look at the exhibitions and workshops there. There are many activities and workshops and installations are often interactive for kids really involvement.  It is located in one of the great parks of Paris, the Bois De Boulogne.  Open daily.

Wide range of workshops (c) Musée en herbe

Wide range of workshops (c) Musée en herbe

Musee en Herbe, 21 Rue Herold, Paris.  www.musee-en-herbe.com.

In our top 10, we focused on Paris itself but if you are willing to step outside the city, in the vicinity of Paris, to go poking around there are plenty of options for kids.

Children will not get bored in Paris (c) Srsck

Children will not get bored in Paris (c) Srsck

Of course there are the major theme parks such as Euro Disney and Parc Asterix but also the Palace of Versailles and children will be amazed by the beautiful zoo: Parc de Thoiry zoologique.
Closer to Paris itself are the pool of Neuilly and many indoor playgrounds like the Playmobil Funpark (yes a park dedicated to those goofy Playmobile toys)  and Ludiboo. All in all, kids will definitely enjoy themselves in the French capital!
Thanks to our friends at Srsck for this great information.  We could not agree more!  And make sure the kids enjoy a crepe with lots of whipped cream during their day.
Do you have places that your family enjoyed while in Paris?  Please comment so we can grow this list.

You Have Questions. We Have Answers. FAQ’s About The Yellow Flat.

bank atmEveryone has questions about Paris, whether you are visiting it for the first time or the fiftieth. This blog will look at some of the practical aspects of traveling to France, money, credit cards and phones.

What about money? Should I bring Euros with me?

You should bring enough money for your first day of travel and transportation from the airport (see the discussion above).  After that use the ATM machines that are everywhere in Paris.  Your US debit card will work there (but you may wish to let your bank know before you go).  While you will be charged a transaction fee but it still works out better than changing dollars to Euros in the US or at the airport.  And since it is a fee per transaction, you can save a little by withdrawing money less frequently in large amounts.  As with any big city pay attention when withdrawing money and don’t let the Parisian’s crowd you when you are using an ATM.  They often will.

Can I use my credit card when in Paris?

Mostly yes and a little but important no.  First find out whether your credit card has a chip on the front (most don’t and ask your bank if in doubt).  Then find out whether your bank charges you a foreign transaction fee (this again is per transaction and can add up fast).  At writing Capital One does not charge this fee on several of their cards, the key is to find out in advance.  Let your bank know you are traveling in Europe; they are likely to freeze your card if you don’t.

Back to your card.  If you have a chip you can use the credit card anywhere.  If you don’t, it will in most places (and you will get some pushback but it will) except automatic machines.  This is important because you often need a credit card to by metro or RER tickets.  So if you are planning a train ride have chip card or cash

What about phones?

Unless you are moving on a short-term trip contact your carrier and get an international plan.  For example, ATT has both voice and data plans.  It is not cheap but in the end run you have your phone, your phone number and it works.  If you are in France for more than a month then you should look into getting a phone through a local carrier or getting a replacement SIM card.  Either way, using your phone is expensive in Europe.  If you need to get data, use the free WIFI at the Yellow Flat.

Do I tip?

It depends.  In taxis tips are not expected but if service is good then round it up.

What about restaurants? In France your tip (a service charge) is included in your bill, good service or not.  If service is good then round-up your bill by a few euros.  That will be fine.

Do you have other questions?  Either email them to me at: jkragen@prodigy.net or give me a call at 510.524.4446.

Safe journeys always.

flowers

Avant Le Comptoir. So Much Good Fun In Such A Small Place.

IMG_2151Has a restaurant ever haunted you? Well Avant Le Comptoir has haunted me for a couple of years over several trips to Paris.

Much is written about chef Yves Camdeborde. His bistro Le Comptoir de Relais is in all of the hip guides to Paris. He even made it onto that famous not so renegade anymore Bourdaine’s TV show for his Paris visit.  But I don’t have the patience to line up for an hour to wait to get in.  Instead, I have had my eye on his little wine shop/cafe located next door, Avant Le Comptoir  at 9 Carrefour De L’Odeon.

But my eye was all that had made it in despite numerous tries. There was always a crowd. A wait. Or it was closed. Yet I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I exited a wonderful black and white photography exhibit near Opera at 2pm on a winter day. I was glad that I had on a warm coat, gloves and a scarf.  I was heading out on a long walk across the Seine and surely at this hour I would be able to get in.

I was right.  No line and half full.  Finally.

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Avant Le Comptoir  is a tiny temple of gastronomic delight that serves wonderful small plates of modern French food accompanied by a well put together wine list.  In a work surface the size of a Parisian kitchen they turn out food that is likely the match of the big brother next door without pretension and with great panache.  It has a sort of drunk slightly bourgeois working professionals vibe and once you get in just let the river of baguette, butter and glasses of wine wash over you.  And don’t fight the current.

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First look up.  Those aren’t decorative signs, that is the menu.

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Now get the bartender’s attention and that is going to be tough because it is loud, there is lots of competition and he is doing most of the cooking too.  Then tuck yourself into a crevice, eat drink and be merry like I did.

I started with a glass of Beaujolais.  Not the nouveau stuff, but a good solid bone dry gamay.  Watching the cook pulling small containers and ingredients from countless containers the show began. I started with a cream of sunchoke soup with toasted slivered almonds, the crunchiness was a great counterpoint.

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Next the chicken.  Sort of a japanese approach like a Katsu, a boned thigh breaded and fried deep brown accompanied by a remoulade like dip and way too few frites piled into a mini Stonhenge sculpture.  The chicken was sumptuous.  Another glass of red please, yes the Morgon the bartender suggested was equally good.

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Sensing that all was well in this world dessert had to follow.  The riz au lait did not disappoint.  Think of a sweetened risotto in a caramel bath.  All washed down with a sharp espresso.

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You can also order sandwiches or crepes to go.  Next time.

The bill?  19 euro, about 25 dollars.

Don’t hesitate to come here at off hours.  And you will be comfortable going there alone, in fact, it is made for that quick hit meal as many many people did during the hour or two I spent there.  I never did open that book I brought along either.

Walking out into the cold afternoon after saying goodbye to the two ad guys who shared plates and conversation throughout the meal (they were still there at 430 now that is life) the cold wasn’t quite so cold.  St Germain looked beautiful.  Life was full and at this moment Paris was doing very very well.

Avant Le Comptoir
9 Carrefour de l’Odeon
75006 Paris
Metro: Odeon
08 26 10 10 87