TU S1.2; TS 4: Sip & Cycle (Part 1) – Paris

Join me as we learn about & drink different wines. We will cycle thru Paris on a picnic-style bike with Cyclo Cafe and Tanisha Townsend of Girl Meets Glass! Part 2 will be up next week! Get your wine glass and come on ūüôā

Girl Meets Glass:
Twitter — @girlmeetsglass


En Vrac (includes location & hours of operation):

S1.2, TS1 Parisian Catacombs

Hi my travelistas!¬† On today’s travelsode of Travel Unplugged, we are going 60 feet under street level to explore Les Catacombes (the ossuary where the bones of 6 million Parisians are housed).¬† Located at 1 avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy in the 14th Arrondissement.¬† They only allow 200 visitors at a time.¬† Due to the length of the tour (up to 1 hour) and the fact that you walk down 130 steps (and up 80 steps), it’s not recommended for those with limited mobility.

The Catacombs are so freaking awesome!¬† The bones are stacked up 5 feet high¬†in very cool arrangement of femurs, tibias and skulls.¬† I kept waiting for Sammy Terry to pop out and say, “Bonjour Madamoiselle, I’ve been waiting for you!”¬† Then I’d have screamed, died on site and had my bones mixed in with the others.

As I say in the video, what I can’t get with is that the bones are mixed up all willy nilly.¬† You know they didn’t try to figure out who is Celine and who is Francois.¬† And it would be my luck that if I was one of the dead, my bones would be mixed up with my arch nemesis (we’ll name her Becky since it starts with a “b”) and my ex (who we will call Leroix so it sounds French).¬† You know who ain’t trying to have¬†their femur mixed with Becky’s tibia and Leroix’s skull?¬† Me.¬† I have gone to Glory and need time to rest.¬† And I know they ain’t walking the golden streets of heaven…because if they are, then I’d need to go speak with Peter about their quality control process and review their paperwork to ensure that error is corrected and they are given tickets to go down South ūüôā¬† Ha!

If you visit Paris, be sure to check out The Catacombs in all of its macabre splendor!

Daily from 10am to 8pm (last admission at 7pm), except Mondays and some holidays.

More information & to Purchase Tickets:


Travel Unplugged – Season 1.2 “The Remix” Trailer

Hi everybody!! ¬†It’s a new year with new goals and plenty of chances to make bad decisions! ¬†Ha! I want to welcome you to view the Travel Unplugged – Season 1.2 “The Remix” trailer. ¬†I had such big dreams and big plans last year for this travel show…but life happened and it kinda fell off the radar with my move to Paris.

So, I figured a reboot was in order and I’d relaunch the Travel Unplugged. ¬†Instead of doing Season 2 (since I only did 3 videos for season 1), I figured I’d do like most rappers/rapstresses and remix the first season. ¬†I even have a 17 week Winter Season Schedule. ¬†Now, the schedule is tentative as I may move some of the videos around depending on how lazy I am my mood.

This season, I will be publishing every Wednesday and will cover one of the following areas:  Destinations; Expat Experience; A Day in the Life of a Parisienne and Paris Highlights.  Check me out!


Tentative Winter Schedule

TU 1.2 schedule

An Expensive-Ass Letter

Hi all and Happy 2016!!! ¬†I told myself that THIS year, I was going to blog on a regular basis. Now, I lie to myself so take it for what it’s worth. Anyways, I have moved to the beautiful City of Lights and figured I’d start sharing my experience with you…my peeps…my e-family.

So, being offered a job transfer to Paris was so. freaking. exciting! Then, I was like, “wait, I don’t speak French.” ¬†But immediately was like, “Self, it doesn’t matter. ¬†You can pick it up!” LIES!

I took an immersion class in Washington, DC for 7 weeks before I moved…and know how to say my name and count. ¬†I can’t tell you how helpful that has been.

French Person:  Excuse me, would you like something to eat?

Me: ¬†Je m’appelle Nikki. ¬†Neuf.

French Person:  Um, hi Nikki.  What do you mean by the number 9?

Me:  *blank stare* Deux

French Person:  Wanders off and takes away sharp objects

It is getting better though.  I am now taking French lessons twice per week and while I do get frustrated at the fast pace, it helps to push me forward into learning the language so I can assimilate faster.

Which brings me to sharing my experience at the post office (or La Poste) as it’s called here. ¬†My sorority sister requested I send a letter to her child’s kindergarten class that basically says that I saw the gingerbread man here in Paris. ¬†I write and address the letter, figure out what I need to say at the post office to buy the correct number of stamps, and head forth to bask in a moment of triumph.

Sigh. ¬†As I get to the counter, I show my letter and ask how much I needed to pay in postage to mail the letter to the United States. ¬†I hear something that sounded like “set” which I took to mean 7 (which is “sept” in French). ¬†So, I buy 7 stamps and place ALL 7 ON THE LETTER.

Did you ever read the Harry Potter books? ¬†If not, there is a passage about Molly, Harry’s best friend’s mom, mailing him a letter thru the “Muggle Post” (non-magical letter mailing, which is basically what I am doing). ¬†Since they normally use owls to deliver letters, his wizarding family didn’t know how much postage to put on the letter. ¬†It looked like this…


What my letter looked like.


Which is exactly how my letter looked to travel from Paris to Indiana. ¬†When I put all 7 stamps on the letter, the address was just barely visible. ¬†I give it to the postman, he looks at me and was like, “Why are there so many stamps on this?” ¬†I was like, “Sir? ¬†What? ¬†You told me 7 stamps.” ¬†He looked at me and muttered something in French that sounded suspiciously like “bless her heart” which we all know in southern US means that person is “special.”

After removing 6 stamps, I was finally able to get it mailed. ¬†No telling where the gingerbread man is now…:)



What is Travel Unplugged? Um…it’s AWESOME!

Previously, I announced my new online travel show called “Travel Unplugged” that premiered on April 29, 2015 with its first episode on the XtraCold Ice Bar in Amsterdam. ¬†In this post, I wanted to take time to explain what Travel Unplugged is all about! ¬†In this trailer, I will answer the following questions:

  1. What is Travel Unplugged?
  2. What is a “travelsode”?
  3. How many travelsodes will there be each season?
  4. Where will we be traveling to?
  5. What can you expect?

Thank you so much for checking me out and I hope you subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch the first season of Travel Unplugged!

Decadent Paris: Cooking Class

20130203-143315.jpgIt has become a sort of tradition to take a cooking class when¬†I travel abroad.¬† Part of it is because I like to eat…the other part is a way for me to bring a little of that culture back home with me.¬†¬†During a¬†previous¬†trip to Paris, I took¬† a baking class (which focused on croissants, pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, foccaccia, etc.).¬† This time, I decided to take a desserts class.¬† My absolute favorite choice for cooking classes in Paris is Cook’n with Class.¬† The¬†chefs are nice & knowledgable and the hands on instruction is so fun!¬† You can book either directly thru their website or via Viator.¬† They also have a Facebook page which features delicious season recipes from time to time!

During the Paris Desserts & Pastry class, we learned how to make creme br√Ľl√©e, chocolate molten lava cake, golden bars, lemon tartes¬†and Grand Marnier¬†souffle. Delish!!!

The chefs!

The chefs!

The ingredients

The ingredients

Crust for the lemon tartes.

Crust for the lemon tartes.

Lemon tarte filling...and yes, I did order the mold :)

Lemon tarte filling…and yes, I did order the mold ūüôā

Making molten chocolate lava cake!

Making molten chocolate lava cake!

Mold & ingredients for Golden Bars

Mold & ingredients for Golden Bars

Carmelizing the sugar on the creme brulee.

Carmelizing the sugar on the creme brulee.

Prepping oranges for the Grand Marnier souflee.

Prepping oranges for the Grand Marnier souflee.

Fresh out of the oven...lemon tartes with red currants on top!

Fresh out of the oven…lemon tartes with red currants on top!

Photos of the Day: Parisian Desserts

Macaroon Trees

One of my favorite things about Paris are the fabulous desserts!¬† So, during my most recent visit to this beautiful city, I decided to do a “Chocolate & Pastry Walking Tour” where we visited different sweet shops that specialize in chocolate, pastries & ice cream.¬† I justified all the eating with the fact that at least we spent a few hours walking (even if it was just to get to the next site/shop.¬† Ha!).¬† What’s your favorite chocolate or pastry shop in Paris?


Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit

Planning a trip to Paris and trying to figure out how to spend your time?  Check out my list of Top 10 Things to do in Paris!

One Day in Paris

December 29, 2011

What would you do if you had only 1 day to experience the enchanting city of Paris?

Bonjour!¬† Aaron,¬†Joyce, Stefanie, Luciana (“The Crew”) and I¬†decide to take a day trip to Paris from London.¬† While this is my third trip to this intoxicating city, it’s the first visit for my co-travellers.¬† The great thing about this city is that you can always find something new to discover!¬† We ended up fitting about¬†3 days worth of sightseeing into 11 hours.¬† It was glorious!¬† If you plan to do a day trip, be sure to get lots of sleep and wear comfortable shoes because it will wear you out!¬† I’ve covered Paris in 3 other blog posts so most of the info in this post will be high-level (with links throughout to posts with more¬†detail).¬†

*¬†Just a quick note that this post is going to get risqu√© by the end since I will be recapping my visit to the Museum of Erotica…you’ve been warned ūüôā

Our schedule for the day:

7:01 Depart London St.-Pancras, set our watch 1 hour ahead
10:17 Arrive in Paris, take Metro to Notre-Dame
10:30 Explore Notre-Dame
11:00 Lunch at a French cafe in Ile de la Cite
12:00 Walking tour of the Latin Quarter, Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, Ile de la Cite/Ile St. Louis, Saint-Chappelle, Deportation Memorial, Pont Neuf, La Comedie Francaise, Opera Garnier, Palais Royale, Place de La Concorde, Palais de Justice, Pantheon, Champs-Elysees. 
3:00¬†Visit Montmartre area (Sacre-Coeur, Moulin Rouge¬†and Musee¬†de l’erotisme)
6:00 Visit the Eiffel Tower
7:00 Dinner at a French cafe.  Be back at Gare du Nord (train station) by 8:25pm.
9:13 Depart Paris for London (arrive in London at 10:36)

The Crew & I are up at 4:30am to get dressed and take the Tube¬†to St. Pancras¬†station to¬†catch the 7:01am train to Paris.¬† OMG, it’s early y’all.¬† Eurostar¬†requires you to check-in at least 30 minutes prior to the train leaving (you also need to account for time to go through security…so budget¬†about 45 minutes or so).¬† After we check-in, we¬†get breakfast and hang out until it’s time to leave.


Once we board the train, it’s about 2 1/2 hour ride¬†to Paris.¬† We decide to use this time to take a nap.


We arrive in Paris around 10:30am (Paris is 1 hour ahead of London) and¬†get on the Paris Metro.¬† Quick tip:¬† I purchased our Metro tickets in advance thru Rail Europe (at the same time as our train tickets) and this saved us so much time.¬† The lines for tickets¬†had about a 20 minute wait.¬† I just bought day passes so we wouldn’t have to worry about purchasing travel tickets each time we rode the Metro.¬† It definitely helped us spend more time sightseeing than worrying about logistics.

We hop on the Metro and head towards the Notre Dame stop.  As we exit the train station, we come upon Palais de Justice.


Our first stop was the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral (also known as Our Lady of Paris).¬† This magnificent cathedral took 185 years to complete (1160 – 1345).¬† The builders used the popular Gothic style and it’s noted for its flying buttresses.¬† It has been thru many alterations since completion in order to keep it current with modern conveniences.¬†

In 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being. During this time, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. The statues of biblical kings of Judah (erroneously thought to be kings of France) were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during a 1977 excavation nearby and are on display at the Mus√©e de Cluny. For a time, Lady Liberty replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars. The cathedral’s great bells managed to avoid being melted down. The cathedral came to be used as a warehouse for the storage of food (source Wikipedia).¬† I find the French Revolution fascinating (I mean, seriously, how out of touch did the royals have to be?).¬† You can read my comical take on the origins of the French Revolution in my Versailles recap titled E True Versailles Story:¬† Royals Gone Wild.

The exterior of the church is absolutely breathtaking.  You can see the kings of Judah as well as the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus.


The inside of the cathedral was beautiful and serene.¬† All cathedrals have the same layout (in the form of a cross).¬† It’s a very overwhelming and calming experience.


After we leave Notre Dame, we walk to Ile St. Louis (“St. Louis island) and stop for lunch at a little cafe called Le Flore en L’Ile¬†(where they serve the famous Berthillon¬†ice cream).¬† Ile St. Louis is the high-rent residential area of Paris (Johnny Depp has an apartment here!).


We walk past the back of the Notre-Dame and go to the Deportation Memorial.¬† I’ve been to this area twice before and never noticed this garden nestled among the trees.¬† The Memorial de la Deportation¬†is a memorial to the 200,000 French victims of Nazi concentration camps.¬†

Then we cross the Seine…


…and see the “love locks”.¬† Couples who marry place locks along the bridge and throw the key¬†into the river¬†to signify that their love cannot be broken. ¬†No idea what the folks do who have combination locks (maybe those signify¬†pre-nups).¬†


We walk along the Seine towards the Louvre and pass thru the Latin Quarter.  I cover my tour of the Louvre pretty thoroughly in my Paris Ooh La La post (it also includes a recap of the Paris Ghost Tour which was so entertaining).


While Joyce & Stefanie toured the Louvre; Aaron, Ciana¬†and I took the Metro to Montmartre to visit Sacre-Coeur.¬†¬†“The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacr√©-CŇďur Basilica, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica.¬† ¬†A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacr√©-CŇďur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the supposed excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.¬† The Sacr√©-CŇďur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.” (source, Wikipedia)

Climbing up the steps to reach Sacre-Coeur is a workout in and of itself.  My glutes were on fire!  But the view is phenomenal and well worth it.


While the view is fantastic, let me warn you that the pickpockets are out in full effect.¬† Due to this area being extremely crowded, thieves are always on the lookout for something free.¬† Sigh.¬† I covered my own “attempted” pickpocket experience in¬† The Wonderful World of Paris¬†post.¬† You already know I had a “I wish a mutha-*&!@ would pickpocket me today!” attitude.¬† Ha!

After we leave Sacre-Coeur, we decided to stroll through the artsy Montmartre neighborhood.  An interesting fun fact to know is that many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre (such as Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh).

We pass by a sweet shop and couldn’t resist going in.¬† I love how happy sugar-filled shops are ūüôā


As we were chatting and walking down¬†Boulevard de Clichy,¬†I started to notice something.¬† Every store seemed to have a theme.¬† Now, if you have tender sensibilities, are under the age of 18 or are my Mom, stop reading, k?¬† If you want to read but don’t want to admit to your inner freak, then go on and close the door.¬† I’ll wait.


Wait…what?¬† Does the sign on that¬†store say “Pussy’s”?¬† I don’t see any cats.¬† Is that a pimp leaning up against the wall?¬† OMG, this is the French “Hustle & Flow”.¬† Now I’ve got that “It’s Hard Out Here for¬†a Pimp” song in my head and I’m gonna be saying ‘mane’ like Terrence Howard. FRACK.¬† I HATE THAT SONG!¬†

How did we stumble into the freak nasty section of Paris?¬† Why didn’t I see this in Rick Steves?¬† What startled me was that you just kinda came up on it and it was like, “BAM…take off your drawers/panties.”¬† If you have a heavy sexual appetite, this smorgasbord of sex is for you.¬† When I was in Amsterdam, I expected freak fest (and let’s be honest…you know you would’ve been all over this too, k?).¬†

We had about 30 minutes to kill until we met back up with Joyce & Stefanie so we end up going to the Musee¬†de l’erotisme¬†(Museum of Erotica) which was about¬†10 Euro.¬†¬†Let me just say that you are not ready for this place.¬† Seriously.¬† I thought it would be some sort of campy “museum” but this turned out to be a full-on 7 level museum dedicated to all forms of erotica.¬† And, it took us¬†much longer than 30 minutes to go through the entire¬†place.¬† I am not ashamed to admit I learned something!¬† For those of you “innocents” out there, this is the time for you to put on some pearls so you can get to clutching.

I was not ready.¬† And, y’all aren’t either.¬† Which is why I’m taking you on the tour with me (yes, I was *that girl* who whipped out the camera and giggled or said “shut the front door!” while taking pictures for y’all.¬† You’re welcome).

So let’s get started.¬† First, let me say that this turned into my birthday present for my cousin, Aaron (since we were in Paris on his special day).¬† Second, even he was shocked which is saying something.¬† Third — Mom, are you still reading this?¬† Aaron made me go in.¬† I was fine with visiting the cathedrals ūüôā

This is the first thing I see when we enter the museum…

Um, what kind of chair is this?  And, is it for sale?

Then it was on to these gems:


Each floor as a “theme”.¬† They start you off tame…then it gets freakier¬†each level you ascend.¬† The first floor was dedicated to the “religious” and cultural aspects of sex across the world.¬† The big dildo you see above?¬† That’s “prayer wood”.¬† HAHAHAHAHAHA.¬† Wooo, stop it.¬† I cannot see taking that to Zion Hill Baptist Church and shouting out “CALLING ALL PRAYER WARRIORS!”¬†

Have you been looking for some new sandals for the summer?  Well here you go.

Oh yes, you are seeing right.  Dildo sandals.  I believe they may be multi-purpose.

Then we get to the Japanese proverbs.¬† This stuff is golden.¬† I heard a guy saying “this is deep, man.” (you can click on the photos to enlarge).

Then there was the “pillow book”which is basically a how-to manual to subjugate women *eye roll*…


Next is the Chinese version of the “Kama Sutra”.

We then head to the next level which is all about brothels. 


You can see photos of some of the “working girls” and the ledger of how much pimps/madams made.

Below is an excerpt of a book which basically said that prostitutes became lesbians out of boredom or because they hated how they were treated by men.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of photos but I only took a handful on each floor…didn’t want to seem like a sex-crazed pervert.¬† We then head upstairs.¬† Each landing has some sort of erotic art like…

As we come to the top of the stairs, I notice a large flat screen tv and couches with some lighted scented candles.¬† The tv wasn’t showing anything at that time but I assumed it was a video about the history of erotica.¬†¬†


So wrong.

Ciana, Aaron and I had been walking¬†around and looking at all the statues, pictures, etc.¬† I got caught up looking at something (I can’t even remember…I was constantly lagging behind due to taking pictures).¬† As I walk back towards the stairs, I see the video has started and Ciana & Aaron are slack-jawed.¬† Apparently, I had just missed¬†what I assumed was the informational video¬†but a new one is starting.¬† There is a crowd with¬†people sitting on the couch and standing around.¬†

I turn to look at the tv screen and see it’s a silent movie…and it’s porn.¬† That’s right, silent porn.¬† With subtitles…black and white…and looks to have been filmed in the 1920s.¬† The film was set in a monastery with a “monk” making dinner for 2 “nuns”.¬† And, I swear that the subtitle said “the sisters decided to have each other for “hors d’oeuvres”.¬† Wait…what?¬† Next thing I know, the “sisters” have ripped off each others “habits” and are going to town on each other!¬† WHAT?¬† The subtitles keep popping up because apparently you need to be told the continuing storyline in case you got lost.¬† The “monk” was peeping thru a window and then another “monk” comes up behind him, snatches his pants down and starts having sex with him.¬† I was done.¬† I couldn’t watch anymore…in a room full of folks…with a storyline set in church.¬† I’m trying to see Jesus some day and I don’t have time to explain my visit to the Museum of Erotica to Peter.¬† I already have way too much to account for.¬† Which now includes this visit because you know I didn’t leave.¬†

We turned quickly and went up to the next level…which was “porn thru the years”.¬† There were 3 smaller tv’s on each table set in a triangle pattern.¬† This apparently is for more intimate viewing.¬† But you are still at a table with other folks.¬† Really?¬† They had porn from every culture thru a span of 50 or 60 years.¬† Even interviews with adult film stars.¬† As we are walking up to the 6th level, we see photos of different “genres” of porn…like vampire porn.¬† *hangs head*

The 6th floor is dedicated to what I’m gonna call “cartoon” porn.¬† I’m sure it has some sort of slick name but it’s¬†freaky stuff in cartoon fashion.¬† Like they needed to draw up Smurfette getting it on with Papa Smurf.¬† There’s something for everybody here.

The last floor focused on “doll” porn.¬† Poor Barbie.¬† She’s a ho.


By the time we reached Bimbo Barbie, I was exhausted.  Who knew that looking at all that erotica would wear you out?  We ended up taking the elevator down to the first floor and saw this magnificent display at the exit.

Afterwards, I felt like I needed to smoke a cigarette.  Woooo!  Thanks, Paris.

We leave the museum and head towards Moulin Rouge

Then take the Metro back to the Louvre to meet up with Joyce & Stef.

We all walk from the Louvre thru the Tuleries Garden and see that there is a huge ferris wheel!


By this point, our feet are killing us but we still have one more stop before dinner…and that is to the Eiffel Tower!

Then finally, it was time to rest and eat.  We ended up eating at a cafe across the street from the train station.  Which was a good thing because we almost missed our train!  Overall, it was a great day trip.  We were able to see a lot.  I would definitely recommend staying for more than a day because Paris at night is fabulous!  Looking for things to do in Paris?  Check out my post The Top 10 Things to do in Paris.  Au revoir!

London & Paris (New Years 2011/2012)

Joyce & Stefanie in front of Westminster Abbey (London)Afternoon Tea at the National Gallery Cafe (London)Afternoon Tea at the National Gallery Cafe (London)The London EyeBig Ben & Parliament (London)Protest signs at the NYD parade (London)
Protest signs at the NYD parade (London)View from the Thames River (London)Shakespeare's Globe (London)Westminster Abbey (London)Nikki posing in front of Westminster Abbey (London)New Year's Day parade (London)
New Year's Day parade (London)Nelson Mandela (London)Stef @ The SavoyTicket to see "Legally Blonde The Musical"London BridgeThe Crown Jewels
Trevor Nelson's NYE partyCiana & Byron @ Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyJoyce & Austin @ Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyNikki & Daniel at Trevor Nelson's NYE PartyCiana & Trevor Nelson @ his NYE partyJoyce & Nikki @ Trevor Nelson's NYE Party

Hanging out in London & Paris over New Years 2011…come join us!

Top 10 Things to do in Paris

Each time I visit a city, I try to come up with a list of the ‚Äútop things to do‚ÄĚ by reading reviews on Trip Advisor and¬†Rick Steves¬†to plan an unforgettable trip.¬† The list will contract or expand based upon the amount of time I have.¬† I always like to mix city/historical tours with off the beaten path activities.¬† Below is a list my top 10 things to do when visiting the lovely city of Paris.

10.          Take in a Moulin Rouge cabaret show.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret¬†was built in 1889 by Joseph Oller and is close to Montmartre (a must see during a walking tour) in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement (it is marked by the red windmill on its roof). ¬†¬†‚ÄúThe Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.‚ÄĚ (Wikipedia). ¬†Today the Moulin Rouge is a tourist destination, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. ¬†Be sure to book your tickets¬†in advance as the shows tend to sell out.¬† I also recommend you watch the 1941 ‚ÄúMoulin Rouge‚ÄĚ film starring Josephine Baker as Princess Tam-Tam before you go.

9.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Shop til you drop.¬† Paris is the place for fashion.¬† I find myself people-watching just to figure out how I should update my wardrobe.¬† You can either book a shopping tour¬†(including a Discount Couture tour) or strike out on your own and visit boutiques, street markets or local department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marche).¬†¬† I picked up¬†an¬†invaluable etiquette tip from my Rick Steve‚Äôs ‚ÄúParis‚ÄĚ guidebook:

  • Before you enter a Parisian store, remember the following points:
  • In small stores, always greet the clerk by saying “Bonjour” plus their title (Madame, Mademoiselle, or Monsieur) and say “Au revoir, Madame/Mademoiselle/Monsieur” when leaving.
  • The customer is not always right. In fact, figure the clerk is doing you a favor by waiting on you.
  • Except for in department stores, it’s not normal for the customer to handle clothing. Ask first.
  • Forget returns (and don’t count on exchanges).
  • Saturday afternoons are busiest.
  • Observe French shoppers. Then imitate.
  • Don’t feel obliged to buy. The expression for “window-shopping” in French is faire du l√®che-vitrines (literally, “window-licking”).

8.            Get a scoop (or more) from a Berthillion ice cream shop. 

Berthillion Ice Cream shop (photo courtesy of David Monniaux)

Berthillon is a French manufacturer and retailer of luxury ice cream and sorbet.¬†¬†I first became addicted to their ice cream during the summer of 2010.¬† Berthillon’s fame results, in part, from its use of natural ingredients, with no chemical preservatives or artificial sweeteners. ¬†Its ice creams are made from only milk, sugar, cream and eggs‚Ķjust like homemade ice cream. ¬†¬†Their flavors are derived from only natural sources (cocoa, vanilla bean, fruit, etc.). Fifteen flavors are produced everyday by the chefs depending of the season, the availability at the market and customer demand. In total, about sixty different flavors are produced throughout the year.¬† Try to get there early to have a greater selection of flavors.¬† Personally, I love the raspberry and chocolate flavors!¬† Berthillion‚Äôs has 3 locations on Ile St. Louis (31 rue St. Louis-en-l‚ÄôIle, another across the street, and one more around the corner on rue Bellay).¬† It‚Äôs a perfect stop after visiting the Notre-Dame!

7.            Relax at a café.

There are tons of cafes in Paris and you would be remiss if you didn’t stop in one for a café au lait, croissant or crepe.  I usually like to pop in during the afternoon for a light treat since most restaurants in Paris do not open for dinner until at least 7pm.  Cafes are a perfect place to take a break after a busy day of sightseeing.

6.            Explore the Catacombs. 

The catacombs are an underground ossuary¬†in Paris. Located south of the former city gate (the “Barri√®re¬†d’Enfer” at today’s Place Denfert-Rochereau), the ossuary holds the remains of about 6 million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris’ stone mines. Opened in the late 18th century, the underground cemetery became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century, and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867.¬† The Catacombs entry is in the western pavilion of Paris’s former Barri√®re¬†d’Enfer¬†city gate. After descending a narrow spiral stone stairwell of 19 meters to the darkness and silence broken only by the gurgling of a hidden aqueduct channelling local sources away from the area, and after passing through a long (about 1.5 km) and twisting hallway of mortared¬†stone, visitors find themselves before a sculpture that existed from a time before this part of the mines became an ossuary, a model of France’s Port-Mahon fortress created by a former Quarry Inspector. Soon after, they would find themselves before a stone portal, the ossuary entry, with the inscription Arr√™te, c’est¬†ici¬†l’empire de la Mort (‘Stop, this is the empire of Death’).

Beyond begin the halls and caverns of walls of carefully arranged bones. Some of the arrangements are almost artistic in nature, such as a heart-shaped outline in one wall formed with skulls embedded in surrounding tibias; another is a round room whose central pillar is also a carefully created ‘keg’ bone arrangement. Along the way one would find other ‘monuments’ created in the years before catacomb renovations, such as a source-gathering fountain baptised “La Samaritaine” because of later-added engravings. There are also rusty gates blocking passages leading to other ‘unvisitable’ parts of the catacombs ‚Äď many of these are either un-renovated or were too un-navigable for regular tours. (Wikipedia).¬† I first heard about the catacombs when I did the Paris Ghost Tour in September 2011.¬† I found out there is an entire culture down there!¬† The ‚Äúcataphiles‚ÄĚ (people who are basically obsessed with the catacombs and very familiar with the layout) have parties, film festivals, concerts, etc.¬† However, note that you should never try to visit the catacombs without a proper escort/guide‚Ķbecause you will get lost & never¬†find your way¬†out.

5.            Cruise the Seine River.

The Seine is a 482 mile-long river and an important commercial waterway within the Paris Basin in the north of France. It rises at Saint-Seine near Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre (and Honfleur on the left bank).  I suggest taking one of the excursion boats (i.e. Bateaux Mouches) that offer sightseeing tours of the Rive Droite and Rive Gauche within the city of Paris.  I suggest the Champagne Tasting Seine Tour or Night Bike Tour.  It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the city.


4.            Take a French cooking class.

There are only so many cathedrals & museums I can visit before I’m ready to do something different.  I love to cook and try out new techniques and recipes.  To that end, I registered for a baking class with Cook’n with Class.  We learned (through hands-on instruction) the proper techniques for making croissants, pain au chocolat, focaccia, pain au raisen, etc.  It was awesome and the chefs are absolutely delightful!  They offer several different classes:  Baking, Classic French Desserts (crème brulee, molten chocolate cake, souflee a Grand Marnier), Macaron (3 different flavors), Morning Market (where you will go to a local market and learn how to select fresh produce & ingredients) and many others.

3.            Visit the Louvre.

I highly suggest you take a couple of hours and tour the Louvre.  It’s massive so you will need to strategize and prioritize what you want to see (i.e. Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, Egyptian collection, etc.).  If museums aren’t your thing, you still should walk or bike past it to see the magnificent exterior.  It’s absolutely breathtaking at night!

2.            Visit the Eiffel Tower.

Love, love, LOVE the Eiffel Tower.¬† Built in 1889, it has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair.¬† Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron), using two and a half million rivets, in a structural design by Maurice Koechlin. ¬†The tower was much criticized by the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. Newspapers of the day were filled with angry letters from the arts community of Paris (Wikipedia).¬† Which I find interesting as it is now considered one of the most beautiful structures built.¬† I love to sit and stare at it.¬† Especially when it lights up at night.¬† That 5 minute ‚Äúsparkle‚ÄĚ is spectacular!¬† I highly suggest you buy your tickets online to decrease your wait in line.¬† The Eiffel Tower’s online reservation system, which lets you skip the ticket line, is up and running (www.toureiffel.fr). At the tower, attendants scan your ticket (which you’ve printed at home or at the hotel) and put you on the first available elevator. Even with a reservation, however, you still have to wait in line with the masses to get from the second level to the summit.

1.                   Walking Tours. Take a bike ride thru the city.

The top thing to do in Paris?  Take a walking or bike tour (or both)!  It’s a great way to see the city and learn the history.

  • For walking tours, I suggest Sight Seekers Delight¬†(tours of the city, Montmartre, & Jewish Tour of Marais for a cost of 35-40 euros),¬†Discover Walks¬†(which offer free 90 minute tours of Notre Dame, the Left Bank, Marais, and Montmartre by native Parisian guides) and the Paris Ghost¬†Tour¬†(a neat tour thru the Jewish Quarter focusing on the myths & legends of Parisian ghosts & hauntings…suspend belief and roll¬†with it), and¬†Paris Chocolate & Pastry Food Tour (which is a walking tour of Paris’ finest chocolate & pastry shops…tastings are included).
  • For bike tours, I suggest Fat Tire Bike Tours.¬† I‚Äôve taken 3 of their tours in Paris.¬† They have offices in London, Barcelona and Berlin as well.¬† All of their tours are phenomenal.¬† It‚Äôs an American company and employs expats to conduct the bike tours in English.¬† They are a fun way to see a lot of the city in a 4 hour span of time.¬† They also do a bike tour of Versailles (which is awesome and lasts 8.5 hours).