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Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts...

Posted by kristine_ca (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 4, 12 at 21:15

Hi everyone,

We are leaving on a 17 day trip next week, and we're visiting London, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Paris. In London and Paris we'll be concentrating on the city, but also taking some day trips (to Stonehenge, and Versailles, for example.) But sometimes it's the little things that make a trip. Do you have any favorite cafes, shopping streets or whatever fun places you've discovered and would like to share? Thanks!

Kristine


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Hi, I really enjoyed the Thames River cruise. The one I went on I think started near Greenwich and went through London.
Sorry I can not remember the name of the line I used.
For Restaurants...no names to give you but I had some of the best Indian food I have ever had in my life in and around London.
I guess I'm not really much help as I now normally go to Brighton.

Here is a link that might be useful: Thames River


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Yes, London is a great place for Indian food. There used to be a wonderful Indian restaurant near the British Museum (which is also a Must-See), where we got saffron ice cream.

Have a real tea at Fortnum & Mason's. And visit the food halls at Harrod's. Whether you're looking for fruit, cheese, chocolate or a Christmas goose, they are impressive! They will pack you a lunch, which you can take to one of London's many parks.

Have a great trip!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

While in Paris, be sure to reserve an afternoon for a stroll through one of the gardens (I favor Luxembourg Garden)--watch kids sail their elaborate boats in the fountains, take in a Punch & Judy show if you can find one, and just sit and people-watch.

Buy a baguette, a bottle of wine, some food from from a charcuterie, and eat lunch on the quai of the Seine (a splendid spot is the Ile St. Louis Quai d'Anjou). Spend hours sitting outside at a cafe, people-watching. Anywhere.

If it's a sunny day, I recommend a visit to Saint-Chapelle (on Ile de la Cite) built in the 1200's. If you have time, a stroll through Pere Lachaise Cemetery is always offbeat and amazing (Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Abelard & Heloise, Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas... the list goes on). Get a list of grave sites from the guard.

Alsace fare can be had at the Brasserie St. Louis (behind Notre Dame). The food isn't extraordinary but you can get some of the traditional dishes and the waiters are authentic (it's an old family-run business)... It can be touristy but it's also a haunt for some journalists in Paris. And, down the street is the ice cream shop Berthillon--I think it's the best in Paris. And the main drag of Ile St. Louis is loaded with terrific shops--and at the end of the school day, school children racing home with baguettes under their arms.

Versailles is an all-day affair, a train ride away from Paris, and usually mobbed by tourists. If your time is limited I recommend you stay in the city where there are so many amazing things to see and do that are reasonable walks or a short Metro ride away.

I love Place des Vosges, a beautiful square of buildings built by Henry IV (home to Charles VII, Louis XII--and Victor Hugo). It's not on the scale of Versailles, which covers acres and acres, but it is accessible and authentically royal!

And be sure to wave hello at 23 rue d'Arcole, my address while I lived in Paris (next door to Notre Dame). A stroll through the cathedral is always lovely but I'd skip the hike up to the bell towers, now covered with wire and restraints to prevent jumpers, and nothing like how it used to be...

I'm not a fan of Sacre Coeur in terms of architecture, but the neighborhood is very interesting, hilly, and a fun place to wander in, once you get off the beaten path.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Oh you lucky girl! I hope you'll come back and post a few highlight photos.

Sadly, it's been too long since I've been in London or Paris to recommend specific places.

I think it you go with an open mind & an open heart and avoid any place that has a U.S. location (ie. McDonald's!) you'll have a great time.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

In Paris, I love the Musee d'Orsay, and nearby is the Rue du Bac, for window shopping, antiques.

In London, we recently walked across Tower Bridge to the esplanade on the south side of the Thames. You get to the HMS Belfast from this side of the Thames. It was under construction when we were there, but I'm sure that it is open now. Lots of modern office buildings, places to eat and a great view of the architecture of the City, especially the Gherkin building. I'm told that the top of the Gherkin gives you a fabulous view of London.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Musee Orsay is near St Germain des Pres, an artsy neighborhood where we stayed; on rue Christine, la Rotisserie d'en Face is a moderate chicken place with amazing desserts, food is very good and homey, not fancy french, which I am not putting down of course, I have other restaurant recs for that area,
l'Espadon Bleu, chic and excellent, casual clothing is fine.

The cafe at le Louvres has good lunch food. The ham and cheese baguette is amazing anywhere, we would have that often on the fly, just kept walking.
I was only 3 days in London once, that's where I discovered Sticky Toffee pudding cake, in a pub.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

If you are a Monet fan, don't miss the Musee de l'Orangerie at the opposite end of the jardin Tuileries from the Louvre. In the lower level are some of his later, very large Nympheas-spectacular.

I agree with many others and would add the Bois de Bologne and the flea markets.

I'll be back in France in a month, but not staying long in Paris this time, so I will be wandering the parks and hanging out people watching this time!

Have a grand trip. Paris is my favorite city in the world!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

It's been awhile since I've been, so I don't recall names of cafes or side streets.

In Paris, I did enjoy walking anywhere and going/eating wherever looked good.

Most want to go to the Louvre, but don't miss Musee d'Orsay. The building was originally a train station and wonderful. Be sure to go look out/through one of the clock faces and peak out windows to get a closer view of the building's statues.

Go to Montmartre, see the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur, and walk the town. Great place to people watch.

We did a dinner cruise in Paris, instead of London. Road the ferris wheel that was in Paris at the time (2000), but is now gone. Did not ride The Eye - takes awhile.

What about a day trip to Windsor? It's a lovely village, and the Castle, grounds and its chapel are beautiful.
I would go to Giverny before Versailles. I think it's overrated. We also enjoyed the tour of the Tower of London - and seeing the Queen's jewels. Amazing collection.

Have a wonderful time!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Inverness, can be very cold even in june. I was there in June a few years ago and it was in the high 30s and there were even flurries. The gardens and few rooms that are open to the public at Barmoral, The queen's summer estate, are lovely. and inroute are many scotch refineries, though I could not partake for I was five months pregnant, I did get to enjoy the nice scents. I missed Nessy on my trip, hope you spot him! The main strip in Inverness is filled with many wonderful places to dine and the views are wonderful.
Enjoy your trip! I have visited all the places you have listed(my husband is English) and they all have so much to offer. I just love how the old cities in Europe all have these streets that twist and curve around you like a lover's arms. It is so unlike our own grid locked patterned city streets!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Musee d'Orsay, especially if you love Impressionists!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Hey Roarah, my husband was born in Edinburgh but raised in south London. He hasn't been to Edinburgh since childhood so we are planning a trip there next year. I will have to get some trip advise from you when the time comes. I'm also going to sneak in a trip to Ireland which you may understand might not be easy.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Hey Roarah, my husband was born in Edinburgh but raised in south London. He hasn't been to Edinburgh since childhood so we are planning a trip there next year. I will have to get some trip advise from you when the time comes. I'm also going to sneak in a trip to Ireland which you may understand might not be easy.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Flurries in Inverness, huh? I'd better throw in an extra sweater then!

Thanks for all your suggestions!

K


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Don't miss the British Library on Euston Road. They have a rotating exhibit of incredible historical documents. I saw the Magna Carta there on my last visit! There's a nice gelato kiosk on the courtyard, and a restaurant there as well. You can visit St. Pancras station at the same time, just across the way and a magnificent transformation of an vast Victorian building.

Have fun! London is one of my very favorite cities on earth. Have not been to Edinburgh but spent a fair amount of time in Glasgow on one trip and loved the Scottish countryside. Paris.... I would skip Versailles and spend an extra half day each in the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay instead, and then take the traveling time you'd spend going to the palace to go shopping... just my 2 cents!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

In Paris, go to the roof of Galeries Lafayette for an amazing view of the rooftops of Paris. You can't help but see the gorgeous stained glass dome when you are inside the store and don't miss the food market there, too.

I also adored Place des Vosges. It was such fun to see Parisians strolling and relaxing. We watched little boys playing football (our soccer) and they were as cute as can be.

You could spend all 17 days in Paris. Sigh. What a city.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

It's funny you mention skipping Versailles, kswl. I've been thinking about that. On one hand I feel like "of COURSE we have to go!" And I figured my kids would get a kick out of it. However, a little opulence goes a long way. Paris is the last part of our trip, so maybe we'll play it by ear and see how we feel then. Both my kids want to go to the town of Provins, which is a medieval, walled city that holds jousting tournaments and other medieval fair stuff everyday. The thing they are MOST looking forward to is the Warner Bros studio tour outside London--the studio where the Harry Potter films were made! You get to wander through all the sets.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

I mentioned skipping Versailles. I didn't realize you were taking your children along. If your kids are very sophisticated and have a keen interest in vast empty indoor spaces and acres of formal gardens, and are particularly knowledgeable about history and able to conjure the past without difficulty, then Versailles is for them!

Don't get me wrong, Versailles is interesting if in a bit of a scholarly way, but as I mentioned earlier, it is simply overrun with tourists, the lines are long, and it simply cannot hold a candle to the streets of Paris.

If they are like my kids were (who are "young adults" now) they will much prefer a night ride by bateaux mouches (boat flies) on the Seine. This is a relaxing, captivating, and sparkling adventure with lovely views of the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, and other sites. Marvelous!

If your children like museums, skip the Louvre. I love Musee d'Orsay but if your children groan at the mention of a museum (it's huge), take them to the Rodin museum, which is small and has lovely grounds where they can be outdoors. Sculpture seems more accessible to younger children, in my experience. We always made "surgical strikes" to museums when our kids were younger, identifying a small collection, and going out for a merry lunch afterwards.

When we travel in Europe, we always rent apartments. I found it far and away the best way to travel with kids. We would often have breakfast at the apartment, be out and about all day, stop at a market to get some food, and make an easy dinner. An apartment gives you all kinds of flexibility (and space) that a hotel room cannot.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Sorry, I lost track of who mentioned that! Thanks too for the mention of the Rodin museum-that's a good thought, and one I probably would have skipped.

We too do the surgical strikes. Usually we let each kid (they are 12 and 15) pick one or two things in the museum they want to see, and that's all we do. And we've made our peace with moving fast, as 12 yr old doesn't ever want to dawdle. They both like clothes, so I think we'll go see the fashion exhibit at the V&A in London. Anybody been there?


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

I was somewhat disappointed in the V&A. I've seen better in other museums.
The British Library's exhibit of rare books is about the only thing you can see, unless you want to sign up for a researcher's pass (costs money) to see other collections. The rare books includes several Beatles memorabilia. Figure on an hour in the rare books collection, at most.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Kkay, I did suggest she skip Versailles and spend the extra time at the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay and shopping :-) I second your recommendation for the Rodin sculpture garden, it is much improved since the overhaul (around 2007, I think).

But I would never suggest skipping the Louvre, if the kids are at all interested in art, it is fantastic. We did a painting search looking for certain elements in paintings when our kids were little. A couple of years ago DH and i went for his birthday weekend (it was a surprise for him, we did not have much time) and hired an American artist living in Paris to take us to see specific works we were interested in. That turned out to be a wonderful experience, as we wasted no time trying to find anything and the explication from an artist was wonderfully insightful. I highly recommend using a personal guide if possible.

The OP's son's idea to visit the medieval town sounds like a much better use of their time than Versailles. Really, how much gilding and how many mirrors does anyone have to see before it constitutes cruelty, lol? Le Petit Trianon is sweet and is loaded with political significance and implications for the time, but perhaps only interesting to Revolution scholars.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

kswl, I always promised my kids a nickel for every topless lady they could find in statues or paintings during our museum forays (my husband thought it should be for every sailboat, but the very mention of topless women in art made them feel slightly scandalous, and therefore on high alert to what was around them).

When someone has limited time in Paris, I never recommend spending much of it inside museums. I'd be very selective, and spend a single day at the most. The Louvre--all 650,000 square feet of it--can be awfully overwhelming. Selective viewing, as you describe, is definitely the way to go. I am an avid museum-goer, but just stepping foot into the Louvre sometimes exhausts me. I guess I'd rather wander the gardens, poke around in the bouquinistes, visit a flower market, try pastries, or go to a small museum instead...

There is one museum of a post-Impressionist (I think) whose quirky collection was amazing. Lots of paintings about myths. His name completely escapes me. But it was a terrific museum with drawers of his sketches and his enormous oil paintings up on the walls... I know I have it in my notes somewhere... That's the kind of museum that I love, a bit quirky, small in scale, focused.

I have a dear friend who lives in the city of Versailles, so I have to be careful.... But I just have never been a big fan. Provins would be much more fun!

Sigh. I had to cancel a trip to Europe last month. Now I'm feeing really deprived.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Gosh I hope you haven't left yet!

Kids in London - British museum and the Tower of London. Go on a Tour at the Tower with the Yeoman's leading it- they make the area come alive. Do the Changing of the Guard in front of Buckingham Palace. If the flag is flying above the Palace it means that the Queen is in residence. In London we did a Jack the Ripper tour-led walk. It's done at night and our kids thought it was cool. (Google walking tours - london)

Take a ride on a double-decker red bus. Go to Picadilly Circus which is just about the center of all activity. If you are there on a Sunday - go to Hyde park in the morning and they have Speakers Corner. (I'm pretty sure they still do) People literally climb up on a soap box and speak their mind on anything. There is of little interest downtown so don't bother - unless you are a newspaper buff and want to walk down Fleet Street.

Paris - I'd spend all 17 days here. Love, love, love Paris. Go to the Louvre in the am and then walk down the Champs d'Elysse from it down to the Arc de Triomphe. (There is a Macdonalds on the way and the kids insisted on getting a coke just to say they did it)I don't know if you can still do it or not but my kids loved trying to cross the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe. It's an absolutely mad, nonsensical traffic circle. Climb the Arc and then look down the Champs from where you just came.

Walk along the Seine and visit all the sidewalk artists and of course go to the Eiffel Tower. We did take our DS's(they were going into gr. 10 and 12) to Notre Dame but you don't have to. Our eldest is a History buff (he made us go to the Louvre twice as well) and so old buildings are an interest of his.

In London - buy passes for the Tube (underground subway) because it's really easy to use and I don't find walking in London to be particularly fun.

In Paris - we've been twice and walked everywhere both times. It is just such a cool city to walk around and to look at the architecture, to stop in at a cafe, to wander down the Seine.

Have a great time.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Suero, right now there are two exhibits at the British Library---one is free in the entrance hall and is full of memorabilia of the Olympic games. That should appeal to everybody and should be a fairly quick visit, which would allow time in that area if you like to explore.

The other current exhibit, Writing Britain, which requires tickets, is more academic and may not appeal to kids or some adults. The documents I've seen at the BL have afforded some of the most precious moments in my life--handwritten books, illuminated manuscripts a thousand years old, war letters penned by hopeful families... it all depends upon your interests and what's on at the moment, but I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand---nor the V&A, for that matter. Their decorative arts and costuming exhibits are a great way for kids to really see how people used to live, dress, eat, etc.

kkay, we never did the topless ladies but we sent them to hunt for red capes, crosses, helmets, etc. The museum at the Bank of England has a great scavenger find games that are pre-printed on activity sheets. (B0fE is in the City on Threadneedle Street.)


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

When in Paris, if you are in the market for kitchen ware, shop at E. DeHellerin. it's a superb kitchen store.

Edinburgh - go to Edinburgh Castle, leave there and walk down the Royal Mile to Holyroodhouse, another of the Queen's homes.. Princes St is the main drag in Edinburgh and one block behind it is George St. Great Robert Adam architecture there. At one end of Princes St is the Royal Caledonian Hotel and it has the most beautiful ladies room I've ever seen. At the other
end is the Botanic Gardens, beautiful and very manageable in size. The royal yacht Brittania is docked in Edinburgh - open to tourists. Lauriston Castle, just further west of Brittania, is another very neat home worth touring.

If you have a car, drive south of Edinburgh to St Mary's Loch. It's about a
1 hr drive - you can get a meal at Tibbie Shiels Inn. This is my favorite place in the world for scenery and hiking.

In London, there's a walking tour company called London Walks. They do great 2 hr walking tours with commentary. Last fall, I took their tour of the Olympic grounds and it was really neat. Their sister company is Paris Walks. I've done about 25 tours in both cities and I'll be doing more til I take them all.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

I love the British Museum, but so does everyone else. It's really, really crowded. Nevertheless, the mummies, the Elgin Marbles (my suggestion - Britain forgives Greece's debt, and in exchange they get to keep the Elgin Marbles), the Rosetta Stone. I'm particularly fond of the excavations of early life in the British Isles (a good tie-in with Stonehenge), and that's not nearly as crowded as the mummies, Rosetta Stone and Elgin Marbles.
The Olympic memorabilia in the British Library must be new - I was there just a couple of weeks ago.

If you do go to the British Library, your kids might want to stop by Kings Cross Station, which is nearby, and see Platform 9 3/4.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

When you go to the Musee D'Orsay, start at the top floor where the most familiar Impressionist paintings reside. If I were going to take a day trip from Paris, I would recommend Giverny over Versailles...stunning gardens and fun house...nice tie-in with the Musee D'Orsay's Monet collection. Also, look for Segway rentals/tours in both Paris and London...great fun and easier on your feet than walking!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Love those Segway tours! We've done them in Paris and San Francisco and it was a great city overview for the first timers.

I second suero's recommendation for the British Museum, and would rather queue for hours there instead of the Tower, which is where everyone who isn't at the B Museum will be. Heresy though it may be, I would pass on the tower and get tickets for the War Cabinet Rooms instead--- which is a wonderful underground museum of Churchill's nerve center for WWII that's just as it was then.

A day trip to Greenwich and the Maritime museum might be fun as well. There's a boat on the Thames that goes all the way or you can take the Docklands light rail. Kids (of all ages) get the biggest kick out of the prime meridian and there's a nice park suitable for burning off energy caused by an excess of planned educational activities, lol. Have a wonderful trip!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

In case you need something to psyche you up for your trip, check out these pictures from Paris
Paris Daily Photo


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Those are great--thanks for the inspiration! And thanks again for all your suggestions-it's given me lots of ideas. We leave the day after tomorrow and it hardly seems real. Now if I can just make sure 12 yr old DD gets some sleep on the plane...

Au revoir!


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Oh, how fun!

If I need to sleep on an overnight flight I find Nyquil works. Also, as you may have heard, the most important thing is to spend the first day out in the sun and stay awake as long as you can. If you can power through day 1, and not go to bed until dark, you should be on track the entire balance of the trip. Make sure you wear something very comfy on the plane to promote sleep, and if you are not in class of service with amenities, bring your own eye shades, etc.

You also may want to take Heathrow Express to Paddington and get a taxi from there. It's quicker and if you are arriving midweek, avoids a nice chunk of the horrible London traffic. It is very easy to do and a very nice way to travel, just ask.

As far as London things that might not already be on your list, you may want to do a tea somewhere. I like the Savoy for that but there are many great choices. If you want to grab something quick, Pret A Manger is not bad for lunch etc. As far as a daytrip, I would choose to add Bath or skip Stonehenge. Stonehenge is not far off the motorway and to me its setting diminishes its power. By contrast, Bath is an entire, lovely city, and of course has the lovely Roman ruins. Far more interesting to me.

To me the best part of Scotland is the gloaming! Having now been to Alaska too I guess it's really the same thing. But the light is so beautiful. epsecially in the country side. We had a late night tour of the castle, which made it seem more romantic and was certainly less crowded.

You have to take the boat at night in Paris, the Bateau Mouche (?), but don't do the dinner cruise. Even though its touristy the boat is the best vantage point for the buildings and the bridges, too. My fave bistro is Balzar, just because I know how to tell the taxi that it is "pres de la Sorbonne". There is hardly a bad bistro in Paris I suppose. Get a picnic and take it to the Bois de Boulogne's little park called the Bagatelle, with tulips the size of a dinner plate. Definitely get hot chocolate at Cafe Flore, where they serve a pot of hot chocolate (unsweetened) and a pot of hot milk and you mix it yourself. Nestles Quik it isn't.

Shopping for food in paris, especially Laduree, or Mariage Freres, is a delight. But I also love the restaurant supply store Dehillerin. A wonderful place to buy mementos of Paris.

I guess one has to see Versailles, but it is kind of an eyesore inside. The gardens are the real treasure, and the small accessory buildings. I preferred out day trip to Chartres, lovely little town and cathedral.


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RE: Leaving for Europe in 1 week! Tell me your favorite haunts..

Chiming back in now that the ive read all the other commenters.

I want to make a plug for the Louvre! Yes, I like the Musee Dorsay better (the building and the art).

But I think it would be a mistake not to see the Louvre. I agree that a surgical strike is best for most kids. But I think it is worth it to see the Im Pei entry, Winged Victory at the top of those steps (I think I gasped when i rounded the corner), the Odalisque. Mona Lisa didnt do much for me behind the glass or plastic or whatever. But I'd still do it.


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