Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Parisians are Spoiled!!!!

Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Paris and stay close to a fresh food market is blessed and may be thinking, "Wow, are the Parisians spoiled or what?"

I think back to countless guests coming into Paris to visit me and taking them to my nearby market which I have to admit I took for granted until recently, and having them look wide-eyed at me and say, "Is this stuff for real?" "How are the tomatoes so red?" "Look at how fresh and pretty everything looks!"

Tourists can't help but stop and take photos as they pass by the markets. It is just too surreal for some. I always thought this was funny - well I guess not always because when I was a student in Paris some years back, I too was snapping away taking photos of peaches, plums, melons, grapes, tomatoes, fish, cheese and much more. They were like those shiny magazine covers - photos you could almost eat.

But the Parisian, well he or she just thinks, "Oh, yeah, I just pop down the street to get those peaches that I forgot to buy earlier today." or "What is life without that fresh baguette."

After my first stay in Paris, I returned to New York and desperately wanted to continue the tradition of fresh produce, fresh bread and great cheese. Not impossible but a challenge indeed with a rather hefty price tag to boot. Sure there are farmers markets and there is always Whole Foods but never did I realize just how blessed I am with selection and what I call the option of "food snobbery", than when I went down to Florida for an extended visit and wanted to get some fruits and veggies (picture a sad face). I thought sunshine state right, they HAVE to have great produce, no? Well some places did but most did not. All I kept thinking was, "I miss Paris!"

So when you are thinking of places to stay in Paris, and if you love good food, you should definitely stay close to a market if you can. Not just for the food, but for the experience and buy, buy, buy and taste and enjoy because there is truly nothing like this experience.

Now here are a few of our favorite markets or market streets(keep in mind that in the pricier neighborhoods of Paris your produce will cost you more and isn't necessarily better).
Some markets are open daily and others are bi-weekly.

Enfant Rouge Market - 39 rue de Bretagne
Rue Mouffetard (metro: Censier Daubenton; everyday but Monday)
Rue Montorgueil (Everyday but Monday)
Rue Lepic (Everyday but Monday, near our Lepic Retreat, French Flair, & Lovely Lepic apartments as well as apartments around Abbesses)
Ave de St Ouen (Everyday but Monday; near Merveille de Montmartre, Prestigious Montmartre and Cozy Carpeaux)
Marche Bio des Batignolles - Blvd des Batignolles (on Saturdays)
Rue Cler
Marché d'Aligre
Saint-Honoré Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Popincourt Market (in Blvd Richard-Lenoir near our Modern Living apartment)
Marché Père-Lachaise (Tuesdays & Fridays, metro: Ménilmontant, nearby Sensational Servan)

Check out this list by district (there seem to be some missing however as they are not considered markets per say but have great produce vendors), from the Mairie de Paris: Paris Markets

Traveling Know How

Traveling to a destination that you have never been to can be quite daunting at times. Will you get lost? Will you be able to communicate? What's the cheapest option for getting around?

Our guests often ask us about the best way to get to the apartments from the airport or train station and most of the time, my response is to take a taxi or use a car service. Yes, the taxi or the car service is more expensive than using the metro or RER but personally when I am arriving in a city after a long day's travel (or overnight), the last thing I want to do is to contend with crowded metros and heaving my bag up and down stairs and believe me in some of the Paris metro stations there are quite a bit of stairs.

My advise is that if you have luggage that is cumbersome or too heavy to carry comfortably, get into a cab. You will arrive fresher and in good time and may even avoid some of those very unpleasant experiences that tourists around the world have to be concerned about - pickpockets. Nothing says tourist more than piles of luggage and the confused look on ones face when you are unsure of where you are going.

Once you have a feel for the layout of the city, then by all means take public transportation for your return back to the airport or train station.

But then the question comes up of how much is a taxi ride going to cost? Well a metered taxi starts off with a fixed rate and increases over time as we all know, so depending on how long the ride is, what time of day it is and how many people you have in the taxi and how many pieces of luggage beyond one, you have, the price varies.

But do not worry if this answer seems somewhat vague, I have a solution that is sure to please. The internet has a plethora of information for travelers and the other day I came across a site that is really interesting. World Taxi Meter. The link takes you the page for Paris but they also provide this service for a few other major world cities. I don't know who came up with this but it is ingenious. The site gives you a rough estimate on the minimum cost of the taxi ride from any one destination to another. I say a rough estimate, as I thought some of the rates seemed a bit low. I would say that you need to allow for a margin of error of about 5-10 euros depending on the above mentioned factors.

You provide the time of day, the departure and destination and presto, you have a semi-accurate price for your cab fare. So you can now check whether it is worth your while to take the taxi or still muscle your way through the metro system.

Happy travels!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paris' Annual Photo Fair Oct 15 through the 19

Once again Paris will be hosting a photo fair not to be missed.
If you are a photo buff, professional or semi-pro or just a photo enthuisast, you may be interested in attending this expo held at the Porte de Versailles in the 15th district of Paris.

Over 5 days, exhibitors such as Agfa, Apple, Adobe, Leica & Sony (to name a few), will bedazzle you with their latest additions to the photo industry, be it digital imagery, moving pictures.

The expo also includes exhibitors from all across the world of photography from, producers, photography schools, importers and an expanded selling village where you can acquire all the must have and have to haves of the world of modern photography.

Visit the exhibit's site at: (click on the British flag for English).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paris in under a week? Impossible?

So you are thinking of a trip to Paris but don't have that much time or don't really want to spend that much time in a big city? Well don't despair, you can still enjoy a trip to Paris even if you just get a small taste of all that the city has to offer - besides you'll just have to come back.

Paris is broken up into 20 districts (Arrondissements), and while most tourists who may or may not know the city well, will tell you that you need to be in the lower numbers to have a good time or to really BE in Paris, we do not agree.

Every neighborhood has its charm and something worth visiting but the average tourist will not see it all - not even the average Parisian.

So what do you have to do to say you have been to Paris?

It's just not worth it to try to do everything - it's just impossible. You'll be tired, stressed and the only thing that will remind you that you were in such a beautiful city are the 100s of semi-identical photos you took and blisters to boot.

1- Visit the Eiffel Tower - well this is always number one in the tourist guides, and anyone who is coming to Paris to visit, always wants to go and see the Eiffel Tower. Well worth the trip if not to go up at least take a couple of snap shots of you (the dot), in front of the tower.

2- Luxembourg Gardens - Great place to just sunbathe and people watch. These manicured gardens are a beautiful place to spend a leisurely afternoon and if you can't make it out to Versailles, it's (in my opinion), a good compromise.

3- Cafes - no visit to Paris is worth mentioning without a few hours (or however long you like),spent in a cafe over a cup of coffee. Again another great time to people watch and just take a breathe. In the evening you can also enjoy a nice glass of wine (or beer if you prefer), and order a plate of charcuterie (cold cuts), and cheese. I can remember times when I've been out with my friends for coffee (though I don't drink coffee), at about 3 PM and have continued into the evening over rosé or a glass of champagne.

4- Visit a market - nothing tells you more about a people than their food. You may be slightly overwhelmed by the options but most markets are self-served so you don't have to feel as if you don't have enough French to make your way through and you may be surprised that the vendor speaks a little English (or Spanish or German).

5 - Take a guided tour (on foot, on bike etc). The hop on hop off bus is great and I have done them in several cities but nothing beats a tour given to you by a local (who knows their stuff of course). You can ask questions and you will return home with amusing little anecdotes to retell to your friends. And guess what not all tours are paying (though a tip is appreciated at the end).

6 - Plan at least one really good meal. You don't have to spend a fortune to eat that well but it pays to ask locals for suggestions so you know that your money is well spent. (We leave about 4 or 5 pages of restaurant suggestions for our apartment guests).

What not to do:

Don't try to go to Versailles and plan on seeing the Chateau, the gardens and the Tri-anon. You can do it, but you'll miss something and you will be daunted by the size of the place. You can always pick one of the three to visit or save this one for a longer stay in Paris.

Don't go to a restaurant just because you hear a bunch of people speaking in English - go where the locals go. You'll probably have a better meal and a more interesting experience. Rule of thumb (doesn't always apply) - if you see tourists there, walk away.

This has been just a taste of more to come. I will come back to you with more suggestions, cafe names and restaurants in some future posts throughout the Fall. These are of course my opinions and may not count for much to all, but I hope you will take a peak from time to time to see what itineraries we put forth.
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