After arriving in Arles, France we were told about an amazing 2000 year old Roman aqueduct just a 45 minute drive away. We thought it sounded like a perfect day trip and we were not disappointed! The aqueduct is massive and really shows the engineering skills of the Romans. If you find yourself in the South of France, don’t miss this one!
Archives for January 2013
All about the Market
If you are in Arles, France and want to know a good place to eat, go to the Wednesday and Saturday Street Market. I like the Saturday street market. It is bigger than the Wednesday Market. They have food on both days. On the Saturday Market, they have animals for sale. On Wednesdays, they have lots of toys and food.
All about Cheese
In Paris there is scary cheese. At the market in Arles there is even scarier cheese. There is green cheese and red cheese and moldy cheese and cheese with blue dots on it. The scarier the better! I like all kinds of cheese. My favorite cheese is the green cheese. In the green cheese there is pesto.
The history of cheese is cool. Do you know how cheese started? I will tell you. There was a guy that was traveling with milk in an animal stomach. It curdled and turned into cheese. He called it cheese. Cheese started about 4000 BC. In France and Italy they have 400 different types of cheese and in Britain they have 700 different cheese types. Did you know you can make cheese from reindeer, yak, cow, sheep, goat and buffalo milk. You can pretty much make cheese from any animal that produces milk. I think that yak cheese would taste good.
All About Animals
At the market there were animals. There are geese, ducks, chickens and bunnies. One of the chickens laid an egg. There are mostly brown bunnies but there was one black bunny. The bunnies are really friendly. I think a human has never really petted the bunnies because they are curious. The bunnies are meant for food, but you can buy them as a pet. The farmer was also clipping a duck’s wing. I will tell you how they clip the wings. First they spread the duck’s wing out and then they get a pair of scissors. They clip of the ends of the duck’s feather. It does not hurt even though the duck does not like it.
Now you know all about the market in Arles, France.
Paris is an amazing city with tons of museums, sites, and history. Given the plethora of museums and cost of food, Paris could easily break anyone’s budget. However, being on a budget in Paris does not mean that one has to survive on baguettes and water alone and sit at home. It is possible to eat well and enjoy the sites and still stay on budget. I thought I might share some tips on how to see Paris on the cheap, at least the cheaper side.
Pay a little more for an apartment that is closer to the center, near the sites and has a kitchen, as it will save both time and money in the long run. Eating out in Paris is definitely a budget breaker and quickly adds up. With a kitchen one can prepare delicious foods at a fraction of the cost and shopping at the different shops and trying to communicate is half the fun.
Being closer to the sites also allows one to walk. Paris is a very walkable city, because it is relatively flat and most of the major museums and sites are close together. Besides the excellent exercise walking provides, it is fun to try to navigate Paris’ labyrinth of streets and allows one time to admire the city that would not be seen by taking the Metro. While staying in Paris, it seemed like every corner had a historical marker, statue, or museum. Come well prepared with a good map and compass to help navigate Paris’ streets and beware where you step because there is lots of dog poo. My husband nearly gave himself a concussion from slipping in huge pile of dog poo while crossing a cross walk.
A couple good websites to help find an apartment in Paris are: airbnb.com, homeaway.com and vrbo.com. The nice thing about airbnb.com is that all the fees are included in the price. Be careful in reading the fine print at each website as some sites charge large service fees that do not show up in the initial cost.
Paris’ mass transit system is one of the best I have ever used. It is overall cheap, efficient, and arrives frequently. One can get practically anywhere with the Metro and navigating the Metro is a breeze. Just pick up a free map from any Metro service window and you will be able to find your way anywhere in the city.
There are several options to help you save money with taking the Metro. If you will be staying more than a week and using the Metro more than once daily a good option would be the Navigo Pass. The Navigo Pass is a reusable card. It has a one-time cost of 5 euros to purchase and in addition the card requires a postage stamp size photo of yourself. The Navigo Pass is valid from Monday through Sunday regardless of the day that you purchase it. The total cost for a weekly Navigo pass is 23.85 euros (including the 1 time 5 euro fee to purchase the card but excluding the postcard size photo). There is also the option of purchasing the Navigo Pass for a month if you are staying longer.
For most the way to go is to buy a Carnet, which is a booklet of 10 tickets. For us, we found the Carnet was cheaper despite being in Paris for a month as we walked a lot. The cost for a Carnet is 12.50 euro for an adult and 6.75 for a child. Carnets can be purchased at the machine in the Metro, at the Metro service windows or a Tabac shop.
Parks Walks and Free Museums
There are tons of parks throughout Paris, which are free. Most parks are beautifully tended with lots of interesting art and areas for children to play. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day.
Rick Steves Paris and Around Paris with Kids have some great suggestions for parks that are kid friendly and fun. Our favorite park was Champ de Mars next to the Eiffel Tower. It was close by and had an excellent play area for our daughter. The park also had some ping pong tables and I was tempted to see if we could find some paddles and ping-pong balls to play.
In Rick Steves Paris there are also several self-guided walking tours for the different areas of Paris. These walking tours can be downloaded onto an iPod and Rick Steves does an excellent job pointing out important sites of Paris and revealing some interesting history.
There are also several excellent free museums in Paris including the Carnavalet museum and the Holocaust Memorial. The Carnavalet museum contains the history of Paris ranging from the time of the Romans to the 18th century.
The Holocaust Memorial is a powerful reminder of the tragic history of the Holocaust. There is a white wall when one first walks in that contains the names of the 76,000 French Jews that were rounded up, deported, and sent to the concentration camps during WWII.
Another free “museum” is the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Although it sounds kind of creepy visiting a cemetery, Pere Lachais is fascinating as it has several very famous residents including “Fred” Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and the most famous person of all according to my husband, Jim Morrison. Walking through Pere Lachaise Cemetery is like walking through an open-air museum. The crypts of even the non-famous residents are works of art.
Another great way to save money is to time your visit for the first Sunday of the month, as most of the museums are free in Paris. However, expect huge crowds on the free day.
Paris Museum Pass
If you want to see some of the big sites in Paris such as the Louvre, Orsay, Pompidou Versailles and Napoleon’s tomb then the Paris Museum Pass is well worth the cost. The Paris Museum Pass is either good for 2, 4 or 6 days. We choose the 6-day pass as we were in Paris for a month and it paid for itself. We did not buy a pass for our 8-year-old daughter, because most of the museums are free for her.
With our pass we saw the Louvre, Army Museum, Napoleon’s Tomb, Versailles, Conciergerie, Saint Chappelle, Orsay Museum, Cluny Museum, Jewish Art and History Museum, Paris Sewer Tour, Museum of Art Decoratifs, Arch de Triomphe, Science and Industry Museum, Pompidou and climbed Notre Dame Tower 2 times. If I had paid for each individual museum the cost would have been 139.30 euros versus the 69 euros I paid for the Paris Museum Pass.
To make sure we saw all the museums covered by the museum pass on our wish list we wrote out a schedule of what days we would go to what museums and opening and closing times. This strategy was helpful, as museums vary on times and days that they are open. In Rick Steves Paris, he does an excellent job on suggesting when to go for fewer crowds
Visit during the off-season
The off-season for Paris is from November to March. We found that the advantages visiting during the off-season were we did not need to worry about lines, crowds were minimal, and we got our apartment at a significantly cheaper price. I imagine that Paris during the spring is lovely with tree-lined boulevards and flowers blooming. But admittedly, Paris is rather gray and “dull” during the off season. The sun does not come up until 8:30 am during December and the trees have all lost their leaves for the winter. While we stayed in Paris, it rained a lot making it difficult to get out to the parks and meet other children for our daughter to play with. Despite the drawbacks, I would still go back to Paris during the off-season. After Christmas we got a hint of what Paris is like with the crowds and breathed a sigh of relief that we did not have to deal with the crowds for most of our stay. Paris has so much history, activities, and sites that it is worth seeing any time of year.
Hopefully these tips will help you to save some money, but allow you to enjoy all the sites of Paris.
Christmas season in the United States assaults all your senses. From Christmas lights, bell ringers, Christmas music, crowds of people shopping, shopping, and shopping some more, you just can’t escape it. It’s a wonderful time of year, but is also so commercialized and over-the-top that it seems ridiculous. Yet, we can’t resist the impulse to fight the crowds at the malls and buy presents for people so we don’t feel guilty. More is better. At least, that is what the advertisements lead us to believe.
Having just spent the entire month of December in Paris we now have a new appreciation for Christmas. When we first imagined Christmas in Paris we pictured it similar to the United States, but in French and perhaps with a bit more style. When we arrived in Paris on December 1st we were shocked to not see any Christmas decorations. In the United States, Christmas decorations go up in stores the day after Halloween. But during our one-month stay in Paris we learned something. In Paris, Christmas is simple. There is no Black Friday, no bell ringers, and no Christmas music. The decorations are simple, yet elegant, and don’t go up until a week or two before Christmas. There are no mass crowds in the malls with shopping carts overflowing with merchandise. Yes, people do buy presents, but not to the extent that we do in the United States. To be honest, it was really refreshing. It was simple.
So what do the Parisians do to celebrate Christmas? They do what everyone should do during the holiday season; they have fun! Christmas in Paris is like a carnival. Amusement rides, carousels, and ice-skating rinks are setup for family fun. A few Christmas markets pop up around town where you can buy handcrafts or treats like cotton candy (barbe a papa) for the kids and hot wine for the adults.
Christmas in Paris is also all about the food. A couple of weeks before Christmas you start to see decorations go up in the shop windows. The French bakeries, or pâtisseries, decorate their windows and display cases with Yule log shaped cakes, called Buche de Noel. Chocolatiers decorate their windows with freshly made chocolate Santa Claus’ and other Christmas themed treats. Instead of cheap plastic decorations, Parisians decorate with lots of edible decorations that are truly pieces of art. Another popular Christmas food in Paris is oysters. Fresh oysters are everywhere, from markets to restaurants; they really seem to be the Christmas food of choice. It’s hard to imagine oysters being a traditional Christmas food, but it actually stems from a 17th century royal edict. At that time, the number of oysters in France were decreasing so they made a law banning the eating of oysters except for those months that had an ‘r’ in the name. Voila, oysters in décembre.
For those that need their fix of Christmas music in English, the American Church gets together one evening a few nights before Christmas to go caroling. During our stay there we needed such a fix and decided to go. We met with the other carolers inside the church and enjoyed hot drinks and cookies before venturing out to the busy Metro where we sang Jingle Bells to the delight of the passengers and then walked up the busy Avenue des Champs-Élysées singing an assortment of Christmas songs in English. Although we do not consider ourselves good singers, just being around like-minded people who needed a good dose of Christmas Music in English and wanting to share it with others was a lot of fun.
On Christmas Eve the city of Paris is feels like any other day, with the exception of more church bells calling people to Christmas Eve Mass. We had considered going to Christmas Eve service at Notre Dame, but after witnessing the setting up of stadium-sized bleachers outside the church, we knew it would be a zoo. Since we were visiting Paris with our 8-year old daughter we were hoping to find something to do that she would tolerate. When we went caroling with the American Church they had mentioned that they had a family-friendly Christmas Eve service and we decided to go to that one. The service was indeed very family-friendly and ended with everyone lighting glow sticks and singing Silent Night. Afterwards, the reception was very nice with hot wine and snacks.
Christmas Day in Paris feels like a ghost town. The streets are deserted, the stores are closed, and it is eerily quiet. That is unless you go down to the Eiffel Tower, which happens to be one of the very few things open on Christmas Day. Thinking that the crowds might be less on Christmas and we could actually go to the top without waiting in long lines, we made the journey to the tower. We were surprised to find it the busiest we had seen it in the 3 weeks that we had been in Paris. Everyone else had the same idea and the place was packed with people at the base of the tower as well as across the river at the Christmas Market.
If you are looking to spend Christmas in Paris, you won’t be disappointed. The escape from the craziness of the American Christmas was a relief and we really enjoyed our time there. We have always had big Christmases in the United States with lots of presents and way too much food. After our Christmas in Paris, we now see that it is not about gluttony. Christmas in Paris is about the simple joys of life: enjoying good food in moderation and spending quality time with family. In the future, we will celebrate Christmas differently. We will celebrate Christmas simply with good food and with family, the way it should be.
Everything about the Eiffel Tower that you ever wanted to know
The history of the Eiffel Tower is so weird. The Eiffel tower was built for the world expo in 1889. If the Eiffel tower did not win there would be a giant guillotine. The tower won in first place and the guillotine won in second place. If the guillotine won it would be like “It is okay.” I think the guillotine would not be here today if it won. One time a person hated it so he ate lunch on it so he would not have to see it. People used to think it was haunted. One time, a guy jumped off it with a parachute that he made and died. This is amazing what you are about to hear. It took 3 years to paint the Mona Lisa and 2 years to build the Eiffel tower. But the Mona Lisa is 36 inches and the Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet. It was the tallest building in that time.
I think Eiffel Tower is awesome. I climbed to the second floor and then waited in a really long elevator line to go to the top. You can take the elevator all the way to the top. The stairs only lead to the second floor. Then you have to take the elevator the rest of the way. The first floor view is okay. The second floor is like wow. The top is like WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! You can see all of Paris. It was REALLY windy at the top.
Facts about the Eiffel Tower
- The Eiffel tower was built to stand only for a little while. But they put a radio tower on the top and the Parisians said “YES, LETS KEEP IT.”
- They use the tower for stuff like advertisements, for fireworks launchpad and a radio tower.
- It takes 60 ton of paint to paint the Eiffel Tower.
- They paint the Eiffel Tower every 7 years.
- There are 720 steps to the 2nd floor.
- There is a post office at the bottom. If you want to climb the Eiffel Tower, you should bring a postcard. They will stamp it.