5 Gifts to Buy While in Paris

With all that Paris has to offer in way of shopping and gifts, it can be hard to select what to take home with you. Airlines can be strict with regulations, lack of space and weight can present a problem when packing them in your luggage, and most of us have a limited budget for bringing things home. However, don’t miss out on snagging an item or two that you can only get while in Paris! We’ve narrowed our list of favorite items to bring home as gifts (or for yourself) to five crucial things:

Chocolate

Specifically chocolatier Jean-Paul Hévin’s chocolates. We recommend getting a large variety to take home. These heavenly chocolates will have everyone back home raving, or you can keep them all to yourself.

Address: 231 rue St Honore

Jams, Jellies, Honeys, and Mustards

Parisian’s do condiments very, very well. These are always a sure bet to bring home with you for gifts and to use at home as they travel well, last a while, and will add some real flair to your cooking.

Where to Buy: Any local grocery store

Wine

Perhaps one of our favorite take-home’s from Paris. You’ll have to limit your selection, unfortunately, as airlines are strict and usually only allow 2 or 3 bottles, but these are perfect additions to your home wine collection or for a special gift for a friend. Wine from Paris is a must.

Where to Buy: Local wineries or farms right outside of Paris, boutiques, any grocery store

Salami

Some people aren’t fans of salami, but if you are you can get some great salami in any deli or supermarket in Paris. It keeps pretty well while traveling, and makes for some great sandwiches and pasta toppings. Plus, if you happen to get hungry on your travels, or stuck in an airport, it’s always good to have a gourmet snack on board. If any makes it back home, these can make for great additions to gift baskets or dinner party host gifts.

Orangina

Perhaps one of the most refreshing and tastiest beverages you’ll ever have, cheap, and rarely found in the states. Picking up some Orangina is a must.

Where to Buy: Any local grocery store

 

Loire Valley Bike & Barge

loire valley bike and barge

If you’re looking to get out of Paris and see some of the sights surrounding it – Loire Valley Bike and Barge is the perfect solution! You get to cycle through the Loire countryside during the day, exploring small towns and villages along the way, seeing the canal landscape, and enjoying various wines of the region. And at night, you’ll slumber peacefully on the barge the company provides. Prices start around $1,390 per person, but it’s packed full of fun and amenities along the way – all included in that price:

  • 7 continental breakfasts included, 6 lunches, and 7 3 course dinners
  • 7 nights accommodation on the barge
  • Bicycle with gears and pannier
  • visit to castle and winery
  • Transfer into and out of Paris
  • Experienced guide leading the way

The itinerary is planned to the tea to ensure you have a great experience:

Day 1

Depart from Paris and arrive early evening in Cours-les-Narres. Get settled into barge, have dinner, socialize with other travelers.

Day 2

Leave Cours-les-Barres and sail on the Barge across the Allier River. Then, commence trip on bicyckes onwards to the historic village of Apremont. You’ll see a 12th century castle and beautiful gardens. Then continue on to the 14th century village of Nevers. Then return to the barge in Cours-les-Barres.

Day 3

Begin the day by sailing to the village of Beffes and then cycling through the countryside. You’ll head to the Roman town of La Charite-sur-loire and see its Notre Dame church. Then continue cycling through the Loire valley and see where it produces its white wines – and sample some. Return to the barge in the evening.

Day 4

Cycle to the Sancerre vineyards, renowned for its white wines. Then depart and cycle across the Sancerre vineyards and through some wine villages. Stay the night in Beaulieu-sur-Loire.

Day 5

Cycle past the historic locks of Chatillon-sur-Loire and the aqueduct across the river Loire, then visit St.Brisson that is home to one of the region’s best castles. One the way back to the barge you’ll travel through the Foret de St.Brisson. Spend the evening on the barge travelling to your next destination – Briare.

Day 6

Explore Briare, where the canal was constructed and where local pottery is made. You’ll also visit the chateau, town hall, church, and museum. Then head to the castle Pont Chevron that sits on a beautiful lake, and bike through the nearby lake-filled region. Spend the night in the Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses village.

Day 7

Ride out in the morning to the Chatillon=Coligny and see its 12th century chateau and explore the local market. Continue to the La Bussiere abbey that dates back to 1103 and visit the 17th century castle La Bussiere and see its fish art aquariums. Spend your final night on the barge before heading home.

If you want more information, or to schedule your bike tour, visit: http://www.biketoursdirect.com/France/loire-valley-bike-boat

Provence: Mediterranean Beauty

Provence

This picturesque city is located in the south eastern Mediterranean area of France, bordering Italy. The city is actually one of the earliest known human habitations in Europe, with primitive stone and tools being unearthed at one point that were up to 1.05 million years old. The city has been inhabited by the Greeks, the Romans, and even Germanic tribes since then before finally becoming part of the French state.

One of the biggest and most major rivers of France, the Rhone river, runs trough Provence. The river has been important in commerce and communications throughout time between France and locations throughout the Mediterranean. The river splits off into two arms at one point and form the Camargue delta. One arm is called the “Grand Rhone” and the other is called the “Petit Rhone”.

 

rhone river provence

Provence is filled with plenty of natural beauty, including the Maritime Alps that border along Italy, these are the highest peaks in the entire region. The top of the mountain features bare limestone and no vegetation, but what’s neat is that the limestone gives the illusion from a distance of the mountain being snow capped. The Alpilles mountains are also located in Provence. The Apilles are a small chain of mountains that aren’t extremely high, but they stand out well enough because they rise out of the Rhone valley. These mountains also feature the same limestone peaks. Other mountains that run through Provence include Montagne Sainte-Victoire and the Massif des Maures.

provence mountains

Tourists flock to Provence because of it’s mild and warm temperatures, but that’s not the only reason. One popular feature of Provence is the food, which is a unique result of the warm Mediterranean climate and the abundant fresh seafood from the coast. Rouget is a fish that frequents menu’s in Provence – a small red fish that tastes wonderful when grilled. Some other popular foods you’ll find are: Aioli, Bouillabaisse (seafood dish), Rouille (mayo and red pimento spread often put on fish or bread), Tapenade (relish of olives, capers, and olive oil spread on bread), Daube (beef stew), and many more.

aiolia

The wines of Provence are not to be ignored either, as their history extends all the way back to 600 BC. At one point, the wines of Provence were considered dull and uninspiring, however new methods and technology have changed that. Red wines are popular and consist of grenache, mourvedre, and syrah grapes. Rose wine from the region is also popular.

rose wine

5 Romantic Things to do in the City of Love

They don’t call Paris the City of Love for no reason. The city is absolutely teeming with romantic things to do, see, and experience around every corner. Romance seems to even be in the air itself, and unavoidable for even those who try. But, if you’re looking for something extra special to do with your loved one, especially with Valentines Day right around the corner, we’re here to help with our picks for this month on romantic hot spots in Paris.

Le Baron Rouge

Le Baron Rouge

This isn’t your typical cozy and romantic dinner place. It’s loud. It’s crowded. But, it’s wonderfully romantic. You’ll be squeezed in between a slew of locals, all seeking a glass of wine and platter of cheese from the bar. On winter weekends, you can also grab some fresh oyster right on the sidewalk in front.

Flûte l’Étoile

Flûte l’Étoile

This place screams romance. It actually used to be a gentleman’s bar, but now you and your significant other can cozy up to a fireplace with a champagne cocktail, or go upstairs and enjoy a romantic quiet dinner. The prices are very reasonable, the food is good, and there’s even live jazz on Wednesdays.

A Chocolate Massage at the Four Seasons

A Chocolate Massage at the Four Seasons

With chocolate and massage all in one, you can’t go wrong. Take your loved one to the Four Seasons George V Hotel for a chocolate-mint body scrub, followed by  a Swiss chocolate and toffee body wrap, and completed with a cocoa oil deep tissue massage. They’ll never forget you for it.

 

Dame du Canton

Dame du Canton

Whisk your sweetie away to dinner on the Dame du Canton for some gypsy themed romance. Below deck there’s a cozy and lantern filled restaurant where you can enjoy a wonderful dinner filled with gypsy jazz and gentle boat rocking.

High Tea at the Ritz

High Tea at the Ritz

Dazzling crystal, priceless antiques, gleaming and polished silver make for an elegant rendezvous with your honey. Enjoy amazing tea, tiny sandwiches, pastries, scones with cream and jam, and a romantically sophisticated setting.  Definitely a tea you’ll always remember.

 

Bordeaux: Wine Country

Bordeaux 1

When many think of “Bordeaux” they think of wine, and rightly so as the city of Bordeaux, France is the world’s major wine industry capital and home to some of the finest wine.

Bordeaux goes by several nicknames: La Perle d’Aquitaine and La Belle Endormie (Sleeping Beauty). It is also the capital of the Aquitane region in France. The city has a long and colorful history, being originally established around 300 BC by a Celtic tribe – the Bituriges Vvisci – and named Burdigala. In 60 BC the town fell to Roman rule, with the Romans valuing its importance in the production of tin and lead. However, the city was under constant attack, with the Visigoths in 409 AD and Franks in 498, the troops of Abd er Rahman on 732, and the Battle of River Garonne. Events and wars like these lasted all the way through the 12th century, when Bordeaux regained importance by flourishing in the wine trade as the capitol of an independent state under the rule of Edward, the Black Prince. However, it was annexed by France into its territory in 1453, thus ending its wine trade with England. Not too long after, in 1462, Bordeaux obtained a parliament, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that it began regaining its wealth by being a center for the distribution of slaves, sugar, and wine to the West Indies. The 18th century was a golden age for Bordeaux. Many beautiful buildings were built during this period, and even Victor Hugo was so taken with the city he once said “takeVersailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux.” At the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war, the French government even relocated from Paris to Bordeaux (one of three times this would happen).

Today the beautiful city has a population of 239,157 and is the 9th largest city in France. It’s filled with shops (one being the longest shopping street in Europe, the Rue Sainte-Catherine), 12 museums, contemporary architecture, historic and stunning buildings, astoundingly beautiful cathedrals, and acres and acres (287,000 to be exact) of vineyards.

Bordeaux 2

Expanding on the wine industry, for which Bordeaux is best known, there is an astonishing 10,000 wine-producing chateaus and 13,000 grape growers in this city. To top of those numbers, 960 million bottles of wine are produced annually, some of them being among the most expensive wines in the world. Both red and white wines are produced, with the red’s being made from a blend of grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and others, and the white’s made from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.

bordeaux 3

 

The monuments held in this city are also nothing to go unnoticed, with Bordeaux being second only to Paris in its historical monument count – 362. And, the historical buildings found here are very notable, such as the Grande Theatre, which is one of the largest neoclassical theaters in France and was built in the 18th century. You can also, among many other significant buildings, see the remains of the late 2nd century Roman ampitheatre – Palais Gallien.

Palais Gallien