New Year’s Eve in Paris: A Wanderlust Experience

What could be better than New Year’s Eve in Paris? It is the City of Lights after all.

 

Paris is one of the most beautiful, romantic, decadent cities in the world, so it’s a real treat to ring in the new year in this amazing place. Throughout the holiday season, the city is filled with festive lights and holiday cheer. There’s are even Christmas markets all about town, including one that runs along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, where you can grab a cup of steaming gluhwein or a sweet boules de Noel to enjoy as you shop.

If you’re heading to Paris for New Year’s Eve, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. No Official Events

Believe it or not, there are no official New Year’s Eve events in Paris. The city does not put on a fireworks show or anything of that nature. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fun things to do around town. Like any other big city, parties take place at most restaurants and bars—it all comes down to how much you money you want to spend and what you feel like doing.

If you’ve got a lean budget, you can make your way to the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Sacre Coeur is also a great place to take in a beautiful panoramic of Paris. for Many people head down to the Champs-Élysées, have a meal at one of the many restaurants there, and then watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle as the clock strikes 12. If you’re prepared to shell out the big bucks, the infamous Moulin Rouge. A table for two in the cheap seats will run you a cool 800 Euros. Alternatively, you could check out the show at the Lido, which also comes with a lofty price tag. On the low end, tickets for two come in around 600 Euro.

2. Book a Boat Cruise

If you’re looking for something special that won’t break the bank, a late-night sailing on the Bateaux Parisiens is a lovely idea. For as little as 65 Euros, you can take a quiet cruise along the Seine for a view of the city lights. The tour departs from the dock just below the Eiffel Tower or near Notre Dame Cathedral and includes a half-bottle of champagne, a packet of macarons, and party favors, such as a hat and horn. This is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, and it was wonderful. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll be toasty warm sailing along the Seine. We chose to depart from the Eiffel Tower, which is also where we docked at the end of the cruise. We returned just in time to see the tower twinkling in all its glory, and though I had seen it many times before, it seemed just a little more special this time round.

3. Midnight Kisses

Whether or not you’re looking for a midnight kiss, be prepared to get one. Strangers will walk up to you on the street and plant a peck on your lips or cheek. They don’t mean any harm—they’re just a little drunk and a whole lot excited. No one seemed to understand what I was saying—or maybe they simply didn’t care. I’m a happily married woman, but it seemed a lot easier to go with the flow than to cause a ruckus. It’s all in the name of fun after all.

These are just a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to spend New Year’s Eve in Paris. Have other tips you’d like to share? Head on over to the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Souvenir

Everyone wants a souvenir that will remind them of the fantastic time they had on vacation.

 

But finding the perfect token to represent your travels is harder than it sounds. You want a keepsake that brings a smile to your face every time you see it. But I bet more often than not you end up with something you found in the hotel lobby as you were rushing to flag down a taxi to the airport. When we don’t find the right thing, we tend to settle for anything. And when we get home, we toss it aside and forget about it all together.

As you’re flying, driving, or cruising to your next destination, consider these five tips to help you choose the best souvenir.

souvenir-doll

1. Collectibles

One of the easiest ways to avoid getting bogged down in the search for the perfect souvenir is to start collecting a specific type of object. Key chains, magnets, postcards, spoons, and shot glasses can be found in pretty much any place you visit. They’re small cheap, and easy to pack. My personal favorite: thimbles. That’s right…thimbles. I’ve been collecting them since I was 12, and I have one from just about every place I’ve ever been, which means I have hundreds and hundreds of them. They’re super small, can be found pretty much anyplace, and usually cost less than $2—unless you’re in Norway, where they cost $20. I also love “I ❤” shirts, which you can often snag for only $5 to $10. I plan to make them into a quilt one day…as soon as I make a friend who can sew.

souvenir-magnet

2. Destination

What is the place you’re visiting best known for? Canada is infamous for maple syrup. And let’s not forget about Belgium and its delicious chocolates. Do a quick Google search to find out what people in the area are known for producing and bring that back as a memento. And don’t worry too much about how much you’ll have to spend on your destination-dependent souvenir. You’ll find a range of prices, from cheap knockoffs to handcrafted keepsakes. It all depends on how much you care about authenticity.

When I was in the Black Forest, I shelled out a couple hundred dollars for a traditional cuckoo clock made by a local wood carver. But a few weeks later when I was in Istanbul, I bought a pair of $10 mosaic glass lanterns that were probably made in China. I love them all equally despite their varying levels of authenticity, and I think of happy times whenever the clock strikes the twelve or I flip the switch on one of those lamps.

souvenir-lantern

3. Budget

How much do you want to spend? Give yourself a budget and stick to it. This will help you decide what’s really important to you and what’s not. If you want to put the majority of money toward your actual travels, you may have a more limited budget. A key chain or magnet may be right up your alley. But if you’re all about authentic reminders of the places you’ve been, you’ll want to set aside a loftier budget.

One of my favorite things to do is find an article of clothing made by a local designer. I try to minimize the amount of money I spend on any other items so I can put my money toward one fabulous piece. To aid this endeavor, I avoid chain stores that I can find back home and only venture inside one-off boutiques. In the end, I probably spend less overall because I’m not buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need. I focus on that one item.

souvenir

4. Size

If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of room in your suitcase to bring things home once you’ve packed all of your gear. So, size matters. Consider how you’re getting your special souvenir home. If you want something you can tuck into the side of your suitcase, a shot glass is perfect. But if you’re open to paying for shipping or are willing to lug around an extra bag for the rest of your trip, it can open up a whole new world.

I can fit two or three thimbles in my change purse, so they are the ultimate keepsake when I’m looking for something small. But remember that cuckoo clock I got in Germany? I was too cheap to pay shipping and duty charges, so I made my husband lug it all over Germany, Switzerland, and Turkey. I won’t be doing that again.

souvenir-eiffel

5. Use

Before you buy that neon fiber-optic Eiffel Tower ask yourself what you’re going to do with it when you get home. I know, you’ve always wanted a pair of wooden clogs from Amsterdam, but maybe a clog key chain will do the trick. A good souvenir is something you will cherish forever. It fits your décor or is a perfect addition to your wardrobe.

I know you’re dying to know what I did with that cuckoo clock. Do I cherish it, or has it been tossed aside? Before I even considered spending a single penny, I knew exactly where I would display it in my house. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Now that’s money well spent.

souvenir-clog

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of buyer’s remorse. I just had to have that sailor hat with my name embroidered on the side from Disneyland, even though I only wore it for the three days I was in the park. And don’t even get me started on that olive oil shampoo from Greece that dried out my hair. You win some, you lose some. But nowadays, I try to follow these five tips to make sure I come home with a souvenir that’s right for me.

What types of souvenirs do you look for? Are you someone who buys gaudy knickknacks only to regret it when you get home? Or have you finely honed your souvenir shopping skills? Share your stories with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

 

One Day in Paris: From the Champs E’Lysées to Notre Dame

Believe it or not, there’s a lot you can see with just one day in Paris.

Sometimes the best you can do is make a quick layover in a fabulous city on your way to another fabulous city. I know because I’ve done just that—a lot. Follow this itinerary, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Morning

Paris caters to tourists, so most of the things you really want to see will be open fairly late. That said, I recommend waking up at a reasonable hour so you can make the most of your day without feeling rushed. Paris is the kind of place that’s best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.

To get better value for your dollar, stay someplace central but a bit off the beaten path. I like boutique hotels best—they have a certain je ne c’est quoi (See what I did there)! Two that I highly recommend are the Hotel Eiffel Seine and Hotel Eiffel Saint Charles. They are just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Eiffel Tower. Okay, it’s a long jump. But that’s what keeps the prices affordable for service and style that's otherwise be out of my price range. Still, it’s only a 10 to 15-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower. You can enjoy the local sights and sounds on your stroll. And both hotels are located very near public transport (metro and train).

It’s possible your hotel will offer a free breakfast, many do. Skip it in favor of a street-side café. I know, it’s hard to pass up free, and your budget is tight, but you don’t get to do this every day. Treat yourself—and by that, I mean head to a nearby patisserie. There will be half a dozen in a three block radius, and you can purchase a vanilla cream croissant for about $2. Sit down, relax, and watch the world go by. But only for a half hour or so. There’s a lot left to do, and this won’t be the only café you visit today.

champs-elysee

The first stop of the day is the Arc de Triomphe. For 8 Euro you can climb to the top to see the Champs E’Lysées in all its glory. I usually save my money for a ride up the Eiffel Tower later in the day. Instead, I take my pictures of the Arc from the iconic shopping street itself. Then, I meander from shop to shop for the next two hours or so. You do only have one day in Paris after all, and you don’t want to waste all your time shopping at chain stores you can find in any city back home.

Pro tip: only go into the shops that are unique to Paris, have something you’re actually interested in looking at, and are within your budget. This will save you some much-needed time. And it will help mitigate the potential risk of blowing your entire budget on that one pair of shoes…you know the ones, I know you do. It’s sort of like shopping for a wedding dress. Never try on one outside your budget. It only ever ends in heartbreak. Splurge on a few French treasures, like a nice perfume.

Before you know it, the mid-day sun will be shining overhead and your tummy will be growling for lunch. There are a ton of great options, from inexpensive street food to lavish restaurants. Again, I like to save my money for later in the day, so I keep it light. A nice option if you want to feel truly posh is Ladurée. It’s ornate décor and luxe offerings will leave your mouth watering. But there is often a line to get inside. If you know in advance this is something you want to do and don’t want to waste time, book a table in advance.

If you forget to reserve a table, fear not. The line moves fairly fast. Or to keep costs down and get in a bit quicker, you can go to Le Bar. It’s part of the larger establishment, but it’s got just a few seats around a counter. Here, you can order a drink and a pastry. I can attest to the decadence of the religieuse. So good.

Ladurée’s lofty prices and long lines aren’t for everyone. For a budget-friendly alternative, head to Brioche Dorée across the street. This French bakery chain offers sandwiches, pastries, and other gastronomic delights at a fraction of the cost. And they’re simply delish. With a more fast food type of atmosphere, you can get in and out in a jiff, leaving you more time for exploring.

I know you just ate, but before you get too far, do yourself a favor and pick up a few macarons for your afternoon trek. It doesn’t matter if you shell out the big bucks at Ladurée or buy the low-budget version at the McCafé, just treat yourself. They all taste a little bit like heaven no matter where you buy them in Paris. And you’ve got a lot to do before you can stop again for food, so you’ll be glad to have a stash of something to nibble on.

Mid-Day

Now that your stomach is sated, it’s off to the Louvre. For all intents and purposes, if you were to walk straight down the Champs E’Lysées from one end to the other without stopping, you could reach the Louvre in about 45 minutes. But I recommend reserving at least two or three hours to make this trek. If you hit the shops right at opening—say 10 a.m.—you’ll be at the Louvre around 1 p.m.

louvre

There’s not a lot of time to stop and stare at all of the beautiful art work on display when you only have one day in Paris. In fact, you really only have time to see the Mona Lisa and a few other pieces along the way. Once inside, you’ll need to go through a quick security check before heading to the ticket counter. (If you’re on your game, you can buy your tickets online in advance, saving you a few precious minutes.) The total cost of entry is 15 Euro, which may seem like a lot for a quick look at a portrait, but do you really want to be the person who spends one day in Paris and doesn’t see the Mona Lisa? I didn’t think so.

To make your life easier, the Louvre has lovely “visitor trails” that take you to what you most want to see: Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and Mona Lisa. These guides are foolproof and can be downloaded online if you want to map your route in advance. Or you can just pick up a copy when you arrive. Depending on how long you want to stare at each masterpiece, you can be in and out in an hour or two tops.

Next, it’s time for a stroll along the Seine toward the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral. Take the Pont des Art bridge, where, at one time, I would have told you to take along an engraved lock to add to the thousands of locks lovers affixed to it over the years. But in 2015 the locks were cut off. The bridge was literally collapsing under their weight.

Once you’ve crossed the bridge, walk along the Quai des Grands Augustin, where you’ll find countless kiosks of everything from used books to postcards and street art. It’s a delightful little journey. Before you know it, you’ll come to the Quai Saint-Michel, which will lead you, more or less, to the steps of the famed Notre Dame. It’s only a 20-minute walk, but it will likely take you an hour or more.

Notre Dame Cathedral

I have a penchant for all things gothic…I did write a series of vampire novels, after all. And the Notre Dame is no exception. I could spend the entire day taking pictures of its buttresses and gargoyles in various lighting. But alas, when you have only one day in Paris, there’s no time for such luxuries. Pop in, see the stained glass and the sanctuary, and pop out.

The area around Notre Dame is bustling. There are all sorts of restaurants and shops. I recommend taking some time to grab a bite to eat—have the mussels and fries, trust me. Be sure to stop in a few stores, and rest your feet. You’ve already covered a lot of ground, and the day is not even close to done.

Evening

Just because you’ve lost daylight doesn’t mean the fun has to end. After dinner, take an evening tour by boat or double-decker bus. Either way, you’ll get to see the sights in a new light—literally. You may even catch a glimpse of a few places you didn’t have time to walk to on your whirlwind tour throughout the day. At only $20 to $50 bucks, it’s a great way to cap off your day.

eiffel tower

Now, for the pièce de résistance and the very last stop of your one day in Paris itinerary, make your way toward the infamous Eiffel Tower. You thought I was going to forget about it, didn’t you? I believe in saving the best for last—not to mention I personally think it’s most beautiful at night. It’s open until midnight in the summer months, and I really believe there’s nothing quite like seeing the tower’s columns glittering in the moonlight.

Spring for the tickets to the top floor, even if you’re afraid of heights like me. At 17 Euro it’s a steal and an experience you won’t soon forget. When you reach the ground, grab a crepe from one of the street vendors for the twilight walk back to your hotel. It’s the perfect way to cap off your jam-packed day in Paris.

If you’ve only got one day in Paris, don’t fret. Following this easy itinerary, you can catch a glimpse at a lot of the main sights. How would you spend one day in Paris? Head on over to Facebook or Twitter and share your ideas!

 

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