How to See the Best of Paris – Part 1

PARIS. Synonymous with gaiety, good food for gastronomes, gorgeous gowns, delectable wine, all the good things of life, is unrivaled, appealing Paris. The early morning mists on the Seine, the lazy-plying barges, the ever-patient fishermen, the spellbinding orators in the Chamber of Deputies, the gaunt, leafless trees along the quays in the fall, the flowering horse-chestnut trees in the spring, the breath-taking vistas from the bridges, the ageless, awe-inspiring beauty of the churches, the avid poets and painters, all this and much, much more is Paris. For centuries generation after generation of people from all over the world have gravitated to her narrow alleys and wide boulevards, for Paris “is not just a city, she is a world.” To women, she is the undisputed center of high fashion, the acknowledged authority on what well-dressed beauties everywhere should wear. As style leader, the showings of top Paris dress designers draw all the editors, manufacturers and buyers of the fashion world, while their collections continually attract wealthy shoppers and less-wealthy window-shoppers. The noted Rue de la Paix is identical with Parisian- elegance, an air every woman openly or secretly strives to exude. Not only the epitome of glamour, this fabulous capital has been a focal point of culture, too. In Paris, history, poetry and art sit on every doorstep, set the backdrop for everyday living, and great painters, musicians and writers have all been caught in the seductive web she weaves. The left bank of the Seine, lined by the famous open-air book stalls, is the intellectual and governmental section. Here is the Sorbonne, center of the University of Paris, perhaps the most influential and greatest school of liberal arts in Europe; the classical Church of Saint-Sulpice, with famous paintings by Delacroix, and noteworthy Saint-Germain-de-Pres, oldest church in Paris, dating from the eleventh century. The gallery of nearby Ecole des Beaux Arts, scene of the annual wild Art Students’ Ball, displays works of Fragonard, David and Ingres. Radiating from the university is the Latin Quarter, second oldest and one of the most picturesque sections in the city. For centuries these streets around Boulevard Saint-Michel have been the haunt of university students and teachers. Also in this area are the Cluny Museum, one of the fine medieval buildings still standing in Paris, housing a rare collection of medieval arts and crafts, and the Luxembourg Palace and Museum, surrounded by its beautiful gardens, housing contemporary painting and sculpture.

http://instantworldbooking.com/france.php


ARANJUEZ

ARANJUEZ

At the meeting point of the Tagus and Jarama rivers, this low-lying meadow was a cherished spring escape for Spanish kings and queens for many centuries. The stunning gardens of this UNESCO World Heritage Site blend architecture and nature.  Have lunch at the star-studded Casa Jose restaurant (casajose. es), where sophisticated renderings of traditional Spanish dishes include grilled hake with almond and saffron and roast pork with orange and parsley.


ALCALADE HENARES

ALCALADE HENARES

This World Heritage Site is less than 20 miles from Madrid. One of the most important cities in Spanish history, Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and Lope de Vega are just a short list of the renowned writers who have called this “city of words” home. Visit the Universidad Complutense, which dates back to 1499, and is an important stopping point on the “Path of the Spanish Language” route celebrating the Spanish language’s history.


MONASTERY OF EL ESCORIAL

MONASTERY OF EL ESCORIAL

This mountain town is nestled in the Sierra de Guadarrama at the foot of Mount Abantos about 30 miles from Madrid.  Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Monastery and Real Sitio de San Lorenzo are prime examples of Spain’s imperial glory.  Walk through this scenic outpost which was once the powerful stronghold of Philip II King of Spain, ruler of one of the world’s largest empires.


CHINCHON

CHINCHON

This picturesque medieval city brims with warm character and wonderful restaurants less than 30 miles away. It is far enough away that it feels like an adventure, but close enough to visit in a day. Settle into a cafe off the main square lined by its distinctive changing balconies and order up orange juice for the kids and an aperitif the city’s signature anise liquor for mom and dad.


Free Guidebook For Lanzarote Tourists

The Canary Islands are the second most visited region in Spain after Catalonia.  And Lanzarote, the fourth largest of these islands, has long been a hot favourite with British tourists.  With over 820,000 visitors from the UK enjoying a holiday there during the course of 2009.  A figure that is expected to increase even further this year.

Free Guidebook For Every Visitor

 Now all tourists visiting Lanzarote can save money and make the most of their holidays by getting their hands on a comprehensive, 96 page Guidebook to the island – entirely free of charge.  By downloading a copy of the latest edition of Lanzarote Guidebook at www.lanzaroteguidebook.com.

 

Local Knowledge – The Inside Guide

Lanzarote Guidebook is written and published by local residents.  So readers can benefit from their in-depth local knowledge, rather than wasting precious holiday time and money visiting tourist traps and enduring low quality meals in dodgy restaurants.

 

Up To Date Information

It is published every quarter, so the information in Lanzarote Guidebook is always accurate and up to date.  Unlike conventional guidebooks which can often be obsolete in parts by the time they reach the bookshelves.

 

Discounts On Excursions & Restaurants

Lanzarote Guidebook readers can also enjoy discounts at local restaurants and on some of the islands best excursions.  With 10% off the price of a trip on Lanzarote´s popular Yellow Submarine available – along with a 10% discount on all meals at La Cabaña, one of the islands leading restaurants.

 

Why Buy A Guidebook?

Lanzarote Guidebook contains all of the information and high quality pictures that can be found in a conventional Guidebook – but at no cost.  Enabling readers to explore all of Lanzarote´s resorts and attractions, browse maps and plan their holiday before they even arrive on the island.

 

Delivered To The Door

As well as being available as a fast and free download Lanzarote Guidebook can also be delivered direct to any address in the UK at a cost of £3.59, which covers postage and packing.


European Train Travel Guide

European Train Travel

Traversing the Continent by rail is romantic. It’s also practical. After all, who isn’t desperate for an alternative to air travel? Especially one that involves few delays or security lines, stations in the center of the action (forget schlepping to the airport!), affordable ticket prices, and a chance to take in the scenery up close. Riding the rails is also easier on the environment. A trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris produces one-tenth the carbon dioxide per passenger of a plane flying the same route. And as of November 2007, the service is carbon-neutral, thanks to the purchase of offsets. Ready to roll?

Europe By Rail

Rail Europe (888/382-7245; raileurope.com) specializes in selling single tickets, as well as all of the major multitrip passes. BritRail passes (from $259 for four days) are the only option avail­able to North Americans for unlim­ited travel throughout Britain. (Snag these before your trip ­they’re not sold in the U.K.) Eurail passes cover the Continent and include the Global Pass (from $744 for the 15-day first-class option), valid in 20 countries. For less­sweeping itineraries, there’s the Eurail Select Pass, which is good for three to five adjoining coun­tries; 25 regional passes, each encompassing two or more coun­tries; and 17 single-country passes. Whichever you choose, don’t wait until you hit Europe to buy-it’ll be 20 percent more expensive there.

FIRST CLASS VS. SECOND First-class tickets cost about 50 percent more than second class. That typically buys a reclining seat, a meal, more space for luggage, and a quiet train car. Second class is absolutely fine if your trip is only a few hours-and your mother­in-law isn’t along for the ride.


Sites for Train and Railroad information in Europe

BEST SITES FOR TRAIN INFO

IN THE UNITED KINGDOM nationalrail.co.uk National Rail Enquiries operates the official Web site for Britain’s 26 train operators. Find departure and arrival times and ticket prices for all routes in England, Scotland, and Wales.

FOR THE REST OF EUROPE bahn.de Don’t let the name fool you: Germany-based rail operator Deutsche Bahn has one of the most comprehensive search engines fortrain times-and it covers roughly 87,000 stations throughout Europe.

FOR ALL-PURPOSE RAIL RESEARCH raileurope.com

Rail Europe’s Web site lets you find and buy tickets and passes, and features interactive maps illustrating connec­tions. If tickets on your chosen dates are not yet available, you can sign up to get an e-mail alert as soon as they are.


Bordeaux, France, Wine Region

En route to the city of Bordeaux from Bergerac, France, where Belingard is located, is the impeccably preserved medieval town of St. Emilion. Its winding, cobblestone streets are lined with expensive wine shops, all tout­ing “worldwideshipping” in English and Japanese. Here you can descend into the cramped hermitage where the monk, Emilion, received pilgrims in the 8th century. The disciples who followed Emilion herewere the ones who started a wine trade in earnest. 

At Chateau Franc Mayne, a nearby vineyard, it’s possible to tour the former limestone quarries whose pale ochre innards were used to build the town. The quarries beneath this and many other St. Emilion chateaux are now wine caves-happily, they possess the perfect conditions for aging wine in oak barrels. A tour guide points out a skylight punched into the roof of Franc Mayne’s cave. It shows the cross­-section of limestone that gives St. Emilion’s mostly merlot and cabernet franc grapes their character, along with the stories of Roman poets and monks and queens, of course. 

In Bordeaux, the busy Place de la Comedie is the city’s social center. Mayor Alain Juppe launched an ag­gressive clean-up and modernization initiative when he was elected in 1995, and today the city is an obvious “after.” A sleek tram makes it easy to get around, and the bulk of 8th ­century facades have been sandblasted to remove centuries of built-up dust and grime from the porous yellow limestone. The broad avenues gleam, and the tiny squares at the ends of the St. Pierre quarter’s narrow streets are packed with students, young couples and families, caffeinating, kissing and splashing in fountains. 

On the banks of the Garonne River, many plaques adver­tise the offices of negociants, or wine merchants. Negociants have been trading from this port since the mid-r2th century, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henryof Plantagenet, the future Henry II of England, which led to many trade exchanges between Bordeaux and England and the golden age of claret. 

That tidbit is imparted duringatwo-day course called “Bordeaux Wine Tasting, from A to Z” at L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux, a few blocks from the Regent Grand Hotel. After this crash course in a classroom with white-slab countertops and chrome spit-sinks, it’s practically required to apply the new knowledge downstairs at the posh Le Bar a Vin. More than go wines by the glass are available, and little foldout maps on each table pinpoint where each wine originat­ed. The servers are well equipped to steer people toward clarity when the breadth of choices becomes overwhelming.


Tuscany Wine Region

At its heart, Tuscany is home to the red sangiovese grape. You might not have heard of it, because like many of Italy’s indigenous vines, this one doesn’t love to travel. But you’ve prob­ably heard of Chianti, which has grown up from its bottle-as-candleholder days into a high-quality offering at prices that range from steal to splurge. As with many Italian wines, the Chianti name refers to the growing district rather than the grape. “Classico” refers to the historic heart of the Chianti zone, and “riserva” means the wine has had extra aging. If you have heard wine geeks refer to so-called “Super Tuscan” wines, these are wines made to push the boundaries of Tuscan tradition by mixing French grapes and, very often, French barrels with the local varieties.  The results are magnifico, so if you feel like splurging, check them out.