mini grand prix MCYou can dress the kids up in designer clothes, coif their hair and try to turn them into “mini-me(s)” by teaching them the proper dining etiquette but it is not nearly as much fun as letting them drip ice-cream down the front of their jerseys as they enjoy a cone filled with their favorite flavor at a carnival. Working on their attention span to sit through a long fine dining experience is admirable and thoughtful for the guests around you, but they will eventually break out into a temper tantrum if they don’t get to run free at some point during the day. Let the kids burn off some steam and act their age while vacationing with these kid friendly family activities in Monte Carlo.

windmillLa Moulin de Galette - the windmill of the brown bread dates back to the 17th Century. Built in 1622, the mill originally was on another part of the hill, but later located towards the top of Montmartre. This landmark has been witness to some of the wildest history Paris has known. I learned from my lovely Context Travel docent Marie, that the Debray family owned and operated this windmill as a factory to sift flour from the local bran grown nearby. The tasty brown bread, known as galette, was served with milk at first but later was served with alcohol and parties ensued. Of particular note, the wine served was also mostly local as the nuns had vineyards (one still exists today) on the hillside of Montmartre and produced wines from them.

Chateau Eza walkwayGal Pal Elizabeth and I were dropped off at the bottom of the famous village Eze near Monaco, by taxi for an epic vertical journey in heels for the meal of a lifetime. Something special is how restaurant Château Eza was described, and the town of Eze was pitched as being charming and old-world. “Get there early” and check out the little shops along the way up to the restaurant, was the advice. “Stop at the church near the top for a sweet treat to see a peaceful retreat” another enthusiast chimed in. It was peaceful all right – it was dead quiet. I would put the emphasis on dead because we were nearly dead by the time we arrived at the church and discovered we were only half way to the restaurant.

IMG_4186Souvenir - means "memory" literally in French. The best souvenirs stimulate your trip memories and remind you of the places you visited while giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Sometimes a French souvenir can be edible and therefore fleeting, but powerful at the time of tasting. Buying souvenirs for family and friends back home can prove challenging, but if you keep in mind that it is the thought that counts, then souvenir hunting won't be too taxing. See my favs for this year here:

Monsieur Roberts If you are like me, you want to learn French more easily! I took French for a few years in high school and perhaps one more in college.  I retained lots of vocabulary, but zero ability to use it.  Three year old French babies watching American Sesame Street come out of pre-school more bi-lingual than I fear I ever will become but it's not my fault...I blame my ancestors for this.  My maternal grandmother was of French decent whose family emigrated to the US from Canada and can trace their roots to France.  When they left the Montreal area they left the language behind.  Quel dommage...Hindsight is 20/20! Some of us are visual learners, some auditory, some tactile but if you are like me, you need multi-sensory stimulation to imprint anything into your brain, never mind a foreign language.  Taking a multi-sensory approach, here are the strategies I have been using to learn how to be able to communicate on my annual trips to Paris:

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"]Four Seasons George V Five-Star Four Seasons Paris[/caption] When planning where to stay in Paris consider what type of traveler you are and what your budget will allow. Business travelers will find that if they stick to the five-star category they will be more than pleased with the size of the rooms and access to WiFi along with business centers and Gold Key Concierge's to help them work more efficiently in the luxury of Paris' best addresses. Room service options are great for dinner for your first jet lagged night in town or for finicky kids. Newer five stars now have workout rooms and fabulous toiletries. No need to bring your own blow dryer!

three statues in the LouvreThis week's Twitter Friday Fotos "FriFotos" theme is "Three" - any which way you can, play on the word three. Three little pigs, the three wise men, the three stooges. But alas, my mind always goes to Paris and so today I found an archive photo of three of the Four Captives at the Louvre by Desjardins in my Paris file to fit the theme. These larger than life bronze figures captivate the room with their presence.

st peterTalk about finding hidden treasures wide open in Paris, my last post about missing a lantern or an alley way pales in comparison to missing an entire church right next to the most visited Basilica in Paris. Saint-Pierre de Montmartre or Saint Peter Church of Montmartre as we call it, sits in the shadows of The Basilica of Sacre Coeur, unassuming and humble. It was on my Context Travel tour of Montmartre that we learned of the significance of this church and its historical value to Catholics worldwide. Peaceful and serene are the words that come to mind when describing the inside of this understated chapel.

Paris alley behind le procopeThe best of Paris is hidden in the wide open. Her beauty is in her history; the architecture, the windows, the doors and the colors that represent the differing sides of conflicts that shaped the city, as it is known today. The city of Paris is like a Parisian woman, she is aging gracefully with little need for cosmetic intervention. Paris has good bone structure (architecture) and a few accessories that enhance her beauty more (ornamental lanterns, colorful doors, classic gates), but how many times do tourists miss these in the rushed commute to the main attractions?

Cave de l'originale interiorWhen I asked Elénor, the concierge at the Palais de la Méditerranée, for a recommendation for a local restaurant that cooked dishes of the region with fresh ingredients, she did not hesitate for a second. She responded, "Where to eat in Nice? Why of course, Cave de l’Origine is the best for local cuisine" so Gal Pal Elizabeth and I made prompt reservations for a casual and excellent dinner that did not disappoint. The cuisine in southern France differs quite a bit from its northern counterparts. Heavily influenced by its Italian neighbors and Greek descendants, Nice’s local dishes contain fresh ingredients from the soil. Olives, tomatoes, shallots and garlic play heavily into the makeup of the famous local favorite “Niçoise stew.”