Tag : france


Top free things to do in Paris

Paris – the city of love and home to world class art, world class wine and of course, world class food. There’s no denying that Paris is one of the Europe’s most expensive cities – and with so much culture, it’s expected. But fear not, if you want to visit Paris but are short of a penny or two – there are fun, interesting and cultural experiences that you can enjoy still enjoy. Below we take a look at 5 of our favourite Paris activities that will cost you nothing – that’s right, nothing!

5 free fun activities in Paris

1. Land on your feet, on a Sunday

Say hello to First free Sunday programme. Get the timing right and you could be seeing some of the most popular museums and cultural phenomenons for free. Among those included are The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, along with a few lesser known but equally as impressive places like Albert-Kahn musée et jardins (a homage to gardens around the world) and the Musée de l’Assistance Publique, which celebrates the history of Paris hospitals. So you can see Paris in ways that perhaps you wouldn’t if you had plenty of money to go around – what’s not to love in this city of love.

2. Park yourself at Parc de la Villette

The French know cinema and this open-air cinema is proof of just that. Open throughout July and August – this open air theatre usually follows a theme and it’s a great communal, quirky event.

Cinema-plein-air-Villette-630x405-C-OTCP-Marc-Bertrand-157-08Image Source: Parisinfo

3. Visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Visiting Paris implies that at some point you will visit the iconic Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. It’s a sight to behold from both the inside and outside, and of course if you want to rub shoulders with the locals – outside the square is buzzing with local buskers and live bands to give you a real Paris feel.


Image Source: The Classy Traveler

4. Visit the Père Lachaise cemetery

Visit over 100 acres of graves, tombs and memorials and some of the world’s most famous graves. Jim Morrison from the Doors and Oscar Wilde are both buried here so although visiting a graveyard may not be on everyone’s to do list – it’s a great opportunity for fans to pay respect, and for everyone else – you can see some very over the top style tombs.

5. Take a walk in the many avenues

The sights and sounds of Paris are amongst the most pristine in the world. The architecture and general vibe of the city make for a beautiful walk, morning, noon or night. The French love to speak French, so if asking for directions and even striking up conversation – be sure you have a French handbook handy or maybe even a translation app to help you on your journey.

While you can certainly find lots to do in Paris for free, accommodation is a different story.  Hotels in Paris can range from the basic budget hotels to the luxurious hotels that only the elite can afford. Whatever your budget, be sure to look for a hotel, hostel or guesthouse that locates you in a good area of the city. Paris is a very large city so be sure to stay somewhere that has easy access to those key areas you will want to get along to.

Categories: Blog, Bucket List, Inspiration, Travel Tips

statue of liberty paris

Hidden gems in Paris: What the guidebooks don’t tell you

There is a wealth of must-see attractions for any Paris-bound travellers, including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Moulin Rouge etc etc. While their architectural brilliance or historical significance makes these attractions incredible in their own right, the long queues and general hustle and bustle that comes with any prominent tourist attraction can start to become tiresome rather quickly.

statue of liberty paris

If you’re sick of having to position your camera over the tourist standing in front of you while avoiding the excited gestures of the tourist to your side, you’ll be pleased to know there are a number of fabulous sights and attractions that are not inundated with tourists, giving you a chance to enjoy this beautiful city in peace whether they involve some wonderful Siene cruise tickets or no tickets at all, Paris has it all:

The Statue of Liberty

You’d be forgiven for thinking this paragraph belongs to an article about New York City, but Paris is actually home to three of its very own versions of the Statue of Liberty. Next to the Grenelle Bridge along the Seine River is a quarter-sized version of the 305ft one in New York. There are also two 10-foot prototypes in the Jardins de Luxembourg and the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

The Angel of Nagasaki

Among the rubble that resulted from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II were the remains of a beautiful sculpted angel. While the body had been damaged beyond repair, her face and wings remained intact. The angel was transferred to Paris and given a home in the tranquil Japanese garden at the United Nation’s UNESCO headquarters in the seventh arrondissement, where it can be seen today.

Parisian fountains

Walking around a city is thirsty work, especially if you’re travelling over summer. However, rather than wasting time queuing in a shop and buying water, keep an eye out for the water foundations dotted around the city. Not only is the water completely safe to drink but you will even be treated to sparkling water at some.

Taxidermist’s shop

If you like scouting out the unusual while on your travels, you won’t do much better than the old taxidermist’s shop just off Boulevard St-Germain. With stuffed animals ranging across the entire kingdom – lion, moose, ostrich, zebra, polar bear and even a charging elephant – this stop-off is about as far from the beaten track as you can possibly get.

Booking a superb hotel in advance with Superbreak can help you make the most of a stress-free break in Paris.







Categories: Blog, Inspiration, Travel Tips

london paris bike ride

The London to Paris Charity Cycle

Are you considering a trip in Europe in the near future? Are you busy looking into rail passes, bus tickets, and flight deals? Well, there are certainly many ways to travel around Europe, but when it comes to getting from London to Paris, there is one way that you may have not considered: cycling! The London to Paris Charity Cycle definitely requires a little more leg power than other forms of transportation, but the pay-off is enormous!

london paris bike ride

What is the London to Paris Bike Ride?

The London to Paris Bike Ride is a 5 day charity cycle that offers an amazingly unique and challenging experience to all participants. Participants are able to select a charity of their choice (the organizers work with over 500 charities, and are always creating new partnerships), raise money for their chosen charity, and then carry out the almost 500km bike ride from London to Paris. The route is organized in a way that makes sure participants will see as much of the beautiful countryside as possible and it passes important landmarks such as World War I battlefields, historic towns, and gothic churches.

Who can participate in the London to Paris Bike Ride?

The minimum age to participate is 18. There is no age maximum, though those over age 65 are asked to get a medical form signed by their doctor. You do not need to be a professional cyclist to join the challenge! The majority of participants are of average fitness level, and are simply looking for a healthy way to meet new people, challenge themselves, and raise money for a cause that is close to their heart. Support vehicles are always nearby to help out, and will make sure no one gets left behind! If you are a vegetarian, or have any dietary restrictions, don’t worry! Meals can be catered to accommodate any special needs. All participants are asked to raise a minimum of £1,450 for their selected charity in order to take part in the challenge, and there is an additional £99 deposit required. Organizers will provide guidance to help you meet your fundraising goal.

What do I need?

Naturally, you will need a bike. While renting a bike is always a possibility, it is suggested that you use a bike of your own, so that you have the opportunity to train and get comfortable with it before your big ride. It’s also always a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic bike repair; simple repair kits are light and easy to carry. However, there will be mechanics on hand should you need them. In order to participate in the challenge, you will also need proof of travel insurance. This can be obtained on your own, or with the help of the challenge organizers. Meals are included in the trip (with the exception of dinner on the ferry to France, and lunch and dinner on the final day in Paris), as are accommodations, luggage transport, ferry travel to France, and return travel to London on a Eurostar train. Upon registering, participants will be provided with a comprehensive packing list.

How do I sign up?

London to Paris Charity Cycles takes place during various periods throughout the year. The next scheduled event will be taking place from September 4th-8th 2013, and then one will be happening from September 18th-22nd. Places are limited, and can fill up quickly, so don’t wait until the last minute! Booking can be done online. Free informational packages can also be ordered for those who would like more detailed information and testimonials.

Categories: Blog, Inspiration

4 Best Places to Meet the Locals in France

France is a country where supreme wining and dining mesh seamlessly with beautiful scenery, a distinct sense of culture and a proud national history. As a destination, it offers something for every taste and budget. While the well-known tourist spots are definitely worth a visit, there’s a another side to France that is full of a charm that many travellers don’t get to see. Here are 4 of the best places to meet the locals on your trip through France.

A taste of Paris

Know Your Local Café

If you really want to get to know the local people, you have to find their favourite café! There’s nothing more quintessentially French than sitting outdoors sipping a strong coffee and enjoying a warm buttery croissant as you watch the world go by. Cafés provide a meeting point for the local people to catch up and enjoy each other’s company, and by finding the best one in your area, you will be able to immerse yourself in the local culture. It’s a simple yet fulfilling experience, so grab a good book and spend a few hours enjoying the best that French café culture has to offer.

Village Markets

Almost every town boasts a thriving market where all of the locals meet and spend the day browsing goods and crafts. You will be able to gain a deeper understanding of what it is like to live like a local by spending a few hours wandering through the markets and seeing the fresh produce, gourmet goods, arts and crafts from the village. There’s simply nothing like a traditional French market, from the vendors spruiking their wares to the locals looking for the best bargains, the air is filled with a unique energy and bustling vibe that simply has to be experienced.

Visit the Church

Even those who aren’t religious will find that the local church is a great place to understand more about the culture and history of a town or region. From magnificent cathedrals to quaint country chapels, each one has a unique story to tell. To really see how the locals live, attend one of the Sunday masses for a truly unique travel experience.

A Gourmet Adventure

One of the best ways to meet the locals is to do a tour of the village and visit each of the traditional producers of gourmet goods. In the charcuterie, you’ll find the tastiest local cured meats and delicatessen style produce, while the boulangerie will fill you with the irresistible scent of freshly baked bread of every kind. The local chocolatier is a master of their craft with simply delectable handmade chocolates and sweet treats perfect for the sweet toothed traveller. For an experience like no other, spend some time in the patisserie and see the amazing workmanship that goes into creating the finest pastries, cakes and tarts for your enjoyment.

You will meet an incredible array of people, from the artisans to the locals who frequent their establishments as part of their daily shopping routine. Whether it’s warm croissants or the finest saucisson, your day will be filled with tempting treats that will sate any appetite.

Discover France like a local with these great ways to explore the path less travelled. For more info on the best French flight deals, be sure to check out Flight Centre. Saving money on your tickets let you increase your travel budget and have more to spend on exploring France from a local’s perspective. Let yourself delve deeper into the unique culture of this beautiful country, and enjoy a truly unforgettable travel experience.

Categories: Blog, Inspiration

Fixed up Abroad: 5 Countries with the Highest Quality Healthcare

The UK receives a great deal of attention for its universal, tax-funded healthcare system. Through nationwide contributions, the government is able to provide greatly reduced rates for its citizens on procedures ranging from cardiac and pulmonary surgery to tummy tucks and laser eye treatments in manchester. That being said, on a global scale, if you’re looking to travel abroad for an operation, it helps to have options. The UK’s healthcare system is truly fine, but surprisingly, the World Health report has it listed in spot #18. Fortunately for the European traveler, the top five are all in western Europe.

5. MaltaBecause Malta is an island, it already has a tourism-minded attitude. The hospitals have an elegant atmosphere and are staffed with US- and UK-trained specialists. Its small size makes medical facilities easy to access, and it boasts no waiting lines. This also means it doesn’t take long to get to the beach and unwind after the procedure.

4. AndorraThe big perk of visiting Andorra is that it does not require citizens of the USA, Canada, UK/EU and Australia to procure visas for visits up to 3 months. That makes it an excellent place for major surgery requiring longer recovery periods. Also, considering Andorra has the highest life expectancy in the world, you can imagine they’ve got something right.

3. San Marino

Not only does the Most Serene Republic of San Marino have the distinction of being the third smallest country in Europe, but it also has the third best healthcare system in the world. It can be an excellent alternative if you find yourself by the Adriatic coast and have trouble finding a hospital. That being said, you may not need to visit San Marino if you’re already in…

2. Italy

Apart from having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, Italy also may be one of the nicest places to convalesce after your procedure. The Mediterranean climate and relaxed lifestyle (not to mention the food) make this an excellent place to combine healing with fun.

1. France

After centuries of cultural rivalry with the UK, France has pulled ahead in healthcare. Combining public and private healthcare funding, France offers substantially lower prices than much of the rest of Europe, one more reason to smile in this romantic country. They’ll help straighten that smile too, if you want.

Categories: Travel Tips

Tips before Visiting The Louvre Museum

Visiting the Louvre museum in Paris is probably one of the most common things to do when visiting Paris. Despite going to Paris more than once, I still find the charm of the Louvre quite irresistible. The glass pyramid which serves as its entrance has become one of the most iconic places in all of France and aptly so too, as it serves as a threshold to some of the art world’s most beautiful treasures from times past.

So if you’re quite like me, and want to go to the Louvre, I have some tips here for you which can be very valuable when you go to the Louvre (and other Parisian museums).

First is get a museum pass. There are 1,3,4 and 5 day passes which will not only help you save money but also help you get inside museums – including the Louvre – quickly. Choose and buy a pass according to the number of days you are going to stay in Paris.

Second is try to research information about the Louvre before actually going there. For example, you might want to go to the Louvre on a Wednesday or a Friday since its open until 9:15 on those days. Usually, the halls are empty at around 7 or 7:15 so you can enjoy the artwork in peace after those times.

Third is get and bring a map of the Louvre when you go there. It won’t help your cause if you get lost while trying to see everything that you want to see.

Lastly, make a list of what you want to see badly and choose the furthest wings from the entrance first. That way, if you take too long and is reached by closing time, you’d get to see the other artworks closer to the entrance as the guards try to let you out of the museum.

Categories: Blog, Inspiration, Travel Tips

french riviera

A Look at the Architecture of the French Riviera’s Seaside Retreats

If you’ve visited the North as well as the South of France, you’ve probably seen a marked contrast in the architecture, of say, Paris as opposed to Nice or Cannes – not to mention the contrast in climate or attitude towards life.

In the French Riviera, la vie est belle. The South is sunny, dry and has inherited the laid-back lifestyle typical of the Mediterranean. Renowned for its no-stress, take-it-as-it-comes attitude, the Côte d’Azur’s buildings reflect the spirit of the coast, with bold-coloured doors and shutters contrasted with crisp whites and of course, an emphasis on striking that perfect view.

french riviera

In the 20th century, great artists flocked to the Côte d’Azur, taking in its bright colours and pleasant climate as a source of inspiration for their work. Artists like Renoir, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso and Chagall as well as many of their successors looked to France’s stunning south eastern coast in order to recreate its effortless beauty.

In the nineteen-twenties and thirties, the Riviera became a hotbed for modernist architectural experimentation. If you’re a fan of the modern movement, the Côte d’Azur has some unusual, stunning seaside residences that are an absolute must-see. After visiting the area’s art museums such as the Musée Matisse and Musée Marc Chagall in Nice, stop by a few seaside villas where modern art converges with everyday life.

french ports

Let’s begin with the villas of Le Corbusier, one of the modern era’s most prominent architects and designers. Throughout the twenties and thirties, Le Corbusier carried out a remarkable ensemble of housing projects throughout France, with a focus on improvements to the growing squalor of the Parisian slums. However, it is in the Riviera that you will find his own vacation home, where he spent his last days taking daily swims in the Mediterranean.

The modest bungalow sits on a hillside of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, a scenic peninsula just west of Menton. Enclosed in pine planks with only one bedroom and enough living space for him and his wife, the tiny home is inspired by the minimalism of an ocean liner cabin. Surrounded by bougainvillea, cypress and palm trees, the cabanon lies against a stunning view of the Mediterranean.

Along the Bay of Monaco lies another landmark piece of modernist architecture, Eileen Gray’s E1027. This ship-like villa is also a product of nautical inspiration, and sits among the numerous crisp white yachts that dot the coast’s turquoise waters. Gray, an Irish architect renowned for her innovative furniture design, built this amazing structure as a vacation home for her and her lover. Its cryptic name is actually code for their intertwined initials.

france coast

One of France’s first truly modern constructions, Villa Noailles sits on a hill above the city of Hyères, just east of Toulon. The work of Robert Mallet-Stevens, it was built in 1923 for viscount Charles de Noailles and his wife Marie-Laure, who sought a home that was “infiniment simple et pratique”. The couple were celebrated art patrons who supported experimental works including the film projects of various surrealist artists, Salvador Dali being one of them.

As you can see, a few stops down the coast of the French Riviera and you will have seen the architectural remnants of the burgeoning avant-garde in the early twentieth century. These unique villas are just a few of the spectacular properties that line the coast of the sparkling Côte d’Azur.

Blending the beauty of the coast with modern functionality, there is an abundance of beautiful contemporary villas that have followed in the footsteps of modern architects such as Le Corbusier, Gray and Mallet-Stevens. These French Riviera villa rentals can be spotted from the public beaches and are eye candy to the passers by who come to the coast for the same sunshine that attracted the world’s great modern artists.

Roxanne Bichard is a Montreal-born university student and travel blogger for Luxury Retreats. Currently finishing up her degree in Avignon, France, she has spent the past few months living in and exploring the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions.



By Roxanne Bichard

Categories: Blog, Education, Travel Tips


Ice Magic—Sculpture Festival in Paris

From November 25th 2012 through January 15th 2013, the Ice Magic Sculpture Festival is in full swing. Held annually, Concord Square in Champs-Élysées becomes transformed into a Christmas Village, with the Ice Magic Festival as its main attraction, now tell me that’s not enough to get you searching for city breaks in Paris. Adults and children will be mystified and transported into a cool, crystal world. If in Paris over the winter holidays, make sure to add this to your itinerary.


These artists craft astoundingly intricate creations from ice. They are built with the use of large chunks of clear ice and snow flakes. Colorful lights are cast onto the sculptures, further bringing them to life yet paradoxically, freezing them in time. In the past, artists spanning from Canada, Finland, Lithuania, Austria, and France have sculpted 450 tons of ice in situ (on location) to recreate everything from exotic animals, historical figures, famous monuments, and well-known cultural icons. Gladiators, the Khazneh Petra, Angkor Wat, the Statue of Liberty, Mona Lisa, and the Great Wall of China are just a few examples of the wonders to be seen. Some of these sculptures are up to four meters high!


Make sure you bundle up before attending—in order to preserve the creations, they are displayed in a thermally insulated, frosty environment of -6°C (21°F). While braving the cold temperatures, more appreciation is gained for these artists who work in these chilling conditions while producing these spectacles.


At the end of the world famous event, esteemed panelists give out an award for the best artist in show as well as viewer’s favorite. But the fun doesn’t end with admiring the sculptures. Several events are held; from free magic shows and an individual speed carving competition. For children, the Little Chippers Festival teaches the technique and science of ice carving—helping to inspire and produce the next generation of ice sculptors.

Categories: Blog, Travel Tips