Tag Archive: travel tips


Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

Can you believe this was taken on November 1st??!!

We have been to Olympos twice, and it’s one of our favorite getaway places! Our first trip to Olympos was last fall. We discovered that we had a very long weekend, thanks to the national holiday, Republic Day (October 29),which marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Friday and Monday were declared school holidays due to the elections on November 1st.  So, we headed for the otogar (bus station) and got into a dolmuş (public transport mini bus) and headed for Olympos. The dolmuşes leave from the far end of the bus station about every 10 minutes, so it is easy to get there via public transport.

An hour and a half later, we were dropped at this cafe, where we had some tea while waiting for another dolmuş to take us down the canyon to Olympos. Not a bad place to wait, eh?

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Tea and snacks available while you wait. Lots of vans pull up to drop passengers heading to Olympos.

Olympos is well known for its rustic charm, with dozens of tree house and cabin pensions. We stayed in Saban’s, recommended by a friend. We loved it!  Half-board was included, and the food was delicious. We had a little one room cabin, surrounded by fruit and pine trees, nestled by the hills. We left our gear and headed out to explore the ruins that everyone comes here to see.

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller's ears:).

The sound of silence was fabulous to this city-dweller’s ears:).

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Saban’s has fruit trees all around; these are pomegranate trees.

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This was breakfast! Dinner was a buffet meal of delicious home-cooked Turkish food, including mezes and salad.

Andy first visited Olympos with a friend.  Here’s the tree house he stayed in!

Turkmen's Tree Houses

Turkmen’s Tree Houses

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Be sure to try some fresh-squeezed juice!

 

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Kadir’s Tree Houses is said to be the original tree house/bungalow pension.  It has a very artistic, hippie-like feel to their cabins, and it’s still very popular with the younger, backpacking crowd.

From Saban’s it is a ten minute walk to the entry of the ruins.  If you live in Turkey, be sure to get an annual museum pass; you won’t have to pay the 20 TL fee, which also allows you access to the beach. Those  of you don’t live in Turkey can get a pass for 10 entries for 7.5 TL. You need to pass through the ruins to get to the beach.

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The ruins to the right of the creek bed are “untamed” but are worth the hike. It’s the “Indiana Jones hike”.

Olympos  was founded during the Hellenistic Period, and became a prominent city of the Lycian League by the second century BC.

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The city was built inside the river valley, behind the mountains, to conceal its wealth from pirates.

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However, this strategy didn’t work: Olympos was later used as a base by  a powerful group of pirates. There was an infamous pirate called Zeniketos who operated from Olympos.

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After the ruins you arrive at the sea!

A Roman commander of Julius Ceasar conquered the city in the first century BC to neutralize the threat from the pirates.

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People continued to live in Olympos until its decline in the 1400’s.

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This was a lovely October day. Notice my twin on the right.

We returned for a quick weekend trip in May. This time we stayed at Olympos Orange Bungalows, which also was a good place to stay: nice food, clean rooms, and a lovely garden area.

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Orange Bungalows garden area

One of the “must-do” things to do near Olympos is something we haven’t done yet: visit the eternal fires of Chimera which are natural gas-fueled flames that are never extinguished. It’s a popular place to hike up to at sunset or after dark.  North American visitors are known to bring marshmallows and other ingredients to make smores:)  We are told it’s easier to get there if you have your own transport, but you still have about a 3 kilometer hike up (then back down) the mountainside (in the dark), so be sure to wear good hiking shoes and bring a flashlight.  So we are told!  Nate has been three times; twice while camping with his class, and once while he was at summer camp.

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Instead, we roasted marshmallows by the fire at Orange Bungalows; we substituted graham crackers with tea biscuits (cookies) and it was GOOD!!

Since most of the pensions in Olympos provide half-board (breakfast and dinner) in their rate, it’s fun to try the little restaurants for lunch.  Here’s one of our favorites, not far from the entrance to the ruins:

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You said you wanted a close up on our plates? Ok!

So, what are you waiting for? Come and see for yourself why Olympos is a great getaway place!

Enjoying a sunny February day in the old city of Kaleici in Antalya, Turkey

Enjoying a sunny February day in the old city of Kaleici in Antalya, Turkey

We recently spent six lovely days in Antalya, Turkey. It’s located on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Kaleiçi is the historic area of the town.  It started as a Roman town around 150 BC, and was named after it’s founder: Attalos II, King of Pergamon.  It later changed hands to the Byzantines, then the Seljuk Turks, and finally passed to the Ottoman Turks.

What view? Our oblivious 9-year-old:)

What view? Our oblivious 9-year-old:)

King Attalos III bequeathed his kingdom to Rome upon his death in 133 BC, and Antalya became part of the Roman Republic.

The port

The Roman Harbor

Antalya was visited by the Apostle Paul, as recorded in the book of Acts: “From Perga, Paul and Barnabas went down to Attalia and sailed from there to Antioch after preaching in Pisidia and Pamphylia” (Acts 14:25-26).

This harbor is where he sailed from!

Rows of pirate boats

Rows of  boats, capitalizing on the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean:)

Antalya was a major city in the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Seljuk Turks in the 13th century. It was conquered by the Ottomans in the 14th century.

Lots of souvenir shops, of course!

Lots of shops

Carpet, anyone?

Carpet, anyone?

Kaleiçi is a lovely place to just wander through the winding streets.

Exploring...

Exploring…

The Broken Mınaret Mosque Kesik Minare has changed hands on multiple occasions through the centuries.  It was originally built as a Roman temple in the 2nd century AD.  The Roman Temple was later converted into a Christian church during the Byzantine era in the 7th century. It was converted into a mosque in the 13th century, and the minaret was added. Not long after, it was converted back into a church when Antalya was taken by the crusader king of Cyprus. It was reconverted yet again to a mosque, and has remained a mosque since!

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Outside the mosque.

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The Broken Minaret

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Interesting courtyard…

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Hookah, anyone?

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What’s in there?

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The equivalent of Prague’s John Lennon Wall?

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Taken for his sister Sam and Star Wars fans around the globe:)

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Taking it easy….

The modern city of Antalya started growing after World War II. It is located in a lovely location, surrounded by mountains, facing the beautiful Mediterranean Sea with its beautiful beaches.

Now, that's a view!

Now, that’s a view!

I was surprised to find out that Antalya, as the gateway to the Turkish Riviera, is in the top ten of most visited cities of the world!!! It has surpassed Istanbul as a tourist destination. It draws both history buffs and sun-seekers. Most tourists stay in the beach resorts in Konyaalti or Lara.

However, modern Antalya,with its tall buildings and large tourist developments along the coast, didn’t draw me like Kaleiçi did. There are lots of great day trips if you are based in Kaleiçi.  Check out these recommendations from Tripadvisor:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g297962-s407/Antalya:Turkey:Day.Trips.html

Just before sunset...

Just before sunset…

Avoid all those crowds…visit Antalya between September and May.  April, May, September and October are the best months to find nice weather without so many tourists.  We were there in February and enjoyed weather in the upper 60’s and it even hit 70 for a day.  Sunshine is amazing, especially after a cold winter in Europe!

Beaches, ancient ruins, the Mediterranean, snow capped mountains, sunshine…what’s not to like? Best of all are the friendly Turks and their wonderful cuisine. We’ll definitely be back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Zeno Basilica

San Zeno Basilica

We just got back from our trip to Israel last night…it was an amazing trip.  We saw and did so much!  I didn’t have a chance yet to go through photos or keep up the blog. I learned from my failed attempt to do a post a day for our European road trip that keeping up while traveling isn’t realistic. So stay tuned for future posts on Italy, France and Israel!

This post is about the Basilica of San Zeno: a must see if you are in Verona. We went to find San Zeno Basilica at the recommendation of our Italian host.

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It was founded in the 5th century to house the remains of San Zeno, Verona’s patron saint.

There were hardly any tourists here; we almost had the place to ourselves! It’s a lovely, peaceful church. St. Zeno  is Verona’s patron saint because he was credited with converting the people of Verona to Christianity.

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San Zeno was born in North Africa.

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Many of San Zeno’s sermons survive today.

Baptismal font

Baptismal font: it’s more than 1000 years old!

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The church was rebuilt a few centuries later and was consecrated in 806 AD

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The church was later destroyed by Hungarian invaders!  Rebuilding began again in 963 AD.

The altar

What you see in the photos dates from the more recent reconstruction in the 12th and 13th centuries!

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Statue of San Zeno.

Down in the crypt

The crypt dates back to the 10th century and contains a sarcophagus with the remains of St. Zeno.

the remains

According to tradition, this crypt was where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet were married!

The courtyard

San Zeno died in 380, but he is still honored and remembered here.

Our Italian host also gave us the tip that Verona’s best ice cream could be found next to the basilica of San Zeno, so of course we had to try it!

Verona was a wonderful surprise for us…we had no idea what a fascinating city it is before we spent a week there.  You can read more about our stay in Verona here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/07/24/day-7-opera-at-the-1st-century-bc-arena-di-verona/

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/07/20/verona-so-much-more-than-juliets-balcony/

Verona is also a great city to use as a base for exploring other amazing cities.  We did a day trip to Venice (stay tuned for that post).  We also visited Lake Garda and Vicenza.  You can see the photos here:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/07/13/day-four-picnic-at-lake-garda/

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/07/15/day-five-the-unesco-world-heritage-town-of-vicenza/

So, for anyone visiting northern Italy, don’t forget lovely Verona!

From the castle walls!

From the castle walls!

We have hosted more than 50 guests since we moved to Prague in 2011!  Many more will visit us this year. Below is my top ten list of things to see and do in Prague if you have only a short time.  I’ve also included our favorite inexpensive restaurants (main dish for under 200 CZK ($10/8E) near the sites.

1. Prague Castle and Gardens

Take a picnic lunch with you to the gardens.  Or stop at the outdoor restaurant on the way down the hill to Malostranska. It is surrounded by an ancient vineyard and has the most spectacular views of Prague.  They usually advertise dessert and coffee for 99 CZK($5/4E)…other items are quite expensive.

See my post for insider tips about Prague Castle:

https://globalnomadfamily.com/2013/04/13/beautiful-prague-prague-castle-and-st-nicholas-church/

The view of the castle from the gardens.

The view of the castle from the gardens.

2. Charles Bridge and Old Town Square

Going inside the clock tower is quite interesting. By some crepes (palacinky) from one of the food stalls in the square and enjoy the excellent people watching opportunities.  Don’t eat at one of the cafes around the square unless you don’t mind paying exorbitant prices!

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge

Old Town Square in 2010.

Old Town Square in 2010.

3. Jewish Quarter and Museums

Allow several hours to see this area, as there are six sites to visit in the Josefov district. Here’s a link to find out information about the ticket costs and other information:

http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/ainfo.htm

http://www.prague.cz/prague-jewish-town.asp

The Jewish Cemetary

The Jewish Cemetery

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

My friend took this photo in the Spanish Synagogue before we were told no photos are allowed.

Find your way to the Cartouche restaurant for an interesting atmosphere and decor that makes you feel like you are in a tavern from the 1700’s. It has a pricier menu but there are a few Czech and other dishes for 199-249 CZK.

http://www.cartouche.cz/en/index.html

Inside the Cartouche.

Inside the Cartouche.

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

Celebrating our 10th anniversary last year!

4. Wenceslas Square

It’s a pleasant walk from Old Town Square to Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square. The blue building will be on your left if you are in OT Square heading for Wenceslas Square.

This is looking towards Old Town Square.

Nate with dear friends Curt and Sandra, AKA Doc and Marmee.

Wenceslas Square with dear friends Curt and Sandra.

The Powder Tower and Municipal house are also a short walk away from Wenceslas Square.

The Powder Tower. There's an interesting little museum inside.

The Powder Tower. There’s an interesting little museum inside.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

This is the view from the Powder Tower.

If you have some time, stop in at the Museum of Communism…

LOVE this sign!!

LOVE this sign!!

If you are hungry, try one of our favorite restauranst in Wenceslas Square: O Balouna.  It says “Traditional Czech Restaurant” on the outside. Here’s the website:

http://www.ubalouna.cz/en/

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It’s a few doors down from the Thai Massage place with big tanks of water in the window, where tourists sit with their feet in the water, allegedly getting their dead skin nibbled away by the fish. I say allegedly because my friend Elsa tried it and didn’t notice a difference…but it was a great photo op!

She said it tickled!

She said it tickled!

Elsa attracted lots of attention...she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch.

Elsa became a tourist attraction…she is in photos of other random tourists who stopped to watch!

5.  Stroll along the river and rent a paddle boat.

Take a walk along the river from Charles Bridge heading south. After passing another bridge (Most Legii) and the National Theater (Narodni Divadlo)  you’ll see a small bridge leading to a little island (Slovanski Ostrov) which is pleasant to walk around.  You can rent paddle boats from here.

Our river walk in 2011.

Our river walk in 2011.

When you are ready for a meal, enjoy one of our favorite restaurants, Club Cestavalu (Caravanserai on the sign outside, a mint green building across the street from the island). The food is Arabic and Lebanese, with Indian menu choices as well. They have unusual photos of exotic places as part of their decor.  They also have some free exotic snacks for the brave of heart (which I was not)!

http://www.hedvabnastezka.cz/klub-cestovatelu-praha/english

What are they holding? Why does Nikolas look like he is going to throw up?

What are they holding? Why does Nate look like he is going to throw up?

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Fried grubs! Nate and Andy said they tasted like fried styrofoam!

Another favorite restaurant of ours is Grosseto’s Marina. We love taking guest here because the views of the city and of Charles Bridge are spectacular, and the prices are reasonable.

http://www.grosseto.cz/en/marina

The view from the boat is outstanding.

It looks like a boat but it isn’t.

6.  Take a boat cruise on the Vltava River.

There are many different companies with a variety of cruise options, from a quick one hour spin to a several hour dinner cruise.  Our favorite is Prague-Venice, because it is a one hour cruise on a small boat which takes you through some hidden canals as well as along the Vltava.  Currently it costs 290 CZK ($14/11E) and includes a drink and ice cream.  You can buy tickets from the guys in white sailor suits at the end of Charles Bridge on the Old Town side.

http://www.prazskebenatky.cz/en/cruise

You can see the boat sign behind Nate. We also went to a concert in the church behind him.

This is the area to buy the tickets. Taken in 2010

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

Cruise with Grandma and Grandpa, summer 2012.

There are several other options.  I have heard good things about the Jazz Boat.

http://www.pragueexperience.com/sightseeing/river_cruises.asp

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That's Vikki and me:)

We did a dinner cruise with the Zidek family. That’s Vikki and me:)

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Sunset is a great time for a cruise!

There’s also another cruise option, free with your transportation ticket!  It’s a little boat that zigzags along the river; especially fun for kids. We found it when we were walking along the river and hopped on.

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

The free boat (with your valid public transport pass).

7.  See an opera or ballet.

We  have seen three operas and one ballet and have really enjoyed them…even Nate (although he looks bored in the photo below)!  You can pay a lot of money to sit up close, or you can sit up high in the middle for 480-530 CZK ($25/20E) at the Prague State Opera. You will have a great view of the stage and orchestra, and the acoustics are great.

If you forgot to pack your opera clothes, it’s ok…at least in the cheap seats:)

The Prague State Opera House.

The Prague State Opera House.

Buy your tickets from Bohemia Tickets.  They don’t add a surcharge like other sites.  You can purchase them online, or get them when you are in Prague.  Go to the Mustek metro stop and follow the Na Prikope exit. The address is Na Prikope 16.  If they try to tell you they don’t sell the lower price tickets, tell them a local friend told you that they are available (unless they are truly sold out, which you can verify online).

http://www.bohemiaticket.cz/WBS/ang/contact.php

In front of the Estates Theater.

In front of the Estates Theater.

8.  Go to a classical music concert in one of the beautiful churches or other historic buildings like the Rudolfinum or the Municipal House.

We went to one at Saint Salvatore Church and loved it! The music, acoustics, and atmosphere were outstanding.

Waiting for the concert to start.

Waiting for the concert to start.

9.  Take the funicular up to Petrin Hill.

It’s free to ride the funicular with your valid transportation ticket.  Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it in the gardens at the top. Climb the “Prague Eiffel Tower”.

There's a nice view of Prague waiting...

There’s a nice view of Prague waiting…

Kids--big and small--will love the mirror maze at the top.

Kids–big and small–will love the mirror maze at the top. Taken in 2010.

Head down the hill...

Head down the hill…

Quench your thirst with the world's best beer--or apple juice:)

Quench your thirst with the world’s best beer–or apple juice:)

10. Take a day trip to Karlestejn Castle.

The castle was founded in 1348 by King Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor. It is easy to get here by train from Hlavni Ndrazi.  See the websites below for how to walk to the castle from the train station…it’s good exercise!  The town below the castle is very picturesque, with many options for restaurants and shops.  Souvenirs are cheaper here than in Prague.

http://www.hradkarlstejn.cz/informations-for-visitors-2013/

http://www.myczechrepublic.com/regions/karlstejn.html

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

Taken with our friend Vanda in summer 2010.

This was taken in March...the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

This was taken in March 2012…the views are more spectacular in spring, summer and fall.

It's pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

It’s pretty fun to stand on a real drawbridge!

So, that’s my list!  There are so many more wonderful things to see and do in Prague.  I’ll get to them in a future post.  Are there any other places you would count in a top ten list?

 

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Arc de Triomphe!

My family and I just had a wonderful six days in Paris.  We got to see most of the important sights, but not all.  There is always more to see of Paris, for the next trip!  So here are some things we learned, to pass on to other travelers who visit this lovely city. Mind you, these tips are for travelers on a budget.  We are teachers, so we travel in comfort, but not in luxury!

1.    Don’t book pre-packaged tours!

There is no need for tours, not even the “Hop-on, hop-off” bus.  Paris’ metro system is excellent.  There is a metro stop close to all of the famous (and not so famous) sights of Paris.  You just need to spend a little time to figure out the metro map.

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No caption needed:)

2.    Buy an unlimited public transportation travel pass (a car in Paris is NOT recommended)!

They are good for metro, buses and RER network trains.

There are four choices: Navigo Decouverte Pass, Paris Visite Pass, and a carnet (book) of ten tickets, or single tickets for 1 Euro 50.

The Navigo Decouverte is the least expensive.  The catch is that it starts on Monday and ends at midnight on Sunday.  It makes financial sense if you arrive between Monday and Wednesday, but not if you arrive in the second half of the week.  You will need a 1 X 1.2” passport style photo (can be purchased at the airport or most metro stations in one of the automated booths for 5 Euros).  Then you go to the ticket window and purchase the pass (5 Euros) and load it with a week of credit.  The pass is good for ten years, so if you return to Paris you can add more credit on it and go.  Be sure to ask for a Navigo Decouverte, not just a “Navigo” pass.  The “Navigo” pass is only for residents, whereas the Navigo Decouverte is for any adult.  If you are traveling with children, you will need to buy them a child’s Paris Visite card.

http://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/

If you plan to use public transport to and from the airport, and if you plan to visit Versailles, it is best to purchase the Navigo Decouverte that covers zones 1-5.  Round trip to the airport (20 Euros) and to Versailles (12 Euros), and the pass is only 33 Euros.

The Paris Visite Card can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. The price varies depending on how many zones you want.  If you want it to cover Versailles and the airport, it is best to get zones 1-5.

http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21894/paris-visite/

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Montmartre, my favorite area of Paris!

3.    Pack a picnic lunch.

Eating out in Paris is expensive, especially for those who earn in dollars or other non-euro currencies. Stop at the local market to buy a fresh baguette, cheese, sandwich meat, fruit, and a bottle of water. Bring along a knife of some sort to slice the cheese and fruit.  There are dozens of lovely places for a picnic in Paris!

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My French friend Nathalie showed us around on our first evening in Paris. Yes, that’s the Cathedral of Notre Dame!

4.    See the Louvre for free or for a discounted price.

The Louvre is free the first Sunday of the month. It is discounted for adults, and free for anyone under age 26 on Friday evenings after 6pm.

http://www.louvre.fr/en/hours-admission/admission#tabs

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The Louvre (yes, it’s my photo)!

5.    MUST SEE: Paris by night on a cruise on the River Seine!

Our eighteen year old daughter, Samantha, offered to babysit her seven year old brother, and we took her up on it! We arrived at Bateaux Mouches around 10:30pm (It doesn’t get dark until 10 pm in the summer).  Paris by night is magical!! There was commentary in six languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. We got to see many of the places we hadn’t been able to see yet.  In retrospect I would do the cruise at the beginning of our stay, because you cruise past amazing sights you could plan to go see in the following days.

http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en

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Paris by night!

6.    Avoid Versailles on the weekends!

We didn’t, and it was horribly crowded.  Take the RER train: it is a short, pleasant ten-minute walk to the palace from the train station.  Once you arrive, divide and conquer, if you have two or more in your party.  Send one person to stand in the massive line to buy tickets (or better yet, buy them online ahead of time, or at the ticket shop across from the train station).  The other person can wait in the massive line to get into the palace.

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The Hall of Mirrors!

7.    HIDDEN GEM: Take a day trip to Chartres! 

I am a Lonely Planet Guidebook junkie, but all it told me that was worth seeing was the magnificent 13th century cathedral.  Wrong!  Chartres is a lovely medieval city, perfect for strolling the quiet streets and it is oh-so photogenic.  Go to the tourism office and ask for their free city map: it has an easy-to-follow walking tour.  Discover more medieval churches, quaint houses with flower boxes, a canal, and more! Best of all, it wasn’t mobbed with tourists.  We found a great place to eat with reasonable prices, right opposite the cathedral (thanks Lonely Planet).  It is called Café Serpente.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Chartres

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The lovely town of Chartres!

Enjoy your stay in this wonderful city!

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Place du Tertre in Montmartre.