Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Family Travel in Paris


Say oui to summer in Paris, the city of lights and the city of love. Music, art and sport moves outdoors in the summer and hotels offer enticing packages for traveling families. So grab a croissant or baguette on the Champs-Elysée, grab some euros and hit the metro:

Gymaholic: Take a break from the Stairmaster and instead climb nearly 1000 feet high in the Eiffel Tower. The 19th-century icon is a must-visit site with not-to-miss views. If the weather is warm, take a baguette, pâté and a bottle of red wine to the grassy area beneath the tower for an impromptu picnic. Do this in the evening, when the tower is illuminated for five minutes every hour by 20,000 light bulbs. For those who love to cycle, Paris offers the Vélib system, its bicycle transit system. Rent one of the city’s available bikes and explore the city on your own. After purchasing an access card, the first half-hour is free, and the rates are very reasonable. There are plenty less highbrow diversions to enjoy in Paris, especially at Paris-Plage, the beach on the Seine. Palm trees, huts, hammocks and around 2,000 tons of fine sand on both banks of the Seine bring a seaside vibe to the city. There’s a floating pool and a lending library too.

Prince/Princess: It’s indisputable that the Palace of Versailles has some of the world’s most incredible gardens, and you can fancy yourself Marie Antoinette as you wander through them. Whether you’re at the Orangerie, a favorite of Louis XIV, or viewing the fountain spectacles that play to music, you’re sure to be wowed by this incredible spot. After a beautiful day of exploring the gardens outdoors, check out some of the equally amazing things indoors such as the Hall of Mirrors, composed of 357 dazzling mirrors, or the Hall of Battles, a long room depicting France’s greatest battles. You may even be able to catch an equestrian performance.

Music lover: Solidays, Rock en Seine, Festival des Inrockuptibles and the Techno Parade all attract top acts. The Parc Floral de Paris holds weekend concerts in the summer. Grab a blanket and some snacks and relax outdoors to the music. Dates will be posted on the website http://www.parcfloraldeparis.com/parc_floral.html.

Ice cream lover: Paris's Gothic masterpiece is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame . Damaged during the French Revolution, the cathedral has been restored to magnificent effect. Climb from the north tower to the south to appreciate the masonry, and get a close-up view of the gallery of chimeras, the fantastic birds and beasts gazing over the balustrade. Afterwards, cross the road to Berthillon, on 11 Louis Street, to sample the most celebrated ice cream in town. Its reputation has been growing since 1954 thanks to natural ingredients, lashings of cream and a host of delicious flavors. Make sure to check opening times so you won’t be disappointed.

Fashionista: Just shop. Right Bank, Left Bank, it really doesn’t matter. You can look for sales whenever you visit or bite the bullet and just know that you’ll be bringing home some of the most forward-thinking designs in the world. Look for labels like agnès B, Vertigo, Morgan de Toi, and Barbara Bui for the best of the best. Be sure to walk down the warren of streets on each side of the Seine to find the boutique that matches your style.

Literary fan: If literature is your thing, Paris is the place to be. After a day of strolling the beautiful streets of Saint Germain des Pres, slip into a chair outdoors at two of the most famous literary landmarks in Paris: Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. Les Deux Magots is where James Baldwin met with Richard Wright while in Paris, and was one of the favorite haunts of Hemingway, Breton, and Camus. Café de Flore is right next door and is equally close in fame as it was a favorite of Durrell, Sartre, Capote, and Hemingway.

Some of the city’s finest hotels are offering family packages to help ease sticker shock through the end of the year:

Concorde Hotels: If you’re traveling with the kids this summer, the “Family in Paris” package offered by the five Concorde Hotels in Paris is truly fantastique. The package offers accommodations for two in a double room, 50% off a second room, a daily breakfast buffet, an exclusive Paris family guide, and a special kids welcome and mini-bathrobe. Select a hotel based on its proximity to your favorite Parisian landmark or tour the city and stay at a few different ones! The hotels include Concorde La Fayette, Hotel Concorde Opéra Paris, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel Lutetia, or Hotel Concorde Montparnasse The package starts at $230 per night and is valid through August 31. For more information and to book this package, call 800-888-4747 or visit www.concorde-hotels.com.

Hôtel de Crillon: This Leading Hotels of the World property is one of the most elaborate hotels in Paris, full of rich history and culture. Louis XV commissioned its design and the hotel is especially impressive with its walking proximity to the Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, and many more Parisian landmarks.

Le Crillon is offering a lovely package until the end of the year that will allow you and your family to experience Parisian luxury at its finest. The family package starts from 1055 Euros and includes two connecting superior rooms (the second room is discounted 50% for the package), Continental or American breakfast, an upgrade in a two bedroom suite based on availability on arrival, and great gifts for the kids. Kids receive a “lucky bag,” white balloons, fruit juice, cookies, an elephant cuddly toy, and a coloring kit. If you’re traveling with a baby, the hotel will also provide an in room blanket, elephant, and baby kit. For stays 5 nights or longer, a kid’s lunchbox is included, as well. +33 1 44 71 15 01

Hotel Fouquet's Barrière
: This property is also a member of The Leading Hotels of The World and takes on more of a 21st-century Parisian palace feel. The hotel also has a terrific location at the corner of Avenue George V and Avenue des Champs-Elysees.

HFB’s “Very Important Planet” package showcases its philosophy about sustainability, responsibility and community, the first Parisian palace to be awarded a 5th star and to obtain a triple ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification for service quality, environmental commitment, and safeguarding human rights and children’s rights. The package starts at 990 Euros and includes accommodations in a superior room or suite, a fitness breakfast for two, one 50-minute natural oil treatment in the U spa per person, organic lunch at the hotel’s Joy Gallery for two, VIP eco-friendly welcome amenities, and carbon off-setting (through the non-profit company “Action Carbone”). The package is valid through December 28, 2010. +33 1 40 696 040.

Cristal Champs-Elysees: For a more modern approach to staying in Paris, head to the Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) and stay in the recently opened Cristal Champs-Elysees. Designed by architect Philippe Medioni and Swiss designer Mattia Bonetti (who also assisted with the design of the fabulous Mark Hotel here in New York City), this hotel places great emphasis on its sleek yet colorful design. The hotel is located only two minutes from the metro and the RER line A, so exploring Paris has never been easier.

This summer, the hotel is offering a special on 3-night stays from July 16-September 2. Regular rates usually run from 159 euros to 540 euros per night (depending on room category), but rates run from only 143 euros to 259 euros during this special. +33 (0)1 45 63 27 33,

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