Why Go To Santo Domingo

How many of you have been to Domenican Republic? And how many of you have skipped Santo Domingo? Having also an airport in Punta Cana, the resort lovers skip Santo Domingo, but I really loved this place with so much history and charm.

Why Go to Santo Domingo?

IMG_0499IMG_9698Christopher Columbus tried to settle in the “New World” several times before getting it right. The first and second attempts, La Navidad (in Haiti) and La Isabela (near Puerto Plata), were plagued with fire and disease. It wasn’t until the third time, on an opposite coast of Hispaniola, that he and his men perfected the recipe. To this day, Santo Domingo is still a lively, thriving metropolis and acts as both the capital city of the Dominican Republic and the largest city in the Caribbean by population. But it’s also so much more: The sounds of merengue, bachata and salsa drifting from a Malecón nightclub or the smells of conch gratinée wafting from a romantic café in Zona Colonial. Due to its history, it’s also a city of superlatives: where you’ll find the first church (Catedral Primada de América), the first stronghold (Fortaleza Ozama) and the oldest street (Calle Las Damas) in the Americas. This is the real Santo Domingo.

Best Things To Do in Santo Domingo

Despite its location on the Caribbean Sea, Santo Domingo is far from a beach town. Instead, you should expect to spend some time at historically significant sites like the Catedral Primada de América or the Fortaleza Ozama. Make sure to allot an hour or two for the architecturally significant Columbus Lighthouse. Meanwhile, night owls should check out the city’s vibrant nightlife — some say the Malecón’s nightclubs and late night entertainment are the best in the Caribbean.

What You Need to Know

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• There’s plenty of top-notch shopping From amber and larimar (Dominican turquoise) jewelry, to hand-wrapped cigars, the DR as a whole is known for its high-quality souvenirs. You’ll find stands and shops all along the Malecón and within the Zona Colonial.

IMG_9695.JPG• The nightlife is excellent Even the hotel clubs are pretty lively in Santo Domingo. And you’ll also find an enviable assortment of bars, dance clubs and casinos along the Malecón.

Béisbol is the sport of choice Several major league baseball players got their “swinging” start in this city: The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez, the Colorado Rockies’ Cristhian Adames and the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz, to name a few. Go root for tomorrow’s MLB pros at the Estadio Quisqueya.

Must See Places

A visit to Santo Domingo wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Zona Colonial. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded in 1498 and boasts more than 300 historical sites within its parameters.

santo-domingo-coastline-leo-arturo-martinezFor a stark contrast from Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial, take in the sites and entertainment of the newer Malecon.

If you happen to be wandering around Santo Domingo’s Malecon, you’ll likely spot the area’s famed El Obelisco. Originally built in 1936 by the country’s notorious dictator, Rafael Trujillo, this monument now depicts anti-Trujillo murals and honors anti-dictator campaigners assassinated in 1960.

IMG_0556IMG_0559p1000392Wander the historic Calle El Conde and you’ll likely stumble upon various art vendors, as well as multiple shops and restaurants.

Also known as the Catedral Santa María La Menor, this 16th century church used to house the purported remains of Christopher Columbus. They were later moved across town to the Columbus Lighthouse

IMG_9714 Christopher Columbus’ influence on Santo Domingo is certainly felt in this central square, which honors the historic figure through its name and its statue of the late explorer.IMG_9717 The beautiful Alcázar de Colón was once the home of Diego Colón, Christopher Columbus’ son and former viceroy of what is now the Dominican Republic

IMG_9716 The first street created in the city’s Zona Colonial, Calle Las Damas is known for its decorative tiles and historic charm.

IMG_9712.jpgThis Zona Colonial ruin isn’t much to look at during the day; swing by in the evening instead when it’s perfectly illuminated for photo ops.

IMG_9715When this controversially designed lighthouse is lit, the beams can be seen from Puerto Rico.

Although Santo Domingo is known more for its historic architecture than its beaches, several are easily accessible from the city. One such beach is Juan Dolio, which is located about 38 miles west of the capital.

Best Times to Visit Santo Domingo

The best time to visit Santo Domingo is between November and March. That’s when this city experiences its best beach weather, even if there aren’t many great beaches to enjoy it on. April to July is also a pleasant time to visit, but you should avoid this area at all costs during the hurricane season, which runs from August to October. Whenever you visit, you’ll find the hotel rates are agreeable; even the best properties have rooms available for less than $150 a night.

7 Most Photographed Places in Bangkok

Where to take the best photos of Bangkok? Bangkok is very chaotic, but there is no arguing that Thailand’s capital has a unique charm. It’s a cheerful, giant city, and its qualities are often captured through the lens by professional and aspiring photographers. Trying to perfect my photography skills, I stumbled upon this great list with a detailed knowledge of the best places to go to capture the best angles of the city, and present it through the eyes of a foreigner at its exotic best. Follow this tips to ensure you go home with photos that will impress your friends and create a lifetime of nostalgia.

  1. Wat Arun

Wat ArunKnown as the Temple of Dawn, this is one of the most alluring images of ancient Bangkok. While the temple is actually located on the Thonburi side of the river, the best photographs are taken from across the river on the city side of the water. Choose a bar opposite and take your time with a glass in hand.

Where to Shoot: In the morning, the rising sun bathes Wat Arun in light when seen from the city side of the river, whereas at sunset, professional photographers can get beautiful silhouettes in front of a deep orange orb. Alternatively, take a river cruise in the evening to see this stunning Khmer-style temple lit up at night.

2. Golden Chedi at Grand Palace

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The most famous palace in Thailand and the former seat of the king, this magnificent complex has several postcard worthy vistas. The biggest challenge for most people is finding a nice angle free from thousands of other visitors blocking the view.

Where to Shoot: The most popular is in front of the patch of grass next to the ticket booths. From here you see three golden spires stretching elegantly into the sky, with many arched temple roofs glimmering in the sunshine. However, for our pro tip, you can get a shot of Wat Pra Keaw (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) practically free of other people if you run straight there when the gates open at 08:30 – remember to dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered otherwise you will be asked to rent long pants and a shawl.

3. Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

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Wat Pho is a huge temple complex with many buildings and stupas inside, although it is the reclining Buddha that draws the crowds. Perhaps the most famous Buddha image in Thailand and wildly popular, there are two classic photos of the reclining Buddha.

Where to Shoot: The first position is looking directly up at the serene face between two poles. A wide angle lens is needed for best results. The other position is down by the feet of the Buddha image. Adorned with intricate pearl details with the full length of statue still in shot, this is where people queue for a photo with their family and friends. It’s tough to get a shot here without others intruding, so, patience.

4. Yaowarat Road (Chinatown)

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Chinatown is a real photographer’s playground, with intriguing scenes confronting you at every turn. However, the most alluring image of this area of Bangkok must be the shot of the numerous shop signs with their multi coloured Chinese characters.

Where to Shoot: This scene is beautiful during day or night, but for the best shot, try to find a 7-11 at the beginning of a gentle curve in Yaowarat Road, as this allows for the most shop signs to be in the photograph.

5. The Dome at Skybar

the dome.jpgThe Dome on top of the lebua State Tower can be seen from very far away, and every night is lit up like a beacon of luxury due to the collection of fine dining restaurants and posh cocktail bars it houses. Head up to Skybar for a cocktail and to enjoy the impeccable views or splash out and enjoy a great meal with a great view. The classic shot of the Dome at dusk is likely to be a treasured memory.

When to Shoot: Don’t run away once the sun has set. Stay another 30 minutes when the sky drops into a dark blue which balances the light from the golden dome beautifully.

6. Cityscape from Baiyoke Tower

baiyoke_skyThis old skyscraper held the record as Bangkok’s tallest building for many years, and although it has now lost that accolade to the new MahaNakorn Tower in Sathorn, the 88 storey Baiyoke Tower still offers bird’s-eye-views over Bangkok, and on a clear day you can see well into neighbouring provinces.

Where to Shoot: The night shot from here, looking out east over the tangle of expressways, is a classic, while those with a video camera setting or GoPro might consider a time lapse video.

7. In front of the fountain at Siam Paragon

fountainBelieve it or not, Siam Paragon was one of the most photographed places in 2014 on Instagram. Exactly why this shopping mall beat cultural landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Burj Khalifa nobody knows, but it seems no one can resist taking a snap of Siam Paragon.

Where to shoot: The best shot is from outside the shopping mall on the mezzanine level that leads to the BTS Skytrain. Stand just behind the fountain and wait for the water to shoot out the ground, with the glass and steel atrium of Paragon in the background.

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5 Tips Not to Look Like a Tourist In Paris

If you want to blend in with the locals in Paris, these are the tips you need: how to dress, how to greet people, and why you need to know at least a few words of French.

caffeHow to greet someone

Start off on the right foot by greeting people with “bonjour” (hello). It’s not only polite to do when you’re introduced directly to someone, but also when you go into a shop, when you’re first approached by a waiter at a restaurant, even when entering an elevator. While this may seem a little much, it’s an important way to ingratiate yourself with the locals—and, in return, you’ll receive much better service or attention.

Do let the French person take the lead with cheek kissing, in order to avoid awkwardly misplaced lips or a shuffle of heads. You should also follow suit with the number of kisses exchanged. The general norm in Paris calls for just one kiss on each cheek, but some groups of friends have their own customs. Additionally, some regions around France follow different rules.

Do shake hands when being introduced to a formal business contact, shop owner, or concierge, unless otherwise approached by them to give you la bise.

In the evening, you should technically say “bonsoir” (good evening), though the start time of saying this is somewhat fuzzy. It’s typically said as evening starts to fall, but in summer that ends up being rather late. Still, some others start saying bonsoir as soon as they leave work; a safe bet is to begin using that salutation around 7pm. If you say bonjour during the evening, it’s better than nothing, but you might be quickly tagged as a foreigner.

Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do exchange _la bise _(a light kiss on each cheek) in social situations between women; it’s also okay between men and women.

Do not greet another man with a kiss if you’re a man; shake hands instead. Men normally don’t give each other la bise unless they are very, very good friends or family; even then it’s rare.

What to wear:

Catherine Baba.jpgTo fit in with locals, it’s best to leave behind any sweatpants, baseball caps, flip-flops and white sneakers. Parisians are generally quite stylish, but that doesn’t necessarily mean extravagant haute couture outfits—instead, think casual chic. You’ll likely see Parisian women wearing some combinations of skinny jeans, an up-and-coming designer top, Converse, or ballerina flats. Parisians also love their trenchcoats (which they call le trench) and blazers, and wearing a long scarf will also help you blend in.

Fanny-packs or large colorful backpacks are a dead giveaway for tourists; if the latter is necessary, keep it more on the discreet side. Another option is to pick up a very Parisian Longchamp bag, a nice leather purse, or a chic bag designed for men. Lastly, while you might be tempted to purchase a beret while you’re here, unless you’re planning on playing petanque with elderly gentleman, you should save it for back home.

How to walk and talk:

Parisians walk with a purpose, but that doesn’t equate to a race through the streets; rather, they walk at a steady but determined pace. It’s good form to walk on the right side of the sidewalk (this also applies to escalators), but on busy streets it can be a bit of a free-for-all. If you need to look at your map, “pull over” and consult it to the side of the road instead of in the middle of the sidewalk: this will save you from the evil stares, huffs or nudges of your fellow pedestrians.

Contrary to some stereotypes of Mediterraneans, Parisians are very soft speakers. Speaking loudly in public is frowned upon, but it can also make you stand out as a tourist and thus lead to unwanted attention, particularly from pickpockets.

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Learning the local language:

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It’s polite to learn a few key phrases in French; this will earn you the respect of locals, and help you in the end. As mentioned above, the friendly bonjour is essential. Other key expressions include au revoir (good bye), _merci (thank you), s’il vous plait _(please) and l’addition (the bill). One thing not to do: Hail your waiter by saying garcon! If anything, it will likely encourage a waiter to take his sweet time in actually bringing you the bill.

10 best cities for a winter holiday

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Cold rains and gray skies make winter a trial. But hot drinks, snowy slopes, frozen lakes and a bright yellow sun? That’s the kind of winter we can all wrap our mittens around.
And winter actually seems to bring out the best in some cities. Here are 10 around the world that make for a great cold-weather holiday:

1. Prague, Czech Republic

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With its snow-capped spires and cobbled, winding streets, Prague is a fairytale city that remains relatively tourist-free in winter.
The stunning architecture looks even prettier under a sheet of snow, with one of the most beautiful areas being the old town, with its turrets and Romanesque vaults. Gas street lamps were recently reinstalled throughout the city center, adding a romantic hue to evenings. Cafes here are ideal for escaping the bitter cold.
What to do:Choco Cafe is a great place to take a breather from intense winter sightseeing in the Old Town,” says travel blogger Girl in Czechland. “It’s full of comfy chairs and sofas and they have more than a dozen kinds of hot chocolate, which is so thick you can practically stand a spoon up it in it.”

2. Salzburg, Austria

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With its backdrop of Christmas carols and traditional markets, this is a perfect city for a winter break. “Silent Night” was performed for the first time in the Oberndorf on the outskirts of Salzburg on Christmas Eve in 1818.
The city’s main market is held in the shadow of Salzburg’s Hohensalzburg fortress, but the one held in Mirabell Square is especially popular with foodies who come to sample local delicacies such as halusky — pieces of dumpling mixed with fried bacon.
 What to do: For a different perspective on Christmas, there’s the Christmas manger exhibition at the Panorama Museum on Residenzplatz between November 29 and January 12.
Panorama Museum, Residenzplatz 9, Salzburg; +43 662 620808-730; everyday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

3. Tromso, Norway

Tromso: One of the world's best spots for northern lights.
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Tromso: One of the world’s best spots for northern lights.
Courtesy Gaute Bruvik/Visitnorway.com
There are several reasons Tromso, known as the capital of the Arctic, is great in winter. It’s widely regarded as Norway’s most beautiful city and is a base for spotting the northern lights.
There are also several fascinating museums, including the Polar Museum, which offers an insight into the history of Arctic expeditions, and the Tromso Museum, which is famous for its Sami exhibitions.
 What to do: The Perspektivet Museum on Storgata offers fascinating insight into Norwegian art.
Perspektivet Museum, Storgata 95, Tromsø; +47 77 60 19 10; Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

4. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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In winter, Amsterdam’s museums are empty, making it the time to visit attractions such as Rijksmuseum or the Anne Frank House. Built originally to house a circus, the Royal Carré Theatre celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. Children will love the spectacular performances, which feature athletes from Russia, North Korea and China.
 What to do: For Christmas shopping, smaller shopping areas like Haarlemmerstraat in the Jordaan, the Spiegelkwartier and the Negen Straatjes are better than the big department stores.

5. Nagano, Japan

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As a former Winter Olympics host city, Nagano is a great base for exploring nearby ski resorts. The natural hot springs on the outskirts are perfect after a day on the slopes. Beautiful, snow-covered Buddhist temples are worth checking out, as is the Togakushi Minzoku-kan folklore museum, which has a fascinating display about the ninjas who once trained there.
A top tip? “The Neapolitan pizza oven place Qui E La that’s tucked away in a private home in the woods is an even more welcome refuge in winter,” says travel blogger Una, founder of lets-get-lost.com.
 What to do: The Zenkō-ji temple, built in the 7th century, ranks as the third largest wooden temple in Japan. Zenkō-ji (Japanese only), 491-i Nagano-Motoyoshicho, Nagano-shi; +81 26 234 3591

6. Reykjavík, Iceland

Hiding within -- great geothermal pools.
Although Iceland’s capital city is one of Europe’s coldest spots, it has plenty of natural hot springs to warm up in (some of the best can be found in the Nauthólsvík area of the city). The annual Winter Lights Festival, which takes place in February, is a spectacular celebration of winter.
Visitors can try their hand at a wide range of winter sports or skate on the city’s Tjörnin pond. Many cozy coffee houses sell rúgbrauð — locally made, dark, sweet bread.
“An unmissable experience during winter is a dip in one of the city’s many outdoor geothermal swimming pools,” says Eliza Reid, who co-founded icelandwritersretreat.com with Erica Green. “There is no experience quite like soaking in these naturally warm waters with snowflakes tickling your nose. Each swimming pool has its own character, and everyone has their favorite.”
Where to eat: Dill restaurant in the Nordic House cultural center. Chef Gunnar Karl Gislason is passionate about local produce and the food here is some of the freshest in Iceland.
What to do: Harpa, the city’s concert hall, was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson to reflect Iceland’s geology. It’s constructed from more than a thousand glass blocks.
Harpa, Austurbakki 2, Reykjavík, +354 428 5000; daily, 8 a.m.-midnight

7. Munich, Germany

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Christmas markets are the ideal destination for pre-Christmas retail therapy.Munich’s famous Christmas market, the Christkindl Markt, dates back to 1642. It is celebrated on the city’s central square, Marienplatz, in the heart of the Old Town. A 100-feet high Christmas tree towers over traditionally decorated booths which offer everything from mulled wineand Lebkuchen (gingerbread), to Bavarian woodcarvings, handmade toys, and glass crystals. Markets open on November 25th and are held daily til December 24th, 2016. Don’t miss the traditional Christmas concerts that are held every day at 17:30 on the balcony of Munich’s Town Hall for free. What to do: The Tollwood Winter Festival is held on the same fairgrounds as Oktoberfestand features an international Christmas market, where you can hunt for treasures from around the world and sample organic ethnic food. Locals love this festival for its colorful cultural program, which is famous for its world music, art workshops, and theatre and circus performances. The market will be held from November 23rd til December 31st, 2016. Entrance is free, but some performances require tickets. If you arrive after Christmas, take part in the legendary Silvester (New Year’s Eve) party.

8. Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa’s Winterlude festival is one of the world’s largest winter festivals and is famous for its ice sculptures, outdoor concerts and toboggan courses.
The Christmas Lights Across Canada scheme sees some of the city’s largest monuments and buildings bedecked with Christmas lights.
From January, the city has the world’s coolest commute — the 7.8-kilometer (4.8-mile) Rideau Canal Skateway, which is used by commuters, schoolchildren and students to get through the heart of downtown.
What to do: From January to February visitors can take a spin on the world’s largest natural ice rink — the Rideau Canal.
Rideau Canal Skateway; +1 613 239 5234; January-February

9. Washington D.C., United States

Lightning up a white Christmas every year.
Lightning up a white Christmas every year.
Courtesy washington dc
If you’re arriving in Washington by rail, you shouldn’t miss the enormous, 30-foot Christmas tree that was given to Union Station by the Embassy of Norway. In November and December, the ZooLights show at the National Zoo opens late and stages spectacular light shows.
The White House and Lincoln Memorial look especially beautiful in the snow. During winter, the Washington Ballet stages performances the Nutcracker.
What to do: Zoolights at Washington Zoo kicks off on November 29 and lasts until January 1. Half a million individual LEDS turn the popular attraction into a veritable winter wonderland.
Zoolights at the Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; +1 202 633 4888; November 29-January 1, daily, 5-9 p.m.

10. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Cobbled streets, a beautiful castle and lovely public gardens make Edinburgh a beautiful city any time of year, but in winter it’s breathtaking. Since the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red service, it’s even easier to get to, with regular flights between other UK cities including Manchester and London.
Princes Street Gardens are transformed into a wonderland, complete with ice skating rink, enormous Christmas tree and a Ferris wheel, all in the shadow of the castle. On the edge of the city, Arthur’s Seat is the perfect location for a winter walk and the views from the top are second to none.
Where to eat: Edinburgh isn’t about haggis and tatties. For fine dining, One Square restaurant and bar at the Sheraton Grand on Festival Square is the place to go. The drinks menu is impressive — there are 52 types of gin to choose from.
One Square, 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, +44 131 221 6422; daily, 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
What to do: A tour around Edinburgh’s underground vaults is a great way to learn about the city’s fascinating history.
Princes Street Gardens, Princes Street; +44 131 529 7921

The insider’s guide to booking

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How to avoid unnecessary holiday headaches through proper planning

Flights

The best way to navigate the labyrinthine network of airlines and routes is to use a travel fare aggregator such as Skyscanner to find the cheapest option. But do beware that the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best one – look out for lengthy stopovers, second-rate airlines, dodgy bucket shops (look for the Atol code to know you’re protected) and, in many cases, outrageously indirect routings. While your wallet may thank you for flying four hours in the wrong direction, the environment almost certainly won’t.

Insurance

Most people leave buying their insurance until the very last moment. Rookie mistake. Get yourself covered ASAP. That way you’re protected should anything go wrong in advance of your trip, such as a cancellation or a medical issue. Also look at multi-trip insurance – a year is a long time for just one getaway.

Ground transportation

Nothing ruins a holiday like a missed flight, an experience that’s made even more frustrating when it isn’t your fault. Trains get delayed, vehicles get stuck in traffic and airport buses get so full that the driver won’t let you on. If you book your airport transport early, not only will you get the best prices, but you won’t be left on the side of the road when the busy bus leaves the stop. Trains are usually more expensive, but they’re not always faster, and while cabs are pricey for solo travellers they often work out cheaper than public transport if you’re in a small group.

beauty-free-girl-map-Favim.com-1434520Hotels

Booking.com lists 1,282,229 hotels on its website, meaning it would take 3,512 years to stay at all of them if you changed hotel every night. In other words, the choice is unimaginably, overwhelmingly vast. So where to stay? While there’s value in TripAdvisor reviews, you shouldn’t place all your faith in their algorithm – plenty of perfectly good hotels don’t rise to the top of their lists. The trick is to know exactly what you’re after, and to keep whittling down the menu of options in the sidebar (gym, jacuzzi, pets allowed, aircon, free wifi, room service) until you hit a manageable number.

Cars

Car hire firms make big money from the various add-ons – child seats, additional drivers, satnav, and obscurely worded insurance policies for car parts you never knew existed – and you’re likely to face a hard sell at the collection desk. Consider the alternatives ahead of time: most airlines won’t count child seats as part of your luggage allowance, your credit card might cover your insurance and a data roaming package on your phone is probably cheaper than hiring a satnav and will get you from A to B with the bonus of letting you check your news feeds too (not while driving, of course). When you’ve chosen your vehicle, read the small print carefully and inspect the car thoroughly, taking photos on your phone. Also, if you’re picking up your car towards the end of the day, then don’t rush – if they’ve run out of the class of car you’ve booked, they’re obligated to upgrade you to a plusher vehicle for free.

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Tours

Guided tours can be an efficient way of seeing many things quickly without having to worry about driving, planning or making decisions. But a bad tour can feel like a hostage situation – an entire day with this lousy guide on this lousy bus with these lousy people, and there’s no way to escape unless you’re willing to walk back to your accommodation. It’s best to ask lots of questions before booking – who’s the guide, how big is the group, where’s lunch being eaten? For a low-key alternative, sites such as Vayable and Airbnb (through its Experiences section) pair tourists with locals for intimate, highly personalised insider tours.

 

Luxembourg Gardens – Photo Essay

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A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of pleasures, the Luxembourg Gardens provide ample green space for relaxing, sun-soaking in Paris and people-watching. When the city bustle becomes too overwhelming, meander around the paths and formal gardens, or just relax with a picnic. Kids can float sailboats at the Grand Basin, ride ponies or take a spin on the merry-go-round. Adults might delight in the on-site Musee du Luxembourg, the first French museum that was opened to the public.

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People watching (chilling)
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People watching (next time I pose like him)
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Young photographer here

 

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The Gardens also have sports courts, including basketball and baseball, but travelers say the best way to unwind here is to just kick back and admire the surrounding scenery. You’ll find Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondissement (neighborhood), just a short walk from both the Odéon (line 4 and 10) and Notre-Dame des Champs (line 12) metro stops. You can tour the garden for free but there is a fee to enter the Musee du Luxembourg.

 

Best way to see Mont Saint-Michel from Paris

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Rising out of the sea in the Baie de Saint-Michel on the coast of Normandy, the island of Mont Saint-Michel and its magnificent abbey are among France’s most striking sights. The Abbey of Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, perches on the highest point of the rocky islet. Looking like a fortified castle surrounded by ancient walls and bastions, it is one of the most awe-inspiring Gothic churches ever built.

Mont Saint-Michel

Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel

Known as “La Merveille” (“The Marvel”), the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is truly a marvel of medieval architecture. Since the Middle Ages, this ultimate pilgrimage site has also been called “The Heavenly Jerusalem” and “Pyramid of the Seas.” Soaring to a height of 155 meters above the sea, the abbey is an amazing feat of construction. It is even more miraculous considering the difficulties of bringing building materials across the Bay of Saint-Michel; many perished while attempting to cross the bay’s sandy shores during unforeseen riptides. In spite of great technical challenges, the abbey was built between the 11th and 13th centuries in exquisite Gothic style.

Although getting to this remote setting from Paris may not present the dangers it did to medieval pilgrims, it can still be a challenge. It takes about 3.5 hours to drive there and about an hour longer by train to Rennes and then by bus. With so many things to do here, you’ll want to spend at least four hours to tour the abbey’s cloister, refectory, and ramparts; have lunch; and see the extreme tides shift the landscape between water and sand. This makes a long day for a driver. A more convenient way is to join a full-day tour to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris that includes direct transportation by bus or van. Or you can stay overnight either in the village below the abbey or in nearby hotels on the mainland.

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Inside the Abbaye du Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel Pilgrimages

At the end of July, there is a pilgrimage across the Bay of Saint-Michel. However the pilgrimage depends on the tides. Those interested in taking this pilgrimage should check with the tourist office before planning a trip. There is also an important pilgrimage, known as the Autumn Pilgrimage, at the end of September on Saint Michael’s Day. The pilgrimage celebrates the Archangel Michael and several religious events. On the nearest Sunday to Saint Michael’s Day, a solemn mass is held in the Abbey Church. Later that day, there are vespers and an evening mass at the Parish Church. On September 29th (Saint Michael’s Day), the Abbey Church and Parish Church hold morning prayers and mass.

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Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Mont Saint Michel

Tours to Mont Saint-Michel from Paris: Enjoy the lovely Normandy landscapes while someone else drives you from central Paris on a 14.5-hour Mont Saint-Michel Day Trip that includes transportation, lunch, and a guided historic walking tour through the abbey and ramparts, as well as time to explore on your own.

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You can even relax reading a book

Getting to Mont Saint-Michel

If arriving by car, park in the parking lot which is located on the mainland two-and-a-half kilometers from Mont Saint-Michel. From the parking lot, a shuttle bus drops visitors off 400 meters from the entrance gates to Mont Saint-Michel.

If planning to arrive by foot, first inquire about the tides. It is important to pay close attention to the schedule of the tides as it is extremely dangerous to venture into the bay when the water is rising. During spring tide days, visitors must cross two hours before the tides. Also note that walking across the bay is best done in bare feet.

Official site: http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/accueil.htm