Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris

Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris
Relax with a glass of wine at Cafe Marly overlooking the pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winter 2008 Paris restaurant update

Newcomer: Sometimes it's fun to travel to "remote" areas of Paris to have dinner. La Veraison is certainly worth the trip. My friend Trish recommended this new restaurant in an earlier blog entry. Here's what she said:

One of my new favorites is La Veraison, in the 15th. It's casual and small -- the one-man kitchen is up front, and you'll see the chef cooking as you walk in. Excellent selection of natural wines (the chef will obligingly zip out from behind the stove to help you make a selection). The food is a modern take on traditional French cooking: fresh, seasonal ingredients, simple but appealing presentation, beautifully cooked. Plus it's just fun to go somewhere that's a bit off the beaten tourist path...

We recently had Thanksgiving dinner here. The neighborhood is residential and we were the only non-locals dining. The staff is helpful and the chef will certainly come and talk to you while you're visiting. My veal was excellent and the chocolate and creme caramel dessert was fantastic. Highly recommended.

La Veraison
64 rue de la Croix Nivert
Tel. 01/
15th/Metro Commerce
Closed Sun and Mon

Goodbye La Maison: An old favorite is no more. La Maison in the 5th has been purchased by new owners who are changing the name to Cafe Lunic. Claude, the fun and interesting former owner, and his French bulldog "Polo" have retired. We dined with friends at La Maison on the night before they changed its name to Cafe Lunic. The food was good (actually very good), but since they are changing not only the name, but the menu, we'll have to wait to see about the new restaurant.

Like going to a party (one with good food): Aux Trois Petits Cochons is a lively, friendly and gay (in every sense of the word) bistro in the Montorgueil quarter. If available, make sure you try the excellent blanquette de veau (veal stew). I started my meal with the delicious pumpkin soup. Always a good time and always a great meal.

Aux Trois Petits Cochons
2nd/Metro Etienne Marcel
31 rue Tiquetonne
Tel. 01/
Open daily. No lunch

Basque cuisine: Tiny Au Bascou continues to serve Basque specialties such as piperade (a spicy omelet). It doesn't look like much from the outside, but the food will not disappoint. There's a new owner and chef. Interesting regional wine list. Too bad they are closed on weekends.

Au Bascou
3rd/Metro Arts-et-Metiers
38 rue Reaumur (at rue Volta)
Tel. 01/
Closed weekends and August

It is possible to find reasonable prices in the 7th: Oudino is located on a small street in the 7th. You can start your meal with a salade cesar (Caesar salad) and dine on excellent entrecote. A real find. The staff is very friendly and you'll be dining with locals.

7th/Metro Vaneau
17 rue Oudino
Tel. 01/
Closed Sat (lunch) and Sun.

Did I mention how great it is to dine in smoke-free restaurants?!

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Year's Eve in Europe

Where will you be celebrating New Year's Eve? We've celebrated New Year's Eve in Paris at the Eiffel Tower and in Amsterdam at Dam Square. Both were great celebrations. With more than one million guests, the New Year’s Eve Party in Berlin is one of the world’s largest New Year celebrations. Between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column, you'll find show stages, video screens, a media center, party tents, food stands and refreshment stands. The highlight is the spectacular midnight fireworks display. For more information, go to

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Calculate the cost of your next trip (and don't forget all those "extras.")

Times are tough, so before you take your vacation, figure out how much it really is going to cost. Go to the link below and do a quick calculation of the cost of your next trip. This calculator reminds you to include such things as parking and pet care costs while you're away. A helpful tool!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Spain's City of Wine

Wine tourism is on the rise in Spain, the world’s third-largest wine producer (after France and Italy). Just a little over one hour south of Bilbao is the La Rioja wine region. Its capital is Haro whose barrio de la estación (train-station neighborhood) is dotted with wineries (bodegas) where you can sample the region’s wines.

We’ll head to nearby sleepy Elciego (its Basque name is Eltziego). Here you’ll find the Hotel Marqués de Riscal, designed by architect Frank Gehry (you saw his magnificent Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao). You can’t miss its roof wrapped in pink, silver and gold titanium ribbons. Opened in 2006, the luxury hotel is home to a “City of Wine” including a renowned restaurant (Echaurren), a wine bar, wine tastings, cooking school, wine museum and shop, and “vinothérapie” spa with such features as bathing in wine. Now that’s a total wine experience! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you can tour the winery and taste two of the local wines for €10 (tours are in English, reservations must be made in advance). Info: 1 Calle Torrea. Tel. 945180880.

Elciego and the “City of Wine” are 68 miles (110 km) south of Bilbao/76 miles (122 km) southwest of Pamplona. If you’re driving from Bilbao, take Highway E-70 to Highway A8 in the direction of Victoria-Burgos. Follow Highway AP68 to the Cenicero exit (Exit 10). Continue past the toll booth and turn right onto N-232. Proceed for 1 kilometer and turn left onto LR-512. Turn right onto A-3210 and continue to Elciego.

(Photo courtesy of Bastian via

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What is your favorite Paris restaurant?

Le Severo
Small bistro away from the tourists. The chef used to be a butcher and the beef here is fantastic. I’d make the trip just for the fries! The wine blackboard fills a whole wall of this bistro. Looking for a truly Parisian experience? This is the place. Info: 14th/Métro Alesia Metro Alesia or Mouton-Duvernet. 8 rue des Plantes. Tel. 01/ Closed Sat, Sun. and Aug. Moderate. 

(Photo by Karl Raaum)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paris Budget Dining Tips

There’s no need to spend a lot of money in Paris to have good food. Of course it helps when the euro is weaker than the dollar, but there are all kinds of fabulous foods to be had inexpensively all over Paris.

Eat at a neighborhood restaurant or bistro. The menu, with prices, is posted in the window. Never order anything whose price is not known in advance. If you see selon grosseur (sometimes abbreviated as s/g), this means that you’re paying by weight, which can be extremely expensive. Avoid restaurants and bistros with English menus.

Delis and food stores can provide cheap and wonderful meals. Buy some cheese, bread, wine and other snacks and have a picnic in one of Paris’s great parks.

Lunch, even at the most expensive restaurants listed in this guide, always has a lower fixed price. So, have lunch as your main meal.

Large department stores frequently have supermarkets (in the basement) and restaurants that have reasonably priced food.

Street vendors generally sell inexpensive and terrific food.

For the cost of a cup of coffee or a drink, you can linger at a café and watch the world pass you by for as long as you want.

(Photo courtesy of Aux Trois Petits Cochons Restaurant in Paris)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rent an apartment in Europe

On great way to truly experience life in a European city is to rent an apartment. They're usually less expensive and larger than a hotel room. If I didn't have to check out hotels, I would always stay in an apartment. Many come with a washer/dryer combination that allows you to pack less. There are many apartments for rent on the internet. One of my favorite rental agencies in Paris is Paris Left Bank Rentals. Check it out at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Does it matter that Sarah Palin has rarely traveled outside of the US?

(Photo courtesy of J. Medkeff)
While McCain, Obama and Biden have traveled extensively outside the US, Sarah Palin has (according to the governor's Alaska spokeswoman) traveled only once outside of the US and Canada. In July 2007 she visited Alaskan National Guard troops in Kuwait and Iraq (with a stop in Germany). Palin first received a passport in 2006. Source:

Hotel Jazz Barcelona

This modern hotel has a great location between La Rambla and the Eixample neighborhood, perfect for taking in the main sights of Barcelona. Rooms are clean, comfortable and quiet. There's a rooftop pool and an elegant bar. Highly recommended. Info: 3 Pelai. Tel. 935529697. V, MC. Bar, pool, satellite TV, A/C, telephone, minibar, hairdryer, in-room safe, WiFi. Metro: Universitat. Prices begin at 122 euros.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The dollar is getting stronger!

The 15-nation euro continues to decline in value. This is certainly good news for those of us who are traveling to Europe. For the latest conversion rate or to convert a foreign currency to dollars, visit

Friday, September 5, 2008

Favorite Barcelona Tapas

We just returned from Barcelona where we checked out some great tapas bars. Head to the Drassanes metro stop at the southern end of La Rambla. All these eateries are near each other. Many are closed on Sunday.

Txikiteo at 7 Carrer de Josep Anselm Clavé. Take a look at the tapas on the long bar and take your pick with a glass of txakolí (a light and fruity Basque wine) while admiring the rustic stone, brick and timber walls. Sit at the bar. It’s more fun. Ask about the frequent specials (like a glass of wine and three tapas for €3).

Bodega la Plata at 28 Carrer de la Mercè. People have been coming here to sit at tiny tables or stand at the marble-topped bar since the 1920s. It has a beautiful terrazzo floor and Mediterranean-tile walls. Try the house specialty: sardinas (deep-fried sardines, head and all) and a small glass of the house wine served from barrels along the wall. (Some of you may need more to drink before you can stomach the sardine heads!)

Across the street is Tasca el Corral (the place with the cured meats and onions and garlic hanging from the ceiling). This is the place to share a bottle of sidra (alcoholic cider). Try it, but be careful: It’s stronger than it tastes. Notice how the waiter usually pours your drink with a grand gesture.

Las Cuevas del Sorte at number 2 Carrer d’en Gignàs. This funky bar with cave-like décor is just the place to have a glass of cava (Spanish sparkling wine). You’ve had lots to drink by now, so head (no pun intended) to the fantastic tiled restrooms here.

In the Poble Sec section of Barcelona (Metro: Paral.lel), you'll find Quimet y Quimet. You can stand around the stainless-steel counter and munch on a large selection of small sandwiches (montaditos) at this friendly, family-owned bar. The walls are completely covered with wine bottles and cans of specialty foods. Info: 25 Poeta Cabanyes. Tel. 934423142. Closed Sun.

Paris and Chocolate

If you're interested in Paris and food (especially desserts), visit the blog of pastry chef David Lebovitz, author of Room For Dessert, Ripe For Dessert, The Great Book of Chocolate and The Perfect Scoop. I highly recommend it!

Paris Budget Hotel

I get a lot of requests for a recommendation for "cheap sleeps" in Paris. A new hostel has opened in the 13th arrondissement (south of the Latin Quarter). Oops! features bright wallpaper, hardwood floors and stark Scandinavian furniture. The price is about $50 per night for a private double room (even less for dorm space). See

Europe Made Easy

Welcome to my new blog. I've replaced the old message board and now all travel updates will be posted here.