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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Friday, February 27, 2009

Paris Restaurant: Beefy Le Severo

Paris restaurant recommendation: Le Severo.

Check out this 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 or Mouton-Duvernet. 8 rue des Plantes. Tel. 01/ Closed Sat, Sun and Aug. Moderate.

What to do after dinner in Paris.

After dinner in Paris, head to Café Marly at 93 rue de Rivoli (1st/Métro Palais Royal-Musée d’Orsay). You’ll pay for the view overlooking the glass-pyramid entrance to the Louvre, but it’s a great place to end your first day in Paris with a glass of champagne. How French! Info: 93 rue de Rivoli. Tel. 01/ Open daily 8am to 2am.

Or you can visit the Eiffel Tower. The lines will be short, the view memorable, and the light show on the hour is spectacular. There’s no better way to end your day! Info: 7th/Métro Trocadéro, École Militaire or Bir-Hakeim. Champ de Mars. Tel. 01/ Open daily.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dining in Spain

It cannot be stressed enough that Spaniards eat extremely late. The evening meal is usually served between 10 p.m. and midnight. While some restaurants have begun to open earlier, especially in restaurants that are frequented by tourists, most Spaniards still eat late, and you'll find a more genuine Spanish dining experience if you do, too.

The Spanish love tapas. They’re small amounts of nearly any kind of food, usually served with a small glass of wine, beer or spirit. The time between lunch and dinner is usually when most Spaniards frequent tapas bars. You can have a porcíon (small sample) or a racíon (a larger serving). The word tapa means lid or cover. It’s said that this tradition started in the 18th century when Carlos III asked for his wine to be covered with a plate of food to stop dust from getting into it. Bars that serve wine, beer and snacks/appetizers (both hot and cold) are known as tascas. Tapeo is the act of bar-hopping in the early evening, eating tapas and drinking, before Spain’s very late dinner hour. Many tapas bars don’t take credit cards, and it’s usually cheaper to order at the bar rather than at a table.

For suggestions on great places to sample tapas, check out the new 2nd edition of Best of Spain.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No credit card? No drink.

Need a drink, snack, headset? If you're on an international flight, you should be okay. If you're on a domestic flight, you better get out your credit card or debit card. American Airlines has joined the list of airlines that require a credit or debit card to pay for purchases onboard.

Other airlines that don't take cash include AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Midwest Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. United Airlines is rumoured to be joining the list.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nice (France) Gets Even Nicer

Why some avoid Nice is perplexing. It’s 20 miles (33 km) northeast of Cannes/567 miles (912 km) south of Paris. Nice, on the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), has on average 300 sunny days a year, many important historical sights and museums, a fabulous Old Town, and great dining. Nice was part of Italy until 1860 and you’ll see the Italian influence in everything from architecture to cuisine. Yes, it’s a large city, but if you simply take time to experience it, you’ll learn to love Nice.

Now, it's easy to get around the city. Nice's new tram line is up and running which has resulted in fewer cars and some nice renovation of the squares in conjunction with the installation of the tram lines.

For more information on visiting Nice, check out Open Road's Best of Provence and the French Riviera.

Berlin's New DDR Museum Lets You Experience Life in Former East Germany

Berlin's new DDR Museum presents everday life in the former communist East Germany in a playful and interactive way. All aspects of life in the former communist state of East Germany (the "DDR") are featured. You'll sit in a tiny Trabant automobile (pictured here), check out communist-era concrete slab buildings, relax in an authentic DDR living room and learn about the Stasi (the secret police). The DDR Museum will be featured in Andy's upcoming Best of Germany book (to be released early next year).

DDR Museum
1 Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse (on the Spree River opposite the Berlin Cathedral)
Tel. 030/84712373
Open daily 10am-8pm (Saturday until 10pm)

Arcos de la Frontera: Your Introduction to Spain's White Villages

Your introduction to the white villages (pueblos blancos) of Andalusia begins with Arcos de la Frontera, 17 miles (28 km) east of Jerez (off of A-4 via route A-382), where whitewashed houses stand on a limestone ridge above the Guadalete River valley. The newer town is located on the lower slopes of the ridge.

If you park in the car park at the bottom of the hill, you can take the Paseo de los Boliches up for great views of the valley. You can also drive into town and attempt to park at the main square Plaza del Cabildo. It’s usually a losing proposition to try to find parking, especially in high season (€1 per hour, get a ticket from the machine), and the streets are narrow and quite steep. In other words, don’t try it.

The Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets leading up to the castle (Castillo Ducal). Calle Maldonado is lined with 18th-century palaces with windows covered with wrought-iron (called rejas).

The Plaza del Cabildo is the center of town and the starting point for your visit. The mirador (viewpoint) offers spectacular views of the countryside. The Parador (state-run hotel) is here and a great place for a break or lunch. Also here is the city hall with a tourist-information center (open Mon-Sat 10am-2pm and 3:30pm-7:30pm, Sun 10am-2pm). Pop into Santa María. Built on the sight of a mosque, this church is a mixture of many styles (Renaissance carved-wood altar, Gothic, Baroque and Rococo). The church is home to the “uncorrupted” remains of St. Felix, a third-century martyr (if you like that sort of macabre stuff). Head east down Calle Escribanos. You’ll pass (on your right) the Convento de las Mercedarias where the hard-working nuns sell boxes of pine-nut cookies called magdalenas for €5 in the lobby. Just push the buzzer.

Next to the convent you’ll find the market (closed Sunday and Monday) located in an unfinished church.

If you continue down Calle Boticas you’ll ultimately reach the church of San Pedro, perched on the edge of the cliff.

Just past the church of San Pedro is the Galeria de Arte where you can purchase pottery, paintings and local products.
This excerpt is taken from Open Road's Best of Spain.

The New Edition of Best of Spain Adds Section on Ibiza

The new (second) edition of Open Road's Best of Spain is now available. The guide has been fully updated and we've added a section on the island of Ibiza. Here are three great places to dine in Ibiza.

El Olivo €€-€€€
Sit outdoors and watch the interesting parade of people while dining on local and international cuisine. Try the excellent lomo de conejo (fillet of rabbit) or dorada a la plancha (grilled dorada). Info: 7-9 Plaça de Vila. Tel. 971300680.

Il Tappo €€
This small restaurant in the Dalt Vila has friendly service, reliable Italian dishes (try the gnocchi with gorgonzola), and excellent deserts. Interesting wine list. Info: Carrer Santa Cruz. Tel. 971394248.

Trattoria del Mar €€
Dine at this restaurant on the Marina Botafoch while looking at the stunningly lit Old Town. The emphasis here is on Italian food, but you’ll also find great seafood and local specialties. Info: On the Marina Botafoch. Tel. 971193934.

Site of Hitler's Bunker in Berlin

The location of the Führerbunker (Hitler’s Bunker) is now marked. For years, the German government had specifically left it unmarked in fear that it would become a pilgrimage shrine for neo-Nazis. There’s a parking lot on the spot where it’s said that the bodies of Eva Braun and Adolph Hitler were burnt. Some of the bunker was destroyed by the Soviets at the end of the war, and other parts were recently discovered during a construction project. It’s located at the corner of In den Ministergarten and Gertrude Kolmar Strasse (near the Holocaust Memorial). The site of Hitler's Bunker is part of the Berlin Wall Walk found in "Berlin Made Easy."