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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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best of Provence: Colorful Roussillon

Roussillon is 6 miles (10 km) east of Gordes/28 miles (45 km) east of Avignon.

Legend has it that a local lord had his wife’s lover killed and the wife threw herself off a cliff, staining the rocks with her blood. In reality, two centuries of ochre mining have left this perched village surrounded by red quarries and cliffs. From deep red to light yellow, the colors of this town alone are worth a visit. Although it can be quite crowded in high tourist season, you can still find peaceful, beautiful squares and take in the surrounding countryside.

While here, a good choice for both indoor and outdoor dining is the friendly Bistro de Roussillon, serving hearty Provençal fare. Moderate. Info: place de la Marine. Tel. 04/ Closed Jan and mid-Nov to mid-Dec.
For more on Roussillon and Provence, check out Open Road's Best of Provence.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Changing Face of Valencia, Spain

Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, doesn’t fit easily into any tour of Spain (it’s over 200 miles from Barcelona and Madrid and 400 miles from the Costa del Sol). But if you’re able to visit, Valencia can be a truly Spanish experience. The real question is, “Can a complex change a city?” That’s what seems to be happening here. Like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències has created a domino effect of improvements. The 2007 America’s Cup has also spurred development along the city’s waterfront.

The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences) is a major tourist attraction. Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava (who designed, among other things, Milwaukee’s fabulous lakefront art museum) designed this innovative, sprawling complex, which includes:

L'Hemisferic (Hemispheric Planetarium) shaped like a floating eyeball that even blinks.

L’Oceanogràphic (Oceanographic Park).

Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Prince Philip Science Museum).

Palau de les Arts (Palace of the Arts).

There’s also an IMAX Theater, marine habitat, amphitheater, indoor theater and music hall. Info: 7 Ave. Autovía del Saler. Tel. 022100031. Museum open daily 10am-7pm (Jul to mid-Sep until 9pm). Oceanographic Park open daily 10am-6pm (Jul and Aug until midnight). Hemispheric Planetarium daily shows every hour from 11am-7pm (additional show at 9pm on Fri and Sat). Admission: €31 (includes admission to Museum of Science, Hemispheric Planetarium and Oceanographic Park).

The Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) is an art institute with a collection of 20th-century contemporary art and photography. Info: 118 Guillem de Castro. Tel. 963863000. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: €2, free on Sun. The IVAM is also home to La Sucursal, one of the city’s best restaurants serving contemporary cuisine. Info: Tel. 963746655. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Expensive. 

The Museo de Bellas Arts features Spanish artists, including works by Goya and Velàzquez. Info: Calle San Pío. Tel. 963870300. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: Free. 

Valencia’s Catedral is best known for its Capilla del Santo Cáliz (Chapel of the Holy Grail) that is home to what some believe is Christ’s cup at the Last Supper. The Cathedral is also home to one of St. Vincent’s arms (!) and a museum featuring Goya’s painting of St. Francis de Broja. Info: Plaza de la Reina. Tel. 963918127. Open daily 7:30am-1pm and 4pm-8:30pm. Admission: Free to cathedral. Museum: €2.

Travelers to Spain often return home with ceramics. At the Palacio de Marques de Dos Aguas you can see the grand ceramic collection housed in the Museo National de Ceramica. Info: 2 Poeta Querol. Tel. 963516392. Open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm, Sun 10am-2pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €3. 

Dining in Valencia is a pleasant surprise. The city is famous for its rice dishes, especially paella. Contemporary chefs have taken this old favorite and created imaginative cuisine. At Civera (near the Bellas Artes Museum) you’ll dine on Spanish and Mediterranean food, with an emphasis on seafood. Excellent lobster dishes. Info: 11 Calle Lerida. Tel. 963475917. Closed Mon and Aug. Moderate-Expensive.

At El Timonel, the nautical décor is appropriate for this restaurant specializing in seafood (they also have good meat dishes). It’s located just a few blocks from Valencia’s Plaza de Toros, the largest bullring in Spain. Info: 13 Félix Pizcueta. Tel. 963526300. Closed Mon. Moderate-Expensive.

For cheaper dining, try Los Patos, serving specialty duck dishes to pizza in a 20th-century townhouse in the central city. Good value. Info: 28 Calle del Mar. Tel. 963529323. Closed Mon. Moderate.  

While in Valencia, make sure you try the delicious horchata, a milky drink made with crushed tiger nuts. It’s served everywhere. And head to the Barrio del Carmen located around the Plaza del Carmen for a few cañas (glasses of beer) at any of the funky bars here in Valencia’s oldest neighborhood.

For more on Valencia, check out Open Road's Best of Spain. Delta Airlines now has four nonstop flights per week from New York's JFK Airport to Valencia.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Where did President Obama dine while in Paris?

On his recent trip to Paris, President Obama and the First Lady dined at a restaurant recommended in both Eating & Drinking in Paris and Open Road's Best of Paris. We just hope this doesn't raise the prices at this favorite. Here's information on La Fontaine de Mars:

Red-checked tablecloths, friendly service and reasonable prices near the Eiffel Tower. Try the poulet fermier aux morilles (free-range chicken with morel mushrooms). Info: 7th/Métro École-Militaire. 129 rue St-Dominique. Tel. 01/ 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shopping for antiques in Paris

Here are a few choices for shopping for antiques in Paris:

Le Louvre des Antiquaires
You’ll find 250 antique shops at the arcades along rue de Rivoli facing the Louvre. You can go inside and visit all of these shops (not just enter from rue de Rivoli). There are Art Deco objects, antiquities, furniture and art. Info: 2nd/Métro Palais Royal. Place du Palais-Royal. Open Tue-Sat 11am-7pm.

Village St-Paul
An attractive passageway with cobblestone courtyards and interesting shops, especially antique shops. Info: 4th/Métro St-Paul in the Marais. 23-27 rue St-Paul. Open Thu-Mon 11am-7pm.

Near the rue du Bac metro
You’ll find over 100 antique shops on rue du Bac, rue de Lille and rue de l’Université in the Carré Rive Gauche (between St-Germain-des-Prés and the Musée d’Orsay). Info: 7th/Metro rue du Bac.

Taken from Open Road's Best of Paris.