Saturday, January 4, 2014

An Insiders Guide to the Best of Paris and Chicago! ...A Collaboration with Kendra Thornton

(view from the top of the ferris wheel)

recently i was contacted by
kendra thornton..
a chicago based mom of 3
and travel advocate and spokeswoman.
kendra asked if i'd collaborate with 
her on a project she's doing..
sharing information about my home city..
 after living here for a year and a half
i'm certainly no expert
but i will share what i have learned
about living here so far
as well as some of my favorite
things to do!

if you're coming to paris
for a weekend
a week
or a month..
i would try to balance both 
acting like a tourist
acting like a parisian!
cross off the museums and 
monuments on your bucket list
and then 
just walk!
pack your umbrella and 
your most stylish
and comfortable pair of shoes
and walk this beautiful city.
pop into a boulangerie for une baguette,
or sit at a cafe with your journal 
for a rest and to people watch.
(my favorite thing to do here in paris!)
some people have asked me when is the best
time to visit paris.
i don't think there is a bad time to visit paris..but,
august is crowded and hot
and most parisians flee the city for their
summer homes. 
november is comparatively quiet,
but the weather can be iffy.
paris is lit up in december
for the holidays and 
april in paris is always a good idea
i think.


if someone tells me they're
getting ready to travel to paris,
i tell them to pack a suitcase inside
another suitcase.
now you can shop!
you have to bring something 
home from paris..
whether it's a chanel bag
from rue montaigne
or an eiffel tower souvenir
from one of the gazillion sellers
around the tower itself.
personally, i love shopping the 
get the image of the pharmacy
in the back of CVS or Target 
right out of your head..
many of the pharmacies here 
are gorgeous! with beautiful window
displays and helpful pharmacists.
another inexpensive and sentimental
souvenir is having your (or your children's)
portrait drawn.
in the warmer months the artists
are lined up along trocadero and 
the eiffel tower.
i cherish those we had done
of our kids.
shopping the markets in paris,
flea or food
is a must in my book.
i feel my most parisian when
shopping for dinner at my local
open air market.
and not only have i learned so much
about buying the freshest food possible,
but my french improves every time i go.


where to start?
well, if i had to choose
one restaurant i'd go to
La Closerie des Lilas.
good service..check.
delicious food..check.
have a drink at hemingway's
seat at the bar before dinner.
honestly, i don't think i've had
a bad meal here in paris yet.
our new favorite..
Bistro Saint Dominique
in the 7th.
great food..good price
and lovely location.
the spiral staircase is made
from scraps from the eiffel tower.


yes you can stay in 
paris without  remortgaging 
your home.
but if you can afford to stay
at the Four Seasons George V..
go for it!
it's drop dead gorgeous inside.
steve and i like to go to le bar
for a martini..hoping to 
run in to oprah.
i would highly suggest 
that if you're in paris for more than
a week..look into renting an apartment.
you'll save money having a kitchen
and not eating out 3 meals a day
and think of how parisian you'll feel!


visiting another country and experiencing its
culture is an education in itself.
hiring a tour guide
or joining a walking tour group
is fun and the few that we've 
been on have been fantastic!
we've met many great people
through them as well.
as a family we love
visiting the many museums
paris has to offer.
our favorite is the 
natural history museum.
 the first sunday of every
month, many museums offer
free admission.
and if you're pushing a stroller..
bypass the queue and walk right in!
another inexpensive, fun and educational
thing to do is to take a one hour cruise 
along the seine.


we recently moved into
a new apartment here in paris.
we have an amazing view of 
the eiffel tower.
every day i can see
the people lining up to go to the top.
yes, it's a thrill to go to the top of 
the eiffel tower, however,
in my opinion the best view of
paris is from the top of the ferris wheel!
another one of my favorite things to do
here in paris is to have a picnic under the 
eiffel tower in the evening.
stay long enough to watch the sparkles!
head to a boucherie for a rotisserie chicken
and potatoes, the boulangerie for a baguette,
and fromagerie for cheese and wine.
bon appetite!

"if you are lucky enough to have lived in paris
as a young man, than wherever you go for the rest
of your life, it stays with you, for paris is a 
moveable feast" ~ Ernest Hemingway

And if you're headed to are Kendra's 

An Insider's Guide to the Best of Chicago

It's no secret that cities in general, and particularly the country's truly dense midsize 

to large urban centers, are social, cultural, and recreational magnets. It seems as if 

every large, well-known metropolis has its own niche, its own character, and its own 

soul. Case in point: Chicago is the blues infused; Prohibition-era gangster tinged 

New York of the Midwest. While some people may snub it in favor of the Big Apple 

or other places, Chicago is a great place to be.


Everyone, no matter his or her background or state in life, loves a good deal. When 

in Chicago, the fashionistas flock not the Magnificent Mile, but to Oak Street. While 

the tourists are ooh-ing and ahh-ing a few streets over, the locals and tourists 

in the know come to Oak Street (which is just a few blocks over from The Mile, 

anyway) to get their fashion fix. Interestingly, while the fashion is as avant-garde 

as it gets, many of the shops that sell it are based in historic converted houses, not 



Chicago is a great place to get a bite to eat. One of the best overall experiences in 

the whole of Chicago has to be Lou Mitchells diner. It isn't just the homey, cheap, 

filling food that makes this place special - it's the charm that comes along with it. 

For instance, "Uncle Lou", as the proprietor is affectionately known, will happily 

dole out Milk Duds to any women and children that happen to cross the restaurant's 

threshold. Why? Well, if you believe the legend, he and the creator of Milk Duds 

(which, by the way, are a Chicago original), are old friends. 


Nothing caps off a great day in the city like a great night's sleep. The hotels in 

Chicago are so numerous and so varied that to try and list the absolute best one 

here is simply impossible. I do however; recommend choosing one within the city limits. It makes it easier to explore the city and stumble upon some really cool sites.


One of the most whimsical and just plain fun things to do in Chicago is the chartering 

of a voyage on an actual tall ship - you know, the kind pirates (and just about 

everyone else) used before the advent of steam and other modern sources of power. 

A voyage on "The Windy" blends a great day of sailing on Lake Michigan with a dose 

of education, making it a great trip for all ages, and especially for families.


For anyone who absolutely must do the tourist route, the Willis Tower - which loyal 

natives still call the Sears Tower - is something that's actually worth seeing. Or, more 

specifically, the view from the top is what's magnificent. The Sears / Willis Tower 

used to be the world's tallest building, and its Sky Deck is a stunning reminder of 

what that means. Guests will marvel at the views afforded by their 103-story vantage 

point, which is actually a glass pod. This gives viewers the impression that they're 

flying, and is as close to skydiving as you can get without leaping from an airplane. 

And there you have it. Now that you know the best places to go in Chicago, it's time 

for the fun to begin! Just be careful - one taste of the Windy City has hooked many a 

tourist for life. Enjoy!

Thanks Kendra!
It was great working with you!


  1. This is so good, Pam. I'm forwarding this to some friends who'll be coming to Paris in April for the first time!

  2. your travel tips are like a paris vacation daydream...
    i love the save here, splurge there advice ♥

  3. Have you been to Le Grand Colbert? Is it all hype? Or do you think it's a 'must' on a Paris trip? I'd love to know what you think. I am again reading Julia Child's book about her life in Paris. It's got me in the mood.

    1. we haven't yet Nicole..but it's on the VERY LONG list! will report back once we do :) i also read Julia's My Life in France before moving here..enjoy! xo

  4. This is perfect! I live in Chicago. And my husband and I are traveling to Paris in May.
    So glad you posted this :-)

  5. What an awesome post Pam & Kendra! I would like to add that when we visited Paris, we rented a flat for 10 days with a view of the Eiffel you mentioned Pam, most Parisians leave the city in Late July-August...but be aware that air conditioning and ice cubes are not as prevalent as in the States. Also, Kendra on our recent trip to Chicago we purchased the City Pass for Chicago's top was totally worth it and would highly recommend to anyone who would like to see all of Chicago's top museums, etc. My family loves both cities! What a fun blog post! hugs, cathy

  6. Chicago is, indeed, a very beautiful city and has lots of interesting places to see. Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful photos, Virginia! You two are just the cutest couple!
    "Chicago IT"

  7. I just found your blog and it will definitely be added to my favorites!!
    And how appropriate to read this - I've been to Paris twice and hands down is my favorite city in the world. Maybe having studied 4 years of French in high school (many, many years ago) was the inspiration why I grew to love e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g French. Your photos are a reminder and a dream that I may one day visit the City of Lights again.
    But the other fantastic thing about this post is that I was born and live in Chi town not far from all the sites Kendra mentioned. There are so many more wonderful sites and places to see and visit.
    For sharing your adventures...Merci beaucoup!!.

  8. For cheap Europe flight contact with euroafricatravel.!!

  9. Merci pour un tel poste honnête et instructif! C'est la première fois que je suis tombé sur votre blog, et je suis si heureux Où louer une voiture à Paris, France

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