France Travel Guide
There are many traditions and tidbits over in Paris, and one of the most famous might just be attaching a padlock to a bridge and throwing the key into the river to symbolize everlasting love. Locking your love in a city known for affection and romance is all fine and dandy, but apparently the act might do a little bit of damage to the bridge and environment. Things are safe for now but there’s a group looking to unlock—if you will—this type of thing, as they aim to protect the Seine and the bridges that span it.
No Love Locks was born to save the bridges, as two women desire to protect and to prolong the city’s beauty—free from locks. At first we kind of thought this was a little unnecessary, but as we read their story—and their description of the locks as a creeping fungus—we kind of see their side of things.
We’re not here to cause panic and have you choke on your macaron, baguette, or cotton candy, but Paris had a problem a little under two weeks ago when an usual amount of smog rolled in and blanketed the city.
Concerned officials went as far as to throw open the turnstiles to public transportation, offering free rides on subways and buses for three days in hopes of improving air quality and easing congestion throughout the region. It wasn't just the pollution, though. According to the BBC, some unique weather patterns made things that much worse, resulting in an Air Quality Index of 185 that put Paris on par with Beijing.
In celebration of the most needed happy hour of the week, we're launching a new column called “Monday, Five Thirty” that will take a look at different vices from around the world, specifically boozes and beers unique to a destination. Last week, we told you why you should always drink vodka on St. Paddy's Day. This week, we head to France for a taste of South America.
After we had our first taste of Passoa on St. Thomas in the Caribbean, we thought it was a natural fit as far as tropical drinks go, its passion-fruit flavor mixing well with different juices as a rum-punch alternative. When we asked the bartender what island it was made on, he surprised us and said, "France."
Why, it's cotton candy.
While strolling by the Eiffel Tower last month, we kept seeing flashes of pink popping in and out of the crowds of tourists surrounding the landmark. When we got closer, we were able to see that the pink was actually cotton candy, which was for sale at the concession stand on the side closest to the Seine. Granted, it was mostly kids eating the cotton candy, but we spied a few adults picking at the pink as well.
After taking a year hiatus from participating in the Eurail Select Pass - which allows customers to purchase three, four, or five country rail passes - France has announced it will rejoin the program starting in April.
Currently and until March 31st, you can buy three, four, or five country passes, choosing from a list of 25+ countries so long as they are connected to each other. For those looking at the map, you can see the effects of the decision go beyond visiting France. This past year, Select Pass holders were out of luck when they wanted to travel from Spain/Portugal to Italy/Germany/Switzerland/Belgium. They had to buy single tickets or splurge on the Global Pass, which is at least double the price depending on the specifics of your travel dates.
Things are still every much on the drawing board, but we couldn’t be more in favor with the plans for some of the forgotten metro stations over in Paris. For one reason or another some of these stations haven’t been doing the public transportation thing for quite some time, and now one group is looking to upgrade and update things into a little bit of an urban oasis.
As part of the city’s current race for mayor, one candidate is proposing new ideas to utilize some long forgotten bits and pieces of city real estate. She envisions swimming pools, nightclubs, and art installations, as the city would bring these deserted spots across the city back to life—and better than ever.
Train Travel / Trains / France Travel / Spain Travel / Europe Travel / High Speed Trains / → All Tags
Your European holiday is about to get a little bit faster, as some new high speed train service is arriving on the continent. Now budget travel isn’t just an option aboard a low cost carrier, as the train might be able to zip you over to where you want to be.
Tickets are now on sale for the TGV train between Paris and Barcelona, and the speedy service should start up on December 15. Travelers can now visit Girona—that's just outside Barcelona in Spain—in just under six hours after departing Paris. Those looking to complete the whole journey between Paris and Barcelona can now do so in around six and a half hours. Connections are even available for those departing from London, as one can get from the UK to Spain in just over ten hours.
Reports over the last few months have indicated that baguette sales are down across the board in France, so much so that the French Bakers' Lobby launched a campaign in an attempt to get people to fall back off the wagon.
The campaign and its slogan (“hey there, did you pick up the bread?”) pretty much says it all about the state of the situation. According to the BBC, two factors have contributed most to the downturn in bread consumption: 1) The French are sitting down less and eating more meals on-the-go and 2) In an effort to cut costs, many bakeries are now using frozen bread instead of making it fresh.
We’re not quite in love with the latest airplane from the folks over at Airbus just yet, but that’s because we’re just getting our first peek of what it has to offer—let’s just say we’re still getting to know one another. However, our fondness has begun to blossom, as another A350-900 recently finished one of its first flights.
This is actually plane number two that has rolled off the assembly line, as this plane did its thing on October 14 over at the testing facility at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
Obviously they’re looking for all kinds of stuff during these first flights—like the plane’s ability to takeoff and land without a problem. Specifically it’s all about airplane avionics like flap and slat configurations and how the plane handles operations up in the air and on the ground.
Airport Lounges / Airline Lounges / Paris Travel / CDG / American Airlines / Admirals Club / Cathay Pacific / Oneworld / → All Tags
Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris doesn’t have the best reputation for a number of reasons. There's the confusing layout, poor signage, and brusque French staff to name a few. Escaping to an airline lounge can help make many a journey more pleasant, and over the last few years the improvement works at CDG have included new lounges for both American Airlines and Cathay Pacific, two options for those flying with any Oneworld alliance partner.
We recently flew through Paris and had a chance to explore both lounges to see what’s what. The good news is that no matter which of the two you find yourself in, they are a major improvement from before. Literally next door to each other, both are now exterior facing and have windows for walls, giving views across the apron and one of the runways. The left door leads to the Admirals Club, and the right to the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge.
Bike Sharing / Biking / Velib / Paris Travel / Bicycling / Active Travel / → All Tags
Here in the US, the bike sharing thing is still catching on, as even spots like New York City are getting used to pedal power. However, Paris is pretty much and expert, as their bike share system—Vélib'—has been doing its thing since around 2007. Unfortunately bike sharing may have caught on too well, as the Paris system is going through a rough patch.
It’s not just bicycle theft that’s a problem, as vandalism is also to blame for the city’s dwindling pedal population. According to Le Monde there were around 9,000 bikes damaged, stolen, or uh—misplaced—just last year alone. They’re expensive to repair and replace as well, as new bikes cost around €650 per vehicle. All in all the city thinks it spent like €1 million just last year to keep things rolling.
Air France / Airlines / Airline News / In-Flight Comfort / Seats / Economy Class Travel / Premium Economy Travel / → All Tags
Your next overseas flight is about to get a little bit better—even in the back—as Air France just announced that they’re spending plenty of cash to upgrade their up in the air experience. This time the upgrades and improvements aren’t just for those paying extra to sit up front, as the most recent sent of renovations are scheduled for the economy and premium economy cabins.
It looks like the carrier is prepared to fill out an oversized check in the amount of like 500 million euros, as they move forward with all kinds of enhancements. Old seating surfaces will dragged off to the curb for trash pickup, as the economy and premium economy seats will be brand new. Air France promises lighter seats—saving on that airplane fuel—as well as ones that provide head support and retractable armrests.