Posts Tagged ‘Lonely Planet’


With Kids: Week Two in Paris

May 11, 2010

With the start of our second week in Paris (click here for Week One) came the realisation that we had just seven days left to do everything we wanted to do. Phone calls were made to book kids’ ateliers (workshops) and battles ensued with various websites – the Eiffel Tower for starters – that insisted on printing out e-tickets (not handy if you’re staying in apartment rather than hotel).

It had been the highlight of the kids’ last trip to Paris and three years on the Kapla Centre still enthralled. Several thousands wooden bricks and a couple of hours later, they’d built the Eiffel Tower. Next up was a 2.5km walk from the 11th arrondissement to Parc de Bercy for a picnic in the park and gad around what must be one of the city’s most inventive green spaces – a decade ago warehouses filled with wine marked the spot. Anyone mad about design will love it.

Someone had told me that the climbing frames and playgrounds in the Parc Floral de Paris, a flower park in the Bois de Vincennes, were among Paris’ best. So it was with an extra big skip in their step that the boys trekked off that morning. The thrill in Niko’s voice when he told me that evening how he’d got to the top of a spider frame intended for kids 11-plus said it all. He’s eight.

The day when many Paris museums are shut: This time around they actually made it into the Natural History Museum where, much to the boys amusement, Papa @Luefkens strode unabashedly into the women’s loos to change the baby: the concept of equally equipping both men’s and women’s loos with changing mat has yet to reach France (unlike in Switzerland: just last weekend we were at Lausanne’s Olympic Museum where, yes, @Luefkens sighted a changing-mat in the mens).

Post picnic in Jardin des Plantes, it was a funicular ride up to the street entertainers, buskers and artists of Montmartre. Avoid spending €30 on a portrait unless you’re happy for it to bear zero resemblance to your child (unfortunately our three-month-old daughter was wearing blue that day … she was clealy unimpresed with the result).

Striving for a cheap morning, the gang rode the metro as far as Bastille then spent the morning walking along the banks of Canal St-Martin to the Cité de la Musique (where the boys were enrolled in afternoon music-discovery workshops). The canal walk was superb: within seconds of spotting the first canal boat navigate one of many locks the kids – initially horrified at the idea of ‘a walk’ – were hooked. Dinner at Les Pâtes Vivantes, 22 blvd St-Germain, was a spell-binding affair thanks to the chef behind glass who hand-pulled Chinese noodles while we dined.

They had scaled it twice before already, but the Eiffel Tower is one of those irresistible Parisian icons. With a pram in tow, e-tickets were purchased for the lift. (Smartphones owners note, @luefkens didn’t print out the tickets and yes, the guy at the entrance did successfully scan the bar code on his Blackberry.) From the handsome height of 324m the boys plummeted below-ground level to the city sewers aka Paris’ rather stinky Musée des Agouts. Four million rats live down there but the boys didn’t spot one.

Goûter was another rather stylish affair: the kids’ culinary workshop at Palais de Tokyo’s ArtHome (in French pronounced ‘arôme’ meaning ‘aroma’) climaxed with the boys eating their afternoon’s work – a silky-smooth panna cotta spiced with fresh mint, served in a bowl made of chocolate and decorated with orange-flavoured meringue sticks. Chic.

The boys enjoyed the art workshops at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs but what really tickled their fancy was the 16th-century Ecole de Fontainebleau painting their father introduced them to in the Louvre. Being the savvy Dad he is, he knew Mona Lisa just does nothing for six- and eight-year-old boys – unlike the two nipple-pinching ladies the pair of them have been talking about ever since. Do the same if you want your children to actually remember the world’s most famous art museum. Post-Louvre, watch the kids play hide-and-seek in the boxed hedges of Jardin des Tuileries over tea or champagne on the lawn at unforgettable stylish address Le Saut du Loup.

La Grande Arche in Paris’ spacey La Défense business district was today’s culture box, followed by a frolic in yet another park – Parc André Citroen – and pizza al fresco on the terrace at kid-friendly Restaurant Fiori. Final treat of the week was dinner en famille at L’Entrepot, a edgy cultural centre with restaurant, live bands, film screenings (including monthly parent and baby showings) and a leafy back garden to die for.


Co-Authors Hit the Road

March 19, 2009

Massif de l'Estérel by theslaveofjapanapart

Massif de l'Estérel by theslaveofjapanapart

So, the second of my co-authors arrived in Provence today. I follow in two days time and Fran, the fourth on our all-girl power team, arrives in mid-April fresh from penning a guide on Iceland.


Alexis’ arrival in Nice particularly tickled my fancy. First she sent an email: ‘I’ve made it to France and to a computer with no full stops!’ And indeed every sentence ended with an exclamation mark. I sent a welcoming ‘salut copine’ text to the spanking new French mobile number she’d just acquired at the airport and within seconds she replied: ‘Just about to take on the A8. The island on which I live has no cars. Ahh, the adventure…’.


There’s no disputing Lonely Planet authors are a colourful bunch. This Prov & CA 6 team – four fabulous brunettes – is no exception. Alexis is a 30-something artist who lives and works on the Greek island of Hydra. My commissioning editor in London described her as ‘a real inspiration’ and reading the text Alexis sent a couple of hours ago she’s clearly not the only one to think so:

‘Full day: Got hit on by a toothless elder gentleman and I’m speaking atrocious Freek (mélange of French and Greek). But the Vallée de la Roya is incredibly beautiful and I’m about to indulge in a panna cotta after my plat du jour. Cheers!’.

Emilie meanwhile spent the day sprinting along footpaths researching day walks in the Massif de l’Estérel and cursing Sarkozy for the strikes that saw much of France shut up shop. Several of the museums she had planned to visit in Cannes were shut. As a kid Emilie summered from birth on the Côte d’Azur, is a London-based journalist, and is one of just two French people I have ever met in my whole life who speaks flawless English with no accent. Hard to believe but true. It’s also very hard to believe she’s Parisian.


Where would you stay in or around St-Tropez?

March 16, 2009


I leave for Provence in one week, rendering the list of what I have to do before throwing laptop and luggage in Twingo and driving six hours south decidedly daunting:-


  • Finalise Provence book style-sheet with Lonely Planet style guru in Melbourne and send to co-authors
  • Re-read and digest 150pp of map, book and product briefs plus too many related emails to count.
  • Discuss potential new maps with cartographer.
  • Read and make notes on 100-plus readers’ letters.
  • Create list of Provence highlights for images to be sourced.
  • Buy new Michelin Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur road map (one I have dates to 2007 when I updated the last edition).
  • Finalise day-by-day travel itinerary of Leg One: St-Tropez Area.
  • Stop dithering about where to stay, make a decision and book: in St-Trop itself aiming for Hôtel Lou Cagnard (cheap, spitting distance from Place des Lices, has its own – drum roll – free parking. Got a better idea?). Elsewhere must reserve Chez Bruno (eat, sleep, truffle cooking course: this chef’s even on Facebook); sign up for ‘Man & Forest’ hike in the Massif des Maures with the Conservatoire du Patrimoine in La Garde Freinet; keep looking for olive farms/wineries where guests can help with the harvests – any ideas?
  • Continue stuffing freezer with meals to avoid husband @luefkens and two small boys starving in my absence.

Enough chat. Best get on with it.


Researching an LP guidebook: Travel ‘n Talk

March 12, 2009

5th edition

5th edition

It has taken months of same-subject dinner conversations. But husband @luefkens (he is the digital media guru @davos) has finally convinced me. For my 6th edition of Lonely Planet’s Provence & the Côte d’Azur (I wrote the 1st in 1998), I am going the full social-media hog.


Using this blog, Twitter and a spanking new Facebook page I have just created (become a fan!), I hope to get a conversation going with anyone and everyone who has something to say on the region I’m researching: a budget shack to die for, a beach bar that’s the biz, what’s up at E-1027, racy screenings at La Friche, bike routes, lighthouse art showings, organic cuisine on a bull farm … I’m indiscriminative.


I’ll regularly post where I am in Provence, what I am looking for, what fun stuff I’ve found (all those gems I just can’t squeeze into the book), and see what happens. I’ll post in French to catch the local crowd and in Marseille I might just try a Tweetup.


Twitravel with @tripalong: send me tips on Twitter

Twitravel with @tripalong: talk to me on Twitter

As part of my pre-trip research and planning – minimum two desk-heavy weeks aka now – I quiz everyone I know in the region on what’s happening, what’s new, what’s not. On the road I travel intensely: I visit everything, I walk to the end of most streets, I work long and hard and I grill pretty much everyone I meet … in the most charming of manners bien sûr – an English gal speaking French is 99.99% foolproof.

Yet the more conversations I have pre-trip, the more leads I glean, the more potential discoveries I can make in situ. With social media’s gargantuan, eager-to-share and often well-informed audience, it would be churlish not to ask. 

I leave for Provence on 22 March 2009. First leg: St-Tropez area.




Paris Tweet

February 18, 2009

I’ve started tweeting, prompted by The Guardian’s Benji Lanyado who hopped on the Eurostar to Paris with no more than the Twitter community in his hand as guidebook. I say no more. During his two days in the capital the travel writer was swamped with tweets from Paris-savvy microbloggers recommending everything from insider museums and art galleries to cafés, bistros and a Montmartre restaurant from @MsMarmiteLover with a fabulous history and fabulously rude waiters. Being something of an old-fashioned girl with a dozen-plus traditional guidebooks under my belt and a contact book bursting with more Paris addresses than I could ever fit in Lonely Planet’s travel guide to said city, I had to chip in.


For the ethical guidebook writer whose holy trinity is something along the lines of walk to the end of every street, leave no stone unturned and converse with everyone until you’re blue in the face, Twitter is a no-brainer. Be it as a pre-trip research and planning tool or immediate line to the world while on the road, it is essential guidebook-research kit.


‘Travel gold’ Benji wrote of the top three tips he was sent, one of which I hasten to add without sounding too smug was mine @tripalong. How I found Galerie Pièce Unique, a gem of a contemporary art gallery in St-Germain des Prés that exhibits just one unique work at any given time? By walking up, down and around street after street after street in left-bank Paris for days and days and days…