Tour France; 6 Steps to Blending in in Paris

Many travelers love to fly under the radar when exploring a new country. Sometimes being marked as a tourist is helpful, but other times, you want to be seen as just another local. This is the ultimate game to play in Paris, a city known for its leagues of tourists. Feel up to the task of touring France like a Parisian? We’ve learned some tips and tricks to utilize in the City of Lights especially. Try them out yourself on a trip to France with Bliss Travels!

1. Always Attempt to Speak French

No matter how unconfident you are in your French-speaking skills, you should always, always start out an interaction in French. Check out our post on Useful Phrases for Traveling in France for the basics. Just as we would get offended if tourists assumed we could speak their language without attempting English first, so do the French. This is especially common in Paris, where they are constantly overrun by tourists. Give your best attempt and show that you’re trying to make an effort, even if it doesn’t go that well. They will switch to English for you more often than not. And who knows? You may just pass as a local.

Try your French out at a market with a simple "Une baguette, s'il vous plait!"

Try your French out at a market with a simple “Une baguette, s’il vous plait!”

2. Watch your Feet

The French wear tennis shoes when they’re exercising, and that’s it. You certainly don’t have to trek across the city in 5 inch Laboutins, but consider some of your other more understated (but still comfortable!) options. Bring another pair to switch out with when your feet get sore during your trip–they will, no matter what pair you wear. Squeaky white sneakers are the first thing that will give you away!

There are endless choices in footwear. Check out one of our past trips who were champs at this!

There are endless choices in footwear. Check out one of our past trips who were champs at this!

3. Avoid baggy T-Shirts and Jeans

Parisians have perfected looking effortlessly chic. Don’t feel the need to mimic their style, but do pay attention to the tailoring of your clothes. Leave your sweatshirt and cargo shorts at home! This is the time for well-fitting, neutral-toned clothes. Bring layers that will mix and match easily. Voila! A simple, smaller travel wardrobe that will look good no matter how far you walk that day or how fancy the occasion. (See this great article on Easy Packing Tips for Traveling in France for more great ideas.)

Avoid clothes that clearly define you as a tourist--save the souvenirs for after the trip!

Avoid clothes that clearly define you as a tourist–save the souvenirs for after the trip!

4. Avoid meals on major boulevards

Cafes near major sites are just waiting for the midday crash of tired tourists. Sometimes this can be a relief–the english menu, the simple fare–but we always encourage seeking out an authentic meal. Go a few blocks away and search the side streets. This is where you will find the locals’ preferred watering holes. Prepare to not understand the menu, but to love your choices regardless. After all, when in Rome…or Paris…

Any Parisian cafe, big or small, can deliver an espresso that is to-die-for.

Any Parisian cafe, big or small, can deliver an espresso that is to-die-for.

5. Seek out the Smaller Museums

The Louvre has gained its reputation as the finest museum in the world for a reason, but that doesn’t mean it should be your only cultural outing. There are dozens of smaller museums dotting Paris, and each is a gem just waiting to be explored. Parisians will oftentimes head to these museums on special days just to enjoy the experience. The Museum Carnavalet, for example, has a stunning inner courtyard that locals will go to for a quiet afternoon of reading and relaxing. La Vie en Rose!

The Museum Carnavalet has a lovely inner courtyard  to lounge in on sunny days.

The Museum Carnavalet has a lovely inner courtyard to lounge in on sunny days.

6. Stop and Enjoy

The French excel at reveling in a moment. While many cultures are more focused on getting as many experiences in as possible, the French have a “quality over quantity” mindset that should be commended. This is one of the biggest markers of a tourist in Paris– we rush through musuems, hustle to the next monument, and grab sandwiches instead of sitting down to a great meal. Take your cues from the Parisians: enjoy your moments and focus on the experience instead of the amount of things you get done. What will make the best memories?

Take a moment to enjoy the day, like having a picnic outside!

Take a moment to enjoy the day, like having a picnic outside!

Armed with a carry-on suitcase of neutral clothes and sensible footwear, an adventurous appetite, a guidebook of lesser-known sites, and an open mind, you are now set to take on Paris like a local! These, of course, are just the basics to blending in. Give them a go on your next trip. Bliss Travels specializes in seeing France “like a local,” so why not take the next step and get insider access to this stunning country? Tell us about your own tips to blending in, and we hope to see you on a trip soon!

A Bientot,

Bliss Travels

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Tour France: Jet Lag: Travel & Leisure Reblog

Carry OnCarry on

We loved this article by Mr. Mayerwitz and think the advice is spot on. Read it before you travel to France with us, or anywhere!
A bientot
Wendy Jaeger (wendy@blisstravels.com)

How to Beat Jet Lag

By Scott Mayerowitz

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Frequent travelers, it’s time to conquer our worst enemy: jet lag.

While there’s no easy way to completely beat jet lag, there are several steps you can take to ease the pain of crossing multiple time zones quickly.

Travel wasn’t always this difficult on our internal clocks. But each technological advancement in transportation also brought changes to our time management. When long-distance railroads took off, matching timetables with local times became a challenge. So in 1883, we created standardized time zones.

The advent of the jet age in 1958 brought a new problem. We suddenly could traverse several time zones faster than our bodies could adjust. Eight years later, the term “jet lag” appeared in the Los Angeles Times (the earliest recorded mention, according to Air & Space magazine).

The term caught on, of course. And, as we know, jet lag is particularly bad when flying east.

“The hardest trip for me is coming back from Asia or Australia,” says Captain John M. Cox, who spent 25 years flying for US Airways and is now CEO of Safety Operating Systems. “It’s not that I can’t sleep. It’s that I keep waking up at two in the morning.”

I’ve had several sleepless nights of my own after coming back to New York from Asia. At least I was in my own bed. During a trip to Abu Dhabi, I found myself wide awake in the middle of the night, staring out my hotel window at the construction cranes and the desert beyond. The only advantage of being up so early was that I was able to easily call home without waking anybody.

Even domestically, jet lag can be an issue. I once traveled for a story that had me on nine domestic flights over five days. When planning out the trip, I didn’t think much about my body’s internal clock and made the mistake of hopping back and forth across time zones every day.

Every time I suffer from bad jet lag, I think back to the 1988 movie Die Hard, featuring Bruce Willis as a New York cop named John McClane. During a flight, McClane was given a tip: to combat jet lag, take off your shoes and make fists with your toes. It was a plotline designed to get the action hero barefoot. But out of habit or superstition, I still try it after every really long flight. It’s never worked, but it feels really nice if the hotel has a plush rug.

There are several things, however, that do help. Below are some of my favorites. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

• Hydrate. Dry and pressurized airplane cabins can quickly dehydrate you, making you feel extremely sleepy. Drinking water throughout the trip helps ease that process. It doesn’t stop jet lag but it helps make sure dehydration doesn’t compound your fatigue.

• Shift your time for long trips. A few days before I leave, I start to shift my sleep schedule one hour each day. Try to also move your mealtimes. That might mean a super-early trip to the gym in the morning and going to bed before my favorite TV shows are over. But it pays off when I arrive and also makes it easier to sleep on those red-eye flights to Europe. If I’m lucky, I can adjust my sleep a bit at the end of the trip. “As soon as I get on the airplane,” Cox notes, “I get on destination time.” It’s good advice. Switch your watch after takeoff.

• Sleep. If you can sleep on the plane—even for a few hours—it makes a big difference. Earplugs and an eye mask will help. When taking a red-eye to Europe, having breakfast immediately after waking up on the plane or once you get into the airport—even if not hungry— will definitely help adjust your body to the idea that yes, it is now morning, even if your friends and family back home are sound asleep.

• Avoid alcohol. Again, the issue here is dehydration on long overseas flights. I can’t blame you for having a glass of red wine to help fall asleep—been there, done that—but don’t have too much or you’ll have a nasty headache and never properly adjust to the new time zone. (That’s happened to me, and I don’t recommend it.)

• Avoid naps. Try to stay awake until your bedtime in your new time zone. It may be painful, but it really is necessary to make the rest of your trip enjoyable and productive. Go for a walk outside. The fresh air and sunshine make it much easier to stay awake than if you’re stuck inside. If sightseeing, take a walking tour. If in town for work, find some time to do a bit of walking—maybe have your driver drop you off a mile short of your meeting site. If that isn’t practical—and often it isn’t—do a lap or two around the block before heading in to your meeting.

• Stretch. It helps your body feel more normal and not as confined on a plane. This doesn’t combat jet lag per se, but it does reduce some of the scars of travel.

• Pills and juices. I have friends who have tried homeopathic pills and one who swears by carrot juice. I personally don’t like to throw off my diet with unknowns while hopping around the globe, but I’m not going to rule out any of those tricks.

• Don’t shift time for short trips. This tip is only for trips less than 48 hours. If you’re jetting off to Europe for a single meeting and then racing back home, it pays to stay on your home time zone.

201310-hd-scott-mayerowitzjpgScott Mayerowitz is an airlines reporter for the Associated Press. Read his stories on the AP site and follow him on Twitter @GlobeTrotScott.

Tour France: Cartier’s Grand Palais Exhibit in Paris

cartier_expo_0Ooh la la! Cartier, the “Jeweler of Kings,” has an opulent exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris from December 4th to February 16th. This is a must-visit experience and a great addition to a tour through France. And what a perfect add-on to a Valentine’s trip (you could get some ideas for the kind of ring or tiara she likes 🙂 ) Bliss Travels is currently offering a deal for the Valentine’s weekend trip (the special price is only offered through January 2nd). Check it out here! A romantic opportunity awaits!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It's simply a must-see!

The exhibit is the most expensive of its kind. It’s simply a must-see!

WWD gushes that Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara and Grace Kelly’s engagement ring are among the star pieces of an exhibition on Cartier opening in Paris today.

Billed as the most extensive show to date dedicated to the French jeweler, famed for its panther-themed jewelry and Tank watches, “Cartier — Style and History” is set to run at the Grand Palais until Feb. 16. It showcases more than 600 items ranging from fine jewelry and watches to decorative objects, many reflecting the influence of exotic locations like China and India. Most are drawn from Cartier’s extensive archives, but about 100 items are on loan from private collections.”

Cartier's signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit's displays.

Cartier’s signature jaguar stands proud in many of the exhibit’s displays.

In an interview with the Guardian, the curator of this opulent exhibit, Laure Dalon, explained its significance. “Cartier is one of France’s iconic companies and is a part of France’s tradition and heritage. It’s not just the actual monetary value of the pieces but their social history, their owners and their place in the history of decorative arts. That makes them priceless, really.”

Hasn't every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Hasn’t every girl wished to wear something as exquisite as this?

Well said, Mme Dalon! We are delighted to recommend our clients see  this magnificent exhibit during their Valentine’s trip. We can even provide a private guide to accompany and tour this exhibit, and others! Add it to your checklist: we’ll see you there!

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Tour France; Useful Phrases for Traveling in France

Traveling to France soon? Learn some essential phrases to help with everyday interactions!

Most French people speak English. But just like travelers coming to America assuming we will speak their language, the French appreciate those who attempt to speak the language of the country they’re visiting. These phrases will give you a head start–and maybe help make you some new friends!

Bliss Travels clients are always excited to talk to locals during our trips, and these are the first phrases we teach. Test them out and get comfortable!

1. “Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame!”

As simple as this seems, a friendly greeting in French will almost always elicit a smile!

Tip: Especially in Paris, addressing someone immediately as Monsieur or Madame is a “politesse” that simply must be used.

A kiss on the cheek is a typical greeting in France among colleagues and friends. Let's just stick with Bonjour for now!

A kiss on the cheek is a typical greeting in France among colleagues and friends, but let’s stick with ‘bonjour’ for now!

2. “Je voudrais ca.”

Pronounced “zje voo-DRAY sah,” this means “I would like that.” Especially in markets and bakeries, where you must point and ask for something instead of getting it yourself, this phrase is important!

"Je voudrais une baguette, s'il vous plait!"

“Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plait!”

3. “S’il vous plait.”

The previous phrase should always be followed by this one–“please!” Manners are very important in France! Pronounced “see voo play,” this is one that sounds familiar to most people.

4. “Ou est…”

“Oo eh” means “where is…” This can be followed by monuments, addresses, or the all-important bathroom! That phrase is “Ou est la toilette?”

An important word!

An essential word!

5. “Pardon!” or “Pardonnez-moi!”

“Par-DON-ay mwah” means “excuse me.” For times on busy metros or crowded market streets, this one is important!

6. “Merci, Monsieur/Madame! Au revoir!”

End every interaction, no matter how short, with this. (Again, the Monsieur/Madame should be there!) “AH ruh-VWAH” literally means “until we see each other again.”

Cheers to new friendships in France!

Cheers to new friendships forged in France!

A Blissful trip awaits you with these phrases under your belt! Need a chance to try them out? Come with Bliss Travels on a trip to France!  Our upcoming tours include our October trip to Provence–with an emphasis on photography!–and our winter holiday trips to Paris. Check out our trip itineraries to find the best trip for you!

A bientot!

Bliss Travels

Tour France: Bastille Day Summer Celebrations in Paris & Provence

Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

Taken by TourEiffel Fireworks

Bastille Day celebrates the formation of the French republic and the overthrow of the French monarchy. This is traditionally symbolized by the storming of the Bastille (the Parisian prison) on July 14, 1789.  While there were many reasons for the revolution, the most well known and emblematic  is the excessive royal life that Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette led at the court of Versailles.

The pivotal moment that Bastille Day celebrates is the freeing of the prisoners from the Bastille. There were, in fact, very few prisoners in the Bastille at that time, so the significance of that event was more symbolic than actual. Each year, this holiday, much like our own July 4th, is celebrated with fireworks, parades, village festivals, huge Provencal markets, music and dances –and of course, the flying of the tri-color flag.

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The tri color flag is a reflection of the motto of the French republic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité — liberty, equality and brotherhood. This was one of several mottos used during the time of the revolution. The Fete Nationale (National holiday) is the largest annual celebration in France.

Paris attracts huge crowds for the celebration. Pedestrians and people picnicing fill every last space on every Seine river bridge, and along the banks of the Seine. They fill the parks around the Eiffel Tower as well. It is a party that begins in the morning with parades and goes late into the night with fireworks and public balls, live music.

 As spectacular as Paris is, and as big as the celebration around the Eiffel tower is, I have to say that the countryside is even better. There you can see fireworks over 100o year old villages, experience festival markets and surround yourself with authentic  ambiance in a way that is not possible in big cities (no matter how beautiful).  The advice of Bliss Travels: Enjoy the best Medieval Provencal village or Mediterranean “fete” possible for this holiday. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and often feels like time stopped  500 years before you arrived.

There’s a reason every major impressionist and post impressionist painter traveled there to paint!

Van Gogh’s interpretations of the countryside give one a sense of what it feels like to be in that “world” over a major national holiday.
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One of our favorite places to celebrate Bastille Day is St Remy, home of Van Gogh –and setting for many of his paintings. The celebrations here include markets, fireworks, bull fights, parades and music.

The markets wind through almost all of the streets of the old village. They fill every small square, and the periphery roads as well.

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Vendors give out tastes of their products. A sure sign that they are proud of what they are selling. In addition, during the celebrations surrounding Bastille Day, there is music and street performers all over.

The bull fights that take place over the national holiday in France are a game during which the bulls are not hurt (though, often, the participants do suffer some injury). The game is called the “course camarguaise” and involves taking a rosette from the horn of the bull and getting away before the bull can hurt them. The participants leap over the wooden fence that surrounds the main area of the arena while their team mates distract the bull. There is also the herding of the bulls by the “cowboys” and the running of the bulls through the streets of the town. This is a major reason to celebrate Bastille Day in the South –these unique events simply don’t happen in Paris!

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Herding the bulls through the town. The horsemen ride practically on top of each other to keep the bulls locked in their place. Their riding skill is amazing.

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Along with the Camargue cowboys are parades on horseback with traditional dress.

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The celebrations lead to group parties and meals –the Aioli is one of the most common (and best)!

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Tour France: Vacations in Provence and the MediterraneanDSCN0867If you want to learn more about what Bliss Travels does on Bastille Day or for other summer village festivals, contact us now! Hope to see you in Provence this summer!

Tour France: Extraordinary Dining in France

Extraordinary Dining in France

I’ll bet you think this article is about the best tip top Michelin starred eateries….Well, you are partly right. Or maybe it’s about those little “off the beaten track” bistros that many great chefs are defecting to? Also, partly right. Or do you think it’s about the market streets…yep, just a little. Mostly, it’s about the special sort of balance you need in order to get the most out of your trip to a culinary Nirvana. So, even if you don’t travel with us, you can experience your own little bit of Bliss! So let me quote a great article by Moshulu:

“Eating done, what a pleasure it is to sit back comfortably, cradling a last glass of Jurancon (not too sweet, slightly bitter, slightly resinous), thinking about how good life is, and how silly people are. For example (and no offence!) why is it that The Chowhound Team continues to conflate “chow” with “food”, and “eating” with “dining”? Or why do so many Paris-bound chowhounds laboriously compile and post lists of restaurants, hoping to stuff themselves into a stupor throughout every moment that they are here? It’s just like being one of those manic tourists who rush through the Louvre making sure that nothing escapes them (Michelangelo? check!, Rubens? check!, Leonardo?, check!). It makes no sense. A gastronomic romp in Paris should be a quietly composed, elegant sonata, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Or maybe a tasteful country bouquet with just the right combination of colors, textures and smells. It should consist of a few choice selections from a palette that includes, among others, a neighborhood bistrot, a noisy brasserie, a simple fish place, a temple of “haute bourgeoisie” cuisine, a creperie, and (why not?) one of those phantasmagorical Senderens/Ducasse/Robuchon affairs. Each should be savoured for what it is, not checked off some list on the way to the next Michelin-rated clone. A quiet dinner… is like lingering for an hour in the Louvre’s Palissy room, grateful that someone once made such extraordinary efforts on one’s own behalf. And thankful that a few good restaurants still survive in Paris, even in the sixteenth arrondissement’s frigid, stony heart.”

If you eat at 3 star Michelin’s every day you will become numb. (And, not insignificantly, so full, you will not be able to move). If you go to Paris and eat nothing but crepes, quiche, croque monsieur or baguettes you will miss experiencing true culinary genius –and believe me, what passes in Paris (and other parts of France) for a nice quality bistro meal, is probably better than anything you’ve eaten anywhere else. (Yes, I’m talking to you foodies too. It’s just not possible to replicate terroir and the treatment that food gets as art in France). And, if you approach both food and art the same way, you will have a sensual and satisfying experience all around.

Mix it up…You’ve got to. The concept of courses at meals –not just giant plates of one thing is the same concept. You must have a little bit of a wide variety of foods. Your palate doesn’t become desensitized. Your body needs food that way. And the food is interesting, and your dining is mindful. Eating the same foods (high end or low end) every day on vacation is the same as eating a giant bag of chips in front of the TV. You stop tasting it. It’s just mindless repetition. But, when you switch it up –country lunch outdoors, gourmet tasting menu for dinner, cheese and baguette by a river bank, market fresh bistro –you magnify each experience, not just one of the experiences.


So, this is about balance. The idea for writing this article came from the above review. It so beautifully described how to have a top level culinary week, that I thought I’d excerpt it below and add one final point –yes, I know I make this same point a lot. Famous places can be great. Some restaurants are even famous because they are great. But, fame changes all but the most careful places (much like it changes all but the most grounded people). Thus, guidebooks and celebrities can help you find certain sorts of experiences. But, they likely won’t be unique or unspoiled. For that you must get “insider info” and go “off the beaten track”.

If you want to dine with Bliss, or come on one of our culinary trips, please contact us. All of our Spring and Summer trips can be found on our website, where you will also find our testimonials. Every one of our trips takes this approach to food. Our fall trips to Burgundy and Provence are pre booking and will be posted soon.

So, how about some coffee before you get up?

A bientot,

Wendy Jaeger –owner, Bliss Travels

Tour France: Best Celebrity Tips For Visiting Paris (or Anywhere in France)

It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it!

Last night, I watched Anthony Bourdain’s new show “Layover“, the first episode of which focuses on Paris. And I was struck by how much I agreed with him. He said the exact same things I say to my clients all of the time (without the use of @#%&  and other colorful wording.)  For the second time (he also did a show on Burgundy) I knew most of the places (restaurants, streets, sights) he spoke of quite well, having been to them many times myself with and without clients. I even knew several people he spoke with/visited on air –quite a surprise to see them on the television instead of in person! But it is not familiarity that made me agree with Mr. Bourdain. It was that his advice was the best recipe for having a truly outstanding experience in France. Let me explain why.

Everybody and their uncle tells you what to see while in Paris (or Burgundy, or Provence, or just about anywhere)….Your best friend, the guidebook, the blogger you love, the New York Times, your neighbor etc. There is a very long list of things you “absolutely should not miss”.  (Even I have items remaining on that list.) But, how you plan your time is even more important than what you decide to see. I know that they might not seem to be very different things. But they are.

People ask me all the time what they should see and when –well, that is the business of Bliss Travels. They also ask me to plan for their “downtime” (i.e. time not spent with Bliss Travels) and for the meals they will have on their own. And they should. They are, in fact, paying for my expertise. And they listen carefully to the names of restaurants and special streets and bakeries. The one thing I have a difficult time getting people to hear is that they shouldn’t overbook themselves or run themselves ragged. Sure, they should see a few major sites. Sure, they should see a few “off the beaten track” items. But, they should also allow themselves to absorb the place they are visiting. The magic of Paris (or France in general) isn’t revealed by a guidebook, or located solely in the many beautiful things to see. It is more keenly felt when one experiences the place and the culture as the locals do (even if a bit more intensely). There is something quite true about that old saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans” 

That is not to say that you shouldn’t take a tour….Of course you should. Obviously, we pride ourselves in our small private walking tours and discourage big bus tours. However, bus tours are of interest to some people –especially if they have limited mobility. If you can’t do a walking tour with someone like Bliss, then designing your own is a good idea.

Of course you should see art in Paris. If not there, where? So choose a museum or two (depending upon the length of your stay) and enjoy that experience. (Tip: Get museum passes if you are going to visit one of busiest museums so you don’t spend all morning in line.)

Do remember to meander the streets of some of the more interesting neighborhoods, not just the grand boulevards…Do it without a destination in mind. Do you know that some streets in Paris are 1000 years old?

Remember to try the local cuisine in one of the postage stamp size bistros that are so popular. (Unfortunately, once Mr Bourdain -a celebrity– recommends a place on national television, the character of the place, and maybe even the menu can change –so try to find a place that still has its neighborhood character.) If you don’t have someone like us to provide that information for you, wonder around  –off of a main street, in a nice, but less touristic neighborhood. Start reading menus. If they are in English, move on. Do the same thing if the menu is large. Find a market fresh place with a lot of native French speakers, and give it a try.

Lounge at a cafe with a coffee or a wine, and watch Paris go by. Walk along the Seine, or sit on the banks or a bridge and absorb the scenery. Visit a park.

Visit a market street. You must! Taste as you go. A great trick, if you are doing this on your own, is to find a good market street, and look at where the customers are. Stand in line behind a long line of French locals. Listen to what they are ordering –or watch, if you don’t understand the language…You’ll see a pattern. Try what they are trying! (Normally, I do not advocate acting like sheep –however, if you are trying to find truly fine, non touristy food and drink, and you don’t have anyone with inside knowledge helping you, then you must become aware of what the locals are doing. That’s the only way you can do a real “quality check” and also experience local fare you wouldn’t necessarily know was available.

Attend a performance of some sort. How about a concert in a church (Paris over the holidays has many)? A ballet? A local circus for festival? (A Provence activity in the spring and summer) Even a a street performance is a good idea. You will relax. You will find that humor and entertainment are different and exciting. I will never forget one particular performance in a Mediterranean beach town. It was at the beginning of a trip and I was with two clients from Princeton New Jersey. That evening, before the fireworks –fun huh?– there was a theatrical street performance as intricate and absurd as a Fellini movie. with actors tossing others into a small pool made on the sidewalk, yelling, laughter, grand gestures. And you didn’t need to speak or understand a word of French to appreciate the humor and also how different it was from our own American street performances.

Or the time last Christmas in Paris when, after lunch, we stumbled upon a street performer, who kept us in stitches without saying a word.

Most of all, just relax and eat and drink and walk…You cannot have a bad time if you do those things! This is Bliss!

Wendy