Italy With Teen

A good holiday is one spent

among people whose notions of time

are vaguer than yours.

J.B. Priestley

italy-rome-coliseum-sharon-birke

Winter break now and Spring break soon! With Milan offering the best airfare accessible to favorable climes by train, here is a quick week’s itinerary if you can travel light with your teen.

From Milan’s Malpensa airport, take the Malpensa Express train to Milan Centrale and connect with the fast train (Trenitalia.com) to Rome.

In Rome, book a hotel (at least 3 nights) between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon so you’re in a lively area in the evenings near restaurants in any direction.

Some Rome tour options are on my When In Rome Again blog post.

Take a morning train to Florence Santa Maria Novella and before exiting the station, leave your luggage for a small fee at the depot along the wall where you see the sign for Track 16.

Florence in a day: You can’t miss the outdoor sculptures at the Piazza Vecchio, the fantastic embossed door of the Baptistry, museums galore, Pitti Palace, if the weather is lovely, catch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views of Florence and to say hello to yet another David statue.

Take the evening train to Venice Santa Lucia station and book an overnight stay at one of the hotel’s across the canal so they can hold your bags while you sightsee the next day.

Venice in a day: Catch the vaporetto to St. Mark’s Square and feed the pigeons, admire the golden mosaics of the cathedral, climb up the bell tower, shop a bit, walk to Rialto Bridge and if you’re an early bird, catch the vendors setting up shop at the open air market. If you haven’t had enough of churches and museums yet, there’s the Accademia, the Scuola Grande and the Doge’s Palace. If you’d rather row a gondola than sit in one, check out Row Venice.

Take the evening train to Milan and stay near the Golden Triangle of designer shopping (ie, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’ Andrea and Via Montenapoleone). You’ll be within easy walking distance to the very well preserved Sforza Castle that holds a good collection of museums.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Italy travel tips.

xoxox

Ceiling at the Vatican

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Even a very tall man appears to be a midget at the mini-Hall of Mirrors of the Doria Pamphilj mansion in Rome

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Michaelangelo’s David and work in progress at the Accademia in Florence

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Rape of the Sabine Women at the Piazza Vecchio, Florence

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Would you rather ride or row?

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Sunset in Venice

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xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Germany Travel Guide

Travel makes you understand

that you should not think

you’re always right.

Christian Louboutin

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Linderhof Palace is a most adorable mini-Versailles in the alps for one royal recluse

It is the season for Christmas markets soon and if you’re headed to see some in Germany, here are other sights I enjoyed the most:

Prettiest hotel bar at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich. They also have a little nightclub in the basement with a great band playing pop and classic dance tunes.

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Bumped into dream cars from every decade at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart

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Made sure my crown jewels are still where I left them… was this at the treasury in Munich?

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Try a horseless carriage ride through a small town, scenic woods and farmland

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Rothenberg is a medieval city that survived the war unscathed by sheer luck of circumstance…

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…Hear how from Rothenberg’s Night Watchman. History teachers can learn a thing or two from him on how to dress the part while regaling the crowd with humorous narratives.

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Though it wasn’t on my original wishlist, Dresden was a lovely surprise , turning out to be my favorite city this tour. Bombed for no good reason during the war, the women of the town saved what they could from the rubble and re-used these to restore the city center back to its former glory.  The Zwinger Palace is now home to three museums with its restored courtyard of elegant fountains and sculptures. I loved strolling through its upper level walkway, imagining how many women were subliminally seduced in an afternoon stroll surrounded by the countless sculptures of fat cherubs, lovers, women holding food or children, all suggesting fertility and love.

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I felt positively royal in my room at the Crown Prince Suites of the Kempinski Tauschenberg Palace Hotel. With very high ceilings and space wide enough for dancing, both sides of my bedchamber had double connecting doors to adjoining rooms–perfect for the discreet entry and exit of guests or lovers. Standing right in the heart of town, this palace was originally built as the residence of the king’s favorite mistress. Below is what the bombed shell 😉 looked before and after restoration.

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One of the amazing treasures at the Residenza is this galleon carved in pure ivory. Do you see the tiny sailors climbing the ropes? The middle mast has the royal seal “embossed” on its thin billowy sail.

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Berlin was too, too modern for me. I like to travel to Europe for old architecture and they are doing a great job restoring the few structures that have remained standing like this Cathedral by the river.

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A very modern Holocaust memorial

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Found Cinderella’s carriage at the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your own German faves.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

My 7 Fave Books About Paris

America is my country

and

Paris is my hometown.

Gertrude Stein

“I don’t like reading!” must be the only chorus my two younger teens agree on. They usually bicker like cat and dog yet form a united front on the topic of books, stubbornly glueing their noses to the computer. If it’s any consolation for a mother, at least, their older brother in college actually values the occasional recommendation, discussing his insights and revelations when we talk on the phone. He says this may simply be a function of age and how the book resonates with his current life journey. I say one out of three kids is not a bad average, yes?

In honor of this blog’s favorite French fan’s birthday, here are  stories set in Paris you’ll want to chill with on or off the beach this summer:

The Flaneur by Edmund White. Because meandering strolls with no particular destination is so very Parisian, observing the everyday theater on the city streets.

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Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik (2001): What would it be like to raise children in Paris? An American writer shares his adventures starting a new career and family abroad.

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Almost French by Sarah Turnbull.  An Australian’s memoir of her giant leap, moving to Paris and marrying into a different culture.

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The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain.  Would you marry a struggling writer much younger than you? Could you be friendly with your husband’s mistress? A story told from the point of view of Hemingway’s first wife.

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My Life in France by Julia Child.  How did the student become the master? Julia tells of her move to Paris with her husband before she figured out what she wanted to do when she grows up.

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The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. A bookseller helps heal wounded hearts by prescribing the perfect story for them to read, eventually mending his own.

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Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott. shares her 20 style secrets learned while living in Paris.

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what’s on your summer reading list.  Stay cool and tres chic!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

When In Rome Again

In Italy,

they add work and life

to food and wine.

Robin Leach

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Piazza Navona on a rainy day last visit

After last year’s whirlwind mother-daughter holiday (see posts London with teen and Paris Charms with Teen,) the older brothers realized that traveling with mom need not just be an excuse to get their pesky sister out of the house.  This Spring break, Brother #1 has signed up for his turn to go on  a mother-son rendezvous.

Argentina was first choice because he’s interested in tango (and the pretty ladies that go with it,) but that’s too long a schlep from Boston for a week off. He got all excited over Iceland, but I refuse to  be any place colder in March. Where can he hop on an easy flight to get to relatively mild weather, see art, architecture, and engineering marvels everywhere he turns, while avoiding hordes of tourists? Why, Rome in March, of course!

Audio tours

Before you even start packing, let celebrity guide Rick Steves’ audio tours stoke your imagination and enthusiasm.

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A few fun things to do in Rome after you’ve covered the basics:

Rent a Ferrari

This IS Italy! Why not?

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photo by Conde Nast Traveler

Ostia Antica

Also known as “The better Pompeii,” Ostia Antica is only 30 minutes North of the Colosseum, compared to Pompeii’s 4 hours South. This used to be the bustling commercial port of Rome when the Romans controlled the Mediterranean. Wandering around the ruins today, you’ll see well-preserved remains of ancient brick structures from docks, bakeries, warehouses, apartments, mansions, shopping arcades, baths and sculptures–a peek at Roman lifestyles 2,000 years ago.

And if your travel companions are allergic to museums, a couple of light and lovely options are:

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

This private mansion off the Piazza Venezia on Via del Corso is also a museum open to the public. An easy walk from the Colosseum past the Typewriter building (aka The Wedding Cake or Il Vittoriano Monument.) I love its rich interiors and their mini version of Versailles’ “Hall of Mirrors.” Listen to the audio guide recorded by a family member of the Doria Pamphilj as you walk through the elegant rooms and art filled halls, pay the extra 5 Euros to tour their more private apartments. Caffe Doria breaks the museum standard fare with its delicious and generous portions for lunch and tea/coffee in old world charm.

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photo by Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

Galleria Borghese

Hike up to this mansion of Cardinal Borhese that is now a small museum for lovers of classical paintings and sculpture. Make advance tour reservations, leave your handbag home to avoid one more queue to check it, get there early before the crowds, and take your sweet time  with their audio guide that is not shy about describing  the underhanded ways that wealth and treasures get acquired. Afterwards, you can stroll through the gardens or rent a bicycle wagon in the park surrounding the property.

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photo from Google Images

The Galleria Borghese is an easy walk down to Piazza del Popolo with its ancient obelisk and open square. Plenty of restaurant choices along the way as you head down Via del Babuino to the Spanish steps.

Galleria del Cembalo

Between the Spanish steps and the Tiber River at a wing of the Palazzo Borghese, fans of photography can admire exhibits in rooms with ornate high ceilings.

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) for your Rome travel tips.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Barcelona Travel Guide

Kilometers are shorter than miles.

Save gas–

take your next trip in kilometers.

George Carlin

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The roof of Gaudi’s Casa Batillo

I usually say I prefer to feed my eyes before my stomach, but as I’m packing for Barcelona, I realize that I may not have to choose one over the other in this city. I love the genius of Antoni Gaudi‘s unique yet practical architecture, intrigued by the twists of Dali’s surreal art, and ready to feast on a wide variety of tapas. Here’s what I’ve got lined up:

Stay at Hotel El Palace Barcelona, where else for Goddesses?

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Barcelona Day Tours for a welcome overview of the city and a side trip to Montserrat for wine tasting.

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Catch a Flamenco performance at Gaudi’s jewel box theater El Palau de la Musica. Take a tour of the theater during the day when the sunlight makes the stained glass windows sparkle.

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Stained glass at Gaudi’s Palau de la Musica Catalana

Join a bike Tour with Excursions Barcelona and pay a little extra for the convenience of an electric bike. They offer a free walking tour downtown starting at Plaza Catalunya at 11:00 am each day.

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Barcelona Architecture Walks gives you a range of itineraries depending on your style of buildings. This fish sculpture is Frank Gehry’s.

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If you’re into city views, the Cathedral de Barcelona has an elevator that takes you to the roof for better views than at the Sagrada Familia.

For a change of scenery, Spanish Trails is another popular option to take you out for the day to see Surreal Cadaques and All Things Dali, including a drive along the shores of the Costa Brava.

Salvador Dali surreal art painting

Surreal art by Salvador Dali

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your Barcelona travel tips. Ole!

All photos from Google Images

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Marseille: Shade and Shadow

Boy, those French–

They have a different word

for everything!

Steve Martin

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Mature romance by the water is how I will remember Marseille. With its Mediterranean harbor of clear blue waters coyly inviting you for a dip, sunshine 300 days of the year, a spread of restaurants representing its multicultural population, Marseille has all the good stuff tempered by a rough-edged reputation.  It’s a three hour train ride from Paris and an easy commute from the smaller cities of Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Arles and Nîmes when you’re in the South of France.

Marseille is both gritty and pretty–full of graffiti and locals who warn tourists not to wander in certain areas after dark or even during the day. Despite this, I had a wonderful time traveling with easygoing photography lovers who had much enthusiasm for the town. Marseille reminds me of the less savory parts of ourselves we’d rather skirt over and the dark corners of our psyche that might prove to be less dangerous  if we embraced them.

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The freshest seafood right off the boat!  At the fish market, this octopus stealthily tried to grab some lunch before he became someone else’s lunch.

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Stay at the Intercontinental or chill on their terrace bar and restaurant with its view of Notre Dame de la Garde. Thanks to Anais, Gerard and Olivier for charming service!

InterContinental Marseille Hotel Dieu, 1 Place Daviel, +33-4-1342-4212

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At the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), admire the engineering genius and patchwork shadows of its lace facade made of cement. Check out the sea view from their restaurant “Le Mole Passedat.”

7 Promenade Robert Laffont
Marseille, France
+33 4 84 35 13 13

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Underneath this Cathedral (across the street from the MuCEM) is Les Voûtes Marseille: home to shops, restaurants, bars, etc…

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Open air Tango in the square on Friday evenings by the ferry dock. I loved seeing elderly couples walking hand in hand, dancing tango in the open air, women much older than I am still wearing high heels and above the knee dresses on date night. C’est si bon!

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Hop on or off a boat to swim, visit the calanques, the Frioul, and the prison of “The Count of Monte Cristo” (a movie you’ll want to re-watch!)

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Go topless at this most adorable little cove near Le Petit Nice, a Relaix and Chateaux boutique hotel best known for the Marseillaise specialty dish, bouillabaisse.

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For casual rooftop dining with sea and marina view among good looking locals:

Rowing Club, 34 Boulevard Charles Livon, 13007 Marseille, France
+33 4 91 90 07 78

Best couscous is at Le Kahena, beside the white church corner of the Vioux Port.

Le Kahena, 2 Rue de la République, 13001 Marseille, France
+33 4 91 90 61 93

Foster and Partners’ Ombriere reflecting steel pavilion at Vioux Port.

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Had the most delicious meal at the casual garden of La Passarelle. Look up when you’re facing their kitchen to find this embroidered artwork.

La Passarelle, 52 Rue Plan Fourmiguier, 13007 Marseille +33 4 9133 0327

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Limo to/from the airport and anywhere else:

Taxi Perez (Joseph’s phone 0613360991)

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your South of France travel tips. Vive Le France!

Watch my slideshow on Youtube

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Paris Charms With Teen

 A good holiday is one spent

among people whose notions of time

are vaguer than yours.

JB Priestley

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Have you met a doorman as young as this?

What would you do if you just got back home from too many weeks on the road and your husband dares, “Can you get back on a plane tomorrow?” Do you say, “But this… but that…?” No! No! No! You book tickets the next day, tell your daughter to pack her bags, and get on a flight the day after. This sudden turn of events left my teen in a daze, “I can’t believe this is really happening!”–she thought the upcoming school break meant being glued to her pajamas and iPod. Nah!

This being her very first trip to Europe, our itinerary was designed to please her. “No museums,  no shopping,” she insisted. “No Disney, no queues,” I countered. We walked to and from the Seine, taking in magnificent architecture, pink skies, and painterly scenes at every turn.

At my favorite Pont Alexandre III, I found this scorpion catching the Eiffel. For the best portraits with the Eiffel as background, wake up before the tourists, head to the Trocadero and have that fabulous marble platform all to yourself!

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Stay at the Paris Le Grand Hotel

2 Rue Scribe, 75009

+33 1 4007 3232

Love this elegant atrium where a piano man plays classical or jazz tunes in the early evenings. The Le Grand has large (for Europe) rooms at a most central location. The Opera’s golden facade and the metro are at your doorstep.

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Bike Tour with Paris Charms and Secrets

Fancy seeing the city like Parisians on bikes? We did! But I must admit these electric bikes saved me from un-chic huffing and puffing!  History buff Xavier (or Paris Charms and Secrets founder, Olivier) takes you around the best sites, sharing little known facts of Paris lore. Make this your first activity upon arrival so you’ll know–among other secrets I’m not telling–which Louvre entrance has less of a queue than underneath that iconic pyramid. Take the afternoon tour and they’ll time a 6pm stop at the foot of the twinkling lights of the Eiffel.  My teen remarked, “If my history teacher told stories like Xavier, learning would be so much easier!” Ah-men!

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When you’ve had too many macarons and can’t be bothered lining up for the sweets at Angelina, pick an eclair at L’eclair de Genie, 32 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 75002, phone +33 1 8479 2340.

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Find Marie Antoinette’s last handwritten note (among other historical artifacts that belong in a museum) at the restaurant, Le Procope13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 75006, phone +33 1 40 46 79 00.  We spotted a waiter calling Napoleon, “Will you ever pick up the hat you left here, Sir?”

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I did make an exception to our “no museum, no queue” agreement with a day in Versailles. She had zero idea what Versailles was about so she cooed at the palace’s golden gates and lavish decor, walked wide eyed through the sumptuous interiors, and it was only after we finished touring the palace that it finally dawned on her, “You know, this is like a museum!” Aha!!! 😉  Here, I take a moment to commiserate with a statue underdressed for the winter’s cold.

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Did I say “No ‘Buts'” when opportunity presents itself?

At the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

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If this trip weren’t such a whirlwind, I would have introduced my teen to Paris’ great artists before we got there.  She would have enjoyed a scavenger hunt of scenes from Monet’s “The Boathouse on the Seine,” Marc Chagall’s “Paris Through the Window,” Van Gogh’s “Sidewalk Café at Night.”

For walking tours, there is Paris Walks for daily local variety in different neighborhoods. For guides with academic backgrounds specializing in your area of interest, book a private tour with Context Tours. And when your teen can’t walk one more step, take a trip on a bateau-mouche, the glass-enclosed boats that ply the Seine, giving you a graceful overview of the city.

To see earlier Paris travel related posts, enter “Paris” in the search box on the top right of this page.  In the near future, I’ll list my favorite books set in Paris. Until then, click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your tips for Paris travel with teens. xoxox

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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