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Stairs along the Seine Stairs separate the busy city from the quiet Seine river.

“Why isn’t there an elevator in my apartment building? I have to walk up multiple flights of stairs!” This is the cry of the beleaguered traveler who, after a long flight, is dismayed to note that he or she will have to carry heavy bags up several stairs before taking a well-deserved nap. Fear not, beleaguered traveler! We hear you! You’re not alone in your lament! In this article we hope to help you understand why your building was designed without a nice, roomy elevator, and why this might actually be a good thing.

But first, strap yourself in for a teensy bit of history.

1. Upward Mobility and the Social Standing of Stairs

Hassmann-style Paris boulevards The grand style of Haussmann’s rebuilding of Paris

Paris was a pretty dismal place in the mid-nineteenth century. Medieval streets twisted aimlessly through dark, leaning buildings and roads were often barely wide enough for one cart to pass through. In 1853, Napoleon III appointed George Haussmann to open, unify, and embellish Paris. The sweeping style and delicate filigree that characterizes Paris today is largely a result of that work. But with a new architectural order came a new social order, at the center of which was a building’s stairs. Read the entire story here…»

 

Image of Trafalgar Square Trafalgar Square is an iconic – and popular – open urban space for Londoners

With centuries’ worth of history and the arts across 32 boroughs and the titular City, London truly earns its distinction as Europe’s financial and cultural powerhouse. Covering over an estimated 600 square miles, there’s an infinite number of places to explore the full depth of London’s vibrancy. The West End of London, including the neighborhood of Bloomsbury, packs much of this energy into a relatively compact area – perfect for exploring! (Another neighborhood worthy of exploration? South Kensington, of course!)

Welcome to Bloomsbury / West End

An unofficial designation, The West End used to refer to the region west of Charing Cross in the 19th Century but now refers to the entertainment district and shopping areas from Covent Garden across to Oxford Street. Considered to be the epicenter of London’s commercial and entertainment industries, there are plenty of shopping opportunities and live theatre here. Many UK film premieres take place in the region’s Leicester Square, while Covent Garden entices tourists and locals with its shops and marketplaces. For a better picture of the area, take a look at our video guide of the West End! Read the entire story here…»

 

The Notre Dame Christmas tree by the Seine See the Christmas tree in the plaza in front of the Notre Dame

The trees have lost their leaves and each morning is now greeted with a dusting of frost. Lights gleam off the lingering ice as the smell of King Cake drifts through the air. Winter is falling over Paris, but the city itself is more active than ever. From holiday markets and ice skating to parties and events, there’s no better time to visit Paris than during the Christmas season.

In this article we’ve covered the most interesting and exciting events in the city, so be sure to let us know what you think!

Holiday Markets:

The holiday markets along the Champs Elysées Holiday markets along the Champs Elysées are a great place to pick up last-minute gifts. Photo: Steve Shupe.

A city in a snow globe, there’s nothing more romantic than roaming the holiday markets in Paris as crisp winter winds ruffle artfully placed hats. Although little markets spring up all over the city, these are some of our favorites.

  • As the most iconic street in Paris, the Champs Elysées is a prime attraction during the holiday season. In fact, it’s the only street that makes our list of the Top 10 Must-See Sights in Paris! The Christmas market at the Champs Elysées consists of one hundred chalets from the Vosges region. This arts and crafts market offers a wide selection of gifts and holiday food, including everything from arts and crafts to mulled wine and crepes. It runs from November 14th through January 4th, and be sure to stop by at night to see the Big Wheel illuminated. Read the entire story here…»
 

London streets light up for Christmas The city of London lights up for the holiday season

It’s that time of year again! Snow is glistening and Jack Frost is nipping at your nose. Christmas spirit has settled over London like fresh snow as the city lights up like a Christmas tree. In this article we’ve compiled all the best things to do for the holiday season, including holiday markets, outdoor ice skating, seasonal must-sees, and of course all those great Christmas activities you can’t live without.

Holiday Markets:

Hyde Park holiday market, with rides and ice skating The Winter Wonderland holiday market in Hyde Park

Hotly anticipated every year is the first day the holiday markets open. Glittering little shops spring up throughout the city, all of them great places to pick up a hot cocoa or a present for that difficult-to-shop-for relative. But of all the markets in town we’ve tracked down the very best. So be sure to visit one or two this holiday season!

  • A gorgeous park any day, Hyde Park looks like it’s straight out of a snow globe around Christmas. For that reason it has one of the best holiday markets in the country. The whole attraction is called Winter Wonderland but the market section is known as the Angels and Yuletide Christmas market, known for its unique stalls offering handmade gifts and hot cider. You can buy tickets to Winter Wonderland’s Christmas circus and ice sculpture garden, as well as to the biggest outdoor ice skating rink in the whole United Kingdom. The Angels and Yuletide market itself is, of course, free of charge. It runs every day from November 21st to January 4th, but the best time to come is just before dusk so you can watch the sun set over the park as the shops light up one by one. Read the entire story here…»
 

Image of Rockefeller Center at Christmastime Rockefeller Center remains its most iconic during the sparkle of Christmastime

Like any metropolitan city, there never seems to be a bad time to visit New York City, but nothing – nothing – is quite like the Big Apple during the holiday season. Stores deck out their windows in glittery fashion, streets smell of peppermint and chestnut, jingling bells can be heard on practically every corner. From mid-November to the beginning of January the city is buzzing with festivity, thanks to the impending arrival of three holidays, all within weeks of each other: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

New York knows how to pull out all the stops when it comes to celebrating this trio of merriment, whether it’s by hosting a legendary parade, putting on magnificent Christmas shows, or counting down to 2015 in crazy style. (Just remember that crowds are bigger this time of year, and stress can run high. Familiarize yourself with our guide to New York etiquette, though, and you’ll be in perfect shape to navigate the city without a hitch.) Let us be your guide for the best shopping and holiday experiences as you prepare to celebrate with loved ones and welcome in the New Year! Read the entire story here…»

 

White sandy beaches and cerulean waters may seem like a cliché for coastlines, but in the case of the French Riviera it is a true description. Outlining the southernmost edge of France, the Riviera – immortalized in the 1955 film To Catch a Thief — is home to sun-dappled cities and lifestyles of luxury. But once you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the gorgeous coast, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Provence, the notable province in the south of the country. The Riviera is just a small section of this region, which includes the seaside cities of Nice and Marseilles. Further in you’ll discover mountains, inlets, lavender fields, and our favorite postcard villages in Southern France.

Provence is bordered by the Rhône River to the west, Italy to the east, Hautes-Alpes and Drône to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. With a warm climate, Provence (and the Riviera) makes the perfect destination any time, but there are certain periods of the year where they truly shine. Here we’ve assembled a list of our top 10 favorite annual events in Provence, as wide-ranging and delightful as the province itself.

1. Lemon Festival, Menton

Image of the Lemon Festival The Lemon Festival is a feast for the eyes – and taste buds

Located in the “Cité des Citrons” – City of Lemons, for non-French speakers – the Lemon Festival is a visual feast and a pungent experience for your taste buds. Lasting throughout February and March, the festival displays hundreds of thousands of lemons, oranges and other citrus fruits shaped into astounding floats and sculptures in the spirit of each year’s theme. The city of Menton has been hosting this annual event since 1929 to advertise the region’s bountiful harvest, and the Lemon Festival has only grown in popularity over the course of its eight decades. We’d advise you to arrive by train; transportation hubs in Nice or Marseilles will connect you to the local lines leading to Menton. While you’re at the festival, be sure to visit the Salon de l’Artisanat, an arts and crafts showcase – some of the products (jams, soaps, fragrances) are bound to use the lemons that gave the fest its name! Here are some other artisanal souvenir suggestions from the area to get your shopping jump-started! Read the entire story here…»

 

Image of the Eiffel Tower The Eiffel Tower is a sight to be seen in the springtime

When asked to associate a color with the city of Paris, what springs to mind first? Perhaps gray, represented in the victorious icon of the Arc de Triomphe or the neoclassical apartments curved along its streets? Or maybe red, the chosen hue of passion and romance — after all, Paris is known as the City of Love. What about green? It may not be the first color you’d think of, but it’s certainly true: Paris abounds not only with world-famous museums and eateries, but with bountiful parklands as well. Here we’ve assembled a list of our ten favorite greeneries throughout the French capital.

1. Jardin des Tuileries

Image of the Jardin des Tuileries The famous and centrally located Jardin des Tuileries is a must-see slice of Parisian parkland

Sporting an illustrious history (it was created by Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France), Paris’s largest and oldest garden sprawls between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. (The art museum, in fact, runs the parkland; Jardin des Tuileries does not belong to the Parisian government.) Aside from the best people watching you’ll find anywhere in Paris, the expanse offers countless activities: a collection of sculptures to browse underneath the wide open sky; Fête des Tuileries, which transforms the park into a summertime fairground with games, a Ferris wheel, and other attractions; scale-model boat sailing to delight the youngest members of your party; and the Musée de l’Orangerie, which displays impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces – think Monet and Matisse – to the public. Read the entire story here…»

 

Picture of the Staten Island Ferry  The Staten Island Ferry in the Harbor

Welcome to the third installment of our new series, New York City Boroughs! In the first article we introduced the Bronx, and the second offered insight into Queens. Now it’s time to talk about an often overlooked NYC borough: Staten Island. Sure, this borough might not be as conventionally urban as the others (the south shore is right next to New Jersey), but locals know its unique environment is what makes it special. The gems of Staten Island (beaches, a botanical garden, a waterside museum) remain unknown to most tourists and even most New Yorkers – and that’s the way Staten Islanders like it.

Welcome to Staten Island

Staten Island is the least populated of the five boroughs but the third-largest at 59sqmi (153sqkm), making it feel more suburban than the others. From the north shore islanders can get to Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens; New Jersey is reachable from the south shore. Locals consider the two sides to be very different; individuals take pride in their side while occasionally scoffing at the other side. But both offer attractive features: the parks of the south are some of the best in the city, and the Northern urban setting is definitively more city-like (not to mention closer to Manhattan). Read the entire story here…»

 

Picture of Tower Bridge The sun sets behind Tower Bridge

Sunsets are as unique as snowflakes – you’ll never watch the same one twice. A vibrant sunset between the towers of New York City or a soft sunset over the banks of Paris is are all well and good, but nothing beats the restrained glory of a red London sunset. Fortunately, London also has some of the best places in the European Union from which to see the sunset. From the towering Shard to the Victorian glamour of Primrose Hill, you simply can’t beat these top 5 spots to watch the sunset in London.

1. Primrose Hill at Regent’s Park

Picture of Primrose Hill The sunset from Primrose Hill is a riot of color. Photo: Matt Brock.

There’s a reason this area is home to some of the most exclusive and expensive residences in London. From the top of Primrose Hill you can see all of central London splayed at your feet. With the sky above you and the city below, it’s no wonder that those who visit feel as if they’ve reached the top of Mount Olympus. Turn northward for an unrivalled view of Belsize Park and Hampstead, or explore the seven English Heritage blue plaques in the park itself commemorating famous residents. Or go for a stroll around the lovely Victorian neighborhood and pick out your future furnished rental apartment. Read the entire story here…»

 

Image of Greenwich Village street corner This is the kind of charming street corner you’ll often see in Greenwich Village

Jack Kerouac wrote here. Jackson Pollock painted here. Odetta sang here. Greenwich Village – referred to by locals as simply “the Village” – and the West Village have traditionally stood as refuge for New York’s misfits – beatniks, bohemians, artists and the LGBTQ community, to name a few. For decades these enclaves in Lower Manhattan stood at the forefront of the city’s cultural heart: a place where folk music and avant-garde art could thrive. Today, you’ll find many designer boutiques, gourmet restaurants, and very few bohemians – but the historical impact of these artistic iconoclasts’ lives on.

Welcome to Greenwich Village and the West Village:

Resting in downtown Manhattan, the Greenwich and West Villages are north of Soho, south of Chelsea, west of the Hudson River, and east of the East Village (take a look at our guide to this district here). Once a site of industry, the neighborhood was claimed by New York’s nonconformist crowd and fostered the talents of some of America’s greatest artists. Due to the district’s upscale makeover, most of the remaining artists have been priced out of the Village, but the neighborhood has never forgotten its roots. You’ll find a mix of artsy businesses, concert venues and designer fashions, which sit wedged between beautifully preserved brownstones. Upper class residents – think movie stars and Wall Street businessmen – rub shoulders with hip NYU students. And as with elsewhere in Manhattan, the districts are served by multiple subway lines and bus routes, which means shuttling over to other parts of New York will be a breeze. Our video tour of Greenwich Village will help you visualize the bustling district. Read the entire story here…»