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Courtney Traub

Courtney's Paris Travel Blog

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Nightlife Notes: Where to Party for Paris Gay Pride?

Tuesday May 27, 2014

The annual, much-coveted Paris Gay/LGBT Pride event is just around the corner, and to mark the occasion, we've put together a great list of places to head for a night cap after the parade and traditional Bastille street party wind down. Most of these places attract a mixed crowd and harbor a laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, so whatever your 'stripes', partying at these popular spots after celebrating Pride among friends nearly guarantees a great night out.

Read More: Best Gay, Lesbian and LGBT-Friendly Bars and Clubs in Paris

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June in Paris: Free Music, Pride Parades, and More

Wednesday May 21, 2014
Tuileries statue paris

We're inching ever-closer to June, a month that, in Paris, is synonymous with the joyous ushering in of the festivals season. Musicians of both the amateur and professional persuasion take to the Parisian streets and sidewalks on June 21st for the annual Fête de la Musique (Street Music Festival), and events like Paris Gay Pride (Marche des Fiertes) attract locals and tourists of all stripes to celebrate diversity. Take a look at our newly updated June weather and packing guide, then peruse the June Events in Paris calendar to pinpoint the perfect exhibit, festival or other happening.

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Anti-Beaten-Track Lodging: Mama Shelter Hotel Review

Tuesday May 20, 2014
mamashelterroom

As a former resident of the fairly remote 20th arrondissement, I'd spent a few nights at the much-loved Fleche d'Or nightclub, tucked high on the hilly rue de Bagnolet near the little-known, cobbled Rue St-Blaise, which still shows its village roots. So when the owners of the coveted indie rock club opened a hotel in a refurbished building just across the street and called it "Mama Shelter", I knew it would have success with the arty or would-be arty set in Paris. A few years on, it's become a very popular choice for both locals, who come in hordes on Friday and Saturday night to the bar, restaurant and adjoining pizzeria, and for tourists, who appreciate the hotel's quirky yet discerning style, laid-back setting and off-the-beaten-track location.

Read More: My Full Review of Mama Shelter

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Warm and Buttery Off The Press: Best Patissiers in Paris

Thursday May 15, 2014
croissants paris

Sweet tooth? Make sure to bookmark our latest recommendations for the best pastries (patisseries) in Paris. From butter-drenched croissants to silky eclairs, delightfully crunchy yet melty macarons and chewy, subtly caramely canelés, we've listed some of the prime places to score such delicacies. You'll never need to feel a sense of letdown again as you dig crumbs from your greasy paper bag. Oh, and also make sure to read our handy guide to ordering from French boulangerie/patisseries: we teach you how to identify, select, and confidently order from traditional bakers.

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Image credit: GirlsofNY/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

Paris for Nightowls: Best Cocktails in Town

Saturday May 10, 2014
experimental cocktail bar paris

Decent cocktails aren't that difficult to find in Paris, but unlike New York, where "mixology" is now as banal a term as "beer garden" in hipster enclaves like Brooklyn, the truly creative cocktail remains somewhat elusive in the city of light. Here, the standard place to head out with friends for drinks is still the corner brasserie or, more recently, the foodie wine bar. As a consequence, it can be hard to know where to head to score a truly excellent cosmopolitan, Tom Collins or caipirinha. To solve this problem, About.com Paris Travel Contributor Colette Davidson Davidson weighs in on some of the best spots for cocktails in Paris, including the pioneering Experimental Cocktail Club in the Rue Montorgueil area, earning points not only for its Mad-Men cool concoctions (like the "Old Havana", pictured), and stylish ambiance, but for being genuinely friendly.

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Image credit: A cocktail from the Experimental Cocktail Bar, Paris. Bex.Walton/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.

In Review: Macéo, Vegetarian-Friendly French Gastronomy

Tuesday May 6, 2014
maceo in paris

I've become increasingly grumbly and exasperated with Paris restaurant culture's refusal to cater to vegetarians, or to assume that all vegetarians want and need is a plate of raw, unseasoned vegetables. Hailing from California, I have a lot of non-carnivorous friends who are used to vegetarian fare not having to rhyme with bland and uninspired, and I've often been hard-pressed to find good places to take them. Enter Macéo, a traditional-looking outfit near the Palais Royale owned by Mark Williamson, who launched the popular Willi's Wine bar next door. I dined there and was more than impressed to note that they give vegetables and vegetarian cuisine a starring role on their inventive, fresh, inspired menu. It's given me entirely new hope that "veggiegastronomy" might have a place in a city that's always been a dream for carnivores. For those who don't want to eschew meat, not to worry: there's plenty on the menu for you, too, but chef Taka, who once worked under the famed French chef Joel Robuchon, always makes creative use of vegetables, no matter the dish.

More: Read my full review of Macéo here

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Why Tourists Neglect St-Denis Basilica (And Why Not To)

Monday May 5, 2014
recumbent effigies st denis

I'm attempting to solve the following mystery: Why would a site that houses the remains of 42 French kings, 32 queens, 63 princes and princesses, and ten important historical figures be routinely glossed over by travel guides and overlooked by tourists? Why would a monument that's every bit as important to French royal history as London's Westminster Abbey is to England's suffer such a strange PR problem? The magnificent 12th-century Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis is, of course, the subject of this puzzle.

Routinely cited as France's finest first example of gothic architecture, Saint-Denis was also one of the country's first Christian pilgrimage sites starting from the 5th century. The cathedral-basilica and necropolis houses remarkably beautiful stained glass and marble statuary (pictured above) depicting the likenesses of the dozens of royal figures buried there. For those interested in the history of the saints, the mysterious patron-saint Denis and his relics can be visited in the archaeological crypt. Even Joan of Arc paid a visit to the famed pilgrimage site in the 15th century, laying down her arms here after a battle that left her wounded. So again, why do so few people seem to know about this remarkable place?

According to an article from French magazine Le Figaro amusingly titled "St Denis Comes Out of Purgatory", the basilica and necropolis only attracts around 160,000 visitors per year, compared to the millions who visit Notre-Dame Cathedral annually. Clearly, the cathedral that won the love of Victor Hugo and his Quasimodo has overshadowed and overpowered its arguably more impressive (and historically important) predecessor.

Again, why might this be the case? Apart from the fact that most tourists have never even heard of the place, it might be a question of location. While St-Denis is just a few minutes north of Paris, accessible by line 13 of the metro, relatively few seem willing to make the trip. It may have something to do with the fact that the town of Saint-Denis itself, located in the solidly working-class northern suburbs, are often cited as potentially dangerous spots for tourists to roam. But such blanket advice is misleading and unfair: a day trip to this remarkable basilica is perfectly safe, and the town of St Denis has its charms, too, including a lovely market square just across from the Basilica's sweeping plaza. On a sunny day, sitting out and eating at one of the brasseries facing St-Denis is very pleasant.

My conclusion? Whatever the reasons for its neglect, this is one of the Parisian region's most remarkable places, and it more than deserves to come out into the spotlight.

Read More: Complete Guide to the Saint-Denis Basilica and Royal Necropolis

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Image credit: Recumbent effigies at St Denis/Emily Dolmans

Chasing The Light in Paris: Best Impressionist Museums

Sunday May 4, 2014
Monet Nympheas Orangerie Paris

The term "impressionism" might today conjure up pleasant associations among art amateurs-- the hypnotic, surreal use of light, bold, stylized brushstrokes and beautiful, inoffensive natural scenes-- but when the term was coined in the 19th century, it was meant to insult and degrade. Artists like Monet, Sisley, Degas and Pissarro mostly succeeded in shocking their contemporaries when they debuted their bold new techniques at independent Paris shows in the 1870s and 1880s, offending the sensibilities of traditionalists yet ushering in what we now recognize as a modern perspective.

If you're interested in deepening your knowledge of this exciting period in art history next time you're in town, get our take on the best impressionist museums in Paris, from the (rightfully) well-trodden Musée d'Orsay to the curiously neglected Marmottan-Monet , the Orangerie, featuring Monet's mesmerizing series of nympheas (pictured above) or Petit Palais. My sense is that it's important to try to see these works for the radical propositions they were, rather than through our contemporary eyes, accustomed as they are to seeing Degas' dancers on placemats or Sisley's foggy morning on mugs.

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Image credit: LWY/Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

Travel Tips: The Perfect Parisian Sunday?

Friday May 2, 2014
booksellers Paris

Many people incorrectly assume that Paris turns into a near-ghost town on Sundays, when in fact most restaurants, museums, cafes, and even many shops remain open. They may have visited in the summer, when many locals are away and close up shop, or they may have lodged in quieter residential neighborhoods that indeed tend to be sleepier on weekends.

When you know where to head, though, finding things to do on Sunday shouldn't pose a problem at all. It may be a semi-sacred day, as I explain at length in my new guide on what to do on Sundays in Paris, but while the pace is definitely more langorous-- and deliciously so-- many areas are in fact at their most vibrant. Read more to find out how to spend the final day of the week in true Parisian fashion, loafing around aimlessly like a cool, romantic flaneur , people-watching from cafe terraces, brunching, or enjoying a good film in one of the city's endearing old arthouse cinemas.

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Image credit: Gareth Wright/Creative Commons.

Paris Gift Guide: How to Avoid Cliché Presents

Friday April 25, 2014
Marie Antoinette salt shakers

Walking down the Quai Montebello along the Seine river, just across from the always-mesmerizing Notre Dame cathedral, my eyes inevitably end up training on the line of tourist gift shops clogging the other side of the bustling street. I often wonder why, in a city with as many wonderfully zany and intriguing places to shop as Paris, these parlors of kitsch and cheaply made, exorbitant goods get so much foot traffic from tourists. I'm not knocking the seemingly limitless market for an I <3 Paris tee or an Arc de Triomphe caught in a snow globe-- such trinkets can admittedly serve as great souvenirs, and are often appreciated.

But if you've had your fill of such expected fare, are looking for a more original gift from the city of light and aren't sure where to head, we've got just the thing for you. Contributor Colette Davidson has put together a handy guide showing you how to steer clear of run-of-the-mill tourist shops and get your hands on that special something, from rare books to gourmet goodies, bespoke fragrances or design items. Flea markets are also a good bet. You might still end up with some amusingly dated or kitschy items-- such as the Marie Antoinette salt and pepper shakers pictured above-- but you can bet they'll also turn heads and amuse for their originality and charm. Read on.

More: Paris Gift Shopping Guide

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Image credit: Nicole Smith/Licensed to About.com

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