Weekend Reading

Tea and Computer by Natalie Parker

One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is to avoid running sit in bed, grab my tablet, and read the link round ups that many bloggers publish.  Such cool stuff all over the internet!

I often wonder how my fellow bloggers find such cool stuff.  Then I realized I should pay it forward when I find cool stuff.

Here is my collection of (mostly travel related) reading:

I can’t tell you how excited I am about how the City of Paris is finally doing this.

While I already have Global Entry, I’m pretty curious about this new app.  Will it speed up customs in the US?

This all female air crew is totally inspiring.

This is a fabulous tutorial on using Google Flights!

Everything on this list is so true and I would do well to remember it sometimes when I travel.

And if you need something to read this summer or on your next trip, check this out!

I Love Street Art

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Above in order: Melbourne, Paris, London, Paris, Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne

Not many words today — just pictures.  I love street art and I love taking photos of it when I travel.  I went through my photo collection to find my favorites from my trips.  Melbourne is by far my favorite and I love how the city has embraced street art.  I can’t wait to use these in a scrapbook.

Paris Week: the End (for now)

Notre Dame de Paris by Natalie Parker

Well phew.  That wraps up a week of posts dedicated to Paris, my favorite city.

I hope you enjoyed it and it helps on your next trip.  Even better, I hope it inspires you to take a trip!

A Week of Paris Tips

In case you missed anything, here’s a recap from the week:

Everyone’s Paris is Different
Best Tips for Visiting Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre

How to Eat Out in Paris: 11 tips
How to Ride the Paris Metro
Where to Eat the French Classics in Paris
The Best Walking Tours in Paris
Paris Champagne Tour
How to Pack Champagne Home from France
Map of My Paris Recommendations

Just the Beginning

I’m finished with this week and I already know I need more posts on Paris.  There’s still so much I haven’t shared with you!  Like where to sit and get champagne and ham, or my favorite place to read or fall asleep — this is important stuff, people.

Ah, Paris.  There’s always a reason to go back.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your trip to Paris, please feel free to reach out and I’m happy to answer.

Map of My Paris Places

Paris Map by Natalie Parker

Did you know I am married to a geographer?  And he can make really cool maps?

We worked together and put together this really cool map of my Paris recommendations.  Any place that I’ve mentioned this past week is marked on the map for easy reference.

Click here to view my Paris map

I’m not done writing about Paris.  Not by a long shot.  As I write more, any new places I mention will be added to the map.  Don’t worry if you lose this post.  You’ll always be able to get to the map by scrolling to the France section of my travel page.

Bonne journée!

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about visiting Champagne, how many bottles can you buy?  And more importantly, how are you going to get them home?

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

There are two issues here: how to pack it and how to get it into the country.  I’ll handle each separately.

I’ll always remember very fondly the other Americans and Aussies in our group that were buying 1-2 bottles when Mr. P and I were trying to figure out the most we could possibly buy.  I looked up the rules on my phone on the spot and then we became the proud new owners of 7 bottles.

The rest is history.  Every time  we visit Paris, we bring home a case of champagne.

How to Pack Champagne in Your Suitcase

Step one, acquire several bottles of champagne.  Or just one.  But I’m using myself as an example, so several.  Moving on.

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

I’ll never forget the moment, near the end of our time visiting Jean-Claude Mouzon in Champagne, when I asked the retired champagne maker about bottles breaking in my suitcase.

He took two empty bottles, started slamming them together and said something like this: “Zher are seeex atmospheres of pressure in zhese bottles!  Zhey weeel not break!”

Fair enough.  In case you couldn’t tell through the French accent, his point was this: there is a ton of carbon dioxide in a bottle of champagne.  There are six atmospheres of pressure (thereabouts) while it ferments, then it goes down to five when they disgorge and add the corks.

The bottles are made to handle that pressure and will probably not break in your suitcase.  The lesson?  Toss ’em in!

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

I don’t wrap the bottles at all.  We space them out among our clothes in our suitcase and they do just fine.

Note: this does not apply to wine.  Wine bottles are made from a different type of glass and are much more breakable.  Be much more careful — we usually put wine bottles in sealed garbage bags and make sure they have plenty of padding.

No, you can’t ship champange home.  That’s another post, but let’s just say that you have to get it in your suitcase if you want to get it home.

How much champagne can you bring into the u.s.?

This information only applies to Americans.  I claim zero knowledge of any other nation’s customs laws.

Let’s dispel a big fat myth: Americans think they’re only allowed to bring in 1 liter of alcohol per person.

Wrong.

Let me be clear.  There is no limit in the United States on how much alcohol you can bring in for personal use.  Don’t believe me?  Read it from the horse’s mouth.

Now, your state may have some laws that limit the amount, so do check on that.  If you’re bringing in an absurd amount, you may raise some suspicions.  For the sake of this post, I’m talking about bringing in 6-10 bottles between two people.  No biggie, right?

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

Americans are allowed to bring in 1 liter of alcohol duty free.  Anything above that is subject to duty, like a tax.  For wine, that’s currently around $1-2 per liter.

Think about that again, at worst, that’s $2 per bottle.  See what I mean?  Not that bad.

So, bring your case of champagne home.  A case of champagne is 6 bottles, by the way, not 12.

How to Declare your Champagne Purchase

Here’s the short answer: fill out your customs form and give the information that the form asks for.  Never lie about it.

The US Customs Declaration Form does not ask for how much you are bringing in.  It asks for how much it costs.  Repeat that to yourself.

When I fill out my form, I list “Champagne” and a total dollar amount.  Period.

Now again, there’s nothing to lie about.  If a customs officer asks how many bottles you have, be honest.  I’ve never ever had someone ask me that I’ve done this several times.

If they ask, tell them.  The worst that happens is you are paying a handful of dollars duty.  If they don’t ask, you’re done!  Yay champagne!

Do not attempt to pack alcohol in your carry-on luggage — you will not get them through security if you are flying back to the US.  If you buy alcohol at the duty free shop, you can carry it onto the plane, but if you have a connection to make within the US, you will have to put your duty free alcohol in your suitcase after you clear customs and before you go back through security.

One more thing . . .

Drink your champagne.  It’s not going to age like a red wine.  Once the champagne is disgorged, it’s really only good for a year or so.  Stop looking for that special occasion and just drink it!  Champagne is the little black dress — it goes with everything.

MORE IN THIS SERIES:

Everyone’s Paris is Different
Best Tips for Visiting Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre

How to Eat Out in Paris: 11 tips
How to Ride the Paris Metro
Where to Eat the French Classics in Paris
The Best Walking Tours in Paris
Paris Champagne Tour

How to Pack Champagne Home from France

Paris Champagne Tour

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Let’s take a day trip from Paris, shall we?

Although Paris gets millions of visitors a year, only a tiny percentage of them visit Champagne, the region responsible for, you guessed it, champagne!

Why You Should Take a Champagne Tour

Mr. P and I aren’t tour people.  We like to do things on our own and only ever book a tour when we know it will get us an experience we can’t get ourselves.  Champagne is one of those places.

You can take the train to Champagne and visit some of the large champagne houses.  It’s like going to Napa and tasting only at the big box wineries.  Champagne is very insular, so if you want to go inside a mom-and-pop operation, you need to be on a tour.

If we have to take a tour, we research it like crazy so we’re not in one that screams “hi, we’re in a tour group!!!”

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

We Recommend Paris Champagne Tours

We booked a day trip through Paris Champagne Tours our first time in France back in 2010.  It was just fabulous and went way beyond our expectations.

Since then, I’ve recommended them to friends and coworkers.  No one has come back disappointed — everyone loves it!

It’s a little pricey: 175€ per person as of this writing.  Trust me, it’s worth it.  There are cheaper options out there but you will get a better experience with this company.

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Why we Love Paris Champagne Tours

Small groups.  You aren’t with a busload of people.  They keep groups to 7 people max.  When we went, it was Mr. P and I plus two other couples.

Pickup and drop off at your hotel.  The guide will drive to your hotel and pick you up.  Most of the cheaper options we researched required you to meet somewhere in Paris very early in the morning.  A Champagne tour is a long day and it really helps to get door-to-door service.

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Snacks in the car.  Our guide had English newspapers, coffee, juice, and croissants for us during the car ride out.

Lunch is included.  The price includes a multi-course lunch in Reims.

Tasting fees and tours included.  All tasting fees are included plus a cave tour at one of the larger houses.

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Visiting a small producer.  This is the best part of the trip.  You get to visit a very small champagne operation that you simply wouldn’t see if you DIY-ed it.  Tasting there isn’t like wine tasting where you get a small pour.  Our host opened several bottles and we drank as much as we wanted!

The best champagne you’ve ever had.  The small producer we visited served us the best champagne we’ve ever tasted.  Plus, it wasn’t that expensive so Mr. P and I were furiously checking customs rules to see how much we could carry home (more on that later today).

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Tour of Reims Cathedral.  After lunch, the guide takes you on a tour of the Reims Cathedral, where all French Kings were crowned.  Outside, you can visit the statue of Joan of Arc.

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

Knowledgeable guides.  We stopped first to look at the grapes and learn what makes the land so special for making champagne, then we visited champagne houses and learned how champagne is made.  We learned a lot about World War I history — you drive by battlefields on your way to Reims.

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

This is not like wine tasting.  And I mean that in a good way.  It isn’t about driving around, jumping out to taste, and then moving onto the next place.  While this totally includes champagne tasting, it’s a much bigger experience and  you learn quite a lot about the industry, history, and the area.

No fee to reserve.  Simply book your date and you pay by credit card at the end of the day.

If You Go

If you go, make sure to tell them I sent you!  You will visit the smaller house in the morning and the larger ones after lunch.  Buy all of your champagne at the smaller place in the morning — it will be an unbelievable deal!  You must buy what you want there: the smaller places generally do not sell their champagne outside the property.  You won’t find it back in Paris.

Click here to visit and reserve with Paris Champagne Tours

This may sound like an infomercial.  I’m not getting compensated to endorse this company, I just think they’re awesome.  I’ve given this recommendation so many times I finally decided to write it down.  If you’re spending several days in Paris, take a day out to do a Champagne tour!

MORE IN THIS SERIES:

Everyone’s Paris is Different
Best Tips for Visiting Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre

How to Eat Out in Paris: 11 tips
How to Ride the Paris Metro
Where to Eat the French Classics in Paris
The Best Walking Tours in Paris

Visiting Champange in France by Natalie Parker

The Best Walking Tours in Paris

Best Walking Tour in Paris

If we have a bit of spare time in Paris, Mr. P and I will take a walking tour.  It’s fun to get to know a new area or learn some history.

Paris Walks:  I can’t recommend them enough.  They’re good for first-timers or experienced travelers.

Why we Love Paris Walks

No reservations required, just show up.  All walks have a set meeting point and time.  Just show up, pay the guide, and you’re off!  All walks are in English.

Extensive topics and schedule.  Paris Walks has a huge variety of options and schedules are posted online.  There’s something for everyone whether you like literature, history, food, etc.  We usually pick whichever one works with our schedule and we’ve never been disappointed!

Guides are very knowledgeable and nice, but not over the top.  The guides are very experienced and know a ton about the topic.  You won’t find anyone who is guiding while in college to pay the bills.  I describe them as “not over the top” because they’re not too gregarious or loud.

Best Walking Tour in Paris

See inside private locations.  On some of the tours, the guides have agreements with residents or business owners and we get to go inside places we never would have seen following a guidebook.

Generally inexpensive.  It is 12€ for adults, less for students and children.  Have cash ready to pay the guide.

Food and Fashion walks.  They have special walks that are a bit more expensive than the normal ones.  I haven’t taken one of their food walks yet, but a friend did he said it was amazing!  And he didn’t need to eat dinner later that night — ha!

So, if it’s your first time or fifteenth time in Paris, Paris Walks is the way to go.  You can plan your trip around their schedule, or just wake up and decide to take a tour.  We love them!

Click here to visit Paris Walks

If you’re in London, the same people also run London Walks which we highly recommend too.

Best Walking Tour in Paris