Mid-Atlantic Cities with the Best Outdoor Adventure

Mid-Atlantic Cities with the Best Outdoor Adventure

Sometimes you just need an outdoor adventure. Climb some rocks. Swing from the treetops. Bike down a mountain. Kayak class 3 and 4 rapids, either natural or manmade. You might think of the American West for these things but rest assured, these outdoor adventure cities on the East Coast have you covered, too.

 

Richmond

Richmond’s James River has been treasured for its beauty for centuries, but the current century has seen a rise in interest of a different kind.

It’s rare to find a city with class three and four rapids where you can kayak so close to the city center. In fact, you can pull your kayak out of the water and walk straight to a brewery or one of Richmond’s great restaurants in just minutes.

Richmond is Outside magazine's Best Town Ever

Named Best Town Ever by Outside magazine, Richmond’s outdoor adventures are no longer a secret.

In the middle of the river, Belle Isle offers rock climbing on its natural walls and boulders, with the city skyline in the background. The yearly Dominion Riverrock festival draws expert climbers from around the country to nearby Brown’s Island.

The James River Park system offers trails for hiking, running, and mountain biking on both sides of the river in the center of the city.

Virginia Capital Trail

Road bikers will love the Virginia Capital Trail, which connects Virginia’s past and present capitals of Jamestown and Richmond along a scenic 52 mile paved route. Experience 400 years of history along one of the first inland routes in North America without having to dodge motor traffic.

Richmond hotels range from the basic to the luxurious. Try the Quirk Hotel for a modern boutique feel, and the greatest gift shop ever.

 

Charlottesville

The mountain roads around Charlottesville are challenging, but the views of the mountains, valley, and countryside make the effort worth it. The city was designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists, and the Rivanna Trail is a 20-mile ubran wilderness trail that circles the city.

Nearby Massanutten Resort offers skiing in winter, but summer may be even more exciting on its slopes.

Mountain biking at Massanutten Bike Park

Photo credit: Massanutten Resort

 

Opened in 2016, Massanutten Bike Park carries riders up the mountain on chairlifts fitted with easy-loading bike carriers. Beginners start on the gentle lower grades (after a safety conscious lesson), while advanced riders start at the top with steeper grades, banked turns, and jumps. Cross country bikers can explore the Western Slope of the park, offering 30 miles of trails through 3000 undeveloped acres of woodland.

 

Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina has a reputation as a pretty sterile city. But just 25 minutes from downtown, the U.S. National Whitewater Center hosts a variety of land and water activities for professional athletes and amateurs alike. Dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles and developing environmental stewardship, the USNWC is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river.

rock climbing wall over deep water pool

The U.S. National Whitewater Center’s Deep Water Solo Climbing Complex

But don’t let the name fool you. The Center offers more than just whitewater activities. Rockclimbing walls, zipline canopy tours, controlled jumps, ropes courses, and 30+ miles of mountain biking trails cover the Center’s 1300 acres. And there are flat water activities, too. Those looking for less of an adrenaline rush can cruise the flat water by kayaking or stand up paddleboarding.

You can pay for a single activity, or buy a day pass to try them all. The Center is dedicated to outdoor education, so they offer classes and training in a variety of areas. Check their website for a current calendar.

Looking for places to stay in Charlotte? I am fond of the Aloft Hotel Ballantyne, but it’s on the far side of the city. There’s also an Aloft in the Charlotte city center. The closest hotel to the Whitewater Center is the Holiday Inn Express and Suites.

 

Asheville

The mountain town of Asheville attracts outdoor lovers for its woods and rivers and trails, and everyone else for its artisan charm and the palatial Biltmore Estate nearby.

The great outdoors looms large, and adventure travelers can find many outlets for their adrenaline fix. From the peak to peak zipline at Navitat Canopy Adventures’ Blue Ridge Experience, where a nearly-mile-long course features tandem “racing-style” ziplines, to the whitewater paddleboarding at Wai Mauna, everything is just a little bit more intense in this ladi-back city.

Mountain bikers will want to check out Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures, which offers private guided rides of all levels of difficulty.

You can also try “bellyaking,” a sport invented in Asheville that uses belly-down, face-first kayaks in the whitewater.

Bellyaking on the French Broad River

Photo courtesy ExploreAsheville.com

If all that doesn’t satisfy, maybe you’d like to hop on the Mountains to Sea Trail, a 1,000 mile trail from the Smokey Mountains to the North Carolina Coast. Or maybe you’d rather take a different kind of trail, hitting the many craft breweries and restaurants in the area.

Pick up a copy of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, which is based in Asheville, try not to be distracted by their acronym when you check out the BRO Events Calendar for outdoors and cultural events.

 

Washington, DC

For all its automobile traffic, Washington DC is a surprisingly wonderful place for cyclists. The city encourages bike commuters to help alleviate the far too frequent gridlock. There are dedicated bike lanes throughout the city, and a vibrant bike share program. The major tourist destinations are in the flattest part of the city, and there are trails all around the National Mall that welcome cyclists.

The bike trails in and around DC have been legendary for years. Rock Creek Park is a green slash through Northwest Washington with several miles closed to auto traffic on Sundays. The George Washington Memorial trail goes all the way from Roosevelt Island in DC to Mount Vernon, the home of the first president of the United States. Going the opposite direction, the C&O Canal trail runs 185 miles north past Harper’s Ferry to Cumberland, Maryland. From there you can join the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and ride all the way to Pittsburgh!

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.


What Is the Best Florida Beach for YOU?

What Is the Best Florida Beach for YOU?

Want to know what the best Florida beach for you is? What beaches do you think of when you think of Florida? Miami is the first one for just about everyone, but what you think of next might betray your age.

If you think Fort Lauderdale, you were probably a college kid in the 70s or early 80s, when spring breakers headed there by the thousands, but before the city passed laws trying to cut down on the mayhem spring breakers brought to the city.

If you think Daytona, you might be a child of the 80s or 90s. The restrictions in Fort Lauderdale pushed the crowds north to Daytona, where the invading hordes grew even bigger. Spring break was so big in Daytona that MTV moved their entire broadcast operation there for several years in a row.

If you think Panama City Beach, you are younger still. The current “home” for spring breakers in Florida welcomes even more people than either Daytona or Fort Lauderdale ever did. While those cities have embraced a more family friendly vibe, Panama City now welcomes more than 500,000 college students every year for spring break festivities.

But we are beyond that kind of spring break, aren’t we, readers? And frankly, I don’t care how old you are. I’m going to tell you about some Florida beaches that offer more than just cheap hotel rooms and lax ID-checkers so we can all go have some grown-up fun in Florida!

There’s a beach for just about every type of person in Florida. Even if you’re an “anywhere but a beach” type person, I think I might even have one for you.

If you love searching for treasures on the beach…

Sanibel Island

Photo Credit: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel/www.FortMyersSanibel.com

The beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel offer some of the best shelling you can find anywhere in the world. Bring your water shoes, because those shells are hard on the feet, but bring a bag for collecting some of the loveliest specimens you can find in the US.

The island of Sanibel offers laid back luxury, but you can also find less expensive places to rent if you plan far in advance. You can often find Fort Myers hotel deals if Sanibel is booked.

If you love having a beach to yourself…

Navarre Beach FL

Photo Credit: Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office

Florida’s panhandle is home to white powder beaches and gentle green/blue surf, but Navarre Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore may be the most extreme examples. And because the beaches are protected as a National Seashore, the only thing missing is something you won’t miss: hordes of people.

The barrier island offers miles of unspoiled beaches, a quiet but busy fishing pier, and a marine park and sea turtle conservation center. If you like a natural setting, this is the Florida beach for you.

If you are all about the surfing…

New Smyrna Beach

Photo Credit: New Smyrna Beach Area CVB

The Atlantic Coast beaches are where you’ll find the surf… most of the time. For the most consistent surf, head to New Smyrna Beach, where rock ledges off the coast create reliable surf breaks at the Ponce Inlet.

Where there’s surf, there are surfers, and New Smyrna Beach is full of them, giving the town a classic surf city vibe. If you’re new to the sport, head to one of the local surf shops – which are frequented more by actual surfers than by tourists looking for t-shirts – for lessons and board rentals.

If you prefer to watch, you might enjoy Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill which is all about surfing. They show surfing videos from around the world on their video screens, and display surfboards on the ceiling.They pay homage to surf locales around the world with their global menu, too.

If you like to mix a little culture with your beach time…

Loews Don CeSar

Photo Credit: Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater

Imagine strolling along the beach in the morning, and taking in world-class collections of art in the afternoon, and going to the symphony in the evening. Yes, you can do that in Miami, but over on the Gulf Coast, there’s a beach with gentler waves calling your name. Just across the bay from Tampa, St. Pete Beach is home to some of the nicest beaches in the country.  But for culture vultures, the city of St. Petersburg a short drive inland offers the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mahaffey Theater, home of the Florida Orchestra. And for foodies, the 20,000 square foot Locale Market offers regional produce.

The legendary Don CeSar beachfront hotel is a classic of old Florida style that has recently been renovated.

If you just really love Miami…

I mean, Miami is still pretty nice. There are some great places to stay in Miami, too. But if you want to find the best Florida beach for you, dig a little deeper to find the perfect match.

 

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.

What's the perfect Florida beach for you?

Where to Get Your Mid-Century Modern Fix on Vacation

Where to Get Your Mid-Century Modern Fix on Vacation

If you love teak wood, simple lines, and pops of color, why not satisfy your mid-century modern fix while on vacation? Whether you prefer the sleek lines of International Style city skyscrapers, the integration with nature of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the the kitschy 50s resort style, you can find it in its original or restored glory around the country.

The destinations below have loads of examples of mid-century architecture and design to explore, and places to stay that reflect the style of the 1950s.

Palm Springs

The desert oasis of Palm Springs has been treasured since it’s first inhabitants, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, arrived 2000 years ago. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was an exclusive playground for Hollywood’s stars. After World War II, when the Indians who had been granted moat of the land in the area were finally permitted to sell their land for a profit, there was a development boom just as a new modern style of architecture took hold.

The gorgeous mid-century architecture has been reclaimed and revitalized without going too far into the realm of kitsch. You can find residential and commercial gems by John Lautner and Donald Wexler and Richard Neutra’s iconic Kauffman House via a self-drive tour or guided tour.

For places to stay in Palm Springs, try The Parker, a mid-century resort that once belonged to Gene Autry, or the recently renovated L’Horizon, where you can live like one-time guest Marilyn Monroe. If you prefer a rental, try Vacation Palm Springs.

Wildwood


The east coast version of Palm Springs lies on the Atlantic Ocean, but residents only recently thought to capitalize on the kitschy “Googie” architecture that flourished there in the 1950s and 60s. As a result, many of the mid-century hotels have been demolished in favor of more contemporary developments in the popular resort town.

Today, though, the city promotes it’s “Doo Wop” architecture as a tourist destination, along with its classic New Jersey boardwalk. The bright neon, the courtyard pools, and the over-the-top colors are now celebrated even as modern development grows up around it. The city is promoting other mid-century and vintage events throughout the year to bring travelers to the area in the off-season.

For places to stay in Wildwood, try the Bel Air Hotel or the Caribbean, both relatively well-preserved examples of the Doo Wop style.

Pittsburgh

Three of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations, including his masterpiece of Usonian architecture, Fallingwater, are within a couple of hours of Pittsburgh. If Fallingwater is the critical favorite, Kentuck Knob is the sentimental second for its warm woods, cool stone and walls of glass overlooking nature and and the Youghiogheny River below.

You can even stay in one of Wright’s creations at Polymath Park Resort in the Laurel Highlands. Set among wooded trails, the Duncan House features many of Wright’s signature elements – warm wood, built-in cabinetry, natural stone and neutral colors make the home feel like a part of the woods.

For places to stay in Pittsburgh, try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco or the Ace Hotel in a former YMCA building downtown.

Chicago

Chicago offers a full menu of 20th century American architectural styles, and the Chicago architecture tour by boat is not to be missed.

One midcentury building you will not miss is Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina Center (pictured above), whose poured concrete curves are a direct reaction to the sharp angles of the stark International Style skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe (though Goldberg was a student and a fan of Mies).

If you’re a Frank Llloyd Wright fan, Chicago is where you will find the highest concentration of his buildings, including Unity Temple, the Robie House, the Rookery, and his own home and studio. Many tours are available by foot, by bike, and by motor through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

For places to stay in Chicago, try the Langham, a five-star hotel housed in a skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, or the Park Hyatt, with a subtle midcentury style.

Do you have favorite mid-century modern destinations in these cities or others that we’ve missed here? Let me know in the comments below.

This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.

A Welsh girl and her rabbit: Welsh Rarebit Recipe

A Welsh girl and her rabbit: Welsh Rarebit Recipe

This post was sponsored by Visit Wales.

Welsh Rarebit Recipe #welshrarebitday

A Welsh girl and her rabbit: a recipe for Welsh Rarebit

My grandfather said that his Welsh forebears were horse thieves, which is just about all I know about that branch of the family. I have no reason to doubt his story, except the twinkle in his eye when he told it.

So when the Welsh tourism board asked me to develop a Welsh Rarebit recipe for National Welsh Rarebit Day (yes, of course there is a National Welsh Rarebit Day!) on September 3rd, I thought I could do a little investigation into my culture and melt some cheese in honor of my Welsh heritage.

 

Who are the Welsh, anyway?

The Welsh people are descended from at least two distinct tribes – one Celtic tribe from the north known as the Ordovices, and the Silures who may have come from Spain in the south. They were invaded by Romans, Germans, and British over the centuries, but maintained a distinct Welsh language and culture.

While some foods named for places are not really from those places – Bolognese sauce comes to mind – Welsh Rarebit really did originate in Wales, but it began as Welsh Rabbit.

 

So what is Welsh Rabbit?

It’s not rabbit at all – never was. Welsh Rabbit is a dish of cheese melted with mustard and beer and then poured over toast. Some say that Welsh hunters were not allowed to eat the rabbit they killed for their English masters, so this cheese-on-toast dish served as a substitute.

 

And how did we get from Rabbit to Rarebit?

The term “rarebit” really had no meaning before it was used to describe this dish, and seems to have been someone’s attempt in the 18th century to correct the word “rabbit,” since, as we have established, the dish does not contain and never has contained rabbit. I think that person did not have a sense of humor.

Welsh Rarebit Ingredients

In my recipe, I decided to use a New York Cheddar from Trader Joe’s, to reflect my American heritage, and an Irish butter, to honor my Irish blood and the Celtic Ordovice tribes. I used Colman’s Mustard Powder, in honor of my possibly-equine-compromised Coleman great-great-grand-family, and a smoked paprika or pimentón from Spain for the Silures. I used Lord Sandy’s vegetarian Worcestershire sauce for my vegetarian daughter, and to reflect my current home near Washington, DC, I chose a Black Peppercorn Saison from DC’s 3 Stars Brewing for the ale.

Paige’s Welsh Rarebit Recipe

1T butter (I used Kerrygold salted Irish butter)

2 T flour

1 t mustard powder

1 T Worcestershire sauce 

1 t smoked paprika

1/2 t salt

1/2 t black pepper

A little more than a half pound of cheddar cheese, grated or thinly sliced

1/2 c Black Peppercorn Ale from 3 Stars Brewing or your favorite ale

8 slices good crusty wheat or sourdough bread, sliced and toasted.

Tomato slices (optional)

Melt the butter with the Worcestershire sauce over low heat* and stir in the flour and all the dry seasonings. Add the cheese and stir constantly to melt. When it is nearly melted, add the ale all at once. Stir to blend the ale and spices completely, then remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce over the toasted bread, and top each with a slice of tomato. This is optional, but tomatoes are in season and just about everything goes better with a fresh picked tomato, right?

*Most recipes call for using a double boiler, but I don’t have one, so I just used a very low heat to melt my rabbit.

 

Show off your best Welsh Rarebit Burger Recipe! And win!

You know what else would go great with cheese, bread, and tomato? A burger! Why not add a #WelshRarebitDay flair to your Labor Day cookout?

I’ll tell you why you SHOULD! In honor of National Welsh Rarebit Day, you could win a gift pack of Welsh cheeses in our photo competition. To enter, make a Welsh Rarebit Burger for your Labor Day weekend cookout; post a photo of it on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. Be sure to include #WelshRarebitDay and tag both @VisitWales and @tweetthemap and post your photo by midnight, on Tuesday morning, September 6th. Visit Wales will select the reader with the most creative burger, and they will win a gift pack of gourmet Snowdonia Cheese Company Welsh cheeses!

Good luck and happy eating!

Pin the photo below so you can remember this recipe and get cheesy whenever you want to.

Welsh Rarebit Recipe

Rent a hacienda in the Yucatan for a great family getaway

Rent a hacienda in the Yucatan for a great family getaway

The flowers! A blush of red above, a carpet below of the falling flowers of the flamboyán trees that bloom with not wild but distinguished abandon. They offer just a hint of the spectacular warmth that guests receive when they rent Hacienda Petac in Mexico’s Yucatán.

Flamboyan trees at Hacienda Petac in Mexico's Yucatan

The flamboyan trees at the entrance to Hacienda Petac provide both shade and carpet as their bright petals drop.

Hacienda Petac is a vacation destination somewhere between a vacation rental and a five-star resort. Built from the ruins of a former sugar factory, today’s Hacienda Petac is a stunning compound with lush grounds, soaring ceilings, and everything you could possibly need for a relaxing vacation.

Let’s start with the obvious: Hacienda Petac is drop dead gorgeous. The owners purchased the property in 2003 and with the help of architect Salvador Reyes Rios they used the sturdy bones of the factory and elaborate administrative buildings to create a property that is at once historic and modern.

The grounds are lush in this rather notably dry area. Thousands of gallons of water are recycled through the irrigation system to create a diverse landscape of flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and stately trees that shade the property.

The possibilities are legion at Hacienda Petac. They really want to make the experience work for you and your group – a gathering of friends, a family reunion, small wedding, birding group or whatever group of people you can find to make the trip work for you.

When you arrive, you pull through the gate to see a sprawling compound before you, shaded by those welcoming trees. After a welcome drink of iced jamaica – a hibiscus tea – to cool you from the midday heat, you are led to your rooms by the lovely Colleen, who has been managing the property since 2010.

The first thing you’ll notice is the fresh flowers decorating the bed. It’s one of many small touches that indicate the attention and care that the staff give to every guest. Each room is different, but all include elements from the original factory. The soaring ceilings in the rooms and large bathrooms are humbling. The history feels alive, honored, and respected, though the property is completely transformed.

Let me take you through a day at Hacienda Petac:

When you wake up, if you’d like coffee you can hang a (hand-sewn!) sign on your doorknob, and within minutes a smiling staffer will have a cup of coffee for you, and by your second day she will know how you like it and will bring milk and sugar as you wish.

Coffee is ready when you are at Hacienda Petac

Morning coffee as soon as you’re ready at Hacienda Petac

At the appointed breakfast time (which you’ll arrange with Colleen the night before), you’ll go to the breakfast table. The table might be by the pool or in the dining room in the main house, but it will always be set with fancifully folded napkins and an artful array of fresh flowers. Servers come around with fresh juices and more coffee or tea, followed by a traditional Yucatecan breakfast like chilaquiles, chaya (a local spinach-like vegetable) omelet, or a more traditional US breakfast like eggs and bacon, with fresh fruit, granola and yogurt always available.

Beautiful table setting at Hacienda Petac

Every table is set with flowers at Hacienda Petac

After breakfast you have some choices:

  • Borrow some bikes from the hacienda and explore the neighboring towns. There’s a paved bike path not too far away.
  • Relax by the pool. Ah… the pool. The pool is made from the factory’s former water storage tank, where the stairs measured how many days worth of water remained. Today the pool has just the right mixture of shade and sun, and two hammocks where you can either sit with your feet dipping into the pool, or lie in the shade for a good read. Or maybe – probably – a nap.
  • Schedule a spa treatment. Margel, one of the local women employed at Hacienda Petac who was trained in massage and facial techniques by a local non-profit, has developed an impressive array of treatments based on traditional Mayan methods. They are offered in the dedicated spa building, where you can have treatments in private spaces either indoors in the air conditioning or outdoors in the fresh air.
  • Learn to cook or make a cocktail. Depending on your degrees of expertise and ambition, you might learn to make something as simple as guacamole or as complex as the multi-step local specialty, panuchos – black bean-filled tortillas that are fried and topped with chicken, avocado, marinated onion, and more.

For the kids, the choices are just as inviting:

  • Game room. In one of the former factory buildings, there’s a pool table (that can be easily converted to ping pong), card table, all the games you could possibly imagine, a sound system for music. And the modern abstract art on the walls? That’s the graffiti they found when the owners bought the place, framed and looking like Jean-Michel Basquiat masterworks.
The game room at Hacienda Petac in Mexico's Yucatan

The game room at Hacienda Petac

  • A kid-friendly cooking class – The kitchen staff leads the kids in making fresh fruit popsicles they can eat later in the day.
  • Arts and crafts – The kids can make a piñata that they can break open on their last night at the hacienda.
  • Explore! Kids can ask for an archaeology map that will take them on a tour of the property that ends with finding a Mayan shard.

 

There is good, fast wifi coverage throughout the property, though you may jump from one router to another as you move from your room to the pool or the spa.

The owners have very thoughtfully hidden a huge (80 inch!) tv inside a cabinet in one of the buildings so that if you would prefer that your children not know that it’s there, they won’t, but if you really really have to watch the Super Bowl or the World Cup or election returns or Spongebob (I won’t tell), you can.

When I returned to my room on my last night to find my bed again decorated with fresh flowers, I got a little teary. This time I knew the person who picked the flowers and the one who made the design and the one who made the bed and the one who did the laundry and the one who brought me coffee in the morning. I knew something about their stories. I knew all this hospitality is borne from a love of this place, a respect for history, a desire to provide a warm respite for visitors.

The Particulars

Hacienda Petac can be booked only as a rental of the full property, fully staffed. This is a good thing.

Round up your favorite people – the ones you haven’t seen in ages but you want to have hours-long conversations with over poolside cocktails or late night tequila shots or hibiscus tea – and rent the whole place for 4 days or a week.

All your meals will be included, along with airport transfers, a trip to Merida, a cooking lesson in their soaring kitchen, and my favorite: daily laundry service.Drop your dirty clothes into a bin in your bathroom in the morning, and by evening they will be cleaned, dried, folded and back in your room. Magic.

On your final night, you’ll have a dreamy serenade by one of the Yucatan’s most famous guitar trios: Los Tres Yucatecos. With the frogs and crickets singing backup, and the chalk blue of dusk darkening behind the Moorish arches of the hacienda’s main house, you will hang on every note that rings from each guitar, wishing this night didn’t have to be your last.

One thing is without a doubt, if you rent Hacienda Petac for yourself and your family, you will be well cared for.

I was a guest of the Hacienda Petac and Yucatan Tourism, but I would be singing their praises even if I weren’t. My opinions are my own.

Pin this so you won’t forget!

Rent Hacienda Petac in the Yucatan for a great family getaway - www.alloverthemap.net

Learn more about other hacienda hotels in the Yucatan in my article on TravelMamas, where I blog as the Startup TravelMama.

How to Shop in Paris Department Stores

This post is brought to you by Galeries Lafayette.

Freedom and Independence

The white t-shirt with the breezy blue script reading “j’♥ Paris” was a staple in my wardrobe for many years, a souvenir of my very first trip abroad, the first time I tasted freedom and independence from my parents. (Ironically aided by the bit of spending money my parents gave me for souvenirs and gifts, but still.) I had bought it in a Paris department store – no street vendors for me. I wanted to shop like a grown-up French woman!

France taught the United States everything we needed to know about freedom and independence back in the 1700s, and I felt it on that trip.

For me, as a teenager, that meant shopping.

As an adult, I know that it’s more than a little crass to liken consumer choice to the essential liberties for which our forebears fought, but bear with me.

Americans in Paris

Today, shopping in Paris means many different things, from combing the flea markets at St. Ouen, to pampering in the ultra-luxury shops in the Place Vendôme. But nothing compares to the experience of shopping in the grand department stores of Paris.

This month, one of the largest of those, Galeries Lafayette, is offering American shoppers special deals in their flagship store in Paris to celebrate the American Independence Day.

Galeries Lafayette has been home to Paris fashion since 1912, when its soaring art deco cupola first sheltered the 45,000 square meters of retail floor space below. Now encompassing more than 75,000 square meters, the Galeries Lafayette Hausmann offers shoppers thousands of choices, all arranged with a certain Parisian style.

Galeries Lafayette remains home to cutting edge fashion for both men and women, with fashion shows every Friday. Personal stylists are available, as are VIP lounges. The men’s store at Galeries Lafayette is among the largest dedicated menswear spaces in the city.

The store has always been a home to gourmet food and wine. Today you can choose from more than 20 restaurants within the store, from caviar and macarons to dim sum and, yes, hamburgers. Lest you think that is too American, the Bordeauxthèque will bring you back to France with a collection of historic vintages next to affordable current offerings.

You can’t get much more French than this: in 1951 Edith Piaf performed a concert in front of the store.

The rooftop terrace at Galeries Lafayette, from which visitors can view the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre, is a cherry on top for visitors. Or is it a strawberry? Also on the rooftop: a strawberry garden, because why not?

Celebrate American Independence in French Style

For the Fourth of July, and all throughout the month, Galeries Lafayette offers a curated selection of patriotic gifts for Americans in Paris. Their shop windows feature animations that all visitors will want to see.
Right now, American citizens who visit the store receive a 10% discount just for showing their passport at the Concierge Desk.

In addition, with certain minimum spending, American shoppers not only gain access to the Express Tax Refund Desk and Lounge Area, but also a cruise on the Seine River!

Wherever you do your shopping, if you live outside of Europe, be sure to stop by the tax refund counter in the store to receive a refund of the 12% VAT that is charged on purchases. You will need to show your passport and your receipts, and there is usually a minimum purchase amount, but you may be able to receive the refund on the day of your purchase in the store. If not, you may receive it at the airport, before you go through security.

This post is brought to you by Galeries Lafayette, 40, boulevard Haussman, 9e arrondissement.