Two Grandmas in Paris

My co-writer, Ruth, just returned from a trip to Paris, so I’ve asked her to share her experiences and some photos. All pictures are from Ruth’s most recent trip in September and were taken by her or her sister. Enjoy! -Elisebet

Eiffel Tower
The famous Eiffel Tower

From Ruth: My first visit to Paris was in—well, I won’t tell you how many years it’s been, but I was just a teenager. I was on my way back to the USA from Iran where I was an exchange student. Iran was an incredible experience, but Paris was different. Paris was enchantment.

In that brief one-day stopover, I viewed the City of Light at night from the Eiffel Tower. I walked the banks of the Seine, browsing through the green bookseller stalls as others had before me for more than three hundred years. I took my first-ever subway ride on the world’s second-oldest underground and walked in neighborhoods that Napoleon frequented. I was fascinated by everything around me, but my time was short. I promised to return someday. Twenty years later I did.

Ruth in Paris

This time I visited the major sites that I had missed before—Notre Dame, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe. I found the history interesting, but enchantment?  Well, I was older now; I had lived in Europe. Romance was gone; rudeness of French “officials” was present, and though locals tried to be helpful, communication was definitely an issue. European tourists might be sought after, but better to have a Canadian flag on your backpack if you hailed from North America.

Fast-forward another twenty years to September 2014. Two grandmas are in Paris for the week.  (Yes, my wonderful sister asked me to accompany her on a trip for two to Paris that she won in an online contest.) Impressions? Paris was both the same and different. What was the same? The history—the opulence and extravagant lifestyle of Louis XIV at Versailles, as well as the decadence and spiritual impoverishment of his reign. Napoleon’s remodeled Parisian neighborhoods with stone buildings rising up from streets of bricks and cobblestones were also the same. The underground, albeit with some new paint and plastic barriers, still carries millions (yes, millions) of travelers daily on the same routes under the same Parisian streets. And tourist sites?  They haven’t changed.

Above Versailles

The Louvre Palace still houses more ancient artifacts, paintings, and relics than one could see in a lifetime of visits. The Eiffel Tower has always offered the best view of the city at night, and kiosks are still rented on the Seine River bank to booksellers (though other items—to the horror of purists—are also now sold amongst the tomes).


Ruth’s sister enjoying the sites

The food of France?  Fresh crescents or baguettes can still be purchased for a lunch on a park bench, and the people of France?  They’re still helpful when needed—pedestrians stopping traffic to assist an ambulance through the crowded streets; a French shopkeeper showing the way to the nearest underground to two confused tourists (me & my sister); a man with a saxophone first shouting helpful directions to all at the station waiting for Versailles transport and then serenading us with a concert as we watched the outskirts of the city slide past from our train seats. But Paris was different, as well.

Ruth taking a pastry class in Paris

We were never far from a Starbucks (with French toast on the menu for breakfast) nor from a McDonalds (serving French macaroons along with hamburgers). H&M now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Louis Vuitton and Mercedes-Benz on the Boulevard Champs-Elysées. An indoor mall with scores of high-end shops greets your entry to the Louvre, and teenage offspring of Middle Eastern immigrants may wait on you at the North American-style food court.

Entrance/exit to the Subway

Those rude French officials? Apparently a thing of the past, and everyone under forty whom you encounter in a shop, on the metro, or in a museum speaks to you in English.  The traffic may still be horrendous, but motor bikes have replaced bicycles as scores of them line the sidewalks outside your motel. Pharmacies, marked with large florescent green crosses, are everywhere. (Apparently the French use them like walk-in clinics. Both my sister and I had occasion to use them, but that’s another story.) Yes, there were some minor snags —a return ticket from Versailles was not accepted, requiring an hour wait in line; our hotel room was not ready in time; airport drivers showed up late; a suitcase was ripped, and Air France was on strike at Charles de Gaulle Airport, BUT it really didn’t matter.  It was still Paris. It was still interesting, and it was enchanting.

Golden gate of Versailles
Have you been to Paris? If so, what did you like the most?
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Throwback Thursday: Halo Portable Battery Chargers (Link up too!) #tbt

 Halo Portable Battery Pack and Charger- My Life: A Work in Progress

I always want to come back and update product reviews months later, but life often gets in the way. Personally, when I’m researching a product I like to know how it’s performing after a long period of time. Bloggers often test a product for a couple or few weeks before reviewing it on their blogs. It’s the nature of the business. Companies understandably want a quick turn around.

Earlier this week, my sister-in-law, my two nephews, and my mother-in-law went along with me, Little J, and Hubby on a day trip to DC. Near the end of our visit, we stopped near some of the Smithsonian museums for a quick break. My SIL sat down on a low wall, and when I realized she’d pulled out a Halo Portable Battery Charger, it seemed too good of an opportunity to snap a photo and blog about it!

Electronics can’t replace love or human interaction, but they can often make life easier. The Halo company sent me several of their products last fall to review, including their stylish flashlights, the scanner mouse (which was a surprisingly popular post!), and their pocket power charger model 2800. The charger my sister-in-law is pictured with in this post is like the 2800 but a little bigger. It’s the Halo Pocket Power 5500, and it may not fit into your pocket as well, but it has more charging capabilities than the 2800. I handed out several of the 5500s to friends and family for their honest opinions. One has even been able to charge her iPad with it! She did say that it took a lot longer to charge an iPad than a cell phone (hours longer).

So how have our pocket power chargers been doing? Fantastic! We’ve used them on trips like this when we’re away from electrical outlets. We’ve used our chargers in airports when all the plugs at the charging station are being used (you know what I’m talking about). It’s easy to slip one in my purse or the diaper bag. In this digital age, I highly recommend that everyone invest in a portable battery charger.

Do you have a portable battery charger?
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Visit Puerto Rico, the All-Star Island

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Puerto Rico, The All-Star Island. All opinions are 100% mine.

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I’m excited to write about Puerto Rico today! Have you been? I’ve visited there twice, and loved each trip so much, that my life wish list includes buying a timeshare there. In fact, when my brother gave me a list of possible honeymoon locations he was considering, I immediately recommended Puerto Rico (he’s taking my advice!).

What I like about Puerto Rico the most is experiencing a Caribbean paradise and island culture, without needing a passport or foreign currency. Just hop on a plane and go visit world-class attractions. Beach, forest, cavern, or city, you’ll find it here. Live your own 5-star vacation story in Puerto Rico.

Did you know that Puerto Rico has 270 miles of coastline? The Travel Channel has even featured Puerto Rico in its list of the Top 10 Beaches. Specifically, Flamenco Beach is often cited as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

At night, visit the Bioluminescent Bay by boat or kayak and watch as beautiful micro-organisms light up the water around you.

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest under the U.S. Forest Service. There are 24 miles of recreational hiking trails in El Yunque, including the popular La Mina Trail and the El Yunque trail. The first takes you to a gorgeous waterfall and pool you can swim in, and the second takes you to the Dwarf Forest. I haven’t made it up there, but I’ve been told it’s so high, that there are clouds around you.

Here’s my dad and I on the La Mina Trail, during my first visit to Puerto Rico. Hiking this trail is a good workout!

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If you’re a more adventurous type, you may love the caverns in Camuy. The world’s third largest subterranean river runs through them.

Are you a history buff? If so, you absolutely must visit Old San Juan! The forts there are several hundred years old and massive. The battlements have been designated not only a National Historic Landmark, but also a World Heritage Site.

Here I am at one of the forts. See how high those walls are?!

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Outside the forts, the city and streets themselves have gorgeous, old, historic structures. It’s not uncommon to walk down a cobblestone street and have each house you pass painted in a different, vibrant color. San Juan is truly a colorful city.

And never fear…they have a Starbucks!

The authentic Puerto Rican food is amazing. My favorites include fried plantains, pastelillo (like an empanada), and rice and beans. If you enjoy seafood, try the fresh-caught fish. I’ve also heard the local rum is good, but as I’m not a drinker, I couldn’t say for sure!

Learn more- Like on Facebook and Follow @PRTourismCo on Twitter.

Tell me, why would you like to visit Puerto Rico?

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