Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Can you guess the most popular European destinations to visit by rail?

Rail travel is the most sophisticated route to international adventure. Imagine sipping a cappuccino as you traverse the Tuscan countryside or enjoying a spot of afternoon tea while you await your arrival in Paris. It’s truly a relaxing, easy, and fast way to travel.

In fact, I believe rail travel is perhaps the best way to explore Europe. It quickly transports visitors between top destinations, without the hassle of road traffic or airport security. Plus, when taking a train from place to place, you depart from one city center and arrive in the next, completely eliminating the hassle and expense of those long transfers to the airport.

More than 713 million passengers traveled across the EU by rail between April and September of 2014, showing resurgence in popularity among locals and internationals alike. But can you guess what the top destinations to visit by rail were for the summer of 2014?

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Friday’s Friendly Funny: Where the moving sidewalks end

It’s Friday! Laugh your way into the weekend with this week’s Friday Funny from cartoonist Dave Blazek.

Friday’s Friendly Funny by Dave Blazek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at blog.friendlyplanet.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://blog.friendlyplanet.com.

Want to get away this holiday season? Now’s the time to book a vacation!

Imagine spending the holidays lounging on a gondola in Venice, spotting endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica, or salsa dancing with locals in Cuba, all at an affordable price. Well now’s your chance. Our team at Friendly Planet Travel is offering special deals on 38 travel packages to destinations across the globe, all with travel dates over the coming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Travelers can save up to an EXTRA $300 on select tours, but you have to book soon — these special offers end on Sept. 25, 2014. To help you picture that perfect getaway, I wanted to highlight just a few of the vacations that you could be booking for this holiday season.

Discover Havana: Through our people-to-people license, the Friendly Planet Travel team has helped more than 5,000 Americans visit Cuba legally. Cuba is a nation only 93 miles from the continental U.S., yet remains largely untouched by American influences. In fact, visitors often describe Cuba as a trip back in time. Our Discover Havana people-to-people program introduces travelers to the culture and daily life of the Cuban people. Travelers spend three eye-opening days in Havana, where activities include a visit with Cuban schoolchildren, a performance by a local dance group, and a meal at a paladar — a private restaurant run by a local family. In addition, they venture into the countryside to explore the coffee plantations of Las Terrazas and Hemingway’s Cuban retreat in Finca Vigia. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that truly unites two cultures through the magic of travel.

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The ultimate Christmas experience for every Downton Abbey fan

Few places are more beautiful than London at Christmas time. The city transforms from a bustling metropolitan hub to a winter wonderland: gentle snow falls on city streets, white lights illuminate store fronts, and children glide across popup ice skating rinks.

The atmosphere is alive with Christmas spirit, and for that reason, we’ve developed our newest, one-departure-only tour to introduce travelers to this regal destination.

The London with Downton Abbey Christmas Ball tour not only transports travelers to the heart of London for four nights, but as an added bonus, passengers will attend the exclusive Christmas Ball at Highclere Castle — the filming location for the hit PBS TV show Downton Abbey. Dress up in black tie, perhaps inspired by a favorite Downton Abbey character, and spend the evening touring the castle, sipping Champagne, dining on a decadent three-course meal, listening to Christmas carols around the tree, and reenacting life in the Victorian era.

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What’s to come at Friendly Planet in 2010

I always enjoy this time of the year. It’s relaxing to get a few days off from work and spend the holidays with friends and family. As the year comes to a close, you reflect on how much you’ve accomplished, and think about what you want to achieve in the next year. 
 
I know what I’m looking forward to in 2010. We’re going to be introducing several new and exciting tours and community projects at Friendly Planet Travel. I want to share with you all a sneak peek of what’s going to happen.  
 
New Web site. One significant change will be our upgraded Web site. By the end of January, expect to see a faster, more responsive site. It’ll be filled with new tools for individual travelers, as well as a new search engine that will make it even easier to search for deeply discounted air and hotel packages to many foreign destinations including London, Rome, Paris, even the Caribbean. 
 
New booking engine. Along with a new Web site comes a new booking engine. It will let travelers book reservations completely online. It will be even more convenient for travelers to make deposits and final payments online, safely and securely with their own username and password. Travelers can also view their tour information, reservations, documents, invoices, destination guides, and other important details anytime. 
 
New travelers’ community. Another important feature of the new Web site is the new community, where we will host forums for our visitors, have places to post pictures and travel blogs, and provide various ways to interact with us. The forums will be important in getting feedback from our travelers, and allow people who are traveling solo to find roommates easily through our site.
 
New micro-lending project in India. As you’ve heard me talk about before, we’re working on projects with Kiva and the Trailblazer Foundation, and now we’re looking into launching a new micro-lending project in India. It will fund the purchase of rickshaws for drivers who are presently forced to rent them by the day, giving up a good part of their daily earnings, rather than keeping them to support their families.
 
Since these drivers have no access to credit to fund the loans for the rickshaw purchase, they are forced into this rental situation. If we’re able to create a fund that allows the drivers to pay back the loan to us, and end up with the rickshaw in the end, the drivers will soon be able to keep the day’s wages for themselves. 
 
New ways to give back to needy students. We’re also organizing a collection of school supplies for every Friendly Planet travel destination where they are needed, but not available. This is the case in most of Africa, Asia, and certainly in India. Notebooks and pencils that are given to children directly are usually confiscated by needy families who then turn around and sell it for food. 
 
Our project will distribute the supplies to trusted teachers, who will store and distribute them as needed to students. The school supplies project is being organized by local guides in each place where the supplies are needed, and will be implemented early in the new year.
 

Thumbnail image for New Picture (3).jpgNew destinations. Finally, we’ll be adding new destinations to the Friendly Planet globe. Tours are being planned to Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), Bali, and Indonesia, plus a number of river cruises in Europe and Asia. In addition, several new ocean cruises will be available starting in the spring of 2010, via Louis Cruises and Costa Cruises, two familiar Friendly Planet favorites. 

 
These are just a few of the new things arriving in 2010. There is plenty more in the works for throughout the year, but this gives you a taste of what’s to come!

Customer testimonial: Friendly Planet Travel does it right

There’s nothing like being greeted by a little good news as you get ready for vacation. A customer testimonial came in recently that had me smiling from ear to ear.

"Friendly Planet does it right and does it well. A sure-fired way to get me back as a customer is to keep on doing what you’re doing. Your focus is on the traveler, your service is very responsive and your prices are very reasonable. The real advantage to a novice traveler, such as myself, comes from having experts who take the hassle and the fear of the unknown (new countries) and the guided tours are well organized and very instructive. Overall, Friendly Planet is a one of the best, if not the best, travel agency that I will revisit again and again."

 – Dana Davis, Wyncote, PA

Thanks, Dana! We WILL keep doing what we’re doing. As for the vacation part, I’m off to Europe for the next two weeks! But don’t worry, I’ll be keeping you updated with our regular Friendly Planet Travel news, as well as what’s happening on my side of the world. So stay tuned for pictures and stories from Gran Paris and beyond!

A little look at gran Paris (part 2)

Last week I gave you a little taste of beautiful Paris, through the eyes of my friend Leanna. When we left off, Leanna had described a diverse segway ride past many of the most incredibly attractions of Paris. She continues …
Our Segway tour guides, Simon and Billy, prepared a double-secret list of “best restaurants” not generally known to tourists. We seized immediately upon that. Our favorite restaurants that week were on that list. That was a much-appreciated extra “tip” from the guides to us!
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That same day, after exploring the Jardins du Luxembourg, we embarked on a night bike tour. The bikes were without lights, but we did have reflective jackets to warn any other tourists that we approaching.
We rode at breakneck speed from the Eiffel Tower to the Latin Quarter, over the bridge to the Ile Saint Louis, past Notre Dame, down the Champs Elysee to the Seine, where we took a midnight flyboat up and down the river. The boat trip treated us to sights along the riverbanks — folk dancers, rows of young men mooning the boat, lovers leaning against the walls with wine, the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower on the hour.
Next, we enrolled in a wine and cheese tasting class, held in an old subterranean cellar, formerly some sort of prison. Our sommelier was very French, very knowledgeable, and the wine was delicious (we scored a bottle of Sancerre). The other folks in the class were fun, and we ended up sitting with the family of Ted Nugent (remember “Cat Scratch Fever”?).

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Of course, Leanna’s description of delectable French delicacies doesn’t stop there. Stay tuned for the final post tomorrow, when Leanna will tell you all about the romance and flavor of dining in Paris.

A little look at gran Paris

In my travels over the years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to visit Europe. I’ve toured lots of cities and have rarely found a single one that I wouldn’t want to visit again. However, Paris remains in a category all by itself.
I admit that Paris is my favorite, and each time I go there, I expect to be disappointed in some way, so that I can finally bump Paris from the top of my favorite places list and give that revered spot to another city. But it never happens. Paris never disappoints. It only inspires, entertains, enchants, engages, and always makes me fall in love with it all over again.
A business associate and friend, Leanna Johannes, spent a week in Paris last month for vacation. Like me, Leanna knows a great city when she sees one. She agreed to write about her journey, which I’ll post here on our blog. Enjoy, and see if you can resist planning your own visit to Paris after reading! The following was taken right from the pages of Leanna’s journal …
Although our entire week in Paris was filled with sunlight, romance, and good food and wine, certain occasions deserve particular note.
First of all, our hotel, Relais Hotel du Vieux Paris, was the perfect place to spend our time there, as it was located in the heart of the St. Germain de Pres, not far from the Latin Quarter, near the Place St. Michel and Metro. It is on a quiet street, just around the corner from the action and romance of the night cafes and street scenes.
Our windows opened to fresh air and a view of the Seine. Our room was spacious (by European standards), air conditioned (an important question to ask if you are making a reservation,) and had half-timbered beams exposed in the ceilings and walls (and even the bathroom with a tub).
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The attention to detail was impressive, from the Brunschwig & Fils fabrics to the piping lining the draperies and beams. The owner, Madame Odillard, and her staff were extremely helpful everyday. We agreed that this will be the hotel we return to, as there is nothing to improve upon.
FP_Paris2.jpgWhile in Paris, we spent our days taking in as much as the Parisian culture and sites as we could. The first sightseeing tour we took was the City Segway Tour of Paris. What a sight! I mean us on Segways — that was the sight. We tried so hard not to look like tourists — no athletic shoes, no jeans — and there we were, in a pack of obvious tourists, Segwaying at high speeds through the beauty of Paris.
We started at the Eiffel Tower, motored by Napoléon’s Tomb (originally built by King Louis XIV in 1676 as an exclusive place or worship for the Royal family, now the resting place of the most famous Frenchman in history), Ecole Militaire, Les Invalides, Alexander III Bridge (my favorite bridge of all), Grand and Petit Palais, and on to Musée D’Orsay, through the plaza of the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens (where we had lunch at a café nestled in the chestnut trees), down the Champs-Elysées from the Place de la Concorde, and past the Arc de Triomphe.
That’s a lot to see but we covered it all on those fast-moving, foot-friendly Segways! We booked our tour through Fat Tire Bike Tours, and found our young guides very helpful and friendly.

Stay tuned, because I’ll continue with Leanna’s trip through Gran Paris next week!

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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