Shermanstravel Blog

Paris

The travel gods must be angry this month – otherwise, we don’t know how to explain the recent spate of transportation breakdowns happening around the world. France, New York City, San Francisco; you name it, something’s going wrong. As a result, we feel like crawling under a rock and hiding until the madness has passed. But for many of you, not traveling is simply not an option – and anyway, that’s just part of the fun of traveling, right?

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Sure, you have your pick of any number of great hotels in France, but why not try something a little different on your next visit? These ten unique accommodations are not only memorable, but very affordable, too.

A 15th-Century Castle

France, Castle, Chateau

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Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp, BelgiumBetween 1873 and 1935 the Red Star Line shipping company transported more than two million European migrants from Antwerp, Belgium to new lives in the “New World” of the United States and Canada. The shipping line’s former warehouses, which stood empty and decaying (and slated to be turned into apartments) since the line ceased operations, will reopen as a museum on September 28th.  Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, the architectural firm behind the renovation and preservation of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and Grand Central Terminal, were responsible for the warehouses’ restoration.

The museum will likely draw many American visitors who will be able to research their ancestry and see the very place, in a warehouse at the port of Antwerp, where their ancestors embarked on these life-changing journeys. Also of interest will be the stories of the famous passengers who left Europe on the Red Star Line, such as Irving Berlin, whose family loaned his transposing piano to the museum, and Albert Einstein who, as he fled Nazi persecution, wrote a letter on Red Star Line stationery announcing his resignation from the Prussian Academy of Sciences — also on loan to the museum.

The museum’s slogan is “People on the Move,” drawing attention to the fact that “migration is a universal phenomenon” and links the experience of the Red Star Line’s passengers with that of contemporary migrants. Interactive exhibits will attempt to simulate the experience of immigration, including a visit to, first, a Warsaw travel agency and finally an intake center in New York City or Philadelphia.

Here are some other migration museums around the world where you can trace your heritage…

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Tourism Campaigns to LoveWhen was the last time you were inspired to visit a destination based on a commercial you saw on TV, or a poster ad in the subway? Savvy tourism marketing offices are on a never-ending crusade to bring new visitors to their country; and with a well-placed, visually striking, simply-worded ad, they often manage to achieve their goal. But what is the key to a successful tourism campaign? Well, if you follow the lead of these five winning campaigns, the answer is: cute animals, drag queens, and a great sense of humor. Read more

Ways to Save Time at The LouvreMillions of tourists flock to The City of Lights each year, almost all of them at least considering a visit to the Louvre – and with good reason. It’s one of the world’s largest museums, and it houses paintings and statues that have been famous for centuries. As always, a Paris trip requires serious planning; here are a few ways to maximize your time at the museum, avoid stress-inducing long lines, and beat the crowds once and for all. Read more

400th Birthday of Le Notre EventsFor travelers to France this year, there’s a big birthday bash you won’t want to miss. 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of André Le Nôtre, the father of the jardin à la français (the French formal garden), and the Île-de-France region is honoring the man who left a profound mark on French cultural heritage. This rock star of the garden world (if such a thing exists) experimented with landscape design on a grand scale; the Louis XIV’s royal playgrounds became Le Notre’s blank canvases. Wildly ambitious, Le Nôtre leveled landscapes to open up endless perspectives, diverted rivers, and created incredible fountains – complete with powerful jets – that continue to mesmerize visitors today. Here’s a round-up of celebratory events, many of which make for fabulous day trips from the French capital. Read more

Finnair Flight DealWe’re really excited about this incredible Finnair sale to popular destinations all across Europe. Jet to Dublin, London, Helsinki, and beyond with these amazing round-trip rates. The one catch? You’ve got to leave from New York’s JFK Airport. The travel window is huge (now through May 31, 2014) and you must book by July 31 and stay for a Saturday night, so hurry up and check out some of our favorite rates below! Read more

Best Pedestrian-Only Areas in CitiesAcross the globe, one trend is uniting many great cities: a push to develop pedestrian-only spaces in city centers. These street reclamations are taking place everywhere from Paris to New York, where scenic zones that used to be flooded with cars are now home to park benches, art installations, and safe areas for families to soak it all in. Here are some of our top picks for pedestrian-only areas in big cities worth checking out on your next trip. Read more

Madeira Lava PoolsIs the summer heat getting to you yet? There’s relief to be found at one of these public pools in Europe. Whether it’s panoramic views of the Mediterranean, or a 295-foot-high bungee jump you’re after, these 10 municipal water parks are guaranteed to add a little excitement to your summer getaway.

1. Lava Pools, Madeira, Portugal

Naturally-occurring volcanic rock has formed a series of tiny, stunningly beautiful pools on the northwestern coast of Madeira in Portugal. These ocean-filled ‘lava pools’ are the main attraction in the village of Porto Moniz, located about an hour north of Madeira’s capital, Funchal. Despite the wild geography, the area around the pools contains tourist-friendly amenities like changing rooms, lockers, showers, a restaurant, and a team of lifeguards. Entrance fee: $2.60. Read more

Hawaiian Airlines StopoverLike anyone else, we love the idea of a free trip. And that’s just what major airlines are offering when they advertise a “free” stopover in one of their home cities — essentially a bonus side trip to another city while en route to your final destination.

Not to be confused with a layover (a few hours in the airport while waiting for your connecting flight), a stopover is any stay longer than 24 hours in which travelers leave the airport and go explore the surrounding city. The length of a stopover is entirely up to the traveler, and since there is often no extra cost added to the original ticket, the stopover is considered free. (In airline speak, this is known as a “dual destination vacation.”)

But how exactly does one go about booking a stopover? And is it a better deal in the long run?

First off, it is important to understand why certain airlines provide free stopovers. In almost every case, these are major international carriers based in major hubs (Emirates/Dubai; Singapore Airlines/Singapore; Japan Airlines/Tokyo; etc.) that want to lure more tourists to their destination. Enticing travelers with a “free” stopover leads to hotel bookings, restaurant meals, and other tourism dollars that otherwise wouldn’t have been spent.

To book a stopover, select “multi-destination” or “multi-city” on the airline’s website and plug in the specific dates for your desired stopover. As long as your stopover is in the airline’s home city, chances are it will cost the same price as a ticket without a stopover.

For example, if I’m looking up flights from New York to Budapest in October, Kayak tells me that Aeroflot offers the cheapest route for $808, with a 3.5 hour layover in Moscow. If I then go to Aeroflot’s website and type in a multi-destination trip that includes two days of sightseeing in Moscow, the flight is the exact same price: $808.

Here are some more examples:  Read more

After-Hours Museum PartiesA visit to the museum needn’t be a serious, subdued affair – despite whatever you were told on the field trips of your school days. Many museums are catching on to the trend of keeping doors open after hours so that guests can combine a love of art and culture with good food, drinks, music and dancing. Here are a few of the best.

Warm Up at MOMA PS1, Long Island City, New York

This experimental summertime dance party is one of New York’s hottest tickets and runs on Saturdays from late afternoon through the evening. The museum’s courtyard is taken over by an installation created by the winner of their Young Architects Program while a stellar lineup of international DJs plays to the crowd. You can also expect food, drink and al fresco dancing come rain or shine. Read more

French Towns You Should SeeYou’ve strolled Paris’s cobblestone streets; soaked up the sun (and imbibed your fair share of rosé) in Provence, but France – the world’s most visited destination, welcoming more than 79.5 million international travelers in 2011 – isn’t limited to just these popular destinations. As a resident of Paris, I’ve been lucky to explore hidden corners of the hexagon. I’ve found an incredible diversity of landscapes, culture, and even cuisine. Here are four of my favorite off-the-path places.

Cap d’Ail: Cannes and Saint Tropez get most of the action on the Côte d’Azur with sun-worshipers crowding the beaches during the day, and trading couture swimsuits for designer threads to hit the nightclubs by night. But if you travel east along the French Riviera, you’ll find a series of villages that have retained an air of authenticity because they’re not on the main highway heading to Italy. Abutting Monaco, Cap d’Ail is one of these treasures. It’s still glam (there’s a Philippe Starck-designed restaurant on the water) – but it’s not overrun. Read more

Accor Hotels Super SaleThis summer, take the international vacation you’ve always dreamed of with Accor Hotels’ Super Sale. Enjoy a romantic vacation to Paris, explore the sights of Hong Kong, soak up the arts and culture of Sydney, and many more international destinations. With this sale, you’ll save up to 50 percent on seasonal rates at the same hotels. Valid for stays from July 6 through September 1, select properties include: Read more

Hotel Le Bristol GardenThe City of Light is rich with haute hotels. The grandest of dames line the posh streets of Paris’ 1st and 8th arrondissements, where affordable room rates are as rare as the 130 euro entrecôte steak served at dinner.

This summer, travelers with Veuve Clicquot tastes but PBR budgets can still sample the high life at three of the city’s ritziest digs. Luxury icons Le Bristol, Mandarin Oriental, and Raffles have debuted swank summer gardens currently open to the public. From Michelin-starred snacks to Dom Pérignon by the glass, these new spots provide the perfect taste of luxe Parisian hospitality – for considerably less than your average overnight. Read more

Paris Restaurants for LessWhoever told you that dining in Paris is expensive…pretty much told you the truth. It’s exceedingly difficult as a traveler to find affordable dinner spots in Paris. Fortunately, I can let you in on a little secret: Lunch is where it’s at.

If you want to gorge yourself on all of Paris’s prizes (bread, amazing meats, cheese, and wine) for a fraction of the price, do so during the lunch hour. Most Parisian restaurants serve a prix fixe menu during the day, so diners can sop up the same quality of food for far less. Here are two recommendations that will give you both a taste of quality French food and a glimpse into how the locals live: Read more

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