Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 10: France, Letters from Père Noël

It’s Day 10 of our Advent Calendar and today we are headed to France to find out why children around the world are sending their letters to the French Father Christmas. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

FRANCE: LETTERS FROM FATHER CHRISTMAS

All around the world people are sending out their Christmas cards, while young children will certainly already have mailed their letters to Father Christmas so that the good old man knows exactly what he should bring for Christmas. But did you know that it was the French who started with the tradition of Father Christmas – or Père Noël as the French call him –  replying to each letter he receives?

Until the 1950s, the fate that awaited most letters sent to Father Christmas, was being destroyed. In France it was against the rules to open the letters but in the beginning of the 1950s, a French postal worker decided to ignore the rules. She opened the letters and started replying to each of them. By 1962, her idea had become so mainstream that the French Ministère des Postes en des Télégraphes set up an official post office dedicated to answering letters on Father Christmas’ behalf.  Nowadays the office receives over a million letters each year, from all over the world.

Do you want to send a letter – or an email – to Père Noël? You can, until December 18, and the good old man will let his helpful French volunteers and postal workers pen in a response, for you. You can visit the French Post’s official website for more information (in French).

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Paris Marco Polo Spiral Guide

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What bloggers are saying about Marco Polo Guides

Our travel guides are often found in the hands of travel bloggers and who better to put them to the test! Here is what a few of them had to say about Marco Polo Guides:

Heels in My Backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Rome Spiral Guide: “It’s difficult when you’re visiting somewhere for the first time and only have a short amount of time to experience it. How are you meant to prioritise what to do? Should you just hit the big time high profile sights? Try to go off the beaten path?

Well this is the predicament I was in when I visited Rome last month. My Anchored cruise was departing on the Sunday and I decided to fly in on the Friday night so I could enjoy a full Saturday of Rome goodness. So essentially I needed to experience Rome in a day… I mean I know Rome wasn’t built in a day so presumably it would be difficult to see it all in a day, right?

Enter my brand new and shiny Marco Polo Spiral Guide to Rome.

To maximise my time, I thought I’d try out one of their ‘Perfect Day’ itineraries to make sure I was making the most of this glorious day.

And it really was glorious, it was 33 degrees celsius on this particular day. Not the ideal temp for walking around in the boiling sun all day, but hey, I went with it.
There are several day itineraries in the guide but I decided to go for the ‘Ancient City’ variation. Mainly because it included the Colosseum and I’m basic like that. But also because it looked like it had a good mix of the big sights I had heard of and under the radar gems.” See the full post here: heelsinmybackpack.com.

The Sunny Side of This

Photo credit: thesunnysideofthis.com

Brussels Pocket Guide: “My favorite parts of their guide were the Do’s and Dont’s of Belgium (particularly the driving laws of the city), the useful phrases section both in French and Dutch, and their Discovery Tours suggestions. For this review we did a little bit of a mix and match of their Discovery Tours section, given that we had the baby with us and we wanted to go around by public transportation.

We were also very relieved that the restaurant suggestions all come with the place’s schedules. Restaurants in Brussels are usually not open on Sundays, and only open during lunch time or dinner (ex. 12-2, and 6-9pm). Luckily, the park we visited had a festival that particular weekend and it was filled with food trucks!” Read more on thesunnysideofthis.com.

Sophie’s Suitcase

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

London Spiral Guide: “I had a lovely 48 wandering London and used my trusty guide to keep me heading in the right direction and I came across so many lesser known shops, cafes and restaurants because of this. Marco Polo Travel Guide books trump other equivalent maps because each time the book mentions a place, whether it’s a cafe, bar or landmark, it also makes sure it references the map co-ordinates too so that you can find the place super easy. BINGO!” See the full post on sophiessuitcase.com.

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

Paris Spiral Guide: “We also sat down with a cup of tea and planned the next 48 hours of our lives, in beautiful Paris! I don’t know why but I hadn’t really asked for tips and tricks from the internet and instead was relying solely on my new Marco Polo Travel Guide to get us from one spot to another.

As we were only going to be in Paris for 48 hours we circled the places we really wanted to visit, and then crossed a few others off the list that we would save for another trip. We mapped out our route for the days and used the book to find out opening times, entry prices and how we would get there.” Read more on sophiessuitcase.com.

Tara Povey – Where is Tara

Photo credit: whereistara.com

Dublin Spiral Guide: “If it’s your first time in Dublin, especially if you’re just visiting for a weekend, you might feel a bit overwhelmed about where to begin and how to really make the most of your time to experience the best that the city has in store. Never fear. Marco Polo and I are here to help you out. Marco Polo, you ask? The famous explorer? Well, kind of – The Marco Polo Dublin guide, stuffed to the gills with useful information. It’s a real gem when it comes to maximizing your time and planning your trip. Each part of the city is handily dealt with in separate sections. It’s easy to see at a glance which attractions are close to each other, how to get to them, and where to find great food without going out of your way. Navigating and finding your way around has never been easier.” Find out more on whereistara.com.

Alice – Teacake Travels

Photo credit: teacaketravels.com

London Spiral Guide: “There’s just so much to see and do around London! You could spend months and months here without barely scratching the surface. Yet, when time is so short, we need to get to the point!

What if you want to do something different, like that time I set out to discover the street art scene in Shoreditch? What if you want to see a different side of London, hangout in places that you won’t find in most guidebooks, see the city’s charmingly British eccentricity and hit up some of the most weird London attractions?

You could spend hours searching for tidbits online or alternatively arm yourself with my advice and a copy of the Marco Polo London spiral guide.

Divided into sections for different parts of the city, each chapter has a handy map and suggestions on how to maximize your time, leaving you able to discover the different parts of London with ease. There’s also terrific digestible recommendations for places to eat and drink in here, to stop you feeling overwhelmed from all the wonderful dining options in London!” See the full post on teacaketravels.com.

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Only in Paris

Paris, the city of love, fashion, gastronomy, art – and the city of lights. Paris has always been a metropolis where only the best is good enough, a city of superlatives.  Faster, prettier, bigger, glossier than other cities in France, and comparable to other capital cities around the world such as London or New York. But few cities have the flair and romance of Paris. Discover what makes Paris so special with Marco Polo’s tips:

Paris Marco Polo Guide

GOURMET MECCA

Paris is known as the culinary capital of the world, whose restaurants have garnered Michelin stars. Julien, the gastronomic heart of the city, offers the best quality with opulent Belle-Époque surroundings.

ARCADES – NOSTALGIE A LA FRANÇAISE

Paris is defined by the splendour of its past. Upscale covered shopping centres such as the Galerie Vivienne have existed since the 18th century and are typical of parts of the city even today.

MULTICULTURAL METROPOLIS

Chinese, Indians and Africans from every part of the continent have all injected culture and an exotic flair into certain districts. The African market, Marché Barbès, is a tantalising example.

PURE LUXURY

Paris is the epitome of luxury products and is celebrated for its champagne, perfume and fashion. You can find a large selection of luxury items at the ‘Triangle ‘d’Or’ – the golden triangle – centred around the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

MUSEUMS OF INTERNATIONAL RENOWN

Apart from the Louvre – the museum with the largest exhibition space in the world – the Centre Pompidou boasts the most comprehensive collection of modern art in Europe today. The museum that best reflects Paris, however, is the Musée d’Orsay, with its collection of works by the French Impressionists.

STREET CAFÉS

Street cafés act as an extension of a Parisian living room. Even the tiniest space on the pavement has enough room for a couple of tables and chairs. The café terrace at the Café Marly at the Louvre is ideal for people-watching.

STEEPED IN HISTORY

There are few cities in Europe that can look back on such a tumultuous 2,000 year history. The Musée Carnavalet displays a profound and inspiring insight into the city’s past.

Buy the Paris Marco Polo Guide.

Paris Marco Polo Guide
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Top 5 Easter Destinations & Marco Polo Spring Giveaway

The Easter holidays are upon us but it’s not too late to plan a quick last minute getaway! Here are Marco Polo’s top 5 Easter destinations. Read on for inspiration and find out how you can win 5 Marco Polo Guides of your choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera!

Paris Marco Polo Guide

Paris

April in Paris, is there anything better? We love the city of lights in any season, but spring definitely adds to its charm. Visit the beautiful parks and gardens to witness the blossoming trees and stroll through the streets along the Seine. The famed patisseries with their chocolate marvels will make your Easter egg pale in comparison. Find a spot on one of the many terraces and enjoy the Parisian café culture with a café au lait or a pre-dinner apéro. You will not be disappointed.

Paris Marco Polo Guide

For Marco Polo Paris tips, check out our other blog posts.

 

Malta Marco Polo Guide

Malta

Malta during Easter is definitely worth a visit! You can enjoy the Easter processions around the island but don’t worry, restaurants and shops will be open for business. There are also many special Easter treats to sample, such as the Kwarezimal – Lenten biscuits – and Figolli – sweet almond cakes covered in icing or chocolate.

Of course, Malta remains close to our hearts because of its beautiful landscapes and fascinating history. The good weather doesn’t hurt either, and April is perfect for exploring the sights as the temperature will be around a comfortable 20 degrees.

Malta Marco Polo Guide

For more Malta tips, check out our other blog posts.

 

Amsterdam Marco Polo Guide

Amsterdam

The Netherlands is world-famous for their tulips, and April is the best time to see them in bloom. The Dutch tulip garden Keukenhof boasts a total of 800 varieties of tulips and the garden is easily accessible by public transport. In Amsterdam, when the weather is good, the locals will take to the terraces for a glass of wine and there are plenty of spots along the canals. Watch as the locals cycle by and enjoy the beautiful spring sunshine. Later on in April the city will become the centre of the orange-mania during the annual King’s Day celebrated on 27th April.

Amsterdam Marco Polo Guide

For more Amsterdam tips, see our blog posts.

 

Tenerife Marco Polo Guide

The Canary Islands

If you are in the mood for some sunshine and warm weather, the Canary Islands are your best bet. Lounge by the pool and work on your tan, or alternatively, experience a different Easter with the locals. Religious processions are a tradition here, and a lot of effort goes into re-enacting the sometimes gruesome events of the past.

Instead of an Easter egg hunt, you can have a more adventurous hike through the beautiful landscapes and breathe in the sea air.

Tenerife Marco Polo Guide

For more Canary Island tips, see our blog posts.

 

Bird’s eye view of Rome from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican

Rome

 Rome is the ultimate Easter destination. The Vatican is a must for those who wish to attend the Catholic Easter celebrations but there are more ways to enjoy the holiday. You should note that most of the city will be closed on Easter Sunday and Monday, including shops and museums. However, many restaurants will be open and you can sample the traditional Italian Easter menus. Chocolate eggs are also available in abundance. On Easter Monday do as the Romans do and head to a park for a picnic lunch.

Rome Marco Polo Guide

For more Rome tips, see our blog posts.


 

GIVEAWAY

To celebrate Spring, Marco Polo is organising an Easter giveaway! We are giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Guides of your choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera to one lucky winner, chosen at random.

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED!

How to enter?

Simply share the story of your most memorable Easter / Spring travel moment in the comments below. You can earn more chances to win by liking our Facebook page and by following our Twitter and Instagram accounts and by letting us know in your comment that you have done so.

The competition is open from Monday 3 April 2017 until Friday 7 April 2017 at 12.00 GMT. We will contact the winner personally via email using the email address used to leave the comment so make sure to check that it is spelled correctly!

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promotion is open to UK & European residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and their immediate families of Marco Polo, its agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
  2. To enter, simply comment on the blog post. Additional chances to win may be acquired by liking the Marco Polo Facebook page and by following the Marco Polo Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the entrant has done any of the mentioned actions, it should be stated in the comment.
  3. This competition will commence on 3rd April 2017 and all entries must be received by 12.00 GMT on 17 April 2017. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, posted late, misdirected, and incorrect, garbled or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid.
  4. No purchase necessary, however internet access is required.
  5. The Prizes: 1 x prize winner will receive 5 Marco Polo guides of their choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera (RRP £64.99).
  6. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if a winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The winner will be liable for all costs and expenses not stated relating to claiming or partaking of the prize.
  7. The promoter may substitute the prize for a prize of an equal or greater value if, for any reason the original item is unavailable.
  8. By entering, winners agree that if they win they will participate in any reasonable publicity arranged by The Promoter or its agencies.
  9. By entering the promotion entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms & conditions and by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The Promoter or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize.
  11. The Promoter or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of The Promoter or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.
  12. The Promoter reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering or to have tampered with the operation of the promotion or the Marco Polo website, or to be acting in violation of these terms and conditions.
  13. To the full extent permitted by law the Promoter will not accept liability for any loss, damage, injury or death arising from this promotion beyond its reasonable control. The Promoter is Marco Polo Travel Publishing, Pinewood, Chineham Business Park, Crockford Lane, Chineham, Basingstoke, RG24 8AL

Low Budget Paris

Want to visit Paris on a shoestring? Here are Marco Polo’s top tips:

Paris Marco Polo Guide 

 

Free museum admission

Hard to believe, but true: many museums in Paris do not charge admission. At www.paris.fr/musees you’ll find information on museums offering free admission, among which are the Musée Carnavalet, the Maison de Victor Hugo, the perfume museum Fragonard, the Musée de la Vie Romantique and the Musée d’Art Moderne.

One of the most highly recommended is the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The museum reopened several years ago after extensive renovations. Among the exhibits of modern art (including Pablo Picasso) you can admire Raoul Dufy’s Fée Electricité (the largest painting in the world) and La Danse by Henri Matisse, as well as a host of other masterpieces.

Stunning view from the terrace of the museum restaurant (the salads are highly recommended) over the Seine to the Eiffel Tower nearby. Opening times: Tue–Sun 10am–6pm (Thu 10pm) | Free admission (temporary exhibitions €5–11) | 11, av. du Président Wilson | 16th arr. | M 9: Iéna | www.mam.paris.fr

 

Food & Drink 

Free couscous! The Tribal Café (as well as a dozen or so other restaurants) provide a free meal on weekends. A small tip for a beverage is expected, however. The atmosphere is cosy, as though you were visiting friends. Fri/Sat couscous, Wed/Thu moules frites (mussels with chips), from 9pm. 3, cour des Petites Ecuries | 10th arr. |  Tel. 01 47 70 57 08 | M 4: Château-d’Eau

Vegetarian dishes are available at the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan – delicious currys from €4.50 and soups for €3. Daily | 24, rue Cail | 10th arr. | Tel. 01 42 05 78 43 | M 2: La Chapelle

Very inexpensive specialities from southwest France and the Basque region at the modest restaurant Chez Glandines in the nightlife district, Butte-aux-Cailles. Daily | 30, rue des Cinq Diamants | 13th arr. | Tel. 01 45 80 70 10 | M 6: Corvisart, M 9: Léna

 

Shopping

Belleville is the largest, cheapest and most exotic market in Paris – located in the colourful and multicultural district east of the city. Tue and Fri 7am–2.30pm | 20th arr. | M 2, 11: Melleville, M 2: Menilmontant

Second hand: designer clothing – including Kenzo, Chanel, Agnès B. – in excellent condition but requiring a bit of rummaging – can be found at Chercheminippes. 102, 109, 110, 111, rue Cherche Midi | 6th arr. | M 10: Vaneau | www.chercheminippes.com (French website – use Google translate if needed.)

 

Cheap hotel in central Paris? You got it!

One of the cheapest hotels in the centre of Paris is the Hôtel Tiquetonne. Quiet location (pedestrian precinct) in the lively quarter around Les Halles. Great value for money. 48 rooms | 6, rue Tiquetonne | 2nd arr. | Tel. 01 42 36 94 58 | M 4: Etienne Marcel | www.hoteltiquetonne.fr

 

Atmospheric organ concerts

A number of churches regularly offer free concerts. The rich sound of organ music resonating through the arches of Notre-Dame Cathedral is more than just a formidable experience – both visually and acoustically.  The free organ concert is held in Notre-Dame every Sunday at 4.30pm. www.cathedraledeparis.com

 

Free attractions with a view

For the best view of the city without paying an admission fee for the Eiffel Tower or the Tour Montparnasse, make the effort to climb the stairs of Sacré-Coeur.

The dazzling white basilica rising high above the city on Montmartre seems almost surreal, and cynics claim the domes look as if a confectioner has been having fun. The interior has a stunning giant golden Byzantine-style mosaic. The building was created as a national monument after France’s defeat by Germany in the war of 1870–71. In 1919 the pilgrimage church was dedicated to the ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’. Today, thousands make the pilgrimage up the many steps and enjoy the impressive view over Paris from the church’s forecourt. Daily 6am–11pm | 35, rue du Chevalier de la Barre | 8th arr. | M 2: Anvers | www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/

 

Paris on inline skates 

Every Friday evening, nearly 20 miles of the city are closed off for avid Rollerbladers. Inline skating through Paris is one of the most enjoyable ways of getting to know Paris – if only a small part. The fun begins at 10pm between Montparnasse station and the Montparnasse tower. Gare Montparnasse | 6th arr. | M 4, 6, 12, 13: Montparnasse-Bienvenue | www.pari-roller.com (French website – use Google translate if necessary.)

 

» Read more about Paris

Paris Marco Polo Guide

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Eat like a local Paris

To the French, eating is so much more than simply nourishment. It is also an essential means of social interaction and a vital ingredient in enhancing the quality of life. Here is Marco Polo’s guide to traditional French delicacies and the Parisian restaurants you are likely to find them in…

French delicacies

French specialties you should try on your visit to Paris: 

Boeuf bourguignon: braised beef in a Burgundy sauce

Bouillabaisse: fish stew made with Mediterranean fish

Brochettes de coquilles Saint Jacques: kebabs with scallops

Caneton à l’orange: roast duck in an orange sauce

Coq au vin: braise of chicken in red wine

Côtes de porc aux herbes: pork chops with herbs

Crème brûlée: a rich custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel

Crêpes Suzette: thin pancakes with Grand Marnier

Écrevisses à la nage: boiled crayfish in a spicy broth

Escargots à la bourguignonne: boiled snails in a garlic herb sauce

Fruits de mer: seafood, i.e. crevettes (prawns), huîtres (oysters) and coquilles/moules (mussels) – often served raw

Gigot d’agneau aux morilles: leg of lamb with morels

Gratin dauphinois: potato gratin

Homard à l’armoricaine: lobster in a tomato, onion, herb, white wine and cognac sauce

Moules marinières: steamed mussels in white wine with onions

Noisettes d’agneau: small lamb cutlets fried in butter

Pot-au-feu: stew with beef, chicken and a variety of vegetables

Profiteroles: small cream puff-pastry with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce

Quenelles de brochet: pickerel, cream and egg dumplings

Ratatouille: vegetables sauteed with olive oil, onions and herbs, served either hot or cold

Soupe à l’oignon gratinée: onion soup baked with cheese

Tarte Tatin: carmelised upside down apple pie

French delicacies

Restaurants serving traditional French cuisine:

La Fresque

A small restaurant with a typically Parisian flair that is located directly adjacent to the shopping centre Les Halles. It is good value for money and has very friendly and attentive waiters. It is a good idea to arrive there early as it can become very busy in the evenings. Closed Sundays | 100, Rue Rambuteau | 11th Arr. | Tel. 01 42 33 17 56 | M 4: Les Halles

Crêperie de Plougastel 

Claimed to be one of the best crêperies in the city. The crêpes with caramel are particularly delectable, as are the savoury galettes made with buckwheat flour and filled with ham, mushrooms and smoked salmon. Open daily | 47, Rue Montparnasse | 14th Arr. | Tel. 01 42 79 90 63 | M 6: Edgar Quinet

Les Papilles 

Les Papilles is a Bistro with a wine cellar and a delicatessen. It serves authentic cuisine near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Closed Sundays and Mondays | 30, rue Gay Lussac | 5th Arr. | Tel. 01 43 28 20 79 | RER B: Luxembourg

Chez Glandines

Offers good value specialities from southwest France and the Basque region. It is a modest restaurant situated in the nightlife district Butte-aux-Cailles. Open daily | 30, Rue des Cinq Diamants | 13th Arr. | Tel. 01 45 80 70 10 | M 6: Corvisart

Chantairelle

Chantairelle offers hearty and succulent cuisine and pays homage to the Auvergne. With the exception of the ice cream, everything on the menu originates from this region in central France. The restaurant even has a takeaway deli, which sells cold meat, cheese, lentils and much more. Open daily (lunch only on Sundays and Mondays, dinner only on Saturdays and in August) | 17, rue Laplace | 5th Arr. | Tel. 01 46 33 18 59 | M 10: Cardinal Lemoine

Citrus Etoile

Citrus Etoile serves classical French dishes with a modern interpretation including Asian and Californian influences. There is a comfortably discreet atmosphere and it is situated only a few yards from the Arc de Triomphe. Saturdays and Sundays are for private functions only | 6, Rue Arséne Houssaye | 8th Arr. | Tel. 01 42 89 15 51 | M 1, 2, 6, RER A: Etoile

Content taken from the Paris Marco Polo Spiral Guide

Paris Marco Polo Spiral Guide

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What’s the best thing you have ever tasted in Paris? Comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo Guides in the Media

We get around round round we get around… 🙂

Since the launch of our two new series this year, we’ve had some great coverage in the print and online media. Here’s an article which just came out in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine September 2015 edition:

Paris guidebooks comparison (click on image to enlarge)

Marco Polo Spiral Guides in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine Sept 2015 Edition

Credit: Marco Polo Spiral Guides in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine Sept 2015 Edition

The Paris Marco Polo Spiral guide fared pretty well, with the only criticism being that the insider tips were sometimes quite well known.

They didn’t mention our extensive mapping / street atlas / pull-out map but alas you can’t win ’em every time!

If you’d like to get your hands on your own copy, you can buy the Paris Marco Polo Spiral Guidenow!

Paris Marco Polo Spiral Guide