PARIS, FRANCE – If there is one monument you want to see and experience when visiting Paris, it is the Eiffel Tower (www.tour-eiffel.fr), which first opened its doors to the public on May 15 1889.

A look at the Eiffel Tower all lit up

A look at the Eiffel Tower all lit up

For those who want to go all the way to the top you have a few options: book tickets at least six months in advance; stand in line for a few hours; or take a shortcut and a dreamlike lunch or dinner at the Jules Verne Restaurant (http://www.lejulesverne-paris.com). This is part of the Alain Ducasse culinary empire (http://www.alain-ducasse.com). Not only did we enjoy a five course meal, but we had a private door to enter and exit the viewing platform whenever we wished. Upon arrival at the South Pillar, we gave our names to the host who sent us up on a private elevator 125 metres above. While regular patrons had to wait seemingly endlessly to go back down at the end of the night, we did so in minutes. In order to get the window table we had, one needs to reserve at least three months in advance. We could have bought tickets from there to go to the very top, but frankly take my advice – it is really not worth the long wait.

There is now a “tasting” menu, allowing you to experience the full Jules Verne sensation. For dinner it is 185 euros for five courses (meat or fish) or 230 euros for six. Our selections included Bellevue Style blue lobster, with gold caviar; preserved duck foie gras; roasted marinated baby artichokes; seared sea bass or free range chicken fricassee; and some delicious desserts.

Another extraordinary experience is The Moulin Rouge (www.moulinrouge.fr). Located in the Monmarte District, this is a “can’t miss” stop for any Paris visitor. You will be entertained by a troupe of 80 artists, and outstanding international acts. On the night we were in attendance, a male and female acrobatic team astounded the audience and there was also the most marvelous and humorous ventriloquist. When one of the dancers dropped into a swimming pool which emerged from the floor and began to swim with snakes, the packed room applauded loudly. This revue, called “Féerie,” is performed twice a night.

I must have spent hours looking for just the right restaurant to “sandwich” in before the Moulin Rouge and the Koff Delicattessen (www.koff-paris.fr) at 15 Rue la Vieuville won out.I would strongly recommend Koff. The husband and wife team of David and Jade designed this place like a New York deli. The menu features bagels, burgers, quesadillas, nachos, sandwiches, smoked salmon, Ashkenazi specialties, Russian dishes and a nice variety of salads. It is open for lunch and dinner. Koff is just one minute’s walk from Abbesses métro station (line 12).

Breakfast in America (http://www.breakfast-in-america.com) is one more unique restaurant you will want to try. There are two locations: in the heart of the historic Latin Quarter, not far from the Sorbonne and Notre Dame and in the Marais district, near rue des Rosiers, the famous Jewish quarter. We experienced the Marais locale known as BIA2. The place is famous for breakfast. We very much enjoyed our meals: toast, eggs over easy and home fries. There were even toasters at each booth. At BIA, some favorites include: blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, the Connecticut omelet, two by two, locally-baked bagels, their own “BIA Burger” and “Super BIA Burger,” California chicken wrap, vegetarian wrap, home-made chili con carne, club sandwich, cheesecake, real milkshakes and much, much more!

I strongly recommend an evening at the Mogador Theatre (http://www.stage-entertainment.fr/theatre-mogador). Founded in 1913, the Mogador is a performance venue of 1,600 seats and run by the Stage Entertainment group and the eclectic program favours musicals: The Lion King (1,300,000 spectators), Mamma Mia! (2011 and 2012), Sister Act (2013) and most recently the French version of Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et La Bête). We were fortunate to see one of the final shows of the latter’s highly successful nine-month run.

The entrance to the Jules Verne Restaurant

The entrance to the Jules Verne Restaurant

As we were planning this trip it became abundantly clear that a company named Viator (www.viator.com) could really come in handy when booking certain tours and excursions. Their team of travel insiders are obsessed with finding the best things to do everywhere folks travel. For the youngest member of our travel party, the Teen Shopping and Fashion Accessories Tour in Paris ended up being the first choice. For girls who are you looking for something that just screams “I got this in Paris,” this is a great choice. Sandra Hoyois, from Not A Tourist Destination Tours, leads this Paris shopping tour.

While there has been a Grévin (www.grevin.com) at Montreal`s Eaton Centre since April 2013, this place is the original. In fact, only one other exists in the world – in Prague, Czech Republic. This is a fabulous wax museum, with a specific French feel in terms of many of the actors and historical figures featured. I nonetheless got to pose with the likes of Elton John, Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Cage, Barack Obama and many other familiar faces. Your visits starts off with a unique sound and light show. I am now ready to visit the museum in Montreal. Aurélie Gombert, the communications director in Paris, said that plans call for a new Grévin to open every year or so. I would think that the United States would be next on the list, not to mention places like Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.

Amidst the crackle of photographers’ flashes, the celebrities in the headlines all meet at the most Parisian of addresses. Discreet atmosphere and evening dress mandatory for a cocktail party with the stars of showbiz, top international singers and the piano at an impromptu jam session, or a relaxed environment to share a friendly glass at the brasserie with the big names of the French cinema industry; the Grevin creates the illusion of an interactive meeting in its new decor. During the visit, a fashion show podium, a dance studio, or a box at the theatre give visitors a unique opportunity to meet their favourite artists and to glimpse the Spirit of Paris.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Follow his travels at www.sandboxworld.com/travel or on Twitter @mikecohencsl.

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