Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have you taken a Google City Tour?

The latest experiment ( from Google Labs suggests multi day travel itineraries using Google maps.

Google is becoming more involved with travel. If you’re making a trip to Paris France, for instance, you can let City Tours take you from the Pantheon, the Picasso museum, to the La Cinémathèque française and more. All sites are within easy walking distance from our hotel. You can customize your itinerary by adding or removing popular places to visit from its list, or you can type in your own spot. You can also divide a five-day trip into a day-by-day itinerary. It’s a quick and easy primer for those who are first-time visitors to a city.

Here is a link to google city tours.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eating in Paris

Somehow a stroll down the streets of Paris has a way of revealing just the spot to retreat from a long day of shopping or site seeing. You will find a filling feast with your eyes, as well as your heart, soul and as you pick a place to dine whether you mood calls for a “laid back” open air, bistro to people watch and reflect upon the events of the day s with your closest traveling companion and plan out tomorrow’s adventure over a glass of port accompanied by the finest wine and cheese - or – you wish to follow the back brick road to the oldest restaurant in Paris “A la Petite Chaise” where you might make a little history of your own by dining with artists, politicians, actors, writers and others in the place where, “some very “close” relationship s continued after desserts and Singers poured out their hearts with love ballads under the restaurant windows. You can visit the website where you can take a virtual tour of the restaurant and check out the menu. Most of the site is in French, but you can go to the English page first to read about the history at

Mixing up your selection between the higher priced more leisurely, late evening experience that is common to Parisians and the stops at the Bistros or Beautiful Pastry shops during your day trips provides variety and creates a balance in the pocketbook. All the walking also offsets added weight you might think you’ll gain on your “Sweet Paris” side tour, and you may be surprised to find that the portions, ingredients and artistry of the pastries are able to fill you to your hearts content and you actually drop that excess baggage you carried with you as you began your trip. I actually found myself walking into pastry shops, spending 15 minutes walking around as if they were art museums and leaving without tasting one morsel, but feeling incredibly full and enriched because of the aroma and sites I’d experienced. Even the grocery stores, opened wide with the owners waiting eagerly to greet their customers are a treat to just “visit”, but if you’re a gourmet cook, there are many gourmet provisioners with original touches that you’ll want to seek out. Who knew a year-round, boutique could be found that is entirely devoted to apples and apple products and just viewing food and its presentation could be just as satisfying as visiting the Louver and “calorie free”!

A coffee table book, “Gourmet Shops of Paris” by Pierre Rival may be just the thing you want to pick up and view with your friends over a cup of coffee and your choice of a handmade almond crème, chocolate or raspberry, a specialty at the locally owned Incredibly Delicious located at 925 S. 7th St | Springfield, IL 62703 | Phone: (217) 528-8548 | Fax: (217) 528-7355 | Website:

Or, if you’re so inclined – you can invite your friend(s) in and prepare your own preview delicacy by making one of 50 recipes included in a most delectable, informative and entertaining book which my friend just introduced me to on her face book page. We both agreed that reading “The Sweet Life in Paris” and discovering the writings of David Lebovitz and then going to Paris would be a perfect way to enjoy this book! Check it out for yourself on the author’s website or the “Fans of The Sweet Life in Paris” and read a few pages at

Also, as you look over the extensive list of restaurants that Travel Planet has provided, consider where, when and how you’ll be traveling and --the energy you’ll have-- on any given day based on your overall itinerary. There is so much to feast on in Paris, that it’s best just to resolve yourself to become a sampler of the gastronomic delights of Paris and to savor and hope that one day you’ll be able to experience more of when time allows. Before you depart, pick your favorites from the list, talk with the hotel concierge when you arrive and take it all in stride by living in the moment

Bon Appetite!

Stephanie Moore Chipman

August 18, 2009

Shopping in Paris

It’s difficult to know where to begin to share the secrets of shopping on the streets of Paris. It’s not because there’s a lack of options to meet the interests and budgets of all our travelers, but as a professionally schooled and trained fashion merchandiser and coordinator who spent years in the retail and wholesale fashion industry – I’m still mesmerized by the magnitude of creativity, history and impact the French have had on the personal style of so many Americans and others around the world.

Since even the Parisians know style is personal and a philosophy that one develops over time to fit their own lifestyle and personality, I will only share with you the way to “get in the mood” for your own personal shopping experience – for yourself or whoever else you have placed on your “gift” list. But, if you have a special event coming up in the near future or wish to give unique holiday gifts with a Parisian flair – I suggest you prepare in advance with names and addresses so you can ship direct or send home.

One key to shopping in Paris, is to first people watch, look at how the food is being presented and window shop while keeping in mind –simple sophistication laced with a trace of tradition and a pop of creativity gives the Parisian a sense of undisputed taste in fashion. Take a look around and see what the Parisians are wearing today and you‘ll have a good idea of what American’s will be wearing tomorrow. The art of presentation comes through in all they Parisians do and as a result all the sense are stimulated in the lines, textures and colors of the materials they use.

This is why many shoppers look to find the finest fabric houses and stores where fine linens can be purchased. Not only will the memories and stories that go along with these purchases last a lifetime, but also because of the quality, the gifts you give of this nature will last for generations to come. The French word for fabric is “tissus” and it’s very possible that if you have an eye and appreciation of fabric you’ll need some tissues of your own to dab the tears of joy when you discover the Marche St. Pierre (at the foot of Montmartre below the Sacre Coeur Basilica) – the fabric district in Paris. Since this one area of Paris is a “trip in itself”, I suggest pre-exploratory travels on the Internet using the available maps of the district in addition to visiting Ingrid Midi’s bog (June 15, 2009) about shopping for Fabric in Paris.

One of the places you can find more information about the places to shop is at the official website of the Paris Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Here you’ll find an array of information that may well tempt you, but also be overwhelming. Thus, I suggest you simply use this as a tool to familiarize yourself with what you’ll encounter and then let your heart and pocketbook draw you closer to the dream purchases. If you’re interested in the “ins & outs” of shopping on a budget, you might want to read what Rachel Kaplan’s has to say about the subject at (Order “Best Buys to French Chic” on-line and save on this purchase too). Another book published several years ago by Maribeth Clement has valuable tips and information --The Riches of Paris: A Shopping and Touring Guide By Maribeth Clemente. Her two decades in the travel business and travel writing, in addition to being a “curious shopper“ gives her website a light and informative edge for creating a great precursor experience when planning a trip to address your personal passions. Check out her book at her website

On the practical side, it pays to take advantage of advertised “tax free shopping”. For example at PRINTEMPS --Department Store in Paris, you can get and complete tax refund forms in store at the day of the purchase (passport must be presented) and 12% of the total amount of your purchase will be reimbursed. These forms are stamped at the customs Service at the airport and then you mail them back in a pre-paid envelope for reimbursement of your taxes on the credit card, which they were charged. Or, in the case of a reimbursement at the airport, 10% will be deducted from the total amount reimbursed. There are conditions, but it’s fairly easy to meet and worth the few extra steps you’ll take to save enough to spend on yourself touring and dining during the rest of your trip. For more information regarding Printemps, go to

Although it’s fairly easy to get the available refunds (once you familiarize yourself with the process), it’s really best to “get a handle” on this subject prior to travelling because it’s one of those things you most often have to mention to the shopkeeper. In addition, you’ll want to be organized in advance to make sure you keep track of all of your purchases. I found a couple of articles and sights that explain this process well and recommend you check these out before traveling abroad. Irene Lynn published an article in 2008 that was particularly informative. You can find her article entitled Tips on Getting the VAT Tax Back When Travelling in Europe” at

The same article recommends includes reference to a site that has even more detailed information about the VAT tax. Here you’ll find EASY 1-2-3 Steps to shopping and saving money based on the tourist’s entitlement to claim the taxes back in you export your purchases. The basics of this process are as follows:


Ask the shop staff for a Refund Cheque when paying for your purchases.


Show your purchases, receipt and passport to Customs when leaving the country, or at the final point of departure when leaving the European Union, and have your Refund Cheque stamped.


Show the stamped Refund Cheque, passport and credit card at a nearby Refund Office and ask for an Immediate Refund on your credit card. Alternatively the Refund can be paid in cash.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 2009 ISO Paris Trip Update

Plans for your upcoming trip to Paris, France are well underway and we at Planet Travel could not be more excited!

We decided to divide our group into 2 smaller groups, Luc and Amelie, to help us and you orchestrate, excuse the pun, the air transportation just a little better.

The bookings for our ISO Paris trip came in two waves. The first wave started in May with 10 group members signing up, the rest sign up later, in June and July. The Illinois Symphony asked us to book as many members as we could with American Airlines, in order to take advantage of a separate fund raising promotion the Symphony has with that airline.

American’s policy requires a minimum of 10 travelers to qualify as a group. After booking the first wave of members with American Airlines, they refused to honor our initial group rate for the additional members signing up in June and July. As a result, we worked at finding airfares that fit our budget and schedule. Although, the Luc group members will have to change planes, the advantage is that they have a chance to clear customs and immigration on the way back at a much more laid back Charlotte airport.

You will be met in Paris, at the airport, by your Planet Travel team, whether you are flying U.S. or American and escorted to our hotel.

Because we booked in groups, we wanted to enclose individual member of the traveling party their own personal ticketing info and travel itinerary. Additional group information is posted on our web site and blog.

One personal note. I have had some medical problems the last couple of weeks that have caused the delay in posting and mailing our itineraries to group members. On Friday, August 20, 2009 I am scheduled for a CT-scan and do not anticipate to be in the office until next Monday.

If you do have questions I should be attending the Wine and Cheese get together with the Cheneys on Sunday, and will be hopefully be back to full duty next week.


Don Fuener

Paris Greetings

Greetings Fellow Travelers!

Our departure date is now close enough to begin the countdown. As a result, I’ve begun to review the weather in Paris for “clues” as to what my wardrobe should include and pulled out all my brochures, flyers, maps and “keepsakes” I collected on my last trip to Paris and discovered the places and things I missed, the “must see again” sites and the reason I’ll have no problems staying up all night to feast on the gastronomic delights of Paris, shopping until I drop and tour the museums and travel along the Seine during Nuit Nite ---

As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words, and without exception, I agree when it comes to capturing the Paris Experience. Although, for those who haven’t been to Paris, be prepared to immediately recognize that no picture really can capture the beauty, the magnificence and the aura that surrounds the masterpieces in this city! You’ll want to take your digital camera for this very reason, because taking in the sights and sounds in the moment will take your breath away at times and you’ll need proof when you settle into “reality” back at home that “it wasn’t all just a dream” on your Planet Travel Trip!

Seeing Paris through the assistance of the Planet Travel Team will give you what you need the most – time on your own to explore your personal passions – without the dictates of time and constraints of a group itinerary that must be followed by all. If you’re like me, you’ll like to leave yourself enough “free” time to let the city draw you into the possibilities which simply can’t be planned while keeping your personal Paris “bucket list” handy. Looking at maps and brochures of the places you want to go will help you calculate what part of your trip will be walking and when you’ll want to take a faster mode of transportation. Although, I highly recommend you put on your walking shoes today (if you haven’t already) to begin distance “training” because once you hit the streets of Paris you’ll never want to look down or stop!

You’ll soon have an itinerary with the details of your transportation, your hotel accommodations and when you’ll be meeting up as a group. In addition, as promised, your Paris Guidebook, a gift from Planet Travel will be given to you at the Paris Preview Party. This information will compliment the stories you’ve heard, the hours of Internet research and provide updates on activities and places the “seasoned” Paris travelers expect to revisit. In addition, as a self-confessed travel “scout”, I’ve put together a few ideas to help jumpstart you onto a more personal path of discovery through the City of Lights.


Stephanie Moore Chipman

Monday, August 17, 2009

Watch your mail our written itinerary is on the way

We are mailing written itineraries to every group member.

In the meantime we have posted it online at the following link.

Click here to view the ISO Paris trip itinerary.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Here is a link to our hotel in Paris

Received confirmation from our hotel in Paris over the weekend.

It is the Hotel de Casiglione, a contemporary Paris Hotel on the Right Bank. Located on the Faubourg St-Honoré--known for its clothing boutiques, embassies, and art galleries--this Paris hotel is two blocks from the Avenue des Champs-Elysées and the Place de la Concorde.

Click here for information about our hotel in Paris.

Read what other travelers have to say about Hotel de Castiglione

Thursday, August 6, 2009

D Day Battle Tours Confirmation

Please regard this as confirmation of your tour with D-Day Battle Tours –

  • Contact name
Don Feuner
  • Date of tour:
2nd October 2009
  • Number of people:

  • I will meet you at Carentan Rail Station 09.30

  • Duration of tour:
8.5 hours approx
  • The tour is to be conducted in my minibus

  • The fee will be:
600 euros to be paid in euros cash at the end of the tour
  • Museum visits (important but optional) extra at approx €6 per person per museum
  • We can arrange a discounted packed lunch at €6 per person from the C-45 Café.
  • To secure your tour please forward your choice of deposit – see covering letter for options. Please be aware your tour is not reserved until receipt of your deposit.

  • Please forward a mobile or contact phone number in case of emergencies
  • In the unlikely event that for any reason outside of our control circumstances prevent us from undertaking your tour on the agreed date we cannot be held responsible – please see website for full terms and conditions

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further questions.

I look forward to giving you the military history experience of you life.

Best regards

Ellwood von Seibold

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 1, 2009 ISO Paris Trip Update

With final payment date for our group trip now here, it is a good time to consider purchasing travel insurance. If some reason you have to cancel your trip between now and September 30 you will forefit close to all of the money you paid for your Paris trip. This is not a good thing and this is why we suggest you purchase travel insurance.

Here is a link to the travel insurance company we prefer, CSA Travel Protection.

CSA is non- AIG owned travel insurane company. They offer simple, straight forward insurance products. We have offered this travel insurance to our clients, for the last ten years and had to even file a claim on behalf of ourselves. We have had little or no problems with their claims department and they have even paid claims to clients that we thought shouldn't have.

Here is a tip. You don't have to purchase the trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance. Remember your health insurance probably doesn't work in Europe. So you need to supplement it.

Just enter zero -0- for trip cost and by our figuring you will save a significant amount of money. For example we priced travel insurance with CSA for a 53 year old couple taking the ISO Paris trip with and without the trip cancellation and interruption coverage. With coverage the premium is $272. Without coverage the premium is $60.

So if you are absolutely sure you traveling with us. Consider this option.