Secrets of Paris Holidays with Heather & Bryan
December 2016 - January 2017
Paris is a magical place during the holiday season, a place of sparkling lights, hot cocoa, charming markets, historic celebrations and gourmet feasts. Usually it’s the time of year when we take off time from leading private tours to share the French holiday traditions with our own friends and family. This year we’d love to share it with the Secrets of Paris community. Join us for one of our exclusive, 5-day small-group holiday experiences in Paris and the French countryside over the week of Christmas or the week of New Year’s Eve, with an optional overnight excursion to Strasbourg’s famous Marché de Noël.
Dec 23 - 27: Christmas in Paris Experience
* Dec 21-22 Strasbourg Marché de Noël Optional Excursion
Dec 30 - Jan 2: New Year’s Eve in Paris Experience
* Dec 28-29 Strasbourg Marché de Noël Optional Excursion
Don’t Call it a Tour: Christmas in Paris with the Locals, Insider Holiday Adventures, Winter Wonderland Extravaganza...we’ve struggled a bit to find a good name to describe our unique holiday experiences. Unlike typical “tours”, we’ll be enjoying the holidays in Paris and the French countryside just like the locals. The first holiday experience will be over the week of Christmas and the second one will be over the week of New Year’s Eve, with optional overnight excursions to Strasbourg for their world famous Marché de Noël.
The Experiences: We have carefully crafted every activity, meal and experience to be fun, easy-going, festive, and full of holiday magic and unexpected surprises accessible only to insiders: the true Secrets of Paris! Designed for those of you who have already visited the “must see” sights of Paris, we’ll be avoiding the crowded tourist sites such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles, and instead focus on the unique French holiday experiences. We’re still elaborating and fine-tuning the details, but on your Secrets of Paris Holidays with Heather & Bryan you can expect a generously-packed itinerary that won’t leave you exhausted at the end of your vacation:
Exciting holiday activities such as ice skating under the stars, artisan boutique visits, chocolate and pastry tastings, food and flea market hunts, holiday lights tour, day tripping to a magnificent 17th-century chateau, private New Year’s Eve party, and optional “Sunrise on the Seine” morning runs for anyone who feels they’ve overindulged on the foie gras.
Relaxing experiences with the locals such as wine tasting, live musical performances, holiday card writing, piano bar cocktail hour, Afternoon Tea in a beautiful salon du thé, fireside chats with special guests, classic film night, a traditional French Christmas Feast, and optional morning sleep-ins (because it’s so un-Parisian to wake up before sunrise).
Long, leisurely meals in the French holiday tradition of enjoying good food, good wine, and good company in fabulous settings: Foie gras, truffles, oysters, mulled wine, Bûches de Noël, dried fruits, hot chocolate, creamy cheeses and never-ending baskets of bread...all in moderation, of course!
While we respect our guest’s desire to use any free time to enjoy a bit of solo exploration or afternoon naps, we also offer guests the option to dine or relax with the hosts outside the scheduled group activities and meals so no one has to eat alone….unless by choice!
An all-inclusive overnight trip to the world famous Marché de Noël in Strasbourg (train, hotel, tour and dinner included), an enchanting Alsatian town two hours east of Paris where the 15th-century cathedral towers over half-timbered houses and cobblestoned streets, and every facade is decorated in elaborate Christmas decorations, each more extravagant than the last. This is an optional add-on excursion.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: TOGETHER & SEPARATE
Both holiday experiences will be led by your hosts Heather and Bryan with a maximum of six guests per host. This allows us to split up when we want to blend in with the locals -- particularly when visiting sights on foot or dining in tiny Parisian cafés -- or to meet and mingle for festive activities such as the Christmas Feast and New Year’s Eve Party.
As professional hotel reviewers, we don’t believe in one-size-fits all accommodations in Paris, so we let our guests choose their own. This gives you the freedom to choose according to your own taste, budget and preferences, whether it’s a modern luxury palace, a quaint boutique hotel, or even a rental apartment. We’re also happy to offer our advice and opinions on Paris accommodations during your personal, pre-trip travel-planning session.
ABOUT YOUR HOSTS
Your hosts Heather Stimmler-Hall & Bryan Pirolli are professional travel writers, tour guides, and running partners living in Paris (they also coincidentally share the same home state of Pennsylvania, but have graduated from TastyKakes and Hershey’s Chocolate to macarons and chocolat chaud à l’ancienne).
Heather first moved to Paris in 1995 to study at the University of Paris, and became a permanent resident in 1997, creating the Secrets of Paris Newsletter in 1999. After a year working as the Travel Editor at ELLE.com, she moved to the French Riviera and became a full-time freelance travel writer for Fodor’s Guides, Michelin Green Guides, Expedia, Time Out, Forbes, France Magazine and many newspapers and in-flight travel magazines. She moved back to Paris in 2004 and began working as a guide for international tour operators such as EF Tours and Backroads, as well as local Paris tour companies such as Context Tours and Académie des Arts de Vivre. In 2007 she created her own private, custom Secrets of Paris Tours to share the hidden side of Paris tourists rarely experience. Her company has published several specialty guides to Paris including Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City, and David Lebovitz’s Paris Pastry iPhone app.
Bryan and Heather met at a charity fundraising event called Paris Cupcake Camp in 2010 where they found their shared love of pastries to be conveniently compatible with their love of running. And Paris, of course! Bryan moved to Paris in 2008 to work for NYU’s study abroad program before becoming a graduate student at the Sorbonne where he received his PhD (with a thesis on tourism and journalism). Today he teaches at the University of Paris and conducts guided walking tours of Paris. He launched an LGBT-friendly tour service called The Gay Locals in spring 2015. Bryan has worked as an intern at W magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and Travel+Leisure, and has written for Eurocheapo.com, Expedia's City Diaries blog, CNN Travel, Time Out Paris, SmartPlanet.com, Zagat, DK Eyewitness Paris, and Fodor's Paris Guide.
ABOUT OUR GUESTS
As we only have six spaces per host for each tour, we look forward to welcoming guests who have already seen the “highlights” of Paris, who can be flexible and “go with the flow” in any situation, and who play well with others (or can fake it with aplomb). Our guests are not necessarily religious (we won’t being doing roll call at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve), but you are excited to embrace the joyous holiday spirit, Christmas music and New Year’s Eve party hats oblige – no Grinches or Scrooges s’il vous plaît! Heather and Bryan’s sunrise runs and ice-skating outings are optional, but all guests should be healthy enough to walk in winter weather conditions for up to three hours, climb several flights of medieval staircases, and enjoy typical French meals without severe dietary restrictions. All guests should be at least 18 years old and speak fluent English…we’ll handle the French!
5-Day Holiday Experiences: €2750 per person (or €550/day)
- €2500 per person for returning Secrets of Paris clients, referrals, and newsletter subscribers (or €500/day)
- EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT: €2000/person for all bookings before August 1st (just €400/day!)
This includes full-time services of professional guides, more than half of the meals, all scheduled activities and group transportation, unlimited travel pass, personal cell phone to use in Paris, a custom pre-trip travel-planning call or Skype session with your guide, welcome goodie bag full of surprises, all tips and taxes. The fee does not include flights, accommodations in Paris, or any food or drinks for optional activities.
This includes two breakfasts, round-trip train from Paris, hotel, transportation in Strasbourg, guided visit of the Christmas Markets, dinner with wine, tips and taxes. Does not include lunches nor travel to or from Gare de l’Est in Paris.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you would like to join one of the Secrets of Paris Holiday Experiences, contact Heather by email at firstname.lastname@example.org