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Rose wine at Parisian cafe

Soaking it all up in the City of Love: 5 Ways to Recharge in Paris

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Paris is truly a magnificent city to visit with children, but it is also an ideal spot to assume an alter ego and live like a local Parisian grownup, even if for a few days. Here are five of my favorite things to do in Paris during our family vacations:

1. Drink Rosé at lunchtime

During a recent trip to my local Austin supermarket, I spotted four women eating lunch in the café and enjoying a glass of wine. It seemed surprisingly unnatural and I admit, my puritanical alarm went off just a little. But in Paris, I can never resist the urge to wash down my lunch with a glass or two of perfectly chilled rosé. Not only is wine cheaper than soda, it is perfectly responsible because we never set foot in a car! Just drink two glasses of water (a free carafe of tap water is always available for the asking) for every glass of wine!

2. Treat your visage to a luxe facial

I had one of the best facials of my life in a small, unassuming Institut de Beauté in the 13th arrondisement of Paris. I asked the beautician at the local Monoprix (see #4 below) for a recommendation and she pointed me to the Institut de Beauté Marie Pauline.

Parisian women have a well-deserved reputation for taking care of their assets, whether it be their flawless hair, svelte figure or glowing skin. Hair salons in Paris are ubiquitous and prices are surprisingly low. Do yourself a favor and take a break from the tourist sites (and your family) and get a facial or other beauty treatment. If you can, try and make your booking a few days in advance.

3. Get scrubbed at a traditional Hammam

Every time I go to Paris with my family, I hop on a metro to North Paris to spend a few hours at Hammam Medina Center. I always request a Forfait Détente, which at 59 euros is a bargain that includes a gommage (full body scrub) and a 30-minute almond oil massage. Access to the hammam (a steam room and indoor plunge pool), mint tea and middle eastern sweets are also included. Reservations are not required for the basic services, but I recommend arriving early in the day. Also, check the website for hours, as most Parisian hammams reserve certain days or times for male visitors. And be prepared to speak a little French.

While I am relaxing solo in this unique spa, my husband and daughter head over to the nearby Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie for a visit. If desired, you can buy tickets in advance online.

Best things to do in Paris like a local - Science and industry museum

My daughter enjoying the science and industry museum while I relax at the hammam.

4. Shop for bargains at Monoprix

Paris is a shopper’s paradise. Farmers markets abound as does everything from sprawling flea markets to high-end boutiques. But the great equalizer, akin somewhat to Target in the U.S. but with a touch more savoir faire, is my beloved Monoprix.

This retail chain has many outlets throughout Paris, all varying in size and available product lines. The larger ones tend to host a large grocery downstairs, while the smaller ones sell clothing, makeup, skin care products and an assortment of home goods. My favorite purchases at Monoprix are skin care products from French brands like Nuxe and Petit Bateau cotton garments for my daughter.

5. Take long walks…alone

A few years ago, I herniated a disc in my lower back. For three months, I couldn’t walk more than a few steps without excruciating, relentless pain. During my darkest moments, I tried to image a life without being able to be strong and healthy enough to carelessly (and painlessly) roam the streets of Paris, searching for the perfect baguette and bench to sit and eat it on. When I was back in Paris, less than 10 months following my back surgery, I was so grateful that I was able to stroll the streets of Paris for miles with little more than sore feet.

Best things to do in Paris like a local - Exploring city streets

Walking aimlessly in the streets of Paris is a true joy.

When you visit Paris, you may not spend too much time in your hotel room, but it’s a treat to have a quiet and comfortable place to rest and recharge. Next time I am in Paris, I plan to check out the newly renovated Hilton Paris Opera on the Rue St. Lazarre.

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A self-proclaimed Jersey Girl (with a soft spot for Jon Bon Jovi), Amy currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and 11-year old daughter. She picked…

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