Top 10 Beaches From the Movies
Phi Phi Leh, Thailand—The Beach (2000)
The flick: The movie that gave voice to a generation of backpackers, The Beach, based on Alex Garland's novel of the same name, centers on the quest for the Thailand's last pure beach, one untainted by tourism. The scene: Leonardo DiCaprio swims beneath a seemingly impenetrable wall of cliffs, only to surface in an impossibly idyllic cove.
The beach: Located on Phi Phi Leh island in the Andaman Sea, Maya Bay was digitally enhanced for the movie: The directors added a fourth side to make it seem even more private. But that doesn't mean the bay is any less spectacular in real life. Karst limestone cliffs tumble to a slash of sugary white sand. Shallow waters and a ribbon of coral make for some incredible snorkeling. Even to this day, there are no rental bungalows, but you are allowed to make like DiCaprio and camp overnight.
Getting there: Visit on a daytrip from the southwestern Thai resort towns of Phuket and Krabi, via a mix of ferry and longtail boat rides.
• Related: America's 10 Best Winter Beach Retreats
Petit Tabac, St. Vincent and the Grenadines—Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
The flick: With number four in the works, the films chronicling theadventures of Captain Jack Sparrow have brought moviegoers to a number of tropical hideaways, but few can top the deserted beach in The Curse of the Black Pearl. The scene: When villains dump Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley on a strip of bone-white sand to wither, Knightley uses a stash of rum to create a rescue bonfire, only to have the ever-hedonic Depp moan, "Why is the rum gone?"
The beach: Part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Petit Tabac is one 1) completely uninhabited and 2) highly protected. What that translates to is a perfect Caribbean island with no glitzy palazzos on the beach, no jet skis or fishing boats rumbling over the reefs, and an overwhelming sense that you've reached world's end (no, wait, that's the other movie!).
Getting there: Petit Tabac is an easy day trip from St. Vincent's Union Island, from where you can hop a boat ride on the Scaramouche, a schooner that played the part of a merchant ship in the The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Kastani Beach, Skopelos Island, Greece—Mamma Mia! (2008)
The flick: This silver screen version of the Abba-infused, chart-busting musical, Mamma Mia!, shines a spotlight on Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), who wants to find out who her real father is before she gets married. The scene: Tanya (Christine Baranski) gives a sultry rendition of Abba's "Does Your Mother Know" on a small, sandy beach with a makeshift bar, framed by a cerulean-colored sea.
The beach: Best known for the dramatic monolith, Kastani, on the western coast of Skopelos, is not your traditional swimming beach. The shore is rocky (though there is a sandy beach), so, good for a picnic. Many visitors also choose to hike to the precariously perched hilltop monastery of Agios Ioannis sto Kastri. Mamma Mia's climactic wedding scene took place here, but more to the point, the church offers a dazzling view over the island.
Getting there: Skopelos is easily reachable by daily ferries or hydrofoils from the resort towns of Volos or Skiathos (both under a 2.5-hour bus ride from Athens) . The trip is about 6.5 hours when traveling via Volos and 5 hours via Skiathos.
• Related: Upload your beautiful beach photos to myBT and they may be featured!
Lumahai Beach, Kauai, Hawaii—South Pacific (1958)
The flick: After winning a Pulitzer and multiple Tonys on Broadway, South Pacific hit Hollywood in 1958, and became an immediate hit. Though James Michener set the story in Vanuatu (where he was stationed in World War II), most of the movie was shot on Kauai. The scene: Mitzi Gaynor prances around the broad, blond swath of Lumahai Beach, as she washes that man right out of her hair.
The beach: Set on Kauai's northern coast, Lumahai is hemmed by ironwood trees at one end and steep, fluted mountains at the other. The beach is popular with surfers, but the currents can be treacherous for swimmers and there's no lifeguard (some locals even call it "Luma-die"). Swim at your own risk. That, or just kick back, relax, and watch the waves roll in. For $93.50, Ali'I Movie Excursion and Scenic Hanalei (haiwaiitours.com) leads seven-hour trips to film locations from South Pacific and other movies shot on Kauai, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Getting there: Drive north out of Lihue about 35 miles north on Highway 56 to the western edge of Hanalei Bay.
Cape St. Francis, South Africa—The Endless Summer (1966)
The flick: The surf doc after which all others were modeled, this film traces the worldwide quest of Robert August and Mike Hynson to find the perfect wave. The scene: The pair lands in South Africa, crest a dune on Cape St. Francis, and find exactly what they have been looking for, a perfectly-cresting righthand break.
The beach: While neighboring Jeffrey's Bay has become Surf Central (with the accompanying tourist tchotchkes), Cape St. Francis has gone upscale, with the expansion of shops and townhouses. The famed break—called Bruce's Beauties—sits about a mile up the coast from the Cape, near St. Francis Bay.
Getting there: The perfect ride does not come so easily. The flight between Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth in the southeast is about 90 minutes and Cape St. Francis is a 90-minute drive to the south from there along N2 road and R330. The best time to visit is May to September, when swells have been known to reach 10 feet and rides can last up to 30 seconds.
Devil's Beach, Nanuya Levu Island (Turtle Island), Fiji—The Blue Lagoon (1980)
The flick: The movie that brought Brooke Shields, then 15, into the limelight, The Blue Lagoon tells the story of cousins falling in love after being shipwrecked on a deserted island. Its success won Shields' a Time cover as "The80s Look." The scene: Shields's character, her cousin (Christopher Atkins), and a galley cook beach their emergency craft in a wide but well-protected lagoon.
The beach: Set on the 500-acre island, Devil's Beach is just as idyllic as when it was filmed more than 20 years ago—all palm trees and shallow coral reefs—but it's got a few more services. Many guests choose to rent a sailboat or kayak and float to within feet of the coral reefs, all the easier for snorkeling.
Getting there: The island is now a private resort, so guests transfer from Nadi International Airport for a 30-minute flight here. One particular: During filming, clocks on Nanuya Levu were set an hour ahead of Fiji's standard time to max out peak sunlight, and the island has kept that habit since.
Leo Carrillo Beach, Malibu, California—The KarateKid (1984)
The flick: With a remake out last year, The Karate Kid proves again that its coming of age formula is as powerful as ever—to date, the remake has grossed $360 million at the box office. The scene: In the original movie when master Pat Morita and his protégé Ralph Macchio practice the fictional "crane" move (one leg lifted, both arms up) with the Pacific glittering behind them.
The beach: 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica, this Malibu-area state park may be Hollywood's favorite stretch of sand for shooting minor beach scenes, appearing in such films as Inception, The Usual Suspects, Point Break, and Beach Blanket Bingo. Framed by sycamore trees and steep headlands, the 1.5-mile-long coastline is a favorite with surfers, swimmers, and picnickers up from Los Angeles.
Getting there: Find the beach by driving north on the Pacific Coast Highway and stopping just short of its intersection with Mulholland Drive.
• Related: 25 Beautiful Caribbean Photos
Halona Cove, near Waikiki, Hawaii—From Here to Eternity (1953)
The flick: The winner of eight Academy Awards, From Here to Eternity made waves for its nuanced portrayal of military service in pre-Pearl Harbor Hawaii and was a spotlight on some of the prettiest locations on Oahu. The scene: Star-crossed lovers Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr passionately rendezvous, canoodling in the surf.
The beach: Filming took place at tiny, cliff-flanked Halona Cove, just around the corner from Hanauma Bay. The sheer lava rock walls fall directly into the ocean. Swim with caution. Unlike many of Hawaii's better known beaches, this one doesn't have a lifeguard.
Getting there: From Waikiki Beach, drive east on the H1 (which turns into Hwy 72) about 40 minutes to Koko Head Regional Park. Drive to the parking lot for Halona Blowhole, where water often surges through an underwater tunnel into an upward spout, then walk to the south side of the lot and follow the faint path down to the beach.
One&Only Ocean Club, Paradise Island, Bahamas—Casino Royale (2006)
The flick: After a long bout of anemia, the James Bond franchise received a jolt in 2006 when actor Daniel Craig took over the superspy's role to foil Le Chiffre, a financier of international terrorists. The scene: 007 intercepts the lover (Caterina Murino) of one of Le Chiffre's henchman after one of her horseback rides on the beach.
The beach: If the One&Only Ocean Club on the Bahamas' Paradise Island is a little overly exclusive—Michael Jordan, Martha Stewart, and others have stayed there—most of the island's 3.6-mile-long, white-sand beach is open to the public.
Getting there: Roughly a 15-minute drive north of central Nassau, but it feels a world away.
Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Ore.—Twilight (2008)
The flick: The movie that started a movement—teen angst meets good old-fashioned vampire blood lust—Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series is set in the appropriately cloudy Washington state but some of the best beach scenes in the film are shot 200 miles south in Oregon. The scene: Taylor Lautner starts to reveal to the truth about vampire Robert Pattinson to the perpetually conflicted Kristen Stewart on a dramatic grey sand beach.
The beach: With average highs in August of a mere 69 degrees, Indian Beach makes for a pretty brisk swim. But what it lacks in weather is made up for in scenery, with a backdrop of sea stacks, headlands, and spruce forest. The area has also served as a setforGooniesand Point Break. And the beach's tide pools, filled with anemones, sea stars, and crabs will keep children occupied for hours.
Getting there: Heading west from Portland, follow US-26 until you reach US-101. Ecola State Park is off the road about 80 miles from the city.
Table of Contents: February 2011
Secret Hotels of Paris Trip Coach: Pet Travel The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World
The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World
If there's such a thing as an archetypal Disney fanatic, I'm pretty sure that I don't fit the mold. I don't own Mickey Mouse T-shirts or have a Disney license plate on my car. There are no movie posters, bobblehead dolls, or other assorted Disneyana decorating my cubicle. But as hard as it is for my colleagues at Budget Travel to believe, I've been to Walt Disney World more times than I can count. In fact, when my family and I try to tally the total number of days we've logged in the parks, we usually start with some complex mental math only to throw up our hands and agree, "A few hundred." Having grown up in Tampa, about an hour from Disney World, I've had some of my most memorable life experiences with Mickey and the gang. Disney World is where my fourth-grade science class went on a field trip to learn about marine biology, where my elementary school chorus performed Christmas carols, where I've spent countless New Year's Eves, Fourths of July, Labor Days, and Memorial Days. I even learned I was accepted into journalism school, from an e-mail sent to my smartphone, while riding in a simulated hang glider at Epcot's popular Soarin' attraction. So I guess you could say I know the place pretty well. Add in my family (mother, father, and sister), and we've collectively amassed more than 60 years of park experience. With that kind of dedication comes a little embarrassment and a lifetime's worth of invaluable rules. What follows is my hard-won Disney World wisdom, an insider's manual for first-timers and fanatics alike. 1. Embrace your impulsive side Disney World's sheer scale can be daunting: four theme parks, 25,000 acres, nearly 500 places to eat, more than 28,000 hotel rooms. Guidebooks often suggest creating a master multiday game plan before hitting the parks. I totally disagree. Rather than sticking to a rigid agenda, my family has developed a simple system: Check the morning forecast. If rain is on the way, we head for Hollywood Studios—it's far and away the most compact of the four parks, and almost all rides and lines are indoors or sheltered. Cloudy days are ideal for Animal Kingdom, since the big cats, great apes, and Serengeti grazers are much more active when the sun is hidden, while Epcot is a must when the mercury is predicted to climb above 90 degrees; many of its top attractions clock in at over 15 minutes, maximizing your precious air-conditioned hours. And for those perfectly sunny days? Magic Kingdom, of course. Blue skies are ideal for carnival-style rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad—not to mention that classic family photo in front of Cinderella Castle. 2. Don't even think about paying for parking When you're shelling out $90 a day for admission, tacking on another $14 for parking can feel like adding insult to injury. I'm proud to say my family hasn't paid for a spot in years. What many out-of-towners don't realize is that the parking lots at Disney water parks, miniature-golf courses, and the Downtown Disney entertainment district are absolutely free. From those locations, shuttle buses will take you wherever you need to go (note that some routes require transfers). Our all-time favorite spot is an unmarked overflow lot across the street from the BoardWalk Inn. Next to a Hess gas station, the lot is almost always half-empty and is a 10-minute walk to the resort. From there, you can stroll over to Epcot, take a ferry ride to Hollywood Studios, or catch a shuttle bus anywhere else—all free of charge. 3. Ready, set...run! If you've been to Disney World even once, you probably know that Fastpasses are the single-greatest time-savers ever. They are distributed from special machines at many popular rides, and they specify a time window (essentially a reservation) when you can return and skip the line. The only hitch is that they're limited and first-come, first-served. Every December 26, my family visits the Magic Kingdom with a large group from our neighborhood. To ensure that we all get Fastpasses, our family friend, a special-projects manager at a major computer company, uses his logistics skills to coordinate what I call the "running man" strategy. Because favorites like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain are located far from the entrance, it would be impossible to get our whole party to the Fastpass machines before the best time slots were taken. Instead, we send the fastest member of our pack bobbing and weaving through the crowds to collect passes for everyone. 4. Look beyond the biggies With top rides like Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (an intense free fall) and Epcot's Mission: Space (a thrilling virtual space flight) commanding hour-long waits, it pays to go where the action isn't. Epcot's Sum of All Thrills is no less exciting than Mission: Space, but for whatever reason, I've never waited more than 15 minutes for it. On a touch screen, guests design their own roller coaster, bobsled course, or jet flight, and then step inside a two-person module on the end of a robotic arm to experience a simulated version of their creation. Another inexplicably empty attraction is Magic Kingdom's Tom Sawyer Island. The 3.3-acre site is a warren of wooded trails, caves, and circa-1840s buildings. Each morning, staffers hide six paintbrushes on the island, and the first kids to find them get front-of-the-line passes for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain. 5. Drink for free—in eight languages Disney World isn't exactly known for its giveaways—which is why Epcot's Coca-Cola-sponsored Club Cool is such a score. Located in a nondescript storefront behind Epcot's silver geodesic sphere, Club Cool doles out free samples of eight soft drinks from around the world, including Costa Rican Fanta Kolita, Israeli Kinley Lemon, and Japanese VegitaBeta. Just beware the bitter and syrupy Italian (nonalcoholic) aperitif known as Beverly. It's a doozy. 6. Grab some shut-eye (and a quick history lesson) During summer's peak, when the Magic Kingdom can stay open as late as 2 a.m., the conventional wisdom is to return to your hotel for a refreshing afternoon catnap or a cooldown by the pool. But really, there's no need to leave the park. My apologies to the Hall of Presidents—Disney's audio-animatronic celebration of the American presidency—but there's no better place for a quick midday snooze. Comfy seats, a long running time (23 minutes), perfect air-conditioned temperatures, and Morgan Freeman's warm narration make for a dreamy combination. 7. Look at the line. Now skip it Trying to fit all the highlights of a given park into a single day can feel like a race against the clock, so every little time-saver helps. At Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios), Test Track (Epcot), and Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom), riders have the option of queuing up in a dedicated singles line to fill any empty seats that might open up between larger parties. Sure, you won't be able to buy the requisite cheesy souvenir photo of you and your family screaming your heads off, but you'll halve that hour-plus wait time. Multi-kid families have another option, called the rider switch. If one of the kids is too young, short, or scared to ride, one parent-child pair can enjoy the attraction while the other waits by the loading zone. When the riders finish up, the parents can swap positions and the new parent-child team sets off for another run—no extra waiting involved. 8. Squeeze in time for cocktail hour At a certain point in every young Floridian's life, Epcot graduates from "the educational theme park" to "the park where you can drink your way around the world." Everything from Chinese green-tea plum-wine slushies ($7.50) to icy, blended French Grey Goose citron cocktails ($9) is available in the grab-and-go bars that ring Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. Sure, these drinks are delicious, but there's an even better alternative. For those unconcerned with trying to hit every attraction before the park closes, I suggest setting some time aside to duck into La Cava del Tequila, hidden inside Epcot's Mexico Pavilion. With only 30 seats, the grotto-like restaurant is an unexpectedly intimate shelter from the bustle outside and serves some mean specialties like flavored margaritas (avocado, cactus, jalapeño, and hibiscus), house-made guacamole, small plates like blue crab tostadas, and flights of top-shelf tequila (margaritas from $10, small plates from $6). 9. Buy a souvenir you'll actually want For years, the most popular souvenirs at Disney World were hyper-collectible but decidedly uncool pins. (That didn't stop me from gathering them by the hundreds.) But now Disney has gone and added a twist: It's introduced a line of souvenirs that are at once cartoonish, crowd-pleasing, and surprisingly hip. With their trademark Mickey Mouse ears, the three-inch-tall Vinylmation figurines (from $10) come in hundreds of designs. You'll find everything from classic characters like Goofy and Pluto to iconic attractions like the monorail and Cinderella Castle. The catch? These pop-art-inspired action figures are sold in unmarked boxes, so you never know which pattern you'll find inside. If you're unhappy with your randomly selected design, most stores keep three options in full view by the cash register, and you can swap yours for one of those backups. 10. Don't skimp on your hotel. I promise you'll regret it Most people are quick to think you'll get the best hotel deals outside the parks. And while that's probably true—a $35 room on congested International Drive is not unheard of—value-oriented visitors should not rule out Disney resorts. For example, the All-Star (Music, Sports, and Movies—three separate hotels) and Pop Century resorts are just minutes from the parks via Disney buses, and they start at $82 a night (make reservations at disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts). Each is outfitted with oversize props that suit their respective themes. Think 51-foot-tall tennis rackets, a guitar-shaped pool, and pop culture figures like Mr. Potato Head and Pac-Man. If all of this overblown theming comes off a bit kitschy, Port Orleans (from $149) and Coronado Springs (from $154) offer more subtle experiences inspired by New Orleans and the American Southwest. Whichever you choose, I recommend you embrace it—along with your inner kid. At Disney, that's kinda the point.
Secret Hotels of Paris
Ermitage Hôtel Sacré-Coeur A hidden gem high above the rooftops Constructed in 1895 as a gift from a banker to his mistress, the 12-room Ermitage Hôtel Sacré-Coeur is a relic in the best sense of the word. The landmarked building, on a hillside near the Montmartre cathedral, has had only five owners, a rare continuity that enhances the hotel's trapped-in-amber feeling. The current proprietors, the Canipel family, have held the keys for 36 years, and their heirlooms (a grandfather clock from the 1800s, a turn-of-the-century wood china cabinet) are perfect complements to the English floral tapestries that appear everywhere from footstool to ceiling. Modern conveniences are notably absent—don't expect central A/C or an elevator. But while the dated atmosphere may seem like a by-product of neglect, every choice at the Ermitage is deliberate, from the cash-only rule (which helps keep prices low) to the no-TV policy ("You can always hear a television through the walls," explains Sophie Canipel, the hotel's manager). Canipel even maintains a strict reservations policy: only by phone. "It's just friendlier to talk directly with someone," she explains. "You can answer specific questions much more easily that way." Such singular attention to comfort keeps guests coming back, time and again. A handful of American families have returned to Ermitage every year for three decades, and a number of repeat visitors first stayed here as small children. Each regular has his or her favorite room—the two garden-level doubles (with their matching terraces perfectly positioned to catch the sunrise) are particularly popular. Whatever their history with the hotel, everyone is treated to one pretty sweet perk: A daily breakfast of just-baked croissants, strong European-style coffee, and fresh-squeezed orange juice, delivered right to your door. 18th arrondissement, 24 rue Lamarck, ermitagesacrecoeur.fr, from $131, breakfast included. Hôtel Mayet An offbeat art hotel Raised by two hoteliers in the Alpine resort town of Val d'Isère, Laurence Raymond, owner of the Hôtel Mayet in Paris's Les Invalides neighborhood, has hospitality in her blood. So it makes a certain kind of sense that her own foray into the family business would take tongue-in-cheek inspiration from an office building. Upstairs, the 23 rooms stick to a bold gray-and-crimson color scheme, with oversize analog clocks, and file cabinets instead of bedside tables. Downstairs, the Mayet's lobby serves as the office building's no-rules break room. Two brightly colored, abstract murals—one by graffiti artist and bad-boy-about-town André, featuring his signature "Mr. A" motif; the other a swirling, fantastical work by another big-name local tagger, JonOne—instantly set a playful tone. The twin lounge areas flanking the front door are filled with Raymond's flea-market finds (a metallic saddle-seat stool at the computer station), art-show objects (wing-shaped pendant lamps), and stacks of books and magazines. Add to those surprising touches a rainbow-striped floor in the breakfast room and a stack of free postcards (with stamps included) at the reception desk—and it becomes quite clear that the Hôtel Mayet is anything but institutional. 6th arrondissement, 3 rue Mayet, mayet.com, free Wi-Fi, from $177, breakfast included. Hôtel de la Paix A classic remade for modern travelers For 130 years, the seven-story building that houses the Hôtel de la Paix earned its keep hosting French business travelers drawn to its reasonable prices, attentive service, and central location, a seven-minute walk from Jardin du Luxembourg in Montparnasse. But thanks to a transformation at the hands of Charlotte and Georges Ferrero, who bought the 39-room property in March 2009, the hotel is now welcoming guests in town just as much for weekend sightseeing as weekday work. "Before, we used to be booked Monday through Friday but so quiet on weekends and in August," says Daniele Letourneau, who has run the front desk for the past 13 years. "Now we're busy all the time." While many hotels in Paris gravitate toward opposite ends of the style spectrum—spare at one extreme, prim at the other—Hôtel de la Paix forges its own inviting look: a modern take on a 1950s French schoolhouse. In the rooms, pale-painted walls and white linens pair with wooden window shutters repurposed as headboards; vintage educational posters and school desks with articulated task lamps serve as accents. A jumble of antiques collected on Charlotte's various excursions to the countryside—a set of weathered, leather-bound dictionaries, a scale model of a schooner encased in glass—punctuate the comfy communal seating area. And when it's time to join the passersby making their way to the area's famous cafés, guests need look no further than the front desk to assess the weather. There, a chalkboard is updated each morning with a hand-scribbled forecast, complete with charming drawings of sunbeams, clouds, and raindrops, depending on the day. 14th arrondissement, 225 blvd. Raspail, paris-montparnasse-hotel.com, free Wi-Fi, from $114, breakfast $12. Hôtel de la Bretonnerie A touch of history in the heart of the city A few things might come to mind when you imagine a typical Parisian hotel: elaborate, old-world decor; a picturesque setting on a narrow, café-lined street; and, perhaps, a generous helping of haughty Gallic attitude. Fortunately, the Hôtel de la Bretonnerie delivers on all but the latter. The late-17th-century building in the art-focused Marais is rife with period details like floral-patterned wall coverings, antique engravings, and exposed beams—so much so that it's become a popular backdrop for photo shoots by Japanese and French fashion magazines. No two of the 29 guest rooms are alike: Some have high ceilings, some low; there are duplexes and singles, and even a pair of rooms with double sinks and vanities, perfect for groups of girlfriends traveling together. In spite of all that quirky aesthetic appeal, the hotel's savvy, solicitous staff is truly its most valuable asset. After directing each guest to the ideal room—an essential service, since they vary so widely—the staff sets about tailoring advice to each visitor's needs. The hotel's four front-desk agents, who speak a combined total of seven languages, regularly scour their corner of Paris for new restaurants, shops, and arts spaces worthy of endorsement. Each agent has his or her specialty: Ask Olga for opera and classical-music performances, Ludivine for food and local history, Patrick for theater and cinema, and Karen for jazz clubs, bars, and vintage clothing and design boutiques, many of which are within a short walk of the hotel's front door. 4th arrondissement, 22 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, bretonnerie.com, free Wi-Fi, from $182, breakfast $13. Paris-Oasis A nouveau bohemian haunt In a neighborhood that's been wholly transformed over the past two decades—from a ramshackle cluster of artists' studios and blue-collar businesses to a bona fide boho paradise—Hélène and Jean-Louis Bignon are a constant. When they first moved to Montmartre in 1974, "it was more or less the 19th century here," Jean-Louis says. Their street, which was once home to a veterinary hospital and a mechanic's garage, now houses an advertising firm, a graffiti-splashed record store, an outlet shop for French clothing brand A.P.C., and Chéri Bibi, a casually hip restaurant that fills with a boisterous, under-40 crowd most nights. Carved out of the Bignons' own three-story home, Paris-Oasis—which includes three detached, converted units, plus two upper-floor apartments in the main building—can accommodate up to 15 people. The rooms are designed to sleep one to five guests, and each unit has a private bath and a kitchenette stocked with water, juice, soda, coffee, and beer. Although there's no breakfast service, in-room Nespresso machines dispense both American and European-style coffee, and it's only about 15 paces from the front door to the nearest bakery. Of the five room options, the Iris is the most secluded: It's hidden in the greenery of the back garden—beyond the solarium and Paris-Oasis's heated swimming pool—and it has its own dining terrace surrounded by rose bushes and a birdbath. A more spacious choice is the Liette suite, a proper one-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, reached by an elevator furnished with an antique theater chair upholstered in faux leopard print. Nearly every nook of Paris-Oasis acts as an exhibition space for pieces from the Bignons' eclectic art collection. A pair of 19th-century Longwy tile murals bought in an antiques shop in the south of France hang at opposite ends of the pool room, and a goatskin miniskirt from a Himba settlement in Namibia occupies a prominent living room shelf. Some of the most original pieces of all are where you'll least expect them: Look closely and you'll spot a black-velvet painting of a tiger tucked away in the stairwell. 18th arrondissement, 14 rue André del Sarte, paris-oasis.com, free Wi-Fi, from $163, three-night min., breakfast not included. A Room in Paris A B&B with gourmet appeal Of the approximately 500 registered chambres d'hôtes (bed-and-breakfasts) in Paris, the majority are run by empty nesters looking to make the most of a spare room without committing to a life of full-time service. Peet Verrest is not one of those people. At his recently expanded, five-room B&B, simply called A Room in Paris, Verrest takes his job seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he put his hospitality to the test last summer in a competitive dinner-party-hosting reality-TV show, Un Dîner Presque Parfait (An Almost Perfect Dinner). "I considered it a kind of French exam," the Dutch-born Verrest explains. Given that he went home the winner, we'll say he passed. All that effort works out very well for guests: Each morning, Verrest lays out a spread made up of meats and cheeses, his own bread and preserves (rhubarb, apricot, plum), and homemade treats like a clafoutis de Limoges tart. The meal is served at a communal table set with mismatched plates in the living room, which is decorated with oil paintings by contemporary artists. The B&B's location, a two-minute walk from the Gare du Nord, has its ups and downs: While it's the first stop on the express train from the Charles de Gaulle airport, it's also a 20-minute bus or 10-minute Métro ride from top attractions (Notre-Dame, the Louvre). But the slightly out-of-the-way location buys plenty of luxuries—11-foot ceilings with ornamental moldings dating to the late 1800s, original herringbone-wood floors, and rooms as large as 300 square feet. Other details are no less grand. Marble fireplaces serve as displays for stylized animal figurines and carefully chosen antiques, the result of a collaboration between Verrest—a former export manager for an architectural supply company—and his partner, Thierry Taillez. "We only have a little taste in common," Verrest explains. "But when it works, it's good." 10th arrondissement, 130 rue LaFayette, aroominparis.com, free Wi-Fi, from $95, breakfast included.
Ask Trip Coach: Top Tips for Traveling With Your Pet
READERS' TOP QUESTIONS What's one tip anyone traveling with pets should know? Whether you're renting a beach house in Florida or road-tripping across the Rockies, there's one essential item you should always add to your packing list: an updated copy of your dog's or cat's rabies vaccination certificate. It may not be glamorous, but you'll be glad you have it if your pet needs to see a new vet, gets bitten by another animal, or maybe even bites someone itself. When it comes to unexpected situations, never underestimate the power of good documentation. Can I bring my pet to a hotel? While nearly every hotel claims to be pet-friendly, individual policies are more complicated. Some chains enforce weight limits, while others, like Loews and Kimpton, have no restrictions—even Great Danes get the go-ahead. Some charge for pets (usually $10 and up per night at a Quality Inn); some require a security deposit (around $15 at Super 8, $50 at most Quality Inns); and some charge nothing at all (Red Roof Inn, Loews, Kimpton). For specific pet policies at chain hotels across the U.S., check out the New York–based website petswelcome.com. But that's just the beginning of the fine print. Quirky local laws can affect policies too. For example, pit bulls aren't allowed anywhere in the Canadian province of Ontario. The bottom line? Call ahead and call early: Most hotels limit the number of rooms that accommodate pets, so even if there are vacancies, that doesn't mean you and Fido are guaranteed one. The early dog gets the room. What about bringing pets on planes? As with hotels, airline policies are not at all standardized. The only constant is the size restriction: To travel as a carry-on, pets must be small enough to stand up and turn around in a carrier that fits comfortably under an airline seat. In that regard, Southwest is considered one of the most pet-friendly airlines because it charges just $75 each way for a carry-on, compared with $125 on, say, United. If your pet can't fit in a small enough carrier, however, things get a bit more complicated. In that case, you'll need to hand it over to the airline either as checked luggage, which is generally limited to pets under 50 pounds (the transfer occurs at check-in), or as cargo (pets must be dropped off at a separate airport area designated for cargo before you check in). Southwest, AirTran, JetBlue, Spirit, US Airways, and Virgin America allow pets in carry-on bags only, though most other airlines are happy to accommodate them as checked luggage or cargo—but you'll pay for it. The price tag can be as much as $250 each way (United, again). The website bringfido.com/travel offers a comprehensive rundown of major airlines' pet policies. So what are the advantages and disadvantages of carry-on and cargo? "A lot of our readers just won't check their pets as cargo," explains Len Kain, editor of dogfriendly.com. "Many are uncomfortable with the idea of shipping their pets like luggage, and people worry about delays." The reality, though, is that it's perfectly safe. Like passenger cabins, all cargo areas are temperature-controlled and pressurized, and airline staffers are trained to handle animals. To prep your pet preflight, just give it a lot of exercise before you head to the airport—and resist the urge to resort to drugging. Most vets don't recommend it. "For the most part, your pet will probably sleep no matter what," says Susan Smith, editor and founder of pettravel.com. "The humming sound of the plane is soothing." Is there anything I should consider before taking my pet abroad? International travel is where your pet meets government bureaucracy—and that means serious red tape. Take the U.K., for instance: If you didn't plan ahead and flew with your dog into London Heathrow, Fido would be kept in quarantine for six months—not quite the vacation you'd planned. Ditto in Japan, where even if you do follow the protocol, which involves implanted microchips (for tracking), blood tests, and proof of rabies vaccinations, pets may still be quarantined for up to 12 hours. Each country has subtly different rules, so you may need to repeat the process if you're going to cross multiple borders. Most countries require owners to begin planning their trip well in advance. The U.K. calls for a microchip, blood tests conducted at least six months before travel, and an official tick and tapeworm check 24 to 48 hours before the flight. If any of the requirements aren't met, the dog gets quarantined automatically. Countries such as Italy and France are easier on foreign pets; they typically ask for a microchip, a recent veterinarian's health report, and proof that the animal has been vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days and no more than one year in advance. To unravel the various rules and regulations, get in touch with the embassy of the country you're visiting (use travel.state.gov to find contact info) and start preparing for the trip six to eight months ahead of time. Are there any places that simply don't allow pets? Every park has its own rules, but generally National Park Service sites aren't as pet-friendly as you might think. Pets are barred from most trails and campgrounds, including those in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon National Parks. The same goes for most national monuments, like the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and the Washington Monument. Check nps.gov for guidelines. Also, pets are often banned or allowed limited access on many U.S. public beaches, especially during peak season. Petfriendlytravel.com/dog_beaches lists specific rules for dog-friendly beaches across the U.S. What if I can't take my pet along for some parts of the trip? Don't just leave your companion at the hotel. "Some properties simply don't allow it," says Heather Hunter, a spokeswoman for AAA who works on Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook. Hunter recommends calling ahead to check on that property's policy. If leaving a pet unattended is allowed, though, be sure to notify housekeeping and crate the animal while you're out. The housekeepers will appreciate it, and you could save yourself a bundle: Even the mildest creatures have been known to wreak havoc when left alone in unfamiliar territory. After all, would you want to be left alone all day? If your hotel doesn't allow solo pets, ask the concierge to help you find a local dog sitter, kennel, or special "pet hotel" (basically a day camp for dogs and cats). National retailer PetSmart offers doggy day care and overnight programs, and petsitters.org lists professionals around the country.
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