For a chocolate experience, you have to visit Un Dimanche a Paris. The owner, Pierre Cluizel, is the son of a famous French chocolatier and makes some of the best chocolate in the country. The new 2,400-square-foot chocolate shop has entertainment, a cocktail lounge and a restaurant. Angelina is another well-known chocolate shop in Paris that has incredible homemade hot chocolate, rich cupcakes and delicate macaroons. Meert, another local favorite boutique in Marais, has more than just handmade chocolates, like homemade flavored marshmallows and gaufres (waffle cookies). The Bigot Chocolaterie and patisserie in the town of Amboise (in the Loire Valley) is revered as one of the best chocolate shops in France. Here you'll find incredible chocolates, macaroons and freshly baked goods.
You truly can't visit Paris without a stop at Laduree (which has multiple locations). Maureen, of American Express Travel, urges all visitors to try one of their sweets since they are officially known as the birthplace of macaroons. They also make an incredible pain au chocolat aux amandes, or chocolate filled pastry. Du Pain et Des Idees is where most of the region's best chefs pick up their breads and pastries, including renowned chef Alain Ducasse. The most popular menu item here is the pain des amis (or friendship bread), which has a perfect crispy crust and soft inside. Couple (La) in the Champagne region (in the town of Troyes) has a great selection of homemade croissants and baguettes for a great price.
Image via Renee Lightner.
If you're only in Northern France for a few days, a trip to the Champagne Valley is a must. Most of the Champagne is made between Reims and Epernay. Reims is home to more than 11 different Champagne houses, including the world famous G.H. Mumm, which has been around since 1827. One of Reim's most popular Champagne houses is the Celliers Ruinart. Locals rave that Ruinart, founded in 1729, produces some of the best Champagne in the region. Go on a guided tour through the cellars to see firsthand how Champagne is made. The tour ends with a tasting of their offerings and if you're lucky, maybe a taste of one of their vintage roses!
In the town of Epernay lies one of the most famous Champagne producers, Moet & Chandon. Founded in the 17th century, the cellars of Moet span more than 17.4 miles, making it the largest in the valley. Grab a tour through the cellars, which also ends in a tasting of their world-class Champagnes. Another Champagne house you may have heard of is Perrier-Jouet. Founded in 1891, this giant vineyard and producer makes more than 3 million bottles annually, including vintage and non-vintage bottles.
Need a little help planning a trip? We worked with Maureen Johnson, a Travel Insider with American Express, on the planning of this trip to Paris. Maureen worked on all of the details, including air reservations, hotel reservations and transportation to each destination, as well as scheduling tours. The Travel Insiders program provides knowledge of the best off-the-beaten-path activities and hidden gems, as well as fully customized itineraries tailored to every individual traveler.
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