The Other Paris…

Parisian break dancer flexes his skills. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)
Parisian break dancer flexes his skills. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

Many visitors to the City of Love make time to see such famed sites as Cimetere du Pere Lachaise, Le Louvre and Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few. But rarely, if ever, do everyday tourists visit those gems hidden in the hearts of Parisian  arrondissements.

Le Centquatre (Photo courtesty of

One such place is La Centquatre, in the 19th arrondissement. This spacious, nearly 242,000 sq ft, public cultural center houses visual  artisans, dancers, actors and performance artists for showings, practice or just to hang out.

The space is equipped with a bookstore, galleries, performance studios and practice areas, even a quaint cafe/deli is onsite. One other great location convenience is that it offers close proximity to the Canal de La Villette section of River Seine.

Stepping through the courtyard of this historic monument, you’re submerged in a wave of sights and sounds. Sounds like soul thumping, house music blaring from one set of doors; Vivaldi oozing from behind another. The sights are of small clusters of various types of people littered about the giant space.

Dancers practice out in the open. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

For your best La Centquatre experience, you should check out their offerings ahead of time. You’ll search their programming (translator will help) and happen upon many expositions of notable artists. From artists of the recent past, like Keith Haring, to one of their 200 artists in residence — they display fascinating exhibitions with the help of the French government and notable art houses, like Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Chicago visitor does yoga under the Keith Haring exposition. (Photo by Janean L. Watkins, 2013)

On occasion, you can catch the Hip Hop Dance Expo, sponsored by area resident  Sidy Seye. In this expo, you can watch some of the best break dancers display their craft to onlookers. For over ten years, Seye has taught break dancing, DJing and English to young Parisians. In collaboration with local area businesses, Sidy is able to offer after-school and weekend lessons to area youth for little to no money.

This is just one of the many gems in and around Parisian arrondissements. Be sure to make this community cultural center a mandatory stop on your next trip to Paris.

Family Vacation… In Las Vegas?!

You’ve wanted to visit Vegas all your life, but as a parent of young children, that dream seems a long way off. It doesn’t have to be. Not many people realize how family-friendly Las Vegas can be. That’s why after reading this article, you’ll be more than ready to book your trip and plan your family’s vacation to Sin City.

Las Vegas is well known for its casinos and shows, but did you know that it’s a major city in the Mojave Desert? It’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of for photographers, family campers and star gazers. Who would have thought camping could be a Las Vegas attraction.

Eiffel Tower Ride

You’re not into camping? No problem. Instead of breaking your bank account renting multiple rooms for yourself and your children, stretch your dollar a bit further. One overlooked option for families are vacation rentals.

Many Las Vegas property owners rent homes in communities like Green Valley, which is about ten minutes from the center strip, for as little as $1300 a week for a four bedroom, two bath home. Even cheaper, as low as $299 per week, if you’re going through your travel club membership. Going this route, you win with amenities like swimming pools, hot tubs, BBQ bars and washer/dryers.

You probably know Las Vegas for its age old slogan, ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. While that may still hold true for some things, other activities are worthy of photos and stories for your friends and family back home. For example, you’ll definitely want to check out the Eiffel Tower Ride, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation and the Hoover Dam. All are inexpensive with pricing under $20 per person.

Families explore the tunnels below Hoover Dam.

While you’re saving money on lodging, you’ll be able to afford a few meals while out on the town. One great place to go is Plaza Buffet where all you can eat ranges from $7-$9 per person, which is a great deal for eating and taking your food away with you.

But, don’t forget that you’re in a vacation rental. Quick family meals are at your fingertips. Popular grocers include Mariana’s Supermarket, Vons, and Trader Joe’s.

So, you see, Las Vegas isn’t just for adults. Save some money and book your trip to Sin City now that you’re equipped to make the trip as enjoyable for your kids, as it is for you.