When it opened in 1958, Publicis Drugstore offered Parisians a more chic (and adult) version of our old drugstores with soda fountains. After a recent makeover by Tom Dixon, the interior is sexy and comfortable. Request seating outside – even in a bubble when it is cold – to gaze at the Arc de Triomphe while dining. Peruse the fancy cocktail list and order from friendly staff. The experience is kind of like stepping into a James Bond movie, or dining with Don Draper. Probably more Don Draper…
Unlike other places, ask for a cocktail and “Finger Food” first, then the waitstaff comes back for the food order. Quick delivery after order of healthy portions. Although there are plenty of Americans who are loud and do not try to speak French, Parisians make up a gentler percentage of the patrons. Our waitress said all desserts are made in house and what we tasted was excellent!!! By the way, beautiful bathrooms. Le Drugstore is especially convenient if you are going to the Lido for a show after dinner. Or, it stays open so late, dine after the show.
Arc de Triomphe from the bubble.
Enter through the drugstore – buy pens, paper, posters…. all on the way to your table.
On a January visit to Paris, three of us wanted to take a day trip to visit the D-Day beaches. In our planning, we were limited because of the number of daylight hours during January and because of the train schedule. We also wanted a private tour in English to see the beaches, hear the history again, see the American Cemetery, ask questions easily and be where U.S. troops had been during WWII.
The middle of January may not be the ideal time to visit the windy beaches of Normandy, but I was lucky enough to find Sabrina Pitois of Normandy Excursions & Tours. We exchanged emails and she was ready to take us on a tour. She and I arranged everything with train times and what we wanted to see.
And, as our visit got closer, she looked at the weather and wrote advising us to wear waterproof shoes/boots. (Thank goodness we took her advice!) Once more, before we left the United States, she wrote confirming our details along with a wish for a good flight. Her attention to detail and concern really made us feel comfortable and happy with choosing her to guide us.
Train Travel (and an odd delay)
One day after arrival to Paris, we went to the Gare Saint-Lazare train station to travel to Caen, switch trains, then travel to Bayeux. The train from Paris was late. After some time, I heard an announcement that we were late because of a malfunctioning door. We finally left Paris and Sabrina called and texted to let me know that she had checked at the Bayeux station and found out about our delay.
Our ticketed train from Caen to Bayeux had left the station, but, Sabrina had called the Caen station, found out the time for the next train, and explained all of it to me. (She would have driven to Caen to pick us up, but it was a 45 minute drive and the train only takes about 12 minutes, so her picking us up would have created even more of a delay.) Again, it was reassuring for her to check on us, advise us of the time of the next train and explain what we needed to do.
Since we did not have a ticket for the next train, I took our tickets to the ticket station and asked the representative for help. He turned over my printed ticket and wrote a note on the back and stamped it. We were ready for the next leg of our journey!
What About Lunch?
But, another change of plans was lunch. We were going to eat along the way with Sabrina, but decided we should eat at the Caen train station to save time. No real old-time café in the station, but we found a kind of pop-up stand and grabbed baguette sandwiches and waters. When we were on the quick train ride from Caen to Bayeux, we made a little picnic as the countryside whizzed by us. (Sabrina had also texted me to find some food there, but I had turned my phone off so didn’t get her message until we arrived in Bayeux.)
When we arrived at the Bayeux station, Sabrina was there to meet us – smiling on the platform, in the gusting wind, with a sign with my name on it. She greeted us as friends, then we hopped in her van and immediately took off toward Pointe du Hoc.
Soaked in History
During our drives and while visiting, Sabrina explained so much history, answered questions, pointed out interesting sights along the way, and told the story of D-Day: from how it was planned to what actually happened, to the outcome on those days at the beginning of the liberation of France. We were late to start with, but Sabrina got us going and gave us plenty of time at each stop.
Pointe du Hoc
First, we visited Pointe du Hoc, where the first Rangers came into Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944. The battlefield above the beach has been left as it was except for erecting a monument. Craters are all over the area as well as giant bombed casemates that were built to house the German big guns aimed on the Allies. Visitors can also walk in and around a dormitory/command post built by the Germans for their defense of Normandy.
Next, we went to Omaha Beach. Sabrina explained how Operation Neptune was the largest naval assault in history while showing us how the beach stretched for miles down the coast. She explained the tides and how important those and the moon phase was to the military operation. She had great enlarged photos that provided a great overview and she even told stories of some of the people in the photos.
Then, Sabrina drove us above Omaha Beach to the American Cemetery. The entire cemetery inspires reverence. White crosses and Stars of David stretch across the acres of lawn. A memorial and chapel on either ends are dedicated to Americans who lost their lives. American flags fly over head. From the edge of the bluff, you can see how easy the Germans had it for picking off American soldiers trying to scurry from the beach to the bluff. We happened to be at the cemetery when they lowered the American flag while playing a recorded version of taps. Here is the video of lowering the U.S. Flag at the American Cemetery. A truly memorable visit.
After quietly leaving the American Cemetery, we went on some back roads to Gold Beach. Road construction was blocking two of the main roads, but no problem for Sabrina! She grew up near here and knew how to easily navigate alternate routes on very narrow, one-lane roads. (No GPS required!)
At Gold Beach, we could see the giant German guns inside their casemates. From these sites in France, the Germans could fire shots targeting Allied ships. Amazing to hear the story and see it in person at the same time.
Return to Paris
Sadly, our train back to Paris would soon depart. So Sabrina drove us back to the Bayeux station telling stories of the countryside on the way. She even went into the station with us to make sure our train was on time. Then, Sabrina told us goodbye and bon voyage.
On a lighter note, Sabrina showed us some big, old mansions along the way and also told us about Normande cattle. The Normande is a local dairy (or beef) cow that has red or brown spots on a white coat as well as patches of color around its eyes. They dot the countryside and produce excellent milk. Normande cattle are beautiful on the green fields with their mottled white and brown colors. It was sweet to see a little calm country atmosphere while on such a somber visit to battlefields.
Sabrina’s attention to detail, her knowledge, her care for us (and her driving skills) are unsurpassed! Unless you want to spend a couple of days going to all of the beaches, this was more than enough to really get a feel for D-Day. If you go, do not skip the American Cemetery. It was my second visit and it is definitely worth a visit or two in your lifetime. Again, although it is a somber day, no one could have made our trip more enjoyable or memorable than Sabrina.
If you go to Paris and want to go to Normandy, I highly recommend Sabrina at Normandy Excursions & Tours. Make arrangements well in advance.
Sabrina Pitois Normandy Excursions & Tours Guided Group and Private Tours in Normandy Email: [email protected] Tél.: +33 6 16 45 32 14
Each trip to Paris brings new insights into traveling. Both for traveling in general and for traveling specifically to Paris. This recent January trip was perfect! How could it not be? It is Paris, after all. Here are my recent observations from Paris.
We were greeted with snow, then with rain on and off for a few days. The nights were chilly with low clouds, but then the sun shone through at times making the city sparkle. Generally, the weather does not affect my enjoyment of Paris, but it does determine how to pack and how to plan.
In addition to all of the information on traveling to Paris on this site, such as this packing list, here are a few recent observations. Also, a little tattle on myself for not following my own suggestions!
Map and Guidebook for Traveling
I forgot a map of Paris!!! And, a guidebook. I always bring them. Not this time. I completely forgot them while I was trying to get the dog to camp before starting to pack (so she wouldn’t be stressed). I always pack the night before or the day of the flight (not suggested), but I have always done it that way. As the trip approaches, I usually make a pile of things to put in my suitcase. But this time, I just forgot a map and guidebook. It is on the list I use to pack – but I misplaced my list the day before leaving! Not a good idea. Keep your list for packing with your suitcase!
G7 is a taxi service in Paris. A little while back, I downloaded the G7 app. It was terrific. It is quick and easy to enter the destination. Meaning no fumbling with using the wrong number in French or mispronouncing street names – all while the taxi driver speaks faster and faster French to you. Besides, it explained, in English, what kind of car was coming with contact information. Then, I could see the car on its way with an estimated time of arrival and more. Just like popular ride sharing apps.
One of my friends tried Uber and it was a 30 minute wait. Same when I tried it. In the past it has worked well, but not so great this time. Do not know the reasons why, but it is great to have options. Also, if you link the G7 app to a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign exchange fee, even better. (Lyft is not in Paris yet.)
The Métro is always easy and super-efficient transport. As you work your way through the underground maze, make sure to look for the signs leading you in the right direction at each intersection. And, double check yourself each time. I missed a sign at one cross path, but Jennifer caught it. Of course, it wouldn’t have been terrible, but catching the right one saved time and kept us on track to our next destination.
Without my hard copy of a map, I used a map application on my phone a couple of times. I needed to confirm we were going in the correct direction. (I felt like I was cheating, but it was pretty useful!)
Although I advised my bank that I would be in France ahead of time, I still got a fraud call after using my debit card. Plus, I wasted time and had a lot of aggravation talking to a fraud person who was not really connected to my local bank. The big banks did not have these problems. And of course, American Express already knows you are there (somehow??) and knows you are spending money – so no problems with AmEx.
Poncho in Your Satchel
It rained on this visit, but it is Paris, so who really cares? I had ponchos in my satchel for everyone. One time it was really raining hard by Parisian standards so I broke out the ponchos. BUT, make sure the poncho in the little bitty sack from the drugstore is big enough to fit over you!!! Each of us had on a coat, some with sweaters underneath, and I was carrying my satchel. None of the ponchos fit over me. Another was so flimsy, and the wind was so strong, that it was constantly being turned inside out! Anyway, I was glad to have a little cover, but will be restocking with a little higher quality and checking the sizes before purchasing more.
Hiking Boots – Who Knew?
I was very happy that I brought lightweight, waterproof, hiking boots. I have never thought of bringing hiking boots to Paris before. But, it is lots of walking, sometimes on cobblestones, sometimes in the rain, and sometimes with a little slush on the ground. They were excellent. I even wore them when it wasn’t raining. So, I was very happy to have them.
Walk a Mile
Jennifer left her iPhone connected to internet service the entire time. And, if it is correct, we walked 7-8 miles each day. I was really surprised by that number! If it was a long way to dinner, we took a taxi. Most of this was really just walking in the day from Métro stops and in and around neighborhoods and a few museums. No wonder Parisians are fit looking!
Now, THIS is an Observation
And, one more….
Know When to Rest ‘Em
Everyone else took a rest in the afternoon, but I went to see more and walk around more. I have a hard time sitting still in Paris. However, the important part of this is that they NEEDED a rest so that the rest of their day would be enjoyable. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHEN TO REST. On this trip, I was fortunate to need only about 15 minutes with my feet up before changing clothes for dinner. And, for all the places we ate dinner, I wore jeans, collared shirt and a sports jacket. Also, an outer coat and scarf for traveling to and from dinner.
Louvre Museum Shop Moved
The Louvre moved its ticket stations from right under the pyramid into the space where the gift shop used to be. Now, the museum shop is on the same underground level as before, but two parts, one either side of the wide hall leading to the inverted pyramid. It still has all of the great books, interesting gifts and walls of post cards.
Angelina on rue de Rivoli
Angelina has an outpost on the rue de Rivoli, next door to Hotel Le Meurice. The line was about 75 people long waiting to get in on a drizzly and cold afternoon. (Hint: Go to Café de Flore, instead. Or try practically any café with seating and you may be surprised by the hot chocolate.)
Stand Up Cafés Disappearing?
Cafés where one stands at the bar and orders coffee and a croissant in the morning seem to be fewer and farther between. Don’t know for sure, but we were having trouble finding them so we could duck in quickly for a shot of espresso. Will have to research more on this and be more observant. Maybe it is only the tourist areas that are filled with to-go shops.
Walk and Drink and Eat
Meanwhile on the streets of Paris, more and more Parisians seem to be walking around with cups of coffee in their hands. Quelle horreur! That is so un-Parisian to walk on the street and drink coffee. And, certainly completely unacceptable to eat while walking. Neither of these used to ever be seen.
Exercise Fanatics – In Style
Another interesting observation is that more and more joggers are all over the place – another sight that used to never be seen. They thought I was from the moon when I jogged in the mornings back in the 90s. Of course, Parisians have on matching running outfits (not just shorts and t-shirts) so they look good while jogging. The runners are everywhere, especially through the gardens and along the quais of the Seine.
January = Fashion Weeks
No wonder the hotels were not at a deep discount in January. Paris Fashion Week, both womens’ and mens’ are in January. Back-to-back. And, mens fashion week was happening when we were there. Another time to put on the calendar to check before booking.
Organ concerts at historic churches are an absolute must. They only last an hour and you don’t have to stay for the whole thing. They are a great opportunity to see magnificent architecture, and the sound from the organs can rattle your bones and the rafters. I saw/heard them at Saint-Sulpice, Saint Séverin and Saint Eustache. (I wrote more on awe-inspiring churches here.)
All incredible, but Saint Eustache may be a little more fun because the keyboard is on the ground floor. That means you can see the organist perform while listening to the music. At the others, the keyboard and the organist are way up by the pipes. At the end of the performance, they kind of peep out from the organ for their final applause. Choir organs, which are also beautiful, are played during many church services. But do not mistake them for the grand organs. The grand organs are the ones where you see the massive pipes above the main doors to the church.
For jet lag, I kind of tried the “not eating on the flights” way of thinking. On the way to Paris, the meal on the plane leaving Atlanta was at about the time I would normally have dinner, so I ate. I did not eat again until lunch in Paris at Cafe Nouvelle Saint Marie. On the way back, I ate a baguette sandwich at the airport terminal that I had bought near the hotel. Then, not again until dinner in Atlanta. Generally, my jetlag is really bad coming back from Paris. But this time, it was practically non-existent. Will try the not eating on flights again in a few months and report back.
As of January, 2019, the Musée du Louvre opens its doors for free to all visitors on the first Saturday night of each month! That’s right – for free – from 6:00pm to 8:45pm.
Louvre to Open First Saturday Night Each Month with Free Admission
Attempting to attract more first-time locals to visit, the Louvre adds the first Saturday of each month to its free admission line up. As the most visited museum in the world, the Louvre has no problem attracting visitors. But, it wants more locals to visit as well.
With this exciting news out of Paris, the Louvre adds more time for locals and visitors from all over the world to visit the Louvre without paying the price of admission. Right now, a full-price admission ticket is 17 euros. For a family of 4, that price could keep away many families working full time jobs and trying to make ends meet. So, to try to get more locals in the doors, it has opened on an additional night. That is good fortune for visitors, too!
In the past, the Louvre opened on the first Sunday of each month with free admission, trying to draw in the locals. But, after reviewing data on visitors coming at that increasingly popular free day, the museum lacked an increase in locals. It appears that more and more international visitors are taking advantage of the 12 free Sundays each year. Who doesn’t want a free entry?
One goal of the Louvre is to engage locals. Saturday night seems like an obvious gateway to reach suburban locals wanting a night out. Louvre officials hope that this additional free time does the job and entices young adults and families from outside Paris proper to take advantage of the world’s most-visited museum. In addition to being free, the museum is hosting a board game area and a reading corner – all trying to lure young families in the door!
Bonus for You!
Of course, for non-local visitors, it is a boon as well. Night visits are an extraordinary way to see the massive royal palace and its dumbfounding treasures. Along with looking out of the windows into the night sky of the city, fewer people visit at night. You may wind up in a gallery with entire rooms to yourself. Admire the art with only your family and friends. Climb the worn marble stairs alone. Wander through the vast space and imagine the kings and queens that were there before you.
Musée du Louvre
Hours: Open Wednesday – Sunday from 9am to 6pm Night opening until 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays Night opening until 8:45pm on FIRST Saturday of the month beginning January 2019 CLOSED TUESDAYS CLOSED: on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, May 8 and December 25. Arrondissement: 1st Nearest Métro: Two stops serve the Louvre. Exiting at Louvre-Rivoli, you will be at the eastern-most end of the Louvre. Exiting at Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre, you will be closer to the pyramid entrance and very close to the entrance at the Passage de Richelieu (if they will let you in) and the entrance through the Carousel de Louvre – kind of underground shopping area that leads you to the main entrance under the pyramid. Nourishment: Food and drink options available inside the Louvre in various locations – enjoy a baguette sandwich overlooking the entrance while watching the people come down the stairs under the pyramid! Official website: https://www.louvre.fr/en/ Suggested time to visit: In the evenings on the days it is open late
You may also be interested in one of the lesser known museums in Paris, such as Musée Picasso Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet or Musée Rodin. See the article on “15 Lesser-Known Museums in Paris” for more details here.
Now that the month is decided and any weekend looks good, I start trying to pin down the exact dates. Five nights and over a weekend provides a good reference to plug in dates to search for a Paris hotel and Paris flights. On websites, I check for special offers at hotels and then search a variety of dates for the Paris flights. Also, I begin looking at what will be happening in Paris to see if something is a must see or must do.
None of this is scientific. And, I do not know whether it is the best way to secure the least expensive or best deal on flights and hotels. This is just the way I start looking. No matter what time of year, Paris is a popular destination. Once when I was trying to use miles for a ticket, an airline representative told me that when Paris flights open for booking, mileage reward flights are exhausted on the first day. Insane!
This part is a lot of work. However, these will be the two major expenses and major decisions for the trip, so take a few days to figure it out. My eyes go blurry after a while looking at airline schedules and checking back and forth between websites. And, I want to telephone a travel agent and see what kind of price she or he can get for me.
Looking for A Paris Hotel for January
I am stuck in a rut when choosing a Paris hotel. I like being in the middle of the 6th Arrondissement. It is lively, easy to walk to boulangeries, wine stores, restaurants, the Seine. But, the Ile St. Louis is also fun and easy. Not as close to a Metro, but at night the tourists are gone and it is a little neighborhood. Both have narrow streets and, although a lot of tourists, they each still feel like a neighborhood.
So I check the Paris hotels I know first. It doesn’t look like any of the dates in January are better than others. And, the prices seem kind of high for January. I don’t know what is up with that. January is definitely off-season! Maybe I am too early? Doubt that. Then, I telephoned a few traveling friends and they all said January was one of their favorite times in Paris, too! Crazy. But, few tourists, romantic weather…..
Have never stayed at Hotel Brighton, but the views look terrific. It is close to a Metro stop and would have easy access to taxis or ride hailing services. Not very neighborhoody in the sense of small streets… But, the rooms on the rue de Rivoli side would have a lot of light at that time of year and could have amazing views over the Tuileries and off to the Eiffel Tower. The view, the price and maybe breakfast thrown in would be the biggest draw for this hotel. Plus, Place Vendôme is around the corner – window shopping. Hmmm?
Looking for Paris Flights
For the airlines, I take into consideration the weather – here in the United States. Departing for Europe from cities in the north in January can be a disaster. I do not want to be one of those poor souls stuck in an airport during a blizzard. Meanwhile, the south doesn’t necessarily escape winter weather either. Ice storms and a dusting of snow can shut down Atlanta or Dallas/Ft. Worth. I have had good luck taking my chances with Atlanta, because AirFrance leaves out of there with direct Paris flights.
Airfares for Paris flights through Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Atlanta seem okay. No discounted fares are popping up.
And, right now, one U.S. Dollar is equal to 1.14 Euros. So, that part is not bad. Of course, parity would be better!
AirFrance planes immediately put you in the French spirit. The flight attendants are French, the first language on the signs and in the videos is French, and the food is French! Bonjour! And, Monsieur, let me help you to your seat!
One app that could be helpful if you are checking out prices is Hopper. It predicts demand and rates.
Looking for Paris Events
When looking for events and exhibitions, I kind of run through a list of places in my head and search their internet sites for what will be happening. Most of the time, it is pretty easy to tell whether or not something really catches my eye and is a definite must see event.
The Louvre is presenting a Hittite exhibit – that could be really interesting. But the exhibit doesn’t start until April of 2019, so will miss that. Nothing really grabbing my attention at Musee d’Orsay, Grand Palais doesn’t have a calendar up that far in advance. Petit Palais, no. Pompidou, no.
Hey, that is all OKAY! Nothing that is pulling me, so I can go back to some favorites, or take a look at something I have never seen!
Opéra Bastille is presenting Les Troyens toward the end of the month. That was the first opera I saw in Paris back in 1990! And, that is when the lead tenor was booed off the stage! I had no idea what was happening. French audiences do not say “boo,” they say, “huée” (kind of like, “who-ay” or something close to that). Supposedly, many performers refuse to take a gig in Paris because the audiences are so discerning! But, if the performer is great, the claps and love will go on and on. Shirley Verrett experienced that love on that same night as the tenor was sent packing.
Each time the ticket is booked, I pull out a French textbook and go through the same basics that I go through each time. Can’t these lessons stick in my head? Maybe I will try sleeping with it under my pillow – won’t that work?
Okay, haven’t pulled the trigger on any Paris hotel or Paris flights – yet. Still mulling over everything.
UPDATE: Here are my observations from the January trip to Paris.
It is time to start training if you want to participate in the Paris Marathon 2019!
On April 14, 2019, the 43rd Paris Marathon (Marathon de Paris) will wind through Paris. The Paris Marathon is one of the most popular in Europe with nearly 60,000 participants. What runner doesn’t want to take advantage of a generally flat course zig-zagging through the most beautiful city in the world? Need a reason to run? Here are five good ones.
1. Experience Paris by Foot Race
Want to see the monuments of Paris by foot? The Paris Marathon winds its way through the streets of Paris and its green spaces. With a distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometres), this race is an opportunity to cover lots of ground that many people never see. The race is on vehicle-free streets. While the exact route changes somewhat each year, be sure that the route will pass the major monuments, track parts of the Seine and take runners to areas they have never seen. You can register here.
2. Get in Fantastic Shape
Is it time for you to get in shape? Need a goal? The Paris Marathon would be a great one! Flowers blooming, friends from all over the world running alongside, Parisians lining the streets cheering you on. On the official website, download training guides, a practical guide to a first marathon and everything else you may need for the marathon, available in English and French. It is meters rather than yards, miles or feet, so get out your calculator if you need to. Of course there are many other training methods to get you ready for the Parish Marathon. But, start now.
3. Support Green Paris
Image from the official site: http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com/en
In keeping with the Parisian emphasis on being green and sustainable, the Paris Marathon encourages everyone to be green! The Paris Marathon’s aim is to be a carbon-neutral marathon by 2019. The official website features a tab entitled, Eco Friendly. This section explains the Paris Marathon’s efforts to get teens (“Marateeners”) involved in sports and exercise.
The Paris Marathon encourages, “An Integrated Approach” for finding sustainable accommodation, sharing good practices, innovating for future generations and many other positive ideas for sustainability. Want to know if your Parisian hotel is green? Find out here.
And, what about those 560,000 Vittel water bottles? Waste Management is a section within the Eco Friendly tab that explains how the Paris Marathon manages trash. 500 waste sorting bins will line the route to collect water bottles, discarded food packaging, and anything else recyclable as well as trash. These are not only for the participants, but also for the fans! Besides recycling waste, runners are also encouraged to wear clothes made from cotton or recycled and recyclable materials.
4. Not a Runner? Volunteer or Be a Spectator!
Don’t want to run, but want to volunteer? The official response is: “With pleasure! We’d be mad to refuse enthusiastic helpers – maybe you can encourage others to help too? Bring your good humour and generous nature and join our hundreds of volunteers to help make this event run smoothly.” If you want to volunteer, contact Lucas Prado and Arthur Thévenot or email: [email protected].
Even if you are not a runner or cannot commit a day to volunteer, this mass event can be fun to watch! And, you can walk along the streets that are closed to traffic. Keep in mind that with 60,000 runners, available rooms and restaurants may be hard to find during the Paris Marathon. So, if you are planning a trip to Paris around April 14, 2019, take the Paris Marathon into account, book early and expect throngs of people.
5. Reward for Crossing the Finish Line?
Bragging rights – of course. But, reward yourself with a magnificent meal in a celebrated Parisian restaurant. Research and reserve now. Nearly 60,000 participants plus families, friends and spectators will be celebrating after the race. Following your recovery, what better reward than a terrific meal with fellow racers, family and friends.
Bonus. Photos Forever!
Enjoy the photos of you and your friends competing in the famous Paris Marathon for the rest of your life – Priceless!
My goal is to inspire you to enjoy the Paris of your dreams. If you are trying to take your first trip to Paris, or if you want to go without an organized tour group, then this blog is for you. If this kind of travel experience is what you are after, follow me and revel in all things Paris.
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"Paris is always a good idea."
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