WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL EUROPE IN WINTER - THE PROS AND CONS

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Winter in Europe is different - in London it is cold and rainy and the sun goes down at 3 p.m. on certain days. If we have an off day when the wind decides to join the party. Ugh !

I have had the pleasure of traveling this continent in both winter and summer and while I will always been a sunshine no rain kind of girl; most of my travel across this continent has been in the Winter months and I will not have it any other way. There are a lot of advantages to choosing to travel this continent between mid-November and March. At the top of my list for why you should travel Europe in winter - the economics.

Flights and hotels are significantly cheaper in winter than in the summer. It is off peak season and due to less traffic, hotels are deeply discounted and already cheap flights are even cheaper. I have seen flights for as little as £9 on one of the low budget airlines.

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Less foot traffic. During the winter, there are usually less tourist; everyone is hibernating and staying indoors trying to stay warm. If you can brave the outdoors, you will rewarded with less crowds and shorter queues to get into tourist attractions. That said, certain attractions like the Eiffel tower or the London eye will likely have a queue year round. I was in Portugal in December and it was crowded. That might also be because Portugal is one of the warmer countries in the Continent this time of year.

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There is nothing like winter in Europe. While most of the continent is cold (and sometimes rainy); you do get rewarded with an excellent festive season. The continent transforms at Christmas - elaborate decorations; mulled wine and Christmas markets. If you have not experienced Christmas in Europe - it should be on your bucket list. I wrote a post about it - check it out here.

Access to locals. Due to less tourist, you are more likely to engage and interact with locals. I think that is a key to traveling - it not just about the sights but also trying to connect with the local. It makes travel a much richer experience.

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Winter Fashion. A little bit of vanity but winter fashion is very chic so pack your winter bests and come on down. While in Portugal, I saw several couples having a professional photoshoot done in chic winter attires as part of their holidays. I have to say I felt a twinge of jealousy at not having thought about doing that myself.

Certain cities are exceptional in winter. While we may fret about the freezing temperatures; there are certain parts of Europe that are worth visiting in winter. Just search for images of the Black forest in Germany in winter; Montreux and St Moritz in Switzerland; the region of South Tyrol in Italy or the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. These are great in summer but their winter ambience is the best.

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There are actually Cities and Countries with mild-ish winter temperatures. While a lot of the continent is cold and certain parts are covered in snow; there are also several cities and countries that have milder temperatures if you are craving some sun and warmth on your winter excursion to Europe. We visited south of Spain in December and we had sunshine and warmth most of the time we were there. Portugal in December/January was quite warm - I could have gotten by with just a thick jumper and scarf; you can lay beach side in south of France in November. Gibraltar is also another warm destination.

While I believe the pros outweigh the cons, it is important to know the downside of traveling this continent in winter as well….

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Days are shorter. The sun does not rise till about 7:15 a.m. in London and there are days the sun goes down by 3:30 p.m. so you will have shorter days. My advice to make the most of day light is to start off your days early and wind down early (if you so choose).

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Weather is unpredictable. Even in the warmer parts of the continent; it does not hurt to pack some winter options including a rain coat or umbrella; gloves; hat; boot; scarfs and coat. The weather is unpredictable and you can have sunshine; rain and snow in the same day or week.

Winter closures. Certain hotels and restaurants shut down for the winter. I have had to rethink trips to Santorini and parts of Croatia due to several hotel closures. There are also tours that close down for the winter. Take that into account when planning your trip. If you are not sure, call or email the hotels to confirm they will be open during your visit.

Plan some bad weather days. While in Paris last November - it rained non stop for twenty-four hours. That was not part of the plan. Thankfully, I always plan a bad weather day itinerary to ensure I make the most of my time in any city. That may include treating yourself (shopping; spas) ; museum hopping; catch a movie; see a play.

A DAY AT THE BEACH IN LAGOS - LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT // LAGOS, NIGERIA

LA CAMPAGNE TROPICANA BEACH RESORT

I thought it might be useful to share about our beach day in Lagos. As I said in my last post; spending a day at the beach is a must do if you are in Lagos. The beach at the La Campagne tropicana beach resort is one of the most popular beach destinations in Lagos. It is about an hour drive from the Island and probably two hours from the mainland; but well worth it if you need to get away from the hustle of the city. We only pspent a day here but there are options for overnight stays if you want to stay a bit longer.

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We arrived early afternoon ; I thought the check-in process was a bit tedious; but that probably has more to do with hunger pangs than anything else. We checked in and purchased coupons - while you can purchase food and pay for activities beach side - you need coupons to do that and it is easier to purchase at check-in. After the check in, we were directed to the waiting area for the shuttle to the beach. It is a trek from check in to the beach but not a terrible one; we did the trek at the end of our visit and I did not find it to be an issue. As we approached the beach, I could see the rows of palm trees and the ocean peaking from behind them.

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We found a spot to camp out under one of the umbrellas and proceeded to order meals and drinks. Mainly ordered the fresh coconut water; you can also bring a picnic with you. The party camped out beside us came prepared with an incredible spread of food and drinks. Next time, I am doing that. Besides the general seating area. There are also “SIMI” - essential luxurious queen bed sized cabanas that can be rented using coupons.

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I spent most of my day lounging beach side but for those restless ones who cannot be bothered to lounge beach side all day; they have got several activities including horseback riding ; jet skis and kayaking. The facility has also got spaces for sports play like beach soceer ; basketball court ; football field. For those of us with no inclination for physical activities, there is an area for board games as well. The facility seems very kid friendly; there were several groups with little ones and they seemed to be having a great time. Here are a few pictures from our beach day.

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FROM BEACHES TO MARKETS - 7 MUST SEE AND DO THINGS IN LAGOS , NIGERIA

I am giddy giddy giddy with excitement to finally be able to share Lagos, Nigeria with you. This is home and home is where my heart is. I was born in Kaduna in the Northern part of Nigeria but moved to Lagos after some years and that is where I grew up and where I call home (forever). It is always disheartening when the first things I am asked when people find out I am Nigerian is about the “Nigerian Prince” scammers - Nigeria is a Country of also 200 million people who have (unfortunately) been tainted by the actions of a few. Nigerians are full of life and joy; they are resilient; smart ; creative; welcoming and incredibly hardworking and while the Country has a long way to go still; we have come a long way. If you get a chance to visit ; you will not regret it. In future, I want to plan a trip to Lagos like I do my other trips - research to the gawds and photograph as much as I do on other trips. I don’t take a lot of pictures in Lagos - maybe because it’s home or did not think of it as a destination (previously); I find I don’t reach for my camera as much - which makes putting a post like this together a bit of a challenge. There is still so much I want to see and do in Lagos, but here are seven things I have explored; researched or done while in Lagos and I think great adds to your Lagos itinerary.

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Visit a market. A Nigerian market is not for the faint of heart; dress comfortable; get ready to bargain your tail off and take in a piece of Nigeria. I particularly like visiting Oyingbo market - it is a food market and a bit of warning - there butcher shops here and at any given time, you may walk past a butchered goat head or other animal parts. I go here to shop for local food; spices; fruits; shea butter. I also like Balogun market but it is not for the faint of heart; it is very crowded.

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Stop by an art gallery. I am incredibly proud of the creatives in Nigeria and the art scene is growing and evolving and I love it. Start at Terre Kulture ; visit Alexis galleries ; Art Cafe (for food and art) ; Nike gallery. The local art in Nigeria is phenomal. I can spend a week in Lagos just hopping from one gallery to another.

Eat Local - Nothing like Nigerian food - whether it is suya ; roasted plantain and peanuts; zobo (Hibiscus tea); pepper soup or jollof rice - you will love the local delicacies. A few local restaurants I recommend are Ofada Boy in Surulere - get you some palm wine and ofada deluxe and enjoy the ambience; the harvest in Lekki - a local gastropub (try the lamp pepper soup); Cafe Jade and the tearoom Lagos in Lekki I with excellent brunch menu and decor.

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Elegushi Craft Market. You know how I said we were a very creative people ? There is no where that is more evident than at the craft market - jewelry ; art ; fabrics and leather goods. All hand made by Nigerian artisans.

Ice Cream at Hans and Rene at the Radisson Blu in Victoria Island. Depending on the time of day you arrive, be prepared to stand in queue but it is worth it. One scoop of ice cream with run you N800 ($2.50) and you can get traditional flavors and also very uniquely Nigerian flavors like zobo and agbalumo (aka African star apple).

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Attend a Nigerian wedding. Brazil has got Carnival and Spain has got running with the bulls. We have got weddings. Attending a NIgerian wedding is at par if not much higher than those events. If you have ever seen the CNN special on Nigerian weddings - you will completely understand this point; if not, here is a link to catching up. Don’t worry about potentially not knowing the couple; at least forty percent of the guests don’t either; dress to the tee in a traditional attire (if you can); get your money in hand to spray (aka money dance) the couple and don’t leave your dancing shoes at home. It is not one thing with Nigerian weddings; it is everything - the attire; the elaborate decor; the food; the change of attires. Go for all of it.

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Have a Beach Day. Lagos has some beautiful beaches ; however all of them are paid beaches but it is very reasonably priced. I have been told Tarkwa Bay beach and Oniru Private beach are excellent beaches to visit but I have not had the pleasure. The pictures though - wow. I have visited la campagne tropicana beach resort and it is beautiful. It is a bit of a drive from the Island but well worth it. Go early; pack a picnic; go with some music - spend your time lounging and enjoying fresh coconut water or partaking in one of the many activities including kayaking and horse back riding.

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There is still a lot I want to explore in Lagos including a visit to the Lekki conservation centre; attend a performance at one of the theatre; attend a concert

2019 TRAVEL BUCKETLIST - TEN PLACES I AM DYING TO VISIT

As someone who enjoys traveling, one of the top three question I am asked is with regards to my bucket list; Usually starts with a question about where I have been and then a question about where I want to go. Before I get into my list, I have to say keep an open mind on destinations; take advantage of flight and travel deals and don’t limit yourself to a bucket list. Essentially, make a list but don’t be afraid to toss it out. 2018 was an incredible year of travel and ninety percent of the destinations were not on my bucket list. The opportunities presented themselves and I took advantage of it and had an incredible time. I have got 10 countries listed here - some I can knock off in a long weekend and others will require a bit more planning; time and money. If you have been to any of these places - I will love recommendations of what to do and where to eat.

[Disclaimer: None of the pictures in this post is mine, click on picture to visit the respective source]

1. South Korea - Looking forward to exploring the capital city of Seoul ; seaside city of Jeju. Visiting night markets and eating the local food. I have loved this Country for so long and I have been lucky to meet a few Koreans who have made me love the Country even more and the desire to visit has only grown. A few areas I am looking forward to visiting in the capital city - Apgujeong-dong aka the Rodeo drive of Seoul; Insa-dong for street food and teahouses; Sisa-Dong; Songhyeon-dong for its close proximity to Gyeongbokgung Palace walls with traditional hanok houses and Yeonnan-dong.

2. Morrocco - I have not heard or read one negative thing about this Country. I will love to visit Marrakech ; Essaouira and Casablanca. If I can squeeze Chefchaouen into the same trip; I will be over the moon. I am looking forward to visiting out souks and medina and lounging in Raids. Also the architecture - beautiful and tiled colorful goodness to feast my eyes on and capture through my lens and in my heart.

3. Iceland - I have always wanted to see the Northern lights and while there is no guarantee that I will see it; the potential is very exciting. I am also looking forward to visiting Reynisfjara for the black sand beaches ; the waterfalls at Skogafoss and the lagoons (blue lagoon and secret lagoon).

4. South Africa - I have done a piss poor job of exploring my continent and I will very much like that to change in 2019. I am hoping to visit South Africa as my first big trip of 2019. I will like to spend most of my time in Jo’burg and Cape town (maybe Durban as well). Looking forward to wine tasting; “hiking” to table mountain; Chapman’s peak; Simon’s town ; Robben Island; Cape of good hope; Bo-Kaap and Boulder beach. I will also like to go on Safari in Kruger National park.

5. Southern Italy - I have visited Italy a few times and it never disappoints. In all of my visits, I have not spent a lot of time in Southern part of the Country and I will very much like to do remedy that this year. Looking forward to visiting Cinque Terre and the towns of Amalfi cost. Have you seen pictures of the colorful homes stacked on a hill-side ? I will also love to visit Sicily and the Isle of Capri. Maybe I will just move to Italy (might be easier).

6. Costa Rica - Some dear friends honey mooned here several years ago and they loved it and have not stopped recommending it. While planning my Christmas trip this year - this was a very top option but Portugal won out. Costa Rica is often recommended as a great geo-tourism destination. Looking forward to wander through Las Baulas National Marine Park; explore Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and Manuel Antonio National Park.

7. Greece - Do I really need to justify this ? I definitely want to visit Athens for its historical and architectural significance and the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. However, the place I am most looking forward to visiting is Zakynthos - (Navagio and the shipwreck beach) because it is incredibly beautiful and it is one of the locations of one of my favorite shows of all time - Descendants of the Sun and I cannot wait to see it in person.

8. Maldives - Have you seen pictures of Maldives ? It sells itself - this nation in the Indian ocean is known for its beaches; lagoons and extensive reefs and I cannot wait to see all of it. Looking forward to the fish markets; Madjeedhee Magu and Hukuru Miskly in the capital city of Male.

9. Hong Kong and Macau - Yes ! I know these are not the same Country but the ferry ride from Hong Kong to Macau is only 55 mins so why not combine both, right ? Looking forward to exploring the Portuguese influences of Macau - from Ruinas de Sao Paulo ; Taipa village; Coloane; egg tarts from Lord stow’s; long wa tea house; and lou lim leoc. In Hong Kong, I cannot wait to see the views from Victoria hill; the Victoria harbour; markets at Mong Kok; climb the 260 steps to Tian Tan Buddha and Lantau Island.

10. Thailand - From Bangkok to Chiang Mai - I want to see and experience it all. This was another destination I considered for Christmas but could not free up my schedule to get the travel papers sorted. However, I did the research for this trip and I cannot wait to get there. Friends told me to avoid Phuket because of the crowds and go to Koh Phi Phi Island or Koh Lipe, instead. Stay at the Chai Lai Orchid elephant sanctuary and visit the white temple at Chiang Mia; floating market ; riding in tuk tuk and temple hop (Wat Arun ; Wat Pho ; Grand Palace) in Bangkok and lounging on the beach in Koh Phi Phi.

Any others I should consider ? What is on your travel bucket list ?

A SOLO TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO A WEEKEND IN PARIS // PARIS, FRANCE

Each year, I make my pilgrimage to Paris. Some years it is intentional and others (who am I kidding - it is always intentional). Paris - feels like home to me. While some of it may be cliche, I don’t think you can go wrong with a trip to Paris. Walking along Champ d’elysses and seeing the Eiffel tower never gets old - no matter how many times I visit. I always travel Paris solo; it is one of those cities that is made for every kind of traveller - solo or otherwise. So ! If you have been thinking about a trip to Paris - you don’t have to wait till you can get friends on board; this is a destination you can explore on your own and have an incredible time. To help you plan your Solo trip, I thought I will share an itinerary from one of my trips. I stayed in the Montmartre area which is quickly becoming one of my favorites neighborhoods in Paris. I have stayed here my last three trips. I visited during the week; but this itinerary also works for a weekend getaway (returning late Sunday or early Monday morning).

If you want a more detailed itinerary of Paris - You can find it here

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DAY 1 - Arrival and Dinner at La boîte aux lettres.

I arrived early evening and did not feel like doing much. I took a stroll around the neighborhood to get my bearing and sort out where the nearest train station / bus stop is located ; find the supermarket and pharmacy (because French beauty products). After my usual familiarize myself to the area ritual; it was time for dinner.

Based on my research, La boîte aux lettres was one of the highly recommended restaurants in the area (and the only I could get reservation to with such short notice). Dinner was excellent - do not miss out on dessert - the Oreo Tiramisu incredible. Follow dinner up with a leisure stroll around the neighborhood. Keep an eye out for one of the three remaining original windmills. There are several bars and coffee shops scattered around for a nightcap if you don’t want to call it a night just yet.

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La boite aux lettres

DAY 2. Breakfast at Fragments to start off the day

This is a cash only restaurant in Le Marias serving up incredible brunch options. If you need a quiet place to plan your itinerary or get some work done. This is a perfect spot.

Fragments Paris
Fragments Paris

DAY 2 - Visit Shakespeare and Company.

The iconic bookstore on the left bank is probably the most famous bookstore in the world and known as home to literary greats like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. It gets crowded with fellow tourist at certain times, but if you can find a spot, grab a book from the cart and catch up on some reading (if you have the time). If you are in a hurry - take your pictures and head on to the Notre Dame.

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DAY 2 - Notre dame

The Notre Dame cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in France (and the world). Take a stroll around it ; if the queue is not too long; get in line to climb up the tower for incredible views of the city. There are intricate architecture details on the facade and entry way so make sure to look up so you don’t miss it.

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DAY 2 - Visit Sainte-Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite

Admire the beauty of the magnificent glass stained windows. This is said to have been built to receive the crown of thorns of Christ and a piece of the real cross. How incredible is that history ?

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DAY 2- Explore Jardin de Luxembourg.

The lavish gardens and fountains seems like another world. It is located in the 6th arrondissement. If you can pack a picnic - this is a great picnic spot for locals and tourists alike. There is a fountain tucked away that is a great place to rest your feel and enjoy some serenity.

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DAY 2- Visit Maison de Victor Hugo’s

Explore the grounds Victor Hugo’s home. The author of Les Miserables lived here for sixteen years. The structure is now a museum celebrating his life and work. There is a park across the street that is perfect spot to rest up or to reassess your itinerary.

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DAY 2 - Have falafel at L’As Du Falafel in Le Marais and explore Le Marais

These are the best Falafel I have ever had. Be prepared to queue and have cash on hand. Just around the corner is Chez Marianne - the exterior of this famous restaurants is synonymous to this area of the city; Le Marais is another great Paris neighborhood; If you the time - stroll around and discover another area of the city.

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DAY 2 - Relax at Palais-Royal. You know those stripped columns that pop up in all the Paris Instagram feeds ? This is where you find them.

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DAY 2 - Visit the Lourve pyramids

The Lourve pyramids are just as famous as the museum itself. I always visit when I am in Paris; it is great spot for a quick break and people watching. If you want to explore the Lourve , you should plan at least a half day to fully explore the museum. If you don’t have the time - then make sure to visit the courtyards and the pyramids at least.

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DAY 2 - [Window] Shop at Galeries Lafayette

I don’t usually shop when I travel, but I enjoy visiting this department store in Paris. The decor and opulence should not be missed and if you are one who likes to shop while traveling, this stop is a win-win.

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DAY 2 - Dinner at Le Coq Rico

This is another highly recommended restaurant in Montmartre. Make sure you call ahead to reserve a table. If you are traveling solo ask for a chair at the bar - you get a view of the kitchen and can watch the chefs prepare your meal. If you enjoy that sort of thing, then I recommend it. After dinner, take a stroll around the neighborhood; don’t miss Moulin Rouge (at least the exterior facade). You will need to purchase a ticket if you want to see a show.

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DAY 3 - Brunch at Holy Bell

This is an American-esque restaurant with Parisian flair. I highly recommend the pancakes. You will thank me later. There are two locations of this restaurant . Go early to avoid a wait.

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DAY 3 - Visit the Eiffel Tower

It is a symbol of the city and you should not miss it. I recommend seeing it twice - once in day light and once at night when it lights up. If you have got time, you should book a ticket to go to the top of the Tower. Get your tickets online in advance and save yourself time queuing up.

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DAY 3 - Make a stop at the Arc d’ Triomphe

If you have the time and wish to get a great view of Paris or the Eiffel tower; you can get tickets to go the top. Wear comfortable shoes and grab a bottle of water. There are over two hundred steps to get to the top.

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DAY 3 - Visit Place de Vendôme

The Place de Vendome is on the other end of the Avenue from The Arc d’ Triomphe. You can get there either by metro or you can choose to take a leisure trek from the Arc to Place de Vendome. This is one of the most beautiful squares in France. It is flanked by high end stores like Louis Vuitton and five star hotels including the Park Hyatt - Vendome.

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DAY 3 - Sweet Treats at Angelina

Order a dessert and their famous hot chocolate. Don’t worry this is not one those places that automatically assigns the solo diner to the bar. You get a proper table. There will most likely be a line so be prepared to wait. During this visit, the line was incredibly long when I stopped by and I had a tour booked so I left and returned after my tour. They are open till 9 p.m.

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DAY 3 - Relax at the Tulleries Garden

The public garden is a great place to relax from your itinerary; maybe picnic as well. If you to do neither, it is a great stop in Paris and within proximity of the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.

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DAY 3 - Take a walking tour of one of Parisian neighborhoods

There are several neighborhoods in Paris worth exploring and several walking tour available to choose from. I have always wanted to explore Montmartre. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and has such an incredible history. The tour started at the Blanche train station and ended at Sacre Coeur.

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DAY 3 - The Lourve pyramids at night

Similar to Eiffel tower, the view of the Lourve pyramids at night is completely different to the view in daylight. if you can, I recommend visiting in the evening as well. An alternative is to visit the Eiffel tower in the evening. There is a light show runs every night, every hour on the hour.

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