When you've finished at the Louvre, shopping for haut couture or antique jewellery, drop into the bar at the Hotel de Vendome and let the charming and knowledgeable staff make arrangements for the rest of your day, whatever your budget - and desires.
They know every nook and cranny of the city and will send you off feeling like you have had the five-star experience without any of the cost - it worked for me.
Failing that, hop on the metro to Pte de Clignancourt for the fabulous street market. Saturday to Monday 7am to 7.30pm.
For your wine cheese and food shopping, take a bag on wheels, and stop off at Eurolille on the way back to Lille Europe station.
Find all you need at the vast Carrefour - then top up with bread and pastries at Paul, before nipping out of the side-exit from Eurolille for the short walk to Eurostar.
My tip is to visit the annual 'Braderie de Lille' - the biggest flea market in Europe, with stalls on over 100kms of pavements.
It is held over the first weekend in September in the centre of Lille. From Antiques to Junk, from Books to Pictures it is all there. The walk from Lille Europe to the market is short, some 500 yards so access is easy.
I discovered it by accident. Leaving the old station (Lille Flandres), after an ovenight trip from Italy, I headed for a café and stumbled across a small part of the market. I was hooked!
Any visit to Lille must include some time exploring Furet du Nord, the largest bookstore in France.
This bibliophile's dream is a huge labyrinth consisting of eight floors and is the perfect place to escape from Lille's uncertain climate.
A visit to the African quarter in Brussels near Porte de Namur metro station makes an interesting change to the rest of the city.
Stroll down Chausee d'Ixelles and back via Chausee de Wavre, investigating the shops and bars along the way. The contrast with the rest of the city is heightened by the fact that the area is not out in the suburbs but close to the city centre.
Just the other side of the metro station are the antique shops and grand buildings of the Upper Town.
DVD devotees should ascend to the top floor of the Inno department store on the pedestrianised Rue Neuve, for the Media Markt store.
This major European chain sells general electronic devices plus a fair selection of CDs but excels with its choice of DVDs at competitive prices.
Art-house and world cinema titles which would be hard or impossible to find in the UK are well represented though remember to check that foreign language films have English sub-titles!
(There is also a branch of Media Markt in Antwerp on De Keyserlei close to the Central Station.)
Practice your French and hone your ability to out-barter even the most masterly merchant in Europe, at the flea market on Place du Jeu de Balle.
Pick up a priceless rarity you never knew you needed, meet the locals and exhaust your euros surrounded by classic Belgian architecture, the shouts of stallholders and a unique, animated atmosphere.
Of course, when you can haggle no more, you can collapse at a local café with a glass of red and some sumptuous Belgian food.
Avoid the mass produced Belgian "tourist" chocolates and head for the Pierre Marcolini chocolate shop that opened last November on the Place du Grand Sablon.
Pierre Marcolini manufactures his grand cru chocolate himself, using cocoa beans that he selects personally.
He is among the last five craftsmen working this way in Europe. Truly amazing chocolates, pastries, ice creams and sorbets - look out for the chcoclate squares with Earl Grey or Assam tea ganache!
After relaxing on your short, swift ride to Brussels, stay close to the sweeping Avenue Louisa, just a tram or metro ride from the Eurostar Terminus and a short walk from the busy heart of Brussels.
The area has many attractive shops and boutiques - they really know how to dress and window dress! Tucked off the side streets of the Elsene quarter are lively markets, galleries and tree lined squares for coffee and finding unique gifts.
At the far end of Avenue Louisa are grand villas and gardens, lush parks and gardens of Terkamerenbos.
Day trip? You’ve time for architecture and shopping if you take tram 55 towards Bordet, to Beurs, walk past the roman remains and into Grand Place.
Ten minutes from here via the Place des Martyrs, have lunch and marvel at the Art Nouveau masterpiece by Victor Horta the Center of the Comic Strip on Zandstraat.
You might expect something special on ‘The Sacred Isle’ (Ilot Sacré), the area around Brussels’ Central station.
Among the many bars and restaurants surrounding the Grand Place is The Toone Theatre, 66 rue du Marche-aux-Herbes, providing three unique Belgian delights under one roof.
You can sample a rare local speciality ‘Plattekeis’ (cream cheese with radishes) accompanied by a choice of over 20 beers, including ‘trappiste’ monastery brews.
But the real treat is enjoying these while sitting on raised wooden benches being entertained with a puppet show, in traditional dialect, from the famous Toone Marionettes, whose performances date back to 1830.
Do visit The Sheraton for afternoon tea. It’s affordable and the décor, piano and vast array of cakes takes you to another world.
Just down the hill from The Sheraton, is the St George Gallery, which has a wonderful display of quality goods, both antique and modern. Further down the hill were shops that sold jewellery by weight of silver. It was good quality and reasonably priced.
We did most of our gift shopping at a group of shops just off Churchill Avenue on the right up Nigeria Street.
My tip for visiting Bruges is: go from Brussels on Sunday morning. Get out at the railway station and head into town.
Forget the churches and canals, just wander among the hundreds of bric-a-brac, car boot-type stall holders who cover the parkscape. Odd coins, objects, books, collectables, everything is there! What a treat!
This is a great day trip from Quito if you are at the end of your trip and are interested in buying some presents for home.
The market is large and there are lots of lovely things to buy. Also you can barter for the price, which is expected. On the same trip we also went to Cotacachi which has fantastically cheap leather goods.
Any travel agency in Quito will arrange a day trip. Be careful of cost though, we paid U$39 for the trip, someone on the same trip with us was charged U$59.
Any travel agency in Quito will arrange a day trip. Be careful of cost though we paid U$39 for the trip, someone on the same trip with us was charged U$59.
Make the effort to take a local bus (every half hour) from the bus station, to the small Dutch town of Sluis - only just over the border. Well worth the visit, lots of bargains and don't forget the Windmill restaurant.
La Tarte de Ma Tante on Ferdinand Bolstraat - a tea shop with the kitschiest decor ever seen, and magnificent multi-coloured fake three tier cakes adorning every table.
The real cakes that they serve are pretty magnificent too. This is the Barbara Cartland of tea-shops.
A small shop and tea room - sounds average, but it's anything but that. They stock a lovely range of high quality household items and gifts, prints and paintings by local artists.
The tea room is bright, comfortable and contemporary, staffed by people who know how to look after their guests/customers - proper service. First class all the way.
On the road up to Cawdor Castle in Nairnshire, about six or seven miles east of Inverness. Parking available opposite.
It's all about the best wine in Buenos Aires you can find, but what stuck out more in my mind was the great wonderful service you get at La Botica del Vino.
It's like taking a big variety-type wine emporium blended with the attention you would get from a family store. You can't beat it, ask for Hernan. Argentina´s red wine is world class, but the prices still aren't.
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