Wednesday, December 29, 2010

try something new

In the spirit of the approaching new year, I'm trying to do a lot of posts on trying new things and exploring places outside of my comfort zone. (Hence, my previous post with an entire list of sites devoted to travel that I can use to pinpoint an exotic location as the focus of my next trip).

Here's another one to try out: www.wanderfly.com

You put in specific criteria like budget and timeline, then you can choose a specific location, or allow other filters to help narrow down your destination (like casino, eco, beach, and romance to name a few).

The site itself looks cute and well-made (not dorky or like a horribly cliche, ugly website - comic sans font anyone?) and there's even a blog if you want to learn more about the site (and travelling).

If only I had the riches to support my dream of a nomadic existence.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

50 travel sites you've never heard of

(... I've heard of a few of these - Kayak and TripAdvisor are two that I've spoken highly of)

www.luggageonline.com/50-travel-sites.cfm

Anyway, take a look. You might find something that perfectly suits your personal travel needs!

Cheers.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

holiday travelling

Happy Christmas! (to the Santa lovers) and Happy Holidays! to the rest of you.

I personally avoid travelling during the holidays. I assume that traffic en route to the airport will be a huge hassle, airfares will be sky high, and there's always the risk of being grounded due to snow.

If you have to travel during this hectic season to go home, then your options will most definitely be limited and you may be forced to pay an arm and a leg to book flights. However, if you're just trying to book some sort of tropical getaway or ski bunny trip or if you're just trying to get your family out of the house, then here's something you can try.

I found a site that's similar to kayak called Sherman's Travel. It's basically a travel search engine but it gets a little more personal. There are a bunch of linked blogs with things like "Daily Deals" and "The Savvy Flyer" that help you find discounts. There are also travel guides and hotel reviews and trip ideas which can come in handy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Step #1

If you want to travel abroad, you will need a valid passport! So before you get your hopes up about going to the Congo or Thailand, make sure you are prepared. If you want to plan a trip immediately, there are rush options but that can get really expensive.

Passports typically expire 10 years after the date of issue. However, if your current passport is from when you were age 15 (or younger), realize that it expires 5 years from the date of issue.

Remember to check the passport rules for your destination. Some governments will not allow you to travel to their country unless your passport will be valid not only for the duration of your stay in foreign land, but a certain time period after date of entry or date of departure (typical is 3 months or 6 months).

Also keep in mind, some countries are "sensitive" about where you've traveled previously. For example, some African and Middle Eastern countries will deny you entry if you have been stamped in Israel, in which case, you would have to apply for a new passport (since you can't cover up the stamps or rip out pages from your passport).

If you are a frequent traveler and have filled up all of your passport pages, you can add extra passport pages. In South Africa, they require at least two blank stamping pages so you may need to order the extra pages.

Happy traveling!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

new destinations: Turkey

If you haven't tried stumbling yet, get to it! I stumbled across this lovely post this morning, featuring a cave hotel, the Yunak Evleri in Turkey. Gorgeous, isn't it?


View Larger Map

It's always fun to browse exotic places. I'm trying to make an effort to step outside of my "obsession zone." I don't really have a comfort zone when it comes to travelling (as I love it too much so I am more than comfortable with the idea of travelling in general) but I do tend to fall in love with particular destinations and get fixated on the idea of visiting those places over and over again. So cheers to my first post on an atypical (for me) location.

Friday, December 10, 2010

london

A cute site that helps you figure out what you should do in London depending on your mood.

http://ifeellondon.com/

hostels

During my month-long trip to Europe, my friend and I booked hostels to stay in (never hotels because we were too poor - so poor that we resorted to sleeping in the airport a bunch of times). We booked our hostels through Hostel World, a popular website with lots of reviews and cheap lodging. Of course, we also double-checked our choices on Trip Advisor, just in case.

Staying in hostels might seem creepy or scary (thanks to this little gem) but it's a great way to save money. Let's face it, when you're travelling (for leisure), you're not spending the bulk of your time in your hotel room! You're out and about, seeing the sights, taking photos, embracing new cultures; it makes perfect sense to settle for the minimal - all you really need is somewhere to sleep and somewhere to shower. So if you're young and flexible and are willing to step outside of your comfort zone a little, I recommend going through the hostel experience. I mean, hostels are great for a young crowd. Most only allow travelers from age 18 to 30 so you won't have any old people complaining to you to quiet down and you won't have babies crying at night to wake you up. Many also offer free breakfast (score!) and internet (yay!).

If you are a girl travelling alone and you are worried, keep in mind that many hostels offer female only accommodations (though they might be more expensive). My friend and I eased ourselves into the hostel experience by booking a girls only rooms (the Astor Museum Inn in London, Camden Place Hostel in Dublin, and St. Christopher's Inn in Paris). When we returned back to the UK the second time around, we booked a co-ed room (built for 10 people) and though we were prepared to be a little uncomfortable, we found that it was perfectly fine. None of our fellow travelling boys were creepy at all and everyone had a healthy attitude about sharing a space. In fact, we met a few Brazilian boys, one of whom was a photographer or director or did something with cameras. They were also on holiday, so we bonded over what our favorite sights were so far and the like.
One thing to note is that most hostels offer a locker system. The bulk of the places we stayed at had two wire basket drawers under each of the bunk beds (obviously one for each person occupying a bed, see photo). The drawers slid out from under the bed, and when you slid them back in, there was a convenient space for a lock. So bring a lock with you! I've read a few blogs recommending that you bring a few different-sized locks when staying in hostels, but I brought my regular gym lock and it worked fine everywhere we stayed.

If you want to read a few funny (and semi-horrifying) hostel experiences, check out the rest of the post after the jump!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

yotel

In the summer of 2009, I planned a mini break to Europe with my sister. On one of the nights of the trip, we were to arrive at London Gatwick Airport in the evening after midnight. We didn't want to be travelling around the (could be dangerous) streets of London with all of our luggage, as we were two tiny defenseless girls, so we looked at what options we had at the airport.

Enter the Yotel. It's basically a hotel but all of the rooms are v. compact and provide the bare essentials. We chose the standard size room (which can fit up to two people). One-third of the room was occupied by a bed that was slightly wider than a normal twin, which was built into the wall and lofted (with a TV also built into the wall at the foot of the bed). Another third of the room was the bathroom area, which was just glass partitioning, shower, toilet, and drain (so be aware that whoever you are sharing the room with can see you naked in the shower or using the toilet!). The third separating the bed and the shower was just a "hallway" if you want to call it that, or better yet, just a strip of floorspace where you could toss your luggage.

The benefit of staying at a Yotel is that you can pay by the hour. We booked our room from 2:30 (yes, in the morning) until 7:30 since we wanted to spend a full day out and about doing fun touristy things. The cost for 5 hours stay was £44.50, which is much cheaper than it would be to pay for a hotel room. And had we booked a hotel room, we wouldn't have gotten our money's worth since check-in is usually at 14:00 and checkout is usually at 11:00. It was a pretty perfect deal. It's also a good place to take a nap in between layovers, if you need it (though keep in mind, they only have three locations: London Gatwick, London Heathrow, and Amsterdam Schiphol).

The only horrible thing about our Yotel experience was that there was no hot water the night we stayed! We had to take cold showers (which were bearable only because it was summer time so the water wasn't freezing). Their customer service is superb though, because even though we didn't complain (we were too excited to be in Europe to whine about it) I received an email the following day that my credit card would be refunded 50% of what I'd already paid. Brilliant!

Monday, December 06, 2010

spring break: planning

To start the planning process, I used Google Map's 'My Maps' feature in order to mark popular tourist attractions, the location of our hotel, beaches, bars, nightlife, food, shopping and anything else of interest.

Here is a link to the map. I think this will come in really handy. Initially, we can mark anything and everything and then we can figure out what we definitely want to visit and what we can throw out. With bars and restaurants, we can check reviews to make sure we only go to the most fun, wallet-friendly places.
screenshot of our tropical vacation map

Friday, December 03, 2010

spring break: booked!

YES. So about an hour ago, my friend and I confirmed both our hotel reservation (on hotels.com) and our flights (on Priceline).

Our flights came out to $314.20 round trip, per person. We're flying from JFK to SJU (San Juan Airport) for 4 nights (5 days-ish) at the end of March. We will be staying at the Doubletree by Hilton San Juan for $588.08; it got awesome reviews on Trip Advisor (it's #1 out of 44 hotels in San Juan!).

The hotel is located about a mile from the beach, which isn't bad, and has a supermarket right across the street. That's perfect because the rooms have both a mini-fridge and microwave so we can save a lot of money by skipping restaurant food and just eating snacks in the hotel. There is free wifi, which is great, and they have the normal amenities like television, basic cable stations, and hair dryer. There's also a gym (which is reviewed as awesome) and a pool. It's going to be a relaxing and perfect vacation.

We don't plan on doing too much tourist-y stuff, but I'm sure that we'll see lots of fun shops and boutiques and attractions on our mile-long walk to the beach.

spring break

A friend and I are trying to plan a trip for "spring break." After a bit of research, we decided on Puerto Rico for the following reasons:
  1. The weather there is pretty mild all year long (warmth and sunshine!) and March falls out of their typical hurricane season (though many sources claim that tropical storms usually skirt the island and hit the U.S. instead so they don't really have a hurricane season at all).
  2. We don't have to convert any money. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, we can just bring our U.S. dollars and not have to worry about exchange rates and all that jazz.
  3. We don't need plug converters! The voltage and outlet shapes are the same as that of the U.S.
  4. Our cell phones will be usable!! We're definitely going to rely a lot on our hotel wifi, but it's comforting to know that we'll have cell phone service (without extra charges).
  5. The prices are right! We're struggling a bit right now because prices have gone up since our initial search, but they are still mighty low.
  6. It's tropical! AHHH! That's basically all we're looking for out of this trip. We want to be lazy and get skin cancer on a beach, while drinking cocktails out of hollowed out fruits and Puerto Rico fits that description.
Some tips on how we conducted our research. We did a bit of initial research on some destinations using Kayak (to see what areas seemed cheapest for this time period) and then did some package searches on Priceline to see what hotel + flight combinations seemed best. We then used Trip Advisor to get additional ratings and reviews on the hotels. Once we settled on a hotel and flight time, we then turned to other booking sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, and Hotels.com to see how we could make the trip even cheaper. It turns out that hotels.com offers the hotel we chose at SUCH a low price that when combined with a normal flight booking on any of the other sites, it was still cheaper than the hotel + flight package deal (which is usually supposed to be the cheapest way to book a vacation).

I'll do a financial summary and posts on other research (like ground transportation and how to save money) once we have everything booked.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

it's electric!

When you travel abroad, chances are you'll encounter electrical outlets that are unsuitable for your electronics. Enter the plug converter thingy! These are awesome, cheap, and so useful. This particular one has pretty much every set up for every country you'll ever visit.

The only thing to note is that it doesn't convert voltage so if your equipment is sensitive to that, you'll need one of these, (or similar depending on what country you are visiting and the voltage in that country).

Monday, November 29, 2010

jetsetter

Jetsetter is a website (affiliated with Gilt) that features luxury hotels around the world at discounted prices. Granted, the costs are still expensive, but they make spa packages and penthouse suites and whatnot slightly more affordable. The dates are usually limited to some time within three or four months of the sale date so you can't really plan a vacation 1 year ahead and hope to book anything through them.

You have to sign up (there may be a waiting list) in order to participate in the sales. They send out emails with previews on what the upcoming sales are.

I have yet to book anything with Jetsetter, but I hope to find an opportunity (and the money) to be able to soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pickpockets

When travelling, be wary of pickpockets. I have had firsthand experience with this, but it was all due to my own irresponsibility.

While in Paris, my sister and I bought HUGE bottles of Evian water (because we were constantly thirsty - it was a hot summer - and because they were cheap). I brought a medium-sized Longchamp purse, in which I kept my wallet and chapstick and other lady essentials. On the day we were headed to the airport, I had to bring a big backpack, my purse, and the Evian. My hands were full while purchasing metro tickets (to the airport), so I put my Evian in my open bag. After buying the tickets, I put my wallet back in my bag and decided that the Evian was being conveniently held in my open bag and left it there.

We were going to take a pit stop at the store Agatha (they are the trademarker of the little scottie doggie, site is in French) on our way to the airport so we got out of the metro to head there first. After we'd picked out a few things to buy, I realized that my wallet was not in my bag! Somewhere between buying our metro tickets and arriving at that boutique, I'd been robbed!

It was a horrible situation, but thank goodness we'd already booked all of our hotels and we'd kept our passports safe in our luggage. We still had our metro tickets so we headed to the airport and made a collect call on the pay phone to my dad. I asked him to cancel all of my credit cards and to please wire us some cash. There's a hefty fee to wire cash (my dad paid a fee of $35 to send us $300) so it sucked, but we didn't have any other choice.

Once we got to our destination (Barcelona), we were able to buy metro tickets with the few euro that my sister had, and we headed to the hotel. My sister had her debit card with her but she hadn't activated it (don't ask me why, she's weird), so when we got to the hotel, we had to borrow a laptop and skype with Chase bank to get that settled. It took a while because they kept asking security questions that she did not know how to answer (like what month and year did you open your Chase checking account?).

The moral of the story is to be careful! Keep your money separated throughout your luggage so that you won't be left in a situation like mine: no money at all. We were lucky that our passports weren't taken, so that's an important thing to note as well.

I've also heard some stories about thieves who carry around fake babies, throw them at you so that your arms are up to catch the baby while their accomplice robs you from behind. There's another one where a lady performs a strip tease out in public to grab spectators' attention while her accomplice goes around collecting wallets from pockets while everyone is distracted. Just be aware! Ladies, guard your purses, and guys, store your wallet in difficult-to-reach places (like the pockets of tight jeans or the inside pocket of your coat).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Past Trips: Rome

My first year of college, I was an architecture major. Part of the requirements were to take architectural history courses and as freshman, we focused a lot of classic architecture and Rome. We learned about the Colosseo, Pantheon, Il Vittoriale Monument, Fontana di Trevi, all of the Palazzos, etc. Rome was so essential to art and architectural history, that our school offered a program in Rome for the AAP students (Architecture, Art & Planning). I never got to experience that, however, because I switched majors to engineering my sophomore year. Oops! Anyway, when my dear friend and I planned our "We graduated college! We deserve a treat!" trip, we included Rome as one of our destinations. (My friend was a Fine Arts student and she had partaken in the Rome program, lucky girl!)

We flew into Ciampino Airport and took a bus (Terravision, €6 per person, one way - rates vary depending on when you book) to the city center.

We visited all the typical sights while we were there.
Colosseo
Vittorio Emanuele Monument
("White Elephant")
Pantheon

Fontana di Trevi
Piazza di Spagna
Ara Pacis (Richard Meier)













Campo di Fiori
Piazza di San Pietro
Circus Maximus













Julius Caesar Statue
Piazza Navona












Food: As far as cuisine is concerned, Rome is like Paris; You can't find bad food here.

For dinner the first night, we went to the "Jewish Ghetto" and ate at Il Portico. I got tortellini with cream sauce, pancetta, and peas and my friend ordered the salmon pizza. Both dishes were delicious!! Pasta in Italy is always amazing because it's so fresh and they use quality ingredients. The little old man who served us was really nice and we enjoyed ourselves.
Tortellini
Pizza con salmone










For dinner on our last night in Roma, we went to Il Faciolaro near the Pantheon. My friend had the spaghetti carbonara and I had the pizza with mushrooms and prosciutto (and we forgot to snap photos before we started eating! Oops! We were just that hungry). If you've never had carbonara, it looks like plain pasta, but they make a "sauce" out of the leftover pasta cooking water, eggs, pancetta, and lots of cheese. It's really good. We ended our meal with tiramisu, which is so much yummier in Italy than any place you'd find in the U.S.
carbonara
Pizza con funghi e prosciutto
tiramisu












One other thing to note: coffee in Rome is delicious. And gelato is amazing. There's a place right by the Pantheon called Giolitti which serves both. Yum.

Cappuccino
gelato
















For breakfast, we ate cornetto, which is the Italian version of croissant. They're shaped the same, but not as buttery and flaky. They're fluffier and lighter. And try sfogliatelle! It's a pastry made with a flaky, crispy dough that's wrapped around a custard-like filling (usually almond flavored) to look like a seashell.
Cornetto
Sfogliatelle










The downsides to this trip were that there were no public restrooms! You can't just run into a Starbucks or book shop to use the toilets. Your only options really are to go to a sit down restaurant and order something or pay admission to a museum or something. We got lucky because we would use the Cornell in Rome building once in a while, but only when we were in the area. The rest of the time, we just had to hold it.

I also can't make any hotel recommendations. My friend had worked with a language partner while she was studying in Rome her junior year of college. Her language partner was a girl our age, who was still a student, living in an apartment just outside of Rome (reachable by the public transportation buses) and she graciously allowed us to stay there.

OH! And to make a note about public transportation in Rome. It's fairly easy. I think we used the metro once and the bus a bunch of times. You can buy tickets (biglietti) from most newspaper stands (all over the place in the city) or from machines down in the metro station. When going through the metro, you MUST use your ticket and feed it through the machine to get it validated. When using the bus, you have to validate the ticket yourself in a machine. Sometimes we would see people cheat (and we might've cheated once) by not validating their tickets. But be warned! There are inspectors that check to make sure you've validated your ticket! On the day we cheated, it was raining, and as our bus approached our destination bus stop, we saw the inspectors in their bright yellow raincoats and we jumped off the bus immediately, so as to avoid trouble. Be careful though, if you get caught, there are some hefty fines.

We flew out of Fiumicino Airport (Leonardo Da Vinci) which was accessible by train from Termini Station. I think it cost us €14 each.

Rome was awesome. It's definitely an amazing place to visit. I highly recommend it.

Scrapbooking and Snapfish

I love making scrapbooks and photo albums (hard copy ones) for my travels. Nowadays, it's so easy to share photos on facebook or picasa or flickr, etc. but I like to sit down with hard copy prints to put them in albums and frames and decorate my room.

Snapfish is a photo share&print website (associated with Hewlett Packard) that lets you order and print photos for a relatively decent price. I first signed up for it when I got my first HP computer for school and it was automatically listed as one of the 'favorites' in my Internet Explorer.

I know there are a lot of other photo host and print sites out there, but this is the one I am most familiar with and have used most often. That's because they send out emails relatively often with free shipping codes or deals on prints. They also send out deals on collage mugs and photo books and other stuff, but I haven't ever ordered anything but prints.

I love their free shipping deals because otherwise, it's friggin' expensive. Often times, the shipping can cost more than half of the price of your prints!

Some tips:
  1. When you first sign up for the site, you get free prints (I think 20)
  2. If you recommend the site to a friend and he or she signs up, you get free prints (I think 20... I remember when I was ordering prints for my first London trip with my two housemates back in college, we made up a bunch of fake emails in order to take advantage of this... this is illegal... but still, a nifty trick!)
  3. Check your emails for deals or go to RetailMeNot or do a simple google search to find out what the latest offers are
Good thing about this (for me) is that I don't have a time crunch to get albums finished, so usually, I'm content in waiting around for Snapfish to send out a free shipping coupon code.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dublin (Part 2)

Indian Chicken Curry
Steak sandwich
We arrived back at our hotel in Dublin in time for dinner. We headed back to O'Shea's to try out their food. John ordered the steak sandwich with chips and I ordered the Indian chicken curry. The steak was a little bit dry, but good nonetheless. The curry was really good! Baby Boy liked it so much that he dipped his sandwich in it. And of course, we got Guinness to accompany our meals.

Amsterdam! (Day 3)

Spui Square
Spui Square
Our third and final day in Amsterdam was only a half day, as we had to catch a bus to Eindhoven at 13:15. We got up in the morning, packed our bags, and headed back to Pancakes! for breakfast. We were tempted to order the bacon, leek, mushroom, and cheese pancake again, but we decided to get the smoked salmon, guacamole, and creme fraiche pancake and the coconut pancake with banana and condensed milk. Both were delicious! And surprise! We decided to take a bacon, leek, mushroom, and cheese pancake to go! They put it in a pizza box for us so we could eat it on the go.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Amsterdam! (Day 2)

Pancakes!
Our hotel had free breakfast, but we woke up too late for it, so Baby Boy found a place using wifi on his phone (which wasn't free, cheap hotel people!) called Pancakes! so we headed there on the tram. We got off at the Spui Square stop and then had to cross a few canals to get there. The place was really cozy and cute and we got to pick our own table, which already had a few menus on it. We ended up choosing the bacon, leek, mushroom, and cheese pancake as well as a drunken pears and creme fraiche pancake. Oh gosh, these were really delicious. The texture of the pancake was really awesome. They weren't like regular American pancakes, but I think there was a wheat flour or something in the batter because they were chewy and awesome, not at all egg-y or dry. It was truly an experience. Oh! And to drink, I got a cappuccino (coffee in Europe is always delicious) and a lemonade (the menu said something about it being made from syrup) and Baby Boy ordered a strawberry, apple, orange shake. The lemonade was sweet, not sour, but refreshing and yummy and the shake was really good. We heard them blending and there was no ice in the drink, so we know it was made from fresh fruits.

Amsterdam! (Day 1)

We arrived at Stansted Airport (London) v. early in the morning. We browsed the duty-free shops a bit before settling down to have breakfast before our flight took off. I bought a sandwich from Pret for the plane before getting breakfast. We ate at Wetherspoons, a chain of pubs that serve breakfast foods (and are known for their sausage or something). I ordered the children's breakfast (which is basically the same as the adult's except for one less piece of sausage, two less hashbrowns, and no mushroom) and John ordered the grown up's breakfast. Our flight to Eindhoven Airport from Stansted was only 35 minutes! We spent more time taxiing than we did flying. We landed around 9:00 and went to the information desk to figure out where to catch the bus to Eindhoven city center (so that we could then in turn catch a train to Amsterdam). I had done the research and everyone had said the train was better because it was quicker. However, when we'd landed, the lady informed us that the next train wasn't going to be for another hour but that there was a bus to Amsterdam available in 10 minutes. Some quick math told us that buying round trip bus tickets would be on par with the round trip cost of a bus + train so we decided to fork up €42 (per person, round trip) for the bus. We had to tell her what time we wanted the bus back to the airport and she printed out our tickets accordingly and stamped them. Oh! And we had to pay in cash because the credit card machine was broken, so I ended up using all the cash I'd designated for Amsterdam! Boo.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

London, baby!

We landed in London on Monday night a bit later than planned so we rushed to catch our easybus to the city center and made it with a few minutes to spare. We got into the city past 23:00 which meant by the time we'd walked to our hotel from the bus stop, checked into our hotel, and dropped off our bags in our room, it was really late and all bars had closed, which was unfortunate because we really wanted a drink! I, for one, really needed a drink because our hotel room looked like a murderer rapist's living quarters. Minimalist furniture, cracked paint on the walls, and an old fashioned sink in the corner = creepy!
free English breakfast
We only had one full day in London and I wanted to make the most of it so I mapped out our route early in the morning, got some free hotel breakfast, and we headed out. Our hotel was located within a block of King's Cross Saint Pancras Station so we decided to start our journey there. After snapping a few photos of the British Library (while standing at the entrance to the Underground), we headed to the spot that Harry Potter made infamous: Platform 9-3/4!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paris! (Day 3)


Croissant
Chocolatine
On our last day in Paris, we woke up with a mission. "We must visit Montmartre and Sacre Coeur!" We checked out of our hotel, but requested to leave our bags for the day while we went sight-seeing. But first, we decided that we needed to get some croissants to get us energized for the day so we headed to a bakery just around the corner from our hotel. As soon as we walked in, we were slapped in the face by the smell of yummy-ness and butter. The croissants had a super crisp and flaky exterior but were really soft and light on the inside. Baby Boy decided he would also like a pain au chocolat (a.k.a. chocolatine). He let me have a few bites! It was also yummy. It wasn't too sweet or rich, it was perfect.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paris! (Day 2)


Got up in the morning and started planning the day. We decided we'd head to Les Champs-Élysées first to see L'Arc de Triomphe and to hit up Ladurée for les macarons.

Ended up feeling pretty hungry so we decided to sit down and eat lunch at Ladurée. Be forewarned! If you want to eat a meal here, just know that it's pretty expensive!!

Baby boy ordered the Omelette Concorde which had chicken, spinach, tomato, cucumber, fresh cream, and mustard along with a side of fries. I ordered the Salade Ladurée which had arugula, artichokes, green beans, fresh mozzerella, asparagus, sundried tomatoes, squash seeds, basil, and a dressing made of grapefruit and lemon olive oil. SUPER yummy.
omelette
huge salad

bread! and a roll of butter

des frites


After lunch, we headed downstairs to the bakery part so I could pick out some macaroons. I got two caramel (most popular flavor, and for good reason), two raspberry (Baby Boy wanted to try a raspberry one), chocolate, and coffee. I meant to get pistachio, but I forgot. The boy helping me must've thought I was stupid because I started off by saying, "Bonjour, je voudrais sept macarons, s'il-vous-plaît," (translation: I would like seven macaroons, please,") but I only asked for 6. Oops!

Then we walked along the Champs-Élysées and then headed into the city center to check out the Louvre, Notre Dame, Centre Pompidou, and Hôtel de Ville.


Hôtel de Ville
Notre Dame de Paris
Point Zero
Centre Pompidou
Louvre
Our appetizers
Duck confit
After all of the walking, we headed back to the hotel so that we could look up a place to head for dinner. We found a place that was zagat rated (the Royal Madeleine) but when we finally got there (got a bit lost on the way), it was fully booked! Since it was a Sunday night, most places were closed so we wandered around until we found this place, Madeleine 7. I had oysters (on my list of French foods to eat!) to start followed by duck confit. Baby Boy had goat cheese toast, duck fillet, and a cheese plate. The oysters were so good. They came with some sort of shallots and vinegar mixture to top them. They were really fresh and yummy. Both duck dishes were amazing as well. The duck fillet was super tender and the sauce was SO good - not sure what was in it. And the accompanying circular little hash browns were perfect. The duck confit had a perfectly crispy skin but wasn't too greasy or anything.
Cheese plate
duck fillet

blue lights!
After dinner, we took a few photos in front of La Madeleine (famous church) and then headed in the direction of the Louvre. We saw some bright blue lights and heard some music so we followed the lights assuming it was a club. Turned out the blue lights were for some sort of ice sculpture show. However, across the street, we saw pink lights and those turned out to be where the music was actually coming from. We investigated, hoping to get into some party, but it looked too ritzy and there were scary bouncers at the door so we sat on a park bench to enjoy the music for a bit before we headed back. On our way home, we stopped to take some photos while the Eiffel Tower was doing its light show again.

Tiny Eiffel Tower in the background
We were pretty tired, so we crossed Pont Alexander III (Alexander III Bridge), the most ornate bridge in all of Paris (by reputation) and made our way back to the hotel on the metro. But before going to bed, we stopped by a pub in the neighborhood and slammed a few beers before officially calling it a night.

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