27
September

Arrondissements of Paris 1-4

Paris at night

Wow, who knew there were so many different areas to choose from in Paris? When I started to plan our trip, I had no idea that finding the right neighborhood would be such a project. Paris is divided into 20 administrative districts, more commonly referred to as “arrondissements”. Each of these areas has it’s own unique feel.

Since there are so many arrondissements, I will write a series of 5 separate posts describing each arrondissement. I’ll try to give you a bit of information on each arrondissement, which I hope will make choosing an area easier for you. The arrondissements are arranged in a clockwise spiral with 1 being the center of Paris.

Paris arrondissements maps

Paris arrondissements

1st Arrondissement – Louvre

Once the stomping grounds of France’s kings and emperors, the 1st arrondissement is the “royal heart of Paris”. Today, you will find the Louvre Museum, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Palais Royal. Museums and monuments occupy much of this area, so you will not find many budget hotels to choose from. However if you prefer 5 star hotels, you are in luck. Some of the options here are the Hotel Ritz, Hotel de Vendôme, & Hotel du Louvre.

The Louvre

The Louvre Museum

2nd Arrondissement – Bourse

The 2nd arrondissement is one of the financial centers of Europe, being home to the Bourse (Stock exchange). Since sometime in the early renaissance this area has also been home to Paris’ red-light district and “Les Galeries”- covered upscale shopping centers that date back to the 19th Century. One in particular that is nice to see is Galerie Vivienne, which has a glass cover above. The 2nd is the smallest arrondissement in Paris with about 0.383 sq. miles.

les galeries Paris

Galerie Vivienne

3rd Arrondissement – Temple

This area includes the Northern quieter part of le Marais. Many artists and celebrities stay here to enjoy both the residential quietness but also the chic shopping aspect of the 3rd arrondissement. As a result of this, the number of luxury brands and fashion boutiques opened in this district has increased over the past few years. The 3rd arrondissement is also home to the oldest surviving private house in Paris, built in 1407 along the rue de Montmorency.
51 rue Montmorency in the 3rd district of Paris

4th Arrondissement – Hôtel-de-Ville

Situated on the Right Bank of the River Seine, the 4th arrondissement is a large piece of what used to be medieval Paris. At night, the area has the most active bar scene most travelers will have ever seen. This includes the lower Marais district which is sometimes known as gay Paris; although, there are no shortage of bars catering to straight crowds. The 4th arrondissement is known for its little streets, cafés, and shops but is sometimes regarded as expensive and congested. This area is desirable for those insisting on old buildings and multi-cultural exposure. Here you will find Notre Dame de Paris & Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ city hall. Many feel that this is one of the loveliest buildings in Paris.

Notre dame

Notre Dame de Paris

A couple sites that I have used to book rooms in Paris are venere.com www.venere.com” (thanks to Brenda B for this suggestions) and www.hotelscombined.com” which has a similar feel to kayak.com.

As always, if you have any specific questions about any area, please feel free to post a comment, and I will do my best to answer it.

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14
September

Los Cabos – Cabo San Lucas & San José del Cabo, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas

If you’re looking for a quick getaway from Los Angeles, Los Cabos just might be the place for you at just about 2.5 hours away from LA. Flights from Los Angeles in October range from $389 to $600 depending on the day of the week you fly. Remember that mid-week flights are usually cheaper than flights that originate on Friday or Sunday. Flights from New York during the same period range from $498 to over $700. These rates were found using www.kayak.com. One of the cool features on kayak.com is the price alert option, which allows you to set up alerts for any destination. The site will email you daily or weekly when the price changes and also allows you to set a max price.

Los Cabos Mexico International Airport (SJD) is located about 7 miles from San Jose and 29 miles from San Lucas. I would suggest taking a shuttle or renting a car for your stay since cabs tend to be fairly expensive. One thing to remember though is that the roads can be dangerous, so drive cautiously. I would suggest fully inspecting your rental car and purchase insurance just to be on the safe side. There are several car rental agencies at or near the airport: Thrifty, Budget, and Hertz, just to name a few. You can reserve online, and a representative from the rental company will meet you at the terminal.

We chose to stay in San José del Cabo, which was closer to the airport, and I felt a little more my speed than Cabo San Lucas. If you do prefer bar crawls and clubbing till the early morning hours, I would suggest Cabo San Lucas. There are several beautiful beachfront hotels to choose from in Cabo. There is something to fit just about any budget. We chose Royal Solaris, an all-inclusive resort with 5 restaurants, 4 bars and about 400 guest rooms. http://www.clubsolaris.com/v4/ The rate for the hotel was about $150 per night for all-inclusive double occupancy. If you like to do a lot of exploring and eating and drinking at different locations then the all-inclusive option may not be best for you. However, it is easy to spend over $100 a day on food and alcohol while on vacation, so that’s something you should factor in when making your decision.

There are a few things that I suggest you check out in Los Cabos. First would be the tequila tasting. I’m not a huge tequila fan myself, but it was a lot of fun…especially after the 4th free sample! There are several shops that will offer you free tequila samples; they have the next sample filled by the time you are putting down the one in your hand. Needless to say, I took a bottle home with me. The following site has maps available of the entire Cabo area http://www.loscabosguide.com/maps/maps.htm

Another fun thing to do is snorkel. There are several places that you can rent gear from on the beach and snorkel, or you can take a snorkel tour from most hotels. We rented equipment on the beach for about $10 each. We chose to take the hour and a half drive to “Todos Santos,” an artist community North of Cabo and home to the Hotel California. Todos Santos has lots of local art you can purchase much cheaper than you would in Cabo San Lucas. There are also several little authentic Mexican dining options here: http://www.todossantos.cc/

Todos Santos

The streets of Todos Santos

Lastly, The Buccaneer Queen pirate ship in San Lucas is definitely a unique experience. http://buccaneerloscabos.com/ We were lucky enough to meet the owner at a whole in the wall bar in Cabo. They offer 3 tours to chose from: snorkeling, whale watching, or Sunset cruises on a 96-foot pirate ship. Price range from $49.50 – $78 for adults and $28.50 – $44 for kids ages 5-11. Lunch and open bar included. Discounts available at http://www.cabosanlucastours.net/

*SALE this week (1/18/12) on Royal Solaris through Livingsocial.com Four-($769) or Five-Night ($949) All-Inclusive Stay for Two Adults and Two Children Under 12 in a Deluxe Room, April 15 through June 30 or August 15 through December 22, 2012*http://www.livingsocial.com/escapes/225962-all-inclusive-baja-resort?msdc_id=4-los-angeles

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or anything to add, please feel free to comment below.

 

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7
September

I heart NY!

Well, to my delight NYC received the most votes from the poll posted last week. Having lived in Manhattan, it’s a city I can probably write several blogs about. However, I will try to narrow it down to a few of my favorites.

If you are reading this and do not live in NY then I recommend a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which gives you the best views of lower Manhattan and the East Side. You can snap some great photos from the bridge. Once you cross over the bridge, stop by Grimaldi’s Pizzeria at 19 Old Fulton Street. http://www.grimaldis.com/. A couple of things you should know is there is often a line, but it’s worth the wait. Also, they do not sell individual slices, so hopefully you have a friend to help you share a whole pie…or a HUGE appetite. While you are in Brooklyn I also suggest getting a slice of Red Velvet cake from “The Cake Man Raven” at 708 Fulton Street  http://www.cakemanraven.com. This is by far the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had! You can get there from Grimaldi’s by taking the B25 bus or the C train to Lafayette.

Don’t be intimidated by the transit system in NYC. You can grab a pocket-size map from most gift shops in Time Square or the NY Transit Museum and Store at Grand Central Station. This will help you avoid looking like a tourist with a huge subway map, which is clearly good for many reasons. If you’re in town for a few days get the 7 day unlimited pass for $29. Another useful site to help you navigate the subway system is &  http://www.hopstop.com you can access the site from most smartphones also. HopStop is an amazing app because it uses GPS to find your current location and will give you step-by-step instructions to get to your destination. Hopstop will also give you an estimated taxi fare for the same trip.

There are several beautiful parks around NYC. One of the most well-known is Central Park. If you go to Central park there are a few spots that I suggest, the Alice in Wonderland Statue, Bethesda Fountain and the Zoo. The Pond near Central Park South is a great spot for photos year round. You can really spend several hours here and check out the Carousel or even rent a rowboat. Don’t worry maps are available  http://www. centralpark.com. A couple other parks to check out if you have time are Bryant Park where NY Fashion week was held for many years located between 5th and 6th Avenues at 42nd Street. Or the elevated highline park which runs from Gansevoort Street, one block below West 12th Street, in the Meatpacking District, up to 30th Street   http://www.thehighline.org.

I can probably go on forever, but I don’t want to bore you so I will wrap up with a few of my favorite watering holes. Pazzo Notte on 6th and 56th – 2-4-1 Martini happy hour. Sushi Samba on 7th or Park Ave South for “Samba Hour” 4-7pm $6 drinks and bites. They have the best fresh muddled fruit mojitos. Las Ramblas – 170 W. 4th Street – Great Sangria and Spanish Tapas   http://www.lasramblasnyc.com .

My last bit of advice…as much as you may feel like NYC is Disneyland…it’s not. People actually live and work there day-to-day. So try to be considerate when you stop to pull out your subway maps or to take a picture. There are still people moving at a fast pace right behind you that may need to get to work or home, and if you’re on the escalator, remember, the left side is for those that want to walk up and the right side is for standing…so don’t be that guy that just stopped everyone else.

If you are planning a trip to New York soon and have specific questions or want suggestions please free to post a comment and I will do my best to answer.


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30
August

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29
August

A few days in Vegas…

A quick trip to Vegas can get real expensive real quick. On our recent trip we decided to see if we could enjoy the city without breaking the bank. I thought this might be difficult since we were planning to stay there for several days and it’s easy to spend a lot of money there.


On this trip we decided to fly, since we were flying mid week and returning on Saturday. Flights on Friday or Sunday tend to be the most expensive, so if you are trying to save some money it is best to avoid those days.


For our hotel I used priceline to bid on a room. I know this may sound risky since you don’t know what you are actually getting until you pay, but if you pick a higher star rating you really can’t go wrong. If you want to get an example of what priceline considers a 3, 4 or 5 star hotel just browse their regular hotel page at http://travelc.priceline.com/hotels/ once you have decided what star level you are interested in you can select the area or areas you would like to stay in. I suggest narrowing it down to one or two areas and increasing as needed if your bid is not accepted. Priceline will show you the median retail price for the star rating and area you selected, I suggest starting your bid at 40% of the median price. Remember that taxes and fees are not included in the price you are bidding so make sure you do not bid more than you want to pay. If you bid is not accepted priceline will want you to increase the bid by at least $20 or $25, there is a way around this. Close the window and go back to the site to bid again.


On this stay we booked a room at Vdara. The hotel is a 5 star resort with no casino, so no smoke filled common areas. The room was spacious with a great view. We requested a high floor upon check in. One thing to remember is that many of the 4 or 5 star hotels will charge you a non-refundable resort fee when you check in. Resort fees range from $15-$20 plus applicable tax. The fee usually covers wireless Internet, use of pools, etc.


Vdara

Vdara Bedroom

If you plan to see a show while in Vegas there are lots of websites that offer discounted tickets or seating upgrades to shows that haven’t quite sold out. Some sites I’ve used have been http://www.vegastickets.com/ and http://www.tix4tonight.com/. Tix 4 tonight has a few booths set up around Vegas that sell tickets for the same night.


Last but certainly not least…dining. I was able to find some great deals for dining on http://www.restaurant.com/ they currently have most of the restaurants at Mandalay Bay and THEhotel. There are also some at the Palms and various other locations. We chose Mix at THEhotel. The atmosphere was great, with a sleek white dining area and unbeatable strip view from the 64th floor.  Ask the hostess to be seated on the Southern strip side for the best view. If the weather is nice you can also request to be seated outside on the terrace for an even better view. The food was amazing and the service was great! The restaurant has received a couple Michelin stars and the AAA Four Diamond Award two years in a row. After dinner we went over to the bar for a glass of champagne on the balcony (drinks average about $16 each but the view makes it worth it). Another place we loved is “Pizzeria” hidden on the third floor of the Cosmopolitan hotel. You can get a huge slice from $3.50 – $5 or a whole pie for around $25. The place is a bit hard to find, located down a long hallway with no signage in front.


I suggest signing up for every slot club card you can get. You can get several comps or reduced priced items. Also check your phone for deals on Yelp or Foursquare. We got a couple buy one get one free drink tickets for checking in at Ballys Casino.
Another deal we got grabbed before our trip was an hour massage at La Riva Spa. https://livingsocial.com/redeem_invite/29021279-adamag?ref=lnk offers vary on livingsocial but you can log in and check what they are currently offering in your city or a city you plan on visiting soon. Make sure you reserve in advance though, we were lucky enough to have them squeeze in our appointments during our stay.


I hope this will help you plan your next trip to Vegas or give you some inspiration to plan your next trip. As always feel free to post any comments or travel related questions you may have!


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6
August

About our travel blog

View from Jetblue flight to Aruba

Starting a travel blog has been something I have been thinking about working on for quite some time. As some of you may know I love to travel! I tend to put a lot of time and thought into what I see and do when I am traveling. I would consider Misael and I fairly adventurous travelers. On our trips we tend to explore, find out how to get from one place to another on the public transportation or Misael’s favorite…ask the locals “what is the one place we have to see while visiting your town or the one authentic dish to the area?”

 

During the past couple years I have compiled some useful tips that I wish I had known prior to going to a particular city. I hope this blog becomes a spot where we can share our travel tips and also hear some of yours. I’m looking forward to the adventure one city at a time!

 

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