Tag Archives: vacation

Favorite Summer Destination: Paris, I Love You

30 Aug

How amazing can a summer vacation be? Pretty friggin’ spectacular, especially if the destination is Paris. It’s true what every one says about easy it is to love Paris and after spending some time there, the city can make us feel like it loves us too.

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In Paris, we can spend hours getting lost in the Louvre, one of the largest museums in the world and home to some of the most famous works of art. An experience that will guarantee moments that will take one’s breath away.

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A short walk, or in our case a short pedicab ride, away from the Louvre is the Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts bridge, a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine River. Couples come to this “Love Bridge” to memorialize their undying love by writing their names or initials on “love locks” (padlocks, which can be purchased on the bridge), attaching the lock to the railing or grate on the side of the bridge, and throwing the keys into the Seine. This romantic gesture is meant to represent committed love that can only be broken by unlocking the lock; impossible, as the keys are at the bottom of the river. Looks like it’s Sarah & Danny Forever!

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Before the Louvre, many of Paris’ historical paintings, like the Mona Lisa, covered the walls of the Palace of Versaille; however, I should say “unlike the Mona Lisa,” because I learned that this masterpiece was actually on an easel, not on the wall. We’ll notice that most of the paintings at the Louvre have no frames, and we’d have to go to the Palace of Versaille to see the frames that now house replicas of the real things. About a 40 minute drive from Paris, the Palace of Versaille is a must see destination. Renting a golf cart can save a ton of time when touring the gardens and property, especially if you’re like me and want to see it all. During busy seasons with heavy tourist traffic, or not, a private guided tour is also recommended. This guided tour gives tourists access to areas that aren’t permitted with the normal entrance fee, such as the library, music room, theater, etc. Plus, a knowledgable guide accompanies the tour’s guest(s), who can explain the history of the Palace (and it’s former residents) as well as answer any questions we can think of. Once I discovered what it was like in the general areas when walking to the exit to see the Hall of Mirrors (while still amazing, super crowded and unbearable at times), I realized what a life-savor being on private tour was.

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The Moulin Rouge was always a place I wanted to go, so I bought two tickets to it’s resident cabaret show and revue, Le Féerie. VIP tickets will avoid having to wait in the long entrance line and guarantees great designated seats, champagne, macrons, a program, and souvenirs. While the show is no “Cirque Du Soleil,” walking into Le Bal Du Moulin Rouge, so popular for it’s French can-can, makes it’s guests feel like we’re participating in it’s unique history and tradition.

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There are so many sights and monuments in Paris, like the Arc de Triomphe, which was a short walk from our hotel on the always lively Champs-Élysées. The history of the city is so rich and the architecture and design of it’s buildings and monuments are so beautiful and impressive.

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One of the sights that I got to see was the Notre Dame Cathedral. As I kid, this was a place I thought I could only dream about visiting. It was a humbling experience to finally see and realize that dreams are not too far from reality.

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During my vacation, where I indulged in some of the most incredible meals I’ve ever had, I realized that I absolutely loved Paris. Paris told me that it loved me too when I had the best crepe ever at Les Ecuries.

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eiffeltowerday

The eiffel tower has got to be the most prominent symbol and icon of Paris and France. I was able to savor every sight and moment after ascending to the second level by walking the stairs. It was unreal!

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Going to the eiffel tower once in a lifetime is magical in and of itself, but going twice in one day is more than a girl who craves nearly everything could even ask for (the second time around, we took the elevator). We started the last day of our trip in Paris visiting the eiffel tower and ended the day there. Seeing the tower illuminated at night is stunning, but seeing the light show (where the tower twinkles) was amazing and incredibly romantic. In between these two visits (specifically at dinner), there was an engagement! In Paris, I savored some of the best times of my life, and came home with a fiancé (which may have contributed to this being my favorite Summer destination). Je t’aime Paris!

Craving Arpege

25 Jul

restaurant Arpege

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Where can we find a culinary artist that creates beautiful and insanely delicious masterpieces? In Paris, on Rue de Bourgogne, there is a chef by the name of Alain Passard, who designs picturesque dishes looks as good as they tastes. When my bf and I dined in his restaurant, Arpege (which is not the easiest to make reservations to BTW), Alain Passard came out of the kitchen and said hello, asked where we were from, and asked if we liked vegetables. Of course we liked vegetables, but after having the dinner that was served at Arpege, I am now in love with vegetables. I’ve always heard that Paris is the city of love, and now I’m an official believer because I fell head over heals in love with the incredible and unique recipes at this Parisian restaurant and Arriere-Cuisine that satisfy cravings as well as the visual appetite. AP’s designs and technique have given life to probably the most gorgeous food I’ve ever laid my eyes on and if we think something can’t taste beautiful, well we’re wrong. Either the way AP’s food tasted made the food look better, or the way AP’s food looked made the food taste better, or both, or neither. All I know is that I felt like I was looking at a super model physicist, confused because it never happens… food should never look and taste that good. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. My bf said that it was the best meal he’s ever had in his life (and this was only 5 dishes in to an over 15 dish meal, not counting the dessert).

Just to make our lives easier, we both had the tasting menu of AP’s specialty and signature cuisines, and I had a glass of their recommended Riesling. The menu included Coquelier, Collection de tomates, Aiguillette de homard bleu nuit acidule au miel nouveau, Fines ravioles potageres multicolores, Turbot de la pointe de Bretegne grille entire au, Robe des champs, Rostisserie, Fomages Bernard Antony, Mille, Sucrereis, and several surprises that I can’t pronounce or repeat even if I wanted to. The only reason I can even list the items on the menu was because the staff gave me one to take home. I tried keeping track of the courses, but after the 10th item, I was already I delirious (with joy and satisfaction); however, even when I thought I could eat no more, I found that I kept clearing my plates. During my meal, I told my bf that Arpege is the true “Happy Meal,” because it can really make a person happy. The funny thing was we actually left with a “gift.” Arpege gifted a souvenir, which was the dinner knife we used during dinner. The staff cleaned it and folded the blade into the handle like a pocket knife. Engraved in the wooden handle is “Arpege 2013.” Although already an unforgettable experience, I now have a remembrance of my Arpege love affair of pure indulgence and bliss.

Vale! Savoring Barcelona

24 Jul

IheartBarcelona

What’s the one word you must know when in Barcelona? Vale, which can probably be one thing a person can use in every conversation and most likely get by during an entire vacation. During our stay at the beautiful Hotel Arts, which is a Ritz Carlton property, the resort is staffed with employees from many parts of the World that cater to tourists. So, although we can do both, speaking and/or understanding Spanish isn’t mandatory. Interestingly; however, during our stay, we have never heard “vale” used in such a manner, by so many people, and so frequently. Vale is like saying in Spanish “de acuerdo,” meaning ok, yea, yes, I agree, understood, sure… Since there isn’t much that the staff at the Hotel Arts wouldn’t do for it’s guests, all we heard was “vale.”
Barcelona is absolutely beautiful. The vibe is laid back, the weather is great this time of year, the food is incredible, and there is so much to see and savor. If there was anything I was asked to do, most of the time, my answer was “vale.”

Would we like the have the hotel breakfast buffet every morning? Vale. There’s an assortment of cheese, breads, pastries, a fresh juice station, crepe station, additional items we can order to the table, and more?! Vale.

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Would we like to hang out and lounge by the pool? Vale. Something to drink? Vale, pina colada por favor.

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Would we like to play some card games at the Barcelona Casino? Vale. Go to the Beach? Vale.

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Would we like to see the market and vendor shops at La Rambla? Vale.

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Would we like to walk down the shore of the marina after dinner? Vale

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Would we like to rent scooters and tour Barcelona? Vale.

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Would we like to tour the stunning Basilica de la Sagrada Familia? Vale. Would I like the audio tour and see the city views from the bell tower? Vale.

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Would we like to visit Guell Park, which features more of Gaudi’s most famous works? Vale.

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Would we like to see the Casa Museu Gaudi, where the famous Catalan architect lived for twenty years? Vale.

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If any one didn’t know what “vale” meant prior to visiting Barcelona, once savoring the sights, the food, and everything the city had to offer, that person would surely know it afterward. Vale!

Craving Los Caracoles

22 Jul

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Where do we go when dinner plans don’t go as planned? We try plan B, which turned out to be more than fine by us… In Barcelona, many restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so a few of the places on top of my food list got crossed off. My bf got a suggestion from a friend back home and we headed about a mile from our hotel to Los Caracoles, which is located in an alley off La Rambla. Outside of the restaurant is a huge wood-fired oven, blazing and sending scents of food through the street, enticing passerby’s to have what their kitchen’s cooking . Right when we walked in, it looked like a tiny bar and restaurant, but after walking past the ovens and chefs, up the stairs, and into the dining area, we were surprised to find that the establishment could seat well over 200 people. We got some great suggestions from the server, who started us off with bread in the shape of a snail with olive oil and vinegar. We ordered most of his suggestions: the verduras salteadas (sauteed vegetables), gambas al ajillo (shrimp fried in garlic), paella de mariscos (seafood “paella”), navajas a la plancha (grilled razor clams, and of course los caracoles especiales (special snails), which we had to try since the name of the restaurant is Los Caracoles (although I could only handle eating 2). For dessert we had pastel de fresas con maracuya (strawberry cake) and crema catalana (“Catalan” cream caramel, which is very similar to creme brulee). The ambiance and decor of the restaurant is as lively and flavorful as the food. Before we finished dinner, we got a nice surprise and got serenaded at our table by a Spanish band. The dinner experience was awesome, and I especially could not get over how tasty the vegetables were; Delicioso! They were the first thing I tried and even if I just had the vegetables, I would have still made up my mind that Los Caracoles beat anything and everything I could have possibly had at any “Plan A” restaurant on my list.

Arola Craves

21 Jul

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What’s a great way to kick off a stay in Barcelona, Spain? Eating great food is always a great start in my opinion, which is exactly my bf and I did on our first night together. Located on the 2nd floor of the Hotel Arts, our home for the next few days, we dined at Catalan chef Segi Arola’s restaurant, which overlooks the ocean, located in front of Frank Gehry’s giant wale. We were given a few complimentary starters and a bread basket, with garlic, tomato, olive oil, and salt. For the bread, we were instructed to cut the garlic clove and tomato in half, rub the garlic on the bread, then do the same with the tomato, add a little olive oil, and a dash of salt, and eat. The bread was delicious, a perfect teaser for the tapas we about going to enjoy. We ordered White Asparagas with mayonnaise, olives from Aragon and sprout, Eggplant flame roasted, with arbeguina olives and pine nuts, Arola’s Patatas Bravas (mmmm, yum), and White Shrimp prepared with garlic. Our server advised of of ordering 4, maybe 5 items to share, but we didn’t stop at 4, we continued to order the Langoustines grilled with truffle vinaigrette, Mussels in brine with vitelotte potato chips, Crab prepared in Wontong pasta ravioli and dashi, and my bf had the Nebraska Beef loin, marinated with Xerez, vinegar and citrics with vegetables and sprouts. All of the tapas were amazing. Our great dinner, which started off our trip, also ended well with dessert or cocina dulce, pumpkin cake, passion fruit, and white chocolate. If this dinner was an indication of what to expect, I can’t wait for more of what else Barcelona has to offer.

Raving about Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa

9 May

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What is the most amazing place stay while visiting Boracay, Philippines? Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa is the place to be, hands down. An hour flight from Manila to Kalibo, then an hour and a half shuttle to Caticlan, and another 15 minute speed boat ride to Shangri-La, this private resort offers the ultimate experience of a lifetime. With everything accessible by a short buggy ride to and from each place on the beautiful property, we couldn’t help but feel pampered in paradise. There were so many amenities that were offered, so many options of activities to keep us entertained, and the access to exclusive beaches makes every guest feel like a Very Important Person. I owe a huge thanks to Jax and her family for the invite and the hook-up for my amazing stay here.

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The view from the balcony was breathtaking.

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The sunsets and views were stunning, some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

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I never went thirsty. There was a full bar and buko stand accessible from the beach. I also never went hungry. The room was stocked with fresh fruit and replenished daily. There was also I variety of food options.

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At Cielo restaurant, I tried the flatbread, an order of the asian rolls, and a lychee martini.

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At Sirena seafood restaurant, I had tried the clam chowder, a mussel appetizer, artichoke salad, and the pusit (stuffed squid) with rice.

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For room service before leaving the hotel, I had the vegetable lumpia, sinigang with salmon, a mango float (mango, cream and graham crackers), and halo-halo.

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Each morning, we woke up to the breakfast buffet, which was second to none, absolutely delicious.

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The fitness center was also available to work off all of those amazing breakfasts, and the locker room was equipped with a sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi.

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In addition to scuba diving and other water sports, they offered wakeboarding. So much fun!!

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What better way to end the trip with a massage at the Chi Spa. An almost two hour massage that ended in being wrapped in banana leaves. I had one of the most amazing, rave-worthy stays at the Shangri-La.

Savoring The Dive At Baling Hai

8 May

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Is it weird to wonder, while scuba diving, why Sebastian from the movie The Little Mermaid looked so much more like a lobster instead of like a crab? While diving the Baling Hai site off of Boracay, Philippines, a lobster was one of the many things that I had to pleasure of seeing and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Sebastian, the lobster-looking crab, who had me singing in my head, “Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you, what more is you lookin’ for? Under the sea, under the sea, Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me…” With so many amazing sights to see in the ocean, but not much to listen to, I was left with my own thoughts and tunes to narrate my experience in the depths of the ocean.

After gearing up and doing a back-roll off of the side ledge of our boat, my dive buddy, Randy from Scotty’s Dive Center, guided us down the coral wall to an unforgettable underwater adventure. There is so much to see in the ocean. Most times, when looking one way to see something, we miss seeing something else. That’s why it’s best to dive with some one who can point things out, even when it’s to let me know that I missed a stingray. There was; however, so much that I was able to see, like a huge sponge, tons of different types of fish, and coral. The best part of the dive was seeing a school of fish completely still and sleeping, and now I can actually say I know what it’s like to sleep with the fishes.

Favorite Spring Things: I ♥ Spring TAG

8 Apr

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What are your favorite Spring things? I was tagged by the lovely and beautiful Vera from http://avecveritas.wordpress.com/ and was excited to be tagged since I ♥ Spring and this post will allow me to share my faves…

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Favorite spring nail polish?
I love bringing out bright polish colors for Spring and nails with fun fruit designs like apples, strawberries, and watermelons. I don’t have a favorite spring polish per se, but I am currently wearing American Apparel NEON Nail Lacquer in Neon Red, with American Apparel Nail Lacquer in Office, and MAC Nail Lacquer in Creme Nocturnelle (Black). I love how the colors stand out look good against tanned skin, not to mention, they work well in Spring’s warm weather.

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What is your must-have lip color thing spring?
Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupté Shine Lipstick – Fuchsia in Excess No. 5 is a must! I love how it’s really hydrating and we can apply slightly less for a muted look or add more color for intensity and shine. I usually like matte and neutral lips, but for Spring, I’m able to have a little more fun with lip colors that pop and are super glossy, enabling me to still have a finished look without having to wear much else in terms of make-up.

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Show us your favorite Spring dress!
It was tough picking a favorite Spring dress; I had another dress in mind for this post, but I decided that my initial thought couldn’t be a Spring favorite since I haven’t worn it recently. So, I picked Mara Hoffman’s Fitted Mid-calf Multicolored Dress. It’s really soft and comfortable, can be easily dress down with a chambray shirt or top, and paired with heels, flats, or sandals. I love the colors and so far as worked out great for Spring.

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Favorite flower?
Orchids all the way! The kitchen is one of the first places I enter after waking up and I always like to have some right by the sink, in front of a window looking out to the backyard.

accessories
Favorite spring scarf/accessory?
My Favorite Spring Scarf is a Floral one by Zara. The colors just make me happy. My favorite accessory is a beaded necklace inspired by Isabel Marant’s Pop color necklace. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it but like most IM pieces that I fall in love with and attempt to find, it was completely sold out. While browsing Etsy, I discovered this store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/rokcandyofnyc and as I was looking at their items, it was noted that they make custome pieces. I sent them a picture of the IM inspiration and asked if they would be able to make one similar for me, and they did. I absolutely love what I received, it was a lot less expensive than the IM necklace at the time, and the Etsy store also gives 5% of every purchase to http://www.womenforwomen.org Helping Women Survivors of War Rebuild Their Lives.

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What spring trend(s) are your most excited about this year? (make-up, fashion or both!)
I’m excited about the “Haute Grunge” make-up and hair trends. In fashion, you’d think I’d be excited about bright or pastel Spring colors, but I’m actually more excited about the bold stripes and black-and-white combination trends, which have led me to buy: Nastygal’s Next in Line Blouse, Zara’s Faux Leather Combination Dress, Zara’s Combination Striped Blouse, Zara’s Striped Cropped Trousers with zips on ankles, Nastygal’s Trimmed Tux Pant, and Free People’s Skinny Ankle Jeans with Vegan Leather Tuxedo Trim.

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Favorite spring candle?
Acquiesse “Shoreline” scented candle. The fragrance is a mix between ocean air, coastal flowers and wood, all things that remind me of Spring. The candle comes in a beautiful, ultra-thick, and unique smoke-brown glass in modern packaging that I keep to store other things. Acquiesse uses a soy wax blend and is made with organic soybean oil and lead-free wicks. There are also several different scents that I really like from Acquiesse.

perfume
Favorite body spray/perfume for spring?
Chanel Chance Eau Tendre Eau de Toilette is my most recent fragrance purchase for Spring. I tend to gravitate towards lighter, more delicate scents and since I was happy with the previous facets of Chance that I own, I figured the third generation of this fragrance family would be another great addition to my collection. I love how fresh, airy, and sweet it smells, without being overpowering. There are subtle floral and fruity traces and is perfect for Spring and Summer.

weather
What is spring like where your live?
Pasadena California has beautiful weather all year-round. Because of its position both higher and further inland than Los Angeles, Pasadena experiences slightly warmer weather in the spring and summer seasons. Spring is consistently warm and temperatures increase gradually as it gets closer to the hot summers. Rainfall is uncommon and erratic; those rare rainy days will be followed by hot, dry ones. I snapped a pic on a typical Spring day driving around my neighborhood, and as we can see, Pasadena is blessed with usual blue skies and suburban streets, lined with trees that are green and blossoming in the Spring.

Are you a spring cleaner?
Yes! I am a constant closet purger. I am a big proponent for gifting, donating and selling unwanted things. I am a little compulsive about things having a home.

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Any plans for spring break or an upcoming vacation?
I will be experiencing the chilly and crisp weather in a ski-town with snow-capped mountains, then experiencing the dry and hot weather under the sun in the dessert during the second week of a three-day music fest, then experiencing the humid climate in the Islands in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. I am looking forward to going to South Lake Tahoe California for a friend’s Wedding, and Indio California for the Coachella Valley Music Festival. I am also looking forwarded to traveling to Philippines with my mom, where I will also be visiting the beautiful island of Boracay with girlfriends. While these places aren’t new to me, the experiences will be and have a feeling there will be a lot of Spring time savors.

I tag:

http://joannaloves.com/
http://stylesalvation.wordpress.com/
http://freeurcloset.wordpress.com/
http://soathome.blogspot.com/
http://tuesdayswithrachel.com/