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Restaurant Review: Fou de fafa (Avignon, France)

My partner and I went on a 6-day road trip last Easter, visiting 2 countries (France and Spain) or 5 towns/cities and more than 12 restaurants. Without a doubt, this was our favorite restaurant in the entire trip.

I’m normally not a fan of number 1s in tripadvisor because they fail me most of the times. In fact, this is the first time I actually think the number 1 restaurant deserves to be the number 1.

Fou de Fafa is located in the Old the Town. We were staying at Hotel Avignon Centre Palais des Papes and it was just less than 10-minute walk from there. The location was pretty convenient for us.

Restaurant fou defafa

The photos here don’t justify how really good the food were. First was the wine option. My partner has issues on sulfites so we asked for a recommendation from the host. She recommended a bio/organic pure Merlot wine and it was very good. Then, there’s the food. The moment we had our starter, warm goat’s cheese wrapped in a pastry wrapper, we knew the rest of the food will be excellent. For the main course, I had the lamb wrapped in aubergine with mashed potato on the side. The aubergine was nicely seasoned, the meat was so tender, the mashed potato and the sauce balanced the flavours. For dessert, I had a chocolate cake – it was so good, I almost didn’t want to share it. The 3-course meal cost EUR 36 plus the bottle of wine we had. It’s a very reasonable price.

The host speaks fluent English and very welcoming. She took her time in explaining the menu and answering our questions.

Restaurant fou defafa

I know the common complain about this restaurant is that they weren’t entertained because they did not have a reservation or they were turned down because there were more than 4 of them. Three things about restaurants like this:

First, it’s a small restaurant with maybe even less than 15 tables. The empty tables you see probably belonged to someone who made a reservation but coming at a later time. I appreciate the fact that they don’t over book so that their guests won’t have to rush on their dinner because other people need the table.

Second, if I’m not mistaken, this is the type of restaurant who gets their meet and vegetables fresh of the market every morning. Meaning, they only stock fresh ingredients; therefore, they are precise as much as possible on the number of plates they can serve that day. I’ve been to several restaurants like this and I say it’s a style. Again, this style maybe the reason why they limit the amount of plates they serve per day. Quality over quantity – this is why the food was excellent!

Lastly, why not allow big groups? Aside from the food, what I really loved about this restaurant is its environment – it’s not loud. No background music, guests don’t need to shout at another to be heard, even the host spoke softly… it has a chill environment. I don’t know if this is the restaurant’s reason for limiting a party to 4 or if it’s more for logistics reason in the kitchen but whatever it is, not having a big loud group creates a lovely dinner environment.

restaurant fou defafa

Restaurant Fou de fafa is located in Avignon’s Old Town (17 Rue Des Trois Faucons, 84000 Avignon, France). Reservation is a must (in case I haven’t emphasized that enough). You can call them at +33 4 32 76 35 13 or write to them at restaurantfoudefafa@gmail.com.

Hotel Review: Mercure Avignon Centre Palais des Papes

This is my favorite hotel in Avignon. It was my second time to stay at this hotel and I’d stay here again. My favorite part about this hotel is its excellent location. The hotel is smacked right in the heart of the Old Town and just few steps away from Palais des Papes. I also like that they accommodate very late check-in. My partner and I stayed at this hotel last Easter when we did our road trip.

One big tip if you have a car and you’re trying to get to the parking garage – do not put in your GPS the hotel’s address! Put in the “Palais des Papes parking” instead. The hotel’s parking is the Palais des Papes parking, which is few meters away from the hotel. Don’t get confused with the other Mercure Hotel which has the direct access to the Palais des Papes parking – yes, there are 2 Mercure Hotel at this area that are just about 300m apart. Enter the Old Town through the entrance on the river ride. This is much easier and the parking entrance/exit is just immediately as you enter the Old Town from that side. If you enter through the city center (this is usually where your GPS will take you if you put in the hotel’s address) and you find yourself driving around and couldn’t even get close to the hotel because of closed streets, especially in the evening, get out of the Old Town and drive towards the river.

There were 2 minor comments on my stay on this hotel. First, the air conditioning wasn’t working yet. This is probably the most commented issue but it is quite normal in France and Switzerland where a/cs are turned off until mid-Spring (heaters are turned on instead). But then again, you can have a hot day/evening in Spring and this kind of set up can be uncomfortable. We tried opening the window but the wind was insanely strong that it’s impossible to sleep with the noise. Second was that aside from the receptionists, I struggled with the staff who didn’t understand even a little of English. They are quite friendly but it can be frustrating to explain as simple as canceling a room service order. The receptionists weren’t that very helpful as they kept on forwarding me to the non-English speaking staff when I asked for help to convey a message to them. Don’t get me wrong, as I said, these are just minor incidents and they don’t out shadow the best points about this hotel.

Hotel Review: Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

Hotel Barcarola (Van Der Valk Hotel Restaurant Barcarola)

As part of our Easter road trip, my partner and I drove to Costa Brava, Spain to enjoy the sea. We stayed at Hotel Barcarola in Sant Feliu de Guixols. We stayed in this hotel for 2 nights.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

Sant Feliu de Guixols is an hour far from the busy and touristy Barcelona and about 30-minute drive from another tourist hot spot, Girona. I honestly don’t know how one can reach this area without a car or via public transportation. I see this as an advantage though as it really gives you a “city break experience”. With this, it will not be fair to give the hotel a low accessibility rating; therefore, location-wise, the hotel is conveniently located close to the beach. It is not immediately right next to the beach but it is like 60-seconds walk to the beach. I prefer this because the main street immediately right next to the beach or the beach front has the restaurants and bars. I imagine this can get pretty busy and loud in the summer.

Important note: the reception is located in the restaurant. I know that sounds weird but the reception, breakfast room and restaurant are detached from the actual hotel. The reception and the restaurant is located across the hotel and on a street corner and has a big sign. The parking area is just across the hotel’s restaurant/reception (it’s an open air/outdoor parking).

Hotel Barcarola's reception and restaurant

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the luxury room with balcony. It is by far the largest hotel room in Europe that I’ve stayed at.  It was clean and the bed was comfortable. The bathroom was huge too. I enjoyed the balcony as it gave us view of the sea.

What I didn’t like is that if you need water in the middle of the night, your only chance is the vending machine by the hotel entrance that didn’t work sometimes. I’m not sure if the reception can do that or if room service will be available (I highly doubt it). I guess that’s the inconvenience of having a detached bar, restaurant, reception, etc. If you need anything from them, you have to walk across the street.

Staff and Services (2.5/5)

The staff were very friendly. However, they seemed unorganized when we were there.

I also got a wine and bodega package to surprise my partner. According to the package, it includes a bottle of cava, a visit to a bodega (I assume that’s a cave or wine cellar) or an olive orchard and a “welcome drink” in their Tucan beach bar – which is located at the beachfront.

After checking in, I was expecting the cava in our room but there was none. I thought that maybe they will bring it tomorrow. We were also given 2 vouchers for the welcome drink in their Tucan beach bar. We asked if the bar has a particular opening hour, considering the siesta practice in Spain. The receptionist said the bar is open all day. It was 7 pm, which is too early for dinner in Spain so we decided to just grab an aperitif at the Tucan beach bar. It was close. The bar was closed the entire night. The following day, we mentioned to the reception that the bar was closed last night but she insisted that it was open. When the bar finally opened, we were told that the welcome drink is only beer. For non-beer drinkers, there goes your free drink.

When we checked in, I also asked the reception how the bodega or olive orchard tour works. The receptionist said we should just tell her when we want to do it and they will do the necessary arrangements. The following day, we told the reception we wanted to do the tour the next day. She explained to us that she’ll see if the olive orchard is open since it’s a holiday. I explained to her that we obviously paid extra for the package (room rate is from EUR 60 per night while we paid EUR 139 per night for the same type of room). Later on that day, the receptionist rang us to say that they’ve booked the tour, gave us the name of the olive orchard, was told that we can research the exact address in the internet or come by the reception and she’ll give us the flyer. So basically, the “olive orchard visit” in their package is just ringing up an orchard and you drive yourself to the place. The tour is free and the transportation is not provided… so, I don’t know what they charged us extra for.

Lastly, that bottle of cava almost didn’t happen. Again, I had to ask about it at late in the afternoon on our second day at the hotel. The reception told me I had to ask for it (they don’t automatically put it in the room).

Security (3/5)

Apparently, there was an access control on the hotel’s main entrance where guests have to use their room key cards. I only learned about it on our third day because the door just automatically opened in our entire stay.

Price (2.5/5)

According the hotel’s website, the average rate per night for their luxury room is EUR 60. We paid a total of EUR 278 for 2 nights or EUR 139 per night. For a 3-star hotel with a package that technically only had breakfast, 2 beers and a bottle of cava, it’s not a good deal.

Overall, I rate this hotel 3/5. It’s a nice 3-star hotel with a good location. It can potentially be a reasonable hotel – just don’t get the package. It’s not worth it.

May Destination: Helsinki, Finland

I’m still trying to catch up with blogging and sharing my amazing travels this year but between school ( I’m taking my Masters at the moment), dance classes, crisis all over the world and deadlines, it has been challenging. Anyway, moving on to my 2015 travel destinations, for spring, I went to Helsinki, Finland to visit one of my best friends in the world.

It was my first time to travel to northern Europe and I find it interestingly different. To get there, I took KLM flights. It was more or less a 5 hr flight with a lay over of an hour in Amsterdam. FinAir flies directly from Geneva to Helsinki but I was going in for the miles.

Hietaniemi Cemetery

leave it to us that our walk end up in a cemetery… typical! hahaha!

I was in Helsinki for 5 days but I actually didn’t do a lot of sight seeing – I was too lazy and it was unexpectedly very cold. My friend and I were joking that it was more like a lola’s vacation (lola is the Filipino word for grandma). On my first day, my friend picked me up at the airport, we stored my luggage in her restaurant (my friend is an amazing chef in Helsinki) and went straight to her friend tattoo artist to get inked. After I got my tattoo, we stopped by a bar to say hi to her fiancé and had coffee with one of her friends. After that, we went home, had dinner and talked for hours – just like old times! You see, my friend is an old roommate of mine when we were in university. There were five of us in that dorm who became so close that we’re more than just friends… we’re family up to this date.

IMG_4245On my second day, we went walking (it was supposed to be a running activity but I can’t sweat because of my fresh ink). That was sight seeing for me. After our morning walk, we grabbed breakfast in a little café close to her place. I think on that day we also went shoe shopping, or maybe that was on the first day too, and we met up with her fiancé for a late lunch where I had the Finnish version of filets de perche. Afterwards, we took a quick look at the city via tram and grabbed coffee at the city centre.

On my third day, I had brunch with my friend’s fiancé since my friend had to go to work. After brunch, I went shopping and then picked up my friend after her work. We had an early dinner in an Italian restaurant close to her restaurant then we went to a bar to quickly say hi to her fiancé and his friends. In the evening, we just sat

Kauppatori, Helsinki

Kauppatori, Helsinki

On my fourth day, I went around the town by myself since my friend had to work. She advised me to check out the food fair happening because there was a Filipino tent in that event. The food fair was in a park and they had food from all over the world. It started raining after sometime so I went to the oldest café in Helsinki called Edberg. They had an amazing coffee and one of the best tarte au citron with merengue I’ve had – my favourite dessert in the world! After the rain stopped, I went around town to check out some of the touristy sights and of course, ended up in another culinary fair. After my sight seeing, I met my friend at the city centre and we went to another nice café for coffee and patisserie. Afterwards, we went home where my friend prepared her specialty for dinner – salmon soup. Yes, my friend, born and raised in Philippines, is known in Helsinki for her salmon soup because she makes them in the most traditional way. When I asked around where to get salmon soup, they told me to ask my friend to make it. We didn’t stay up to late that night because I had a very early flight the following day.

When I told my Finnish friend that I very much enjoyed Helsinki, she laughed at me and told me I was being nice – not because it’s not a pretty city but because there’s nothing to see there. True, it’s not your typical European city and you can’t compare it with France, Italy, Germany or even Czech Republic where the cities are buzzing with tourists. I find Helsinki quieter and calmer than Geneva but it has it’s own beauty. I also think I very much enjoyed my stay in Helsinki because it allowed me to spend time with my really good friend who I dearly miss.

So yup, I loved Helsinki! It was a good choice indeed.

 

xx, I.

 

April Destination: Saint-Genix-Sur-Guiers, & Annecy, Rhone-Alpes

The perfect staycation at Rhone-Apes

The perfect staycation at Rhone-Apes

An Easter weekend in Geneva is also a good opportunity to spend a long weekend up in the mountains or down the south. This year, the Easter weekend was my April destination excuse. It was also a friend’s birthday so we decided to just rent a house in Rhone-Alpes, just an hour drive from Geneva and about 40-minute drive to Chamonix. It was a perfect staycation in the little town of Saint-Genix-Sur-Guiers with friends, game nights, a lot of cooking, and a Jacuzzi.

 

Soaking the sun in Annecy

Soaking the sun in Annecy

I guess it was a good thing that I wasn’t feeling well because I was forced to stay in the entire time. My favorite moment was watching the sunset in the Jacuzzi while sipping a nice rhubarb-champagne cocktail. And since the house we rented is quite far from other houses, we had the rare freedom of playing drinking games and just having fun until 5 am. On our way to Geneva, we stopped by Annecy to enjoy a bit of sun before we wrapped up our Easter weekend.

xx, I.

 

March Destination: Freiburg & Rust, Germany

The Silver Star is the 2nd highest roller coaster drop in Europe

The Silver Star is the 2nd highest roller coaster drop in Europe

On 27 March, two of my friends and I went on a road trip to Freiburg, Germany to de-stress by… riding roller coasters!

I just submitted 2 essays as a final exam for my intelligence analysis class and I felt like I’ve used up all my intelligence in the process. So, my friends and I decided that the best way to recover from a very stressful week was to scream our lungs out.

Freiburg is a small town in Germany that is bordering Switzerland. From Geneva, we drove for about 3 hours. As we left work at around 6 pm, we got there at around 9 pm and immediately went to a Brazilian bar for a flammkuchen and beer. I know it sounds weird but I do remember enjoying their food and house beer a lot. In fact, we returned to the same restaurant/bar for breakfast the following day and it was excellent. The following day, we drove to Rust (it was about 30-minute drive) for the Europa park.

Europa park is like adults’ Disney land – it has the atmosphere as Disney land but with a lot of adult rides (mostly insane roller coasters). We probably rode 6-8 roller coasters that day and the most memorable ones were the wooden roller coaster, the blue fire and the silver star. The blue fire is a super fast roller coaster with lots of inversions – it actually freaked me out. The silver star has the normal speed but it’s the second highest roller coaster in Europe. Between the height and the inversions, I’d definitely choose the height!

On Sunday, we had an excellent brunch in a smaller town right next to Freiburg then drove back to Switzerland, stopping by at Lucerne to walk around and have coffee. It was such an adventurous weekend… it was my first time in Germany after all.

xo, I.

Restaurant Review: Le Scandale

Le Scandale

24 rue de Lausanne

 

This is probably the first time I wrote a bad review on anything. I usually avoid ranting or complaining in my blog because basically, if a restaurant or hotel is too bad, I wouldn’t even bother writing about it at all.  However, I thought my experience at Le Scandale last night deserves an exception.

Although I’ve been to Le Scandale for drinks before, it was my first time to try their restaurant last night and I must say, I’m probably not going to go there again to eat.

Location and Accessibility (4/5)

Le Scandale is well located, probably 2 or 3-minute walk from Gare Cornavin (train station), along rue de Lausanne.

Food (3/5)

I had their 4 fromages pizza last night and for me, it was mediocre – it wasn’t bad but not worth CHF 18.00 pizza. I love pizzas and I don’t mind paying more than CHF 20 for a pizza before – but it has to be worth it. Unfortunately, there’s nothing special about the pizza I had so, I was pretty much disappointed. For me, there are a lot more Italian restaurants in the area that serves cheaper but better quality pizzas.

Ambiance (2.5/5)

It’s a confused restaurant/bar. It’s a venue that has a restaurant on one side and a huge bar. The place can get packed and loud.

Price (2/5)

As mentioned earlier, I find that the pizza I had was quite expensive for its mediocre quality.

Service (1/5)

If there’s one award I can give to this restaurant, it will be the worst-service-I’ve-ever-had-in-Geneva award. In my 4 yrs in Geneva, I’m already used to the type of customer service they usually have here. With this, I always come to a new place with realistic expectations on customer service.

Last night, we waited for almost an hour for our food to get served because it seemed like the kitchen forgot to make our orders. This happens. What really upset me was how the waiters dealt with us. After waiting for a while, I politely (even smiling) asked one of the waiters if he can check our orders because it’s been almost an hour. The waiter told me “it’s not my problem. I did not take your order”. Then, he walked away from our table and vanished. Finally, our food was served to us and I told the waiter serving us (again, smiling) “merci. Was our order not placed earlier?” The waiter responded to me also with “well, that’s not my problem”. My friends and I were dumbstruck with the waiters’ rudeness. After a while, we heard one of the ladies at the table behind us arguing with one of the rude waiters and we can hear that she was totally upset on something and the waiter went to argue further with her. That’s when I realized that this place should be reviewed so that hopefully such unprofessionalism will be addressed by management.

Overall Rating (2.5/5)

Overall, I don’t recommend this restaurant based on our experience with its unprofessional waiters. If I’m going to spend such amount for mediocre food, the last thing I need will be such arrogant services. Perhaps, we caught them on a bad night but as a paying customer, that shouldn’t be an excuse for bad attitude.