Tag Archive | Old Town

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.

Spoiling myself in Geneva with good food: Restaurant review on Café Papon

With my dance school still on Easter break, I decided to go to yoga class with my friends last night. The class wasn’t as advanced as our usual Tuesday or Saturday yoga class but we found ourselves starving like crazy after the class. Usually, we either treat ourselves to a steak or thai dinner after a hard yoga class. Last night, we decided to try something new. As we walked around the Old Town, trying to figure out a good restaurant, my friend remembered that a friend highly recommended Café Papon. We thought it was pretty pricy at first for a random after-yoga dinner. Nevertheless, we were famished and we saw foie gras in their menu.

The restaurant is perfectly situated in the Old Town with short walking distance to buses and tram lines (the closest bus/tram line I saw was Place de Neuve). It’s a bit of an uphill walk but it’s a short one if you’re coming from Place de Neuve/Parc des Bastions area. The restaurant has a classic and charming ambiance. We had our table inside the restaurant but I bet in the summer or on warmer days, their terrace would be amazing.

Foie gras de canard au torchon, financier au citron confit

Foie gras de canard au torchon, financier au citron confit

One of my food guilty pleasures is foie gras so, the moment I saw foie gras in their menu, I knew what to get for my entrée. The foie gras was big enough for 2 persons (there were 2 big slices of foie gras, sweet bread, and citron confit) and I unfortunately couldn’t finish mine because I was worried I won’t have space for my main dish. The foie gras was amazing – probably the best I’ve had in Geneva so far – but I wasn’t a big fan of the sweet bread. For my main dish, I had the sea bass fillet. It was perfect – it was light, perfectly-seasoned, and moist. I also like how they put extra effort in plating our dishes beautifully. For our wine, we had a Swiss sauvignon blanc – it was average but we didn’t really want to spend much on the wine since it was just a random dinner for us.

For the foie gras entrée, sea bass filet, and a bottle of sauvignon blanc, we paid 80 chf each (there were 3 of us and we all got the same food). I know it sounds ridiculously expensive but considering the food we had and that the restaurant is in a good location in the Old Town, for me, it’s a normal price. I don’t mind paying for good quality food and excellent service.

Aside from good food, the service was excellent too. We had a friendly and very helpful waiter and the service was fast. We couldn’t decide what type of white wine we’d like to have and when we hesitantly ordered a bottle of a certain wine, the waiter offered to let us taste the wine first (usually, they open the bottle you asked and have you taste it but that puts you in an awkward position of saying no to a freshly opened bottle of wine you chose). Me and my other friend didn’t like the wine so our waiter brought us another one.

Overall, I definitely will come back to this restaurant and recommend it to others. I think this is a perfect restaurant if you have visiting friends or colleagues because you get to walk around the Old Town then have a nice dinner after.

Café Papon is located at Rue Henri Fazy 1 Geneva 1204.

CARNIVOR DU CENTRE: For the Weekend Dinner

Entrecote Beurre Carnivor at CHF 37.00

Carnivor du Centre
rue Neuve-du-Molard 11
Geneva 1204

I had dinner with a friend last Saturday and up to the last minute, we weren’t sure where we were going. We agreed on one thing though – we wanted to have steak that night. The famous entrecôte places were not an option for some reasons but we recalled that there’s this steak place that we would always pass by in Mollard. That’s how we ended up at Carnivor du Centre for dinner.

Location (4.5/5)

Carnivor du Centre is located at rue Neuve-du-Molard 11. I always refer to that area as the shopping area. Getting there from Gare Cornavin is easy – Bus 8 (bus stop: Metropole) or Bus 3, 5, and tram 14 (get off at Bel-Air and walk or hop into Tram 12 heading towards Moillesulaz and get off at Molard). This is a perfect place for a Saturday night dinner with friends because it is close to the Old Town where you can have a nice walk (on not-so-chilly nights) or a nice drink after dinner.

Food (3.5/5)

I had their entrecôte with their house butter (entrecôte beurre carnivor). The dish goes with a salad (mix greens with French dressing, slices of parmigiano, and some nuts – I think they were almonds) and fries and veggies as sides.

The salad was okay – I would’ve preferred a balsamic vinaigrette as a dressing though. The fries were really good (properly salted and fried just the way I like them). The thing was, the portion of the fries and veggies were too small – especially the veggies. The veggies didn’t seem like a side dish, but more like a misplaced cut carrots and 3 slices of zuccinies. I could’ve traded my veggies for an extra portion of fries actually.

The entrecôte was of good portion and cooked in a perfect “medium” (I hate it when you ask for medium and they give your steak bleeding all over the plate). It was very tender and well seasoned too. The house butter was interesting – I’m guessing it had a generous amount of pepper and some basil and thyme (I can be wrong though) but it has a little kick of spice. I actually like it, too bad they only put a small portion of it on top of the entrecôte. So, the house butter, just like the side dishes, weren’t enough to fully enjoy the dish.

Ambiance (4/5)

The tables are quite small and quite close to the other tables BUT way better than the other famous entrecôte places in Geneva such as the Cafe de Paris or Relais. The restaurant was packed but it wasn’t noisy at all. Our table was at the extension area so I could barely see the actual restaurant – it looked pretty cozy though.

Price (3.5/5)

The entrecôte with their house butter was CHF 37.00 and a glass of their vins ouverts (I think for the red wine, they had gamay de Geneve that night which was actually good) was something like CHf 3.60. For a restaurant in that part of Geneva, I say it’s quite reasonable. If only they served a more generous portion of the butter and fries (as I said, I don’t care about the veggies), I would’ve given it a 4/5.

Service (3.5/5)

I was satisfied with their service. The servers were friendly and our food were served pretty quick. My only comment though was towards the end of our meal, it took a long time for them to give us the dessert menu and take our dessert order. Thus, my friend and I decided to just ask for the bill and go somewhere else for dessert and a coffee.

Overall (3.8/5)

Overall, despite my comments on the food portions, I’d say it was still a good discovery for me. As I said, the restaurant is strategically located close to the Old Town. So, for Saturday nights, this restaurant is perfect for a proper dinner before hitting the bars (for me, this is a good restaurant to take your date before hitting a bar at the old town or catching a last full show at the Rialto). This is also a nice place to grab lunch before or after shopping (as I said this is within the shopping area). However, if you are looking for a an entrecôte meal that is to-die-for, I’ll take you to another restaurant.

Regarding reservations, my friend and I didn’t have one but we managed to get a table. Perhaps, for a bigger group, having a reservation is ideal on a Saturday night considering the place was pretty packed at around 20.30ish.

For more information on Carnivor du Centre, you can visit them at their website at http://www.carnivor.ch/.

Brittany, France Part 1: Vannes, Carnac, and Quiberon

On September 13 – 16, my friend and flew to Brittany, France to attend our very good friend’s wedding. Brittany is located at the North-West of France (nope, it’s not in UK!). Brittany is known for its crepes (yes, crepes originated in Brittany), sea food, megaliths, and Merlin (Brittany is said to be the home of the Arthurian legend). Our friend’s wedding was in Vannes, so we got a hotel in Vannes.

When travelling around Brittany, my best recommendation is to rent a car. For me, the best part of trip was driving around, pulling over some random wild beach, or stopping over a port area to have oysters. I don’t know how flexible one can be without a car, to be honest.

Vannes, France

Vannes is lovely town on the Gulf of Morbihan. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to see much of Vannes since we only had half a day to walk around the Old Town and the Port Area. The thing I enjoyed the most in Vannes was its Old Town. There’s something unique about this French medieval town that I can’t put my finger on. Another must see (which is impossible to miss) are the medieval city wall and a chateau with their huge garden of flowers around them.

I also enjoyed the little indoor market in Vannes where you can find fresh sea food, fruits, vegetables, cooked intercontinental meals, patisseries, and of course crepes! Best of all, they are open on Sundays. If you can’t find any café open on a Sunday, try the one in the indoor market and try the caramel macchiato.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about the wedding, it was awesome and the reception was held in a beautiful chateau.

Carnac, France

Carnac is just about 15 – 20 minute drive from Vannes. Carnac is famous for its stones in the Menec alignment. These stones were said to be put up during the Neolithic period and apparently no one knows what they were for. These stones are aligned perfectly and they’re pretty big too. They go on for like 5 kilometers or something like that. My favorite tale about these stones that I’ve heard of is that they were soldiers that were part of the Roman Empire. They tried to invade Camelot (I told you, the Arthurian legend is very big in this area) and Merlin turned them into stones.

Also in Carnac are nice beaches. While driving, we came across an entrance to a beach and it was really a nice surprise for us. The water was too cold to swim into so we just decided to walk by the shore and get a little bit of a sun. It was a pretty amazing experience for me since it was literally my first time to feel the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. 

 

Quiberon, France

From Carnac, we drove another 30 minutes to Quiberon. It is one of the cities/towns that are literally on the sea side of France. We didn’t go around the city as our intention of going there was to find a nice oyster place for dinner. We drove towards the very end of Quiberon and stopped over to take some photos of a very picturesque area, which I later on learned as the Cote Sauvage. Later on, we drove back to the old port, bought canned sardines from a local producer, and looked around for a nice place to have dinner.   Originally, we wanted to have dinner at the La Capitainerie, which is #1 in Tripadvisor but apparently, it’s a really popular restaurant that you need to book in advance to get a table. We asked the locals for recommendations and most of them recommended the Quai Ouest. We loved every bit of food we had in that restaurant! After dinner, we head back to Vannes for a good night sleep.

Coming up: Brittany, France Part 2: Josselin and Rochefort-en-Terre

Ciao!

~ I.

NICE, FRANCE: Part 1

April 12, 2012 – I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday but since it was my last 20’s birthday, I made a last-minute decision to have a memorable, without involving the word “party”, birthday. Thus, I decided to travel – a relaxing travel. Initially wanted to go to Chianti, Italy but the CHF 800 return flight almost gave me a heart attack (as I said, it was a last-minute decision and it was during the Easter holiday). When I chose Nice instead, I had 2 things in mind: the Mediterranean Sea and shopping!

Nice is located at the “southeasternmost” part of France. It is actually in the heart of the French Riviera. For me, Nice is like the combination of Barcelona and Paris, only smaller and with fewer people. Nice is also 45ish minute bus ride to Cannes and Monaco.

Geneva to Nice

A return flight from Geneva to Nice costs me a total of CHF 181.00 via Swiss. I always prefer Swiss over Easyjet for 2 things: convenience and their chocolate (I love their chocolate!). The flight takes an hour. The landing in Nice is my favorite part because we started descending over the sea to the point that it gave me the feeling that we were going to touch down on the sea.

Accommodation

My room at the Clarion Grand Hotel Aston

I had Clarion Grand Hotel Aston for my accommodation in Nice. It is a 4-star beautiful hotel with the perfect location.

From the airport, I took the airport bus (line 98) which took me close to my hotel. I think I paid EUR 4 or 5 for a ticket but it’s a 1 day pass that allowed me to use any of the Ligne d’azur transportation unlimitedly on that day– this included the public buses and trams. One can easily spot bus 98 upon exiting from the airport (I arrived at terminal 1 – I think).

Note: You can buy the ticket directly from the driver or at the ticket booth, which is just outside the airport next to the exit door. I preferred buying it at the ticket booth than from the driver because I got to ask some questions to the person in the ticket booth.

TIP: I always make it a point to visit the Tourism section at the airport to get a map, ask the best way to go to my hotel, and some brochures.

My itinerary

Warning: I went in Nice to pamper myself (hey, it was my birthday! I had every excuse!). Therefore, my itinerary might not be a budget-friendly one and it included less “touristy visits”.

I checked in my hotel at around 11.30ish. I decided to visit their Tourism Office again, which is located at Promenade des Angles, since I’ll be passing by it anyway on my way to the restaurant I wanted to check out.

Jardin Albert 1er

Jardin albert 1er and Monument du Centenaire

But before passing by the Tourism Office, I made a quick stop at the Jardin albert 1er (to reposition myself in the map).

Jardin Albert 1er is one of Nice’s oldest gardens. I also took photos of the Monument du Centenaire, a monument that

Monument du Centenaire

commemorates the inclusion of Nice as part of France in 1860. The monument was built in 1893 and is considered as one of the most remarkable 20th century architectural complexes.

Lunch at Kesuke Matsushima Restaurant

Walking towards Kesuke Matsushima Restaurant allowed me to have a quick glance at Place Masséna. I had a perfect lunch at Kesuke Matsushima and probably one of my favorite restaurant discoveries in Europe.

Place Masséna

Place Masséna

After having lunch, I checked out Place Masséna. Place Masséna was built in 1840s and said to be Nice’s primary attraction (I have no idea why). One thing I noticed are the sitting statues at Place Masséna. Apparently, these statues, entitled “The Conversation in Nice”, were created by a Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and they represent the 7 continents (well, they looked transparent-ish and creepy to me though).

I returned to my hotel to freshen up then I decided to check out the Old Town.

In the Old Town, I came across the following:

Palais de Justice – Built from 1890 – 1892.

Cours Saleya

Cours Saleya – Actually a pedestrian area in the center of the Old Town. This is where one can find the famous flower and vegetable market of Nice. It was nice walking along Cours Saleya and checking out the flowers but I didn’t linger longer as I expected I would be. To be honest, it was, for me, just a common flower market.

Eglise Notre Dame de l’Annonciation– I love to check out churches in Europe for its frescos. I’m not sure about the background of this chapel since I just happened to pass by it but I enjoyed looking at its frescos. Other churches that I checked out were the Church of St. Martin and St. Augustin and the Cathedral of St. Reparate.

Perfect area for wave watching

Waves watching

After a long walk around the Old Town, I decided to do some wave watching first before proceeding to the castle. If found this place that gives you a comfortable front row seat to a nice view of the Mediterranean Sea and the Nice shore line. This place has actually some symbols that remind me of John Carter.

Castle Hill (Colline du Chateau)

Ruins of the ancient castel

2 important things to note about the Castle Hill: 1. You won’t see a castle (you’ll see the remains of a castle, not an actual castle); 2. Don’t be a hero, take the lift! It’s a steep 200 (can be more) steps! The lift I took was just across the John Carter-like plaza.

The Castle Hill’s history is said to go way back in the ancient Greek. As mentioned, visitors will only find the ruins of the castle. I don’t exactly know the story of the castle but it was supposed to go all the way back during the ancient Greek. Aside from the castle ruins, I also enjoyed the botanical garden and (most especially) the panoramic view. I love taking panoramic shots. I love having an overview of a place. This was the perfect spot for Nice.

Panoramic view of the Nice with the Mediterranean Sea

From the top of the Castle Hill, I walked all the way down, which is not so bad and also recommended. Since I walked down, I got to see the man-made waterfalls and the Israelite Cemetery which looked like a castle courtyard.

Place Garibaldi

I actually got lost going down that I ended up at the back entrance of a church were a bunch of sacristans were preparing for a mass. I landed in the Old Town again and I found my way to the Place Garibaldi. In the middle of the square is a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi was an Italian general born in Nice. I’m not exactly sure why he’s famous.

After I looked around Place Garibaldi, I jumped in a tram and head back to my hotel.

Dinner at L’Horloge

To end my birthday, I had dinner at one of the famous restaurants in Nice – L’Horloge, which happens to be my hotel’s restaurant. I was treated with a glass of champagne, not because it was my birthday but because of a very slight misunderstanding about the room. Again, it was a fantastic gastronomy experience. 

-end of day 1-