Tag Archive | recommendations

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.

Cantina Piemontese: Traditional Cuisine in 30’s Style

Cantina Piemontese is located at Via Laghetto 2, Milan

Cantina Piemontese is located at Via Laghetto 2, Milan

It’s been almost 2 months since my gastronomic trip to Milan but I’ve decided to still write a review on two restaurants I went to just because they were incredibly good. My friends and I discovered Cantina Piemontese from the hotel magazine. It was our first night in Milan and after driving for almost 5 hours, all we wanted was to have a great dinner. When my friend suggested this restaurant, I was skeptical at first since it didn’t really rank high up in the Trip Advisor. But then the magazine had a really good description of the place and we were in the area so I thought, why not?

Location and Accessibility (4/5)

Cantina Piemontese is located at Via Laghetto 2, Milan. It is conveniently located close to Duomo but far enough to the most “touristy area” in Milan to be ripped off – about five-minute walk from Duomo.

Food (4.5/5)

For the starter, I had the artichokes with mozzarella salad. The presentation was nothing fancy – literally just artichokes with a big ball of buffalo mozzarella in the middle… and it was amazing! The artichokes were perfectly cooked and the buffalo mozzarella was really of a good quality (the expensive buffalo mozzarella I get here in Geneva is not even close). I must say, it was because of this dish that I became obsessed with artichokes for a while.

For my main course, I had spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti noodles with clams). It is a very simple dish but I loved it. It was served without the shells, which I prefer. I had to mention this because I have a friend who won’t eat pasta alle vongole if the clams have been removed from their shells.

Lastly, a good discovery in this restaurant is the 2011 Piemonte Barbera wine. I love the smoothness of this wine and, for the lack of a better term, I find it flexible – some of us had seafood while some had meat and we all enjoyed the wine.

Ambiance (4/5)

Cantina Piemontese is described to have the classic 30’s style. I simply find it cozy. There was a big family who was having dinner when we were there and at one point, it looked like a scene from a classic movie. It is nothing fancy and not crazy busy, at least when we were there.

Price (4/5)

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the details of the prices anymore but I have a note in my phone that says that the prices were pretty reasonable – not expensive at all.

Service (5/5)

This is probably my first 5/5 rating for service. We had an excellent server, very friendly and very helpful (I believe her name is Rosie). She spoke English and she was patient in explaining to us the menu (the menu was in Italian). The kitchen was fast too, we didn’t have to wait long for the food to be served. After dinner, when we asked where we can get a cab, they offered to order a cab for us.

Overall Rating

This cantina is a 4.3/5 for me and I will definitely go back here again and bring my friends if we visit Milan again. The food and the service were particularly excellent when I went there. Cantina Piemontese may not be at the first top 10% in Trip Advisor but it is definitely to try in Milan.

 

The Other Side of Milan: A 3-hr Walking Tour

When my friends told me we are going to Milan for a weekend to celebrate our birthdays, my first question was: “Why Milan?” She answered: “To do shopping, what else?” Since the group pretty much decided that we’re going to Milan and I wasn’t really up for shopping for 2 ½ days, I managed to convince them to do something that is not related to shopping – like seeing the Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.

One thing about viewing the Last Supper is that you have to book it in advance – at least that’s what everybody says. This is where I came across with the City Wonders’ Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Best of Milan Walking Tour… and I’m glad we’ve taken this tour. At first, my friends were apprehensive with the 3-hr walking tour since 2 of them just recovered from a leg and a hip injury. Second, I’ve been travelling a lot in Europe and I’ve only done a guided tour once in Barcelona – it was horrible. After that, I lost faith in guided tours with patronizing tour guides who automatically thinks all Asians are Chinese. However, as we only had limited to tour Milan and I was too busy at work to do a research on Milan, we ended up getting the 3-hr walking tour.

Booking

Getting a reservation with City Wonders’ Last Supper was much easier than shopping online. I just went to their website (http://www.lastsuppertickets.com/last_supper_tour.aspx), paid in credit card, and I instantly got an email confirmation. The instructions on the meeting place and how to get there are very clear.

Price

The price of the tour is EUR 65 per adult (it’s EUR 60 for children). For me, this is already a good deal since it already includes the Last Supper tickets… and being able to skip lines is the most convenient thing ever.

The Tour Guide

Recalling my traumatic experience with a tour guide in Barcelona? Rafaella, our tour guide was the exact opposite of that dude. With Rafaella, 3 hours went like minutes! She was very knowledgeable about her city and I felt how passionate she is about telling Milan’s story to people too. She is fluent in English with an Italian accent – very easy to understand. She was super funny and very accommodating. I was very much impressed by how much she managed to connect with everyone despite being in a group of 20ish people.

The Tour

Milan's Duomo is the fifth largest cathedral in the world.

Milan’s Duomo is the fifth largest cathedral in the world.

I enjoyed the tour very much and I must say, I learned a lot! A big part of it was, again, Rafaella – our very good tour guide. As mentioned, skipping the line in Duomo and the Last Supper is everything! When we arrived in Duomo, the line was insanely long. Then, Rafaella said we were actually entering the side entrance, which is exclusive for guided tours – I guess. That must have saved us from falling in line for at least 30 minutes. In Duomo, we learned fascinating trivia about its structure, the statues, the works, etc. These are the things that we won’t know just by going inside, perhaps unless you buy a guide book or something. The Last Supper was of course the highlight of the tour and was the last part of the tour. As what Rafaella said, if you were disappointed by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, you won’t be with the Last Supper. I’m not a big art fan – in fact, I get bored at every Picasso museum I’ve been to. I see art stuff because of their historical significance or in lay man’s term – just for the sake of saying I’ve seen it. But the Last Supper, I literally stared at it in amusement and with genuine appreciation of its history and significance. It was also because Rafaella was giving great trivia about it – something you won’t get if you view the Last Supper without a tour guide.

Also, don’t worry if you think that 3 hours of walking is too long. As I said, the tour is very interesting and especially if you get a really good tour guide, 3 hours will pass by like minutes. In addition, Rafaella took us in a café for a good 10-15-minute break. This gave us an opportunity to talk to the other tourists and ask Rafaella for food and restaurant recommendations while having amazing coffee.

Recommendation/s

I definitely recommend City Wonders’ Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Best of Milan Walking Tour to everyone who is going to Milan. I guarantee that after the tour, you will see Milan in a different way – it’s not just a shopping city.

One recommendation I can give is take the 14.30H tour, which finishes at 17.30H. The timing is perfect for an aperitif after the tour to rest a bit and talk about the tour with your friends then go to dinner.

To learn more about the tour, click here.

Les Relais de l’Entrecote: Steak it up!

Since this is my first post for this blog, I find it fitting that I write another “first”. Last Thursday, March 8, my colleagues, their spouses and I had a dinner at Les Relias de l’Entrecote. There, we established the “yet to be named eating club” in which the goal is to have dinner (or lunch) once a month in a restaurant where we’ve all never been to and rate it. It is a good way of discovering more good stuff in Geneva actually!

As mentioned, our first stop was Les Relais de l’Entrecote: a classic french steak and fries restaurant. They only have one item in their menu: wallnut salad to start then steak and fries. This is similar to Café de Paris but with an insanely good dessert menu.

Location and Accessibility 

The Restaurant is located at Rue de Rhone 49. Via local transportation, just take the Bus 8 and get off at Place du Port. It is actually right across Geneva’s famous flower clock but the entrance is at the back. Location and accessibility-wise, the Restaurant is perfect for me because my office is smacked in the middle of 2 Bus 8 stops and my apartment is almost stone-throw away from another Bus 8 stop. It is also conveniently  located within the shopping and tourist area.

TIP: The Restaurant does not take reservations, therefore I suggest being there not later than 15 minutes before they open, which is at 19.00H. We reached the restaurant at 18.47h last Thursday. At that time, there was only 1 guy in line so I thought: shoots! I was told to be here early so I told my colleagues that we should. I was about to get embarrassed for making my colleagues and their spouse stand outside, in the cold, when people started falling in line. After 5 minutes of waiting, we were all engaged in interesting conversations, my colleague told us: oh my! look at the line! When we turned around, we saw that there was a long line already.

Food 

As mentioned, for starters, we were served with a wallnut salad which I find nice – light, refreshing and delicious. After the salad was the main

event: The steak and fries are fantastic with a gracious serving size. At first, I thought: ummm, the serving is a bit small for its price. After cleaning out our plates, the waitress came to our table and served our second serving. Now that’s a lot! The steak sauce is worth the buzz. It is indeed one of the best steak sauce I’ve ever had. We also had a nice wine (too bad I didn’t get what it was).

After we were done with our steak and fries, we ordered desserts. I had their creme brulee, some had the profiterole and some had sorbet. The profiterole was highly suggested and my friends loved it. But for me, I really enjoyed their creme brulee. The serving is too big though!

TIP: Share desserts! after all that steak and fries, you’ll find it surprising that their desserts have huge portions – maybe it’s meant for sharing… I don’t know.

Ambiance

I like the character of the restaurant – very… Parisian. However, the Restaurant gets packed in minutes so forget about quiet, relaxing and intimate setting. The tables too are too close to each other that I was almost elbow to elbow with our neighbour table.  We were a group of 7 and it was difficult to have a group conversation with all the noise. Having said all these, I still don’t count these as negative traits of the restaurants – sure, these factors don’t give them the 5/5 star for ambiance but it’s not any lower than 3/5 stars for me either.

Price

I, unfortunately didn’t see the bill but we paid CHF 62.00 per person (including tip). It is expensive for a casual dinner out. However, considering the food we had – salad, steak, fries, wine and dessert – for me, it is still a value for the money. In fact, the Restaurant may even be a little cheaper than Cafe de Paris.

Service

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the Restaurant that the servers are not really friendly. Here’s the thing: it’s a very busy place! The service is ok: it is not impressively fast, but considering the number of people coming in and going out, I find the service pretty ok. The servers can understand a little English so for non-French speakers, this is pretty convenient. Don’t get offended too if they seem to be in a rush to get you off your table after eating – as I said, it is a very busy place; not  really meant for “hanging out”.

Overall Rating

Our “yet to be named eating club”, as a group, rated Les Relais de l’Entrecote with 4.2 out of 5, with 5 being the highest. Not bad for our first dinner! Individually, my overall rating of the Restaurant is 3.9.

My recommendations in yes or no:

  1. If you have a visitor for one night, should you bring him/her to this restaurant? No.
  2. If you have a visitor staying in Geneva for 5 days and up, should you bring him/her to this restaurant? Yes.
  3. Should you have your first date in this restaurant? No.
  4. Should you celebrate your anniversary, birthday, or whatever special occasion  in this restaurant? Yes.
  5. Should you bring your kids to this restaurant? (kid, meaning 10 years old and below) No.
  6. Will I recommend this to expats in Geneva? YES!
  7. Will I come back to this restaurant? Yes.

I hope you find this article useful or at least interesting. That’s all for now.

Ciao!

xx ~I.

Click here to check out Le Relais de l’Entrecote’s website for further information.