Paris, I love you

Talking about a city that has been talked about so much, writing from the one that the best ones have written, was not easy at all. Travelers know it before they arrive, the photos of the Eiffel tower paper rooms of the most recondite places in the world. Paris is a party. The most romantic city in the world. The witness of history, the muse of painters, the inspiration of poets, the dream home of writers, the cradle of cinema and fashion. The city of light, of freedom, of human rights. The “influencer”. The revolutionary constant and continuous. And to say all that is enough to say: it’s Paris.

For this reason, I have decided to prepare a guide of places I love, but that are not usually in the guides and which serve both those who go for the first time and those who visit it frequently.

  • Saint James Hotel: Located where formerly the first field of Aerostatic Balloons was in Paris, the hotel is flooded with that magic. Surrounded by gardens in the middle of the city, it is unique. With only 49 rooms of which 2 are villas, the hotel offers everything: Spa, gym, a library with 12000 books inside which the magnificent bar also operates. It is worth mentioning that his spectacular restaurant is a Michelin Star winner.
  • Royal Monceau: With 149 rooms, this super luxury hotel never disappoints. It would be necessary to be very demanding to find a defect, both the decoration, the location and the attention are extraordinary. But what sets this hotel apart from other luxury hotels in Paris is its personality. It is a hotel where art is breathed, the rooms are decorated with illustrations of famous artists, letters of historical personages, old documents, books and in each there is a guitar for the use of the guests. They have replaced the traditional souvenir shop, for a bookstore with a wonderful selection of books on cinema, art, history, fashion, etc. And to culminate, the hotel has a cinema where daily classic and contemporary films are projected, which can be enjoyed with a glass of champagne.
  • The Hoxton: The ultra-modern Hoxton chain recently opened its hotel in Paris. Of 172 rooms, it is already famous, being the “coolest” hotel in Paris. The building where it is located dates from the 18th century and incorporates original elements such as the spectacular spiral staircases, which contrasts and harmonizes with the contemporary decoration. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed. The rooms have funny names that hint at their sizes like: ShoeBox, Cozy, Roomie and Biggy. A mandatory stop is Jaques, the hotel’s Moroccan-style bar
  • L’Hotel: Located in the area of ​​Saint Germain des Pres and at the foot of the Latin Quarter, this historic hotel that hosted Oscar Wilde until his death, has been redecorated maintaining its Art Deco style and its immense collection of antiques.
    The most memorable thing about the hotel is the cocktail bar and its wonderful garden on the terrace. Also worth visiting in the basement is the beautiful pool with Turkish bath, which is exclusive for hotel guests.

Shopping

  • Merci: Visiting this store is a unique experience, it is ideal to spend a couple of hours and go around all its corners in search of small treasures and leave some time to have a coffee in one of its two cafes.
  • Canal Saint Martin: This street is interesting to visit, in it they buy the premises and you will find French shops such as Maje and Sandro.
  • Officcine Universelle Buly: This perfumery that exists since 1803 is surely one of the best places to buy gifts and special souvenirs of the city.
  • L’Appartement Sezane: This charming shop that took the world by surprise since its inaguration in 2013, originates in Paris, where you will find clothing designed with clean lines and made with high quality at affordable prices.
  • Shakespeare and Company: Known for being the most famous bookstore in the world, when you visit it you will understand the irresistibility of its charm. Founded by the American George Whitman, lover of books who when moving to Paris, after World War II noticed that he had bought so many that he would need a place to keep them. So he founded Shakespeare and Co., where he started selling and lending used and new books mostly in English. He also dedicated a room to host free writers who came to Paris in search of luck. For this reason the place became the center of the literary life of the city and a mandatory stop for the intellectuals of the time.
  • Les Puces of Saint Ouen: For lovers of antiques and vintage items, this is the earthly paradise, as it is the largest antique market in the world. The ideal is to visit it on the weekends mornings when the market is at its best. In the surroundings it is very easy to sit down to have lunch in any of the typical Parisian cafes and watch people go by.
  • So We Are: This boutique located in the Rue de Charonne, is the ideal place to find unique pieces of fashion and accessories.

Restaurants y Cafes

  • L’Avenue, Hotel Costes and Societé: The three belong to the same group of restauranteurs, so the menu is very similar. L’Avenue is located on the famous Rue de Montaigne, making it ideal for lunch if you are shopping in this area. In the 3 of them  it is advisable to make reservations.
  • Pink Mama: This wonderful Italian restaurant is to everyone’s taste, the food is delicious and the view of Paris unbeatable.
  • Septime: It is the most laureate restaurant of the moment. Getting reservations is very difficult, you have to do it with much anticipation, but if you consider that you have an exquisite palate, the experience warrants it.
  • Boulangerie Boris Lume: Hailed as the best bakery, pastry shop in Montmartre. If you plan to go to this famous neighborhood, remember his name.
  • Le Comptoir General: Delicious French bistro, with a modern twist.
  • Chez Denise: This small restaurant, is the place where the Chefs of Paris eat. Needless to say more.
  • 13 A Bakers Dozen: This small bakery owned by an American baker, is ideal to satisfy sweet cravings in Paris.
  • Café Oberkampf:  This vibrant cafeteria offers brunch every day until 3pm, among its most popular dishes are: avocado toast with pomegranate seeds and hailloumi.
  • La Cafeotheque:  This cozy cafeteria has a very special vibe. Those who arrive feel that they have discovered a secret place. In addition to having a very rich and varied menu, they have coffee beans for sale. Tip: try the Matcha Cheesecake.
  • Pierre Hermes Macarons: Although Laduree is more famous, the best macarons in France are prepared by Pierre Hermes. It has locations throughout the city and even one inside the Galeries Lafayette department store.

Museums

In a city with so many museums it is impossible to visit them in one visit. And while the Louvre is a mandatory stop for all those who go to Paris, there are very interesting and lesser known museums such as:

  • Centre Pompidou: The spectacular building where it is located was designed by Renzo Piano. It is the ideal museum for lovers of modern art.
  • Musee de Orsay: This old train station, turned into a museum in 1984, begins where the Louvre collection ends (year 1848) and ends where the modern art of Pompidou (year 1914) begins, that is to say that its 1500 works are 60 years of works ranging from Realism and Pointillism to Impressionists and Post Impressionists.
  • Grand Palais y Petite Palais:  Both museums have a collection of varied and wonderful permanent art, as well as temporary exhibitions. When visiting Paris it is advisable to check your billboard.
  • Musee de Arts de MetiersIt is the oldest science museum in Europe. It was founded in 1794, in which you will find everything from the implements used by Pascal to the Lumiere brothers cinematograph.
  • Musee Jaquemart André:  This small private museum located in an old mansion, contains the works of property Edouard André and his wife, who used much of their fortune to acquire works by Rembrandt, Carpaccio, Tiepollo and others

 

 

Florence and Tuscany

Florence

Florence, is art. From the first time I visited, I was shocked that art is very much in the DNA of the Florentines. Everything they do, even clearly utilitarian products such as an envelopes or a letter paper is a work of art.

  • Duomo: It is basic to sigh and delight before the dome made by Brunelleschi six centuries ago, and which is still the largest. After that it is interesting to enter and locate the wonderful fresco by Paolo Uccello, and the rest of the art and details that adorn it.
  • Piazza della Signoria: The famous square is always full of tourists, that is why beyond the sculptures in honor of the Medicis, it is important to look for the Loggia dei Lanzi (it is south of the square) it is an open museum where the famous sculpture Perseus Victorious of Cellini rests.
  • Uffizzi Gallery: Unless you want to line up for hours, it is best to book tickets in advance, as the most famous art gallery in Florence is always very busy. It has so many extraordinary works of art, that it is better to visit it with patience and without aspiring to see it all in one visit. There are works by Michelangelo, Piero de la Francesca and Da Fabriano, but my favorites are two by Botticcelli: “Primavera” and “Birth of Venus”.
  • The Academy: As with Uffizzi it is advisable to buy tickets in advance. When you arrive you will see a huge line and you will know that it is to see the David of Miguel Angel, after seeing him do not leave as many do, the Academy has a lot to see.
  • Santa Crocce: The iconic Franciscan church is the place where the most famous Florentines are buried: Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavello and Galileo Galiei (who was only buried in 1737 as he was persecuted for his theories by the Inquisition and banned from giving Christian burial to the moment of his death). Also here is the memorial, but with the empty sarcophagus of Dante.
  • National Museum of Bargello: If you still want to see more art, I recommend this wonderful museum that has the largest collection of Renascentist sculptures, including some by Miguel Angel and the sculpture of San Jorge by Donatello.
  • Convent of Todos Los Santos: It seems incredible but the famous work “The Last Supper” is in the cloister of this small old convent. The opening hours to the public are limited, so it is necessary to plan the visit according to them.
  • Ponte Vecchio: The oldest bridge in Florence – built in 1345 – is the place where today Florentine art brought to jewelry can be enjoyed and bought. Side by side are small jewelers and stores with ideal items to carry as a souvenir of this beautiful city.
  • Santa Maria Novella: The ancient church of the Dominican Fathers is almost always forgotten by travelers, however it is full of relevant works of art including The Crucifix of Giotto. Also next to this is one of the most magical places in the city: “Officina Profumo Farmaceutica Santa Maria Novella” a pharmacy and perfumery founded also by the Dominican Fathers in 1675 that produces the most delicious perfumes, soaps and candles, as well as natural syrups and other pharmaceutical products.
  • Pizzeria Santarpia: If you ask the locals, surely most will answer that this is the best Pizza in Florence.
  • Sergio Gozzi Trattoria: This traditional Tuscan food restaurant belongs to the Gozzi family since 1915; It is a hidden gem in the San Lorenzo area.
  • Café Rivore: Founded in 1872 as a chocolate factory, it is the ideal place to take a cappuccino and watch people pass by from its lovely terrace. All their desserts are extraordinary, especially the Sacher Cake.
  • La Bottega del Buon Caffe: This elegant Michelin-starred restaurant achieves what many of its style does, feel cozy and relaxed. The mix of an open kitchen, organic ingredients and top quality prepared with mastery by its great chef Antonello Sardi, the experience of visiting it is memorable.
  • Gurdulú: This modern restaurant, decorated with walls covered with tapestries from Fornasetti, is one of the most fashionable restaurants-bars in Florence. The food and the cocktails are creative and very well prepared.

The Toscana

  • San Gimignano: Only 57 kilometers from Florence is located on the top of a hill, this small walled town. which has remained almost intact since the Medieval Age. All its towers (they were like the skyscrapers of the period, a symbol of wealth). To enjoy it, you can walk around it and visit its shops selling typical Tuscan pottery items.
  • Sienna: It is essential to visit the Duomo, which is spectacular. Another historical place is the Spedale of Santa Maria de la Scala which is an old hospital and hostel turned into an archaeological museum.
  • Cortona: Idilico, is the word that comes to mind to describe it. It dates from the 5th century AD, and is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. This is a small town to relax, drink wine and walk through its squares, not to find historical places. Ideal to recover from the hustle and bustle of Florence.
  • Asis: Technically this little town, the birthplace of San Francisco de Asis is already in Umbria, but it is so close to Cortona that the trip is appropriate. Going through is very easy, but it is better to get carried away by its small streets and enjoy the wine cellars and other local Italian products.

 

 

Rome and Vatican City

If you are lucky enough to visit Rome for several days or better even more than once in your life. You will remember, when they felt the heartbeat accelerate to see the Roman Colosseum for the first time. They made an impact walking through the Forum, seeing the ruins of the Empire. They threw the coin with their backs to the Trevi Fountain. They toured Piazza Navona. They climbed the steps and took pictures in the Plaza de España. They commented on the aesthetically controversial Monument to Victor Manuel. They saw the majesty of the work of Miguel Angel in Campo Aurelio. They enjoyed the visit to the Vatican, their eyes and soul were ecstatic in the Basilica of San Pedro and they were moved by the tombs of the Popes; still do not leave much of Rome to see.

Walks:

  • The Catacombs of St. Priscilla: Despite being the oldest and most historical value is less known and visited than those found in the Via Apia. The reasons for considering it so valuable are many, among them that archaeologists maintain the theory that there is the oldest fresco of the Virgin Mary so far found, it dates from the third century AD
  • Trastevere Neighborhood: This old neighborhood of cobbled streets, which is on the other side of the Tiber River, is very lively and easy to walk. It is full of restaurants and independent stores, which gives it a very bohemian atmosphere. An interesting point to visit is the Church of Santa Maria de Trastevere and enjoy its wonderful mosaic.

Restaurants and Cafes:

  • Urban 47: This restaurant calls itself “a work in progress” because they consider that they are constantly reinventing themselves. The menu changes every 4 weeks to adopt the products of the station. The decoration is both modern and rustic, vintage and contemporary, it is all at once and it looks good. Beyond the delicious food the restaurant has a small cinema room, and if you like the concept a lot, they also offer 4 rooms to stay. (Via Urbana 47)
  • Salotto 42: Located in the often overlooked Piazza di Pietra, this restaurant built on the remains of what was once the Temple of Hadrian (145DC), it’s a place that upon entering makes you reflect on the history of the humanity. The atmosphere is extremely cozy and the menu varied and fresh.
  • Made Bakery: The showcase of this bakery is a work of art, inside the pastry chef is able to prepare the cake of your dreams. (Via dei Coronari 25)
  • Hotel Rafael: A great place to have a glass of wine with a wonderful view of Rome is the terrace of this hotel. To climb it is necessary to use the hotel elevator and reach the top floor that is always open to the public. (Long Febo 2)
  • La Casetta: This little house covered in green foliage located on the Via della Madonna dei Monti, is one of the best kept secrets of the city. With very few tables and in a very cozy atmosphere, it offers a menu with delicious quiches, pies and cakes.
  • La Gelateria del Teatro: At the foot of the Rio Tevere, in the area of ​​the Garibaldi Bridge, is one of the best ice cream shops in Italy, its owners who are mother and son, are passionately dedicated to creating an unheard of variety of flavors. (Lungotevere dei Vallati 25)
  • Sottosopra: In the lovely neighborhood of Trastevere and at the foot of the river, you will find this Italian contemporary food restaurant, where you can eat in its beautiful interior or in the terrace gardens. One of their specialties is the pizza that they prepare in a very delicate mass. (Via Di Ponte Sisto 67)

Art

  • Galleria Mucciaccia: This gallery specialized in modern art has a very well curated selection. It is without a doubt a great visit for art lovers and collectors. (Largo della Fontanella di Borghese 89)
  • Mercato Delle Stampe: This Antiques Market in Piazza Borghese is one of the best in Europe in terms of the quality of the objects it offers. The attention is excellent, for that reason very probable to leave here with a pair of treasures.

Shopping

  • Roberto Lepri: Nobody like the Italians to work in leather, and in the case of this designer, visiting him is quite the experience because the workshop where he works and designs is inside the small shop. (Via del Pellegrino 115)
  • Delfina Delettrez: She is the youngest jewelry designer that has been included among the designers of the Louvre Museum. Her designs have a magical touch, as if they came from fantastic worlds. Her shop is in a narrow street very close to Piazza Navona. (Via del Governo Vecchio 67)
  • Fendi: For those who are willing to spend a little more, Fendi is the iconic brand of Rome. It was founded in 1925 in the city by Adele and Edoardo Fendi as a luxury leather goods brand. The Romans feel that they are their own and are always very proud that all the products of the brand are still being manufactured in Italy to this day. The current store occupies 700 square meters on Via dei Condotti.
  • Polvere Di Tempo: Visiting this curious store is very interesting. It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. You will find hourglasses, earth globes of all sizes, compasses, handmade travel journals and leather covers. It is an ideal place to buy a gift to the inveterate travelers. (Via del Moro 59)

 

Vancouver, a West Coast Treasure.

by Ma. Paula Serrano @mpso_photography

From breathtaking mountain and glacier views to beautiful sandy beaches, Vancouver’s natural scenery is enough to amaze even the savviest of travelers. Not having visited Canada before, I didn’t really know what to expect from it. When you travel more to the United States than anywhere else as a kid, like I did, perhaps you miss out on the wonders that other parts of America have to offer. The usual comment that I received from people when I said that I was traveling to Vancouver was “Oh, Canada! You’ll freeze”, but believe me, the weather is not what calls your attention, or at least not the only thing…

Whether you’re a nature or city person, the range of activities that the city offers is plenty. Outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or gastronomical delights, you can truly find it all. Although my stay in Vancouver was short (5 days) I got to know certain places that I absolutely recommend for travelers seeking to visit this gem:

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  1. Whistler

The first place I’ll recommend is for the adventurous ones. Whistler, located about an hour and a half from Vancouver, is a small ski-village for the reckless athletes seeking adrenaline. On the way to the ski-resort stop by Lions bay, as I did, to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a nice view. In whistler there are some good places to eat like Earl’s bar and grill, and later you can walk around and explore some of the cute shops which sell hand-crafted souvenirs at reasonable prices.

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2. Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a must-go, I recommend it to all tourists but especially to my fellow photographers. Even if you only stay in Vancouver for a couple of days, you can not miss out on it, besides, it doesn’t require much of your time. You can easily plan one activity in the morning and leave Stanley Park for a late afternoon walk to relax and enjoy the sunset. The park has an extension of 100 acres and is formed by three main gardens: The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron, The Rose and Floral display, and the Shakespeare garden. Within the park you can find around 3,500 rose bushes, 45 species of trees, and if you visit on spring you can witness a variation of colored cherry blossoms. For the more active tourists, bicycles are available (for rent) to go on a nice ride along the lake.

 

  1. Granville Island

Just when you thought Vancouver could not be as diverse as people say it is, you visit Granville Island. Located next to downtown and only 15 minutes away from several residential neighborhoods, this urban oasis has many attractions. It is the perfect place to visit if you are an avid shopper as there are several small stores that sell from beautiful photographs and paintings which feature the city’s highlights to jewelry and home decorations. If you like pets and animals, there are some cute little pet shops for our beloved companions to become even more spoiled. However, the best part of this island is not the shops but the relaxing and artistic vibe that you get when you stroll around it, as it is usual to find artistic performers attracting small crowds.

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  1. Gastown

And of course, because it is important to visit the historical sites of any city on a trip, I recommend Gastown. Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core named after the Yorkshire seaman Jack Deighton “Gassy”. The town, which more than a century ago functioned as the city’s seaport and center of trade, now stands as a “trendy mix” of fashion boutiques, tourism businesses, restaurants, and nightclubs. Taking a walk here is getting to know one of the city’s highlights.

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Vancouver is also the perfect destination for healthy foodies. Being a celiac myself, I know how challenging it can be to find gluten-free options, or for that matter, healthy options. Below I give a list of three restaurants that were beyond delicious, and had options for all (Vegan included).

 

  • “Meet” on Main

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan on a budget, this is the perfect spot for you. The restaurant’s menu ranges from delicious appetizers (shareable sizes), to healthy hamburgers and creative desserts. Choose the Nachos and hummus, or the garlic fries and you won’t regret it.

 

Address: 4288 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P9, Canada

 

  • The Sandbar

Located in Granville island, this place offers the best seafood you can get. The restaurant’s ambient is really nice, as there are piano performances most days a week. The service is really good, and if you have any allergies or food-preferences the waiters will help you feel completely safe. Take a pick on the wood-grilled halibut, one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had. I will say that the restaurant is not budget-friendly, and you should expect the plates to be kind of pricy.

 

Address: 1535 Johnston St #102, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canadá

 

 

  • Ten Ten Tapas

Although I enjoyed the two restaurants detailed above, this was by far my favorite. Ten Ten Tapas is located on beach avenue, on a beautifully-lighted peer with a view of the sea and downtown Vancouver. The location is only the first thing to appeal to the eyes, but the food will leave you wanting to come back. As it is a Tapas place I think it is better to go at night for a somewhat light dinner with friends/family. Despite the small size of the plates and the somehow high prices, the food is absolutely amazing and worth it. Hands down to the Chef for making a delicious and creative chocolate mousse mixed with pieces of mandarin.

 

Address: 1010 Beach Ave, Vancouver, BC V6E 1T7, Canada

 

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Galapagos Islands in a few words.

When we arrived, I apologyzed. Couldn’t find the right words to describe the place nor my feelings about it. Back home, I must confess that the whole week I have been trying, looking up for new words on the dictionary, watching over and over pictures and videos of the trip – which has been counterproductive because with each image I am left speechless again. So I have decided to write only the few thoughts that coherently I can articulate, and let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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Galapagos is not a place, is a time space. You arrive by plane or ship from continental Ecuador, but seems like you’ve traveled in a time machine to a parallel universe. To a place where for some reason time doesn’t goes by at the same pace. Or perhaps hours and days go by, but not years? I am thinking that maybe in Lewis Carroll’s world or at a Kubric’s movie some of this makes sense.

Nirvana,  that stage of complete bliss and enlightenment, that some religions have as the ultimate state to achieve, is the word that comes to mind. I felt like that, as if every cell of my body was full of oxygen and nutrients. As if everything was perfect, lacking nothing. Felt like a millionaire of life.

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Galapago’s animals seem like Saint Francis of Assisi trained them. They don’t fear humans or vice versa. Sharks and penguins swim close, with the confidence that gives them the fact of have never been harmed. Sea lions take naps on the pier or on boats, while black iguanas lay back in the sun careless. Once in a while, a stingray flies out a bit just to get noticed.

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Nature looks intact, unchanged from what it probably looked like for thousand of years.

 

Humans that inhabit there (very limited numbers) seem to be fully aware of their blessings and take good care of the islands. Visitors understand it very soon  too.Processed with VSCO with s3 preset

In case you have plans to go, here is a list of hotels and restaurants that I love:

Best Hotels

www.finchbayhotel.com

www.angermeyer-waterfront-inn.com

www.pikaialodge.com

http://www.royalpalmgalapagos.com

Best eats:

La Garrapata: Restaurant and bar

Il Giardino: Restaurant and Gelateria

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Angermeyer Cafe:  The food is delicious, cocktails are great too; but the view is priceless. Great place to watch the sunset.

I’m Galapagos’s obsessed now. Since I left, I only want to go back.