Author Archives: destinationdefined

About destinationdefined

I am a designer, mother and traveler. I love to explore and find hidden gems in the world. Having 3 children I have especially enjoyed taking on travel adventures with the entire family and defining some travel highlights that make our trips wonderful. I find it fascinating to see the world through the eyes of my little people.
 
 

Destination Greece: Athens

 

Our first vacation to Greece was a hit! What a cool and interesting adventure it was. We decided to travel to Greece in July. I would say it was very, very hot weather wise but it was absolutely worth it. I’m sure it would have been better to travel to Athens in April, May, June, September, October or November. However, our schedules worked best in July so we went with it and made the most of it. It did not disappoint.

Where to stay?

We were a group of 9 (4 adults and 5 children), so we explored options such as villas for our whole group but in the end, we opted for a hotel. I am sure all the options would have been a great experience. For us, however, the hotel we chose was fab! We only had a 3 days before heading to Santorini. It was centrally located so we could walk to most places. It was great!

Hotel Grande Bretagne: The hotel rooms were spacious. The service was efficient. The restaurant on one of the upper floors is the shining star of this hotel. You have a direct view of the Acropolis while you are enjoying a mean. At night it is especially beautiful because they light it up at night!

 

King George Hotel: This hotel is next door to the Hotel Grande Bretagne but well located and also offers views of the Acropolis.

As an added easy attraction, across the street from the above 2 hotels is the Presidential Mansion and Hellenic Parliament. This leads me to my next segment.

What to do?

Changing of the Guards: This happens every hour in Syntagma Square, however, the official ceremony is at 11am on Sundays and is a more grand experience then the hourly ones.

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The Acropolis and Parthenon: This is the main attraction to see when you are visiting Athens for the first time. There is a short but steep walk up but a very nice view on top. It becomes a very tough walk in July when it is extremely hot so carrying lots of water and sun cover such as a hat and even a sun umbrella would be a good idea. You would be happy to have it when you are in the midst of the heat. There are long lines to get tickets and enter so I would strongly suggest that you buy your tickets online and either have the bar code open on your phone or a print out. That way you can go straight in and essentially bypass the long line. If you want to add to your experience you can hire a guide to walk you through and give you explanations on the history. I have to say that I was really proud of all the kids walking up to the top even though they were feeling extremely hot. It was challenging but fun!

The Acropolis Museum: We all enjoyed seeing this museum. You get a chance to see a lot of the parts of the Parthenon that was damaged and you get to learn about the history in more detail. This is a nicely constructed museum. It is small so it can be complete in a few hours.

Doctor Fish: If you are feeling adventurous then this is a very… lets say unique experience! It is a foot spa experience where you put your feet in water with small fish that remove the rough skin from your feet. Very, very odd but worth going to see at least. My 9 and 11-year-old did it. We probably would not do it again but it was an experience that they had fun with… i think! This place is located in Plaka so it is easy to get to if you are walking around the area and exploring.

What to eat?

Athens has a lot of quick and yummy options as grab and go when you are walking around the town. These places are fairly inexpensive as well. We had fun exploring all these small places and since children get hungry every few hours, we did a lot of these little stops.

Dionysos Zonar’s: This is a must restaurant if you are in Athens. The food and views were excellent.

 

 

Tzatziki: This was a kind of a chain but good quick food. The kids were tired and hungry so we stopped for a yummy quick dinner.

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Where to Shop?

Plaka: This is a great area with lots of shops and restaurants. There are mostly local shops where you can purchase clothing, soaps, souvenirs, furs, etc.

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Monastriraki: Another area with lots of shops and cafes and local vendors. You get a real local feel walking around this area. There are lots of jewelry pieces of varying prices and fun little trinkets to look at.

Furs are especially popular item in Athens. Yes, this is very unexpected, but there are a lot of fur shops with authentic furs such as fox or mink or many other varieties.  If you are in the market for this kind of thing, this is a place to look. Make sure to negotiate as well as shop around.

On to the next adventure…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Destination West Hollywood

with all the options in Southern California, planning can do nothing short of making your head spin when trying to put together a productive, fun and balanced itinerary of things to do in a matter of 4 days.

The main thing to consider is distance. Distances are great and traffic is a lot. Planning your days wisely can make the whole experience fun without the travel time frustrations.

Where to stay:

The London – this is a hidden gem of a hotel in my opinion. It is located a short distance to many attractions in the West Hollywood area with great amenities of its own. This includes a lovely pool with cabanas on the rooftop, a large human size chess board in a cute courtyard and comfy, spacious rooms.

Shopping:

Rodeo Drive – This is a great location to spend an afternoon. There are great little eating places or places to stop for a coffee. There are also nice luxury shops to engage in a bit of retail therapy or just window shop. Because the shops and outdoors it is a nice place to take a walk. You may even get a glimpse at a few celebrities around the area.

Beverly Center – This is your one stop indoor shopping experience that has all of the big box shops as well as some places to grab a quick bite. If you are looking for a one stop shopping experience, this place has it under one roof.

3rd Street Promenade– Here is a fun place that my children loved. The whole family was able to get a bit of what they wanted. There is beach and sand, and Pier with rides and carnival games, there are restaurants facing the lovely ocean and there is shopping. You can easily spend your whole day in this area. My children loved spending time here.

Attractions/ Sites:

Santa Monica Pier–  This is a fun place to get a full carnival experience, some California sun and some beautiful sand and ocean. It is a great way to spend an afternoon.

 

Universal Studios – This is such a fun place to go with children. You get to experience movie sets and rides that place you inside of the action. My kids loved it here but make sure you give yourself a full day for this as it take time to see all the attractions.

Warner Brothers Studio Tours – Great way to see the inside of Warner Brother studios and their creations. This is an experience that is fun and only takes a couple of hours out of your day.

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Destination London

London has character and lots of it. There are wonderful sights with beautiful architecture and history. There are colors and sounds and flavors to entice the palate of even the most critical of travelers. Most of all, it was fabulous for our family travels and the kids and adults had lots of fun!

 

Where to stay? London is full of options when it comes to accommodations. I went about looking for a place to stay by first deciding what part of the city I would like to be near. I decided I wanted to be centrally located so it was easy and quick to get around the city for day-to-day sight-seeing. At the same time, I wanted to be in a bit of a quiet area so after a long day of sight-seeing, I could come back to a peaceful place. We ended up staying at the Saint James Court Hotel. This hotel did not disappoint. It was well located just steps from the Buckingham Palace. We were able to walk  to the palace to see the changing of the guards. This was a lot of fun for my children. The hotel staff was amazing with the children. As we had arrived on Easter Sunday, the city was very quiet. We arrived at our hotel early in the morning and the staff offered my children hot chocolate in the lobby upon arrival. They loved it after a tiring flight. It just so happened that the hotel was hosting a small Easter egg hunt in the hotel lobby that afternoon. My kids had a great time participating in that event. eggs Another option to consider when looking for a place to stay with children is a serviced apartment. There are several companies that offer this option and can be great if you wanted to have a more at home feeling, yet have some of the amenities of a hotel. I found a great resource of information on this topic to be at the official Visit London site. Lots of staying options in a range of budgets are featured there.

 

What to do? The changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace happen every day at 11:30am.  This ceremonial display of the changing of the guards in a must! One thing to remember is that it is crucial to get there early. I would say about 45 minutes early is a must to be able to see what is happening inside the palace gates. If you get there late the crowds build up and it becomes very difficult to get a close view or any kind of view for that matter.London policeman

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The London Eye is a fun site to see and the kids really enjoy it. It is a giant ferris wheel that lets you see a beautiful view of London. It takes about a half an hour to go around and allows you time to just sit and relax while taking in the sites.

Next to the London Eye is the London Dungeon. If you and your family enjoys a bit of creepy fun then this is the place to go. This is a tour of the historical past of London of things gone a bit wrong.

The Tower of London – this is a very picturesque and historical place to see. When you enter with your ticket you can follow a guide who will give you a narrative about the background of the place. It is very insightful and fun. After the guide is finished, it is well worth going inside the building where the Crown Jewels are housed. They are very beautiful to see.

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Crown Jewels

 

 

London Bridge – This famous Tower Bridge is very beautiful and can be see with the Tower of London. If you want a bit of a frightful and fun experience added to this you can go one of the London Bridge experiences.

 

Where to Eat? Food options are incredible in London. If you are a foodie, this is the place to explore. I have compiled a list of some great eats but please send me some comments on some of your favorites.

Gymkhana – Fabulous Indian dining experience like no other. The food was absolutely outstanding. It makes my mouth water to think about it. Definately worth trying but make sure to book in advance. This is a very popular place and reservations fill up quickly.

Nando’s – If you love some good chicken you must stop and eat here for a quick bite. They serve some amazing grilled chicken with a yummy Peri-Peri sauce that is incredibly good. It comes in different heat levels from mild to very spicy.

St. Moritz – They serve up some nice Fondue and other swiss eats that are great for a rainy London day. The staff is very friendly and the restaurant is small and quaint. My kids loved the fondue experience here, especially the chocolate fondue at the end.

Trishna – Michelin star awarded Indian restaurant worth a try for more upscale experience.

Colbeh – This place has wonderful kebobs and other persian cuisine. This is a great casual place for tasty food for the family. I found this to be a hidden gem. 6 Porchester Pl, London W2 2BS, United Kingdom +44 20 7706 4888

Maroush – They offer up some great Lebanese food. There are several locations around the city, some of which are more casual that others but the food is consistent and yummy.

Selfridges Food Hall – There are some wonderful food options if you are shopping and need to break for a meal. The variety is great and the food is tasty.

Where to shop? Shopping in London is vast and wonderful. The options are endless. You can pretty much find anything your heart desires. I have listed a few to get you started.

Harrods – This is the department store of all department stores. An experience in itself.

Selfridges – A great department store and must see of London. A bit more modern then Harrods but wonderful. It has a luxurious feel to it.

Oxford Street – This street is fun to walk as well as take a few double decker bus rides if your feet get tired. There are endless shops and cafes. Lots of hustle and bustle but lots of fun.

Piccadilly Circus – Worth a trip as it is one of the oldest and busiest squares in London. It reminds me of New York’s Time Square only smaller.

Hamley’s – This is a must see for the kids. My kids enjoyed exploring here. There are 7 floors of fun for kids.

 

 

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Destination Cairo

Cairo, Egypt is such a fun, rugged place to visit. It has many interesting sites for children to fully enjoy as well as adults. It definitely requires some planning with kids for this one but it is well worth it. One piece of Egypt that is very interesting are the Pyramids. The most well know pyramids are the Great Pyramids of Giza. There are, however, many other pyramids that have been built all around Egypt. Some of these Pyramids are not as perfectly balanced as others. It is very interesting to see all the various pyramids because you can really see the trial and error process that went along with creating the perfect pyramids.

Accomodations

My trip to Egypt was brief but memorable. I chose to stay at the Mena House Hotel. This hotel is situated very close to the Pyramids of Giza and is very beautiful. Upon booking this hotel, the hotel staff let us know that we would not be able to have a room with a view of the pyramids as they were booked, however we would have a nice courtyard view. We were fine with this a proceeding to our booking. On our arrival we were greeded at the door with much hospitality. Welcome drinks were offered to us from a very friendly staff. We proceeded to our room. I entered the room and noticed the curtains were drawn. When I went to pull back the curtains I gasped at the beauty. We in fact were put in a room with a view of the Pyramids of Giza. The view was a very close view. There are no words to describe the amazing beauty. The hotel then informed us that they did in fact get an opening for a room with a Pyramid view and therefore they changed our room as we had a request in their system. Wow, Amazing!

There are many wonderful hotels in Egypt. Here is a list of some.

JW Marriott Cairo

Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo – located in a busy part of the city and overlooks the Nile.

What to see

The Pyramids of Giza – The famous Pyramids of Giza and one of the original ancient Wonders of the World are absolutely a magnificent site to see.

The Great Sphinx of Giza – This is a worlds largest and oldest monumental statue that is worth seeing.

Nile Cruise – this is considered a wonderful site to see. I feel personally that it would be much better to take during the day rather then the night and I feel a possible multi-day adventure would be more worthwhile depending on your time restrictions.

Pyramid sound and light show – The pyramid sound and light show is great to see a night perspective of this beautiful attraction. There is a history dialog that is played along with colorful lazer lights. There is a beautiful perspective of the Pyramids, the dessert and the Sphynx as a backdrop.

The Citadel – This is historical mosque worth seeing. During the time of Napoleon he used one of the areas as a stable which created much tension as it made that portion unusable for worship. As a result they built a new area for worship that is absolutely gorgeous and grand.

Egyptian Museum – This is really a fun and interesting museum to see. Seeing the tombs and mummies are very interesting for both kids and adults.

Khan Khalili Bazaar – This bazaar is a lot of fun to visit. There is a twisted maze of shops and vendors selling a variety of goods from clothes to jewelry to housewares. This market allows one to have a very local feel. This is the place to bring cash and your negotiating skills.

Memphis and Saqqara – There are great landmarks to visit here. The pyramid here is one of the earlier pyramids called a step pyramid. The surface looks like steps. It is great if you have a guide to tell you about the background and history.

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Destination Mumbai

Mumbai is a city with a lot to offer travellers. There is great food, shopping, nightlife, culture. Since Mumbai is surrounded by the Sea, there are wonderful views from all around. I will mostly focus on South Mumbai, however, there are lots of other areas that are wonderful to visit.

Map of Mumbai

Where to stay?

There are lots of hotels in Mumbai that are absolutely outstanding in service, decor and overall experience.

Trident – Nariman Point, Mumbai – This hotel is located right across from the Sea. It has beautiful views and a luxurious atmosphere. It is in a central location to all of South Mumbai’s offerings. For a traveller it is a great place to stay for easy accessibility to activities and sights.

The Taj Mahal Palace – This hotel is considered one of the Leading Hotels of the World. It is beautiful and offers water views that are absolutely phenomenal.

Vivanta by Taj President – This hotel is beautiful and a great choice as it is centrally located and has great restaurants.

InterContinental Hotel – Marine Drive – This hotel is well situated to put you the a central location that with great views.

Where to eat?

There are many places to eat in Mumbai. More than I can list here, however, here is a list that is sure the please.

Swati Snacks –  Tardeo, Mumbai – This vegetarian restaurant is wonderful for excellent Gujarati food. Even the seasoned carnivore can enjoy this restaurant without feeling they have missed anything.  They offer mini meals that are spiced to perfection. You can’t go wrong at this popular eatery.

Thai Pavillion – For fabulous Thai food, this is the place. The setting is very nice with interesting and artistic decor. My children loved eating here as did we. The drinks are very unusual and tasty as well.

Konkan Cafe – This restaurant offers delicious Goan style food. They even serve some of the dishes in banana leaves. This is a classy restaurant with a relaxed vibe that pleases the palate.

Gaylord – My children loved the food here. They great part about this restaurant is that it offers tasty Indian flavor in a casual yet classy environment. This was a great place to go for a tasty lunch. Their tomato soup is worth a trip alone.

Copper Chimney – This is one of my favorites for India flavors in Mumbai. They have excellent kebabs and wonderful romali rotis.

Souk – They offer wonderful Lebanese food. The flavors are fresh and tasty. Worth a try. The drinks are wonderful as well. The service could be improved but still worth a visit.

Golden Dragon – This is one of my favorites for chinese food. Every dish I tried was outstanding. They are pricey but worth if you are in a mood to splurge.

Wasabi by Morimoto – This is a Morimoto restaurant as you can tell from the name and he does a wonderful job here. This place definitely puts a hole in your wallets but the food is fresh and outstanding. If you love sushi then this is the place to eat it if you are in Mumbai.

Leopold Cafe– This cafe has become a famous tourist cafe. They have a casual atmosphere with simple and tasty food such as sandwiches and desserts.

McDonalds – This one is something I must mention because it is a very different phenomenon in India. The menu is changed from the US version. I personally do not frequent this establishment in the US, however, it is worth one try in India. First off, the McDonald’s in India are non beef establishments. Due to the flavorful spices that people in India are accustomed to, the meals have many more spices added to them. In addition, there are many vegetarian options added to the sandwich offerings.

Creme Centre – They have the best Chola Battura dish. They are also casual and serve relatively quickly.

New Yorker – They offer mexican food with an Indian twist. Interesting and tasty for a quick bite.

Kobe Sizzlers – They offer sizzlers that are mouth-watering indeed. They bring your dish on a sizzling plate which my kids got a kick out of. The sauces are tasty and make you wanting to take another bite. This is a casual restaurant with quick and friendly service.

India Jones – This restaurant offers a great mix of asian foods. Off to one side they have a hibachi style grill where they cook the food live in front of you… a great interactive experience.

Spaghetti Kitchen – They offer great tasting salads, pizzas and pastas if you are in the mood for a bit of Italian food during your trip.

Vong Wong – This restaurant offers tasty Chinese cuisine that is casual and classy. This is a great place to head for a nice lunch.

Britannia and Company Restaurant – This restaurant is one of the few places that serves typical Parsi cuisine. They are known for their berry pulao among other dishes. Worth a try!

Where to shop?

The Shops at the Trident Hotel

Phoenix Mills Shopping – This is a large shopping mall with all kinds of stores. This is a great place to shop, however, it is similar to malls you have in places like the United States with some of the same brands, making this mall a less desirable destination for those wanting to see the real traditional sites of India.

Colaba Causeway – This is definitely a great place to shop for both inexpensive goods as well as for the culture and experience. You get an experience of the hustle and bustle of the city. Get ready to do lots of bargaining and take cash in small bills.

Breech Candy

Amara – Here you can find fancy, fashionable indian clothing with a modern twist. This is a great place for formal shopping with a boutique feel.

Kimaya – Ladies Indian clothing store with formal modern Indian attire. Nice boutique with a variety of designs.

Bhuleshwar – This is a bazaar where you can get anything and everything. They key is maneuvering your way around. Crawford market is the fruit and vegetable area. Mangaidas Market is the silk and cloth area, Chor Bazaar is the antique and furniture area and Zaveri Bazaar is the area for jewelry to name a few. If you are looking for leather goods, Dhabu Street is the place to go. Mutton street has lots of knick knacks and possible useless items but items that are fun to browse through. There are so many shops around that you get overwhelmed with the selection. This is a fun, fun place to see and is definitely a cultural experience. Go with cash in small bills and your negotiating skills. Also, wear comfortable shoes and your casual attire as it is somewhat dirty. I feel this is a must see.

What to see?

There is a gold mine of cultural sites to see in Mumbai. This gives a traveller a great opportunity to explore the many options. Here I will name a few:

Siddhi Vinayak Temple – This temple is a Jain temple that is absolutely beautiful. This is a must see in Mumbai.

Elephanta Caves – These are a group of sculpted caves. They are beautifully carved and very interesting to see.

Mahalaxmi Temple – Beautiful hindu temple. It is worth visit.

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Destination Goa

Beautiful Goa, India is a place for pure relaxation. There are miles and miles of beach as far as the eye can see. Our trip to Goa with our children was definitely enjoyable for everyone. There is a sort of rustic charm that surrounds Goa that makes it a must see beach. The local people are very cheerful and happy overall in my experience. Goa has a feel of a newly developed area in an old culture where the kinks are being worked out to make the 2 meet. In the midst, there are many nooks and cranny’s of interesting sights to see. My children had a wonderful time, as did we, exploring all the wonderful and quirky things around us. We found that Goa has a large mix of people from different cultures visiting from all over. In particular, there was a great deal of Russian influence. So much so that many of the street signs were written in 3 languages: Russian, Hindi and English.

beach shacks

Goa is a large span of land and many people distinguish the areas as the south side and the north side. The north side is more populated. There is more of everything… people, restaurants, tourists, hotels. The beaches are filled up with more people and the vendors are plenty. The south side has the same things in much less quantity. The beaches are cleaner with fewer people. The area is relatively quiet in the evenings and it does not have as much activity. Choosing which side to stay on is definitely a matter of the type of vacation you are looking for. If lots of activity is what you want then the north side is the place. If quiet and fewer people is what you want then the south side is what you want.

Map of Goa

Where to stay?

We opted to stay a bit on the southern side in Benaulim Beach. We had a great experience. There are, however, some great places in both sides to fit a variety of budgets.

Some fantastic and beautiful places to stay are the following:

Near Benaulim Beach (toward the southern part of Goa) is Taj Exotica. This is an absolutely beautiful hotel. You feel like you are in a magical place upon entering. The service is wonderful and very kid friendly. The restaurants are amazing as well. This is definitely a pricy hotel but worth if it fits your budget.

A bit further south in Cavelossim Beach is the Leela Goa. This hotel is wonderful and beautiful as well. Great service and a luxury experience.

In Cavelossim Beach as well is the Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa. This resort is a newer hotel. They have a beautiful setting with lots of activities for both adults and children. For children they have a kids club where they do activities and you are able to drop off the kids with great childcare providers for a few hours if you like.

On the north side is a hotel called Vivanta by Taj – Fort Aguada, Goa. This hotel is wonderful and in the mix of lots of activity. There is not much of a beach on this waterfront property as it has eroded away over the years with the tide, however, it is a wonderful hotel and in a great location for the nightlife of north Goa.

What to do?

There are many wonderful things to do in Goa. It was key, however, to hire a car and English-speaking driver during our stay to take us around the areas to see all the wonderful things there were to see. Of course, you can always opt to spend your trip getting massages and enjoying the beach. There are plenty of places to get a massage and many of them specialize in Ayurvedic massages. We opted to do a mix of both sight-seeing and beach relaxation.

A must see in Goa is the Anjuna Flea Market. This market is located near Anjuna beach in the north. It is only on Wednesdays during the day. It is mostly a souvenir market, however, there is a very interesting mix of people, food, and animals to see. My children loved seeing this market.

Cow eating corn

Teas

Lady selling goods at the market

Spices

In Goa, the spice plantations are a great destination. Goa’s dense forested areas make this a wonderful experience . The favorable climatic conditions make it possible for a variety of spices to grow. My children really enjoyed seeing where all the spices come from. The spice plantation we visited was the Sahakari Spice Farms.

This spice market grows a vast variety of spices such as betel nut, cardamom, vanilla bean, chili peppers, as well as many others. The spices that grow high up on the trees are collected by people who climb up the trees and swing from tree to tree to save time and not miss a tree. This was exciting for my children to see.

Worker climbing the tree to retrieve the spices.

Betel Nut

bananas

There are many other activities that are going on at the spice plantation. There were ladies dancing and singing, there were elephant rides and elephant baths, and there was a wonderful lunch served at the end of our tour.

Women dancing and singing at spice plantation.

Elephant getting a bath at the spice plantation.

In Goa, there are lots of Temples and Churches that are wonderful to explore. They have a lot of unique characteristics and beauty in them. They are wonderful to explore when visiting Goa.

What to eat?

Goan food is very unique and wonderful. The food has a blend of flavors that is absolutely mouth-watering. They have a lot of seafood specialities as it is a coastal region, however, there are many options of food for every kind of palette.

I found it wonderful to be able to sit on the beach and taste the wonderful food served at the beach shacks. The servers bring you your food and drink order right to the beach. This is casual but flavorful food. I would say this experience is worth a try indeed. There are beach shacks all over Goa so you would be able to spot them wherever you are on the beach.

Here are some other restaurants in Goa, some of which I have been to and others that have been recommended to me:

Mum’s Kitchen – They offer wonderful Goan cuisine in a charming atmosphere. They strive to preserve the Goan culture and cuisine.

Brittos’s – This restaurant is great for the experience mostly and great if you are spending time on the beach and want to grab and quick bite. They are located on the north side of Goa in Baga Beach (the party central of Goa). The restaurant is on the beach itself with the floor being the sand of the beach. There is a wide variety of foods offered. This is a tourist spot for sure but might be worth seeing.

Allegria – This restaurant is located in the Taj Exotica Hotel in the area near Benaulim Beach. They offer Goan cuisine. This restaurant is wonderful. The food is outstanding and very flavorful. The atmosphere is quaint and luxurious. This is a great outing for a nice dinner.

These are only a handful of the many selections in Goa. If you are looking for other cuisines besides Goan food, there are many to choose from as well. My children had all the selection they needed, as did we to find the type of food we were looking for during our trip.

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Shopping in Paris is never forgotten

There is one part of a trip that I feel is always fun to explore. This is shopping… who doesn’t love a bit of retail therapy in a new place. At least a little bit. In Paris, there is no shortage of shopping. You can do all kinds of shopping in Paris. Antique shopping, art shopping, clothes shopping, chocolate shopping, boutique shopping, wine shopping, cheese shopping, shoe shopping… you name it and it is there. Paris is the mecca for fun, cutting edge, fashion forward… shopping.

I have included a short but definitely not complete list of places to shop in Paris. Of course, I have left much room for your own explorations in Paris.

Champs-Élysées is definitely a mecca for shopping. Though a bit of a touristy street, it is fun and full of shops from large chains, to smaller boutiques, to high-end luxury goods. It is also a good place to people watch as you see people in high fashion walking the streets.

Next there is the le carousel du Louvre. This is a large shopping mall under the Louvre. This is another great place to go for a mix of this and that. Also a bit touristy but full of life and lots of people.

If you wanted to go antique shopping here is a list of a few:

rue de Seine, Paris 6th

Quai Voltaire

Louvre des Antiquaires — they are located across the Louvre on Rivoli Street

If you want to do more department store shopping there is Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. During, the holiday season in December their window displays are gorgeous.

The following shops are some interesting places to pick up some unique finds:

Merci

Cuisinophile

Le petit Atelier de Paris

Le Jardin D’Olaria

L’atelier des Quatres

Happy Shopping!

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Foods of Paris

Paris has wonderful places to eat. In any price range you can eat tasty foods that you can savor. We enjoyed eating the great crepes from small roadside cafe’s made fresh in front of you.  Breizh Café located in the 5th Arrondisement is a great casual creperie where they serve these wonderful delights. This is only one amongst many.

In December, there are the Christmas markets that offer food stalls galore. These stalls offer a variety of selections at affordable prices. You can fill your stomach with wonderful dishes from sandwiches to desserts to cheeses and pastas cooked fresh in front of you.

My kids loved the way they were wrapped in paper into a triangle shape that was easy for them to hold. Of course there was always some filling that fell all over them but they had fun all the same. Just make sure you bring lots of wet wipes. I really enjoyed the fresh baguettes with bree cheese. The baguettes were warm with a crusty outside and soft inside. My mouth waters whenever I think about it. Of course we cannot forget the bakeries. The bakeries are wonderful to say the least. They fresh baked good leave you wanting them all upon entry.

I have included a list of restaurants that could be good to explore in Paris. Though I have not explored all of these restaurants, they all have been recommended to me by others. I have added comments of thoughts from others as well as my own. My hope in compiling this is is that it could serve as a useful guide for anyone who would like to explore the culinary varieties of Paris. All of the restaurants I have included allow diners to bring their children. For anyone who has tried any of these restaurants I would love to hear your thoughts about them.

Le Grande Colbert, 29 rue Vivienne, Paris 2nd — This is a Parisian brasserie that is great for a casual lunch.

Au Bascou — located in the 5th arrondissement– They have good south French food in a casual setting.

Villa Spicy next to the Champs Elysées  – good French food with a twist–  They have a special children’s menu. The cost is around 30-40 Euros per person.

Glou, 101 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris — this is a casual place, with simple food and good service. There is a nice view on the gardens on the opposite of the streets. This place is about 20-30 euros per person.

Le Petit Pergolèse, 38, Rue Pergolèse, 75016 Paris —  This is a restaurant with a variation on traditional French cuisine. This place is small with only 47 seats. It is located near the Porte Maillot underground station. This restaurant would run about 50-60 euros per person.

Les Fils à Maman, 7 bis Rue Geoffroy-Marie – 75009 Paris — The meals have a feel of food that would be cooked in a simple french home by someones grandmother. The food is simple comfort food. This is a very casual place. This place would cost around 20 euros per person.

Le Petit Resto dans la Prairie, 9/9 bis, cour des petites écuries — 75010 Paris — This is a sister restaurant of Les Fils à Maman. This restaurant has almost identical food in a different location and slightly different setting. This is also extremely casual and full of local Parisians. The cost is around 20 euros per person.

Le Relais de l’Isle, 37 rue Saint Louis en L’Isle, Paris 4th –very casual local restaurant.

Zyriad, located on top of the institute of the arabic world. They have a view of Notre Dame — The food at this restaurant is lebanese cuisine. The price is around 40-50 euros per person.

–  Le relais de l’entrecote next to the Champs Elysées– This restaurant is mostly steak with french fries and a special sauce.  They are somewhat touristy but good, casual and great for the kids. They cost around 20 Euros per person.

Les Cocottes, 135 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris –Every meal is served and cooked in French Cocotte. This restaurant would run about 40 euros per person.

Le Bistrot du Sommelier, 97 boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris — For wine lovers, this is the place to try.They have one of the best rated sommeliers in the world. They have a 20+ page wine list. The service is immaculate and the food is tasty. The cost is 40-50 euros per person. Of course this will vary based on the wine you order.

Le Pinxo, 9 rue d’Alger, 75001 Paris. They are located near the Vendome place.  They offer a modern concept of chic tapas to share for up to 3 people. The cuisine is subtle and the service decent.  The owner of the restaurant, Alain Dutournier, is very famous in Paris for another excellent restaurant named le Carre des Feuillants. The cost is around 40-50 euros per person.

Au Gourmand, 17 rue Moliere, 75001 Paris. They are a gastronomic restaurant. The cost is around 60 euros per person.

L’Absinthe on the place du Marché Saint Honoré: nice terrace and nice bistrot decoration inside. The food and setting is nice, however, the service is not always predictable. The price is around 40-50 euros per person.

16 Haussmann is a restaurant with a nice setting. They have a mix of tradition and modernity. The price is around 40 to 60 euros per person.

If you wanted to try a more high end restaurant, here is a list:

La Maison Blanche, 15 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris– Very interesting gastronomic and modern restaurant with nice view over the Eiffel Tower. Quite expensive for dinner when the illuminations give all powers to the scenic view (around 150 euros per person) but definitely a great deal at lunch (around 50-60 euros per person)
Gordon Ramsay at the Trianon Palace in Versailles. The price is 200-300 euros per person.

Les Fables de la Fontaine, 131 rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris –They have a modern setting, good service and a 1 Michelin star chef make the place a good pick for a gastronomic French meal. This restaurant is loved mainly for fish. The cost can range from about 40 to 70 euros per person.

La table du Lancaster, 7 rue de Berri, 75008 Paris — This is a Michelin star restaurant with fantastic food, very nice setting, and a great service.  We decided to splurge and enjoyed our Christmas Eve dinner at this restaurant. We had a wonderful evening. We took our young children as well and they were very accommodating. They even made special food just for them. The desserts at the end were a work of art and were a perfect end to a perfect dinner. Around 100 Euros a person.

Wonderful dessert with a sweet mango filling in the bottom half and raspberry filling under the top half topped with a chocolate hat.

Yummy chocolate cookie with a minty undertone.

Categories: food | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Destination Paris

J’adore Paris! Visiting Paris in December is something beautiful and magical. The city is festive with lights and beautiful window displays that are amongst the best I have seen anywhere.

I found that, contrary to popular belief, Paris was a great city for children. Our whole family had a wonderful time and the children loved the experience. Before going on the trip my children had watched Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame”. When we got to Paris and actually visited Notre Dame, my daughter asked me several times if Quasimoto was there and if we could see him. She was extremely excited to be there even if she couldn’t meet him. To make things more fabulous, we were outside of Notre Dame at midnight on Christmas morning and the bells were chiming loudly. What a beautiful sound it was! We found it magical and exciting to be there at that moment. The children were up late to experience this and they loved it.  Learning about it in advance really helped to give the kids a context of what they would be seeing before we arrived. They were eager to see what they had learned in real life.

Where to stay?

Our first decision to make was where to stay in Paris. We opted to stay in the 5th Arrondissement in a short term rented apartment. We were extremely happy with this decision. My family and I experienced a local feel in a quaint neighborhood. To located our apartment we went through a company called Paris Attitude. They were able to find us an apartment within our budget, close to the metro and in the location we wanted. They offered great suggestions and sent out recommended apartments for our short trip. They were great to work with overall and our experience with them was without a hitch.

What to do?

Since we had opted for an apartment, rather then a hotel, we wanted to have a sort of concierge to help us plan our day to day itinerary. We wanted to use our time wisely and not miss a thing. Being new to Paris we really felt it would be good to have some assistance in this area. There is a great concierge service in Paris that helps with exactly what we needed. This service is called Unique Paris.They work just like a hotel concerge would and more. You can tell them the type of trip you are looking for and they can make suggestions for you and even organize the details including getting tickets for various excursions. It is almost like having your own personal assistant during your trip. They were accessible during our trip as well as before it.

Here is a sample itinerary of a trip in a short stay in Paris with young children. This type of itinerary gives a good overview of the whole city.

Thursday December 22

6:00am Arrival in Paris – transfer to Paris with First Way

Check -in to apartment

12:30pm Private City Tour of Paris

4:00pm Visit of the the Eiffel Tower and the carousel’s nearby.

Head to apartment in a cab or by metro

Dinner

Friday December 23

Morning: Visit covered market of les Enfants rouges

Lunch at the market

1pm – Private walking 2-hour chocolate tour

stroll the Tuileries gardens or go shopping at le caroussel du Louvre

4pm – 2 hour private guided tour of the Louvre – Though you could spend months in the Louvre and still not see everything, 2 hours with a guide allowed us to see highlights of select art work and kept our children interested.

Evening – Visit Montmartre neighborhood which is quaint, artsy and wonderful. There are a multitude of local shops and restaurants that are worth a try. there is a funicular which you can take all the way up that is fun for the kids. The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur is located close by so worth a visit at the same time as well.

8pm Dinner

Saturday, December 24

8:45am Departure for Versailles with driver and guide

9:30am: Reservation for a visit of the castle

12:15pm – Transfer to apartment or to restaurant for lunch

Browse some Antique shops or just go do some shopping as Paris in shopping is vast and fun!

Early afternoon – climb up the Arc de Triomphe

Christmas market on the Champs Elysees — (Open everyday including Christmas Day) -The Christmas markets are very quaint and wonderful. They have a unique charm that is a mix of European flavor and holiday spirit. There is a vast array of food, knick knacks, and music. There is also plenty of hot chocolate and Vin Chaud (mulled wine) to keep you warm when roaming around in the cool, crisp air.

Sunday, December 25

Morning – Classical River cruise on the Seine

Lunch in a Parisian brasserie

Go window shopping at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps as the window displays are gorgeous. You can refer the the pictures I posted showing this at the beginning of this post.

Go on the Ferris wheel near Concorde.

Dinner

Monday, September 26

Depart from Paris -transfer with First Way

There are, of course, lots of evening and night entertainment activities to do in Paris including the wonderful shows like Moulin Rouge. We got a nice view from the outside.

With children, however, that is one part of Paris we chose to leave for another trip. If you opted to, however, our wonderful concierge mentioned that she could assist us in finding childcare for any evening we would like during our stay so that is certainly an option for those so inclined.

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 35 Comments

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