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If you had nine weeks to spend in Southeast Asia where would you go? When faced with the question these are the places we chose and a few photos from each.


Hong Kong


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Bangkok, Thailand

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Angkor Wat, Siem Riep, Cambodia

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Tonle Sap Lake

Southeast Asia 487





Phnom Phen, Cambodia



Phu Quoc, Vietnam


Saigon (HCMC), Vietnam





Hoi An, Vietnam


Hue, Vietnam




Halong Bay, Vietnam

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Hanoi, Vietnam




Luang Prabang, Laos

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Southeast Asia 230




Two day boat trip up Mekong River, Laos


Chiang Rai Area, Thailand


Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Khao Lak, Thailand (Volunteering with VTT)


Asia 133


Ao Nang, Thailand




Ko Lanta, Thailand



Ko Phi Phi, Thailand


Penang, Malaysia


Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia




Near Sanur, Bali, Indonesia



Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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Changgu, Bali, Indonesia


Singapore


(c)Christina Kay Bolton





Published in in-depth
Thursday, 24 February 2011

Three Days in Paris


IMGP4717What to do in the city of love and lights with only three days and three nights? With such an incredible array of options—where does one begin? Luckily, this was my fourth time to Paris, so I’ve been able to visit many different neighborhoods and attractions, but for my new husband it was his first trip, so I wanted him to get a good feel for it in our short time and gear it towards what he likes best – primarily art, history, and food. Though it was tough to choose, this was our lineup for a fabulous stopover on our honeymoon.


What to do:

Walk the lovely streets until you get tired, and then find a sidewalk café with a view of a small square and people-watch. This is the quintessential Parisian experience and what I would choose to do above everything else if I only had one day.

 

Two self-guided walking tours that I’d recommend:

1) [Leave 3-5 hours, depending on how many times you stop – we began around 2pm and that gave us a good amount of time] Begin at the Arc de Triomphe, walk down the Champs IMGP4682Elysees, stopping to take some photos at the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. Once you reach the Obelisque, where the road stops, continue on through the Jardin des Tuileries toward the Louvre (but don’t go in now as you’ll want to spend 3-6 hours).

 

 

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Head back toward Place de la Concorde and walk alongside the Seine on Cours de la Reine to Pont des Invalides. Cross over on this elegant bridge and continue up the other side of the river until you reach the Eiffel Tower. If you like you can wait in line to take the elevator up for the view. Cross over the bridge to the Palais de Chaillot and the square beyond it, then up Avenue Kleber back to where you started. If you’re staying at Residence Foch you could head up Ave Raymond Poincare instead and go to Restaurant DAB for dinner.



2) [Full day] Begin at Musee D’Orsey, Paris’s impressionist extravaganza, and spend several IMGP4756hours there. Walk east along the Seine until you reach Ile de la Cite. You’ll see Notre Dame and cross over the bridge. Wait in the long line for entrance (it’s worth it) and when you’ve had your fill, walk around to the back where you’ll see a small bridge across to Ile St. Louis, famous for its ice cream. Wait in another long line for your late afternoon treat and walk around the quaint streets. There are a lot of gourmet shops to stop into if you’re so inclined. Then head across Pont de Sully to the Latin Quarter and walk down Boulevard Saint-Germain to Rue St Jacques past the Sorbonne until you see the Pantheon on your left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMGP4780After your photo head away from the Pantheon down rue Soufflot and cross Blvd. St-Michel into the Jardin du Luxembourg. Grab a bench near the fountain and relax – this is a great place for people-watching on a summer evening. Wander the Latin Quarter’s bustling streets until you find your perfect place for dinner and afterwards head back up St-Michel toward the ferry docks across from Notre Dame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMGP4801Take a late-night boat tour through the gloriously lit city and under its famous bridges. If the weather is good, you’ll see people having picnics, parties, and dances along its banks. Rest your feet and take the Metro home.

 

 


IMGP4822On day three, go to the Louvre and follow the hordes to the Mona Lisa, or meditate in the French sculpture area – either way leave at least 4 hours for this; there is an incredible amount to see – don’t plan on doing it all. Walk across to the left bank and grab a pastry and a coffee at a café before exploring some of the shops. Take the metro to Montmartre, see the view over the city and Sacre Coeur lit up at night and have dinner in this lively district.

 

On your departure day, after packing up and storing your luggage in your hotel, head to one of Paris’s best restaurants for a gastronomic experience.  We went to lunch at Guy Savoy, which turned out to be our favorite event in Paris. After, we were giddy with happiness and stuffed with food and wine. In late afternoon, unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Paris and head to the airport for our flight.



Which museums to go to:

Musee D’Orsay: If you’re a fan of Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, etc. this is the museum for you.

Louvre: with 35,000 of the best works of art from all over this is a history of the world and an art museum rolled into one.


Where to stay:

We chose Hotel Residence Foch because of its great reviews on Trip Advisor and were not disappointed. The staff was very friendly, the rooms clean, the breakfast adequate, and most of all the location excellent, in an area of embassies and expensive apartments only about a ten minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. The best part of our room is that we were on the top floor with a small terrace where we could see the very top of the Eiffel tower and its dancing lights.


Where to eat:

Guy Savoy: the Best Restaurant in Paris (click link to read review and get more information). Gastronomic heaven.

L’Auberge DAB, 161 Ave Malakoff, Paris 16th (Porte Maillot). Very fresh seafood, classic French dishes, nice atmosphere, filled with Parisians rather than tourists, the menu is only 39 euros each including aperitif, four courses, and a half bottle of wine.



©Christina Kay Bolton

Published in indulge
Friday, 31 December 2010

A Land Based Tour in the Galapagos

pelicans galapagos

I love traveling in South America, and the Galapagos had always been a ‘someday I’ll get there’ sort-of dream destination for me, an enchanted archipelago where unique species dive into azure waters on volcanic islands. When I saw a one-day sale for a flight from New York to the Galapagos roundtrip for $525 I bought it instantly (before they changed their minds). I would have ten glorious days and nights to fill with adventures. I researched all the various options: cruises, tours, or going it alone, and decided on the last one primarily for a more affordable and comfortable option than the typical budget choice of poor quality cruises on questionable boats. I planned to go wildlife-spotting on day trips to uninhabited islands and explore the inhabited ones on a quest for how much it’s possible to see while being based on land.

* * *

Galapagos picturesThe Galapagos are 600 miles (1,000 km) off the coast of Ecuador, so the flight from the mainland is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The landing was picturesque as the plane dove through the clouds that hung low over the islands and passed little volcanic outcrops and then arrived at the wide expanse of Baltra, a flat island home to the airport and little else. Buses bring passengers to the dock where boats wait to take them across to Santa Cruz Island, the most populated island in the Galapagos, and its main city, Puerto Ayora. I checked into my hotel: Galapagos Suites, a nicely-designed, family-run place just a few blocks from the harbor with meticulously clean rooms. My room had cathedral ceilings and skylights in the bathroom.

I started exploring with a walk down to Ave Charles Darwin, the main street loaded with restaurants, cafes, and tour operators and booked my tour for the following day. Then I stopped for a tamale and headed to the Charles Darwin Institute and its tortoise breeding center where the famous Lonesome George resides along with his two female friends of another giant tortoise species. He is, sadly, the last of his species and efforts to breed him with other closely related species have Galapagos picturesnot worked. So when he dies we all lose a lot – luckily giant tortoises can live for a very long time (up to 200 years), so hopefully that will not be anytime soon.

At the tortoise breeding center I saw the tiny turtles that are in various stages of development and other gigantic tortoises that you can get quite close to. The interpretation center also has a number of informative displays about the various challenges faced by conservation in the Galapagos.

One of the primary issues is that a number of invasive species have been brought in by humans that have changed the natural (and ideal) habitat of indigenous animals and plants. The pictures on display almost look like the opposite of most environmental displays showing the progression of deforestation – in this case the hillsides started out in their more barren state with low-growing native plants – a habitat which the tortoises thrive in, but in the recent pictures it is taken over by the many invasive plants and non-native trees that settlers brought with them. It has created a thick underbrush that makes it more difficult for the tortoises to get around, so conservation here is more about removing plants that have grown like weeds because they have no natural predators to keep them in check.

Galapagos picturesThere is also a small sandy beach at the institute where I waded in the water and watched the birds before heading back to town. There are many colorful shops to stop in along the walk back and a big crowd gathers each afternoon at the dock when the fishermen set up to sell their daily catch; huge pelicans wait to be thrown fish scraps as tourists snap photos. For dinner, I went to La Garrapata where I had fish that was very overcooked, but the service and outdoor dining area was nice and they had free wireless.

The next day a bus picked me up at my hotel at 5:45 a.m. for the day trip to Bartolome Island, one of the most-photographed landscapes of the Galapagos. After an hour long drive back to the channel between Santa Cruz and Baltra Islands where many boats are docked, we reached the Narel Yacht which was a nice, clean boat with a small upper deck where all ten of us managed to squeeze in. After about half an hour we had a much needed breakfast along the way. Sailing was very smooth while we were sheltered by Santa Cruz, but the waves became much bigger as we approached the open ocean. A large frigate bird flew right with us for the last twenty minutes over the top of our boat.

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When we arrived at Bartolome we had a hike up to one of the most beautiful views anywhere – looking out over Bartolome’s crescent-shaped north and south beaches and across to Santiago Island as Pinnacle Rock and the turquoise water completed the picture.

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Galapagos photosWe saw lots of red crabs and lava lizards and, luckily, a Galapagos hawk that perched on a rail just feet from us. As we were returning to the boat to change, we were surrounded by a pod of dolphins; it was magical. Next there was a choice between a short snorkeling excursion near the rocks or swimming from the beach which is what I did. At the beach there were many female and baby sea lions. The people who went snorkeling raved about the multitude of fish they saw.

 

 

 

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Galapagos photosBack on the boat we had a good lunch of chicken, asparagus, rice, vegetables and salad with watermelon for desert; pretty good for a meal cooked in a tiny ship’s galley. Afterwards some of us went to the lava fields on Santiago Island. The shiny black lava is in all kinds of interesting formations – some looking like avante-garde art.

 

 

Galapagos photos

The return trip was much rougher, but the captain did a good job getting us back. After the bus ride back I went to Familiar William’s for dinner where I tried their fish with coconut sauce – it was much tastier than the one I’d had the previous night, though the surroundings and atmosphere were lacking – as they just set up the tables right in the middle of the street (which is blocked off at night), but it is cheaper, faster and better.


Galapagos photosThe next day I had a filling continental breakfast of fruit, yogurt, granola, toast and coffee at my hotel. I packed up my stuff for my afternoon ferry to San Cristobal and then headed over to Tortuga Bay for a few hours. A nice trail leads through native vegetation for about 40 minutes and then I reached the gorgeous long white sand beach with lots of marine iguanas to look at. They especially like the area near the mangroves between the first beach and a second beach which sits in a protected cove – the only advised place for swimming because the currents are so strong at the first one that it is just used by surfers. The marine iguanas look like such prehistoric creatures with their wrinkled skin and their big dinosaur-like tails. At the second beach I saw several large brown pelicans and a huge stingray.

 

 

 

Galapagos photos

I could have easily spent all day there, but I had to get back for my 2 p.m. boat (which didn’t end up leaving until almost 3). I was happy I didn’t have lunch because the sea was very rough and all the ferries are speedboats that hit pretty hard after each big wave, so two people got sick on out boat, and several others looked like they were going to. I took homeopathic pills to avoid seasickness which I think really helped me. Finally we arrived at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno after two long hours.


When I got there I took a taxi to my hotel, Casa Iguana Mar Y Sol, a very nice guesthouse owned by an American, Patricia and built by an Ecuadorian, Luis. They run the place together and one of them is always around to see that things Galapagos photosgo smoothly. It was artistically built with hand-carved doors and windows and handmade furniture as well. Patricia showed me to my room and told me about the area. I started by walking down the boardwalk alongside the harbor in the center of town which had a multitude of seals lounging on the beach and draped over the rocks. At night you can hear seals barking instead of dogs barking; it is quite unique!


Galapagos photosI liked the town much better than Puerto Ayora, as it is smaller, cleaner, and much closer to nature so more interesting. You can have your coffee, drinks, or meal overlooking a beach teeming with sea lions and watch their fascinating interactions.


I had dinner at La Playa on Patricia’s suggestion – it was excellent. I ordered the Galapagos prawns (which is actually lobster) in coconut sauce. The place was packed with people even on a Thursday night.


Galapagos photosThe next day I went on an excursion to Kicker Rock. The speedboat took us first to seal island where we snorkeled with seals in the clear azure water. The babies were so playful that they were jumping in the air and diving between us. We also saw lots of puffer fish and blue-footed boobies.

 

 

 

Galapagos photosAfter about forty-five minutes we went to Kicker Rock where the water was much darker, colder, and rougher. There is a channel to swim through between two huge monoliths where there are almost always Galapagos sharks, and just so we weren’t disappointed there were five of them together in the middle. I was a bit intimidated, especially when I looked down and there was one swimming directly underneath me. There was more snorkeling along the cliffs and people could head back to the boat whenever they wished, but no one lasted too long this time because of the cold (or maybe the sharks).


We headed to a small, uninhabited island with a sandy beach to explore and go sea kayaking. We ate boxed lunches of chicken, rice, and salad on the boat (as conservation doesn’t allow picnicking on the island itself) and took turns using the kayak around the bay and the mangroves. I saw several large sea tortoises that kept poking their heads up to breathe and tried to follow them. There were also seals and lots of interesting birds including frigates and yellow warblers. We got back to town around 3 pm and I headed back to my hotel to shower and change. Patricia offered me some tea and we talked about her experience living there and running the hotel. It feels like you’re staying in someone’s home more than a hotel, but at the same time it is the nicest (and probably friendliest) place in town.


I went to Miramar for dinner and ordered the pasta with fish and brandy cream sauce. They sent out an appetizer which was a nice surprise – seafood in pastry Galapagos photosshells, and the dessert (tiramisu) was on the house as well, but that was advertised. The food was good, but the best part was the location – it overlooks a beach filled with sea lions, so you can watch them the whole time.

 

 

 

Galapagos photosAfter Luis’ homemade pancakes and coffee I joined a tour to the highlands that a couple at my hotel was going on. We went to the tortoise breeding center where there were lots of giant tortoises to look at and their babies as well and our guide explained their behavior and how their sex is determined by the temperature the egg is incubated at, so they are keeping many more at a higher temperature to have more females so the species reproduces faster.

 

Next we headed down to a beautiful beach for a swim. There were seals, pelicans, and on a rocky outcrop nearby, blue-footed boobies that let me get very close – they are so cute with their electric-blue feet.

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Afterwards we went to a ranch for a huge lunch of fruit, chicken, rice and vegetables. Then we hiked up to the lagoon in the crater of an old volcano where the frigates come to wash the salt water off their feathers. Finally, we went to a viewpoint over the town and small islands and got on mountain bikes and coasted back to our hotel, as the trip was mostly downhill. It was 5 p.m. when we got in Galapagos photosand I quickly made my way up to the San Cristobal interpretation center that closes at 6 p.m. It has a beautiful pathway through the native fauna of the area and goes to lookouts over two beaches. I went down to one, which like most beaches here was covered with sea lions. The walkways are all new and it is very nicely done; I wish I’d had more time to explore it.


Getting back at dusk I had a glass of wine kindly offered by Patricia and some interesting conversation with her and the other guests. I went to the Miconia Hotel’s restaurant for dinner which was very good. They have a salad bar with lots of choices that they offer before their meals and my fish was very tasty, but be sure to bring cash as they charge 22% extra for credit cards.


If I’d stayed another day on San Cristobal I probably would have gone to Punta Pitt, a place all the way at the far end of the island where you can see the red footed booby which is very rare and most people who come to the Galapagos never see it. It is a very long boat trip though and a guide told me that it’s only worth it if you can get out and do a hike around the area as opposed to just seeing them from the boat. San Cristobal is also famous for surfing and I met a couple of surfers who’d been there a month.


Galapagos photosI had an early start because the ferry to Santa Cruz leaves at 7 am. It was much less rough on the way back, probably because of the currents. So if you can arrange to fly into one island and out of the other I’d start on San Cristobal and fly out of Santa Cruz/Baltra (unless you’re flying Lan, like I was, where they only fly in and out of Baltra). I spent the whole rest of the morning in Hotel Sol y Mar’s bar seats – this is one of Puerto Aroya’s few restaurants with seats directly on the water, as almost all just look over the main street. It was the perfect place to spend several hours with my bag in tow and I saw a blue heron, pelicans, and many iguanas while I waited.


 

 

Galapagos photosI caught the 2 p.m. ferry to Puerto Villamil on Isabela, a gorgeous island without any paved roads and beautiful beaches. I checked in at Hotel Albemarle which has the best location in town on a perfect crescent beach full of palm trees. My room had a balcony with a perfect view over the turquoise water and the pure white sand. It was nicely decorated and had a huge bathroom with double sinks and a rain shower. There is also a small pool, a restaurant, hammocks, wireless and a computer for guests’ use.

 


 

 

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The walk around town didn’t take long, but the beach goes on for miles, and there is almost no one on it! I thought this must be paradise!

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I arranged a volcano tour for the next morning and then walked around the beaches until sunset. For dinner I tried Lo Encanto de Pepe where I had a fairly good grilled fish meal. I slept soundly with the sound of waves crashing on the shore.

I had an early breakfast at the hotel of fruit, muesli, yogurt, toast and coffee and Galapagos photosthen was picked up to go on an excursion to the Sierra Negra volcano. We drove half an hour until the end of the road and then embarked on the four-hour hike. After about forty minutes we reached the caldera, a huge expanse that last erupted in 2005. Then we hiked to Volcan Chico, which has a beautiful vista between the sea surrounding us and the volcano.

Galapagos photos

Our guide told us about the volcanic activity on the islands and how Isabela and Fernandina are two of the most volcanically active islands on earth. Fernandina is so active that it keeps expanding and may at some point become attached to Isabela, after all Isabela started out as five separate volcanoes that eventually joined into the largest island of the Galapagos. Along the way we saw a Galapagos short eared owl (in daytime!), a vermillion flycatcher, lizards, yellow warblers, and interesting plants such as Galapagos cotton. We took a break for lunch before descending, but by then it was quite hot.

 

 

Galapagos photosIt was a relief to get back to my hotel and jump into the sea to cool down. It was just me and a stingray, but there must have been a large school of fish that swam into the area because all of the sudden there were many blue footed boobies swarming over my head and diving down all around me. Also seals, pelicans and frigates came and joined in. There must have been a hundred birds circling around as I got out of the water to watch. After the feeding frenzy the blue-footed boobies stayed perched on the rocks and ten pelicans were floating on the shore – it was like Las Tintoreras (a popular day-trip area nearby) had come to me!


Galapagos photosIn late afternoon I went to the lagoon right in town to watch the flamingos; there were only three of them, but they were so elegant and graceful. For dinner I went to Los Delfins where a soup, grilled fish with rice, juice and dessert cost just $7.


 

 

 

Galapagos photosIn the morning I went on a day trip to Los Tuneles. Myself and some others from my hotel had hired a fishing boat to take us out there. It is a forty-five minute boat ride out and is an area incredibly rich with sea life. It is an area of large and small tunnels and archways created from volcanic rock. The soft parts have been worn away by the sea, creating many calm caverns which are ideal for fish, sea turtles, and sharks, among others.


Our noisy, smelly boat somehow maneuvered through the formations and then Galapagos photos we got out and walked around some of them, watching the huge sea tortoises and eagle rays float by in the clear water below us. As this area was protected, we went to a different area to go snorkeling (though if you ask me, our snorkeling would have been much less disruptive than the boat we were in). The fishing boat captain was our guide and knew the area well, although he didn’t speak English. We saw white-tipped sharks, barracuda, puffer fish, eagle rays, a huge manta ray, tortoises, lots of colorful fish, and best of all, sea horses! It was incredible. I wished I had brought an underwater camera.


Galapagos photos Along the rocks we also saw Galapagos penguins (they’re so cute!) and more blue-footed boobies. Although the boat was very basic with a fuming motor that didn’t seem like it was going to make it, and didn’t come with the usual tour amenities of lunch, snorkeling gear, and an English-speaking guide, Los Tuneles is a spectacular place to explore and I’m surprised that you don’t see it on many tourist itineraries.


When we returned I stayed down at the dock area to go snorkeling at Concha de Perla, a natural ‘pool’ near the docks with lots of fish and sea lions. It is a short walk through the mangroves to get to the quiet, sheltered spot, and you may run into sea lions right on the walkway.

I then walked back to town, had a quick lunch, and went to my hotel to shower and change before looking for a new place to stay with my new friends whom I’d met on the boat. I’d decided I wanted to spend another night on Isabela and my hotel was already completely booked, and they were in the same position. In fact, many people who come to Isabela want to extend their stay, but this is more challenging than it sounds as there are no ATM’s on the island, so you can only extend your stay by as much time as whatever cash you have will last, and since most places only take cash, credit cards won’t save you (Hotel Albermarle is one of the few places that does take credit cards, but if it's already booked you’re out of luck). So we looked at some of the cheap hotels in town that charge about $20 a night and decided on one that in retrospect I wouldn’t recommend, Hotel Volcano.


The next day three new friends and I rented bikes and rode to the tortoise sanctuary and then to the wall of tears, a large stone wall built by prisoners. It is at Galapagos photos the end of a long tourist trail perfect for mountain biking that has many viewpoints, mangrove forests and secluded beaches like Playita, where we ended up swimming. We stopped at most of these different points along the way, some teeming with marine iguanas, another where you hike up to a high point, arriving at a 360 degree panorama. There is definitely enough to do to keep you going all day, but it was very hot, so swimming in the beautiful water was the best part.

Galapagos photos

Afterwards we tried to find a place open for lunch, but were out of luck as it was 3:30 and everything was closed, so we grabbed some snacks and decided to have an early dinner which was difficult as there was a power outage and most of the restaurants didn’t open for dinner, so we went back to Lo Encanto de Pepe – the only place open and ate by candlelight.


We then went to a beach bar right across from our new hotel which was great as they had hammocks and someone playing guitar and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. The blackout didn’t matter here as candles set the perfect mood. When we went back to our hotel the power was still out and they gave me a candle to go upstairs. Unfortunately, I saw two cockroaches and that pretty much ruined my sleep for the night; when the lights came back on I left them on all night so the roaches wouldn’t come in my room. I had to leave at 5:30 am anyways for my 6 am ferry. It’s still dark at 5:30 and I can’t see why all the boats leave so early and all at the same time. Why not have a late afternoon departure as well to create some more options?


There are many other things to do on Isabela as well – diving is very popular and so is the tour of Las Tintoreras – an area of low rocks near the harbor where you can see sea lions and blue-footed boobies and go snorkeling – its 2-3 hours and costs $20. You could also spend at least one day lounging on the beautiful beaches.


I arrived in Puerto Ayora at 8:30 am and went to Casa de Lago for breakfast – a large, varied breakfast with a pancake, an omelet, fruit with yogurt and granola, coffee and fresh juice. Then I was off to find a place to stay for this last night. I looked at a couple of places and decided on one of the popular budget choices, Hotel Espana – it has very small and simple rooms, but they are clean and without any bugs which was my main criteria for this last night where I had another very early morning departure.


Galapagos photos I did some souvenir shopping and then went to Tortuga Bay for the rest of the day – it was cooler than the time I went the previous week, but I lay on the beach and relaxed and took more time looking at all the birds and lizards on the walk down. There was one mockingbird that walked, jumped, and flew right next to me for about five minutes while singing; I was amazed at how unafraid so many of the birds were. It was very cloudy and kept threatening to rain but never did until evening and then only some light sprinkling. Since it was the beginning of December, this was the very end of the dry season and the start of the rainy season, but the benefit of the wet season here is the currents bring warmer water and the parched earth is reinvented with flowers.

For dinner I went to The Rock and had their ‘Lonesome George’ fish that was good and a pina colada. They draw people in with their ‘2 for 1 cocktails’ sign out front, but then only honor it for rum and cokes or caipirinhas. Anyways, the place had a nice atmosphere though it was mainly filled with foreigners (the locals have already figured out their false advertising). Early the next morning I took a taxi across the island to the ferry crossing to Baltra for my return flight.


There are many more day trips that could be done from Santa Cruz – there is Floreana which you can visit every day and is as little as $65 for the full day tour including transport, lunch, and gear. Then there are North Seymour ($90) and Plazas ($90) which go a couple times a week. North Seymour is the place to go for the blue footed booby, especially during mating season when they do the cutest mating dance; it is also famous for diving. Plazas is better for marine iguanas and unique fauna. Then there are highland tours where you see the tortoises in the wild ($35), bay tours on glass bottomed boats ($30), and you can hire a taxi ($25) to take you to Garrapata Beach with its translucent water and salt lagoon with flamingos.


If you decide on an independent itinerary, I’d advise you to leave at least a little flexibility in your schedule – perhaps a couple unplanned days at the end, so you can spend a little longer on whichever island you’re most drawn to and re-adjust your schedule to deal with any flight delays. My flight from New York on Lan was delayed 10 hours which meant I missed my flight to the Galapagos, had to stay in Guayaquil and didn’t get a flight until the following day, as they only leave once a day. Also, this meant I could no longer fit North Seymour into my schedule, though it would have fit in perfectly if I had arrived when I was supposed to, so I was very disappointed about that. If you do decide on a cruise you should plan to arrive at least a day before, as if you miss your flight there is no way the boat will come back to get you.


As for costs, day trips are very reasonably priced from $20-120 (with most being around $50) and those are per person, so if you happen to be traveling alone like I was you don’t need to pay some exorbitant single supplement like you would on a cruise. Nice hotel rooms like the ones I stayed at the first 8 nights will run about $100-150 a night (with budget options in the $20-30 price range). Most ferry rides are $25, taxi’s in town are $1, food costs are less than the US, but more than mainland Ecuador as almost everything needs to be imported.


So, for example, if you have two people and took the exact trip I did you’d pay $515 each for the 10 nights in hotels, $315 each for day tours/activities, and $115 each for ferries and transportation for a grand total of $945 each. If you were able to get the flight deal I got that would price an amazing trip at under $1500 pp from NY. By comparison an 8-night cruise (without flights) on a mid-range boat averages $2-3,000 per person (for double occupancy) and if you were to look at the high end options (or single occupancy) they would be off the charts ($4-7,000). The advantage of cruises is that much of the travel is done at night while you’re asleep, so first thing in the morning you’ll be at your first site to explore. Of course, if you suffer from seasickness then that would be a tough week for you.


Even land based tours can be very expensive if you buy them as a package, GAP Adventures which focuses on students and mid-range tours charges $2,699pp for a 10-day (9-night) ‘adventure’, or $1,999pp for its ‘Galapagos on a Shoestring’ package which is similar except you stay in ‘basic’ lodging and tents. You take the same ferries I took and go on the same (but far fewer) tours, and no meals are included, so I have no idea what the huge markup is. You’re better off arranging it yourself or through a travel agent who doesn’t charge a premium. Add the $100 Galapagos National Park fee and the $10 tourist card to whichever option you choose.


The Galapagos is one of the most incredible, unique, authentic places anywhere. If you love seeing interesting species that are not afraid of humans this is the place for you. Though development has been way too fast on Santa Cruz, the other islands (especially Isabela) have an untouched quality even though they have many hotels and restaurants. The uninhabited islands are pristine and some have wooden pathways built as to not disturb the vegetation. In most places the guides have done a good job telling people not to feed or disturb the animals, so they act naturally and their habits haven’t changed. There are exceptions to this, though the only one that I saw was at Tortuga Bay where I pulled out some crackers on the beach and was inundated with Darwin’s finches who have obviously been fed by humans, but this is one of the few places where you can go without a guide, as to go to all the uninhabited islands you’ll need a naturalist guide.

Galapagos photos

All in all, my trip was fabulous – the Galapagos are truly a unique paradise. I wish I stayed longer and made it to a few more of the uninhabited islands, but when I return I surely will.



©Christina Kay Bolton


Details:

Hotels:

Galapagos Suites, Santa Cruz: http://www.galapagossuites.com/, $100-175

Casa Iguana Mar y Sol, San Cristobal: http://www.sancristobalbb.com/, $100-250

Hotel Albemarle, Isabela: http://www.hotelalbemarle.com/, $100-250

National Park:

http://www.galapagospark.org/

Published in in-depth
Monday, 25 October 2010

Honeymoon in Ireland

Hampton HotelWe arrived on the Emerald Isle at almost midnight, rented a car, and attempted to find our hotel. We had a small setback due to the fact that the steering wheel was on the right, the gearshift on the left, and we had to drive on the left side of the road - we'll have to factor in some extra time to adjust the next time we travel to Ireland. After almost sideswiping an entire street of cars, we found Hampton Hotel, a boutique hotel in a nice neighborhood in Dublin. We were warmly welcomed and found our beautiful premium room definitely worthy of a honeymoon. It was a huge room with a king sized bed, sitting area, couch with a 50” wide-screen TV, LCD fireplace, and a large bathroom with rain shower and tub. This is a luxe property in Dublin boasting amenities like heated floors in the bathrooms and is decorated with modern art. We relaxed watching the fire dance and slept very well in our big comfy bed.

Hampton HotelWe woke late, happy that breakfast is served in the restaurant until 11:30 a.m. There is a trendy restaurant and bar downstairs where my new hubby had the full Irish breakfast (bacon, sausage, eggs, mushrooms, black and white pudding (another pork creation), potato patties, and grilled tomatoes) and I tried the definitely less fattening Irish porridge.

When it came to planning our day, the front desk person was extremely helpful in going over every possible option with us; she was also very enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge of the city, even though she’d probably done it thousands of times. From the hotel it was a 10 minute walk to St. Stevens Green, the park where all of Dublin seems to hang out on sunny summer afternoons like the one we (luckily) got. We explored Dublin’s pedestrian streets with their multitude of sidewalk café’s, pubs and shops. We walked around Trinity College, the Temple bar area, and O’Connell Street.

Dublin is the most multicultural city in Ireland and has a variety of culinary choices besides the standard pub fare you’ll find in many small towns. We decided to try a Lebanese restaurant called Byblos for an early dinner. We tried a vegetarian platter and a lamb dish, then went to a pub for a Guinness, served in traditional Irish style, unchilled but in a chilled glass. Eventually, we headed back to our hotel room to watch the World Cup on the sofa—very comfortable.

After another late breakfast, we headed across the country to Ballynahinch Castle in Connemara, the wild rough coast of Galway County. Most of the drive was highway, but after we passed Galway it turned into the narrow windy roads that Ireland is known for. The old castle is in a beautiful location perched next to a river and our Ballynahinch castleroom had a view over it as well as a door right onto the river, as if the whole area was our patio. It is an excellent river for fishing and we could watch fly fishers right from our window. It is such a peaceful, silent spot and the room was nicely decorated in antique style. The lobby had a roaring fire going when we arrived and it was much needed even though it was July! Ireland has so much mist, dampness and rain that it rarely feels warm, even in summer.

IMGP4882There is a very nice restaurant at the castle with views overlooking the river which serves a prix fixe 4-course meal for 60 euro. There is also a pub, which is what we chose. It was not typical pub food, but nicely plated quality meals prepared in the same kitchen as its more expensive sister restaurant. We had chicken with asparagus and homemade lamb sausages with potatoes. It was a very hearty, tasty meal.

The next morning we had breakfast in the lovely restaurant with a view. Ballynahinch has an extensive buffet with delicious fruit salad, homemade granola, breads, cheeses, croissants, jams, yogurt, and juices. Many castle hotels offer a breakfast buffet with a plated hot meal included, so we also chose items from the menu to be prepared by the chef, eggs for him and fresh fish for me. It is common in Ireland to have a huge breakfast, so we found ourselves skipping lunch every day.

IMGP4859Afterwards we went on a walk around the castle’s property with Noel, a guide who explained the castle’s storied history on a leisurely walk. A boat man came to row us out on a short ride to the ruins of a small fort on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. It had been owned by a famous ‘pirate queen’ Grace O’Malley and was built there to keep intruders out. It had a good view of all the surrounding hillsides, so they would at least have notice of an attack. It was very relaxing being on the lake. We then headed back to the hotel and borrowed Wellies and rain jackets from the hotel for our afternoon fly fishing lesson with Jonathan.

 

 

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We started in the labyrinth area learning how to cast on the wide lawn so we could practice as much as we wanted without getting the line caught in the bushes at the water’s edge. Then we went down to the river to try out our new skills. Jonathan was a great teacher and patiently untangled our lines from the brush when they got caught. The river is picture perfect for fly fishing – many people come here just to fish salmon. A light rain started in late afternoon and then we saw many trout and salmon jumping. We didn’t catch any, but we did have a great time learning—it was very meditative and relaxing as well as authentic and fun. We warmed ourselves by the fire and then headed back to our room. We ordered room service which was delivered on large wooden trays with starched linens and real silver and ate in our pretty room while enjoying the view.

IMGP4885After another lovely breakfast, we headed out to Roundstone village where the fishing boats are as colorful as the houses. Connemara is a place of wild, rugged beauty from the craggy cliffs of the seashore to the hills with sheep grazing in the lush green between rocks. We drove along the seashore and stopped at a beach with millions of little shells where the sand was just roughly pulverized shells, not good for barefoot walking, but excellent for beachcombing.

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We stopped for coffee in Clifden, the main town in the area with its brightly painted shops and then headed towards Kylemore Abbey just before it started to pour. We managed to capture a couple of pictures before running back to the car. We continued across to Ashford Castle just across the county line in Cong, co. Mayo.

IMGP4901Ashford Castle is a 13th century castle that really feels like you’re stepping back in time when you enter. We arrived at the large gated property where the smiling gate keeper let us in, not fazed by the rain. We drove through many acres of plush lawns and golf greens before crossing the old bridge just before the castle itself. The friendly staff greeted us and walked us through rooms filled with antiques. We had a nice room on the 2nd floor overlooking the lake and the old castle towers. Ashford Castle is surrounded by 300 acres of gardens as well and feels very expansive.

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There are two restaurants at the castle – the formal George V Dining Room with an award winning chef where a 4-course menu is 68 euro and jackets are required for men. Though the menu looked fabulous we chose to go to the bistro style Cullens Cottage for a lighter meal. The meal started with quite a variety of breads with flavored oils. I ordered the duck confit salad and my husband chose the salmon with mashed potatoes and strawberries which was delicious. The menu’s here are also planned by the head chef of the George V. There are also light meals and afternoon tea served in the drawing room during the day.

IMGP4907After our dinner we played backgammon on the large elegant board next to the bar while we listened to the live entertainment. There was a piano player and a personable singer taking requests for old standards. If you do stay here be sure to visit all the rooms near the lobby area, especially the one with walls filled with antique plates. There is also a hallway upstairs with pictures of famous people who’ve stayed here.

Breakfast was truly a feast. The buffet had 25 items and then from the menu I chose the light, airy pancakes served with berry compote and thick clotted cream—delicious.

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On our walk around the grounds we saw the School of Falconry, which Ashford Castle is known for. We didn’t participate, but did see a class in progress with the large hawks perched on the thick gloved hands of the students before flying off and coming back again. More than a sport, it was a traditional way to capture food brought to Europe and the British Isles from the Far East.

Ashford Castle is in the cute village of Cong with its rows of pastel houses with window boxes overflowing with flowers and the ruins of an old abbey. It is about 45 minutes north of Galway, our Sunday afternoon stop. Galway was very busy—its IMGP4968pedestrian streets were full of people popping in and out of shops and sitting at sidewalk café’s—I’m sure it helped that it was a sunny afternoon, but we were surprised how much was going on. There was a street market selling snacks and arts and crafts from Ireland as well as far flung places like India. Many street performers were trying to catch a crowd, even quite a few with little (or no) talent! There are several museums and cathedrals to see in Galway, too, if you have time to spend more than a few hours.

 

 

IMGP4971We continued to Cappabhaile House in Ballyvaughan, a small family-run hotel in the Burren. It was a meticulously clean and nicely decorated inn with flowers and plants everywhere. Our room had a view of wide farmland with a farmhouse in the distance. We had a sleigh bed and walls painted burnt orange.

This was the night of the final World Cup game and the innkeeper, Conor, helped us choose a place in town to see it, since that seemed more important than the food. We ended up at a standing room only pub and restaurant where with some luck and perseverance we managed to snag a table with a view of the large screen TV. The food was not great, but the air was filled with excitement as people cheered on their favorite team.

IMGP4974Breakfast was a huge meal with porridge or cereal as a first course and then a full Irish breakfast, an omelet, or a number of other options as the second. Conor recommended we drive back a few miles to see the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey before continuing down the beautiful coastal road to the Cliffs of Moher. Along the way we stopped at several lookouts where you could walk right to the edge of the cliffs and look back over terraced limestone hills. There is so much stone in these parts that everything seems to be made of it—from the houses to the ‘fences’ along property borders. We also saw some traditional thatched roofs of the area.

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IMGP5014We got to the Cliffs of Moher and realized why its Ireland’s #1 tourist site, while enjoying the fabulous views. It is dramatic and spectacular. As a visitor you’re allowed to go to the main overlook sites which are great, but have large concrete retaining walls (nice if you have kids). When we got to the last one, we saw almost everyone stepping over a very small barrier meant to keep people out and walking past a sign that says ‘No Entry, Private Property’ up one of the most beautiful trails anywhere right along the cliffs. We loved the views and being right at the edge and since there were hundreds of people over there it was hard to worry about any consequences. We also went to the top of the lookout tower which gets you slightly higher, but is also crowded and tough to get a good photo in, so is not a must-do activity.

 

 

 


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IMGP5048We continued our drive to Dromoland Castle where we’d be spending the night. Dromoland is a gorgeous rebuilt castle on manicured grounds between Ennis and Limerick. After a warm welcome we were shown to the Queen Anne Suite – the perfect honeymoon suite!

 


IMGP5056Decorated in shades of pale green, yellow, and white with chandeliers hanging in both the bedroom and the sitting room, thick draperies, and sumptuous linens – it was luxurious. Unlike the other castles that were older and more authentic (right down to the spiders in the bedrooms) this one was more modern as it was rebuilt in the 1800’s and then renovated in the 1960’s into a resort hotel. The bathroom was huge and done in polished marble; it even had a flat screen TV over the tub, so you could lay there and watch a movie if you liked (if you got tired of watching the two other flat screen TV’s in its other rooms). Other modern perks were a Bose stereo and ipod doc. Our view from tall windows over the golf course and lake along with its comfy couch and lounge chair meant we almost didn’t want to leave the room. But curiosity took over and we went out to explore.

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The castle is filled with antiques and large portraits and is said to look similar to how it did when it was privately owned. Downstairs there is a spa and a large whirlpool and in another building nearby is a huge, quiet swimming pool. A lush walled garden with an abundance of flowers is next door. The lake has boats you can borrow if you like and there is fishing, horse riding, tennis, golf, archery, carriage rides, two restaurants and a classy bar. In short, you don’t need to leave and probably won’t want to.

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We had dinner at the Earl of Thomond Restaurant which was a four-course extravaganza served by waiters in tuxes. I had fois gras to start, grapefruit sorbet, lamb with eggplant & pepper chutney and potatoes with sautéed onions. For dessert, I chose tiramisu and then petit fours were served with the coffee. Everything was delicious and presentation was top notch. There is also a less formal choice for dinner, the Fig Tree Restaurant which also serves lunch.

 

 

Breakfast was a large, gracious buffet along with a menu item— I tried the sole with lemon butter which was perfectly cooked. We relaxed in our grand room a little longer before checking out and heading toward the Ring of Kerry. We saw a deer bounding by as we were leaving the estate. It was a misty, rainy day, but it did clear by the time we got to Killarney where we walked around town, went to the cathedral and had hot chocolate in Skellig’s chocolate café. Killarney is where people typically begin the Ring of Kerry, with most taking on the northern route first; in fact tour buses are all required to go in that direction because the twisty narrow roads would not allow for two buses to pass each other and could lead to a precarious position.

IMGP5090We decided on the southern route first, as our cottage for the night was in Caherdaniel, along the southern coast. Shortly after leaving the town the road passes through the lush Killarney National Park with its bountiful walking paths. We stopped at a couple pull-off points and walked around a bit, but didn’t stay as long as we liked as it was early evening and we wanted to get to Picin Cottage before dusk. After passing through the low mountains, the road emerges at the coast and follows it past beaches and bluffs until a small, very easy to miss hand painted sign saying only ‘Picin’ emerges at a dirt road not much bigger than a driveway. We followed it up and saw the little cottage that we’d seen pictures of on the internet.


IMGP5104Amelia, one of the owners, gave us a warm welcome, offered us drinks, and showed us around. They had restored the cute 200 year-old cottage themselves and added their home through an addition, so there is a door connecting the cottage’s living/dining room to their kitchen. Everything has been done in style, especially the rustic yet elegant bathroom with its romantic clawfoot tub lit by candles. The decoration was eclectic— antiques next to modern light fixtures; a polished faucet adorns a handmade-looking sink; a stack of twigs and peat logs sit next to an old woodstove yet the upstairs bedroom has skylights overlooking the valley.


IMGP5110Amelia had the fire going when we got in and later I took a long, relaxing soak in the tub by candlelight in the warm bathroom. Climbing into the comfy bed covered with a pure white duvet afterwards lead to a good nights rest. For breakfast we had fruit salad, local organic eggs from a farm on the same road, smoked salmon, toast, yogurt and cereal served in our own dining room.


The cottage is charming, quiet, and romantic with friendly and hospitable owners. It was a great place to unwind on a honeymoon—we wished we’d stayed longer. The only problem we had was finding it!


IMGP5130The stretch of coastline on the western edge of the Ring of Kerry, just after you leave Picin Cottage, was the most dramatic part. All the way up the west coast we stopped continuously for fabulous views of farmland, the ocean, and its islands. The absolute best part was actually the Skellig Ring, where the roads get even thinner and no tour busses can fit, making it quieter and more authentic. We walked on wild beaches and coves and even managed to stop for a tasting at Skellig’s chocolate factory that has one of the best views I can imagine for any type of factory.

 

 


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The weather took a turn for the worse when the mist and clouds rolled in and much of the northern stretch was obscured, so we continued on to Castlemartyr Resort in Cork County for our last night in Ireland. Castlemartyr is a newly restored 17th century manor house which had been redone as a 5-star resort. Owned by the same group IMGP5178as Dromoland Castle, everything has been nicely finished and the mix of modern conveniences and stately, old-style have merged. In our king-bedded room there was a digital control panel for the lights and even the do not disturb sign. The bathroom was covered in black marble and had the best rain shower of the whole trip—it actually felt like being drenched by rain. A separate dressing room with a fridge, hotpot, and French press coffeemaker were nice touches.

 

 

IMGP5172After settling in, we headed for the fabulous infinity pool. With its three story high glass walls overlooking the gardens, lounge chairs, and a Jacuzzi, I could have spent hours here. There was also a sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The pool was the perfect place to relax and there were big fluffy robes in the rooms, so we were able to walk back and forth in them and shower in our own room. A walk around the property reveals ruins of an old castle from 1210, the golf course, and some beautiful white horses.

Cork is only 20 miles away and was chosen by Lonely Planet as one of the 10 best cities to visit in 2010; it was called “sophisticated, vibrant and diverse”. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore it since we spent so much time on the coast.

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For dinner we visited Castlemartyr’s restaurant where we had a delicious meal of scallops with vegetable tian, celeriac soup, sea bass with carrots and potatoes, and chocolate cake; if that wasn’t enough we were given petit fours and coffee.

In the morning, we had another excellent meal with a large buffet of scones, croissants, cheeses, meats, smoked fish, cereals and yogurt and an extensive menu to choose from. The sunny dining room was a great last stop before our drive up to Dublin airport for our flight home.

IMGP5161We were fortunate to stay in some of the best, most authentic places in Ireland and that really added to our experience. The juxtaposition of exploring Ireland’s rugged, wild landscapes, and staying in fairy-tale castles and hotels made for a honeymoon like no other.

©Christina Kay Bolton

 

Details:

Dublin: Hampton Hotel, http://www.hamptonhotel.ie/

Connemara: Ballynahinch Castle, http://www.ballynahinch-castle.com/

Ashford Castle, http://www.ashford.ie/index.php

Ballyvaughan: Cappabhaile House, http://www.cappabhaile.com/

Dromoland Castle, http://www.dromoland.ie/

Ring of Kerry: Picin Cottage, http://www.picincottage.com/Home.html

Castlemartyr Resort, http://www.castlemartyrresort.ie/

Published in in love
Friday, 30 July 2010

Buddhist Temples of Thailand

Buddhist Temples of Thailand written by Joe Cummings with stunning photography by Dan White is the ultimate guide to Thailand’s most important temples. With the rich history of each temple outlined and interesting facts about the influence of Buddhism across Thailand today, this is one of the most comprehensive and accessible books on the subject.

Published in ink

 

guy savoyGuy Savoy is regarded by many as the best restaurant in Paris and if you look at its’ reviews on Trip Advisor you’ll see users have voted it to the top of the list, so it is #1 out of over 6,000 restaurants in Paris! After a recent lunch there on my honeymoon I wanted to add my vote for the #1 position not only in Paris, but in the world! The culinary feats of the chef left us repeating ‘incredible’ every time the excellent servers stopped by to pick up our empty plates.

It started out simple enough, we arrived and the doorman greeted us, the receptionist confirmed our table and we were seated in the quiet, comfortable dining room which only has about a dozen tables. Almost immediately, the food and wine started arriving. We were offered glasses of Guy Savoy Champagne and then given silver toothpicks skewered with fois gras and toast. Crusty bread was served with two types of butter, then a demitasse of chilled lobster consommé and a sea bass tartar arrived as an ‘amuse bouche’ — small tasty bites sent out by the chef to amuse the palate. No matter how small it was, everything was bursting with flavor.


Next the bread cart appeared, offering a huge selection of breads. When we hesitated, our server offered to pair the appropriate bread with each course, so he came faithfully before each course and brought a slice of sourdough, rye, multi-grain, etc. The sommelier also came to see if we would like a bottle of wine or preferred glasses to accompany the various tastes. We chose the later and were very impressed with his suggestions. Before the first course of the ‘Menu Prestige’ – a pea puree with a softly boiled quail egg on top – he brought us one of the best white wines I’ve ever tasted: Le Rocher des Violettes 2008.


The next course was heirloom tomatoes drizzled with a tangy vinaigrette and when we were done they surprised us by lifting the perforated plate on top to find a tomato tart underneath. Someone came by to serve a seaweed-citron sorbet which was the perfect accompaniment as the sweet with the sour vinegar sauce and luscious tomatoes was delectable.


Then Sea bass with three spices (coriander, ginger, and vanilla) was served along with another white wine and a rye bread. The fish was seared on the outside and tender inside, and shitake mushrooms and Swiss chard went perfectly with the delicate vanilla sauce. The mouthwatering Swiss chard was prepared with such care – all bitterness was gone as the outside of the stalks were peeled away, leaving the soft white interior. I had trouble even identifying which vegetable it was.


guy savoyYet another white wine, Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet 2006 was served with the next delicacy: Breton Lobster with avocado and chanterelle mushrooms. Simply delicious. Thank god the portions were small or we would have had to stop eating at this point. After that was their signature dish: artichoke soup with shaved truffles served with brioche filled with mushrooms, truffles, and truffle butter. It was a perfect combination and I can see why it’s a favorite; it’s rich and delectable without being heavy, and somehow works just as well in July as in fall, winter and spring.



We were served an excellent red wine: Chateau Bellegrave Pomerol 2002 with our next course, seared duck wrapped in duck liver. It was accompanied by an eggplant and zucchini mousse and a delicious duck ‘jus’ that had us dipping our bread. In classic French style, the cheese expert came by next with a cart packed full of at least 30 top-quality cheeses for us to choose from. We were pretty stuffed at this point and knew that dessert would follow so just had small tastes of a couple, though it is customary to have three full pieces.

We were glad we didn’t stuff ourselves with cheese as the desserts, like the food, were delectable and abundant. First was ‘Textures de fraises’, or “textures of strawberries,” which was made of the flavor-packed small French strawberries that we’d tasted throughout our trip. There was a strawberry ice, strawberry sorbet, strawberry puree, and dried strawberries on top. It was so good and accompanied by the well-chosen Chateau Soucherie 2007 Chaume dessert wine. Next was ‘Noir,’ a small dense chocolate cake with a dark chocolate cream on top. The cool cream with the dense cake was another great experiment with textures, and they complimented each other perfectly.


guy savoyWe were offered espresso (the only good espresso we had in Paris!) and just as we thought dessert was over were brought a huge dessert cart so we could choose more desserts! We were stuffed so we had to refuse the chocolate mousse, pistachio apricot tart, rice pudding, etc, and just took a couple of small French macaroons. As we were drinking our coffees, the attentive, generous wait staff brought us chocolates, financiers, and thin slices of apple tart to cap off our meal.


The meal was such an incredible smorgasbord of foods served like artwork on the plate by impeccable wait staff who noticed every detail. They were always there to refill our water glass or push the chair in for us if we came back from using the facilities. With this kind of service and food you know it must be pricey and you’re right. Aside from businessmen who seem to meet there more frequently, most people you’ll see are celebrating special occasions. guy savoyThe regular price for this 3-star Michelin experience is 285 euro each not including wine, but there is a 3-course ‘discovery’ lunch for 100 euro each which is a good way to try it out (mention it while booking). Right now they are offering a fabulous summer deal (but only for two more weeks) which is 5 courses and 5 wines for 130 euro per person for lunch or dinner after 10pm. I almost want to fly back to Paris to partake!


 

 

 

 

 

Our experience was a symphony of perfection— the food, the wine, the service, the atmosphere. You can usually get one or two right, but to have everything in one spot you know you must be at the best restaurant in Paris: Guy Savoy. It was the perfect end to our time in France and I’d recommend it as the crowning glory on any honeymoon.


©Christina Kay Bolton


Check their website for the latest menu’s and specials (and watch the great movie where you see a lot of the foods and the chefs at work): http://www.guysavoy.com/en/index.php

Published in in good taste
Monday, 03 May 2010

The Sweet Life in Paris

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz offers anecdotes about living in the city of lights as well as recipes to inspire your inner chef. Lebowitz, a pastry chef from San Francisco moves to Paris and while settling in experiences a series of humorous adjustments to Parisians and their lifestyle. .

Published in ink

Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives by Eyewitness Travel (with a foreword by Bill Bryson) is an inspiring book offering a plethora of choices for the traveler who feels beleaguered by crowds of tourists and the hawks they spawn.

Published in ink

When we arrived at Thiruvananthapuram’s (also known as Trivandrum) airport near the southern tip of India our driver, Arun, was magically waiting for us even though we’d given him the wrong arrival time and flight number. Arun works for SITA and was very personable, spoke English well, and was the source of great conversation throughout the trip. I told him we wanted to do a bit of sightseeing in town before heading out to Varkala beach, so we stopped to look at Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple (non-Hindu’s cannot go inside) and then explored the city palace museum which had some beautiful ivory pieces including a basinet made entirely out of ivory, some nice paintings, and a large throne-like chair adorned with huge crystals from Slovakia.

Published in in-depth

Rajasthan and the ‘Golden Triangle’ are exotic and amazing; its forts, palaces, natural wonders, culture and cuisine entice you at the same time that its poverty and pollution repulse you. All its contrasts create a vivid impression and an elixir for living vibrantly.

Published in in-depth
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