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A Quick Trip to Paris: Part One

On my last trip for work to London (read here) and France, I ended up with a few days in Paris. Even though most of my trip was spent at work, I did find blocks of time to enjoy the city and explore some new and old favorite haunts.

First up – the hotel! My work has a few “set” hotels in Paris, but I never found them to be particularly inspiring. On this trip, I was determined to try out some accommodations that still fit within my modest HR mandated travel budget. I ended up finding Relais Bosquet, a small three star hotel near the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars, in the 7th arrondissement.

Relais Bosquet Outside

I arrived in my room, and was pleasantly surprised – it was small yes, but with still enough space to move around, and had lots of light.

Relais Bosquet Bed

Relais Bosquet 2

There were coffee and tea making facilities in the room, and best of all – there was a newly renovated, quite large (for Paris) and very clean bathroom!

Relais Bathroom

Toiletries were provided, (but no conditioner). No problem as I went out and bought a 3 euro bottle of L’Oreal conditioner from the supermarket three stores down.

Relas Bosquet amenities

Overall, I would highly recommend Relais Bosquet as a hotel option in Paris. It was clean, comfortable, and in a fantastic location (more on that to come), and extremely reasonably priced (around 200 euro a night or less). If you like some more space, I would splurge for a Superior level room or above.

The only downsides I would note were the slower internet (my room was far as well, so the speed was even slower), and also the lack of room service. There was a buffet breakfast provided each morning, and if already included in your room rate, would definitely sufficient to start the day. If not, the hotel charged 15 euro per person for breakfast, which I found a little high as there were plenty of options just right outside the hotel. On most mornings, I just grabbed some fruit, a pastry and a coffee for less than 7 euro.

Now onto what I loved best about Relais Bosquet…the fabulous location. The hotel was literally just steps away from the famous Rue Cler.

Rue Cler

Rue Cler is a famous market street in Paris, with all kinds of shops and stands specializing in food.

Rue Cler Street

Just on one evening walk, I passed by some local shoppers picking up produce for their evening meal…

Rue Cler1 Continue Reading

Europe Travel

Stopover in London

A few weeks ago, I ended up in London for a quick stopover, to attend some meetings for work. In between my job duties I had a little bit of time to walk around, explore some familiar and new places, and eat! Here’s a summary of the brief free time I spent, in one of my favorite cities.

London is a city with many fantastic hotels, and had it been for my personal travel, I probably would have opted to stay at either Brown’s or The Connaught, (or The Berkeley, even though I don’t find the location ideal, I have a soft spot for it since it was where we got engaged!). Alas, my corporate travel budget guidelines didn’t seem to agree with me (by a long shot), so instead I found myself smack dab in the West End, at a little hotel called the Thistle Piccadilly.

Thistle Outside

I later learned that Thistle was actually a chain, with locations all over the city. I loved the location of mine  – it was really right in the middle of the West End, and there were posters for Stomp! and The Book of Mormon all over the place. It was fun to see people walking to go to their shows.

London West End

The hotel and room itself were fine and serviceable. I was given what I think was actually one of the worst in the place – a very small room with no view, and even that was spacious enough for one (and probably two, if you’re used to European hotel sizes).

Thistle Bed

I was quite disappointed with the breakfast- I ordered room service once morning and it was lackluster. I love big breakfast spreads, especially in Europe, so was let down. I ended up going next door to Pret my next morning.

Thistle Breakfast

However, if you are looking for a clean, no frills but well located hotel and the Thistle is available at a good price, I could definitely recommend it.

My first evening in London, I took a walk around the immediate neighborhood. I stepped outside the hotel, took a left, and about a minute of walking later, I was in Chinatown! I always have liked London Chinatown but honestly more for just a walk rather than to eat – living in the Bay Area, I’ve been spoiled for inexpensive options for Chinese food.

Chinatown

About a five minute walk from Chinatown later, I was at one of my new favorite stops in London – Paul A. Young Fine chocolates. I came to London with a mission to find some new great chocolate shops, and this definitely was my favorite find!

Paul Young Outside

Inside the shop was a huge display of truffles, as well as bars and hot chocolate.

Truffles

I picked up a few chocolates to try, but what I fell in love with were the brownies. Whoa. The best brownies I have ever had, and if you are in London, I would definitely recommend a stop! There are several locations in the city.

Paul Young treats

I bought a few extra to take home (the shop assured me of a two week shelf life). Continue Reading

Europe Food Travel

Budapest – Christmas Markets, Bock Bistro

This is part seven of my trip to Paris and Budapest. For the remainder of the series, please see below.

Paris – Hotel Esprit Saint Germain
Paris – The Marais, Le Bon Marche, Le Comptoir du Relais
Paris – St. Germain, Hermes, L’Avant Comptoir
Budapest – Four Seasons Gresham Palace
Budapest – Andrassy Avenue, Onyx
Budapest – Taste Hungary
Budapest- Christmas Markets, Bock Bistro

For my last post on Budapest, I wanted to share with you two of my final favorite stops while there  – Bock Bistro, and the Christmas Market.

Bock Bistro is one of the more popular restaurants in Budapest, and I would highly recommend reservations a week or so in advance before arriving.

Budapest - Bock Bistro

Budapest - Bock Bistro 2

Budapest - Bock Bistro Wine

When we arrived like the early bird Americans we are at 7:30 PM, the restaurant was still fairly empty.

Budapest - Bock Bistro Inside

By the way time we left in an hour or so however, it had already filled up!

Budapest - Bock Inside 4

From my experience, Bock is very successful because of its food (duh) – it was a very classic Hungarian and Eastern European menu, but slightly “elevated”. The ingredients used were top notch and the prices were very reasonable.

My first dish was a matzo ball soup with duck meatballs.

Budapest - Bock Soup

Mr. Feather’s dish – a prime rib stew with root vegetables and a horseradish foam.

Budapest - Bock - Beef

Classic chicken paprika with rice on the side.

Budapest - Bock chicken

And of course, dessert! This was a twist of a classic Hungarian dessert that Mr. Feather loved in his childhood – a chocolate and black cherry cake.

Budapest - Bock Dessert

As great as Bock Bistro (and the rest of our activities) were, my favorite activity we did in Budapest is the one I saved for last – the Christmas Fair. It was my first time getting to really explore a traditional European Christmas market and I loved the experience! I have Germany’s markets on my list next.

Budapest - CM14

The Budapest markets were a good size – not too large, and you could easily walk through the entire area in a few hours, stopping along the way to do some shopping and eating.

Budapest - CM15

Budapest - CM4

There were all kinds of delicious foods on display. I was a little sad that we had planned so many meals in Budapest – we only had room to select a few items over our days there. Next time I will leave more eating opportunities! Continue Reading

Europe Food Travel

Budapest – Taste Hungary

This is part six of my trip to Paris and Budapest. For the remainder of the series, please see below.

Paris – Hotel Esprit Saint Germain
Paris – The Marais, Le Bon Marche, Le Comptoir du Relais
Paris – St. Germain, Hermes, L’Avant Comptoir
Budapest – Four Seasons Gresham Palace
Budapest – Andrassy Avenue, Onyx
Budapest – Taste Hungary
Budapest- Christmas Markets, Bock Bistro

During our stay in Budapest, we decided to take a food tour with the very highly reviewed Taste Hungary. We had a great time with our private guide Dora, and learned so much about the city’s cuisine and history. Even Mr. Feather, who is ethnically Hungarian and lived for years in Budapest, said that it was one of the most educational and fun activities we did on our trip. Here are some more details of the day we spent with Taste Hungary!

After a small breakfast (we were warned not to eat too much), we made our way to the Central Market – a large open food market in Budapest – where we would be met by our guide Dora.

Budapest - Food Tour CM outside

I loved the Central Market, and would recommended it as a stop for anybody visiting Budapest. It reminded me a bit of the bazaars in Istanbul, only quite a bit less crowded. It is a massive building – multiple stories with sellers of all kinds of goodies and foods.

Budapest - Food Tour CM2

Budapest - Food Tour CM3

Budapest - Food Tour Crafts

Our first stop in Central Market was actually not for food, but drink – actually, an alcoholic shot!

Budapest - Food Tour Unicum

Unicum is a traditional Hungarian alcohol with a very interesting history, which we learned about while sitting with Dora. The shot itself was good, though I have to admit that I really shouldn’t be drinking anything alcoholic before noon, (as I’ll typically be found passed out by 4 PM). Just a small shot though was a nice way to get a jolt and start our tour. Continue Reading