Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Paris food

My first time in Paris in 2004, I had no money to buy proper food or go to a proper restaurant. When I met a Filipina OFW while looking for Eiffel tower, she became my generous host and treated me to an American meal at Planet Hollywood and a restaurant in Venice where I had pasta. In between, I had some Filipino home-cooked food care of my newfound friend, food from grocery stores and McDonald's which was the cheapest meal I could find there. It was also near where I lived. Oh, and it was the first time I used Couchsurfing. It's even better than Airbnb because it's free!

my own room in a flat owned by a nice French family

Anyway, for the first few days Claire (the French woman) prepared breakfast for me. I think she pitied this poor traveler and thought i had no money for food whatsoever so I got the feeling that she expected me to eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was very thoughtful of them but I didn't want to trouble them. So in a nice way, i pretended that i wasn't used to eating breakfast but secretly, I went to McDo every morning before i take the Metro. Then i eat outside before i go back to the flat at night.

Now that i try to recall it, I don't remember anything i ate in Paris except for the McDo breakfast with orange juice and the hotdog I bought in the streets while walking around.

When i traveled before, the important thing for me was to just take in everything. I didn't think or plan where to eat. I could eat anywhere decent (fastfood is decent) or live anywhere (with a nice family) as long as i could travel. I didn't care about the distance. The flat in Paris was about 15 or so minutes away from the center and it was about 10 minutes walk from the Metro to the apartment building but it was free! My first time in New York, i lived in Queens with a friend which is about 30 minutes away by train. In Japan, i lived in Saitama also 30 minutes away from the center. Just like food, accommodation was not a priority to me.

I guess it's different when you're on a budget.

It has changed dramatically ever since I got myself a boyfriend who's hard to please when it comes to food. Nowadays, food is a major part in our travel itinerary. Planning one's travel around food has its disadvantages like going all the way to San Sebastian just for the food and realizing 2 days is already enough to explore the place instead of 4 OR not being able to just go in any restaurant without checking first the reviews at Tripadvisor. Still i appreciate good food when i have it. And in Paris, there were no shortage of it even in small cafes in nondescript Parisian streets.

Here are a list of my recommended restaurants in Paris. Make sure to eat here if you visit Paris.

1. Les Enfants Perdus
Rue des Recollets75010 ParisFrance

We were lucky to have this restaurant just a few meters away from our apartment. I still don't know how to pronounce the name but we went here twice and enjoyed both meals. We wanted to eat there on our last night in Paris but it was packed. Good service, nice restaurant ambiance, great food!

the blood sausage aka dinuguan French style

the best cheesecake i've ever eaten in the whole world!
try everything on the menu!

2.  Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie
34 rue Montmartre
75001 Paris
Neighborhood: Châtelet - Les Halles

We ordered the foie gras, beef tartare and this risotto.  Sadly i failed to take pictures of the others because i was so hungry and they were just delicious.

My risotto
Just don't order desert here :) We tried 2 of them and both were not good. If you go here, don't forget to drop by their store just beside the restaurant where you can buy canned foie gras and other products. You can't miss it.

3. Je The...Me

4, Rue d'Alleray ParisFrance

We went here on a Monday and found out it was closed Sundays and Mondays. Good thing we came back because the food didn't disappoint us.
My appetizer: foie gras pate

Erik's appetizer: tuna tartare
Iberian pork! I can eat this everyday!
Erik's main course. Looks delicious right?  

This restaurant is run by a family. The father takes the orders. I believe the son is the chef.

4. Claude Colliot
40 rue des Blancs-Manteaux75004 ParisFrance

I think i had the veal while Erik had sweetbreads. We enjoyed our food very much. And the good thing about this is it's not that expensive if i remember it right. Erik had the tasting menu while I ordered a la carte.

My asparagus salad
Erik's soup
Erik's fish

My yummy veal! 

Erik's delicious sweetbreads

I think this is the dessert but i don't remember

All i remember is that we were very satisfied after our meal.

I don't think i'll ever eat at McDonald's in Paris again. Thanks to Erik, his food addiction and Tripadvisor's free offline app because i discovered my love for French food. Now I can't wait to go back to Paris to eat more food and more foie gras! Sorry goose but i love to eat your fattened liver.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Airbnb experience

In two months, i have used Airbnb four times: in Barcelona, Provence, Paris and New York. The first three bookings went smoothly. But for New York, i got cancelled twice by my hosts. The first one the day after i booked which wasn't such a big problem since i had a time to look for replacement which i found a few days later. But that 2nd host also cancelled and this time two days before our departure to New York!

Inga has quite a number of apartment listings in New York. Two days before we left, i got a message from her. According to her, the owner refuses to leave the place until the 20th (we were supposed to arrive 16th) because of some construction being done at the place. I was really angry because aside from the fact that it was so hard to get an apartment in NY, she refused to be accountable for what happened and told me to cancel the reservation myself as she didn't want it to reflect on her record. She said it was not her fault but the owner's. I complained to Airbnb and they immediately took action. A few hours later, Inga cancelled the reservation. Airbnb refunded my money and gave me an additional $120 for my next booking. When i looked at her profile, there's an automated message from me that said, "The host cancelled my reservation two days before arrival." I would have said a lot more but according to Airbnb, if the transaction is incomplete, meaning i did not stay at the apartment, i cannot review the host. Good for her.

Anyway, that nightmare turned out well because i found another apartment a few hours before our flight. This one has a better location in the 4th floor of an old building. It's just a block away from the subway. It felt like home compared to Inga's place which is a condo in a new building. This has personal paintings, minimal but tasteful furniture and feels like someone actually lives here sometimes.

good thing i took a picture of the front door

the rest of the pictures are from

the living room

the bedroom
the comfortable sofabed

the relaxing bathroom with a view outside

the small but adequate kitchen

Despite the cancellations, i had a wonderful time using Airbnb and would still use it in my future travels. Aside from the cheaper rent per day compared to hotels, it gives you an experience to live like a local for even a few days and for me, that's a good enough reason to book at Airbnb.

Just choose your host carefully. In my case, i chose well four out of five times (i included the host from the first apartment in NY since she acted responsibly when she cancelled). Before i booked them, i read all the reviews from previous travelers. I also did that with Inga and read her positive reviews. I don't know why she has a lot of them.

Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. We were meant to stay at a better place. All's well that ends well.

back from NYC

i have so much to write about. so many stories and pictures to post but i don't have the energy right now. kapoy kapoy guid! i want to rest for another week. this time, really have a vacation and just do nothing, with no pressure of going somewhere or buying something.

during this NYC trip, i realized so many things about myself. but i will post about that later (if i have the time) as i'm beginning to feel sleepy now.

i'll just post this pic of us in Niagara park.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

these shoes are made for walking!

during travels abroad, about 50% is spent walking, 10% standing, 20% sitting down and 20% sleeping so naturally it's important to find the best and most comfortable shoes available. 

i remember my first out of the country trip, i relied on a Gola sneakers in white with flowery details. it was comfortable to wear and i never found another rubber shoes from Gola like that. ironically, it was my first and last Gola shoes. 

when i went to the US several years later during winter, i bought a Dr. Marten's high cut boots and i ended up using it about once for the whole trip. it was so uncomfortable! maybe because i didn't bring long socks to match it so it scraped my leg in the process.  

it's easy when travelling in late spring or summer because i can bring my sneakers, flats or open sandals but it's expected that my feet will hurt at the end of the day.  

but during this recent trip, i discovered the best shoes ever! thanks to Google and to the various travelers who posted about their experiences because i found the most comfortable shoes: Cole Haan!
this is the one i wore most of the time. it's best worn without socks (with your ankles showing) BUT since it was soooo cold (lowest at 7 degree Celsius!), i wore it with stockings or long socks. never in this trip did i ever complain of painful heels even if i walked all day! and aside from that, it's stylish and fits right in Paris. yes it's true. Parisians are stylish and even the guys only wear black or dark-colored sneakers/shoes. if you want to stand out as a tourist, wear a colorful Nike. 
i also bought my gray Converse sneakers which i always wear when traveling despite arch pains but this time, i found the secret to protect my feet: Dr. Scholl's gel insoles!

quite expensive at P1395 but worth it! speaking of insoles, i didn't need one for my Cole Haan. it has a Nike Air technology which basically means it's like wearing rubber shoes! 

i'm quite disappointed though with my Cole Haan flats. 

when i tried it on in the mall, it was comfortable but when i wore it to a meeting, it felt cramped in the toes in my left feet so i didn't bring it in my trip. i instead brought my comfortable Payless silver flats but since it was raining all the time, i only got to wear it once on a sunny day. 


just back from Bacolod. will write more about our trip as soon as possible.