Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Where to stay in Paris

If this is a short trip and you will be staying in a hotel, it would be great if you would plan your trip in the off season, meaning avoid high season -Spring to Summer and around Christmas when hotels are more expensive. If, on the other hand, you will be renting, be aware that some agencies, which seem to be very flexible, actually do not abide by the French law and do not carefully select the landlord's that are trustworthy. Be careful.

Since most of you will be staying in a hotel, here are some that I do recommend:
They are in good location, have speaking English staff, are clean, comfortable rooms but not fancy lobbies - a place to rest and get some sleep. I am listing, the local districts that make up Paris. This will help you with taxi drivers.
So here they are:
Central Paris (1st & 2nd)- Hotel Mansart- reasonable, classy mid size hotel. Very close to the Hotel Ritz but rooms start at 700 euros if you prefer.
Marais ( 3rd, 4th)- Hotel Caron de Beumarchais- an antique-filled, historic 18th century experience.
Marais (3rd - 4th) Hotel Beaumarchais- hip, colorful, located near Marais and the Bastille, great value for your money if you are looking for a hotel off tourist area; but, it is walking distance to most Paris attractions.
 Now, these are better and of course more expensive hotels but not as much as The Ritz:

Hotel Notre-Dame Saint-Michel (5th)- From the Left bank, it faces the Notre Dame Cathedral. The rooms are uniquely designed to combined the old and the new. The rooms are around 250 euros per night.
Hotel Quai Voltaire (7th)- This hotel has been famous for centuries for it is one of kind panoramic view across the Seine River to the exterior of the Louvre. You can ask if you can stay in the same room where Picasso painted what he saw outside his widow in "Quai Malaquia" or where Wagner composed his famous symphony " Mastersingers of the Nuremberg". Pretty cool! The rooms start at 105 euros. 
Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel (15th)- Rooms are modern and large, you can see the Eiffel Tower so close from your room. The price is around 190 euros per night.
I hope these tips will help you.
This was a quick overview of Paris, next we go to London.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Places to go in Paris

There is so much to do in Paris. If you do not feel like going where tourists are, because it is generally very crowded, just to sit in a Cafe, have wonderful food and appreciate what is around you, sometimes is enough. Or, you could walk to see beautiful Art Galleries, do some shopping and see the way Parisians dress and walk, it is so much fun.  But if you want to see some beautiful places, go to:

1-World famous Eiffel Tower and viewing the city from on high, it is definitely a majestic view.

2- Champs Elysee's is one of the most popular and romantic streets right in the heart of Paris, at the end you  can see the monumental Arc de Triomphe, that was commissioned by Napoleon to commemorate his important victory at Austerlitz.

3- Seine River, you should take the boat and cruise around Paris. It is just so very beautiful everything you see.

4- The Louvre, the most well-known and important museums in the world, you can see the Mona Lisa and the famous Water Lily painting by Monet, my favorite.

5-Notre-Dame Cathedral, the most famous cathedral in the world. The architecture is breath-taking and it is the first Gothic cathedrals ever built, its construction took almost 200 years and the Seine River is right by it.

6-Versailles Palace is one of the most beautiful achievements of the 18th century French Art, each of the three Kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it even more magnificent. This is a must see! And don't miss the little village built for Marie Antoinette - very charming.

7 - The parks and gardens are wonderful. Luxembourg Gardens would take a day at least and the Bois de Boulogne is build for lovers.

8 - It is so hard to end this list, but I strongly recommend Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur! Stunning! and after you climb the stairs and visit the church, you will be rewarded with a street art exhibit behind the church and one of my favorite bistro's Lapin Agile. Enjoy.

And of course the list can go on and on about where to go in Paris. Ah! Do not forget to take a map and a dictionary. Some of the French people can be very rude, mostly to Americans, just ignore them, otherwise you won't have a good time. I have found wonderful and very helpful people in Paris, so good luck to you and have a great trip.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food in Paris

Paris is one of Europe's culinary centers. The restaurant trade began just over 220 years ago and continues to thrive. It may, however, come as a big surprise that Paris is not consider the culinary capital of France; rather, some people prefer the French cooking found in small rural restaurants, outside of the city. They are closer to the farms and and have a strong focus on freshness and regional specialties.

If you like to eat a lot, Paris is not the place to go, portions are small  but you can have several courses.
I personally love french food, I find it light, fresh and absolutely delicious - love french bread too.

You can find hundreds of beautiful restaurants with well planned or just trendy interior design.
Trendy restaurants often require reservations weeks, if not months in advance. If you have not planned far enough ahead, try to get a reservation for lunch which is generally easier and also less expensive.
Enjoy the Parisian food, you will love it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A little more History of France

The 20th century was hard on Paris but thankfully not as hard as it could have been. Hitler's order to burn the city was thankfully ignore by the German General Von Choltitz who was quite possibly convinced by a Swedish diplomat that it would be better to surrender and be remembered as a savior of Paris, than to be remembered as its destroyer.

Following the war, the city recovered quickly at first but slowed in the 1970's and 1980's when Paris began to experience some of the problems faced by big cities everywhere, pollution, housing shortages and occasionally failed experiments in urban renewal.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Brief History of France

The battle for personal freedom in France, championed by Montesque,spanned many wars, the most memorable being the French Revolution. The storming of the Bastille in 1789 sparked the revolution with a national cry for Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. The Revolution brought sweeping reforms in the country.

France became a constitutional monarchy.
Bastille Day is celebrated on the 14th of July to commemorate the beginning of independence. France experienced more crises, becoming the battleground for World Wars I & II. However, it emerged from the ruins of the war and is one of the leading countries in the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How careful should you be when you go to Paris

In general Paris is a safe city to travel. The most prevalent crime by far is petty theft. Pickpockets and lots of scams, also be aware with you luggage and purse.
If you need help, the police can be reached by phone by dialing 17 but most of the police do not speak English.
Around tourist areas won't be a problem to find people that do speak English.

From the Charles de Gaulle Airport to downtown area  which passes through the poor suburbs of Seine-Saint Denis. Be also aware that thieves may start a fights to steal your valuables.
Trains have cameras every where and thieves are much less likely to use them.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Capital, currency and religion of France

Paris is the capital of France.

Located in the northern region of France on the river Seine.
  • Paris is also the largest city in France,with an estimated population of 2,193,031. 
  • Paris is also the most visited city in the world. 
France is divided into 27 regions that are further divided into 101 departments.

The currency in France used to be francs but now is euros, it is also the official currency of Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion in France which led to many wars with King Henry V.

Paris continues....( Language )

The country's official language is French. Only at tourist sites the employees will speak English but not the rest of the city, so it would be helpful if you spoke some French and carry a dictionary with you.
Remember, you can also download an app with common French words on your I Phone or Android.

If you do speak some French try to speak slowly and clear, in the beginning it seems like they speak too fast for us and we can't understand. Before you leave for your trip it would be helpful to read this book, "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull, very interesting and well written.

Paris - City of Light

Paris is the Capitol of Fashion, it has the world's finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Channel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Lancome, Guerlain, L'Oreal etc...

The city has the second highest number of restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and has many landmarks, such as the world's most visited tourist site, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, Lido etc... making it the most popular tourist destination in the world with 45 million tourists annually.

Paris, France "Introduction"

I am excited to talk about Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world. In my opinion Paris is not just stunning but definitely the most romantic city in the world. I have gone to Paris many times through out my life. Will go back every time I have a chance.

Paris is a huge city with many districts, containing sightseeing, amazing restaurants, fantastic nightlife.

Paris is the capital of France with 2.2 million people living in the city, one of the largest agglomerations in Europe. Vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design.

If you  have never been to Paris, consider going, you won't regret.

Where to stay in Rio

It would be great to know someone in Rio, so you can have a free stay but if you don't, there are wonderful Hotels in Copacabana and Ipanema and of course other places. In Zona Sul, the best section of Rio, you will find Rio's fanciest and most popular hotels along the beaches.

Copacabana Palace (5 stars)

For me the Copacabana Palace is the most beautiful Hotel in Rio, it is very traditional, right in front of the Atlantic Ocean with a huge pool, so very beautiful. The food and service amazing!
I have stayed there a few times and it is a piece of paradise.
It is also close to everything.
It was opened in 1923, this impressive stucco-fashioned building is Rio's most traditional and luxurious hotel. This landmark was designed by the French architect Joseph Gire who was inspired by two hotels, the Negresco in Nice and the Carlton in Cannes. Since opening the hotel has had only two owners, the Guinle family of Rio de Janeiro and from 1989, Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises.
Highly acclaimed Copacabana Palace is renowned as the most luxurious hotel in Rio. With a long established reputation for exceptional service, it is the first choice for celebrities, royalty, politicians and the business traveller.

Address: Avenida Atlantica 1702 , Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22021-001 Brazil
Phone: (011) 55 21 2235-7330 to dial direct.
Price starts at $553 dollars per night

Caesar Park Hotel (4 stars)

On the fabulous Atlantic coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, surrounded by the ocean and lush mountains of the Tijuca Forest is the Caesar Park. Named for the beautiful, world-renowned beach which it overlooks, this hotel—a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and part of the well-established Preferred Hotel Group—is beautifully modern and elegant. Gaze over the city and gorgeous Ipanema beach from large picture windows as you sink into your plush accommodations and you enjoy the soothing colors and inviting atmosphere. Large and spacious rooms with dark wood accents and all the modern amenities will relax your stresses away while keeping you connected to the world. At the Caesar Park Rio de Janeiro Ipanema, step outside your door to the beautiful tropical world of Brazil. 

Address: Av. Vieira Souto, 460  Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro,      22420, Brazil
Phone: (011) 55 21 2525-2525 direct number
Price starts at $350 dollars per night

Golden Tulip Regente Hotel (3 stars) 

Situated in front of Copacabana beach, 3 km from the city center, close to Ipanema and Leblon Beaches, in walking distance from excellent shopping, restaurants, nightclubs, 24 hour news stands, drugstores and all attractions. 
Golden Tulip Regente has facilities that cater for both business and pleasure, including spacious meeting rooms and a swimming pool. Guests can enjoy delicious food at the in-house restaurant, or stay in cozy rooms equipped with air-conditioning, bathroom, television, and telephone.  

Address: Av. Atlantica 3716 Copacabana - 22070001 - Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Phone: (55) 21 3545 5400 to dial direct
Price starts at $188 dollars per night

You can also find lots of small, cheap and clean hotels around Flamengo and Catete. Great option is the apart-hotels in Ipanema, it is a pleasant alternative. Hope you can find a place that you will be pleased. Good luck.

New Year's Eve Celebrations

The reason I want to talk about New Year's Eve is because I have enjoyed New Year's Eve in many countries of the world, but nothing compares to Rio! There, everyone dresses in white for luck and toast the arrival of the New Year with drink and frivolity. People go to the beach, carrying a white rose to  give to the ocean and make a wish for the New Year - it is just beautiful.

 With the beaches full of people celebrating, dressed in white, fireworks displays are everywhere along Copacabana beach and even cascade down the Meridian Hotel  like a waterfall - it is magnificent! Live music up and down the beach attracts  more than 2 million people to the ocean's edge every year.

If you want to have an amazing New Years Eve, go to Rio, it is nothing you have ever seen before.

Still about food...

Here is a secret known to the locals - a very inexpensive way to eat in Rio is to eat at a "comida a kilo". This means food by kilo. It is a buffet style restaurants where you pay by the weight of the food on your plate. You can find these types of restaurants everywhere and in all types of foods such as seafood, sushi, pizza, etc.

Now, if you love deserts, Brazil has the BEST!
Sweets and chocolates are amazing in Rio. So many pastries, that you would not know which one to choose - so many new ones that you have never tried. I am sure you will have an amazing time trying sweets in Rio.

Brazilian Food

Brazilian food is absolutely delicious, I say this, not just because I was born there, but because of the unique nature and flavors that are found there.

Brazilian cuisine has a large variety of food. They love lots of natural ingredients such as vegetables and fruits as well as cheese and bread. Breakfast does not generally include bacon or eggs, rather they will have fruits, cheese and french bread and a cup of hot milk with a little coffee.

I have enjoyed food from all over the world - love Italian, French, Spanish cuisine as well as Chinese and Japanese. Well, I guess I love cuisines around the world. I just can not take something extremely spicy and you will only find that in the North of Brazil.

Much like the Italians, Brazilians will have many cafezinho ( small coffee) through out the day.

Tell you more tomorrow.

History continues...

Rio became the port for these minerals ( gold & diamonds) and replaced Salvador, north of Rio, as the main city in the colony in 1763. When Napoleon invaded Portugal, the Royal Family moved to Brazil and made Rio capital of the Kingdom ( so it was the only city outside Europe to be capital of a European Country).

When Brazil became independent in 1822, it adopted Monarchy as its from of government (with Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II). Many historians and Brazilians from other places say "cariocas" are nostalgic of the Royal and Imperial Times, which is reflected in many places.

A little History about Rio

Rio was founded in 1565 by the Portuguese as a fortification against the French privateers who trafficked wood & goods from Brazil. Piracy played a major role in the city's history and there is still a colonial fortress to be visited.

The Portuguese fought the French for nearly 10 years, both sides having rival native tribes as allies. For the next two centuries it was an unimportant outpost of the Portuguese Empire, until gold, diamonds and ore were found in Minas Gerais in 1720.

How careful you should be when you travel abroad

You always should be very careful where ever you go, unless you are pretty familiar with the area. Most of the time when we get out of our own country, we are definitely going to places we have never been. So, we always should be careful.

Same going to Rio de Janeiro...
Now consider,  if you are lost in the Bronx (New York), at the wrong time or wrong place, you can get hurt.  But now, if you are not in the US, without the inherent protection of a 1st world country, the risks are magnified.

Take Brazil as an example! Unfortunately the majority of Brazilians live in poverty - that can bring added danger as those less fortunate stoop to crime to survive. The slums are growing bigger everyday and crime increases. But also it does not  mean that you can not be safe and have a wonderful time there.

My advice is to know someone there, that speaks Portuguese, the person  that is familiar with the area and will be able to tell you where to go. Don't call attention to the fact that you are a visitor. Observe the Brazilians and how they dress, casual and comfortable, and emulate them. Don't take your real jewelry, use costume jewelry that you would be willing to give up if confronted on the bus or someone on the street.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Brazil's Capital

It is a common mistake to think of Rio as Brazil's capital, a distinction is lost on April 21st 1960 when Brasilia became the capital.
Brasilia was conceived as a showplace for Brazilian innovation. The city's layout is designed to resemble a colorful bird from the Rain Forest while the architecture is thoroughly modern.

As seen from space

What language do they speak in Brazil?

Did you know that Brazil is the only country in Latin America that speaks a different language from Spanish?

Portuguese is the language spoken there. It is as charming and romantic as French and in written form, resembles Italian. You can get mobile apps for Brazilian Portuguese on the IPhone and Android. Try it, you will find it easy to get started.

Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil and found on the South Atlantic coast. Rio is famous for its breathtaking landscape, its laid-back beach culture and the wonders of the annual Carnival.

  • Rio Carnival 2013 dates: February 8th until February 12th 
  • Rio Carnival 2014 dates: February 28th until March 4th
  • Rio Carnival 2015 dates: February 13th until February 17th
  • Rio Carnival 2016 dates: February 5th until February 9th
  • Rio Carnival 2017 dates: February 24th until February 28th
  • Rio Carnival 2018 dates: February 9th until February 13th
  • Rio Carnival 2019 dates: March 1st until March 5th
  • Rio Carnival 2020 dates: February 21st until February 25th
Hotels book early for Carnival.

Olympics in Rio

Did you Know, that Rio de Janeiro will host many of the 2014 FIFA World Cup games including the final. In addition, they will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, becoming the first South America city to hold either the Summer or Winter Olympics?

The harbor of Rio de Janeiro has several unique features.

  • First, it is comprised of a unique entry from the ocean that makes it appear as the mouth of a river. 
  • Additionally, the harbor is surrounded by spectacular geographic features including the Sugar Loaf mountain (1,296 feet), Corcovado at (2,310 feet), and the Hills of Tijuca at (3,350 feet).

These features work together to collectively make the harbor one of the Natural Wonders of the World.

Now, Rio has added a new feature, the Solar City Tower - it will power the Olympic Games. On the Island of Cotonduba, it will be a visual icon for the games and will emphasize Brazil's reputation as an alternative energy powerhouse. The design calls for a tower which will store energy during the day and create a spectacular waterfall, emphasizing the natural resources of Brazil. It will also contain an amphitheater, observatory, auditorium, cafeteria, and shops.

Make your reservations now!

Traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Brasil "Introduction"

Vacation is coming and there is nothing better then to think about traveling.

Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Visually, it is a feast for your eyes - culturally, it is exciting with wonderful beaches, marvelous food, intoxicating music and friendly people.

You should visit the Sugar-Loaf where you can take the cable car to the top, I climbed on foot when I was 15 years old.
You also should visit the Statue of Christ because from there you can see how magnificent Rio is, with the ocean, mountains and beautiful beaches.
 Brazil has the longest beaches, the largest river, the biggest forest, the best soil. The weather's always warm and sunny, with no floods, hurricanes, or natural disasters at all. 

As you can see on the map, Brazil is the largest country in Latin America.,
 and this is the Brazilian flag.

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 194 million people.
Capital: Brasilia
Population: 194,946,000 (2010) 
Official language: Portuguese
Government: Presidential system, Constitutional republic, Federal republic