Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trip Summary Punta Mita: St. Regis vs. Four Seasons

This is a continuation of our Punta Mita trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

I had this question on my mind before going to Punta Mita on where to stay: the Four Seasons or St. Regis.  Since we got to stay at both, I'm going to do a somewhat detailed comparison of the two resorts:


The St. Regis' room was definitely better than the Four Seasons. The room size was larger, and I loved the decor. Everything felt newer at the St. Regis, and it had the beautiful tub with indoor & outdoor shower.


Even though the St. Regis had beautiful pools, we loved the lazy river pool at the Four Seasons -- so if we had to choose, the Four Seasons wins this category. :)


Both resorts provided really good service. The Four Seasons service was a tad better/more personalized, so they win this category.


Food at the Four Seasons was actually slightly better than the St. Regis. Breakfast was comparable (although FS had the smoothie bar!), but in general, we both felt that the food was better at FS.


Both hotels had contracted taxi service. We felt that the taxi vehicles at the St. Regis were nicer (more SUVs), versus FS which was more like minivans.

The only thing was car service at the St. Regis was charged separately, whereas FS billed it to our room, which was much more convenient.

Kids Activities

Both hotels had Kids Club rooms with toys, books, arts and crafts and other play things for kids. The St. Regis Kids Club room felt a little worn down and even the toys too.  FS was much nicer, cleaner, and right by the lazy river.  St. Regis set up an arts and crafts area by the kids' water fountain play area in the morning, which was really nice.


If we were given a choice to pick only one, we probably would go with the St. Regis. But I would say it is pretty close, and we would be happy to go back to either resort!

Price wise, it was somewhat comparable to Hawaii -- probably because both the Four Seasons and St. Regis were on the higher end.

We felt pretty safe in general, and this being our second trip to Mexico, we knew what to expect.

Overall we had a great time in Punta Mita. It's definitely a great destination, not to far from the US West Coast! We loved how the flight was not too long (3.5 hours), and both resorts were family friendly.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Four Seasons Punta Mita

This is a continuation of our Punta Mita trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

After two wonderful nights at the St. Regis, it was time to move to the next property, the Four Seasons Punta Mita. We were both very excited, as we had never stayed at a Four Seasons before and had heard a lot of wonderful things about their personalized service.

We took a taxi to the Four Seasons, which was located inside the same gated community.  It was maybe a 5-7 minute drive from the St. Regis.

My first impression was that the property was noticeably older than the St. Regis. The lobby area felt more like a typical hotel lobby.

Four Seasons Punta Mita lobby

We were welcomed by name with a cold towel and then escorted to sit down in the seating area. We were given a juice welcome drink, and M also got one in a plastic cup. They also welcomed M by her name (they had asked for names when we made our reservations).  It was a really nice personalized touch.

Toasting to part 2 of our Punta Mita vacation

Similar to the St. Regis, they transported us to our room in a golf cart. Our driver/host was very nice, and throughout our stay he always addressed us by our name every time he saw us. He mentioned that we could call for a ride 24/7, and so we actually did quite often. The hot and humid weather was a little too much sometimes, and the property was actually quite big. Our room was in the Iguana building, which was a bit further away from the lobby and restaurants, so getting rides on the golf cart was pretty helpful.

Golf cart to take you around the property

The Iguana building was located next to the Kids Club and the entrance to the lazy river, which was super convenient. However, as I mentioned, it was a bit further away from the main lobby. But we did like the fact that it was very close to activities for kids.

Iguana building

One thing to note was that each building had its own laundry room--washer & dryer machines with detergent.  We took advantage of that to do two small loads of laundry.


The room was a good size, but coming from the St. Regis, it did feel smaller. It's basically a regular hotel room size, whereas the St. Regis was definitely larger.

We also noticed that the bed was smaller than at the St. Regis. The decor was a little bit older, but everything was in good condition and clean.

The hotel provided a very nice welcome gift for M, which included both regular and swim diapers, wipes, baby bath set, turtle stuffed animal, and foam letters that spelled M's name. She also got a welcome snack basket--chocolate milk, cookies, and jellies which she loved.

The grounds around the property were very lush, as you can see in the view from our balcony. Our room was the garden view, the entry room category. We did have a small peekaboo ocean view. We didn't use the balcony much though as it was so hot out.

Seating area & balcony

The bathroom area also looked a bit dated, but also in good condition and clean. There's a shower area, a tub, and dual sinks. The bathroom amenities were L'occitane brand which was nice, and they even provided after sun healing balm.


Food at the Four Seasons Punta Mita


Breakfast was included in our Travelzoo package (which would otherwise cost around $100 for 2 people). Breakfast was at Ketsi restaurant, the open air restaurant near the lobby. The view from the restaurant was nice, although we typically did not sit near the edges because there were a few birds who were pretty aggressive. Even for breakfast, I saw on a couple occasions the birds eat off the buffet table!

The breakfast spread was pretty good. There's the typical egg station, pancake/waffle/french toast, bacon/sausage, cereal, fruits, pastries, etc. The one unique thing that the Four Seasons had was a fresh juice and smoothie bar. I always got the smoothie of the day which was always delicious. My favorite was the banana/peanut butter/soy milk smoothie!


Service at Ketsi was typically pretty good. They were very accommodating of M. In addition to bringing a high chair, they always provided her with a set of Hello Kitty utensils, a bib (which she never wanted to wear), and a sippy cup with milk.

They had a pretty good selection for kids meals that we usually took advantage for M. One thing to note at the Four Seasons, kids under 5 eat for free. We didn't know at first but soon were explained this wonderful benefit by one of the servers.

View from Ketsi Restaurant


For our first night's dinner, we went to Bahia, located by the beach at the Four Seasons. The food was mostly grilled. We ordered the skirt steak and grilled octopus, and both were wonderful! The skirt steak was very tender, as was the octopus!

Again, M's food was completely comped, which was nice!

I believe that dinner for us cost roughly $70 USD.


Another onsite restaurant was Aramara, but it was closed during the nights we stayed there.

Kids Club

The Kids Club at the Four Seasons was definitely much better than the one at St. Regis. It was more adequately staffed, and the toys seemed to be in much better condition. They also had planned activities for older kids. Since M was still young, one of us stayed with her whenever we went.

They also had an option to hire a baby sitter if you wanted to. I believe they cost $17/hour with a 2-hour minimum. During my stay there I saw a couple kids with the baby sitters, so the parents could enjoy some adult time.

Kids Club

We could also order food for the children that would then be charged as room service. I ordered lunch for M one time, and again it was comped!


One of our most favorite part of the Four Seasons Punta Mita was definitely the lazy river! They had inner tubes and noodles available to float on which was nice. This pool was sooo relaxing and unique. Dan and I would take turns watching M while the other floating around for a lap and then switch off :)

Service at the pool was generally pretty good. They always brought a small cooler with iced water bottles (free), and we could always order food in addition.

Lazy River

The main family pool was located near Ketsi, and was just breathtaking. See the picture below that I took on my iPhone!

Main Pool

There's also a separate adult only pool which was very private and quiet, but I didn't think it was as nice because there weren't any ocean views, and it's not by the beach.

One standard item at each pool was the "sunblock" station where they had multiple types of sunblock to choose from! I also noticed that the restrooms were air conditioned, which was really nice as the temperature was just too hot otherwise.

Every few hours, the staff would bring free little "treats" around. I think we got small smoothies, fruit, and other cold drinks.

Beach Area

We planned on spending a day at the on-site beach, but ended up only staying maybe 20 minutes. It was just too hot!! We ended up going back to the pool to cool off. :)

M had a great time though. They had free sand toys for kids to use so she had a blast.


We were glad to finally try a Four Seasons resort after hearing so much about it. Service in general was a little better/more personalized than the St. Regis.
  • We loved the lazy river pool; it's so unique!
  • Similar to the St. Regis, water was very available and free everywhere! So no need to make a stop to buy water outside before staying at the resort.
  • Overall the resort was a little bit older and could have probably used some updates (note: during the time of our stay, they were doing some construction work near the lazy river, so maybe the resort was getting some much needed renovation!)
  • The resort provided "free" activities around the resort, such as nature walk, Spanish class, history lesson, etc. We didn't take advantage of it, but there seems to be quite a few options every day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

St Regis Punta Mita

This is a continuation of our Punta Mita trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We flew to Punta Mita via Alaska Airlines. Even in economy, I felt that the leg room was pretty good. We ordered some in-flight food--chicken banh mi sandwich and the cheese plate--and the sandwich was probably the most delicious paid economy in-flight food we've had! It was warm and so delish! The sandwich cost $7, and we thought it was pretty fair definitely worth it for airplane food.

M did pretty well on the flight; she played with her new sticker book and was also on the iPad a lot. :) She also took her afternoon nap during the 3.5 hour flight.

Airport transfer to St. Regis Punta Mita

We pre-booked transportation from the airport to the St. Regis which cost 1700 pesos (around $120 USD) one way. I figured it was a safe option, so we didn't have to deal with looking for taxi when we arrived. It was definitely a great option as they were waiting for us, had an umbrella ready (it was raining), and even allowed us to make a stop at Walmart to buy water and snacks. The driver was also very professional, dressed in uniform, and spoke good English. I definitely highly recommend considering this option.

I also requested a car seat for M which they had ready (although the quality seemed a bit questionable and also looked quite old :p), but it was still nice to at least have it included.

The drive took around 45 minutes. Punta Mita was actually located inside a gated community, they checked for our name before letting us in, so it did feel somewhat safe. The whole complex looked very manicured and upscale.

Check In

We arrived at the resort and were welcomed in the reception area. As is common in other St. Regis hotels, there was not a check-in desk. In this case we were welcomed with a cold hand towel to cool down and a drink choice of either iced tea or margarita.  The host directed us and provided our stay information in the open air lobby/seating area. Afterwards we were whisked to our room via a golf cart.

St. Regis open reception area

The welcome area/lobby was beautiful with views of the ocean. We really felt like we were on vacation as soon as we arrived!


Our building was next to the kids swimming pool, and not too far from the lobby, which was nice. The room was a good size; to me it felt almost like a suite. There's a small foyer area as soon as we walked in.

Foyer area

To the right was the bedroom area with small desk and TV, as well as a lanai with garden view and a peekaboo ocean view.

To the left of the foyer was the huge bathroom with dual sinks, a bathtub and indoor + outdoor shower areas.

Shower & bath tub
Double sink

The room was in good condition and did not look worn down.  The resort is still somewhat new. (I think 7-8 years old?)

We got a welcome voicemail message from our butler but didn't really use much of his services during our stay. I almost considered calling them for the complimentary tea service and free garment pressing, but ended up not doing it.

Lanai/balcony area

We really loved the room, and it felt bigger than just a room, more like a mini-suite or bungalow.

Pools and Kids Activities

There were several pools around the property. We went to the family pool which was right by the beach. They had some floaties for the kids available in the pool, which was nice. The pool was a good size, but there was hardly any shade. We came in September which was one of the hottest months, so it was too bad that there's not much shade around the pool.

Right by the pool, there's a kiddy fountain play area which M loved! They also had sand toys available, and she had a blast. 

Nearby they also had a small kids table setup for morning activities. M did water painting on ceramics, and she really enjoyed it. I really felt that the resort really tried to cater to kids and families, which was great for us.

Kids Club

Another one of M's favorite was the Kids Club. It was actually located on the other end of the resort, near the spa and gym area. The kids club was actually a bit run down, which was a bit surprising for the St. Regis. There were not that many toys, and even the ones that were available looked very used and old. Nevertheless, M still had a blast. She got introduced to play doh and she loved it so much. When it was time to return to our room she didn't want to go, the attendant allowed us to take one play doh to the room, which was a nice gesture.

Food at the St Regis Punta Mita

For our first night, it was raining really hard so we ended up ordering room service. We shared a pasta dish and chicken nachos. They were both pretty good.

We added the breakfast package for our stay (I emailed the concierge in advance).  The cost was $20 USD per person plus taxes and service charge. I highly recommend this option as breakfast would have cost double that if not already included in the room rate. The breakfast buffet was at Sea Breeze restaurant, which had indoor and outdoor seating. We always sat inside (air conditioned) to keep cool.

The breakfast spread was pretty standard: baked pastries, hot food (pancake/French toast/egg/bacon/sausage), cold station (cheese, smoked salmon), yogurt, milk, cereal, fruit, egg station and a quesadilla station. Overall food quality was pretty good, although it's probably not on the top of our favorite breakfast list.

One thing to note: Breakfast was actually served until noon. So we could have had a later breakfast, skipped lunch, and gone for early dinner (but we didn't).

Sea Breeze

Other On-Site Restaurant Options

Carolina was the fine dining option and apparently very popular; reservations are recommended. We didn't end up eating here since we had our toddler-aged child with us and wanted something more casual. I had heard great things about this, so I would recommend checking out.  :)

Mita Mary was their restaurant on a boat by the beach. It looked really cool but because it was so hot, and the fact that they only had bar seating, we did not eat here either.

Sea Breeze was the main restaurant where breakfast and lunch were served. We had lunch here once, as it was the only option with air conditioning!! All other options were either by the pool or beach with no AC!  :)

Fish Tacos at Sea Breeze

Transportation to other places

The St. Regis had onsite "taxi" service available 24/7. When I say taxi, I mean luxury SUV.  :) We took this to grab dinner in town one day, and also to transfer to the Four Seasons resort after a few nights. One thing to note at the St. Regis, the taxi service was run independently, so we had to pay either cash or credit card directly to the driver.


We had a really wonderful stay at the St. Regis. Service was generally pretty good, and everyone was very helpful.  Our room was huge and gorgeous, and I had never been to a place where kids were so welcome and catered to.  It was fantastic overall!

A couple other notes from our stay:
  • Tipping was generally not required. They made a note that a 10 percent service charge was already included and that tipping was not expected. However, I still did get the sense that tipping was appreciated.
  • We bought bottled waters from Walmart on our way to the resort which was actually not needed at all. Complimentary bottled water was provided pretty much everywhere!!! We had never been to a resort where bottled water was free and so available!
  • As I mentioned, try to to get the breakfast package included in your room rate as it is cheaper than paying at the restaurant.
Overall, we loved this resort and would highly recommend it to others. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Punta Mita - Trip Introduction

I've always had Punta Mita on my bucket list. I first found out about it after reading about the St. Regis in Punta Mita from a lot of the travel bloggers. Additionally, a couple friends have vacationed there. Not to mention the Kardashians visit there frequently as well. :)

Punta Mita is a high end beach destination in Mexico, about a 45 minute drive Northwest of Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta itself is a 3.5 hour flight from San Francisco, so quite an easy destination to get to from the West Coast.

Trip planning started when I saw a Travelzoo deal earlier in the year for the Four Seasons Punta Mita. The deal was actually very good in my opinion. We had never stayed at a Four Seasons before since it is usually very expensive. So when I saw the Travelzoo deal, we just couldn't pass it up. We booked the three night deal in a garden view room (their lowest category) for $949 + taxes & fees (an additional $200-ish). This is by no mean cheap, but it is a good deal for a Four Seasons. The package also included breakfast, premium Internet, and 15 percent off food and beverages.

I also booked an additional two nights at the neighboring St Regis, using SPG points at 20,000/night. So we had a total of five nights in Punta Mita! I was so excited, and this trip actually came sooner than we expected.

We were a little nervous traveling with M, but she was older (recently turned 2 years old) and seems to be traveling better as she gets older. So we were hoping that it would be somewhat easier this time around. She could sit still for longer and be distracted with the iPad. She's now also into activities like stickers, coloring, etc. So we just had to make sure to have enough for her to do in flight.

We did not bring a car seat or pack-n-play.  The car service that we booked provided a car seat and she could sleep in our hotel bed. We also weaned her off bottles, so it's nice not to have to bring too many extra things.

Lobby at St. Regis Punta Mita

Here's the breakdown of our trip:

Punta Mita - Trip Introduction
St. Regis Punta Mita
Four Seasons Punta Mita

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

London & Paris - Summary & Tips

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We had such a great time in London & Paris. We definitely packed in so much for the short stay...hehe. We especially loved Paris and hope to come back some day.

Here are some tips based on our experience during our trip in London & Paris!

Wi Fi:
  • London: We pre-booked a wifi hotspot device since we did it in Japan and thought it was super useful. For London, a lot of cafes actually offer free wifi, so having a pocket wifi might not be as necessary. But it was still helpful -- the cost was just over $8/day and we got it from Tep Wireless.
  • Paris: We felt wi-fi in Paris was more necessary and useful than in London, because it wasn't as easy to find free Wi Fi. We got ours from Hippocketwifi that Dan ordered beforehand, and cost around 30 Euros. You can choose to pick up at airport, or they can deliver it to your hotel. If you can, do the airport pickup to avoid confusion at the hotel.

In City Transportation
  • London
    • Get an Oyster card if you are going to use the tube (subway) a lot. During our first tube trip to Harrod's, we didn't get an Oyster card, and turns out the one way ticket costs double if we buy a single ticket versus loading money into the Oyster card. The Oyster card requires a 5 pound deposit, and you will have to buy it from a booth.  Once you're done, you can get the deposit back.
    • We also took Uber a lot. Distances between places in London were not that far, so going places for the most part only cost us 5-10 pounds. So I would recommend Uber for in-city transport.
  • Paris
    • The Metro in Paris was a lot cheaper than the tube in London. We got the 10 pack tickets for around 14 Euros, so each trip cost roughly 1.4 Euros. The metro lines were all color coded and for the most part pretty self explanatory. One thing to note though, if you have to transfer lines, the distance between one line and the other could actually be quite a bit of a walk.
    • It looks like there's an 8 Euro minimum for in city Uber ride as all our ride cost exactly 8 Euros! We used this a couple times before we figured that out. :)

Airport Transportation
  • London
    • We booked an airport transfer from LHR to our hotel in Covent Garden with Exclusive Airports. They were on time and we were pleased with the service. It cost 48 pounds, and I paid 50 pounds total.  This would probably be my recommendation (versus taking taxi, or even the train). We considered the train but it would still cost around 40 pounds total to get to the city, and then we still have to buy another ticket to get to our hotel, and I really didn't want to be carrying suitcases up and down the stairs.
    • On our way back from the hotel to LHR, we tried requesting Uber, but the driver canceled our requests twice (probably because they didn't want to make the trek to LHR), so we ended up having to find a taxi last minute! I would NOT recommend using Uber to go to the airport, but it would be better to pre-book return with transfer service like Exclusive Airports. We ended up paying taxi a total of 86 pounds, since they were more expensive and charged a fee for paying with credit card. This was 36 pounds more than if we had pre-booked the transfer! The only positive was I got to ride in a black London cab, but at a premium price! :)
  • Paris:
    • We didn't pre-arrange arrival transfer and ended up getting a taxi that supposedly took credit card. However, when we arrived at our hotel, the taxi driver could not process our credit card. We did not have any Euros, so Dan was held up for a while. Thankfully the hotel concierge offered to pay the taxi driver in cash for us, and have it charged to our hotel bill. So in hindsight, we should have pre-booked transport beforehand.
    • For our return to the airport, we pre-booked transport with reservation@shuttle-inter.com for EUR 55. We were very pleased with the service. It was a bit cheaper than our Taxi, and the car condition was much nicer, and we didn't have to worry about hailing a cab. 

Restaurants: Here's a summary of all the places we went and a brief note on each one:
  • London
    • Shake Shack: Great burger place (the shroom burger is really good), but not unique to London as they originated from the US (NYC).
    • Hawksmoor: Famous steak place. Not the best that we've had, but pretty decent. The Sticky Toffee Pudding though was outstanding.
    • Corinthia's Afternoon Tea: Good experience, but not outstanding. I think the most famous one (which we couldn't get in) was the Claridge's.
    • Rock & Sole place: Very low-key fish & chips place. Pretty decent and huge portions!
    • Gauthier Soho: Our most favorite meal in London! Price was not too bad for fine dining.
    • Dishoom: Super popular Indian restaurant. We tried eating here twice but lines were always too long. Finally went in for breakfast and it was really good.
    • Bone Daddies: Hipster ramen place - we both think Ippudo is still better, but this place has unique flavors.
  • Paris
    • Angelina's: LOVE their hot chocolate. Very touristy place but worth a visit, if not for the hype.
    • Breizh Cafe: Excellent crepe place. Must make reservation in advance.
    • L'avant Comptoir: Our favorite meal during our whole trip. Low key wine bar with menu hanging from the ceiling. Everything we ordered was delicious and price was reasonable.
    • Les Cocottes: Solid restaurant near Eiffel tower.

Other Tips:
  • London:
    • West End Shows: We wanted to catch a show very last minute, and tried getting same day ticket from Mathilda's box office the morning of at 10AM. We came a few minutes after 10AM, and the cheapest tickets remaining were 67.50 pounds each. I found an online deal from London Theatre Booking for 33 pounds each, but was too afraid to pull the plug. But we went to their counter next to the Covent Garden station, and ended up getting those seats for 35 pounds each! So definitely recommend last minute tickets from London Theatre Booking!
    • Bath & Stonehenge Tour: I also signed up for Groupon UK (separate login from US), to get Buy 1 get 2 tickets for a Stonehenge & Bath tour with Day Tours London. Definitely recommend looking up for local Groupon discounts during your trip. :)
  • Paris:
    • If you are going to be in Paris for a few days and want to visit museums, definitely get the Paris Museum Pass which allows you to visit several museums and you won't need to be in line to buy tickets. We got the 2 day tickets for 42 Euro. The more museums you visit and the longer your stay, the more back for your buck. Don't confuse it with the Paris Pass, which has a lot more included but costs way more.
    • Versailles Tour: If you want to visit the main palace, either come REALLY early (like 30 minutes before opening), or visit it in the afternoon after the lines die down. We arrived at 10:30 AM (1.5 hour after opening), which appeared to be the worst time. The line snaked around multiple times, and we ended up waiting in line for 1.5 hours. If you arrive around the same time like we did and the line is too long, my recommendation would be to go visit the garden first, and leave the main palace towards the afternoon around 3-4 PM when the line was non-existent.

Until next time!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

British Airways First Class LHR - SFO

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We had a 1 night layover in London on our return home, so we stayed at the Radisson Blu Heathrow. The hotel was a bit older but very crowded and actually quite lively that night. We ordered room service and then went to bed to get ready for our morning flight.

We were both excited to fly in First Class! This would be our second time ever, and hopefully not our last. :) We were able to find availability using miles, and even though the surcharges/taxes were quite expensive, we were glad to be able to experience flying in first class again.

I had read that the Heathrow airport had a dedicated first class lounge as well as a spa area, so we were excited to check it out.

The first thing we did once we got in was to put our name down for the complimentary spa treatment (chair massage or facial). Thankfully they had 2 spots open so we put our name down.

We then went to grab breakfast. At this lounge, we actually ordered food, restaurant style. All the booth seating was occupied so we sat at the bar. It was a nice treat to be able to eat a full breakfast at the lounge.

Breakfast at British Airways First Class Lounge

After breakfast, it was time for our complimentary spa appointment. Dan got the chair massage while I got the facial. I believe the treatments were 15 minutes. During my treatment I kept thinking how nice it was to get a facial as part of your pre-flight experience! If only we can do this every time we fly...hehe

After our treatment, we lost track of time and our flight was actually boarding. We rushed to our terminal and made it just in time!

The plane was a bit older, but the seats were nice and quite spacious (though not as spacious as Cathay).

We were offered a pre-departure drink, and I opted for white wine. They also provided pajamas as well as an amenity kit.

We both changed into the pajamas and then food service started. I would have to say that the service throughout the flight was excellent. The attendants were very polite, helpful, and friendly. 

For the appetizer, I got Asparagus with egg and truffle sauce, it was great. Creamy and refreshing.

For the main course, Dan ordered the salmon and I was excited to get Indian food! I actually love Indian food and I love to order it when available -- I think Singapore Airlines has Indian food as an option, too.

Here's my dish! It was chicken tikka masala with lentils, spinach, rice, and fried shallots. Yum! Portion was big so I wasn't able to finish all.

However, I did save room for dessert, which was chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream.

Overall dinner was pretty good. Afterwards I watched a couple movies and then took a nap. After I woke up, I was SUPER excited to try their Afternoon Tea. I LOVE afternoon teas and would eat it everyday if I can! The sandwiches were all really good - I almost asked for seconds.

The scones were served warm with clotted cream and jam. Just how I like it!


Overall it was a great flight. I mean, no major complaints. Service was outstanding, food was good. If anything, the hard product itself could use some improvement. The seat was not that spacious considering it's a first class seat. It almost felt like a business class seat. Don't get me wrong, it's still spacious, but it definitely does not compare to Cathay which almost felt like twice as big.  Overall, we had a really enjoyable flight with great service.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Activities & Where to Eat in Paris

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

Paris - Day 1

Sandemann Paris Tour

Similar to London, we did a Sandemann Paris tour. Our guide was Nancy from the UK and she was great! Very energetic, passionate, and had lots of information.

We started at the St. Michel fountain. While we were waiting for our guide, we grabbed a quick crepe from this shop close by  the fountain, and it was amazing! It was a simple nutella crepe, but I don't know how they make it taste so good. :)

St. Michel Fountain

The tour was 3 hours long, a bit tiring since we covered a lot of ground. Make sure you wear good walking shoes! There were a lot of people on the tour, so we were split into 2 groups.

It was a good overview of the city, and I think well worth our time since it was our first time in Paris. One thing to note though that during the tour, we mainly only saw the "outside" of monuments / famous places. Entrance tickets to museums, etc. were not included and must be bought separately. These tours were mainly to give a taste of what's around the city, and you'll need additional days to actually go visit the sites you want to see.

Picnic at Beautiful Parisian Gardens

Well, we didn't get to actually do one, but this would be an activity that I would recommend if you have extra time in Paris. The gardens in Paris were just SO pretty and beautiful! Everything was so symmetrical and just so gorgeous.

The main garden was the beautiful Tuileries Gardens, which you would very likely see during a trip in Paris due to its central location and proximity to the Louvre.

Snack at Angelina's

I heard about the famous Angelina's cafe and made sure that this was on our list. They are famous for their hot chocolate as well as their pastries. We came in the afternoon around 4 PM, and I was worried about long lines, but it turned out they were able to seat us immediately.

We ordered the famous hot chocolate, a croque madamme, and a millefeuille.

The hot chocolate was very good. It was very thick and rich - just how I like it. :)

Angelina's Hot Chocolate

The Croque Madame was also yummy! It was served with a small side salad.

Croque Madame

The restaurant was busy and definitely full of tourists. There's also a small shop by the entrance that sold their famous hot chocolate and other goodies to bring home.

We didn't realize it at the time, but there's a LOT of Angelina's stores -- they had one at the Louvre as well as at Versailles. So you'll definitely have a chance to try it at least once.

Walked along Champs-Elysees to Arc de Triomphe

We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a pretty long walk (2.25 mile one way!) and actually up hill, from the Concorde to Arc de Triomphe! If you want to do this walk, definitely start at Arc de Triomphe so you are at least going downhill. :)

The walk was actually quite tiring. You can do a leisurely stroll, stopping along the way and doing some shopping, but we didn't really take breaks and ended up being super tired by the time we made it to Arc.

Dinner at Breizh Cafe

For dinner our first night, I booked a reservation at the famous Breizh Cafe. I emailed our concierge at the hotel to help make the reservation. We unfortunately arrived at the Cafe a little later than our reservation time (we underestimated the amount of time it would take to get there!), so they ended up giving away our table -- but they were able to seat us a little while later at an outside table.

It looked like there's a restaurant area (reservation only), as well as a store with communal tables for people without reservation. If you plan on coming, definitely make a reservation in advance. 

This place is famous for their buckwheat pancake. We ordered the "Amuses Beurre Fume" which was bread with Bordier butter, Bretonne savory pancake and the Vannetaise (caramel pancake) to share. Dan also ordered a cider which was supposed to be famous as well.

I was expecting to get actual bread, but was surprised to receive a crispy crepe instead. :)  It was a nice surprise. This was basically a simple crepe made crispy, with the famous Bordier butter. It was good and definitely a different way of eating a crepe. It tasted good by itself, without any toppings.


We asked the server for recommendations and he suggested this Bretonne crepe, which included bacon, mushroom, cheese, and cream. :)

Buckwheat pancake

For dessert, we shared the Vannetaise crepe, ice cream and caramel topping. It was FANTASTIC! It was so simple, yet so good. I think the quality ingredients truly shined here. I was telling Dan that the caramel tasted like real locally made caramel, not from a store-bought bottle of factory-processed caramel-flavored sauce. We realized over the time of our stay in Paris that the reason why the food was so good was probably because majority of the ingredients were higher quality and more "real" than what we get in the US.

Caramel pancake

Paris - Day 2

Shopping in Paris (Chanel & Christian Louboutin)

Buying a Chanel Bag in Paris

We really didn't have much time for shopping in Paris, so I only budgeted one morning to do some shopping. Dan was nice enough to allow me to buy some luxury goods while in Paris...hehe. The USD exchange rate had been pretty strong against the euro, which meant I could save some $$ when buying in Europe versus in the US.

I had been eye-ing the Chanel classic bag, and decided to finally pull the trigger to buy it during this trip. I figured the price would only keep going up, and with the good exchange rate, this would be as good a time as any.

This would be my first ever Chanel, and I had to do some research (and ask some of my friends) to get familiar with what I wanted. Similar to buying a diamond where there are the 4 Cs (Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut), there are different combinations when buying a Chanel classic bag. They are as follows: Size (Medium, Jumbo, Maxi, etc), Color (Black, Nude, Red, etc), Material (Lambskin or Caviar), and Hardware (Gold or Silver). I specifically was looking for this combination: Black Caviar Jumbo in Silver Hardware.

We actually found the exact combination of the bag that I want while we were in London (at Harrod's), but we decided to wait until we got to Paris (which turned out to almost be a huge mistake). We actually had the hardest time looking for the Black Classic in Silver hardware in Paris! It turned out the inventory in Paris was very limited as lots and lots of tourists go to Paris specifically to buy luxury goods. So a word of advice: If you are looking to buy a Chanel bag, and if you happen to find the right combination that you are looking for at a price you are willing to pay, you should just get it and not wait because you never know if you will ever find that exact combination again.

The first store that we went to was Rue Cambon, which was the main flagship store. We came around 10:15AM and only had to wait for a few minutes for a Sales Associate. I told her what I was looking for and she said that they were sold out of the Black Classic in Silver. :(  I asked if she could check other stores, and she came back and said that the store in Avenue Montaigne had a couple in stock, but that I had to go there immediately since she could not guarantee how long they would have them.

Chanel Avenue Montaigne

So we took an Uber to the other store, about a 10 minute ride. The Avenue Montaigne store was much quieter than Rue Cambon, and we were able to get helped immediately. One thing I learned from shopping at these high end stores was that we first encountered a "greeter" when we first entered, but this person was not actually the Sales Associate. She then asked us to wait, and then found a Sales Associate to help us. There may be a wait to actually get a Sales Associate, but once assigned, she was solely dedicated to you for all your shopping needs at the store. Since we came early enough, we fortunately didn't have to wait that long. However, after we left, the wait for a Sales Associate was around 30 minutes.

I told the Sales Associate what I was looking for (Black, Classic, Caviar, Jumbo, Silver Hardware), and that I was at the other store but they only had the Gold. The Sales Associate said that they were all sold out of the Silver and only had Gold as well. My heart sunk. So I reluctantly tried the Gold hardware. It was nice, it was really nice....but it's not what I was looking for. I didn't want to spend that much money, feeling that I was not getting exactly what I had in mind. I mulled it over for a while, and then I asked her to double check again, as the other store told me this store should have it. She said she would double check, but was pretty sure that they didn't have it. After a few minutes, she came back holding a bag and I knew that was it!!! She said a shipment had just come in 10 minutes earlier, and now they have a few in stock. YAY!


I was super elated and purchased the bag! Afterwards she took me to the cashier who helped with the payment & VAT refund process.  

Some shopping tips I learned from this experience.  :)
  • Try to arrive early at the store to avoid longer wait times
  • When you enter the store, you will have to wait your turn for a Sales Associate. Don't interrupt a Sales Associate who is helping other customers as it turns out that they are solely dedicated to one person (or group) at a time.
  • Make sure you bring your passport with you because they need it to provide the VAT refund documents
  • Make sure to let your credit card company know that you will make a large purchase so the transaction does not get declined
  • I mentioned this earlier, but will re-iterate, if you find the combination that you like, don't wait around to buy it at another store - you should get it immediately :)
  • With the VAT refund, we ended up saving around 20% of the cost by buying the bag in Paris versus the US.

Christian Louboutin Shoes

Our next stop was the Christian Louboutin store. :)  Louboutin shoes are those with the red soles-- they are very popular and supposed to make your legs look skinnier (it's true!). Similar to Chanel, we went to two different stores to get the exact color and size that I wanted. I got the classic style, which is called "Simple Pump". I purchased one in Black Patent, 100 mm and one in Nude Patent, 85 mm. They were not super comfortable, but they are not meant to be worn for long periods of time. They are really beautiful though. The best part, they were MUCH cheaper than in the US.  I calculated the price and we saved about 35% in cost buying in Paris versus the US.

Beautiful shoes :)

Overall it was a very productive shopping trip! It took a bit of effort going to multiple stores to find exactly what I wanted, but it worked out in the end. :)

I wished we had more time to look around to be able to shop more leisurely, but we really didn't have much time -- and I'm sure Dan was happy that this was our only shopping time...hehe.

Lunch at L'avant comptoir

Our friend highly recommended this place (said she went twice during her trip!), so we gave this place a try for lunch.

This restaurant was actually a standing room only wine bar, hidden behind a crepe shop. We came during lunch time, and there was a long line for the crepes (and I thought the line was for the wine bar). To make things more confusing, there's a restaurant next door called "Le Comptoir" with its own long line.

Dan stood in line for Le Comptoir thinking that was it, but I wasn't convinced since the restaurant didn't look like the Yelp pictures. :)  I asked around and finally realized that the wine bar was behind the crepe store! How confusing! There was actually NO line for the wine bar and we went right in.

All the menu items were hanging from the ceiling, so we had to look up to figure out what we should order.  All the plates here were tapas style and prices ranged from 3.5 to 9 euros.

We each started off with a glass of white wine -- both excellent!

Our first dish was the croquette jambon--portion was a bit smaller than I expected but it was really creamy and delicious.

Ham Croquette

Next was the beef sandwich. The size was actually VERY tiny (2-3 bites), but again, excellent. The sandwich was toasted and served with a creamy horseradish sauce.

Beef sandwich

My favorite was the foie gras burger. The burger was cooked very rare (much more rare than what I usually order), but was so perfect for this dish! The foie gras was actually not too overpowering and the burger was put in a sandwich press so the bun was warm and toasty.

Foie Gras Burger

We ordered a couple more dishes, and overall, everything was just amazingly tasty and fantastic. Dan said this was by far our best meal in Paris.

We highly recommend this place!

Louvre Museum

This is probably the most famous museum in Paris. The sheer size of the museum was quite overwhelming.

We got the Paris Museum Pass (2 days for 42 Euros), which gave us access to multiple museums and skipping the ticket line. This would be a good option if you just want to check out a couple museums and was cheaper than buying individual tickets from multiple museums. The price per day was also cheaper if you buy the longer pass (4 days or 6 days). Be ware that there's another pass called "Paris Pass", which was different from the Paris Museum Pass. The "Paris Pass" included a LOT more but also cost way more. I wouldn't recommend getting the Paris Pass because it's just too expensive.

We didn't rent the audio guide and just walked around ourselves. There were lots of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. We wished we had more time to look around, but we only budgeted 1-2 hours and it did feel a little rushed.

The most famous painting is of course the Mona Lisa! There were TONS of tourists around the Mona Lisa, with everyone trying to take selfies, ha!

The Famous Mona Lisa

Dinner at Les Cocottes

Another friend recommended this place, located not too far from the Eiffel Tower. This restaurant was owned by the famous chef, Christian Constant, who also owned several other restaurants around the area.

We were worried it would be super crowded, so we came in right when they opened for dinner, and it was empty. :) We got seated immediately.

We ordered the Langoustine Ravioli, Shellfish Bisque for appetizers, the skirt steak and pork with potato for entree, and the waffle with caramel for dessert.

The Langoustine Ravioli and the Shellfish Bisque actually tasted somewhat similar. and the soup part was surprisingly lighter than I thought, but still really good.

Shellfish Bisque

The beef was really good and tender, and the accompanying carrots are cooked beautifully. Dan's pork dish was also delicious.

The caramel waffle was also really good, again -- very simple ingredients but cooked really well.
Overall we had a great dinner here.

Eiffel Tower

After dinner, we walked to Eiffel Tower. The area around Eiffel Tower seemed to be very pretty upscale. There were lots of people picnicking on the grounds right by the tower, and I wished we had more time so we could spend an afternoon here.

We also didn't have time to go up the tower (line seemed really long), so we just walked around and then headed over to our next activity, the Seine River cruise.

Bateaux Mouches

During my last trip to Paris, we did a Seine River cruise and I thought it was a great way to see the city. There's a lot of tour operators, but we went with the original one called Bateaux Mouches. The boat runs every 30 minutes and takes about one hour. We just bought tickets at the dock for around 13 Euros each.

Our Sandemann tour guide recommended we do the cruise around 8:30-9PM (around sunset), so we could see Paris at night. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation, as we saw part of the cruise in daylight, and the rest of the cruise after the sun had set with the wonderful city lights.

One of the most amazing parts of the cruise was when we passed the Eiffel Tower at 10 PM and the tower not only lit up, but also "twinkled" for a good 5 minutes. It was kind of cheesy ("Disney"-like), but so pretty!

There were SO many tourists on the boat though, as this was a very touristy thing to do, so just beware. :)

Eiffel Tower at Night

Paris - Day 3

Eric Kayser Bakery

Eric Kayser is probably one of the most favorite bakeries in Paris. They have several locations and there was one right by our hotel. We tried their croissant, quiche, and other pastries and almost everything we had was excellent. I really recommend this place.


I really wanted to visit the Palace of Versailles. We went on our last day which was a Tuesday, since they were actually closed on Mondays. We didn't do any guided tours, went on our own by taking the RER train to Versailles.

The palace opened at 9 AM, and we arrived roughly around 10:30 AM. The line was already SO LONG! We already had tickets from our Paris Pass, so we didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets, but the longest line was actually the security line to get it. It took us 1.5 hours to get through security. Looking back, we should have tried any of these other options to avoid the long lines:
  • Come 10-20 minutes before opening time. We're not sure how the line might have looked then, but I'm sure it's better than our 1.5 hour long line.
  • Come in a group tour. There's a separate entrance with MUCH shorter lines for people in groups.
  • Visit the garden first and visit Petit Trianon, etc in the morning -- and then do the palace tour in the afternoon. When we left Versailles at 3 PM, there was NO line for the Palace. Had we known, we should have done the garden first, and then do the palace at the end and we could have saved 1.5 hours.
Anyways, we sucked it up and waited in line. :)  Once in, we walked around for a little bit. There were hoards of people everywhere, and at times it felt a bit overwhelming. The most popular room appeared to be the King's bedroom and the Queen's bedroom. Usually I could already tell when we were getting close to the bedroom as it got harder to walk and fight the crowds...hehe.

After the palace, we took the Petit Train that took us to several different stops around the gardens. This turns out to be a good option as Versailles was HUGE! Walking around would have probably taken forever and killed our feet. Other than the train, you can also rent bikes or golf carts to get around Versailles.

Petit Train

With the Petit train, the train made several stops, so we could hop on/off at our own leisure. We stopped at the second stop, Petit Trianon, which was Marie Antoinette's little section. There was actually a separate entrance fee, which covered both Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon.

Petit Trianon

We walked around the smaller palace, which was definitely a lot smaller and felt more like a big house. Afterwards we took the train back. The train's last stop was the Grand Canal, which was SO beautiful! There were lots of people rowing on the canal, as well as people eating lunch on nearby cafes. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stop at all because we had to catch our train back. I really hope next time we can come back to Versailles and really budget a day to look around as the grounds were so beautiful.

Galleries Lafayette

After we got back to Paris, I told Dan I wanted to check out Galleries Lafayette, which was a famous shopping mall.

Galleries Lafayette

The mall was actually a little underwhelming. It was a bit hot inside, and super crowded. The layout was also a little confusing as they have different buildings for everything, and we got lost trying to find the "food court."

This was actually our last activity, and then we headed back to the airport.


We LOVED Paris so much! The food was excellent, the city was soooo beautiful, and the gardens were just so pretty. We only had three nights here, which was not enough. We both said that we definitely want to come back and hopefully can visit some other places that we missed during this trip, and just didn't have enough time to explore.