27 January 2015

Plan an Unforgettable French Vacation

(Photo credit: marketing-chine.com)

Many people dream of the chance to spend a few days in France, but why dream when you can actually make it a reality? With enough planning, you can have a trip to France that you will remember for the rest of your life. Here are some tips to help you get ready.

Compile a List of Landmarks

What is it that draws you to France? If there are particular sites that appeal to you, such as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre or any of countryside vineyards, make sure you list them. If you are traveling with someone else, you can both compile a list and then compare them, prioritizing what sights you want to see. Depending on proximity, you may be able to build in a day or two when you can go in separate directions.

Create an Itinerary

The list is a good start for coming up with an itinerary. You can build your own vacation or go with a group that hits most of the spots that you want to catch. A travel website such as Enchanted France can help you find out more about the possibilities for your trip. You only have a short time to experience a whole country, so make the most out of it.

Once this important planning is complete, you can focus on such matters as socking away extra money for souvenirs and brushing up on simple French phrases. Your own personal French dream vacation awaits!

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17 January 2015

Review - Element Times Square by Westin in Manhattan

Element Times Square by Westin is the second property we have stayed in during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday holiday last November/December 2014.  I liked this hotel in some levels but had to be very objective with my findings.

My husband and I booked a King Room for $358 without taxes for 2 nights via

The property belongs to the Westin group of hotel chains and it is very chic and modern. However, not all properties are free from any imperfections. This hotel has some flaws too. Read my review below:

What I like:

The very comfortable bed! The firmness is just right and I slept like a baby even when there were revellers in the nearby pub.

The property is chic with modern amenities.
The long vanity desk.
The hi-tech phone and flat screen TV that boasts plenty of channel selections.

It has a fully functional kitchenette complete with microwave, top cooking range, big refrigerator, dishwasher, percolator, kitchen sink with faucet and running water, utensils with wine cork-screw, pots and pans and chinaware.

The bathroom is very spacious and clean.

The big closet complete with pressing board, flat iron, safe and mini-drawers.

The complimentary coffee, tea and water.
The grab-n-go breakfast. They don't have a wide selection but the sandwiches are enough to satisfy your morning hunger pang and they also serve cereals, juices, coffee and tea. You can get many sandwiches as you like too.
The complimentary coffee and tea at the lobby area where guests and visitors can warm off while waiting for their friends or transport.

The friendly, fast and efficient staff. I even borrowed a duct tape from one of the staff because our luggage broke and we had to do a quick fix as we were leaving that day. The nice lady staff searched in their stock room and lent me a full roll quite happily who even assured me that it was okay to be used. I hope I have taken down her name to commend her personally.
Fast check-in and check-out.
The location is fabulous. We were walking distance to the subway station, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Port Authority, situated in the Garment district of Manhattan.
Pets are allowed upon request.

What I don't like:
I was almost at the point of giving this hotel my highest rating of 5 stars however, towards the last day of our stay, upon checking-out actually, I saw few hotel staff unload "heaps of garbage in huge, clear plastic trash bags" from one of the lift used to serve the guests of the hotel. What's very disturbing was, it was in plain view; it was done during the afternoon (approx. around 4-5 p.m., there were plenty of guests waiting in the lounge for their airport pick-up transportation or just plain lounging and I was one of them). I looked at the other guests' reactions and they were as surprised as I was, perhaps, even shocked because I was thinking, maybe they could have done it discreetly around midnight or wee hours in the morning when there are no people in the lounge. Another thing that put me off was the manner the hotel staff (I think there were 2 of them) handling the thrash bags from the guest elevator were throwing them on the floor and I could hear glass bottles shattering. They were doing it hastily. I was thinking, maybe they wanted to finish fast so the guests wouldn't see much of the fiasco. But too late. Damage had been done. If anything, cleanliness is one of my primary criteria in rating a hotel, hostel, or even a budget accommodation. It doesn't really matter if your property is posh or no-star at all but if it's clean and follows sanitary standards then I can overlook the other flaws of the property.

Another thing I didn't like in this hotel is the extremely slow elevators. We were billetted in the 9th floor. It took my hubby and I around 15-20 minutes to get in a lift. We had to go to the higher floors because there were barely available lifts passing our floor.

Lastly, the noise level of the nearby pubs could be heard even from our 9th floor hotel room. It was loud but I was just too sleepy to mind. Even then, if you stayed in the lower floors, then it would be louder.

Price:  $358 without taxes for 2 nights

Meal plan:
Breakfast on the go

Nearby attractions:
Times Square
Madison Square Garden
NBC Studios
Rockefeller Center
Port Authority
Bryant Park

My recommendation: 4 out of 5

I still give this a 4-stars rating per my recommendation because of the location,  the friendly and very accommodating staff, the comforts of the room amenities and the comfortable bed and the kitchenette that saved us mega bucks from dining out. This hotel is perfect for those who loves to go to the nearby Times Square and business travellers. Families and also those with pets can also enjoy this hotel as they allow pets.

Element Times Square by Westin is located at 311 West 39th Street, Midtown West, New York, NY 10018, U.S.A. If you want to check availability and book this property, please book at Booking.com or search for other hotels in Manhattan below:

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This hotel review is my personal review. I have paid for this stay and in no way sponsored by the property nor Booking.com. I just love to book via Booking.com because I always find a very competitive rate or great deals when compared to other booking sites. My opinion is 100% mine and may vary from yours.

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11 January 2015

The Euro Birthday Trip

Well, I have been going back and forth and back again about this Euro tour since 2 years ago. Each time I am about to push through, a change of plan happens. Not that I am complaining but the palpable excitement is just too much to handle. I am grinning from ear to ear right now as I think of the many photos I and my best buddy will snap in the beautiful country of Netherlands.

Yes, it's Netherlands this time and a side trip to Belgium (and France, when the situation there becomes stable and less frightful). My best buddy and I will be there for 6 days/5 nights and we're booked in 2 different hotels just to have a feel of how it's like to stay in the city centre and close to the Amsterdam Central Station.

I have already set the appointment for our Schengen visa on 22 Feb. And yes, it's a long way to go but I have another trip before that so I have to give ample time because my daughter's birthday is my priority and it's also in February.

2015 looks very promising in terms of travel plans. I have so many trip lined up for the year (Amsterdam/Brussels/Ghent/Antwerp this March and April, Las Vegas for my hubby's bowling tourney in May, Tokyo in June, Amsterdam in July or August, New York again during Thanksgiving/Black Friday) and whether they or some of them materialize, the crux of the matter is, we're all Travel Bugs and travelling is what we do and love best.

I hope that we get our Schengen visas approved and I am applying for a multiple entry as I will treat my daughter for a weekend getaway when she spends the summer break here in Dubai.  It's been several years since we last visited Europe and hopefully,  we get that multiple visas approved. :)

I am excited this year. And next year too as my daughter prefers to celebrate her 18th birthday in Europe. Yes, another birthday trip in the offing for 2016 and in a wider scope - from West to East, North to South.

This is the travelling life! And WE LOVE IT!!!

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