The 10 Best Brunch Spots In Paris, France

Oui, Oui, Paris.

If you find yourself in the city of light (and definitely love) this sunny season, we urge to check out a few of our top brunch spots. Of course, we could point you in the direction of the usual suspects including lunch at the Eiffel Tower or outside of the Louvre – but we won’t.

We recently spent 48-hours in Paris and filled those two days galavanting around the city, hitting up landmarks and local’s only spots that easily reinvigorated our mind and soul. If you’re heading there for a quick add-on or a short layover, definitely add these foodie spots to your must-eat list.

Here are our top picks on where to feast for 48-hours in Paris, France.

Café de Flore

Photo: @mssa_90

1/ Café de Flore: This is one of the oldest and most noteworthy coffee houses in all of Paris. If you’re looking for the quintessential boulevard seating this is a must-visit. This 6th arrondissement café is also known for their famous clientele and superb menu offerings. Enjoy!

Photo: @sto.let.odinochestva

2/ Republique Of Coffee: Mexico meets Paris at this 10th arrondissement coffee shop. With a regular rotating variety of beans sourced from around the globe, you can expect seasonal sips including chai lattes paired with a delicious slice of pumpkin bread.

Le Pain Quotidien Paris Charonne

Photo: @veronicaegelund

3/  Le Pain Quotidien Paris Charonne: We’re not over avocado toast! This 11th arrondissement eclectic foodie spot is turning out some of the best dishes in all of Paris. It also happens to be located in a neighbourhood that celebrates art and culture, so grab your coffee to go and galavant around some epic galleries.

Photo: @lisakastleen

 4/ La Comete: This modern bistro celebrates simplicity with the finest selection of luxurious lattes and buttery croissants. Located in the 11th arrondissement, this charming location boasts an interior that warms the heart and food that feeds the soul.

Photo: @parisinfourmonths

5/ Café Oberkampf: This tiny foodie spot is cooking up some of the healthiest bites and bold cups of coffee around town. We recommend their all day brunch offering or the absolutely decadent Halloumi tartine.

Photo: @charlenedahan

6/ Muscovado: If you’re looking for a no-fuss brunch, this is the spot! From bagels to pancakes and everything in between, you simply can’t go wrong with this American-style eatery.

Photo: @celinablanche

7/ Cafe Kitsuné: With several locations around the globe, this it-girl coffee spot will prove to get you more likes than you imaged if you post a snap to social.

Photo: @jadazjjj

8/Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse: Housed inside one of Paris’s most gorgeous hotels, this Michelin-rated decadent brunch spot is not for the faint of heart. Except high-tea offerings paired with local ingredients sourced from France.

Photo: @thefrenchbrunett

9/Ladurée: Perhaps the most famous macaroon in the world, this French eatery also boasts dishes that will leave your soul satisfied and your sweet tooth smiling. This quintessential Parisian tea room is perfect for a bridal shower, or even a brunch with your bestie.

Photo: @majamalnar

10/Hôtel Plaza Athénée: Is this not the most photographed spot in all of Paris? We’ve definitely seen this photo before! If you’re looking for a breakfast that will fill your Instagram feed with gorgeous shots of food and the Eiffel Tower, look no further. Be sure to book your room in advance, as this luxury hotel is a highly sought after spot.

Summer In The City: A Guide To Chicago, Illinois

If there was an award for a city that takes full advantage of the summer season, we’d give it to Chicago. Once the winter’s snow has melted this city heats up in full-force, making it one of the world’s best places to go out – with your friends, your date, or even your parents (we tried it!) – and enjoy your favourite drink or two. From beach parties to raging city parties to boat parties, to weekend-long-festival-parties (hello, Lollapalooza), there’s a spirit that’s undeniably contagious.

Also famous for its food, Chicago has a lot more to offer than just the Midwestern comfort food it’s known for – foodies will love the unlimited ethnic restaurants nestled throughout the city. As for neighbourhoods you can’t miss, Wicker Park has the best vintage shops, independent boutiques and trendy eats. Pilsen is also worth checking out – this up-and-coming south-west side neighbourhood is sure to bring out your artistic side as you’re surrounded by bold murals and the lively, creative spirit of the area.

For more of our take on the hottest places to stay, dine, drink and play in The Windy City, check out our Chicago city guide:

STAY:

Chicago City Guide

Photo: @thedrakechicago

The Drake Hotel: Bucket list

At The Drake, Chicago’s famous 1920s hotel on the Magnificent Mile, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you’re dazzled by the high ceilings met with crown moulding and grand chandeliers. A stay in this high society palace will make you feel like one of Chicago’s elite. Join Princess Diana, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe (whose initials, alongside Joe DiMaggio’s, are still carved into the bar of the Cape Cod Room) on the roster of the Drake’s A-List guests.

Photo: @sohohouse

Soho House Chicago: Stylish/ cultured

Soho House’s newest location in Chicago’s West Loop is a must for those chic and cultured travellers. The industrial bones of the 110-year-old building met with the intricate design and character – that only the Soho House brand can create – is why we love this hotel. For a panoramic view of Chicago, check out the rooftop pool bar where you can swim on a hot afternoon, or cuddle by the fire on a chilly evening. But the best part about a stay at Soho House Chicago is access to the private members club, where you’ll mingle with the club’s interesting and creative-minded members.

Photo: @holidayjones

Holiday Jones: Road less travelled

When we want to step off the beaten path of Chicago’s downtown, we head to Holiday Jones upscale boutique hostel. Burrowed in the ultra-hip and cool Wicker Park neighbourhood, you’ll be guaranteed good vibes and even better company. Not your average hostel, Holiday Jones – a stay that provides the five-star hotel experience with hostel pricing – places you in the midst of art galleries, live music, clothes to be thrifted, and all the coffee, beer and cocktails you could ever want. Not sure about hostelling it? Don’t worry, both private and shared rooms and bathrooms are available.

DO:

Photo: @signatureroom95

The Signature Lounge at the 96th: Bucket list

One of our favourite things about Chicago is the stunning skyline. So why not enjoy your drink of choice with the best view in the city? The Signature Lounge, 96 floors above the John Hancock Centre (yes, that John Hancock) is a must when choosing a bucket-list-worthy drinking spot in the city. Try out our favourite cocktail, the Signature Room Punch, or choose for yourself from the extensive specialty cocktail menu. Well worth the extra cost, you can also enjoy fresh, local cuisine while sipping in style and taking in the unbeatable view.

Photo: @riverroastchi

River Roast: Stylish/cultured

For a night spent drinking alongside the picturesque Chicago River River Roast is a must. The truly unique drink menu features cocktails titled Illegally Smuggling Ginger and Morpheus is Fighting Neo, as well as a number of fun craft beers. Drinks aside, our favourite thing about River Roast is the vibrant atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if you see a group of young Chicagoans pulling up on their boat and hopping over onto the patio to keep the party going in their private booth.

Photo: @sparrowchicago

Sparrow: Road less travelled

For the city’s secret best cocktails you’ll want to head to Sparrow – a local classic nestled in the Gold Coast neighbourhood. This old-school establishment radiates the vibe of Chicago’s iconic hotel lobby bars. Known for their rum cocktails, we recommend the Twelve Mile Limit a rum and rye focused cocktail with French cognac, pomegranate grenadine and lemon. If you’re looking to keep the party going after Sparrow closes, we suggest you head over to one of Chicago’s infamous 4 a.m. bars, although Sparrow itself stays open until 3 a.m. on Saturday nights.

EAT:

Photo: @loumalnatis

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria: Bucket list

Chicago is a city that’s famous for its deep-dish pizza. As pizza lovers ourselves, our favourite deep-dish spot is a classic, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. If you’re already crossing this authentic Chicago must off your bucket list, you should probably try the Malnati Chicago Classic, which layers lean sausage, extra cheese and vine-ripened canned tomatoes over a garlic butter crust. Need we say more?

Photo: @asklar88

Schwa: Stylish/cultured

You’ll find Schwa on the fringe of the creative and cool Wicker Park neighbourhood, just outside of Chicago’s downtown. The culinary artists under the direction of Chef Michael Carlson make all dishes at this foodie heaven into a work of art. The menu allows you to choose your own serving sizes, as you’ll be getting fed grasshopper portions of delicately plated meals. There is also an option to BYOB – just ensure you make a reservation, as they won’t seat you without one at Schwa.

Chicago Summer Series

Butch McGuire’s: Road less travelled

Known for its infamous after-hours, 4 a.m. bar status, Butch McGuire’s has a reputation for being a party hot spot in the Gold Coast. What most people don’t know is they also have amazing pub fare. If you’re looking for great food and that won’t hurt your wallet, we suggest heading to Butch McGuire’s Irish pub for some fish and chips, baby back ribs or our favourite, the Butch’s Burger, topped with bleu cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms.

SEE:

Magnificent Mile and Millennium Park: Bucket list

We love the Magnificent Mile because of the big-city feel you get on this upscale stretch of Michigan Ave. For the full Chicago experience, stroll down Mag Mile and find the best dining, shopping, entertainment and architecture. You’ll eventually hit Millennium Park, another one of our favourites, which is home to the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, better known as “The Bean”. You probably have a Facebook friend (or five) who’s taken a picture in the reflection of this architectural phenomenon. So don’t forget your selfie stick, because you won’t want to head home without your own rendition.

Pilsen: Stylish/cultured

You’ll know when you’ve arrived in Pilsen, as this Mexican-American south-west side neighbourhood definitely has its own distinct sense of place. We love the vibrant murals and public art that’s wrapped around every corner and hidden in the most unlikely of places. Visitors will find galleries and studios, independent coffee shops, vintage boutiques, and of course ample spots to indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine. Pilsen is also home to the National Museum of Mexican Art, a cultural institution we’d rate as a must-see.

Get active – bike, run, rollerblade: Road less travelled

If you’re headed to The Windy City you better pack your workout clothes. Chicagoans are very active and can be found running, biking and rollerblading around the city. For visitors, one of the best (and most fun) ways to get around and see all the city’s sites is by bike. For bike rentals, we recommend trying out Divvy Bikes. There are thousands of Divvy Bikes situated around the city for rental easily with a credit card (costing USD$9.95 for a 24-hour pass).

Don’t Miss: The Architectural Boat Tour

We love this tour because of the stunning views the 90-minute boat ride brings. Whether you’re an architecture buff or not, you’ll probably love it too. You’ll sip a cocktail and listen to the unique story of Chicago’s history while cruising down the Chicago River with the seamlessly architected city towering on either side of you. This tour is a must for visitors and locals alike.

Transportation: The L, lyft or Uber

Unsure how you’ll make it around to your top choices of the city’s 77 neighbourhoods? Get acquainted with the L. Chicago’s elevated rapid transit system runs 24-hours a day and will help you get from point A to point B. The L is a great alternative to taxis and Uber, with adult fare only amounting to USD$2.25. That said, if you’re in a hurry we suggest ridesharing with Lyft or Uber as it can take a while to get around on public transit in the big city.

Island Hopping 3 Ways X Thailand

A diversity of dreamy experiences exists within the hundreds of islands scattered along Thailand’s Southern coast – how do you choose just one adventure to embark on? You don’t. With a convenient and rather inexpensive ferry system, today’s traveller can easily check multiple island extravaganzas off the bucket list.

Known as the “land of a thousand smiles”, there is no doubt Thailand boasts some truly extraordinary experiences – both on luxurious and cultural levels – that can quite literally be consumed using all five senses. Crystal-clear blue seas and white sand shores are inevitable in Mother Nature’s artistry along every shore, and dedicated foodies will have no problem finding truly hands-on culinary experiences that extend beyond the classic Pad Thai or Green Curry.

The Thai word, “Koh” directly translates to “Island”, and precedes the name of each of our recommended Thai hotspots: Ko Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. Take a look at our suggestions below – this island trio is sure to satisfy all of your Thai travel aspirations, regardless of your budget!

Beautiful beach of Koh Tao, Thailand

DIVE IN: Koh Tao

Koh Tao is an ideal first stop of the three islands in Thailand, especially if you intend on obtaining your PADI open water diving license. It is one of the world’s more affordable places to receive this internationally recognized certification, which will undoubtedly come in handy throughout your upcoming island explorations. Expect to come across multiple world-class dive sites as the islands are known to have a wide variety of marine wildlife: from manta rays to whale sharks, to vibrantly colourful fish and coral reefs.

If you don’t have the time to commit to a full scuba diving certification, there is no shortage of prime snorkelling spots around the island that can be experienced either through an organized group tour or on your own. Koh Tao’s Shark Bay is accessible from the beach shore and offers clear, shallow waters for the chance to explore a variety sea life and coral formations – if you’re lucky, you might catch sight of a Blacktip Reef shark or Green sea turtle!

Sleep: With warm and friendly hospitality, panoramic breakfast buffet views and the island’s most Instagram-worthy infinity pool, you can’t go wrong booking a suite at the Aminjirah Koh Tao.

Devour: Sink into massive beanbags and catch happy hour cocktails at Fizz Beachlounge for an unforgettable sunset experience.

Experience: With the island’s natural vibe of pure zen relaxation, yoga retreats such as those offered by Shambhala Yoga Centre can provide you with the ultimate detox to strengthen your body and mind.

Aerail Koh Mae view, Koh Phangan, Thailand

BREAK FREE: Ko Pha Ngan

If you can recall anything about this lively island, it’s likely that Ko Pha Ngan is best known for its famous Full Moon Parties. Once every lunar month on Haad Rin’s crescent-shaped strip of shoreline, a low-key beach by day transitions into a once in a lifetime party that lasts until sunup. In high tourism season, the beach populates with crowds of up to 30,000 neon face-painted backpackers, enjoying mixed drinks in sand buckets and choreographed fire performances.

Accommodations run anywhere from $5/night backpacker party hostels to luxury resorts on the pricier end. You’ll quickly discover this island has an abundance of first-class offerings –Ko Pha Ngan is not necessarily all about a constant buzz of music and expensive beach clubs. The further north, the more remote and quiet the beaches are. Here, you can escape to some of the country’s most luxurious resorts while still having access to Full Moon Party celebrations. 

Rest: Experience utmost bliss with your loved one at Santhiya Ko Pha Ngan Resort & Spa. A true gem to the island, the resort offers a variety of stunning private villas engulfed in lavish greenery and cascading pools – the ultimate paradise utopia in Thailand.

Devour: Known for its service excellence and cultural ambiance, The Bistro at The Beach is considered to be the premier Ko Pha Ngan restaurant. Don’t miss the signature Gai Pad Med Ma Muang – a delectable stir-fried chicken dish topped with roasted cashews, chili jam and Phangan fresh pineapple.

Experience: Learn how to cook like a culinary pro while crafting the perfect Thai plate – whether it be Tom Yum soup, Penang Curry, or Papaya Salad. For the ultimate foodie experience, find a class that includes a tour of the famous Thong Sala food night market.

Tropical beach and coconut palms in Koh Samui, Thailand, Asia

WIND DOWN: Ko Samui

The next piece of paradise in Thailand, Ko Samui is the largest island of the three and is well-known to be suitable for all types of travellers. While it is certainly a bustling tourist hub full of stimulating experiences, Samui still offers the freedom and relaxation for those looking to do their own happy wandering. Whether you’d prefer to explore the land by foot or navigate the twisting highland roads by motorbike, expect no disappointments in this island’s magical scenery.

Samui has several waterfalls, although the two Na Muang Waterfalls are the most picturesque. Tree roots form a natural staircase that lead to the base of the falls where massive purple rocks sit. Other must-see landmarks include the 12-metre tall Big Buddha Temple, locally known as Wat Phra Yai, as well as Lamai Beach, a laid-back community that sits south of Chaweng district.

Sleep: If you don’t mind blowing your Baht, Ko Samui is known to have some truly luxurious accommodation retreats. Ease off in one of Code Ko Samui’s chic penthouse suites to enjoy striking views of the area’s turquoise sea.

Devour: Indulge in fine Thai and European dishes at Second Nature, where East cuisine meets West. Whether you’re looking for special occasion dining or a more casual, bar lounge environment, this Lamai Beach restaurant will suit your fancy.

Experience: If you’re working with a smaller budget, you’ll have no problem finding traditional Thai massage salons every few steps amongst the town with prices as little as 200฿ – or about CAD$7.50 – for a FULL body aromatherapy or reflexology foot massage!

Picture this: All of the culture, cuisine and warm hospitality found in Thailand’s major mainland cities, but accompanied by endless sun-lounging, towering ocean-side cliffs and palm tree-coated shorelines.

If Thailand has been forever on your to-do list, what are you waiting for? With the country’s various offerings, this island-hopping itinerary can be customized to hit all of your ultimate holiday goals. Between Koh Tao, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui, the Gulf of Thailand has everything your dream vacation desires, regardless of your travelling taste.

72 Hours In Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, commonly seen as one of the most culturally significant cities in Thailand is a sure fit for those who love a laid-back city adventure. She sings the songs of her traditional ways, with street vendors, trolley wagons, and a sea of markets, yet keeps you on your toes with a lively night scene.

Here are some MUST DO’s for a quick in and out of Chiang Mai:

STAY: GOOD MORNING CHIANG MAI,

The name pretty much says it all. Centrally located in Old Town, Good Morning Chiang Mai offers eclectic boutique charm for exceptional value. With only 24 rooms, you are welcomed like family. Rooms are extremely spacious and updated with warm presence of Thailand charm. The boutique is set on a lush ground of greenery with a beautiful salt-water pool to relax in after those big city ventures. A quaint bar and daily massage studio is also conveniently available on site. Included in your stay you will also receive a made to order breakfast complete with freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee in their beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant.

EAT: With the abundance of vendors, markets, and restaurants, eating in Chiang Mai is something that you do often, with ease and in total food bliss.

TOP CONTENDERS

A Taste From Heaven: Large menu with all vegetarian/vegan choices. You would seriously never know this place is meatless.
TRY: Spring rolls, green curry in a coconut, pineapple boat rice, vegan brownie

The Hideout: Full bodied fresh coffee, healthy sandwiches and lunch menu made with all local fresh ingredients.
TRY: Jaws sandwich and a latte

The Coffee Bull: Be sure to take your shoes off at the door for this charming Thai cafe. Perfect for people watching, this little coffee stop is bursting with rustic Thai charm.
TRY: Drip coffee and hot cocoa.

 

DO:

The Night Bazaar: Test your haggling skills at the night Bazaar located just outside of Old Town. This market runs every day from 6pm-11pm. Night Bazaar is THE place to buy your souvenirs, as you will find most items much cheaper than the day markets.

Tip: can’t figure out how much to barter? Go for the average of 30% less than the asking price and walk away if you need to. You can usually find repeat products a few stalls down.

 

Thai cooking class: Can’t cook? No problem! Chiang Mai offers several full and half day cooking classes that include everything from exploring the produce markets to crushing Thai chili peppers. Whether you are a praised chef or eager beginner, you will learn a thing or two about Thai culture, vegetation, and the skills to impress your friends back home.

TRY: Zabb E LEE Thai cooking school.

Tuk Tuk Ride:

An experience in itself! What is commonly used for taxi’s can turn into a fun way to see the city in a jiff. Don’t feel like taking a day tour on a bus to see the city? Ask a Tuk Tuk driver to chauffeur you around to all the hot spots and you will be sure to see Chiang Mai the way the locals do.

TIP: Always negotiate price with the Tuk Tuk drivers. It’s expected!

SEE: Chiang Mai Wat

You will find several Wat’s (temples) all over Chiang Mai. Beautiful to look at, and immensely peaceful, you will immediately feel at rest in these aging architectural wonders.

VISIT: Wat Chedi Luang Varavihara. Walk around this beautiful Wat and learn about the everyday lives of monks.

Park City: An Aprés Ski Guide

From the moment I touched down in Salt Lake City, Utah, and looked through the small, oval window of my plane seat, it only took seconds to realize this place was magical.

Surrounded by looming, snow-covered peaks, the 40-minute drive to my final destination of Park City was a journey through wonderland – a curving landscape straight out of a Lawren Harris painting. Best of all, elevated 7,000 feet in the Utah mountains, waiting just for me was a historic city with much more to offer than just winter sports.

While Park City is celebrated for its extensive ski, snowboard and winter activity offerings, there is plenty to do for those more suited to the “aprés-ski” lifestyle. With its Main Street full of quaint shops, buzzing restaurants and intimate art galleries, I set out to discover exactly what to do in Park City sans the ski gear.

Relax:

Stay in your chalet and take some time to wind down from the hustle and bustle of your regular schedule. I spent some much-needed quality time with myself in my plaid pyjamas reading a good book from cover to cover. The hills around the chalet were blanketed in snow and the fireplace was roaring, creating the perfect atmosphere to snuggle up with a captivating story.

If you don’t have room in your suitcase amidst the bulky knit sweaters and leg warmers to pack a novel, stop into Dolly’s Bookstore located on Main Street, a tiny Victorian-style home complete with a resident cat. It’s also attached to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, perfectly convenient to pick up a sweet treat to snack on while you get lost in the pages of your new book.

Shop:

Park City’s historic Main Street is a hive of activity. There are blocks filled with unique shops to pop your head into and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces to take home. There are jewellery stores, clothing retailers, art and photography galleries to spend your day getting lost in.

Animal lovers – stop into the Manglesen Images of Nature Gallery to find breathtaking photographs of natural landscapes, polar bear and grizzly bear cubs, bison and more.

Dine:

There are plenty of places to eat in Park City and you’re guaranteed to find whatever you’re in the mood for. For a true family-style dining experience, Main Street Pizza & Noodle serves up some delicious Italian fare. The restaurant’s lively atmosphere and extensive menu offerings are sure to satisfy the whole family! Cheese lovers, order the 10″ personal cheese pizza, you will not be disappointed.

For a fine dining experience and traditional French dishes, Bistro 412 is the place to go. Baked brie, steak frites and French onion soup are just a few of the mouthwatering options on the menu. Sommeliers will also appreciate the impressive wine list that the restaurant offers.

Discover:

Park City has a rich mining history, making many a millionaire in the early 1900’s through the excavation and production of silver ore found deep beneath the mountains. In the 1960’s, as the demand for mining decreased, a change in industry was required, bringing forward one of the best ski resorts in the United States.

To learn about Park City’s fascinating past, from its mining roots to the “Great Fire” that burned down half the town, to how skiing became the bread and butter of the city, stop into Park City Museum located on Main Street. Visiting this museum and purchasing tickets to tour the building is highly recommended. You can take your time exploring the historic building, but beware when entering the basement which used to be the county jail.

Splurge:

Park City annually plays host to the infamous Sundance film festival in late January. Celebrities flock to the ski-town to take part in the festival and enjoy the city’s many offerings. Live like a film star with Exclusive Resorts and stay in one of 15 luxurious properties at Ironwood in Deer Valley. Less than four miles away from Park City’s Main Street, the four bedroom, four and a half bathroom chalets are the perfect accommodation for those looking for the ultimate in aprés ski comfort. 

For those of us who lack the ski bunny gene, not to worry. This ski-centric town proved to be the perfect getaway in the mountains for this gal! Until next time, Park City.

24 Hours In Havana, Cuba

Havana is a magical city that never fails to inspire a hopeful wanderlust in all of us.

Between the cobblestone streets, colourful facades and intricate architecture, this Cuban gem proves to be spectacular both day and night. We were fortunate enough to spend some time wandering the city streets with Nexus Tours. This wonderful add-on was a day trip during our stay with Memories Varadero Beach Resort.

Once the bus unloaded and we started to get our bearings, the clock struck nightfall and to our surprise live music, laughter and lights flooded the proverbial city walls. We were treated to amazing sounds, sights and smells of local cuisine and culture. Roadside churros were a must, as was dancing and singing with the vibrant and kind locals.

There’s something so touching about spending time in a city that has captured the imagination of so many. It came as no surprise that Havana conquered the heart of literary great, Ernest Hemmingway. An infectious inspiration can be found in everything you see and do in that city, and it certainly occupied my heart in a more profound way than expected.

If Havana is on your radar (which is should be), check out a few of our top city picks.

Eat: Habana 61
61 Habana, La Habana 10100, Cuba
Voted number one on Trip Advisor, this tourist and local hot spot is packed with outstanding culture and cuisine. We were told to make reservations in advance of visiting the city, as this quaint restaurant tends to fill up fast. If you’re looking for the best meal for your money, the lobster with garlic is otherworldly.

Sip: Café Fortuna Joe
Calle A, La Habana, Cuba
This quaint bar and eatery presents a proud display of vintage typewriters and toilets as decor, as well as sofa seating underneath the stairs. The tables are made from old cars and the ambience will make you feel as though you’re spending time in a traditional Cuban home. Additionally, the expansive menu boasts the most reasonable pricing for everything from small plates to sips. Be sure to taste the El Padrino cocktail, a white rum wonder.

Sleep: Memories Miramar Havana
5 Avenue Between 72 and 76, Miramar, Havana 11400, Cuba
You can experience the heart of Havana in this perfectly situated hotel. This lovely spot is tucked away in a residential neighbourhood and has everything from a pool, to restaurants and even two bars that can whip up the best mojito you’ve ever had. If you’re looking for easy access and a feeling of being part of the local culture, look no further than this hot spot.

Do: Tropicana
72 A, La Habana, Cuba
We were treated to a 2-hour show of stunning costumes, a spectacular set and amazing choreography at the one and only Tropicana. Set in a tropical oasis, the live music and dancing started as soon as the Cuban rum started flowing. Our eyes were sincerely glued to the stage, as every act was better than the last. While a live show might not be for everyone, this is certainly one thing you definitely need to cross off your bucket list.

Why We Love Beautiful Budapest, Hungary

Are you Hungary (pun completely intended) for an immersive cultural experience? Look no further than breathtaking Budapest.

Siren Traveller is pointing you straight into a hotbed of exquisite art, culinary masterpieces and musical exploration.  Hungary’s historic capital city is probably already on your radar and we only want to further solidify your travel plans. With direct air available from Toronto starting in the spring, it has never been easier to get to this bucket list destination.

This summer will prove to be all about Budapest, and we’re here to guide your stay.

Eat: Great Market Hall
Enjoy a meal in the impressive Great Market Hall. People have flocked to the market since 1897 to experience an authentic taste of Budapest. From its countless stalls of artisan meats and cheeses, baked goods, truffles and wine, travellers can spend hours getting lost in this foodie paradise. For a favourite local lunching experience, head upstairs to dine on traditional, rustic Hungarian fare at Fakanal.

Sleep:  Aria Hotel Budapest

Lay your head to rest in the number one hotel in the world as voted by millions of travellers on TripAdvisor for their Travelers’ Choice Awards 2017. This musically-themed hotel treats all guests like VIPs, offering a complimentary buffet breakfast every morning, and wine and cheese come afternoon. The rooms are dedicated to the genres of classical, opera, contemporary and jazz music and the legends who make their sweet sounds. Between the hotel’s central location, unbeatable service and dedication to making guests feel right at home, there is no question as to why Aria Hotel Budapest was voted number one in the world.

Play: Ruin Bars
Your night out in Pest begins at the Ruin Bars. Hit the hottest spots in the city in one locale. Party-goers, start your night at Instant – newly renovated with over 25 themed rooms, seven bars, two gardens and seven stages, patrons will not be disappointed when visiting this Ruin Bar venue.

See: High Note SkyBar
Located at the Aria Hotel Budapest, this rooftop venue has it all. The High Note SkyBar is the definition of #views. If lounging in chic furniture surrounded by a lush garden in the sky wasn’t lavish enough, visitors must merely look up to take in the breathtaking architecture of St. Stephen’s Basilica and the sun setting behind it. Sip on a delicious cocktail, indulge win gourmet meals and end every night on a High Note at Aria Hotel Budapest.

Do: Thermal Baths
Dip your toe into an ancient Budapest tradition: Turkish baths. An array of thermal baths located around the city cater to the needs of all visitors. These indoor heated venues range from Art Nouveau to chic and modern and offer the ultimate in indulgent experience. After walking the historic city, unwind in one of the many baths around the city or spend the week trying a bunch!

Why We’re In Love With Lisbon, Portugal

Situated off the Western coast of Spain and engulfed in culture, cuisine and art, Portugal is fast becoming the hottest spot to visit in Europe.

There’s no question as to why either. Think of yourself being surrounded by the most genuine people, all the while remaining inspired by a beautiful country. Check out my top picks for the top eat, sleeps and views in Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon: 

A colourful city surrounded by narrow cobblestone sidewalks, err, streets rather, the classic yellow cable cars and of course, tuk-tuks honking about. This is a city like no other.

Stay:

Corinthia Hotels Lisbon
Av. Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro 105, Portugal

A friendly, welcoming hotel with a chic interior and the best breakfast buffet you could ask for – order the customized omelettes and espresso. Decked out in shiny floors, marble tables and cream-coloured chairs in the lobby, this hotel puts your worries at ease for travelling to a new place with their helpful staff at reception and eager to please concierge.  Take a dip in their indoor pool outfitted in the typical Portuguese tiles amid the stunning blue hue and once you’re cooled off, get some R&R on their patio outside overlooking the busy city.

Savour:

5 Oceans Lisboa
Doca Alcântara, 1350 Lisboa, Portugal

If you’re a fan of a restaurant overlooking a bridge (much like the golden gate bridge in San Francisco) amid a beautiful viewpoint of the marina at the Alcantara docks than this should be your go-to spot. Not only does it offer sweeping views of boats and yachts, but it serves some of the best seafood around. Opt for the grilled sea bass, it’s to die for – just watch out for the bones. For desert, let the glasses of Portugal’s famous port flow alongside platters of pastries.

Do:

Start at the Port of Lisbon for a day of adventures and walk through the colourful streets and alleys. Grab a bite to eat at the oldest restaurant in Lisbon, Café Restaurante Martinho Da Arcada for a real cultural taste of the city.

Take the metro to Belem and visit the Torre de Uclem, a fortified tower that is a symbol of Lisbon and a UNESCO world monument. Dip a toe into the cultural commercial square (read: Praca do Comercio) and visit the Jeronimos Monastery and the Maritime Museum for a good dose of history.

Next, catch a tuk-tuk back and towards the Alfama Portas do Sol, which is the oldest Moorish district in Lisbon. Stop at a charming shop called Ai Maria for a shot of Ginja, a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries in a chocolate cup.  Tour around the Alfama district for a wide breadth of culture amid the narrow, old cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses surrounding. Afterwards, hop back on the tuk-tuk where your friendly tour guide will take you to the best lookout point in the city at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia monument. Snap a selfie while you’re at it.

You can’t visit Lisbon without checking out Sintra and its multitude of beautiful, breathtaking palaces and castles. If you’re in shape and wanting to get a workout, hike up to the Pena Palace in Lisbon, or for those wanting to save their calves, catch a bus to the top. This hike is not for the faint of heart though, but the ascent is worth it for the tour at the top. The Pena Palace is engulfed in bright oranges, yellows and blue tiles, one of the prettiest palaces you could ever lay your eyes on. While in Sintra, visit the Quinta de Regaleira castle, which, while it isn’t decorated in bright colours like Pena, it makes up for in intricate gothic renaissance styles.

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, so there is great shopping around; it’s a mixture between the designer retailer stores and local Portuguese shops too. I even picked up my Dior sunglasses at the Dior store in town.

Algarve:

Drive to Carvoeiro, in the Algarve region. This region is the utmost southern part of the country’s coastline. The Algarve should definitely be on your list as it has much to offer, think the famous orange cliffs, caves, lagoons and the bluest water there is. There is much to explore while you’re here and it’s a great place to get some well deserved R&R.

Stay:

Tivoli Hotels Carvoeiro
Vale do Covo, Praia do Carvoeiro, 8401-911 Carvoeiro, Lagoa, Portugal

This hotel has the best view money can buy, with a pool situated right in front of the ocean and the stunning rugged caves. Spend a day by the water and walk down to the village for dinner.

Savour:

Restaurante Villa Medici
Estr. do Farol 90, 8400-505 Carvoeiro, Portugal

Just a few minutes away from the hotel, take a trek down to the village and go for the best Italian in Portugal at Villa Medici. For appetizers, opt for the garlic pizza, yes it’s a thing and it’s fabulous.

Do: Drive up to Cape St. Vincent, next to the Sagres Point, in Algarve, southern Portugal where you will find a handful of surfers descending the steps of the cliffs to the water. This place isn’t a huge tourist trap, and should definitely be on your list. The Romans liked it too as they used to think of it as the “End of the World’ because they considered it a magical place where the sunset was much larger than anywhere else, and because it’s the south-western most part of Portugal closest to Africa. The view is as far as the eye can see, with rocky cliffs just below you and the bright turquoise blue ocean, there is really no place like it.

Leave early and drive to Evora, one of the hottest cities in Europe, get some culture in and visit the Igreja de São Francisco, one of the most prominent Gothic monuments in Portugal. This cathedral is gilded in gold, and intricate woodwork, covering almost the entire church; it’s considered one of the most outstanding of Portugal. Next, walk over to the Chapel of Bones, where yes, you guessed it, the interior walls are covered with human skulls and bones. There is a message waiting for you upon arrival (“We bones that here are, for yours await”). Pretty crazy, cool too.

After a long day out exploring, drive to Cascais, Europe’s version of the Hampton’s. What was once a sleepy fishing village, Cascais is now a bustling beach town.

Stay: Fortaleza de Guincho

Change things up and stay at a fort, well, in my opinion, what was really a castle. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spot right on the beach with the sounds of crashing waves, or a quiet place to get some work done, this is the place to stay. Boasting views of the waves crashing on the shore, and the rugged rocks below, Fortaleza de Guincho presents a true European experience. With suites outfitted in gilded wooden décor, round rustic doors, and sprawling bedrooms with embroidered drapes there is not much else you need. The bathrooms are even enriched in the original Portuguese blue tile, complete with Hermès products, proving this is the place to be when you’re in need of a beach oasis.

Savour: Fortaleza de Guincho Restaurant

Stay in the hotel for dinner and eat at the world-renowned restaurant where you will find the best fish and seafood from the Portuguese coast as well as the highest quality of service, with a Michelin 1*. This isn’t a fast dining restaurant, this is all about the experience, with a philosophy based and inspired by the Atlantic, you get the true feel for the Portuguese cuisine. Opt for the Sea Bream, a delectable white fish served with fennel and barley, and try the Memories of my Childhood for dessert, served with plums, chocolate, and edible flowers.

See you next time, Portugal!

Why We’re Mad For Maui, Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

The island of Maui, Hawaii is a tropical paradise with a population of almost 150,000. It’s Hawaii’s second largest island and plays host to hundreds of thousands of tourists each month. Known for its cultural luaus and gorgeous beaches such as Makena Beach and Napili Bay, along with excursions like The Road to Hana, it’s a must-visit for anyone with a case of wanderlust. The high season is in the wintertime when most other places are freezing cold, and the low season falls in both spring and autumn. Having visited during both peak and slow season, the latter is the way to go.

Photo: www.grandwailea.com

Photo: www.grandwailea.com

SLEEP:

On The Cheap: While vacationing to Maui doesn’t come cheap, if you’re up for staying in a hostel, Lahaina’s Last Resort was clean and friendly. Situated just steps away from the town of Lahaina and “Baby Beach” its location won me over. I would definitely recommend it if you’re travelLing solo or with friends, rather than for a romantic getaway.

Solid Mid-Range: Ka’anapli Beach Club is surrounded by luscious gardens and beautiful ocean views. Located a short drive away from snorkeling paradise, Napili Bay, and the charming town of Lahaina, it’s a lovely resort in a key location.

Tropical Luxury: If luxury is what you crave, the Grand Wailea Resort sits minutes away from Wailea beach. The upscale hotel features everything from a gorgeous 50,000 square-foot spa with 40 treatment rooms, to a thatch-roof restaurant floating atop a lagoon, to morning beach yoga.

EAT & DRINK:

Best Bites:

Photo: http://mauitime.com/

Photo: http://mauitime.com/

 

Mama’s Fish House in Paia is a must-visit for anyone who loves seafood. Featuring fresh Hawaiian fish brought in daily, it’s a family-owned bodega located right on Maui’s North Shore. I still dream about the ahi, ono and a’u ku, a dish sautéed in Panang curry and coconut milk, with their speciality mango chutney. And the strawberry guava fizz was a fresh and intoxicating mix of strawberry guava, lemonade and a dose of vodka.

If you find yourself in the mood for a mid-day snack, Café Café in Lahaina has a lot to offer. The smoothie bowls were second to none, with options ranging from an acai banana bowl (highly recommended), papaya bowl, granola bowl and more. They also serve eggs, bagels, sweet treats and smoothies.

For the best morning pick-me-up, grab a coffee or iced coffee at Bad Ass Coffee Co.

Make sure to make a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise, a tiki-inspired spot with the best burgers on the island. Their Baja burger, topped with avocado, jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, salsa and more, is completely mouth-watering.

Maui, Hawaii

WANDER:

Best View: With so many breathtaking beaches, it’s hard to choose just one, but Makena Beach, also known as “Big Beach”, has to take the top spot. The turquoise waters are crystal clear, with a golden sand beach that stretches 2/3 of a mile long and 100 yards wide.

SEE & DO:

Take a day trip on the Road to Hana, a gorgeous excursion along a curvy coastal road with views of beaches, waterfalls, cliffs and rainforests. Stop off at different spots along the way such as Waikani Falls and the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park.

If you’re an adventure-seeker, watch the sunrise at the top of Mount Haleakala and spend the day biking down the mountain. Beautiful views included.

NOT TO BE MISSED:

The surf town of Paia boasts charming boutiques, cafés, and ice cream shops, and gives you a taste of Hawaii’s rare, small town culture.

MAUI, Hawaii

CULTURE:

If you want to be immersed in Hawaiian culture, grab a ticket to a luau. With a classic Hawaiian buffet, hula lessons, a fire show and more, it will be one of your favourite Maui experiences.

How To Conquer Cannes Like A Celebrity

We may not be walking red carpets like a few of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, but we can definitely conquer Cannes like one.

This French Riviera locale is always swarming with the world’s elite. All year-round, vacation dwellers swarm the idyllic city for some of the best in culinary, culture and of course the Cannes Film Festival.

When it comes to navigating these pristine waters and truly serene coastlines, it’s best to do as the French do. If you’re looking for a star sighting, or you’re hoping to vacation like Leonardo DiCaprio, make sure to check out a few of these A-list approved spots.

Cannes

Eat: La Colombe d’Or, La Colombe d’Or, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

This historic hotel and restaurant has been dishing out some of the best cuisines in Cannes since the 1920’s. With an extensive art collection and a garden terrace that begs for coffee sessions come sunrise, this bohemian eatery is all that and then some.

While you’re almost guaranteed to spot a celebrity at this Provençal cookery, make sure to take in the sights and sounds that surround the property. Maintained by the Roux family, this pristine location will warm your heart and your stomach.Cannes

Sleep: Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Boulevard JF Kennedy, 06600 Antibes, France

This luxurious celebrity-filled hotel is the epicentre of all things Cannes. Stars such as Scarlett Johansson and Madonna have rested their heads here. Most recently, Vanity Fair teamed up with Chopard Jewels to host a dazzling event with Hollywood’s most well-heeled.

Make sure to take advantage of their Sisley Spa that boasts some of the best wellness treatments found in Southern France.

Cannes

Play: Palais Club, La Rotonde de Lernis, Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France  

It wouldn’t be the South of France without some of the most lavish parties around. And while many of the noteworthy events are usually invite-only, there are a few places to check out while you’re in Cannes.

One of the more popular spots is the Palais Club, a famed DJ and dance haven that celebrates the best in Euro music. Make sure to explore the expansive property, including their rooftop lounge that overlooks the Mediterranean.

Cannes Spend: Marché des Allées de la Liberté

While the rich and famous might spend their cash at the Rue d’Antibes, the Rodeo Drive of Southern France, we much prefer their open air markets. Between their flea to flower markets, there’s no shortage of treasured gems and blooms to be found on a warm sunny morning in Cannes.

One of the more popular floral stands, Marché des Allées de la Liberté, is open on Saturday and boasts an antique market from 8AM to 6PM.Cannes

Paresseux: 

Make the most of your Mediterranean vacation by sunbathing under the warm southern skies. And while Cannes is home to a few private beaches, walk the public coastline for glimpses of the Riviera lifestyle.

Since 7.5KM of Cannes is actual beach, you will have no problem finding somewhere sandy to rest your head for the afternoon.