Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monaco: Living the lavish life?

Monaco: Living the lavish life

Just spent 2 nights in the beautiful country of Monaco (second smallest after the Vatican). When I imagined Monaco I pictured yachts with men dressed in nautical inspired attire navy blazers with khakis and ascots tucked into their shirts (shout out to my late daddy who had this look as his staple in his wardrobe), the women I pictured wearing loose blouses with oversized sunglasses (Jackie O in a top designers resort wear line). Well Monaco did not disappoint this was exactly the Monaco we visited. When we needed direction we looked for the most well dressed individuals on the street it almost guaranteed they were a local or from a nearby town off the Cote D'Azur. I saw a women in her 70's wearing black pumps, pearls, slacks and a beautiful red blazer while walking her dog. I am completely mesmerized by French women, they look so effortless and chic. 

Monaco is only 1 square mile but its positioned on mountainous land which makes it a bit hard to navigate. They say the hardest is getting into Monaco, you can helicopter over for 300 euros, take a taxi from the Nice airport for 90 euros, or take the train which is 9 euros ( we took the train, but upon arriving there were no cabs waiting at the station, so we ended up walking for 20 minutes upwards with our luggage and toddler, I would not recco but a tourist falsely gave us the impression our hotel was 5 minutes away).

We stayed at the Fairmont Monte Carlo and got our hotel room for just under 400 a night off of Expedia, but right now Amex cardholders can get buy 2 nights get the 3rd free which brings down the price. Be careful though the longer you spend in Monaco the more you'll spend on meals and drinks. Example hotel breakfast for 3 was 75 euros- yikes! We planned this all in our budget before hand knowing it would be our most expensive stop.

We walked and saw all key tourist attractions in a day like the Casino Monte Carlo, Casino Square, Place du Palais, Japanese Garden, Monte Carlo Harbour. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Monte Carlo, Monaco the views are breathtaking, there's amazing restaurants and a cosmopolitan party scene with lots of resto lounges ( at one point the three of us were in Buddha bar dancing to Punjabi MC -our son is a trooper and these things only happen cause my crazy husband makes friends everywhere).  

Toddler tip #1- Monaco is not an accessible city lots of random stairs so bring a very light weight stroller. We bought the D lite Summer stroller but saw lots with the Maclaren light weight equivalent.

Toddler tip #2- bring crayons and colouring books to restaurants in the evening, to keep your little one entertained after they eat. These upscale restaurants do not always provide like a Jack Astors would.

I would definitely visit Monaco again maybe in a very big group to rent a house which may save us some money. Monte Carlo  is extremely safe there is 1 police officer for every 6th person, and it is all under surveillance.

Off to our next stop the beautiful Nice, France which will be our hub for all other places we visit in the Cote D'Azur. 

9to5travel and the travelling toddler 

P.S. my son has picked up french he says bonjour and merci poo poo to everyone he meets lol

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ireland: The truth comes out when the spirit goes in

"The truth comes out when the spirit goes in" - old Irish saying 

Well the truth is we had 3 wonderful days in Dublin with our traveling toddler Ronak.  What I loved most about Dublin were the super friendly people, not sure if they always had truth serum in them which made them so approachable, but whatever the case may be they all welcomed us with warm smiles and thick Irish accents (which I seriously love).

We started our journey on a redeye flight with Air Transat, before you feel sorry for me, it surprisingly wasn't too bad. We felt like we had ample leg room versus a previous Thomas Cooke operated Air Transat flight we took to London a few years back. Our flight into Dublin and out of Lisbon was under 700 cad, so I had to suck it up for that price.

We spent 3 nights at the Fitzwilliam Hotel across from St. Stephen's Green, and just off of Grafton Street. I found this location ideal especially if you have wee li'l lads, St. Stephen's green is like a mini Central Park that is beautifully landscaped and has a lovely pond for swan watching and bird feeding (our son had a blast). This area is ideal as its less than 10 minutes to Temple Bar and the river, as well as walking distance to many tourist attractions like Trinity College. I would also suggest the Westbury or Shelbourne Hotel, or if your looking for a hotel that is right in the party pub scene the Morgan Hotel in temple bar. 

* all can easily be done through the red hop on and hop off bus tour. 

Trinity College - beautiful college with an old preserved library which houses the famous "book of kells". You can get lost in your imagination thinking about where these books have been, I saw a handwritten geometry textbook from the 1700's (man were ppl smart back then lol)

Temple Bar- there are 800 pubs in Dublin City and I believe over 75% of them are likely in Temple Bar alone. If you're from Toronto Picture cobblestone roads with Fionne MacCool ' like' pubs in every inch, let's just say lots of stag and hen parties have enjoyed their last single days here. What I loved most was the live musicians and folk dancing occurring throughout the day. Goes back to my love of the Irish accent, everyone sounds great singing. Visit Brazenhead pub it's been around since 1198.

Guinness Storehouse - definitely a highlight and must do tourist attraction. Arthur Guinness founded Guinness breweries, but who I feel for the most is his wife who gave him 21 children -yikes! They say there is a baby in every pint, so for those wanting a baby try a couple of pints of Guinness might help your odds lol. In Canada Guinness is known to be quite bitter, I guess the beer doesn't travel well because in Dublin it was sweeter. The tour is self guided and an absolutely beautiful facility which ends on the 7th floor gravity bar to enjoy a full pint of Guinness and scenic views of the city. 

Wicklow Mountains/Glen do logh/avoca village - we did a Grayline tour that cost 22euros each, our son was free. It was the Ireland we were use to seeing in movies, luscious greens, rivers and serene lakes, with sheep farms every 10th km. It was beautiful and the air tasted so fresh. Movies like Michael Collins and P.S. I love you were filmed in this county. 

Other areas to check out while in Dublin, Phoenix Park (3 times the size of Central Park and you can feed fawn and deer here they are wild), Dublin Zoo - 3rd largest in the EU,  kilhaming Gaol it is the largest unoccupied jail in the world. Croke Park (80,000 capacity outdoor stadium).

Dublin and the Wicklow county we visited had so much to see but possible in 3 days, however think the next time I visit Ireland I will stay more North in a B&B to get a rural experience of the country. The weather was summed up perfectly by the locals "In 48 hours you will experience autumn, spring and summer", or " we check the weather to see how much it will rain not if, scattered, light, or heavy". The weather was very unpredictable but was always quite mild overall. We knew this going in so we were okay.

Foodie fun
I would say the Irish cuisine is very hearty lots of beef and chicken dishes with vegetables/potatoes. The Irish breakfast consists of eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled mushroom and tomatoes with white and black pudding - that says a lot! Although quite delicious the loose use of salt I was not feeling ( for those that know me I am the anti-salt lol). Guinness is served (with no judgement) all hours of the day along with Irish coffee.  Definitely a rugged mans food heaven, not so much for me!

Travellingtoddler tip - if your child can still sit in your lap try to book the aisle and window seats leaving the center free. If the plane isn't full a person is less likely to book the middle ( which frees up for your kid to sit in) and if there is another seat free somewhere else a person is more okay with moving from there middle to an empty aisle, window or middle. Which leaves you with 3 seats, we done this and so far lucked out on every flight! 

Off to our next spot the uber posh country of Monaco! Stay tuned for our dip into the life of the extremely rich and over privileged...

9to5travelgirl and the travellingtoddler 

P.s forgot to mention at one point in Avoca village we had a shot of moonshine at 2 in the afternoon - that's Ireland.