{London Restaurants} Caravan

There are many “techniques” for finding great restaurants wherever you go. You can use Instagram, Yelp, TripAdvisor, but you can also use Google maps. This is how I found Caravan at Exmouth. I searched on the map all restaurants around our hotel. Once I found it, I looked at their website and the customer reviews.

As it turns out, there are two Caravan coffees in London: one in Exmouth and another one near Kings Cross Station.

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They serve brunch during the weekend, but if you are not in the mood for a brunch, they have a solid all day menu. We arrived at 10 am, and people were already waiting for it to open.

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The coffee is excellent ! They roast it by themselves FYI ! The avocado toast is delicious too. Honestly, I was not a big fan of the pancakes, the lemon curd was a little bit too much for my taste. However, the rest of the food was really good. Plus, it has great prices for London !

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I highly recommend it if you are looking for an excellent coffee and breakfast. I did not try the rest of the menu, so I can only endorse the breakfast/brunch. It is located in a relatively quiet but nice area of London (Farringdon). There are many attractions at a walking distance, such as the British Museum.

If you ever go to London and decide to try Caravan, let me know!

-Andy

{Travel tips} Secret flying

A really good friend told me about this website where you could find extremely crazy cheap plane tickets. I had to see it to believe it …

Exhibit A: Many french cities to NY from € 373. Depart from Paris € 287. The link took me to a website I’ve never heard of before: Momondo. What did I find ? Round trip Paris- NYC with a 5h30 layover in Copenhagen from December 25th to January 1st for 552 €

Exhibit B:  Round trip Paris- NYC with a 1.5 hour layover in London and a direct flight for the return trip with British Airways from  March 2 to 9, 2016. All for the convenient (extremely convenient) price of 391 €

This is incredible ! Well, first of all in order to take advantage of this type of offers on needs to have a little bit of flexibility in terms of vacation time (or just a bit of luck!). Second, maybe the cheapest flights won’t leave from your home country/city, so you have to add the plane ticket to Amsterdam from Paris, for example.

There are basically three options for finding tickets on Secret Flying: USA and Canada deals, Europe deals, and Rest of the world deals.

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I haven’t bought a ticket using this website, but as soon as I do I will let you know more about my experience. At first glance, this is a really good option for finding great tickets at very decent prices !

Tell me what you think in the comments below. Do you think this website is helpful?

x-Andy

{Travel tips} Finding the best deals Part 1

I think that the most crucial parts of preparing a trip are 1/ finding a good flight (and by good I mean reasonably priced and without a layover of 15 hours in the middle of nowhere) and 2/ finding a good hotel. Let’s talk about crucial part numero uno, shall we?

I’ve read many articles talking about the perfect time to buy the tickets (at 4 am on a Tuesday??) , erasing the cookies in your computer, the timing, etc. Although there are people and websites (like here) that thrive on finding the perfect deal, there are other ways to find great deals. It all depends on the following criteria :

  1. What type of trip you are going for : weekend trip, long stay, circuit
  2. Means of transportation: plane or train *
  3. What are you willing to compromise or not : budget, comfort, layover
  4. Would you like to stay in a hotel or not

On this first post, I will be talking about the type of trip.

If you want to leave for 3-4 days, I suggest you look for a package hotel/train + hotel. My favorite websites are : Opodo, Expedia, Voyages SNCF.  If you are not sure of where you want to go, you can wait for a last minute deal on Last Minute. Other websites offer the same option as well.

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There are special filters that allow you to find more easily the hotel you are looking for. However, BEWARE! Not all cheap hotels are the best, so it is really important to think about criteria #3 above. You don’t care if the hotel smells bad but you want to save money? Then go ahead ! If you prefer a more comfortable setting, then you should be ready to spend a little more $$. This sounds pretty much logical, but sometimes we forget and get carried away. Exhibit A: I planned a weekend trip to Amsterdam. I found a “great” train+hotel package on voyages SNCF for two persons. The hotel was a little bit far from the center of the city, but I thought that with the public transportation we would be fine and wow, the price ! Alas, the hotel was in the middle of a creepy neighborhood, smelled like sweat and cigarette, and it was cold and dirty. We only stayed one night, the next day we found a last minute hotel deal and stayed at the NH just next the Rijksmuseum. Conclusion: research well before getting carried away by the price. Sometimes its better to spend a little bit more and have a good night sleep than to stay in a smelly, cheap and cold hotel.

After the hotel comes the flight. In Europe, the cheapest flights have the most horrible schedules (6 am flight to Berlin..7:35 flight to Rome). I believe that arriving early is a good option since you can take advantage of the city right from the beginning. The return flight should be a little more flexible. Keep in mind that prices vary depending the time of the flight, so remember criteria 3 for choosing it.

Do not take the fist option you find, if you do it in advance, you can scan several websites every day or every two days. That way you will know what is the best option for you. If there’s something you absolutely like and you are pretty much sure that it is the best price ever, then book it. Do not wait for a magical thing to happen and to get a discount of 100 $ , it’s not going to happen unless a one-shot offer or campaign. I’ve let good opportunities go a couple of times because I believe that prices are going to fall.

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For a circuit, it depends on whether you want to prepare it yourself or go with a travel company. If you want to avoid the hassle, you can book directly with a travel agent (bit old school). We did this when planning our honeymoon to the Greek islands. A great travel agent found the perfect circuit for what we were looking for, everything is taken care for you: boat tickets, plane tickets, hotel reservations. You only have to decide on the day trips available at the hotel and given by the tour company. If you want to control everything about your trip, it’s another story. I will talk about planning a long stay/circuit in another post.

What are your tips and tricks when planning a trip ? Let me know in the comments below !

(*): won’t be talking about taking a car since I am not very savvy car wise

{Restaurants in Paris} Sunday brunch at La Doña

Brunch : both breakfast and lunch, the best 2-for-1 in the world !

I really like Sunday brunch, and what if we add a mexican one in the mix ? Jackpot !

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La Doña opened a few months ago in the 11ème arrondissement in Paris. I knew about this restaurant thanks to a friend that lives around the corner. We had dinner there and it was really good, authentic mexican food from the state of Oaxaca. I waited for a loong time to finally go to the Sunday brunch, and it was worth the wait.

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{Café} La Penderie

One of the great things about Paris is that there is an incredible amount of cafés to choose from. By café I don’t mean only a place where you can drink coffee, but a place where you can have a drink, eat and mingle until the wee hours of the morning.

A friend invited me La Penderie for an afterwork drink that turned out to be more of a dinner ! It is located in the center of Paris, just outside the Metro Etienne Marcel (line 4).

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Quick pro tip: Airline membership rewards

Oh, nothing beats the joy of seeing your miles add up !

Even if you don’t travel a lot , being registered to a rewards program such as AirFrance’s FlyingBlue or Lufthansa’s Miles & More is one of the first things to do ! The trick is to have one card per airline network. There are two of them: StarAlliance and SkyTeam. Although the best thing is to always travel with a single airline or network (that way you can get more miles), sometimes it is not possible. Maybe the cheapest airfare is with StarAlliance , or viceversa.

The point is not to lose miles ! Remember : everything adds up !

You can use your miles for renting cars, hotels, you can even buy wine with them. The point is to take advantage of the airline’s programs no matter where you go.