Monday, October 31, 2005


You who have never been to Paris know,
and you who have never been--go!
-- John Ruskin,
A Tour through France

Paris is the city of lights, and travels in and around Paris can light up your life. Here's a quick guide to easy, affordable travel in one of the world's most romantic cities.

FORGET PARIS? Never! "We'll always have Paris," said Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca--and he's right. Once you've visited this romantic city, the memory of this place will stay with you forever.

When in Paris...stay on the
The Left Bank (5th arrondissement/district) near the Sorbonne. You don't want to stay anywhere but a hotel or apartment in or around the Latin Quarter (to get there, look for the Saint-Michel - Maubert Mutualite Metro stop, or if you're using the RER metro train, get off at the the Saint-Michel - Luxembourg stop). If you're near that, you're going to have a good time and you'll be able to get around easily to all the places you'll want to see in Paris. You'll also be fairly close to the Gare de Lyon train station when you want to take side trips out of Paris.
My favorite little neighborhood hotel in Paris is the Hotel Claude Bernard; I've been there time and again and recommended it to others who have enjoyed it as well. The Hotel Claude Bernard located in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain des Pres, the heart of the city, is close to all these places reminding of Paris prestigious history: Notre-Dame, Cluny Abbey, the banks of river Seine and the second hand book- sellers, Saint Michel and Saint Germain, Beaubourg, the Louvre and Orsey Museums. In this lovely place, full of charm and character you will appreciate the art of good living while making your stay a moment to remember. The address: 43 Rue des Ecoles, Paris, 75005 France. (It runs about $117 a night, US--but ask for a better rate and they always try to work with you if they can. However this is a reasonable rate for a nice Paris hotel).

If you're a budget traveler and you just want the basics--nothing fancy--and you don't even mind sharing a bathroom down the hall, I know of a clean well-lighted place with rock-bottom prices. The Hotel du Commerce on Rue de Montaigne is a 1 or 2 star hotel, and it is like a hostel in many ways, but it is clean and inexpensive, and its location is just great. I've stayed here a few times when I needed just needed a room for the night before meeting an early morning train or plane.
Visit their Web site at, Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, near Saint Germain, the Hotel du Commerce is just a few blocks away from the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, the Panteon, Sorbonne University and the Seine river banks. At It is an ideal place for travelers, students, professors and families. Located just around the corner (a couple blocks away) from the Hotel Claude Bernard, it is located in the 5th district in the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne at 14 rue de Montaigne Sainte Genevieve, Paris 75005, France.
Staying near a university like the Sorbonne ensures that there will be plenty of sidewalk cafes, jazz clubs, music venues, museums, art exhibits, shops, and affordable lodging nearby. This is the neighborhood of poets and artists, and famous writers like Hemingway lived on the Left Bank, too. (I love to walk by the apartment where he lived on rue Cardinal Lemone).

What to see during your Paris vacation:
Yes, you simply must see the Eiffel Tower, but first walk around the Latin Quarter and visit the cafes, outdoor markets, and old churches (they have great music recitals in the old neighborhood churches almost every night), and stroll along the river Seine. There you'll not only behold the stalls of artists and street vendors, you'll come to a breathtaking view of Notre Dame Cathedral. Did you know it's over 700 years old? Its gothic majesty, gargoyles, stained glass windows, and statues are sure to astound you. Be sure to go inside and take time to climb the bell towers (Quasimodo watch out!). Located on the Ile de la Cite, surrounded by the Seine, it is a spectacular place to start your tour of Paris.
Then, visit the Louvre or any one of the many, many museums in Paris such as the Musaee d'Orsay, the Rodin Museum. Musee de l'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. There are museum passes you can buy that will grant you entrance into as many as 80 museums in Paris alone!
At this point, I'd hop on a double-decker bus (an inexpensive way to see all the major attractions of Paris in 24 hours, and a good mode of transportation all day long in the city). This way you'll see things like the Eiffel Tower, Hotel de Ville, Bastille Square Sorbonne, St-Germain-des-Pres, the Champs-Elyses, Arch of Triumph, Invalides, Concorde Square, Madeleine Church, Opera Square, and the Place des Pyramides--to name just a few of the most lovely places in Paris.
When you're tired and hungry, go to the top of the
La Samaritaine, a department store which occupies four buildings in the center of the city. The best kept secret of the locals in Paris is that there at the department store, a cafe on the roof of store number two, offers a 360 degree view of Paris. Have an inexpensive lunch and take great photos. You'll know you've seen la vie en rose when you dine here with a glass of wine or a cup of strong, hot coffee on a clear, lovely Paris afternoon.

Want the most romantic dinner experience one of the world's most romantic cities? Propose to your girlfriend here, and she'll swoon ! You'll both remember it as the most romantic dinner ever. Le Train Bleu restaurant is located at the Gare de Lyon train station, so it's easy to find. It's very formal (read expensive), but extremely romantic. Make reservations in advance for a special evening of fine dining at Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon - place Louis-Armand - Paris 75012. Tel : 01 43 43 09 06 - Fax : 01 43 43 97 96, Subway : Gare de Lyon
Seats : 250,Open 7/7
And while you're there making plans for the future, make plans for a side trip to other enchanting towns outside of Paris. Buy a Eurail Pass (they have country passes that are good for not only France but other countries in Europe!) and make reservations on trains headed to locations throughout France such as Avignon, Dijon, or Lourdes! Even beautiful Venice, Italy, is a just romantic overnight train trip from Paris. You'll be there on the Grand Canal to cross the Rialto bridge by mid-morning the next day. Eurail has great prices, clean, fast trains, good service, good food, efficient schedules, and passes to countries throughout Europe as well as discounts on Ferries and other travel means and destinations. See for all the information on the services this fabulous company has to offer travelers.

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then whenever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." -- Ernest Hemingway
Even after a short stay in the city of lights, memories of Paris stay with you for the rest of your life. So what are you waiting for? So Bon Voyage and Bonjour, Paris!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Eurail on the Emerald Isle

In Dublin's Fair City...

Stay at the
Albany Hotel
84 Harcourt Street,
Dublin 2, Ireland;
33 rooms. 3 star Georgian styled house. Non-smoking. Not far from St. Stephen's Green. Offers lovely breakfast each morning.

Or, better yet, stay at
The Hotel Davenport -- an O'Callahan Hotel
Merrion Square, Dublin, 2, Ireland
This elegant, traditional deluxe hotel is ideally located at Merrion Square in the heart of Georgian Dublin. The spectacular facade of the hotel, originally that of a church, dates from 1863. Lovely facilities with exceptional service. Includes 115 guest bedrooms, of which there are 103 classic bedrooms, 10 junior suites and two one bedroom suites. Lovely restaurant/bar and lounge areas.

Walk next door and see where Oscar Wilde's family lived, or stroll through Merrion Square and visit the beautiful Archbishop Ryan Park. Also on this square you'll see gorgeous government buildings, the home of poet William Butler Yeats, and the fabulous National Gallery of Ireland, which has among its beautiful art treasures a Vermeer painting. Cut across St. Stephen's Green and see the artists along the fence surrounding the park.

Then, stroll into the "City Centre" and look at the beauty of Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and the beautiful churches such as Christ's Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Then it's on to the famous Temple Bar area of Dublin, named for a famous street (and pub) there. "Temple Bar is a colourful quarter of Dublin City which, almost accidentally it could be said, over the years developed a bohemian 'Left Bank' character, while retaining in its cobbled streets and old buildings a charm no longer to be found in many other parts of the city," according to one Temple Bar aficionado.
Be sure to stop at the Ha'penny Bridge, a pedestrian bridge built in 1816 over the River Liffey (Its real name is Liffey Bridge, but locals call it Ha'Penny Bridge).
Go on an entertaining and informative literary pub crawl one evening, or take musical pub crawl tour to hear some wonderful Irish music.

A favorite stop of the tourists is the Guiness Storehouse Tour. It's like a big, industrial beer museum, (it's not really a brewery tour), and it gives an informative history of not only Guiness Stout, but also of the life of the founder of the company who did much for Dublin and the people of that fair city. Oh, and did I mention there's a tasting room with free Guiness (with the tour only) in the Oxygen Bar upstairs? With one of the most beautiful, panoramic views of the city, the windows in the bar display quotations from James Joyce which point out special parts of the city that appeared in The Dubliners and Finnegan's Wake. Be sure to also visit the Dublin Writer's Museum near the Abbey Theatre.

There's still a great deal more to do in Dublin (we haven't even talked about the food and shopping yet!), but first let's take a side trip on a beautiful Eurail line to visit the lovely CORK CITY and nearby Blarney Castle.

Eurail is the best way to see Ireland: with clean, spacious, comfortable rail cars and delightful dining opportunities (you must taste their Irish breakfast!), the train allows you a quick trip across the country (just 2-3 hours from Dublin to most locations throughout Ireland), and allows you a quiet, peaceful journey through the greenest land you've ever seen--land dotted with herds of white sheep with black faces everywhere you look.

Cork is just a few hours by train from Dublin, and it is one of the best places to visit in Ireland. While in the area near Cork Harbour, I also visited the beautiful Fota House and Gardens while there, and then I went on to visit the Titanic Trail Cobh (Queenstown). The Titanic Trail is a fascinating Guided Heritage Tour exploring the town of Cobh, Cork Harbour which was the last port of call of RMS Titanic. There is an interesting museum there, too.
Cork has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2005 and is a beautiful port city on the North Atlantic, a center of both commerce and culture, and a delightful place to walk, shop, visit historical sites, and spend time in beautiful marketplaces.
And don't forget to take the five mile ride out to Blarney Castle where you can kiss the Blarney Stone!

Another beautiful rail trip along Ireland's rocky coastline takes you to the charming town of Wexford. From there I took side trips to visit places like New Ross where I toured a historic reproduction of a "famine ship" aboard which Irish emigrants traveled from their beloved country to America during the Potato Famine which swept through Ireland in the mid-1840s.

I also visited the Irish National Heritage Park near Wexford, with 35 lush and lovely 35 green acres of forests and trails, to see an authentic recreation of Ireland's heritage and learn how people through the ages lived and worked on this beautiful Emerald Isle. "Homesteads, places of ritual, burial modes and long forgotten remains will enlighten the casual visitor and interest the scholar," according to their brochures, and they're right. It was an extremely interesting place to visit, and the grounds were astonishingly beautiful.

Then I took an IRISH FERRY, to France. Irish Ferries partners with Eurail to give passengers massive savings on fares, and so I sailed with a Eurail pass discount from Rosslare to Cherbourg, France. The boat I was on was not like any ferry you've ever seen; rather, it's a veritable cruise ship, and the inexpensive overnight trip to France gave me plenty of time to enjoy the fine restaurant, the lounge with live music, and the movie theatre on board. But we'll talk about that leg of this trip next week on SAN ANTONIO LIVING when we tell about my travels in France. So be sure to watch next week when Travel Tuesdays take us to France!

For more information about travel in Ireland (and other European countries) visit Eurail's Web site at For information about the marvelous trips to France and England from Ireland on Irish Ferries visit For a wonderful hotel in Dublin (my favorite!) visit the Hotel Davenport online at While visiting, I became quite ill and I was also troubled by news reports about the hurricanes in Louisiana and Texas, and the staff knew this and could not have been more gracious, helpful, and kind--especially a woman named Hazel who worked at the front desk. The hotel was a haven at the end of a cool, rainy day, too, with tea and biscuits in a dark, beautiful lounge with over-stuffed leather sofas and soft lighting and big windows. The location in Merrion Square is superb, as well. I highly recommend this hotel.

See you next week on Travel Tuesdays with WOAI TV's very own SAN ANTONIO LIVING.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Getaway to Santa Fe!

Which Santa Fe Would You Like to See?
Is it the romantic place where you and your special someone can slip into the desert night to see the stars, spend the day sitting in cafes and strolling hand in hand through art galleries? The place where the perfect spa treatment is yours after a relaxing together in private hot tub overlooking the woods on a starry night with snow on the ground around the steaming tub?
Or is it the family vacation you've always dreamed of? Hiking with the kids, geocaching, fly fishing, teaching them about artists and native Americans, visiting the ancient American Indian cliff dwellings and pueblos, enjoying dinner and music and strolling together through the plaza?
Or is it the girlfriend getaway? Sipping margaritas, shopping till you drop, eating enchiladas, trying on jewelry at the outdoor market, visiting museums, taking a siesta by the pool, having a facial at a spa, telling stories around an adobe fireplace late into the night?

All of these Santa Fe vacations are there waiting for you, and there's just so much to do!

Here's where to begin:

Romantic Getaway -- Stay at the Inn of the Anazazi just off the old main plaza near the Palace of the Governors. Have a private dinner created by the hotel's fine chef in the wine cellar downstairs. Eat at the Casa Sena just around the corner. Have a private hot tub and massage treatment at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa. Hike together through the Santa Fe National Forest. Stroll quietly through the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. Step into an old church to light a candle for someone you love. Star gaze near the ski areas just outside of town late at night.

Girlfriend's Guide to a Good Time in Old Santa Fe-- Stay at the fun La Fonda on the Plaza and have a drink at the hotel's rooftop cantina, or take a dip in the pool. Or for a real treat, stay at the Inn of the Anasazi where you'll have your own private fireplace in your room on those cool mountain evenings. Have a leisurely breakfast at the Plaza Cafe whose walls are covered in broken dishes and bright colors. Shop in all the clothing, jewelry, and pottery shops along the plaza, browse the art and photography galleries, and then stop for sopapillas and the fabulous famous margaritas of Maria's New Mexican Restaurant. Or take a whole day just to visit the spa at Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa and have a nightingale facial (hint: don't ask too many questions about what it is they're putting on your face, though). Maybe take the senic drive into Albuquerque to tour the Gruet Winery and sample their delicious sparkling wines! For dinner, gather at the Casa Sena Cantina or Geronimo for the perfect end to a perfect party day with the girls, or have dinner at the Inn of the Anasazi for a really special night out and an unforgetable meal.

Unforgettable family Vacation -- Stay at Las Palomas, just a few blocks off the main plaza, where you'll have your own little, private casita, complete with a kitchenette and diningg area. Let the kids play at the Las Palomas children's garden while you relax in the Spanish-style courtyard over a cup of coffe before you treat them to Las Paloma's complimentary breakfast with homemade croissants, muffins and Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles for the kids! They'll need their strength to hike near Bandelier National Monument. Featuring the most stunning ancient ruins in the Southwest, not to mention the amazing natural beauty of the majestic mountains, the monument is just short drive from the town of Los Alamos, and close not far from Santa Fe and the Jemez Mountains as well as other historic pueblos. Take the kids fly fishing or go on a 21st century scavenger hunt using GPS navigation systems (they call it Geocaching!) with Santa Fe Mountain Adventures as your guide. Take a drive to Taos to visit the American Indian pueblo there. Return to the hotel where hot, homemade cookies await you. Then spend the afternoon taking photographs with the kids and developing the film in town that evening. Take the family to dinner and to hear the fabulous sounds of Broadway shows, sung live before a bright piano, at the Casa Sena Cantina. Your children will love Santa Fe and remember all their lives this incredible family vacation and the special time they spent with you.
For more information on Santa Fe, where to go and what to do, see the links below:
The Inn of the Anasazi Inn of the Anasazi, A Rosewood Hotel 113 Washington Avenue, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 Phone: 505.988.3030Fax: 505.988.3277 Email:

Las Palomas (505) 982-5560
460 W San Francisco St Santa Fe, NM 87501
Cross Street:Between Park Ave and Camino Del Campo

La Fonda on the Plaza
(505) 982-5511
100 E San Francisco St Santa Fe, NM 87501
Cross Street:Near intersection of Old Santa Fe Trl and E San Francisco St

Santa Fe Mountain Adventures

The Plaza Cafe (505) 982-166454 Lincoln Ave, Santa Fe, NM 87501

Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa: Reservations(505) 982-9304, (505) 992-5025Ski Basin Rd., Santa Fe, NM 87501

La Casa Sena 125 E Palace Ave., Santa Fe, NM, (505) 988-9232

Gruet Winery 8400 Pan American Freeway N.E., Albuquerque, NM (505) 821-0055 · Fax (505) 857-0066 · Toll-Free (888) 857-WINE (9463)