Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Tourist in Paris France?? Use the Metro Like a Parisian!

So easy to get almost anywhere around Paris on the Metro.  BUT - especially if an old fart tourist - watch out for pickpockets on the metro particularly at peak seasons.  They are fast, expert and you will not know a thing.

We speak from experience - as the wife who uses a cane after a mucked up hip operation- can attest too, after being pushed over getting from the platform into the train and having her backpack opened and her purse stolen in an instant on a Saturday morning!  Just picking on the least able to defend themselves!

Just be aware.........and local or tourist, they do not discriminate!

Enough of that.

Lots of advice says buy your metro tickets outside France.  Not necessary - easier to be prepared and buy the tickets at any metro station, and there are several options.

If planning on many trips - buy a 2,3, or 5 day ticket, which can be for just suburban Paris OR to include airports and Versailles etc and provides unlimited use.  The latter may be a good option if arriving by air at CDG, as you can then travel into the central area on the same ticket.

If not sure you can also buy tickets for central areas as a batch of 10 tickets - sometimes okay if only likely to do one or two return rides a day or you need an extra day on top of the first option.

The best option is to buy the tickets you need on the first train trip you take, purchasing at a ticket office as you enter the metro.  And they will take a credit card too.  Just check online for more information on current prices, so you are at least aware of the options and possible costs.

Beats having to organise it beforehand.

The metro in Paris seems complicated initially, but it is not difficult to pick up how to get around........and it does service almost every tourist spot you can think of in Paris.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Laundry Self Service In Singapore

Laundry – Self-serve in Singapore.

Laundry is the dreaded word while travelling.  Pretty easy to get the jocks and socks done by hand as required, but in the tropics where getting sweaty, and clothes quite grubby from your sweaty body, not to mention a bit smelly too, usually requires a more serious effort to get the clothes of everyday use washed.
While the traditional adage of one set on, one set being washed and one set in the bag is still a sound approach, it is when you are staying somewhere for a while and you need to wash a load or two that it can be tricky.

Commonly hotels charge really high prices for laundry.  Yes, they come back nice and clean and pressed [and on a hanger or folded and wrapped too], but you sure pay for the service.  Prices for washing shirts and trousers in many decent level hotels in Asia can be $15 – 30 each [or Ringgit, Won, Baht whatever].  That seems VERY expensive.
In Singapore one of the few hotels with their own laundry has been the Holiday Inn group.  They have a self-service laundry in the premises and that is a convenient and great cost saver.  Almost all of the Holiday Inn branded places will have one throughout Asia, but not always at other parts of the IHG group, eg Crown Plaza brand.  Pity……..they could follow the example of their more consumer friendly counterpart brand!

Singapore has been a bit of a problem with a paucity of self-serve laundry services around.  Yes, there are outside places that do laundry at more reasonable prices, but most were not self-serve.
Now there are a few decently organised and operated places starting to appear, many are open 24 hours too.  A S$5 wash and a 5min drying for $1 Singapore [allow $5 to get a load fully dry] is a reasonable price.  Clean, airy and pleasant and with liquid washing detergent added automatically it is a fairly painless 40 minute experience for a wash.  Read a book or the paper – easy as can be.

We used the new Easywash facility in Chinatown at 4 Sago Lane between S Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street opposite the Chinatown Complex.  Other ones are around the main tourist areas of the city.  The Chinatown set up is a few minutes walk from the Chinatown MRT, and can be easily combined with a visit to Chinatown.  I would use it again.
Chinatown EasyWash

Chinatown Complex opposite

Wonder Wash is here with 36 locations around Singapore from 2010, but most are outside the main tourist areas although easy enough to get to for many. Not all are close to MRT locations.

We used at their Chinatown site, and they have other sites at Beach Road near Kampong Glam, Braddell near the MRT and another about 5mins walk from Commonwealth MRT.
You do need to get the washing done.  Now definitely a bit easier in Singapore.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

ParkRoyal on Pickering - A Great Hotel in Singapore

Park Royal on Pickering – Singapore

The hotel has now been open about a year.  We visited early in 2013, and again now at Christmas 2013. Both were high quality experiences, but the current visit has been better as staff now are more settled and experienced in the nuances of the hotel and its quirks, and new experienced ones have been added.
The staff of the hotel really DO make the place – no doubt about it.  Effective, pleasant and with a “can do” attitude they are a pleasure to deal with, right down to the bellboy.  The hotel recently won the 2013 Hotel Concierge award in Singapore, among many awards in 2013.  Check in and out was quick ad pleasant.

Rooms are airy and with light colours, plus a lot of wood – with both daytime and night time powered blinds, and nearly full length windows.  Some think it a bit disconcerting, but you get used to the need to use the blinds for privacy when required!  Most rooms look out with excellent views across to the Suntec City area across the Treasury Building, so leaving them up offers excellent views both day and night.

undercroft area near main entrance

Christmas lights outside Lime Retaurant

Rooms are well equipped with plenty of multi pin type [for  different countries] power points as well as audiovisual connections and a 5V DC USB outlet for direct phone charging. The beds are all king size and with a soft top so very good for sleeping.
Some rooms have a bath, most just a shower, which is quite large with both an overhead rain shower and a hand moveable wall fixture.  Toiletries provided are of good quality and some are organically based [they say they are moving that way].

It claims to be a green focussed hotel, and many parts of the hotel infrastructure revolve around that theme.  There is a lot available online if further detail is needed.  I think the attitude of the hotel and staff is to try to meet the expectations for a low energy and green theme.  Certainly one major feature in your face is the external green walls.  They do add to the ambience.

The pool is excellent but end walls are not well suited to lap swimming as can be rounded and with no markings on the bottom swimming a straight line can be tricky if a bit crowded.  The pool can be a bit cool sometimes as it is partially shaded during the day - if the weather is cloudy, be aware of this.  There is a well-equipped gym near the pool.
The undercroft and main entrance area offer good weather protection and a stark visual appearance.  Especially a standout at night with lights on the curved roof.

The hotel functions very well, offering a great visitation experience.  It is well positioned on Upper Pickering Street for both business and holiday visitors, with easily reached public transport options very close by [100m to Chinatown MRT, or buses], and in close walking distance for many business offices.
Breakfast is served on the ground floor, in Lime Restaurant and a good array of western and eastern food is available, including all standard items.  Food quality and the live cooking are very good.  But beware – if staying over the weekend be there early for Sunday breakfast, before 0900hrs, or expect a delay.  Quite common in Singapore as the Sunday breakfast can be very leisurely and cause slow movement through breakfast restaurants in many hotels, including upmarket ones.

The hotel has a very well thought through Club Lounge on the 16th floor which can be good value for business guests.  I would recommend it.

Plenty more images online under the hotel name - many quite spectacular!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Lime Restaurant at Park Royal on Pickering - Festive Season Food

Lime Restaurant

Visited the restaurant for the Buffet that was available for the weekend before Christmas in a party of four, of different ethnic backgrounds.  The festive buffet [weekends and festive days in the pre-Christmas to New Year period] was essentially similar to the Christmas Buffet for Christmas Eve dinner with a wide variety of Christmas fare. 

Lime Restaurant
Plenty of seafood – prawns, oysters, smoked salmon and relevant extras.  The cold seafood was excellent with the products fresh and well presented, with attentive staff such as they provided a lime-water finger bowl for “clean up” after peeling the king prawns.  Prawns were superb, presented on ice – and I am a bit of an afficionado of prawns!  Oysters were fat and tasty too. Main meat dishes included the traditional turkey, baked glazed ham and a wonderful “melt in your mouth” rare to medium rare, sliced baked lamb loin - that was a standout.  Plus a wide range of cold entrees – tabouli, hummus, other leaf salads and more.  Baked vegetables were the accompanying hot side dishes.  This was the western food choices. 
Similar wide choices were available for Indian and Chinese, although not eaten by me some others in the party commented favourable on both Indian and Chinese choices and their quality.  Definitely able to please almost any taste!

Desserts included bread and butter pudding made with an Italian pannetone base, several mousse and cake logs [dressed for Christmas], ice cream in several flavours.  Fresh fruit and marshmallow skewers were available for dipping in the [obviously very green] green tea chocolate fountain.  After all – it is Lime Restaurant!
The meal was a great Christmas festive repast.  And reasonably priced for what was on offer.  Free flow of drinks, both soft and hard, including French champagne, available for an extra charge [normal in Singapore].  Highly recommended for the Festive season – and still a few days left!

The buffet would also be something to consider for other festivities coming, with Chinese New Year soon.  Even consider for Christmas 2014.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Renato’s Coogee Beach – Quality Comfort Food on a Cool Night

If anyone is culturing multiculturalism in Sydney, it is Renato’s Italian Trattoria in Coogee Bay Road, Coogee.
We ate there (again) tonight and once again it was a very good experience.  The group at the table beside us consisted of a group of aussie accented ethnic Chinese, Indian and possibly Thai, but maybe they are all ethnically Singaporean, because the owner is.  Uh huh, a Singaporean born guy running an Italian restaurant in Sydney.  The table on the other side had Greek and middle eastern guys enjoying the food too.

Great place; great food,  great staff, mostly Italian and a lassie from Manchester and also a Chinese guy in the kitchen.  I did say multicultural didn’t I?

The place was full to the gunnels but still the service was quick, and with a smile and pleasant comment.  The staff have a unity of purpose, and they all appear to be there to get the job done – no wandering around looking as if they had been dropped on the wrong planet.

The ambience was loud, fast and basic, everything you needed; and the food was good, good, good (as in property – location, location location)!
They have a small wine list, but there is a reasonably comprehensive bottle shop right next door and I am sure you can find something there to add to the good food (and it is BYO).
The oysters were plump and smooth.  The veal scaloppine was tender, as was the rare- medium veal wrapped in prosciutto, and it was all served hot with freshly cooked vegetables.  In fact the whole experience was just right – an Italian Trattoria you can depend on.

It is Italian – so they do pizza and pasta too – and many diners were enjoying those.
prosciutto wrapped veal

scaloppine boscaola
Will go again when we have the chance, and as one satisfied departing customer was heard to say “well…. they won’t go out of business.”   Try it when you can.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Hanuman Restaurant - One of Darwin's Best.

Hanuman is not a new restaurant in Darwin, definitely been around for a few years.  It is one restaurant that we have visited many times over the years, as it moved location a few times.  The most recent visit was in early May 2013.  It is on Mitchell Street, in the Darwin Entertainment Centre complex. [NOTE - hotel here has recently changed from Holiday Inn to Doubletree, so be aware of that].  If driving, there is paid parking below, or try The Esplanade - seems easier there rather than Mitchell Street.

It gets harder to maintain the standard over a long period but this restaurant certainly does.

Hanuman serves asian cuisine - thai, nonya, indian and peranakan and a modern take on that general area of food - think Sri Lanka, India and SE Asia, with the main man originally from Sri Lanka.

One of the best restaurants in Darwin, the menu offerings have expanded while still keeping most of the regular favourites, with the oysters - Hanuman oysters - still a top entree.

In a group of four, we ordered a range of both entrees and mains, with all sharing. All commented favourably on all dishes and we all are experienced in Asian food. Service was excellent and as always - bookings are the best option; you might get in without one, but on Friday and Saturday it is unwise not to make a booking - it was basically full last Saturday, and it is not even the tourist season yet!.

There is a cocktail bar and outside food area, non air-conditioned with fans, and while cool, inside in the a/c is recommended.  Food service in the outside area [under cover and weather proof] is often a bit quicker and more focussed around eating quickly and going on elsewhere. 

The wine list is okay, covering a good range of prices and quality, but not extensive; having a beer is maybe more common with this food style.

Recommended very strongly - absolutely one of the best in Darwin if you like Asian food.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Retail Therapy in Kuala Lumpur

One Utama
A major suburban retail therapy centre in KL, the area has been a bit tricky to reach previously by public transport, if you were not a local.  Ikea [at The Curve nearby] had their own feeder buses, but more development in the area has meant better public transport - mostly buses.

It is a big mall, with now two major areas - the old original and the newer stage 2.  Large corridors, plenty of shops,  but a bit flat in terms of the shops available.  More directed at local Malaysian customers probably, rather than tourists.  There are a few international upmarket brand shops, and Tangs from Singapore, but the experience with sales staff was not good.  Not focussed on wooing tourists to open their wallets is my view.

On most weekdays, it is reasonably empty, a distinct difference to KLCC, Mid Valley MegaMall or areas around Bukit Bingtang, where bustling might be a good term to use to describe them.

Think it is a bit flat overall, but it would depend on whether there was a focus on doing some shopping [with some specific needs] or not and whether there was much doing in the "sales" themes.


Definitely a good shopping location, with major Malaysian, Japanese and Singaporean department stores - Parksons, Isetan, Tangs, and most of the name brands synonomous with high end high quality retail.  Particularly for women - LV, Prada, Burberry, Coach, Gucc, Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, Sony, HTC, Samsung and the list could go on.  There are about 6 or 7 levels of shops, and easily accessed using the rail network with a MRT station directly below the centre.

Think the options for eating are modest, but with such good local food available in other locations around KL it is hardly an issue.  Most eateries are for western food, so I guess for locals, that is a bit different.  Several coffee chains - Dome and Starbucks among them.

You can access the Petronas Towers from this area, but sometimes it is difficult to get access that same day, if it is busy.  You need to go and check as it was not possible to book otherwise when last checked out.

It is a worthwhile experience to go up and cross the skybridge. [ Remember the movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones??]

Sungei Wang Plaza

Used to be the go to place for all sorts of shopping, especially electronics, illicit movies and software, and with a wide range of smaller shops selling many different items and plenty of eateries.  Also has a Parkson department store.

Sungei Wang Plaza is now 35 years old and very tired.  As an offering against many others - The Pavilion and Lot 10, Times Square - all very close by, it is now awful.  Run down and at times a bit grubby.  That said there are some bargains to be had, if you wander around.  Pirated DVDs and software are more difficult to obtain.  BUT - a big renovation is underway, and will continue through 2013 and into 2014.  Hard to tell so far on whether it will "come back", but it certainly lacks some features now more common in newer centres eg SWP has quite low ceilings, whereas newer places are more "√∂pen".  Time will tell.

But do get of the monorail at Bukit Bintang.......lots to do around that area, and you can get to both The Pavilion and Lot 10 from that stop.