Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Hop Across the Pond

For a person that does not like to fly, it seems like I am always getting on a plane. In October of 2011,we  took our first ever trip across the pond. For me, that was HUGE! Over eight hours on a plane is definitely not my idea of fun. But I soldiered on, because I'm brave like that! If you believe that... well I guess I could sell you that flying cow in my back yard. A tiny Ativan before boarding helped. I do not sleep, because I just can't sleep on planes ...but I rested. Somewhat. I have the kind of luck that won't get me the Powerball but will always get me people in the row in front of me that like to lay on my lap. The.entire.trip! Whether or not my dinner is on the tray.

Maybe that's why I can't sleep on planes. I may be too considerate to my fellow passengers since I barely recline the seat. Just enough so that I don't look like I have a stick up my....I digress.

This trip included Paris, Barcelona and a Trans-Atlantic cruise with stops in Porta Delgada in the Azores and St Thomas U.S.V.I. Most of this post is just from stuff I remember off the top of my head. I did not take any notes during this trip, so the post may be a little scatter brainy because... well... I sort of am! ;-)
 View from the Arc de Triomphe towards Montmartre

 Our cute little pied-à-terre on Rue de la Cerisaie
In Paris, we stayed in this lovely apartment in Le Marais in the 4th arr. Tiny, but cute
and perfect for the 2 of us. We booked through Paris Best Lodge and they were a class act from the get go. Due to my recent ankle surgery, I wasn't comfortable with walking up many flights of stairs, so my choices were quite limited. But we were thrilled with our little place in Paris and not only because we were on the ground floor. We did have a bit of a plumbing issue, but they had someone there right away. Plus, it would take a huge thing to ruin our vacations. We don't sweat the small stuff.

We got full use of our Paris Museum Pass and I do recommend it. We walked (a LOT) and used the metro as well. The Batobus is a nice option too. A relaxing, scenic ride on the Seine. It is not narrated, but for about the same price as the Seine tour boats, you can ride multiple times. The Batobus is hop on, hop off plus, it has stops near most major attractions. We purchased the 5 day pass and only used it a few times. But that was our choice. The one day pass is 15, the 2 day pass is 18 and the 5 day pass is 21. So for just a few euros more, we decided on the five day. Just in case.

We had a really nice meal was at Le Relais de l'Entrecôte in the 6th arr. And if you know anything about me, you know that the rest of my meals were mainly delicious pastries from all the glorious patisseries! Oh, and amazing fresh baked croissants for breakfast. How convenient is it, that from our apartment on Rue de la Cerisaie, we could walk about 10 steps to a patisserie/ boulangerie for breakfast?

One huge tip for Paris. If you have an early morning flight out of Paris, book your taxi ahead of time! Do not plan on calling half hour before you need it. Like we did. We could not get a taxi and obviously panic set in. D ran over to the taxi stand at the Bastille and fortunately got one after what seemed like an eternity a short wait, then came to pick me up. The taxi driver was wonderful, and did not seem to mind my broken French. We tipped him, he at first declined saying that it was not necessary but we insisted. He got us there safe and on time. Then it was up to us to run through the airport like OJ Simpson.

I know that we missed a ton of things and definitely plan on returning for a slower paced visit.

View of La Sagrada Familia from Montjuic
In Barcelona,we only had 2.5 days. We rented an apartment (Valencia D) through BCN Negre. It is located in the Eixample district and the office is right in the building. You do not need to go somewhere else to pick up your keys. Again, another good choice for us as we were very happy with our apartment. Sadly, I did not take any pictures, but the ones on their website are accurate.

One day we went to Montserrat. This is super easy to do on your own by train. You simply take R5 from Espanya station towards Manresa. Just be sure that you allow plenty of time to find your way at Plaça Espanya, it is huge. We missed the train that we wanted to be on by about 7 minutes and had to wait an hour for the next one. We chose the Trans-Montserrat ticket for about 23 euros each. It includes round trip train fare, your choice of the cable car or the cremallera (funicular), 2 additional return funicular rides in Montserrat, 2 metro tickets and access to the audio visual area. We had a wonderful visit and it was not very full. Probably because we arrived later in the day, but then again, we missed going all the way to the top since we had to catch the train back.

We also purchased a one day HoHo bus ticket once we had so little time. Let me start by saying that we are not tour bus type of people. We like to get out, walk and explore. But we were very limited on time. First, we took the entire circuit. Both the blue and the red line. Then we took it again, this time getting off at the places that we most wanted to see. It was a great way to see as much as possible with our limited time. We never had trouble getting on the bus, but we did notice several stops that were a mad house!

At the end of our journey on the bus, we made our final stop at Montjuic. We walked around a bit then made our way to the Poble Espanyol for our reservations at El Tablao de Carmen. I purchased our tickets on line and arrived about an hour early to check out El Poble. This is included in your reservation. A quick walk around and peeks into shops and we were ready for some flamenco. We chose the Tapas option. For 45 euros each we got Tapas, dessert, a pitcher of Sangria and a great show. You will be seated with strangers, I mean, really, really close to strangers. But it's all good. If you're lucky, you'll get to chit chat with new friends. The food was good and the show was great.
Our toothpicks
Now, for my favorite tapas place thus far. Taberna Maitea. I am truly in love with this place. The pinxtos are great and the Sangria was even better. The real deal, mixed in front of us. Grab your cold tapas and order your hot ones. We arrived before the peak dining hours and were seated right at the bar. D & I shared about 14 pinxtos and a large pitcher of amazing sangria for about 34 euros. They count your toothpicks at the end and charge you accordingly. I think it was about 1.60 each. Go! Unless your very difficult to please, you will not regret it.

Our trans-Atlantic cruise was on the brand new NCL Epic. Overall, it was a great cruise and we met several new friends. A bit of rough weather on the crossing, but nothing that I could not handle. Since I survived my first trans-Atlantic, we will be doing it again this year! So in October we will start off with 5 days in Rome and 4 more days in Barcelona before boarding the brand new Carnival Breeze! We will do a 12 day Western Mediterranean cruise followed by a 15 day trans-Atlantic.

Stay tuned. I will be sure to take notes this time with more tips.

*** I was not paid for this post. All links to websites are for informational purposes only. Everything posted is based solely on my personal experience. No guarantees are expressed or implied.***

Review: Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream

Forty-Five! Forty-Freakin'Five years old. I can't even believe that I am admitting this in public. So now that I am this age that I will not mention again, skin care is of the upmost importance to me. I will be fighting and hiding any signs of aging til I die!

I have been lucky so far. My only complaints are a few sun spots (I refuse to call them age spots) and a few broken capillaries around my nose. I HATE (and do not wear) foundation. I may use a bit of concealer if necessary along with my tinted moisturizer.

I recently received a tube of Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream to sample from BzzAgent. I was really excited to try this product after reading about B.B. creams. This is a perfect fit for me! The coverage is way better than that of my tinted moisturizer plus it evens out my skin tone and hides imperfections. I have been using it for over 2 weeks with no break outs or complaints.

B.B, Short for Beauty Balm, Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream combines intense hydration with tinted minerals and Vitamin C, so you can ditch that drawn-out beauty routine for naturally more even, radiant and smooth skin in minutes.
Used as often as you want to refresh your look, Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream instantly delivers big results:

Renews radiance
Brightens your complexion
Evens skin tone and blurs imperfections
Hydrates for 24 hours
Protects against UVA & UVB rays with SPF 15

Works on all skin types with two shades: Light/Medium and Medium/Deep
Contains mineral pigments which melt instantly upon application to even out skin tone for a lightweight, flawless finish
Formulated with the antioxidant Vitamin C to help renew your skin's natural radiance, creating that healthy glow every gal wants
Available at mass retailers (such as Target and Wal-Mart) for a suggested retail price of $12.99

I only need a tiny pea size drop to cover my entire face. I also wipe up any additional cream left on the opening of the tube and add it where I need a little more coverage. It does have a slight scent, but it's not a bad scent. Just putting it out there for anyone that may be sensitive to scents.

Now, like with almost everything, the Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream has both pros and cons.

* It provides good coverage and evens out tones
* Feels light, not heavy
* Contains SPF 15
* Price is decent at about $13 plus you can find coupons

* Feels a bit greasy/ shiny at first until it dries
* SPF 20+ woul be ideal

The pros outweigh the cons. The price is great when compared to other B.B. creams and seems to work just as well. I, for one, will continue using it. Like with anything else, results may vary from person to person. But at this price, it will not hurt to try it out and see if it's for you.

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*** I am a BzzAgent. I received complimentary products in exchange for my honest opinion. This is not a paid or sponsored post ***