Les Bar des Bergues in Geneva – the place to be seen

Les Bar des Bergues terrace

The Four Seasons in Geneva is one of the best hotels in the city, so no wonder Les Bar des Bergues on the ground floor is where the local high society types and the world’s rich and famous mingle. If weather permits, La Terrace is where to lounge and contemplate life over an exquisite cocktail. It’s by far one of the most chic places in town.

When we visited Geneva in September, we came to Les Bar des Bergues on a couple of occasions and sat both inside and outside for a quick lunch. Now, this is Four Seasons, so no reason to write about excellent service and so on, that’s pretty much clear.

However, even though this is technically a bar, the food here is absolutely fantastic. They have a reasonably light menu with plenty of salads to chose from (though our favorite pick was the hamburger, not exactly what one would refer to as light fare but trust us, it was irresistible).

If you are on a tight travel budget than avoid Les Bar des Bergues like the plague, but if cash is not an issue, this is the place to mingle and nestle in with the crème de la crème of Geneva.

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TGIF

TGIF

Palais de la Méditerranée – a Nice-ish hotel

Excellent location

Excellent location

Palais de la Méditerranée is one of the more recent additions in Nice, having opened after restoration in 2004. It is located on the Promenade des Anglais, the main boardwalk, and is only an arm’s length away from the turquoise water and fantastic beaches. The location is definitely as good as it gets: close to the city center, restaurants and bars that are in abundance here.

Palais de la Méditerranée-lobby-Nice

The lobby

However, although Palais de la Méditerranée describes itself as a “luxury hotel” it still has a lot of work to do to actually become one. For starters, the service is not very efficient, there are long lines during check-in and check-out and only one or two persons at the desk dealing with customers. The rooms are clean and functional but more of a 4-star level. The restaurant has breath-taking views of the sea but there the glamour ends: the food is mediocre, the service abysmally slow. Not what you would expect when sipping an over-priced glass of wine while waiting for your starter.

The room has nice colors but it's pretty basic for being a five star

The room has nice colors but it’s pretty basic for being a five star

There is one thing that really stands out and that is the concierge service: also slow-ish but nevertheless you will get your reservation in a popular restaurant. Even if you need a vet (we did for Sam) they will go the extra mile and find one for you. But that was probably the only pleasant experience we had at Palais de la Méditerranée.

You are much better off at Hotel Le Negresco a few blocks away, where you for more or less the same money get surrounded by stylish luxury and history.

Rating: 3/5

More about Nice: 24 Nice hours

Printable Sam and the dunes calendar for 2013!

Make travel plans and enjoy every day in 2013 with Samandthedunes.com free PDF  calendar (size A4). 

                    Samandthedunes calendar 2013

Treasures of the desert

Even though we mostly run this travel blog from Laayoune, we rarely write about the desert in our blog posts. Unfortunately, what surrounds us on a daily basis are usually things we have a tendency to take for granted. But today we can change that. Yesterday Hanna’s story – Where “The Little Prince” was born – was published by National Geographic Traveler. It tells about the amazing desert, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and a spectacular lagoon. Enjoy!

Panoramic view of the Naila Lagoon (Khenifiss National Park).

Panoramic view of the Naila Lagoon (Khenifiss National Park).

Travel news

Issue 1/2013

A stylish Thief 
On 9 January, Petter Stordalen‘s luxury design hotel, The Thief, opened its doors in Oslo. It is located in Tjuvholmen, an area known for its contemporary art scene and architecture. But it hasn’t always been such an idyllic part of town. Criminals and prostitutes were executed here during the 18th century and therefore the name of the hotel – ‘”The Thief.” It has 119 rooms (plus a suite) and each one of them have modern artwork by renowned artists such as Sir Peter Blake (who did the classic album cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Magne Furuholmen (A-ha) and Albert Merz, just to mention a few. This is a dog-friendly hotel and your pooch will get a true five star welcome with services like dog sitting, dog walking, dog room service, dog menus and treats. The Thief is located next to the popular Aker Brygge with direct access to the Oslo Fjord, so as you can imagine, this must be the perfect summer hangout. We can’t wait to check-in and review this place next time we get a chance to visit Oslo. Have you already stayed in The Thief? Please share your opinion with us.

Wikivoyage
This week the Wikimedia Foundation takes on the travel industry by launching its new online travel guide, Wikivoyage, a wiki for travelers. It will be a free resource with practical information, hotel and restaurant recommendations (no advertisements) updated by volunteer contributors from around the world. What do you think? Hit or miss? Is there a need for additional online travel guides next to TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet?

Marseille – European Capital of Culture 2013
On 12 January, Marseille-Provence was officially inaugurated as the European Capital of Culture for 2013.  During the year there will be hundreds of exhibitions and events focusing on Mediterranean culture, from a contemporary as well as a historical perspective. Are you planning to visit Marseille in 2013?

 

Guide (in English) about Marseille, practical tips, news and events.

Up in the air

Up in the air

Travel trends for 2013

Let’s take a look at 2013 from a traveler’s perspective. Where do we like to travel this year? What is hot and what is not? Skimming through tons of articles, travel blogs, hotel websites regularly, we want to share what we understand are going to be the new travel trends in 2013.

The Independent Traveler
Charters and all-inclusive packages are convenient and they will always be popular but trendy globetrotters will definitely be looking for other alternatives. Independent travelers want to explore something, not just stay at the same hotel and eat at the same restaurant as their next-door neighbor. The independent traveler is choosing destinations based on other priorities than convenience and price. They prefer going somewhere “unique” and to places that are less visited. A good idea is to visit friends and family that are living abroad. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about places outside the beaten path. By doing that, you can also get valuable inside travel tips on the spot and minimize the risk of falling into any eventual tourist traps.

For the Independent Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests: 

Located on the Atlantic Ocean, 500 km west of Senegal, Cape Verde is the homeland of the famous singer Cesária Évora. Here the weather is fantastic and you can enjoy wonderful nature and beautiful beaches all year round.  Visit the different islands, go turtle watching, try surfing, or, if you are the adventurous type, go for a submarine tour (in a real submarine!) Cape Verde is also a good place for culture aficionados. Music lovers may want to visit the São Vicente Carnival in February or the São Vicente Baia das Gatas Festival in August.

The Curious Traveler
Being a curios traveler is the natural consequence of traveling more independently. No matter if we are traveling alone, with the family or with our best friend, the curious traveler wants to learn something new. Small museums, local food markets, wineries, are added value to any journey. A good idea is to study some history about the place you are planning to visit. Which writer was it again that used to live in Vienna during the 19th century, or why are tulips so popular in Holland? Smartphones make it easier to check these kinds of facts on the spot.

Curious travelers generally don’t follow the hotel’s standard advice on great eateries around the corner (the risk is overwhelming that you will recognize all the other restaurant patrons since they are coming from the same hotel and got exactly the same advice as you did). Instead, do your own research and see where you can find a more interesting restaurant, or why not just pick a place that looks nice from the outside and trust your own gut feeling.

City tours don’t have to be done together with hundreds of other tourists that are sitting squeezed next to each other on uncomfortable tourist boats and busses. There are many city-tour applications for smartphones available online. Download, listen and do it in your own pace instead.

For the Curious Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests:

Forget e-books for a minute and imagine that you walk into an old-fashioned bookstore. It smells of coffee and the warm atmosphere embraces you immediately. It makes you feel like you are home. You look around and after a while you pick a book that sounds interesting. Why don’t you make yourself comfortable? Yes, exactly there, in that big chair behind the shelf. A steaming hot cup of coffee is on the way. You open the book and start reading. So where in the world are you? Guess. We are talking about the City by the Bay, San Francisco, of course. The perfect place for a curious traveler. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown or why not spend a day at the Academy of Sciences Museum. If you like wine, pay a visit to some of Sonama and Napa Valley’s best wineries. There are many different wine tours available. You can check out some of them here.

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The Healthy Traveler
Many travelers want to relax while on vacation but it doesn’t necessary have to mean that you stay on the sun bed all day long and gain unnecessary kilos around the waistline. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to end just because you are on vacation, right? Stay healthy by making sure that you pick a hotel with good gym facilities and spa, in any case, bring your sneakers – walking or jogging is a great way to explore a new place.

For the Healthy Traveler Sam and the dunes suggests:

A luxurious Yoga vacation in Mexico. Haramara Retreat offers “one of the 10 best yoga retreats in the world,” according to Yoga Journal. It is located on the Central Pacific Coast near Sayulita. Going here will definitely increase your  chances of having a relaxing holiday in a healthy and spiritual way.

Wherever you decide to go in 2013 – have a pleasant journey!

Are you ready for a yoga holiday?

Are you ready for a yoga holiday?

New Year’s celebration in the desert

New Year’s Eve Menu
Starter: Sauteed shrimps served with tropical salsa and homemade Parmesan crackers
Main course: Grilled lobster
Dessert in the desert: Warm apple pie with touch of cinnamon and cardamon.

The lobster was delicious!

Firing up a New Year’s cigar

“It’s midnight. I’m tired. What were we celebrating again?”

Collapsable dog bowl and other must-haves while traveling in 2013

Living as non-stop-travelers we are always looking for cool items that either make it easier to pack or more fun to be on the road. Designer Tory Burch, known for her preppy-bohemian clothes with a luxury vintage feeling, has included in her latest collection some awesome travel accessories that will make your companions green with envy. Here are our three favorites:

BackgammonMade out of canvas and leather, this foldable Backgammon set doesn’t take much space in your luggage. A perfect game to bring along and play whenever you have a dull moment at the airport. Make sure, though, that the guy in the next seat is also a Backgammon lover or exchange (seats we mean, not games).

Jewelry case

Packing jewels can be difficult but this petite case makes it easy to bring your favorite accessories wherever you go.

Of course, our beloved Sam also wants to travel in style. With this collapsable water bowl our cute pooch doesn’t have to be embarrassed because he is forced to drink from public fountains.

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