April 5, 2008

Hôtel Parc Saint-Séverin

Here's another hotel recommended by our Ninong John Franco. It's the Hôtel Parc Saint-Séverin, which is right across the church. In fact, the view from the balcony is of the Church of Saint-Séverin. The internet price for a room for two is 130 a night.

March 30, 2008

Hotel Recommendations

Here are some hotels we would like to recommend to you. Just a warning though that we haven't stayed in any of them -- but we did ask a friend in Paris to check them out. Thanks Melanie!

Please click on the names of the hotel to see their website.


This is the first hotel reviewed in the Latin Quarter section of Lonely Planet Paris. LP calls it "a very welcoming and well-situated family run hotel." It's very close to the Notre Dame and is walking distance from the Church of Saint-Severin. Lp says it is one of the most atttractive "almost budget" hotels on the Left Bank.

The catch is, it only has 30 room and they get booked quickly, since the hotel offers value for money. A double room ranges from € 83 - 125 per night. This comes with a complimentary breakfast.


This is another value for money hotel, which is why it gets fully booked quickly. Last we checked, there was just one room for two available which is going for € 70 per night. The hotel has been renovated recently, but don't expect too much beyond the picture postcard through the window (Lonely Planet review, not ours!)
Unfortunately, Hotel Esmeralda doesn't have a website. But if you want the remaining room, do let us know immediately so we can make a firm booking on it. You can also check out some reviews here.


This hotel is conveniently located just a street away from the church. It has decent sized rooms which, according to Lonely planet, have "furnishings two steps beyond pure functional and the bathrooms are completely new."

According to our friend Melanie, there are still available rooms from May 19th to the 22nd but these have to be booked soon. They have a room for a family of four which is € 235 per night, one room for 2 people for € 140 and another one for € 160.

To make the booking, you have to send an email with dates, the name of the people, the number of the people and your credit card number and the date of expiration. The hotel won't take any money off your card, but it is just meant as a guarantee. Again, let us know if you want to book here as Melanie made reservations for 3 rooms under her name.

Here's a video on the hotel:


We found out about this hotel from Ely Chua (daughter of Ninang Ely). It is on the same street as Hotel du Levant and is also very near the church -- just a street away. It has 64 newly renovated rooms and is right in the heart of the Latin Quarter.


According to Melanie, this hotel has one of the best
rooms for 2 people for € 190. But from May 19th to the 22nd, there's a promo for the room rate which will make it € 128 per night. It is a bit further away from the Church of Sant-Severin, but not too far -- just about 2 blocks away.

* * * * *

There are many, many other hotels in the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain area near the church, but these are the ones we're quite confident about recommending to you. If you have any questions, just e-mail us and we'll get back to you as soon as we have an answer.

Do come back to check on more information and stories we'll be giving you. We'll be writing about the special people who make up our entourage next.

March 28, 2008

Accommodations: What To Expect

Many people visiting Paris for the first time end up being disappointed with their hotel. Sometimes they're unlucky and chose the wrong hotel based on brochures and websites that can sometimes be misleading. Most often though, the disappointment is a result of unreasonable expectations. Here are some tips from the Secrets of Paris website to temper your expectations.

Star Ratings

You can pretty much ignore stars. They're awarded to hotels by a government-run agency based on things like the size of the lobby and presence of an elevator, rather than the overall atmosphere, decor, or helpfulness of the staff. So while it's obvious that a no-star hotel won't be as nice as a four-star hotel, some two-stars could be better than three-stars! Some hotels even prefer to be listed at a lower star rating because it means less taxes for them to pay.


Like most European capitals, or even New York, space is a luxury in Paris. You want space? You'll pay for it. Anything under €250 per night will probably be smaller than you expected. Regular double beds are smaller than American double beds. Queen and king beds are only found in luxury hotels.

Bathrooms and showers are smaller, too. The average French person is shorter than the average North American or British person, so facilities will all feel cramped if you're 6'4" tall.

Elevators -- which you'll see before your room, in most cases -- can be so small that only one person with one suitcase at a time can fit inside. This is because in old hotels (more than 150 years old) the elevator was added after the building was built, so they had to be fit within the space available. Newer hotels and luxury hotels obviously have larger elevators, often more than one.


Aside from the size, Parisian hotel bathrooms can have some odd particularities. If you have a room with a bathtub, there might not be a fixed shower head or curtain for showering, meaning you'll have to sit down or be very careful to not flood the entire bathroom.

Bath mats in Europe look more like really thick, small towels. They're meant to be hung up after use to dry out, and are changed with the linens each day. Bidets are still found in some hotels, although this is rarely mentioned in the brochure. Most hotels offer free soap and shower gel; nicer hotels have shampoo, moisturizer, nail kits, cotton balls and shower cap. Only luxury hotels have robes, combs, razors, and designer brand toiletries.


No hotels in Paris have their own airport shuttle (many can arrange for a shuttle company to pick you up for a fee), or free local calls (because these aren't free in France for anyone). There are few hotels that are 100% smoke free (about ten at last count), and ice machines are just as rare.


Big conference hotels and luxury hotels have the same standard of service you might expect in any British or North American hotel. The larger the hotel (or higher the star), the bigger the staff-to-client ratio.

In smaller hotels, especially family-run hotels, there may only be one person at the reception desk who has to answer the phone, check people in and out, call taxis, give directions, and handle any problems. There may only be two cleaners for 30 rooms so you'll have to wait longer for your room to be ready if you check in early. And the night receptionist may not be as bilingual as you'd hoped for.

In general, expect helpful and polite service, if not friendly service. The French are more formal in their relationships with clients than in the U.S. Discretion and professionalism are considered more important than being pals with the guests, and in general you shouldn't expect to be on a first-name basis with the staff. Keep this in mind and you may be happily surprised rather than put off by "grumpy" service.

A tip from the Secrets of Paris website: "The customer is always right" is a saying that pretty much ruins many westerners for travel abroad, where this isn't the case. It turns people into arrogant, righteous, demanding jerks. In Europe, cash is not king. In France, it doesn't matter that you're a paying guest, you're still a guest, and should treat your hosts as you would want to be treated by guests if they were staying at your house. If you have a problem, ask for help, rather than yelling out demands. This makes a huge difference in the way your request is handled. Be the type of guest they're happy to bend over backwards for, and they will!

The next post will contain recommendations for hotels near the church. A warning though -- we have not stayed in any of them and are basing our recommendation on reliable reviews on the web and feedback from our friends in Paris. It can be difficult to find an inexpensive hotel room that's liveable in the Latin Quarter since it is a main tourist area. There are a few rare finds, but they get fully booked quickly, so you may have to grab a room quickly if they're still available. Being in the Latin quarter can help you save on transportation cost and travel time though, since most of the sights you would want to visit are nearby.

January 5, 2008

The Reception

If you can get to the church, you won't have to worry about getting to the reception. It's right next door, as in.. you will just cross the street (alley, actually). The restaurant, Baladin Rive Gauche, is a family-owned place that serves traditional French fare.

Nina's cousin, Ate Imee says, the attitude of most French chefs is, "What I serve, you eat!" And while many of us who love salt, pepper, ketchup, kalamansi, toyo and suka with our food may have a problem with this -- well, the chef is usually right.

We really wanted to give everyone a taste of traditional French fare so we really, really hope you enjoy the dinner.

Oh, and aside from the food, we hope you'll enjoy the music. The place is also a jazz bar so we'll have a jazz band performing that night. So aside from an empty stomach, please bring your dancing shoes.

January 4, 2008

The Church

Join us as we exchange our vows at the Church of Saint-Séverin in Paris.

The church is located in the 5th arrondisment of Paris, in the Latin Quarter. This is a very lively touristy area which is closed to traffic, so everyone will be walking and peering into the many quaint bistros and restaurants the area is famous for.

Saint-Séverin is one of the oldest churches that remain standing on the Left Bank of the Seine and is just a stone's throw away from Notre Dame Cathedral.

It has all the elements of a Gothic church...

Stained glass windows...

Vaulted ceilings....

and of course it won't be complete without the friendly neighborhood gargoyle (or is this a gryphon?).

The church is named after Severin, a 6th-century hermit, who was closely associated with St. Martin, the patron saint of travelers. Parishioners used to hang horseshoes here as a sign of thanksgiving for their safe return from a journey.

The exact address is 1, rue des Prêtres-Saint-Séverin, Paris, and the closest Metro station is the Saint-Michel station.

January 2, 2008

Parisian Life

"Ah, oui! La vie ça passe comme ça!"

Ah, yes! Life passes (through) that way. She knows exactly what she wants to say, my little four-year-old niece, Elisa. She’s not the usual kid. She loves bugs, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, you name it. She would scoop them tenderly in her dainty hands… talk to them in her own language… then set them free. Other kids would either scream, cringe or run away in fear, while others would give them the smack a.k.a. cruel death sentence, or the usual life(less) imprisonment. I was guilty of all those when I was a kid who didn't know any better. But Elisa… she is something else.

She knows life is more than playing with Dora, Hello Kitty or Eloise. In fact, she doesn’t play much with her collection of toys. She would rather go out in the park, pick up stones to add to her collection, and run! Boy can she run like a bullet! And she has the perfect runner’s form! One time she ran (and didn’t stop) from her house to their car which was parked almost 2 kilometers away. She reached the car sweating like a pig, “Whew! I’m so tired but I feel good!”

Feeling good also involves doing... wild and dangerous things. Well.. just, as her mum would say, a tid bit. Like goin down the slide head first. That’s when you’re looking.
She loves laughing and goofing around. She makes you taste something that she thinks looks like sugar, and says IT IS sugar… but turns out to be salt. You play along and she bursts into that perfect hearty, kiddie, Elisa laughter. Ahh… salt is sweet!

But just as she is loko-loko, she is also reasonable. One night her dad gave her a toy catalogue so she could encircle the gifts she would want to receive for Christmas. One particular toy caught her eye and she asked her dad if it was expensive. It was 149 euros. Her dad reluctantly said yes. She immediately flipped the page and said, “Never mind!” That’s my girl!

Oh but she also has her bad moments, when she’s sleepy or when her 6 year old brother Nicolas teases her. But nothing like tantrums. Brother and sister are unbelievably good kids.

Of course the apple never falls far from the tree. Mom is a cool, sporty, intellectual activist turned full-time home-maker. She was a peace corps volunteer who's done tours of duty in places like Thailand, Africa and war-time Bosnia. Not to mention she’s a hell of a good cook. Gourmet, mind you.

Dad is a hotshot consultant in Paris -- but at home, he’s the coolest, funnest, most playful, laugh-out-loud dad. He would run with them, dance with them, bake with them, and at night, he would read them stories.

But while mom and dad share everything with the kids, the best part is that they also let them be. They let them laugh, run, explore, fall, get a "tid bit" of scrapes and bruises if they must. It’s all good!

Life is good, but when it all comes down to it, for Elisa, it’s not as simple as saying, “C’est la Vie!”

January 1, 2008


All I wanted was a private wedding proposal, just the TWO of us. Vince knew that. And knowing Vince, I knew he wanted the same thing. So how in the world did he ever come to proposing, kneeling down and asking me to marry him, in front of all his relatives at a family reunion on Christmas eve?

I wanted to disappear. No, die.

I could see Vince’s brother, Raffy, laughing so hard in the background. His cousins looked happy but we knew for sure none of them wanted to be in our shoes at that moment. I think I covered my face with my two hands the whole time. This isn’t happening!

But it did, I said yes and here’s how.

December 24, 2007. I had work, as usual. The story I worked on was how 400 families, who lost their houses and all their belongings in a big fire just before Christmas, were going to celebrate the happiest time of the year. For the children, the coloring books, crayons, and stickers that I brought for a few of them elicited the happiest faces that I’ve seen in a long time. But the adults are more realistic. They realized they are now left with nothing so there is no reason to celebrate, not when your family is sleeping on cartons in the sidewalk. There is no such thing as Christmas when you have an empty stomach. At least one single mother with six children was more hopeful, she said they could always celebrate Christmas next year.

Another day at work.

When I finished writing and voicing my report for TV Patrol World, Vince and I went to Valenzuela to visit my beloved grandmother, Nanay, who happens to have cancer. My family was in Ilocos but most of my relatives on my mother’s side were there, including my mom’s identical twin who came from New Jersey. We had a great time. I played poker for the first time with my cousins and lost 500 pesos. Vince won a thousand bucks, haha.

At 11 o’clock, I wanted to go home because I was getting sleepy and still had work the next day. Vince insisted we go to his side of the family naman and of course how could I say no.

From Valenzuela, we drove to his uncle’s house all the way to Valle Verde. We got there at around 11:30 pm I think. Before entering the house, I saw his cousin who congratulated me on our engagement which caught me by surprise. As we entered the house, more and more of his relatives were congratulating us on our “engagement”. I felt more uncomfortable by the minute and when I couldn’t take it anymore, I pulled Vince to one side almost shouting at him in my frustration saying, “I’m not engaged! I’m not engaged!”. I wanted to go home.

We were about to “escape” when Vince’s uncle started calling everyone to gather in the gather because “Vince and Nina have an announcement.” Oh no, Vince and I looked helplessly at each other. What are we supposed to say?

Vince and I found ourselves surrounded by everyone who were all excited to hear “the news”. There was no escaping but Vince managed to disappear “to get something from his car” as he wasn’t prepared.

When he got back, everyone was cheering, I heard someone say, “he’s gonna propose!” Vince was so nervous and embarrassed, he just put the box on the table. Just like that. Then someone said, “open it!” So I did and sure enough it contained a beautiful diamond engagement ring. Okay, did he think I’m going to put the ring on my finger? So I gave the box back to him!

At this point everyone got more excited. I could hear all sorts of voices. Then someone said, “Vince, kneel kneel!”. So poor Vince got down on his knees. I kept covering my face with my two hands out of embarrassment. Then Vince gave a short speech, I don’t really remember much of what he said as I couldn’t concentrate. I just remember him saying something like, “I guess this is the time to ask you in front of my family…chu chu chu…Will you marry me?” And everyone looked at me.

It was surreal. I couldn’t answer right away because, I don’t know, I guess I was trying to think of a magic spell for me to disappear at that moment until someone said, “Nina, what’s your answer?” I realized I’m only human and it’s not a dream so of course I said yes! Everyone started clapping, etc. Whew! It’s done!

Oh no it’s not. His relatives asked me to give a speech. I couldn’t speak! I don’t really remember what I said. I think I said something like, “Thank you, I love you and your family, thanks…”. Hahaha. It sounded so lousy but I meant it. Vince’s family is the best, everyone who was there, his mom, brother, titos and titas, cousins, they tried to make me feel comfortable from day 1. I really really appreciate them all.

Then his relatives asked Vince’s mom, Tita Mary Ann, to give a speech and it was so touching because she said that Vince’s dad, Tito Ed who passed away 3 years ago, was fond of me and loved me and wanted Vince and I to end up together. Some of Vince’s aunts couldn’t help but get teary eyed. What would Tito Ed say? No one knows exactly what he would have said but he was in our hearts and minds and it was as if he was also there. I could imagine his laughter. Tito Ed was always laughing or smiling everytime I saw him. We miss him terribly.

I found out later on our way home that Vince had planned to propose in my house, no fireworks, nothing fancy, just the two of us, just how we both wanted it to be.

I realized that sometimes things don’t work out as planned because God has planned something better. It was a happy occasion and it is true, happiness is always better when shared.


Two days later Vince was on a bus to Ilocos. I was talking to Vince the night before and asked him, how’s that, my family doesn’t know. Vince had scheduled to talk to them a week before Christmas but they suddenly went home to Ilocos.

On the morning of Dec. 26, I called Vince’s house and was looking for him but his mom said he went to the bus station. Okay, I didn’t know. Anyway, so Vince took the 9 am bus to arrive at 7pm. Yes, the trip is 10 hours. Unfortunately the bus encountered some engine problems and had to stop for repairs, then to make matters worse, the aircon also got busted. So Vince arrived in our house in Batac at 10:30 pm, hot and sweating!

Fine, it’s not that funny. Anyway, he finally got to talk to my parents and now Paris, here we come!