Friday, July 6, 2012

Quick Review: Saks, Mexico City

If you are in Mexico City on a Saturday you should consider making the trip down to San Ángel. It's a great area to walk around, relax and shop. According to TripAdvisor, Bazar del Sábado is the #1 shopping option in the city. I certainly don't have the breadth of shopping experience to weigh in on its absolute rank but I can say we've been there twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.

And when it's time to refuel, Saks hits the spot.

Chile Relleno @ Saks
Chile Relleno

Given its premier location in a tourist hot spot, you might expect Saks to slack on quality of food and service. But it doesn't. And I find that to be pretty amazing.

Enchiladas con pollo
Enchiladas con pollo

My wife and I were fortunate enough to snag a table outside so we could continue people watching and soaking in the atmosphere.

Cuban band @ Saks
Live music - Cuban band

Not only was the band genuinely very good, it was nice that they didn't follow each set with an awkward round of pass the hat and 'buy our cd' sales pitches. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But on a pleasant, leisurely Saturday it's nice to know that Saks is apparently paying the band enough for their performance that they don't need to hustle around the dining room interrupting meals for tips.

Bag rack
Handy purse rack

Couple of quick tips: (1) The patio umbrellas will keep you dry during a light rain. We sat right through a decent passing shower. So don't let a threat of rain drive you to pick a table inside. (2) The little bag racks are a nice touch. The wife could use a couple of these to organize the litter or purses that have multiplied like rabbits around our condo.

* Check out this NYTimes article from January 1989.
* Fodor's call's Bazar del Sábado a 'must'.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quick Review: Coco Boutique Hotel, Santo Domingo

Considering how well the folks running the Coco Boutique Hotel treated us and how much we enjoyed our brief stopover with them in Santo Domingo (April 2009), I am inexcusably tardy in posting some sort of positive review of our experience there. However, judging by their inclusion in the TripAdvisor 2012 Best Hotels list, they've done just fine without me weighing in yet.

Exterior of Coco Boutique Hotel

Though the location is fantastically convenient in the Zona Colonial, very close to Parque Colon, it is a little bit difficult to find. Once you get there, though, it is worth the journey.

Bar / public computer (off to right of the liquor cabinet), Coco Boutique Hotel

Interior, lower level Coco Boutique Hotel

Stairwell up to the rooms, Coco Boutique Hotel

One thing to keep in mind is the twisting wooden stairwell that takes you up to your room. If you're smart, you won't be traveling with multiple heavy suitcases in the first place. But if you do have something heavy to lug, they have young strong staff to help you out.

Black Vanilla room, Coco Boutique Hotel

The rooms are fairly simple. And sadly my pictures don't do them justice. One key thing to note is they do not have a/c, but they do have some seriously heavy duty ceiling fans cranking.

Black Vanilla room, Coco Boutique Hotel

Another thing you'll want to know is they don't have TVs in the rooms. We didn't miss it. What you get at the Coco Boutique hotel a comfortable place to sleep at night, get ready in the morning and maybe take a short siesta in the afternoon.

Bathroom of Black Vanilla room, Coco Boutique Hotel

Coco boutique - bathroom
Bathroom of Black Vanilla room, Coco Boutique Hotel

We found the fact that the room wasn't an over the top air conditioned oasis was a helpful extra nudge to get us out doing what we should be doing anyway -- savoring the passage of an an afternoon into evening with a cold beer and some nice olives at the cafe around the corner.

Cafe @ parque colon
Leisure time @ cafe in Parque Colon, Santo Domingo

Or pop up to the rooftop area of the hotel for some late night fresh air. We grabbed a couple of beers from the bar and watched a dvd on our laptop. Nice way to wind down the night before bed. I guess I was too focused on relaxing with my beer to get any pictures of that, but you can see the rooftop area in the photogallery on their website.

Bottom line - should I ever be going through Santo Domingo again, Coco Boutique Hotel would be on the very short list of places I'd want to stay.