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Best neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile

 

Chile’s long, skinny profile – with an extensive coastline and an interior hugged by the Andes – is home to just over 18 million people with over 6.5 million residing in the greater Santiago area. The capital is divided into 32 different districts, each consisting of different barrios, or neighborhoods, each with their own character and story.

A few local favorites include some of the more popular areas such as Bellavista, Bellas Artes, and some new up-and-coming neighborhoods such as Barrios Brasil y Yungai.

Bellavista 

How to arrive – Metros: Lines 1 and 5: Baquedano

What to do – A neighborhood that’s full of history, charm, and vibrant colors is the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering around looking at the beautiful street art, taking in the sabores (flavors) of international cuisine, and strolling through galleries, theaters, and shops. Known since the 1970’s as the capitals bohemian barrio -it’s no surprise that famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda made this neighborhood his home. You can visit La Chascona – a museum dedicated to Neruda’s life and work from Tuesday to Sundays.

Looking for an adventure with a view? Climb up or hop on the funicular to the top of Parque Metropolitano to get priceless vistas of the entire city surrounded by the picturesque Andes.

Barrio Italia 

How to arrive – Metro Line 5: Santa Isabel

What to do – Barrio Italia is a unique neighborhood spread out over the two comunas of Providencia and Nuñoa with Avenida Italia as the main artery connecting the two areas. This barrio is new and upcoming to the gastronomy scene, offering an eclectic and inspiring array of dining and bar selections in this quieter yet artsy neighborhood. This area is a great place to wander around for those interested in architecture and interior design; with an abundance of workshops, stores, and galleries sprinkled throughout, there’s plenty to entertain the avid artist.

Bellas Artes y Lastarria 

How to arrive – Metros: Line 1: Universidad Catolica, Baquedano; Line 5: Baquedano, Bellas Artes

What to do –The cobble stone streets, cafe’s and shops set the scene of these beautiful neighborhoods, channeling that old European vibe in Bellas Artes, yet maintaining it’s Latin American essence in Lastarria. These adjoining neighborhoods are centrally located, close to downtown, barrio Bellavista, Mercado Central (the 5th best market in the world according to National Geographic!), La Vega Central and Parque Forestal – making it an ideal place to stay for any visitor!

Barrios Brasil y Yungay 

How to arrive – Metros: Line 1: Los Heroes, República; Line 5: Santa Ana, Cumming, Quinta Normal; Line 2: Santa Ana, Los Heroes

What to do – Another visually pleasing neighborhood to walk around, exploring the diverse styles of architecture, popping in and out of cafes and bars, as well as wandering around Quinta Normal – Santiago’s oldest park.

The Museum of Memory & Human Rights (El Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanosis also located in barrios Brasil y Yungay – The museum gives “light to the violence and violations of human rights that took place in Chile between 1973 and 1990 – a place to remember the victims and their families, stimulate reflection and conversation of the importance of respect and tolerance, so that these acts are never committed again.”

 

Have you traveled to Chile?
What are your favorite neighborhoods in Santiago?

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Paris Snapshots

I’ve now been to Paris twice. My first experience wasn’t my favorite – the city of lights didn’t win me over, it didn’t impress me with its history nor its beautiful architecture. It was just another capital city filled with tourist traps and hidden gems if you looked hard enough. Just like every other city.

And while the first time was nice with the people I was with, when I left, I didn’t feel like I’d ever go back. Until we made plans for July.

With my two best friends living in Brussels and a small French town in the middle of nowhere, and me in Madrid, Paris was a comfortable place for us all to meet for a cheeky five day reunion.

We made the plans, rented our Airbnb, and all arrived on July 1st. And while the city itself still hasn’t captured my heart, this second experience with these two had definitely left me with more fond memories to carry with me for my lifetime. We mostly stayed in our apartment, sipping on coffee, fanning ourselves to cool off from the 40C temps, and sharing stories, debating, and watching silly videos.

The snapshots below are nothing special photo-wise, but I know the moments, I know the silly looks and 5 hours of non-stop walking before we got to these places once we finally left the apartment. I simply add these photos to my blog for me, for my memories and nothing more.

And while I doubt I’ll ever seek out another trip to Paris, if I go back, I only hope I have as much fun with whoever I’m with as I did with these two.

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5 Day Trips from San Francisco

While we love San Francisco and all its quirky neighborhoods and people, what we love more at Native of the North are those day trip adventures that take you into nature. The city itself isn’t very large, yet with the constant flow of tourism and a bustling city center, sometimes it feels a little congested. When it comes down to it, sometimes it’s just better to grab your friends, pack the car, and take to the road! We share our favorite five day trips from San Francisco.

Pacifica

Just two miles south of San Francisco, Pacifica is mostly known by beginner surfers and those looking for some fun, laid back waves. Mori Point boasts views of the vast Pacific Ocean along with the seemingly never-ending rolling, green hills and well-groomed paths hugging the coast. It’s best to pack a picnic and choose a spot with a view high above the town. But if you’re looking for a bite to eat, head towards the Pier in Sharp Park along Palmetto Avenue for your choice of French to Japanese and American BBQ to fresh seafood.

Lake Tahoe

Just under a four-hour drive from San Francisco, a visit to Lake Tahoe can be done in a day, but it may be better to grab the tent and spend the night. With breathtaking views of the turquoise waters framed by lush forest and white, snow-covered mountain tops, the Lake Tahoe Basin or the surrounding national parks are a fantastic weekend getaway. Pack your tent and choose one of the many campgrounds in the area to spend a night under the stars surrounded by the sounds of nature.

Marin County

Known to locals as Paradise, Marin County lies just over the Golden Gate Bridge and past Sausalito. Easily accessible by car, bike, ferry, or hike, the 85% protected open space provides an escape from city streets, fresh mountain air and views of The Bay. Typically warmer and sunnier than its San Francisco counter part, the Marin Headlands, home to Mt. Tamalpais, where mountain biking was invented, Marin County offers long, windy day hikes and perfect trails for avid bikers.

Sail the Bay

Not up for an adventure by car to escape the San Francisco bustle? Either call up your friends with a boat, or head down to the port to rent a chartered yacht or sailboat to spend the afternoon on The Bay. Depending on the company, the captain can help create the perfect itinerary for your group, or simply let him sail you around the coast for a few hours. As long as you’re on the Bay everything is okay, right?

Half Moon Bay

Whether you’re an expert surfer yourself or simply enjoy the meditating splash as the waves hit the shore, a trip to Half Moon Bay is always a good idea. Home to the famous Maverick surf spot, walk along the breathtaking cliffs or white sandy beaches before heading into town to sip on some top-notch brews at Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., fresh seafood, and ocean views.

Image via Trover by Alex Sam

Best Natural Parks close to Marbella, Spain

A holiday isn’t always sipping cocktails on a rooftop terrace or soaking up the sun on white sandy beaches. For some, it’s seeking out adventure, it’s cycling through the most beautiful landscapes, or it’s working on an olive farm while experiencing the culture. For me, it’s being in nature hiking through the most beautiful natural parks the world over, which is why I sought out the best hiking near Marbella.

Parque Natural Los Alcornocales

Stretching 170,000 hectares and into 17 Andalusian municipalities, Los Alcornocales is known for its history, caves, and cork oak trees. Travelers can take part in eco-tours to learn about the harvesting and processing of cork, or simply delve into the natural surroundings. Explore caves, disconnect while wandering through the heavily wooded trails, relax next to babbling brooks, and, if you’re lucky, observe the wildlife that call the park home.

Torcal de Antequera

One of the most impressive Karst landscapes in all of Europe, the rock formations at Torcal de Antequera are not to miss if you’re in Andalusia. The Jurassic-age limestone is over 150 million years old, giving it just enough time to create a breathtaking view from land and impressive caves under the surface for those willing to explore — some of them of historical importance like the Cueva del Toro, Bull Cave, with its Neolithic artifacts. You’ll find twisted rock formations called tornillos or screws throughout the park, another unique structure created over millions of years.

El Chorro

El Chorro is one of the most popular rock climbing areas in Spain, and climbers, hikers, and bikers alike frequent the area. The Gaitanes Gorge which runs from the Embalse del Gaitanejo to El Chorro is famous for a dangerous footpath called El Caminito del Rey (the King’s Little Path) which just reopened to the public in March 2015 after a 2.8 million euro restoration project. Although it’s officially open to all, it’s still a path that requires a strong stomach and no fear of heights!

Parque Natural Sierra de Grazalema + Sierra de Las Nieves

Both natural parks are mountainous regions with flora and fauna and Karst landscapes creating bold rock faces and deep, wondrous caves. In both natural parks, there are various trails for those looking for an easy hike to more challenging paths. Both the Sierra Grazalema and Sierra de Las Nieves are home to smaller white villages providing a picturesque backdrop for a lunch in the southern Spanish province after a morning on the trail.

Even if you don’t have a car (or a friend with a car!) there are many trails close by that you can reach by walking from many Marbella hotels or by taking a taxi. Despite being in the center of the city, natural parks are within reach. Plan ahead, bring a picnic, and always check in to let others know you’ll be in the mountains. As always with Mother Nature, she’s in charge and it’s important to respect the conditions and not put yourself in any danger. And once you’re there, don’t forget to take a minute to stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment.

*Image by Matthew Karsten via Trover.com

Madrid Snapshots

One of my favorite spots in Madrid,  along the beautifully manicured riverside park, the Matadero is a set of old slaughter-house buildings given new life. The Matadero is home to cultural events, food truck markets, and a daily slew of locals passing by to have a drink at the Cantina or simply hangout around the grounds. It’s a gorgeous space in the middle of a bustling, cosmopolitan city that makes you feel like you’ve escaped – even just for a minute. I feel connected to nature, to a smaller Spanish culture, and the simply beauty of the moment especially when the sun just starts to go down and highlights those gorgeous buildings just right.

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From the Water to Air – Adventures on Grand Cayman Island

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the resort life, spending long days on the beautiful, white-sand beaches, sipping on cocktails at bars with unforgettable sea views, or rejuvenating yourself at the hotel’s on-site spa as the sun sets and soft sherbet colored skies float overhead. However, the Cayman Islands are full of activities for the adrenaline seekers to fashion lovers, and on the biggest of the three islands, Grand Cayman has it all. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite things to do and hope they can help you make your Caribbean adventure the most memorable holiday yet.

Water Adventures

From diving and exploring a ship wreck to spending the day at sea on a catamaran cruise, find your perfect water-based adventure on the island. Choose between various diving expeditions, visiting the reefs, walls, or putting fears to the test with night-diving. Head out off the coast for a day of deep-sea fishing and bring the catch home to eat! Don’t want to get wet? Check out the Atlantis Under Water Adventure, taking riders through the coral reefs in a wall-to-wall glass viewing chamber semi-submarine. Other popular water sports found on the island include wind surfing, parasailing, or snorkeling at Stingray City.

Land Adventure

Spend a day biking around the West Bay Loop, safe and traffic free paths that run along the breathtaking coastline. Rent bikes and venture solo, or go on a guided tour and learn interesting facts throughout the day. Walk along the Seven Mile Beach (just only 5.5. miles), while admiring the gorgeous private homes and seeing what the different resorts have to offer. Meditate and connect with your body at a class at Bliss Yoga (beach classes available!) or spend the day shopping in Camana Bay. For those looking to spend a day with animals, check out the Cayman Turtle Farm for hands on experience with the local wildlife.

Historic Adventures

Visit famous landmarks first hand at the Pedro St. James “Castle” – the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands and the islands oldest stone structures, or wander around the historic capital of George Town. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park brings together lush colorful floral gardens along natural wetlands for those interested in exploring the islands fauna.

Air Adventures

While air adventures aren’t always the first thing to come to mind, it’s a unique way to explore the island (or all three islands!) while avoiding the crowds. Watch the landscape change below you as you glide over the famous Caribbean beaches, hot spots like Stingray City, or the busy capital streets in George Town in your own helicopter or puddle jumper plane. Don’t miss out on any of these great ways to spend your days, but of course, remember to live in the moment as it’ll pass by in the blink of an eye. So whatever adventure calls to you, from water to the air, Grand Cayman Island won’t disappoint. Have you been to the Cayman Islands? What’s your favorite way to spend the day here? *Image by Emily Carr via Trover.com

Hipmunk City Love: The Hottest Boutique Hotels in Vancouver

A city where the mountains act as a backdrop and the ocean kisses the downtown shore line, Vancouver, British Columbia, is a dream city come to life. The West Coast capital is full of trendy places to stay, tasty restaurants home to world-class chefs, music venues galore, and nature escapes just outside the city limits. So whether it’s a Canucks hockey game or simply a love for traveling that brings you to the city, you can find the perfect boutique hotel in Vancouver.

L’Hermitage Hotel

If you’re looking for a place to stay with a feeling of home, look no further than the L’Hermitage Hotel. Located on the fifth, sixth, and seventh floors of a residential building in the heart of Vancouver, guests will experience all the perks of home while visiting the beautiful West Coast city. L’Hermitage Hotel has free bicycles for exploring the bike-friendly downtown area, as well as a private rooftop heated saltwater lap pool and Jacuzzi. All the rooms – from the “Petite” Boutique Room to the Two-Bedroom Signature Suite, guests can enjoy a spacious, Italian marble luxury bath and Nespresso machine to start the morning off right. Some rooms also have a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Opus Vancouver

Proudly displaying the coveted Forbes Four-Star rating from 2013 to 2015 on its homepage and being recognized as one of the trendiest hotels in the world, Opus is a popular spot in Vancouver. Located in Yaletown, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city by the water, Opus is the perfect place for those travelers looking for a hotel with some personality. All of the rooms sport bold colors, funky art from local artists, and guests are given an iPhone and iPad complimentary to use during their stay.

Granville Island Hotel

Get island vibes without leaving the center of Vancouver with a stay at the Granville Island Hotel. Located just south of Yaletown on – you guessed it – Granville Island, you’ll be close to Stanley Park and the famous Granville Island Public Market. Pop into the market seven days a week for handcrafted goods; the farmers’ market opens from June until October, giving local farmers a beautiful and central place to sell their organic produce. And, it’s not just the island that is a fantastic place to stay, but the hotel itself is pet-friendly, with beautiful views of the harbor from the rooms, along with an open-air dining room, lounge, and patio situated along the harborside boardwalk.

The Burrard

If retro-chic boutique hotels are your thing, you’ve hit gold at The Burrard Hotel. Giving you all of the above and a downtown location, The Burrard is an original 1956 motel made hot after a few little pick-me-up renovations. The secret garden oasis lounge area adds a hint of luxury while giving guests a private and funky place to relax with other guests. All the rooms have been refurbished with modern-day amenities to give travelers everything they’re looking for with an affordable price tag. Free Brooklyn Cruiser bikes are available for guests to use to explore Vancouver when the sun is out and complimentary umbrellas for when the rain comes down.

Hipmunk City Love: The Parisian Dream, Hotels Close to the Eiffel Tower

The city of lights, romance, and beautifully dressed Parisians – and French bread, and French cheeses, well, you get the point. While Paris, France, is much more than the stereotypes we’ve fallen in love with from the films (or personal experiences) we love to revel in them all. From boutique shopping on Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the chic Marais neighborhood to the hidden, lesser known museums such as the Musée Marmottan and the Musée Rodin, experience the real Paris that tourists don’t often see. However, staying at a hotel close to the Eiffel Tower (some even having views) is must when visiting the city of fashion.

Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel, Paris Trocadéro

Located in a beautiful, Parisian style building, the Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Hotel is a charmingly elegant hotel with perfectly decorated rooms. The hotel houses a Champagne bar featuring over 70 variations of the sophisticated drink. There are views of the Eiffel Tower from the hotel’s most sought after suite.

Hotel Maison FL Paris

Across the way from the Eiffel Tower, the Hotel Maison FL is the definition of chic, modern Paris with a touch of classic elegance. A hotel close to all of the city’s best known attractions such as the Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, and the Garnier Opera House, yet located in a quiet neighborhood along the Seine River.

First Hotel Paris – Tour Eiffel

Chic, modern, and classy are what you’ll find at the First Hotel Paris – Tour Eiffel from the rooms, the building itself, and the unforgettable views. The best thing are the continuous promotions for room specials, helping make the perfect Parisian experience affordable for all.

Hôtel Montaigne

Think classic elegance from the moment you walk through the front doors to the last bite of your decadent dessert at the Hotel Montaigne‘s L’Entracte restaurant. Rich reds and yellows decorate the five-star hotel’s walls with beautiful wooden accents throughout. The classic Paris attractions are just a hop, skip, and a jump from the hotel’s front door. Walk along the Seine for views of the most elegant of them all: the Eiffel Tower.

Hotel le Walt

Next to the famous Eiffel Tower, the Hotel le Walt sports a simple, chic look and adds a pop of classical romanticism with a painted reproduction of a work of art from the Louvre hung over each bed. Indulge in the massages, the exclusive bar, and terrace for a cheeky afternoon drink, as well as any limousine services for traveling around Paris in style.

Le Tourville Eiffel

Another beautiful hotel nestled in the quiet neighborhood just next to the Eiffel Tower, the Le Tourville Eiffel combines classic and contemporary, making it a must-stay trendy and chic hotel in Paris. The Bar located on the first floor is the perfect place to quench your thirst with a drink before and after leaving the hotel.

Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel

Work out with views of the Eiffel Tower? We dare say so. At the Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel guests can soak in the beauty of the Parisian city from the rooms. The hotel itself is located in a quiet neighborhood although just a block from some of the most famous attractions in Paris. Find tranquility in your nights at this modern gem in the heart of Paris.

Hipmunk City Love: Hotels Near the Duomo, Milan

The city of fashion, beautiful architecture, and gorgeous men and women, Milan, Italy, is on the not-to-miss list of cities when visiting the land of pizza, pasta, and coffee. But whatever brings you to the fashion capital of the world, it can be topped off by staying at some of the best hotels the city has to offer. And there’s nothing better than a hotel with a view of Duomo, Milan’s cathedral dating back to 1387, when construction began. Explore the cathedral and all its activities, take a guided tour to learn the interestinghistory of the Duomo, or simply bask in the greatness of the fifth-largest Christian church in the world.

UNA Maison Milano

A modern gem in the middle of the central historic district of Milan, UNA Maison Milano is a superb hotel choice if you’re looking to be close to the Duomo. It’s just around the corner from the famous cathedral, and guests are treated like royalty. Expect exceptional service, uniquely designed guest rooms, and a multilingual staff to help make your stay all the more enjoyable.

The Gray

The Gray not only has an excellent location next to the Piazza del Duomo, but gorgeous modern art-deco rooms, bar, and outdoor patio. The Gray Milano is a member of the exclusive SINA Fine Italian Hotels, meaning guests should only expect the best when staying at one of their establishments. You’ll find style, culture, and gourmet delights all within reach. If you’re an opera lover, The Gray offers premium packages guaranteeing the best seats in the house, along with other features like welcome drinks and breakfast.

Hotel Straf

A hotel after the heart of young couples and singles visiting Milan, Hotel Straf sits in the center of the city next to the Duomo. This hip hotel shows off its passion for design, art, and music, especially in the bar and restaurant. Featuring live music and DJs, their events calendar is worth checking out for a schedule of performances during your stay. Hotel Straf is proud of an eco-friendly policy that keeps their environmental footprint small, while still maintaining luxurious features.

Park Hyatt Milano

Comfort, elegance, and exceptional service are always guaranteed at any Hyatt hotel, and the Park Hyatt Milano is no different. Located conveniently just a block away from the Piazza del Duomo, guests will find themselves in the beautiful historic district of the city, surrounded by high-end shopping, gourmet dining, and some of the most famous architecture in the world. The Park Hyatt is a wonderful hotel for families, business people, or single travelers. For those seeking sophisticated dining, make reservations in the hotel’s very own Michelin-starred eatery, Restaurant VUN, or sip on exceptional cocktails at Mio and La Cupola.

Hotel Spadari al Duomo

This is a wonderful, centrally located hotel for those traveling with families, and just a stone’s throw from the main historical attractions in Milan, some of the best shopping, and of course, endless restaurants serving up classic Italian cuisine. At the Hotel Spadari al Duomo, you’ll have free Wi-Fi, some of the best breakfast options in the city, and complimentary minibar service.

Image by Tonette Pineda via Trover.com

Hipmunk City Love: How to do Chicago on a Budget

As always, planning ahead can help you make the most of your visit to any city — even your own! Check for a monthly breakdown of ”what to do in Chicago” in order to have a better idea of what’s going on while you’re in town. Of course, letting things happen spontaneously can always make for some fantastically memorable stories — but why not at least know where all the free stuff is, just in case?

Museums

Take advantage of the tons of museums in Chicago and see if your travel dates match up with any of their free-admission days, which change every month. There are some museums that have a weekly date which is always free, such as the Loyola Museum of Modern Art, although some allow only residents of Illinois to take advantage of their free-admission policies. Some museums, such as Adler Planetarium, the first planetarium in the United States, also have special-admission passes.

Attractions

There’s a free water display every hour at Buckingham Fountain from mid-April to mid-October. In the evening, the fountain show features a light-and-music spectacle as well! Don’t miss out on the Navy Pier, featuring places to grab a bite to eat, a winter ice-skating rink, two children’s museums, and a Ferris wheel giving you amazing views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. While some of the attractions cost a small fee, a walk along the pier is always free.

Theater/Music

Summer in many cities means that performers flock to the streets and parks, looking for a crowd to please. Millennium Park is one of the most concentrated areas in Chicago that features outdoor concerts, both scheduled and spontaneous. Also check out their various pieces of artwork, beautiful architecture, and landscape design including the famous Bean — officially known as the Cloud Gate — which reflects and warps the skyline. Between May and October, visitors can take a free 45-minute tour of the art and architecture from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day.

Festivals

It seems like Chicago is the place to be for festivals in the summer. With beautiful Lake Michigan as a backdrop, who wouldn’t want to play a few sets? Join in on the fun at the Grant Park Music Festival (a summer series), the Chicago Gospel Music Festival in May, and the Chicago Blues Festival in June. The Chicago Jazz Festival and the World Music Festival run in September, reminding folks that just because school has started, that doesn’t mean summer festivities are already over! Other fun festivals throughout the year are Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day traditions (they even dye the river green!) and the Christmas kickoff on Michigan Avenue called the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.

While parks-and-outdoors deserves its own section, it’s fair to say that they’ve already been covered quite well. Millennium Park, Grant Park, and Lincoln Park Conservatory are all hot spots when visiting. With more than 29 miles of lakefront property and 15 miles of beach in Chicago, you’re bound to find a small nook just for you when visiting the Windy City — famous for its deep-dish pizza and home to the blues.

Image by Celia Luz via Trover.com