What my mornings look like these days. Can't beat Italian coffee!
A few weeks ago my husband and I took a trip to Paris for the Mondial du Tatouage (any excuse is good to spend a weekend in Paris, and the tattoo convention turned out to be tons of fun). We wanted to stay close to the event center where the convention was being held, but when looking at hotels within our budget, things weren't looking great. Hotels in Paris, like many places in Italy, can be small and with few amenities, so I knew that looking at 3 and even 2 star hotels meant dubious quality. In Florence the advantage to staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast over a vacation rental, is that 99% of the time, a small breakfast is included. Having stayed in Paris before, I knew that this isn't the case there. Our last trip we ended up spending €9.00 for bread & jam at the hotel breakfast, and realized we were better off grabbing a crepe or croissant on the street.
I suggested that we try Airbnb, since at least we could make ourselves coffee in the morning, and be able to see some pictures of the place before choosing (you should be aware that hotels in Europe often promenently display their nicest biggest rooms, but the size and quality of each room can vary greatly).
This was my first experience with airbnb, and with any vacation rental outside of Florence, so I was a bit nervous. After we chose a place along the Canal in the La Villette area of Paris, we became even more nervous when our host had to cancel. Unsure about the status of the payment, I called customer service and recieved great friendly help, complete with a follow up email. Because our host had cancelled, we also recieved a free credit to our account! We went a head and chose a slightly more expensive apartment, making sure it already had plenty of great reviews, and everything went smoothly from there.
Our host, Cedric, kept in touch in the days before our arrival even though he was on vacation in Sri Lanka (lucky him), and arranged for friends to be there for our check-in and check-out. The process went smoothly even though our plane arrived late in the evening, partly because I was able to access all our reservation information and message history with the airbnb iPhone app. Lots of information was even available offline, which is very useful when traveling.
Photos by Airbnb - Source
The apartment was true to the pictures, very clean and nicely decorated, and had everything we needed. The location was perfect for us because it was around the corner from the convention, but it was also well-connected to the metro for getting to other areas of Paris.
Aside from just being more affordable, spacious and private, the difference with staying in an airbnb apartment instead of a hotel is that it really is more like being at home on your vacation. Instead of saying things like "Lets go back to the hotel and get ready for dinner" We would literally say "Let's go home and get changed before dinner." Personally I like the hotel experience with fresh towels and tiny soaps, but in Europe where the standards can be unpredictable, a vacation-rental apartment is really the way to go. No tiny closet of a room, no contruction in the hallway, no leaving your key at the desk or waiting for the night staff to ring you in when you come back late - it was actually like having our own apartment in Paris (which, lets face it, I could get used to!)
Photos by Airbnb - Source
I was very happy with our first Airbnb experience and I will definitely use them again for vacations in the future. And if I go back to Paris, I hope this same apartment is available, because I know I'll feel right at home!
When you're looking for unique t-shirts, or have an idea of your own that you want to make reality, head to Velvet Goldmine on Via de Benci. This is where we have all of our Monkey Bar shirts printed, and these guys have as much talent as style (a lot of both).
Walking down Via de Benci you could easily miss this unique store if you're not careful. The sign is about waist level, and a few stairs take you into the entrance, where you can play some Super Mario if you feel so inclined.
Left: a look at the inside of the store: Chalkboard wall & shirt creation station
Right: New Monkey Bar T-shirt order - love the environment-friendly bags!
Their main product is T-shirts, and they have lots of fits and styles to choose from, and plenty of creative designs.
Photos by Velvet Goldmine - Source
These are just some of my favorites from their "Dress Code" collection. From top left to bottom right, Joey Romone, Johnny Depp, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn.
Photos by Velvet Goldmine
The top two shown here are from the "Florence 1978" Collection, with different areas of Florence imagined as 70's souvenir t-shirts. At the bottom are two from the "Painting" collection (self-explanatory really).
The best part is that they can also print a one-off shirt with just about anything you want. Go into the store with your design or idea, choose your shirt and color, and the next day it's ready!
Of course, if you need a leather jacket, Doc Martens, sunglasses and a pair of crazy leggings to complete your outfit, they have all of that too. And tattoo machines and ink, just in case you were out of those as well.
Store: Via de Benci 38r
Phone: +39 055 3860034
Spring seems a little late coming this year, and while I'm hoping for a little more sunshine in April, at least I know that there are some great events coming up, rain or shine!
My Top Picks for April:
Aperitivo in Musica:
Aperitivo is already one of my favorite things, but add a classical music performance and the backdrop of the Villa Bardini terrace and you have one of my can't miss events of the month! These weekly aperitivi began in Mach, but I'm holding out for a beautiful sunny day to enjoy it fully.
€6.00, reservations required
Mostra Internationale di Artigianato:
the "International Handicrafts Trade Fair" is a yearly event in Florence that I've managed to miss the past few years, so I'll be looking to fix that this month.
Ongoing Art Exhibits:
I'll be looking to spend my afternoons enjoying some of the ongoing art exhibits such as The Dalì Universe in Palazzo Medici Riccardi and The Springtime of the Renaissance, currently in Palazzo Strozzi before its headed to the Louvre later this year.