Pinterest and Online Tourism – an untapped market?

This could be big, people.

I am by no means a Pinterest expert but oh boy, is it addictive! How cool is it that I can snoop other people’s bookmarked link/image collections online? SUPER COOL. My personal opinion is that Pinterest primarily appeals to females right now because of our love of scrapbooking and collecting pretty things.

Pinterest tourism social media

But you know who could seriously take advantage of this? TOURISM WEBSITES. Tourism is an industry that thrives on people’s ideals, photography and consumer generated content. And what is a better site that brings these elements together than Pinterest?!

Tourism Pinterest Why Travel Social Media

Let’s analyze it from the prospective traveller’s perspective for a moment — when you need travel advice, what online sources do people usually turn to? Blogs, Twitter personalities, or mass travel advice sites (see my blogroll) – all of which require a lot of sifting through text. And if you just want some pictures, it’s flickr or Google images, right? The tourism industry does a dismal job of using photography to its fullest on the internet, but I think this could change if tourism campaign managers figure out Pinterest and pounce. Something I haven’t found (correct me if I am wrong) are contests for the best Pin board on a certain country. That’s a quick and easy contest for companies like  Incredible India, Tourism Vancouver, Flight Centre or Westjet to do.

Pinterest

What are your thoughts on Pinterest? What industries would it be most suited to?

Curiously yours!

Shiv 🙂

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Paris for Students – Best places to people watch

One of my favourite things to do in any city is people watch. I don’t find many places to do this peacefully in Vancouver – usually I’m getting the death stare from the waitresses for sitting for hours with a coffee, or it’s too cold and wet to sit on the grass and watch people jog by with their dogs.

But Paris is the perfect city for sitting and watching people! It’s not only acceptable, but it’s a part of parisien culture: just sit, relax and watch the world. You will have the best time, if you let yourself. Oh, but a little warning – don’t gawk at the gorgeous people and outfits walking by, and at least wipe the drool from your mouth once in a while. Parisiens are hot. You have been warned.

I had a couple of favourite haunts in Paris that were great for people watching. Maybe you like them too 🙂 So, in no particular order…

**Warning: Almost all of them involve food because food always makes the experience better – no exceptions.

Buy some wine, cheese, a baguette and grapes to have a picnic on the grassy part below the Sacre CoeurYou will be looking at the best view of Paris.

paris views people watch students

The view from the Sacre Coeur. Sometimes, you'll be serenaded by French artists here too!

Bring blankets and a couple beers to enjoy on the lawns of the Champs de Mars, near the Eiffel TowerWatch the hordes of tourists go buy and watch the lights of the beautiful metal symbol of Paris 🙂

paris for students champs de mars

The grassy parts you're allowed to sit on...and stare at the glorious metal tower 🙂

Sit on the sloped cement area near the Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges PompidouYou’re in the heart of Chatelet Les Halles (my favourite area of Paris, great for shopping and loitering around pop art stores). And you can watch the people walk around the crazy museum tubes.

centre georges pompidou people watching paris

Join the pigeons. They know what's up.

Drink a coffee or a glass of wine in any cafe on the street. Is there any way to do soak in the culture than a good book, a glass of something delicious,  fresh air, a good street view and your own thoughts? No. There isn’t.

paris street cafe people watching

Aren't you jealous? Yeah, me too.

So to get you even more immersed in the street life of Paris…Here is an introduction to what you will hear on the streets! Enjoy!

Happy creeping,

Shiv 🙂

Paris for Students – Where to windowshop like a champ

Paris is by no means a cheap city, but that doesn’t mean that students on a budget should miss out on the best the city has to offer.

Best places to window shop

1. Le Marais (Metro stop: Saint Paul, Line 1)

It’s classified as the Jewish/Gay/Hipster part of Paris, but I didn’t really see how it was Jewish or Gay. It just seemed exceedingly cool. Lots of vintage shops selling real fur coats for 1000s of euros, as well as super cute trinket stores, designer jewelery, and unique restaurants. All at almost affordable prices (if you are patient enough to hunt for hours).

2. Saint Germain des Pres (Metro stop: Saint Germain des Pres, Line 4)

This is one of the most expensive places to be in Paris. You’ll find designer stores mixed with some cool boutiques, and it’s about a 10 minute walk from Napoleon’s tomb (very worth seeing, god that guy was an egomaniac) and the Invalides.

3. 1er arrondissement – Around le Teatre du Palais Royal (Metro stop: Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre, Line 1 & 7)

The best lesson my French teacher ever taught was how to walk around le Teatre du Palais Royal (The Theatre of the Royal Palace). You get out from the metro at Rue de Richelieu and walk up it, away from Rue de Rivoli and towards the Jardin du Palais Royal. The garden is lined with the most expensive stores I may have seen in my life, but the window displays are breathtaking. A promenade around the garden, and if you exit from the top (near Rue de la Feuillade), you will find very cool restaurants completely out of price range, mixed with charming toy stores, bookshops and beautiful jewelry & craft stores.

Happy windowshopping!

Shiv 🙂

Paris for Students – A Guide to (Cheap) Barhopping

In Paris, you are never too far from a bar. And every time of the day is the right time to enjoy a glass of wine, or as they say, prendre un verre.

But be warned: drinking in bars is not cheap. To give you a general idea about the price of drinks…

  • Glass of wine: around 4€
  • Drinks during happy hour (between 6-9pm): 6-8€
  • Drinks at normal price: 9-13€
A couple cool bar districts I would recommend are:

The area around the metro stop Place Monge (Metro stop: Place Monge, Line 7 and 10). Very underrated, and packed with French people. Yay locals!

The bars in the red light district in Montmartre (Metro stop: Blanche, Line 2) but be careful at night because it can get pretty seedy. Typically full of tourists too, and the Sandeman pub crawls circulate around here.
The Bastille area is also really popular with French youth (Metro stop: Bastille, Line 5,1, and 8). Another place that gets pretty sketchy late at night, but soooo many bars to choose from.
The Latin Quarter has some pretty cool watering holes that are normally priced. You will most likely find fellow foreigners too, and a million shwarma shops to feed you late at night. Yum! (Metro stop: Saint Michel-Notre Dame, Line 4 or RER B on the suburban trains)
A note on going clubbing

Paris nightclubs are pretty damn good, and can be open as late as 6am. But beware: the metro stops running at 2AM, and opens at 5AM so if you’re going to go out, plan to head home early or stay out all night because taxis are hard to come by and aren’t cheap.

Paris is beautiful at night, and nothing should stop you from enjoying it!

Shiv 🙂

Day 100: 2 girls in Morocco!

Morocco has been at the top of my ‘List of places to see before I die’ basically since I was born, and then raised by a Moroccan nanny for the first 4 years of my life. I’ve also visited Dubai when I was young, and my family used to live in the Middle East before I was born so I had dirhams, lamps and small tea sets from these places to play with as a child. All this meant that I’m a bit more familiar with Arab culture than the average Indo-Canadian girl.

3 words: It is magical.

To DIE for food, colours, jewelry, history, architecture and acrobats all in the sun soaked, windswept country of the Sahara.

The red, sandy city of Marrakech!

Nommeh cous cous.

We landed at 10pm in Marrakech and after dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we took a taxi to Djema el Fna (the main square) right away to see it during its best: night time. It never dies down! When we got there around midnight, the souks (small, somewhat covered marketplace that sell almost everything) were lively, there were food stalls everywhere, and for some strange reason a Bollywood film was being projected on a building (?).

So much buzz in the souks at midnight!

Get a good picture of the Said tombs for 10 dirham entry fee, then move on pretty quick. It's not the most interesting tourist attraction.

**From experience: Everyone we talked to about going to Morocco just being two 20-something girl travellers told us that there was nothing to worry about, that we would be perfectly safe as long as we weren’t stupid. And we were, but my friends left out a very important caveat: Girls get a lot of unwanted attention from men if they are not with a guy, and foreign girls get attention anyway.

It gets a bit tiresome, but sometimes it was amusing. Some of the outrageous things said to us included:

Note: We never replied to any of these. These are one-way conversations.

  1. Where are you from? Brazil? Spain? England? China? Japan? Pakistan? India? Norway? America? France? Thailand? Singapore? Hungary?
  2. Hi, hello, where are you from? You are so beautiful, so sexy. Do you want a Moroccan husband?
  3. Be my wife? Yes?
  4. Hi girls, how are you? Why don’t you respond? That’s not nice. Oh, you’re crossing the street? That’s ok, I’m going that way too.

Yeah. You get the picture.

Anyway, be warned that if you are a girl, save yourself a little bit from a bit of the hassle you’re going to get just because you are foreign and bring a man with you.

On a lighter note…

This is something no one will tell you before you go to Morocco: There are a lot of cats. Some are cute (like this one)..others are pretty mangy.

What you MUST do in Morocco!

1. Go to a hammam!

A hammam is like a Moroccan sauna/bath house, and it’s an ancient tradition. Back then, it would be a place for people to socialize, relax and get clean. Nowadays, they are similar to a spa in that there are various things an attendant will do in order to get you squeaky clean and refreshed: the black sponge and soap is a really good exfoliating treatment, and go for anything that says Argan Oil. Argan trees only grow in Morocco, and they are kind of like olive trees except SO MUCH COOLER.

2. Buy some oranges!

We went to Morocco in December so maybe it’s a seasonal thing, but oranges were EVERYWHERE. And they were all really delicious, too! If you have the balls, jump into an orange grove and eat the oranges off the trees, like my friend and I did 🙂

The Badi Palace: My fave tourist attraction. It's the ruins of a big palace, but soooo cool! And they have this great orange grove.

3. Go to Essaouira and take a zillion pictures.

It is such a cool, photogenic sea-side town.

Typical Moroccan spices and herbs! It's always fun talking to the shopkeepers of these places, they lather you up with oils & creams and have you smell soaps & tea powders 🙂

 

From the lookout at Essaouira!

4. Drint mint tea everywhere.

It’s good for you, staves off indigestion and best of all, is SUPER delicious.

I miss you, my delicious friend.

5. Give Marrakech a half day.

The only thing really worth seeing in Marrakech, according to me, is Djema el Fnaa at night. Other than that, it seemed like another aggressive city and will not give you an authentic Moroccan experience.

Fes, on the other hand, is absolutely amazing. I was blown away by the nearly perfect preservation of the medieval medina (maze-like marketplace) and the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. Plus, way fewer tourists and it is relatively cheaper.

One of the few places where the sun breaks into the old medina in Fes

Insanely gorgeous views.

And definitely check out the tanneries in Fes!

The tanneries are actually very cool in Fes, and they don't smell as bad as everyone says. A must-see!

Sleeping tannery worker in Fes.

Travellingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Bonus Tangent: My wishlist for my next time in Morocco

  1. Summit Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa and part of the Northern Atlas mountain range. It only takes 2 days, the guys from the best TV show ever, departures, did it and they had never summitted anything in their life before. Neither have I! So I think it would be a good starting place.
  2. Visit the fish market at Essaouira – it’s supposed to be so cool, but when my friend and I tried to find it, we got lost in a very sketchy part of the city. Next time, we find a guide!
  3. Travel with a guy. Already mentioned why.
  4. It’s such a shame that mosques are only open to Muslims…then again, how difficult is it to appear Muslim? And how morally wrong would it be if I just want to see how amazing a mosque is? That’s something to try next time I’m there, too.
  5. Spend a couple days and nights in the Sahara. I don’t know what it is about the desert, but there is something about the massive expanse of sand that makes it seem like magic is real.

Day 85: AmsterDAMAGE!

Organizing 10 people to go on a weekend trip to Amsterdam is not an easy feat, but I’m so glad my friends and I were able to navigate through the logistical nightmare (albeit with a couple more bodies in a hotel bed than is comfortable) and go!

So, what do college students do in Amsterdam other than pot and sex shows? Well, since I’m not really into either, I had fun….

  • Vintage shopping in the 9 streets region of Amsterdam
  • Strolling around the gorgeous canals

  • Having tea and beer in the omnipresent cafes
  • Breakfast at Bagels and Beans (Such a good breakfast place! And it had amazing teas, too. The site’s in Dutch, but have a look anyway: http://www.bagelsbeans.nl/home.asp)
  • Wishing I rented a bike so I could zip around the city like a local – it’s a main form of transportation, which partly explains why everyone is so fit!

    One of the main streets near Dam Square. Chances are if you're a tourist, you'll be there a lot 🙂

And what I thought was the highlight of my trip —

  • Stumbling into what my friends and I call a ‘Cajh R’ (slang for casual racism) holiday – Sint in Amsterdam!

Santa's elves are white people painted black with curly hair? Only in Amsterdam...

Brief description of the Sint in Amsterdam parade as told to a foreigner (me) by a local (Mom of dressed up kids who kindly gave us some flags and biscuits) :

On the 13th of November, Sinterklaas, who we know as Santa Claus, visits Amsterdam with his workers (these elves) and gives people ginger biscuits (pepernoten). His helpers, these dudes in suits, toss them into the crowd and the spectators have upside down umbrellas to capture the biscuits. The kids and some of the more enthusiastic parents dress up like the elves or Sinterklaas, and similar to the Christmas I know, good children get candy and sweets, whereas naughty kids get coal.

Over here, skinny Dutch Santa!

 Reason #486 why I love to travel: The awkward, absurd and random moments that keep life interesting and stretch your mind open a bit more.

Yay for Sinterklaas!

What really shocked me about Amsterdam is the easy access to marijuana! I didn’t think it would shock me since I’m from Vancouver, one of the pot capitals of the world, but Amsterdam really takes it to a new level: marijuana lollipops, teas, ice cream, soda pops, etc. The abundance of coffee shops of the smoky variety was also fascinating!  They all looked pretty cool, had full menus of what types of pot they had that included menus with flavours and the types of high you get from it. They sold shisha, drinks and decent coffee too! Needless to say, I was very impressed.

**Tip: If you are afraid of getting a ‘Coffee Shop’ and an actual coffee shop mixed up, real coffee shops that specialize in coffee are called something like koffiehaus. A cannabis cafe is called a coffeehouse.

Flag of Amsterdam. The official city motto is ...

Gotta love Amsterdam's flag!

As for the consumption of pot, I don’t think there’s a better substance to give the typical rowdy tourists looking to go wild in Amsterdam. Pot shuts them up, calms them down and makes them hungry and sleepy. I can’t really say I disapprove of making the tourist experience more enjoyable for us all 😀

I am-sterdammingly yours,

Shiv 🙂

Day 50: Marseille vs. Paris

The reason I fell in love with France was because I did a two week exchange to a town about an hour away from MarseilleOrange, France. And ever since I glimpsed at the French lifestyle, I vowed I’d come back and stay longer.

Et voila! I’m studying and living in France for 4 months. Sure, it took 6 years to get here, but I’m finally here!

And I wouldn’t be this close to Paris if it weren’t for that town near Marseille. So I wanted to give my respects to the city (and my good friend) who did me such a big favour of showing me how awesome the French life is!

HOWEVER….when I asked my French friends what Marseille is like, they pulled the typical exasperated faces and told me it’s just like a petite Algerie, and that it’s dangerous and ugly. That’s a bit of a downer to hear just after you book train tickets.

Parc Borely at sunset. Marseille is ugly? Are you sure?

So when I got there and spent 4 glorious days with my Marseillaise friend, I asked her if it was true: Is Marseille ugly? And she said – “Well, yeah. But Paris just hates Marseille, and Marseille hates Paris too.” Like Toronto vs. Vancouver! Gotcha.

And with those oh-so-encouraging words, I set out on a mission to prove that Marseille is NOT ugly. Here’s what I found.

The beautiful docks with some funny graffiti!

Palais Longchamp! No tourists, you get the whole place - including pretty fields - to yourself and the Musee des Beaux Arts is right there.

Andale andale! From the top of Palais Longchamp.

Le Panier, a super old district of Marseille. Gorgeous. And it looks kind of like Greece...

Still think Marseille is ugly? I thought it was beautiful – a sun drenched, wind blown French Mediterranean city with a fun and safe atmosphere. If you still aren’t sure, wait until you see Notre Dame de la Garde, the cathedral on the hill overlooking the town. If the cathedral isn’t enough for you (and it is, because the inside is something I’ve never seen before in France – so colourful and gold!), the views will take your breath away. Have a look!

Love the inside, and it was hard to capture on my camera. Red, blue and gold inside a white building!

Gasp!

Still not convinced? Tough crowd, but I have one more argument in my arsenal.

Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Marseillaise fine dining.

Aioli sauce, prawn, sea snails, some delicious salty white fish, and other goodies. I miss this.

And the Paris vs. Marseille is a battle that continues on. I love both cities dearly, and I have memories in both that won’t allow me to be objective enough to decide which is better. But MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Marseille is not ugly!!

Marseillaisely yours,

Shiv 🙂