Moscow and St. Petersburg

Somehow I forgot to publish this post back in the summer.

st petersburg russia
Quiet canal in Saint Petersburg

saint petersburg russia
By the water in Saint Petersburg

moscow russia
Beautiful Moscow underground station: not only is it beautiful, it works like a charm. There’s a train every 2 minutes.

moscow russia
Mural of Lenin in the Moscow underground

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Moscow subway stations are airy and beautiful

moscow red square russia

The pampered life of a Tokyo dog

There are many of these dog grooming salons in Tokyo. The dogs get shampooed and blow-dried, then they get their fur shaved or styled. Many dog grooming salons are tiny shops, but others are part of a dog hotel/spa such as the one pictured below in the Tokyo Midtown complex. The dogs enjoy being fussed over and stroked.

dog grooming tokyo dog beauty parlour dog salon tokyo


Flying over Japan

These photos were taken during an Air China flight from Beijing to Tokyo. In the distance you see the near perfect cone of Mount Fuji.


Japan from the air

mount fuji

Mount Fuji in the distance

volcano in the clouds Japan

Crater of a volcano peeking above the clouds in Japan

I flew from Paris to Beijing first, then on to Tokyo. Air China is a good airline but there are drawbacks to using Beijing as a connection (see Pros and cons of flying Air China). If you want to end up in Beijing, Air China is probably the best, especially for business class seats.

Memories of the 100th Tour de France

I was so fortunate to receive an invitation from a friend to watch the arrival of the peloton of the 100th Tour de France in Paris on 21 July 2013.

Tour de France Paris arrival

I sat in the Tribune Présidentielle a few seats behind Eddy Merckx and Greg Lemond and savoured the festive atmosphere of the final day of the Tour which saw Chris Froome winning the Yellow Jersey and a young, relatively unknown Colombian rider named Nairo Alexander Quintana, the biggest surprise of the Tour, come in second to Froome and win the Polka Dot Jersey and the White Jersey. The weather was warm and pleasant which made for a perfect evening to watch the riders zoom up and down the Champs Elysees ten times.

tour de france peloton

There were thousands of people lining the Champs Elysees and another extra bonus — I got to ride in one of the cars that follow the riders!

Champs Elysees Tour de France

This is the first evening arrival on the Champs Elysees. During the awards ceremony, we were also treated to a spectacular light show projected upon the Arc de Triomphe. Because it was the 100th anniversary, the Tour officials had Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, all winners of several Tours, appear as special guests on the podium with Froome. The team award went to Saxo Bank. Green Jersey winner was Peter Sagan (beating Mark Cavendish, the favourite).

tour de france team award

Tour de France yellow jersey

Finally I took home a lovely Tour de France 100th anniversary candle that smells divine. Its scent reminds me very much of Diptyque’s Figuier (Fig) candle. What a memorable day!

Tour de France candle

Chic budget stays in New York City

The summer holiday season is upon us and travellers who are going to New York City on a budget, are looking for inexpensive accommodations. Traditionally young travellers gravitate to the many hostels in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. In the past, these hostels have been very basic in terms of amenities and decor. Recently, however, even hostels have gone the “design” route.

For example, check out New York hostels, a site that lists many hostels and B&Bs. There you will find the hip New York Loft hostel in Brooklyn, a borough that has become the hot place for edgy indie boutiques and cool new restaurants. Marrakech Hotel on Broadway in Manhattan is decorated in a Moroccan style. Equity Point at Times Square is in the center of the action and boasts a lively well-designed lobby and minimalist rooms.

If hostels are not your thing, you can go to AirBnB to rent an inexpensive apartment with a few friends or you can opt to stay in a bed and breakfast.

New York City offers the budget traveller a vast selection of amazing, inexpensive ethnic food, for example, Saravanaa Bhavan (vegetarian southern Indian restaurant that is always packed and has 2 locations, one in the upper West Side and the other on Lexington Avenue between E. 26th and E. 27th) and Food Gallery 32 on 11 W. 32nd Street, an interior food court filled with Korean restaurants.

Although New York City has a reputation for being expensive, there are enough options for accommodations and eating out for the budget traveller.

Tour de France 2013 in Corsica


The Tour de France is celebrating its 100th anniversary by starting in Corsica. It’s strange that the Tour never visited Corsica. It’s been to other countries but not to the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. Click on the photo to see a short video of the Tour de France riders winding their way through the stunning mountainous countryside in Stage 3 from Ajaccio to Calvi.