St. Petersburg – one of my favorite cities during the Baltic Season

Good day, my dear All,

It has been a while, since I last blogged, but here it is the next blog about one of my recently added to my favorite cities – St. Petersburg.



In front of the Spilled Blood Cathedral

From Copenhagen, Stockholm, St. Petersburg to Talin and Helsinki, I spend two lovely months cruising in the Baltic Sea, most of the time spent in St. Petersburg, Russia. Lucky enough to have been docking in the center of the city, with just 15 minutes walk from the Hermitage museum and less then 10 minutes from the beautiful Isaac Squire or the main shopping street the Nevsky Prospect ( one of the busiest in the country actually), it gave me such a pleasure of planning different activities and joining the well organized tours to another more remote sights.


 I am more then happy to share with you a bit of my experience and  events I was attending during my time in St. Petersburg, but with the idea that,there are a lot more to do and see while in that beautiful Baltic city.


The Alexander Column on the Palace Squire

All it started with the beautiful afternoon tour to get to know some of the main sights of the city and how to get into there. Driving and enjoying the beautiful buildings in the central St. Petersburg, I couldn’t wait until the bus stops and I could stroll down the Nevsky Prospect, walking down the busy street towards the squire in front of the Hermitage Museum with the Alexander Column and the Arch of the General Staff on it, where my first stops were. Short walking distance from the Hermitage building was another major building in the city – the Isaac Cathedral, the 4th biggest in the world as well. It was here, where I realize how lucky I should have been to have seen the three biggest already.  Next in my list for that afternoon was –  the visit of one of the biggest, richest and oldest bookstore on the Nevsky Prospect  called “Dom Knigi”. There is a lovely café ( Singer Cafe)  located on the second store with lovely view outside to the Kazansky Skver – another imposing cathedral, open for visitors and still functioning as cathedral.


Interior of the Cathrine’s Palace

Next, from the activities, was the visit of Catharine Palace, located about 45 min drive in the village of Pushkin. Traditionally, welcomed by the orchestra playing Russian  songs, at the entrance, we were among the first group to enter the Palace. What a joy walking through the halls is to see and enjoy  the many beautifully carved walls and the very impressive ceiling paintings, ornaments, frescoes- the Catharine’s Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces that I ever visited inside. Once inside the Palace, you will find yourself in a wonderful and all in white decorated spacious staircase, leading to the royal halls.One of  the first halls to visit, is the Grand Hall, where the royal receptions, celebrations and balls were taking places, this was followed  by the Chevalier’s Dinning Hall ( just adored the set ups on the tables ), but my favorte of all was the Amber room. Unfortunatelly, no pictures were allowed here and the security ladies were so serious about it,so that no one ever dared to show a camera..


Peterhof’s Lower Garden

As St. Petersburg is the city with most Palaces , almost each building used to be a Palace in the Past, there is no wonder, that my next visited sight was another Palace or actually its gardens – the Lower Gardens of Peterhof. Its many fountains and the Grand Cascade ( picture in the left) took my thoughts away for a moment. The Palace itself is located a bit outside of the city and the fastest way of reaching the  Lower Gardens from St. Petersburg  is by  hydrofoil. The ride one way lasts about 45 minutes and tickets could be purchased from two stations at the Neva’s river. We ( a good colleague from the desk, joined me in that day ) did  purchased from in front of the Hermitage museum, which was our last destination on the way back too. For about  an hour and half,  we were enjoying the  sunny early afternoon in the gardens, before we took the hydrofoil back to Hermitage.

To fully complete the time outside, we had our late lunch in our favorite Restaurant on Nevksy Prospect –  the “Marketplace Restaurant”. As the name predict, the food is fresh like coming from the market, done in front of you, but best were the desserts. I could have the chocolate truffle dessert ( picture on the right up) every time, I was in that Restaurant

One of the greatest events I felt privilege to be part of, was “ the Musical Evening in Hermitage museum”.

Imagine, wondering and admiring all the art painting at all gorgeous halls alone, with no other visitors, but your guests, ending the almost private tour with  mini Classical concert done by the State Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg in the Large Skylight Italian Hall, followed by champagne reception after.

I didn’t miss a visit of the Fabarge museum – housing the largest collection of Easter eggs and located in the Shuvalov Palace.The Shuvavov is another beatiful Palace turned into museum and the collection of objects de vertu, porcelain and especially the Fabarge Eggs was very quit impressive, my favorite one is one picture down right ” The Imperial Coronation Easter Egg.



Mariinsky Theater – between the two acts of Swan Lake

On of the highlights during my visits in St. Petersburg was the Ballet Night at Marrinksy. I could’t imagine a better place to watch the ” Swan Lake” then in the Mariinksy Theater, where it was first introduced far back in the 19th century. The tickets for the ballet, we purchased from a Russian website – wonderful seats, wonderful dancers, decors, costumes. It was with no doubt – the best ballet performance that I watched too and I did it in the Marrinsky.



Paul and Peter Cathedral, the boat canal trip, blinis and cavier tasting, enjoying the Fireworks during the National Navy Day of Russia ( 30 July), the White nights in the city were another small part of sights visited and done while in St. Petersburg.

Truth is that there is so so so much to do and see here. If you adore history, art and architecture, this is your place. There are hunderts of museums and palaces, all build in different style . One of the tour guides I had , said that once upon a time, every architect  was projecting and building the way they wished and the result is gorgeous, colorful buildings surrounding the many canals and the river Neva. As far as the temperature concern, they were pleasant for the time being June to August.

As all good things, also my season in St. Petersburg is about to end soon, but my adventure at sea will just change coordinates – South – West  towards another countries and interesting cities and I cannot wait until I share again…


Below are just few more imagines,






Madrid – simply in love with this city

Good evening my dear All,

Here am I, sitting in a beautiful wine bar located at the Terrace at my hotel in Valencia, where I was attending  Spanish Language course during my vacation from work this summer, and even though Valencia is magnetic and I will write about my time in here in the next days, all I can thing while having my wine now is the mini weekend in Madrid two weeks ago.

About 4 days after my classes started, I got invited to visit Madrid with a good friend of mine, that was showing me Valencia for duration of my classes too.  He had some business work to do, so that for the time, he was finalizing  it on Friday and meeting with friends for the rest of the day, I was strolling down and up the busy streets and parks of Madrid, consuming the art at the National Museum of Prado,  trying to cover as much as possible for the time being. First two impressions from Madrid were that it was so easy to find my way  – in Valencia for example, I’m keep loosing myself until now, the moment I decide to walk a different way, 100 % I  get lost, not the case in Madrid. Also the people in Madrid –  beautifully dresses, finally match for the way I like to dress, in addition friendly, very very curious and very open.

So, as my friend had his meeting in the business district of Madrid, I followed to the point, that I was given instruction in where to go next and how to get covered the sights in my list.

“Calle de Sorano” is where I started, the street of luxury designer goods, tax free paradise and the one leading to the Plaza de Colon, which was renamed to honor Christopher Columbus. Just behind the statue of Columbus, there is one of the tallest buildings of Madrid. Quick stop for picture and I walking further down the street to reach Puerta del Sol.


At the Plaza del Sol, in front of the Bear with the Strawberry Tree

My tour of historical Madrid started  in here, the vital heart of Madrid and Spain as well, a meeting point for the citizens in Madrid as well as the metro junction. Surrounded by the beautiful building with classical facades, here is where you will find one of Madrid’s most photograph sight- “the bear with the strawberry tree”, as well as the famous clock that mark the traditional eating of the “12 Grapes” at the beginning of each New Year. Not far from the Puerta del Sol is the to other famous squire of all squires – Plaza Mayor. In the past, stage of important events such as bullfighting, religious ceremonies, tournaments and executions, today, the squire is more like leisurely spot for locals and visitors of the city, place to have that cold pre-dinner wine after work, while watching the crowd passing by. In the middle of the squire, the statue of Felipe III. is still be photographed at. If you are gourmet lover, like myself, a stop at the Market of San Miguel or the Musem of Jamon is a must.


Feeling like a Princess between the Almudena Cathedral in the back and the Palacio Real de Madrid on my right side.

Madrid is a home of most of Spain’s Royal Palaces, but the Royal Family prefers to live outside of Madrid. One of the biggest and most beautiful one is Palacio Real de Madrid, located no more then 15 minutes of leisurely walk from the Plaza Mayor. Just next to the Palacio, another sight will catch your eye, like it did mine- the Almudena Cathedral, where the current King of Spain- King Felipe IV. married former journalist Letizia Ortiz back in 2004. The choice of the Cathedral isn’t random. Some of the locals were kidding, that the royal couple- to- be, had to just walk from the gates of the Palacio Real de Madrid…

Palacio Real is open daily to the public. This time I did not get the chance of seeing it in, but reserving my spot for the next visit in Madrid.

For dinner, I already had my company back. Like everywhere in Spain and in Madrid, there are so many Terraces serving all types of dinner, accompanied in our case with beautiful wine, so all we had to do was walk and pick. After  dinner, we still had energy of continuing to one of the livest and friendliest districts of Madrid- something like the Soho in London, namely the Chueca district…Whatever happen in Chueca, will remain in Chueca.

The second and last day, I dedicated to the art of Prado Museum, for which I decided to start again from the Metro station of Grand Via and walk down, passing  the famous Metropolitan building with the eagle of the top, stopping at the Plaza de la Cibeles, famous with few of the most beautiful buildings located here, including also the fountain in front, of the nowadays ,working Post Office. The Fountain was close for renovation, so maybe next time, I will be able to fully enjoy it. Continued my walk in the little Park behind the Post- ” Paseo del Prado” and I was soon standing in front of the National Prado Museum, housing one of the richest art and painting collections worldwide. After good a bit more then 3 hours, I decided to take my coffee at the Parque del Buen Retire, the biggest in Madrid. My goal here was to see from close the Cristal Palace , which unfortunately I did not this time, but there were enough other beautiful spots to admire before taking the Grand Via back to the Puerta del Sol to re -unite with my friend for another dinner. This time, we decided to have something from Peru. We found a little enchanting restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine and I must say that I really loved it. The wine though, remained from Spain.

Below are just few of the other images taken during my super short time in Madrid and sooo much already looking to revisit it…



Old towns of Santorini and Mykonos in Pictures

There is no secret that Greece is one of my favourite countries to travel, shop, dine, relax, drink my Frappes, Freddos and wine. I always enjoyed consuming the culture and get lost in some of the small streets in the Old towns of the islands or such in the Mainland and always happy to return and practice my Greek. Border country of my homeland meant  that once I was in Greece, I always had the feeling that I’m almost home, big part because of the similarity in cuisine and lifestyle.

Been in many of its islands for work or holiday, Santorini and Mykonos remain two of the islands, that I keep being happy to return and always find something to do and another place to visit, that I didn’t visit before. In both of the islands and if my time off allow, I’m usually among the last ones to return onboard, needless to say, always with shopping bags – wine, jewelry and a bottle of the Santorini parfume is usually, what I take with from Santorini and a beautiful painting and more wine, what I mostly have from Mykonos.

While in Fira, the bigger city and usually the one port, where most of the cruise ships are to be seen at anchor. Once at the port, you could either the cable car going up in the town, rent a donkey or simply walk up the stairs. Cable car going up is usually the fastest way to go up. Once there, take either way of the main street and enjoy the views from the top, the many art galleries, souvenir shops, all clothing such and much more.


Oia from the other hand is the little town located nearly half an hour by bus from Fira and is the one famouse with the beautiful sunset, the white churches with the blue tops, the many wineries and art galleries. A good  and original way of returning from Oia, would be with a set of jewelries sold in the galleries.


Mykonos was usually visited the day after Santorini. I, honestly, felt in love with its charming Old Town and the inhabitants, so friendly and always with great recommendations with regards to more entertainment. I only wished of having a bit longer time to see more of it, but maybe next time and with an overnight.

Gourmet Market -Les Halles de Lyon -Paul Bocuse

What are the first three words coming to your mind when you hear about the city of Lyon? Mine were beauty, silk and gourmet. Chosen for the best gateway city in Europe for last year, Lyon has become my favorite city in France too. Famous as the Birthplace of cinema, world capital of silk, Lyon is also known as the gastronomic capital of France and most probably the world as well.

One of my favorite spots while in Lyon was the Gourmet market – Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, located in the business district of Lyon- Part Dieu.

Here, I will just mention that last year I spent about 8 months working on a river cruise. The ship I was on, was doing the stretch Chalon-sur-Saone – Avignon and back on weekly basis, so I ended up visiting Lyon, something like 32 times for 2 days each time. Unfortunately, I decided only now to write about my experience while traveling, but I will try to recover most of my collected such in series of posts in the next months.

Les Halles de Lyon is one of the biggest and most famous covered gourmet markets in France. It first opened in the Year of 1859, so this make it one of the oldest as well. Today it houses more than 50 traders – cheese makers, bakers, pastry and chocolates stores, oysters and sea food corners, butchers, florists, bars, restaurateurs and wine merchants, all of them offering their finest production to their visitors and all located under one roof.

The name Paul Bocuse (The famous French Chef born Lyon, Michelin star holder and eternal ambassador of great cuisine)  raising the popularity of the market, making it must-see-spot while in Lyon.

Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, Sundays and Holidays until  1:00 pm, the market is livelier in the morning hours until the early afternoon. Some of the vendors are closing up around 4:00 pm, but in general you could enjoy any time when you decide to visit it. Most of the traders are really hospitable and will invite you taste a lot from their finest. Below are few of my favorite vendors with some of my favorite products.

Beillevaire – All about  cheese. .

# Picture below taken from the official website.


Chocolate, chocolate – I did bought from all, but how could you resist “Delices de Sens


Wine and more Wine  – as for the wine merchants – Nicholas wine store  with more then 500  stores in France and Fac and Spera by Michel Chapoutier. Both of the wine stores are located in both opposite sites of the market.

Misty Milano in March

Is there anyone, who has visited Italy and didn’t fall in love with the country and its La Dolce Vita ( that sweet life, that you want or not, you get to be part of, once finding yourself in Italy). I did love Italy, its language and culture, very long before I visited it and now I have been so many times and in so many cities. From Venice, Verona, Florence to Rome, Amalfi coast, Sorrento, Capri and Sicily, now it was turn to visit the Fashion and the Business capital of Italy-namely Milan.

Here I have to admit that traveling to Milan in March means you rather have the wet and still cold season, but with  enough warm clothes, rain boots and an umbrella,what left is to enjoy the city. And if and when you get wet or cold and wished to warm up, the choices of coffee and pastries shops, art museum or luxury stores are with no count.

The first day of the visit did not proof me wrong – it was raining literally the whole day, but it didn’t bother us ( I did took a good friend of mine sharing the same love and passion for the country). I remember that in the early afternoon, after being completely wet, I actually end up buying fancy rain boots, which I still wear if the weather home permit. One positive thing of visiting Milan in March, was, that the number of tourists was way lower then in May/June or September.

Visiting the Duomo for example happen with no troubles and with no waiting time. Anyway we decided to visit it certainly during one of the next days when there was no rain and it is absolutely worth it.

La Rinascente,where Obica Restaurant is located,  was recently nominated “The Best Department Store in the World” according the Global Department Store Summit 2016 and you will see why. We ended up getting small gifts for ourselves and our families back home and if the shoes and bags are coming a bit to expensive, you could always bring your favourite brands made from fine chocolate. As a chocoholic, I did that as well.


Pinacoteca di Brera

For the time being (an extended weekend consisting from 3 1/2 days) and since we both enjoy art, we couldn’t leave Milan without  visiting la Pinacoteca di Brera, maybe the best art museum, I, personally, have ever visited and housing some of the greatest mastepieces of Italian and Foreign Art.

It was my first visit in Northern Italy, so I wanted to see lake Como as well. Lucky for me, so did my friend.  We decided to spend the entire Sunday at the lake Como. The train ride took less then an hour to a town with the same name-Como.

The town of Como is located in the southern corner of the lake and like every other town in Italy, has very historical and lively squares and in additio,it alse has splendid lakeside villas. There was a lovely farmer market with products made in the region in the city center. I remember that the day we decided to visit was foggy, even misty but I did like it and can only imagine how beautiful and lively it is in the warmer months of the year. Recommended would be to take the funicular up to the town of Brunate to enjoy the panorama down to the lake. I will,the next time I have the gateway from Milan.

Milan is actually a great home base for all kind of gateways. It is the beating heart of Italy and meeting point of rich past and modern present. With its ” Fashion District”, lovely art galleries and museums, fascinated architecture,many many cafes,aperitivi bars and restaurants,busy night life, Milan attracts visitors,students and businessmen from around the world. One look to the people on the street and you know why it get to keep its place where one of the top 4 Fashion weeks is taking place, twice a year actually. It’s the city where I will proudly attend an Italian Language course next May and so much looking forward to it already…




Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II



Duomo di Milano 


From the top of the Duomo di Milano


The iconic trams of Milan


Chocolate shoes and bags on the last floor of La Rinascente


Tiramisu and cappuccino for desert


At the lake Como


Everyone’s shopping list

London in the late November

They say, ” If a man is tired of London, he is tired of Life”, a quote I completely agree with, but made me wonder, how one could ever get tired of London? It is a city which have absolutely everything, one could love, apart of enough sunshine throughout the year perhaps.


St. James’s Park

I chose to travel to London in the late November, not really by choice, but it was the only time off work, I could get and honestly it was a great choice – first the calendar was full of events ( as it is every other season), special exhibitions in the V & A Museum and the British Museum,  Ice Skating  with the building of the Natural History Museum or  the Somerset house or visit of the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park, feeling absolutely fascinated by the Christmas decorations and lights, as soon as the evening approached; watching Londoner and visitor  gathering with friends and co-workers at the Christmas markets, filling up the Soho area or simply doing quick shopping at the Regent or Oxford street – simply amazing.


Regent street

How can one, not love London? Well, maybe for people who live or work in the city, it can look too hectic, stressful or messy, but it also one of the most diverse cities in the world. Walking on the streets, you hear the languages, you see signs, or even whole neighborhoods with people belonging to one or another culture or ethical group,but you also see all of them united in the same causes when needed. Personally, I love that diversity best seen in the many food markets, restaurants or shops. You might be thinking, why travel the world, if you can just go to London and see the whole world represented in there, but if opportunity for traveling represents, I would take it, otherwise, I would always go to London.

When traveling alone, I prefer to go to places where I actually have friends, so during the day I would enjoy my tours and I would have great company over dinner and evening entertainment after.

I would also prefer to stay in hotel,being more independent, so for the time being I stayed in a lovely hotel ( converted Victorian townhouse actually) in the Chelsea & Kensington area, just a minute walk from the Earl’s court tube station,conveniently linked with the Picadilly line going to Heathrow airport.


The whitewashed villas in Kensigton/Chelsea 

Ultra-chic,the Chelsea and Kensington was recommended to me, to stay over, by an insider and it was a great choice-really safe and well establish.This is where many of the London’s elite lives in beautiful,beautiful whitewashed houses and villas,shop in the many trendy boutiques, enjoy a coffee or tea in some of the chic cafes or dine at the high-end restaurants. Some of the most famous museums V&A Museum and the Natural History Museum were within less then 10 minutes walk from my hotel and Kensington palace,where I had ticket for,was just 15 minutes walk. Harrods- the famous department store, is from where I got my first gifts for family members,was something like 10 minutes longer walk then the V&A museum.


The morning after, started with a cup of strong coffee,followed by  a walking tour starting from just around the corner of the National Gallery at the Trafalgar square. Joining guided tours is brilliant way of exploring a place and I loved all the stories told combined with hm British humor…There was a great story about the King George Iv, spending so much, so that there were not enough funds left to golden his statue at the Trafalgar square, like it was the original plan ( not it’s all dark). I’m still smiling after hearing the one why the iconic house of 10.Downing street (The official home of the Prime Minister) is painted in black? It is because people were tired of cleaning it from outside, so they left it black. That joke was followed, by a story about the colour the The Pall Mall street. All is red,so the Queen and the Royal Family would feel like they are driving on the red carpet going to or leaving the Buckingham Palace.This and many more stories was told later on.


The black facade of Downing street

The Queen is great part of people’s talks and daily life. They respect her and are proud of her. Actually,so I feel  about her and the rest of Royal Family. At this moment I was also curious if she was home or not. While watching the change of the Royal Horse Guards in front of the Whitehall, our guide told us that if the main Royal Officer was riding a white horse,that meant that the Queen was home. Also, if the Queen was at residency of the Buckingham Palace, a ” Long Guard” was performed. While performing any of the Guards, I was able to catch part of the conversation of the main officers, just before exchanging each other – believe it or not, they were talking about the football results, girls and pubs.

Next after the Whitehall, we passed through the Churchill War Rooms, followed by a walk throught the St. James’s Park and the Pall Mall street to reach the Buckingham Palace, not so crowded at this early in the morning 😉 Here is where the walking tour finished, so I hop on the Big Bus,starting a tour from the Green Park  toward the Tower of London, covering a lot of history, traditions and lifestyle throughout the way  – I remain most impressed with the stories happening in the Mayfair, as well as the stories involving the lives of Princess Diana the Beatles and other significant individuals, they wrote history about.


Changing of the Royal Horse guards… White horse is the far background.

When reaching the Tower of London stop and spending quality time, the daylight was decreasing even though it was around 3:30pm. There was heavy traffic, so I took a boat cruise along the River Thames going back to Westminster to meet with a good friend of mine. The boat cruise is absolutely recommended, as not only I reached the Westminster pier for about 30 minutes, but there was a live commentary all the way to it.  There was a bar onboard, so I kept warm, while watching curious the sights from the river.


The Tower Bridge in the background. 


My friend I met near the Trafalgar square from where we head straight to the most entertaining area in London – The Soho…

As I’m fascinated by fashion and tradition, visiting the Kensington Palace was organized, as soon as I decided to fly to London. I spend a super lovely morning, learning a lot about the fashion through the ages and different Queens ruling the country. Many of the couture dresses worn by Royal women were on display. Before leaving the Kensington Palace, I did stop at the gift shop getting myself another memento.


Outside the Kensington Palace

From the Royals, I decided to do what else people in London do, shop, before meeting another friend of mine. Here the plan was to visit the National Gallery, I’m still sighing just by the though of the beauty hanging on the walls…Since the time was passing and we had a lot to catch up, dinner was next, followed by another favorite activity – heading to a pub 😉 It was interesting experience- first the pub was packed with people, most of them looking like coming from work, wearing the business attire. Second, there was no music as background, so it was funny – everyone talking, laughing having fun.. Third, for wine lover like myself, picking up a beer was kind of experience. Thanks to the guidance of my friend, this happen quit quick and I think I did double it ( it was so delicious with the added cranberry cream).

The British Museum is the other must-visit  while in London. Housing so much History from all continents,  this is actually the oldest museum in the country and among the largest worldwide. Here I have to admit, that I did pick several sections, which I wanted to see, otherwise, days of visit, won’t be enough to see everything.After the visit, I head the Oxford street walking down to Picadilly circus. Word is that if you spend long enough waiting in here, you will meet somebody you know. I was meeting friend anyway, so i did meet somebody 😉 The day after was supposed to be coming back- home-day…


At the Picadilly Circus 

People write so much about London – some like it, some not much. I adore it and I often find my way with or without reason. My last visit was this summer, just at the Birthday of the Queen, where I made the impossible to stay overnight and enjoy the celebrations. The next visit is already set, spending the time between Christmas and New Year here.

See you soon London or in London!


The Westminster


Harrods Shopping Center



One of the window at Harrods Center


One of the gates at Buckingham Palace


With Trafalgar Squire in the back


Kensington Palace – ” Fashion Rules” Exhibit


St. Paul’s Cathedral


Inside the Kensington Palace



Princess’s Diana Exhibit



The Buckingham Palace


The monument of Doddie and Princess Diana



At the British Musum