The question I am asked about Paris the most is its restaurants – which could be a reflection of my image, or of my taste in friends, anyhow too late to change both. I am not home as often as I would like to be, and when I am here, I do my best to enjoy the city, to celebrate that I, even largely theoretically, live here, – and eating out is a big part of it. (There are also periods in my life when cooking at home simply makes no sense, because most of the things I buy over the weekend do not survive until my next culinary attempt.) So I have put together my top favorites in Paris, for you to savour.
October is an exciting time for me at work. I start new projects, bring up new topics to the discussion on Digital Innovation, and even introduce a couple of new full-bred solutions. I fly for weeks straight (actually, I am set to fly through the entire month), and put all my energy into my job. Then comes a weekend. During the week, I am looking forward to it as a time when I can finally switch gears and create, read, do sports. I somehow picture it as 48h charged up with useful and exciting activities for which I can’t set time aside during the week. And then, on Saturday/ Sunday I spend most of the time in my pjs, watching series, ordering food and doing rare bicycle gigs around the city, mostly to go to the movies. (I do read books though.)
I now I think it it’s okay. I used to feel sorry for these unused stretches of creative time, but then I got to a point in my life when I understood the value of planned downtime (hello, “How to Have a Good Day” by Caroline Webb). This time around, I am embracing my racoon weekend personality, swiping the dust from my August photos (made with Fuji, by the way, my go-around-the-city camera, instead of my Canon 5DIV), to spread some more love for South Korea, the country of my eternal vacations.
This post captures my visit to a racoon cafe in Busan, South Korea. Today Korea – a small country with no natural resources and a landscape made up by 70% of mountains – is one of the world’s leading economies. I have been coming there for 13 years by now, and could witness their economic ascent. I gave a lot of thought about what made Korea what it is now, and being humble and eager to learn is one part of it. Take Apple vs Samsung battle. Some years ago, Apple used to be the number 1 phone in Korea, the high earner’s trade mark and a sign of (be)longing to the Western sophisticated civilization. Most of what Samsung did these days was to mirror Apple’s design and functions, first to a very modest success. With years, Samsung caught up with Apple, offered their own progressive techs, and now very few people in Korea still have an Apple device. Samsung there is all the rage now (despite the fact that Apple offers a very appealing price level in Korea).
The same about animal cafes. Koreans have been excited about cat cafes, even launched a few dog cafes (where dogs are wandering and playing around, not what you could have thought), and now introduced a racoon cafe.
This Monday marks the beginning of the last full-blown week of summer. Next Friday autumn officially kicks in. (Can you believe?!) It was a great summer for me. I was blessed with a chance to swim in the waters of Greece, Tunis, Adriatic Sea (Croatia and Montenegro) and, just a few weeks ago, at the feet of the Korean peninsula, in the strait of the Pacific Ocean between the Sea of Eastern China and the Japanese Sea. Idly laying on the beach, listening to the music of the waves, playing with sand and breathing in, greedily, the salty breeze, I was contemplating the ranking. Mediterranean Sea, to me, will always be the best. And the bingo on available flights, amazing food, scenery of all kinds and – relatively, depending on the island! – relatively sane prices is Greece.
Here goes to this summer paradise – #travelhacks to Kithyra. Most can be applied to pretty much any other Greek island with understandable exception of Mykonos and Santorini.
One of these days, I sent Sophie a work-related email and got her (all-related) auto-reply. “I am OOF enjoying the Greek islands”, it says. Right, the Greek islands.
Kythira is the opposite of Mykonos: lavish green instead of sunburnt yellow, solemn and empty instead of busy and packed, rural instead of commercialized. (It is also about one third price of its well-known contender, which is worthy of consideration in the middle of summer). I love Mykonos too, it is just a very different kind of holiday: festive and trendy instead of quiet and authentic. The only common point between the two is the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean will always be the best sea in the world for me. And I keep on thinking, all the world known islands on this sea: Mykonos, Sardinia, Santorini and Ibiza, of course, used to be like Kythira some fifty years ago. Pure, savage and empty, open only to the eyes of people who wanted to wander into the unknown looking for beauty.
Diakofti beach, the one with the only 4 star hotel on the island, Kythira Golden Resort, is the Côte d’Azur of the island. Is it primarily famous for its white sandy shores, the only beach of this kind on Kythira. The ship, sank according to the hotel owner, by the drunk Russians and now the famous landmark of the island, is a pleasant sight. Diakofti is also known as the best family destination, so we admired it for a moment and kept on driving.
Here is a sacred map of the islands’ treasures. I kept it because there is no chance of getting a better one on the island (or maybe even another one). Given to us (as you can see by a subtle product placement) by the same lady at the same hotel, it has all of Kythira’s beaches: the stony and hidden Chalkos, the lively and touristic (if the word touristic is applicable to Kythira at all) Kapsali. There is Firi Ammos (two of them, actually) with its secret lake Kaki Lagada and Kaladi with its 150 stairs. And Avlemonas, with gorgeous and unusually deep waters, surprisingly cold in early June.
I would keep the map, too, if I were you: it also has the island’s best restaurants on it.
– Pigeon, where should we go this May? – I was jumping with excitement anticipating our annual trip with Sofia the way a small black car jumps on MyTaxi app when an order is confirmed. (I remember one friend asking us: “But why, why do you call each other pigeon?” The world might never understand best friends but together, best friends will understand the world.) – How about Malta? I have never been.
– I have been, I would go again… What about Spain? Check out the top beaches I sent you.
– Spain, mmm… – Somehow I have never connected with Spain. I love Barcelona – but then we already went there together, – had a good time at Tenerife (more than a decade ago, running away from November in Finland), and was absolutely not impressed by Madrid. And Madeira. – Or we can go to Montenegro. You know, because when else would we have an opportunity to travel there on an exploratory mission, and who else would sign up for it?
– Or I can take you somewhere romantic, where the green dissolves in the blue, a place with gorgeous beaches, nature, waterfalls and serenity. And the Greek food, of course. Like Kythira.
A few weeks later we were boarding what turned out to be a very small plane (with barely any luggage head space, a note to a savvy traveler) to Kythira, a tiny island a short flight away from Athens.
This week’s theme is Transient. Now, “transient” is something I had to look up online even though I often think that I speak better English these days than I do Russian, my mother tongue (a few years back, I had to look up “nimble”, which then made part of our corporate strategy. Speaking of which, corporate strategies in tech are indeed transient but I don’t happen to have a photo of one of them on hands).
Now that I know what transient is (which is “
Sometimes the world offers us much better shots that we could be dreaming to orchestrate. We should just be there to capture them.
Recently, a 6 year old post popped up on my Facebook page.
“…is homeless, looking for a job, is not tied to any country, and somehow it all feels positive and full of potential. And smells like an adventure, of course :))”.
Good thing these Facebook reminding posts: marking our lives with milestones, highlighting the way we have made so far, connecting our present with our past. So six years ago, I was, indeed, homeless in the traditional sense of the word, with my stuff parked across St Petersburg, Helsinki and Istanbul, looking for a job that would allow me to stay in Europe. I was at my parents’ home in South Korea. Vicky and I have just decided to close the company we were running for four years. I was thinking what’s next.
And then I went to INSEAD.
That year costed me a bit less than 100,000 EUR: in housing, some books, lots of coffee, tuition fees and (very moderate, for INSEAD standards) travels. Not to mention the infamous opportunity cost, that mythical unpaid annual salary, which you always include in your calculations after MBA studies. In more than a way, it has catapulted me into the life I am living now. So was it worth it?