Urban Open Spaces – The World’s Best Cities for Parks


  Perhaps your favourite thing about a city break is the architecture and landmarks, or perhaps the shopping and the restaurants. Whatever you enjoy most about vacations in the city, at some stage you’ll no doubt visit the local green space, especially when the weather is good. Our list of the world’s best urban parks includes four iconic cities, so why not take advantage of cheap flights this year and head off to explore? The Big Apple Central Park is one of the most famous parks in the world, and for good reason. Head there for a picnic, a stroll round the botanical gardens, a trip to the zoo or to catch a concert. This sprawling green space is surrounded by the city’s iconic skyscrapers, and is a tranquil oasis away from … [Read more...]

Try some British Food. Tastes Just Like Chicken.

british food

Here's what not to say to your hired car driver in jolly old England: "You know, nobody ever says: hey, let's go out for British food! I've been here over a dozen times, and never really had decent British food." Such was the words blurted out by one American colleague from the backseat peanut gallery during last week's trip. Discussing dinner options shouldn't be a cultural minefield, but there it was. The driver - let's call him Lance, because that was his name - displayed the self-control and perfectly stiff upper lip for which the English are renowned, and only mildly opined that some pub food is better than others, and shepherd's pie at the Spotted Cow was quite good, what? Only a tightening of the jaw line and clenching of … [Read more...]

Amsterdam: Fun, Picturesque and Charmingly Uncluttered by Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal Injury Suit

    Amsterdam is a lovely city, what with its beautiful canals and centuries-old townhouses crazily askew, leaning this way and that-to be expected when building multistory buildings on wooden pilings sunk into muddy ground.     Amsterdam was one of the stops on my world tour last year, part of the reason this blog went on hiatus. The handsome and athletic Dutch get around on hilariously retro bycicles, navigating slick cobblestone streets and unguarded canal banks without much trouble. The boats and houseboats moored canalside are accessed by slippery stone staircases, the steps unevenly worn over the centuries. The looming townhouses (*) look like they could drop a brick or two onto … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Long Live the King

New Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and their daughters wave to the crowd Tuesday from the balcony of the royal palace in Amsterdam. (There are oranges on the balcony wreath. Because orange is the Dutch national color, see?)

 The Fish Wrap: an occasional grouping of interesting links, mostly centered around finance topics, largely from personal finance blogs. A carnival of sorts, this time nicely arranged by topics, and curated with inconsistent editorial standards.   Back from the Netherlands, where the Dutch had a hell of a party last Tuesday, and woke up with a hangover and a new King. Queen Beatrix (now back to a mere Princess) decided she'd had enough of shaking hands with visiting nobility and other assorted heads of state, cutting ribbons and having to look interested at children spelling bees.  Beatrix handed the keys to the kingdom to Junior, and said good riddance, I'm retired.   Not that every Dutch person is enamored … [Read more...]

Cheetos In China: You Are What You Eat

Somewhat typical canal in China -- water might be used for irrigation and/or fish farming and/or laundry... and as a dump for old bikes

  Goodness gracious, who knows what's in that candy bar. Stay away from that hamburger, and don't even think about those Doritos. It's all going to make you fat, give you diabetes, rickets and high blood pressure, you know. And yet, in Shanghai, Chinese shoppers might actually consider Cheetos and Ding-Dongs and pork rinds as health food. China's toxic harvest: Consumers flock to imported food When Yuri Valazza started a small imported food shop in Shanghai eight years ago, his target consumers weren’t Chinese. "At that time it was almost 90 percent foreigners," recalls Valazza, sitting at a small table in shop in the city's former French Concession neighborhood. Not anymore, thanks to a rising consumer class … [Read more...]

Conspicuous Consumption in Shanghai. Or, Better Living Through Enhanced Consumerism

An Audemars Piguet Millenary Chalcedony Tourbillon - now that's a mouthful...

What a difference a couple of decades make on the world consumer stage. Who'd have ever imagined Red Communist Chinese buying up luxury goods from Versace, Bvlgari and Versace by the sackful? And yet, here we were last month in Shanghai airport, and my traveling companion discreetly nods at middle-aged (and very ordinary) couple ahead of us in the immigration line, and murmurs sotto voce "Luis Vuitton luggage. The real stuff." Well, the couple certainly had bags. Whether they were genuine or knock-offs, I had to take his word for it. Couldn't tell, couldn't care. Same scene repeated several times with different Chinese colleagues, folks who might not otherwise comfortably afford a Vacheron Constantin watch or a Coach hand-bag, but … [Read more...]

Travel Notes from the Road


Ten days, ten flights, nine cities, lots of windshield time. Planes, trains, and automobiles, and not much time to walk for exercise. “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” –Ellen DeGeneres Bloody cold in Korea. Snow, sleet and ice. Under-armor long johns, waffle-weave thermal undershirts, thick-soled shoes and wool socks save the day. It is indeed possible to dress warm, travel light and still cut a fine figure. Always thought those Michelin-man down coats looked a bit silly in a business setting. Lost weight (again) despite eating massive quantities at Korean BBQ and Chinese banquet fare. Probably mostly due to the … [Read more...]

Financial Tips: A Weekend in Sao Paulo

It's going to be a wild World Cup in 2014!  ---- Parade of the samba school Unidos de Vila Isabel, in the parade of samba schools in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil, 2012).  (photo credit to Agência Brasil)

While away on travel, thought it might be nice to post a letter from USA Financial Service pere'. My dad travels to Brazil quite often on business, and knows the country way more thoroughly than I ever will. His passion for exploration is self-evident.  By permission, here is a letter from last year, detailing a weekend traveling around on Sao Paulo's Metro.  Brazil gets tagged (somewhat unfairly) as having a very high crime rate. As with many other places around the world, just be aware and keep out of high-risk areas and be in after dark, and you'll be just fine. A Weekend in Sao Paulo (February 2012) I just spent this past weekend wandering around São Paolo (SP) and thought I would share a few impressions with you. Although I’ve … [Read more...]

Saturday Morning Fish Wrap: Kimchi and Thousand-Year-Old-Eggs Will Give You Gas

Big earthernware jars used to make kimchi ... that;s a whole lot of pickled sauerkraut!  (all photo credit goes to Wikipedia on this one)

Kimchee is great stuff. Eat enough of it, and you'll be bursting with intestinal discomfort health in no time. Take it away, Wikipedia: Many South Koreans credit their nation's rapid economic growth in part to eating kimchi. The dish is made of various vegetables and contains a high concentration of dietary fiber, while being low in calories. One serving also provides over 50% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C and carotene. Most types of kimchi contain onions, garlic, and chilli peppers, all of which are salutary. The vegetables being made into kimchi also contribute to the overall nutritional value. Kimchi is rich in vitamin A, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), calcium, and iron, and contains a number of lactic acid bacteria, … [Read more...]

Thinking About Starting a Restaurant? How About An Airport Restaurant?

Modern Diner, Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Modern Diner, Pawtucket, Rhode Island Everyone's an expert. All it takes is a lousy dining experience for the snarky comments to come out. Get some soggy fries delivered a little too late to your table, not enough slices in the bread basket, the soup's cold or the steak well-done instead of medium rare.  Why, how hard can it be, my old aunt and her dog could run this joint a lot better than these yahoos. Throw that pizza, grill that burger, whip those taters. Goodness, Madge, that dessert was just heavenly. Have you ever thought of opening up your own restaurant? And why not? Opening up a taco stand or a BBQ joint won't suck a whole lot in terms of capital. Barriers to entry are low -- although not quite as low as with a Personal … [Read more...]