These are tough times in Greece and the recent economic woes have caused Athens to be a, well, not so nice place. The challenges that the country faces are visible in all parts of the city, demonstrated by the thousands of empty storefronts, rampant graffiti and countless protests.
Hop the water to Mykonos, however, and the scene is very different. Forever a tourist destination, Mykonos was spotless, bustling and thriving with visitors. The crowd included its normal mix of tourists from all ends of the earth, as well as Greeks who have chosen to stay closer to home for a shorter, more sensibly-priced holiday.
Daytime in Mykonos Town is sleepy, to say the least. Strolling through the winding alleys brings you to a countless array of small shops and (mostly shuttered) restaurants and bars. Nighttime, however, tells a completely different story. Restaurants bustle. Bars thump and become packed. Nightlife-goers overflow into the car-free streets. Getting home at 5am is “early” here.
Tel Aviv brings surprises around every corner.
There are normally two things that take people by surprise when I tell them about this amazing costal city:
1. Tel Aviv is as cosmopolitan as New York City.
2. Tel Aviv is a secular city.
The city has become increasingly liberal and open over the years and non-Jews and secular Jews, alike, will not not only feel comfortable there, but will enjoy the same cultural amenities that you’d find in any of the top cities in the world. The food is top-notch. The bars are packed and crowds spill into the streets until early in the morning. It’s reputation as one of the top party cities of the world brings in everything from the world’s best DJ’s to one of the largest gay pride celebrations in the world. It provides the perfect balance between daytime, urban coastal relaxation, history and late-night indulgence.
Many of the great hotels and restaurants are huddled around the coast. And while the Hilton, Sheraton provide direct beach access, I prefer the boutique Hotel Melody just across the road. And during my time there, I can say that I probably had my best Friday/Saturday night meal combination in any city of the world this year, thanks to the cool and trendy North Abraxas and thoroughly-modern Herbert Samuel.
Where do I being with Macau? While the gambling capital of the world is, in so many ways, worlds away from Las Vegas, they are both siblings in that they seem something like a theme park. In much the way that Las Vegas was a desert-covered cowboy town before gaming came along, I can’t imagine what Macau was like before the casinos were built. Back in the days when the Portuguese ruled the world, they laid a cultural foundation within this small Asian island that spawns its language, food and architecture. It is a bizarre hybrid of Euro-Asian everything, although formidably more Asian these days, particularly as the thirst for gaming amongst the mainland Chinese continues to grow.
A short ferry hop from Hong Kong in fast hydrofoils that provide a comfortable first-class service, you have your choice to dive into the tourist-ridden older parts of the city, the quieter parts of the island that seem to be undisturbed by the gaming chaos, or boring and quiet stretches of the city that are lined with miniature versions of Las Vegas casinos (a mini Wynn Las Vegas, anyone?).
Good for a day or two’s visit, if you’re looking for a duplication of Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you won’t find it. The gaming floors are typically packed, smokey and filled with games that you’ve probably never even heard of. But it’s a fun place to explore and the combination of new-found wealth and history makes for an entertaining time.
Above: Grand Lisboa Casino
Above: A famous pork chop that you can find at a few places throughout the island. It’s essentially a fried, thinly sliced pork chop on a fresh roll with butter. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but delicious!
Above: Their version of jerky can be found all over the island.
Above: As you would expect in a former Portuguese colony, there are many simple, but beautiful Christian churches.
The ultra-cosmopolitan city state always feels like my home-away-from-home while I’m in Asia (No surprises, there: it’s undeniably the New York City of the far east).
Everything was setup perfectly for the type of showdown that you wish every football game could be.
It was the two same-city rivals, who only meet each other in the regular season once every four years. They share the same stadium, alternating home games from week to week. And, although, the Jets were officially the home team, the stadium was heavily flooded with Giants blue. The weather was sunny and unseasonably warm and everyone was more than happy that they could leave and have, at least, the next two days off from work, instead of treking to the office as they normally would after a typical Sunday afternoon game. Most importantly, however, the game actually meant something: The winner would go on to play the next week in an attempt to win their division, while the loser’s season would be, effectively, over. It was all or nothing.
I was lucky enough to be on the sidelines before kickoff. And, also lucky for me, the New York Giants prevailed 29 to 14, in a matchup that was worthy of twice the already-inflated ticket price.
There are many more pics that can be seen in my Flickr set for this game…