St Petersburg or “Peter” as the locals call it surely is one of the most interesting big cities in Europe. No skyscrapers but extravagant palaces, magnificent cathedrals and vast museums. What surprised me most is how clean and modern St Petersburg is! Pulkovo airport stands out as impressive as Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and there is no trash in the streets of the city center. Roads are in good condition and traffic isn’t the mad hell you had imagined. Visiting in winter is a nice way to discover the city with less tourists, and I was lucky to have the best possible weather (snow on the ground, freezing temperatures and some beautiful sunlight!). You need to spend at least a few days in the city to experience a major part of what it has to offer.
No visit to South Africa would be complete without exploring Cape Town and its surroundings. It’s an amazing region with something for everyone: big city, lush nature, endless beaches, great food, plenty of wineries, baboons…and even penguins!
Most of visitors usually start their visit with either the Waterfront, or the Table Mountain. I liked the Waterfront for only 2 reasons: the view of downtown with Table Mountain on the background and the statue of South Africa’s tremendous four Peace Nobelists!
If you visit Cape Town, you should definitely try to book a table at Test Kitchen. Like for most trendy and internationally renown restaurants, getting a table booking ain’t easy… You will have to start trying very early, with a lot of flexibility regarding your dates. But it’s worth trying: clearly one of the best multi-course lunches I’ve had, in a chic-industrial atmosphere. One of the waiters told me a fascinating story on how his father was one of the first persons to start painting houses in Bo-Kaap. What comes to the chef, the creative use of different vegetables was just amazing. My favorite dish: the first dessert. Least favorite one: the veggie entrée. Now let the pictures talk (unfortunately I don’t have the names for each dish and the menu on their website has changed since my visit).
Milan and the lakes (Maggiore, Como, Orta)
In Lago Maggiore area, I recommend to spend the night in Stresa as it’s the closest town to the amazing Borromean islands. Many companies link the islands to Stresa by boat. You can hire a private water taxi (expensive, but no timetables to stick to) or use the scheduled connections (very affordable) offered by many companies. I took the first morning shuttle boat of a company named Lake Tours, departing from Stresa at 9:15. Their boats first stops at Isola Madre, then Isola dei Pescatori and last in Isola Bella before heading back to Stresa. They leave from each island to the next one on an hourly basis (every 30 minutes in high season) and adult ticket for the 3 islands costs 15 euros. Each of those 3 wonderful islands has a very strong identity and are all totally worth the visit! Isola Madre for the exotic gardens, Isola dei Pescatori for its picturesque village and Isola Bella for the magnificent palace.
During my recent trip across Northern Italy, I had an amazing dinner at Alice Ristorante in Milan. Awarded with one Michelin star and located inside the slow food temple of Eataly near Garibaldi station, this women-led restaurant serves almost flawless modern Italian cuisine. I chose the shorter Sandrina menu and wasn’t disappointed. Wine pairing was excellent with very local wines! In terms of food, my favorite dishes were the revisited Caesar salad and “superspaghettino”. The red mullet was somehow disappointing, only flaw of an otherwise splendid meal. Efficiency and professionalism of the service has to be mentioned, no long waiting times between dishes which I think is a great thing. In my opinion Alice Ristorante easily deserves another star!