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“You will fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else” – Peggy Guggenheim “Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Marco Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at one, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” For the Part I of the Venice (History, Piazza San Marco, The Grand Canal, Sestieri di San Marco & Castello) click here. Sestieri San Polo and eastern Santa Croce San Polo is Venice’s smallest but oldest sestiere, dating back to the 9th century. The Rialto, as area …

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“When I went to Venice, my dream became my life.” – Marcel Proust “Venice opens her arms to all whom others shun. She lifts up all whom others abase. She welcomes those whom others persecute. She cheers the mourner in his grief and defends the disposed and the destitute with charity and love. And so I bow to Venice with good reason. She is a living reproach to [papal] Rome.” – Pietro Aretino in his address to Doge Andrea Gritti, 1527 If you have never been to Venice, you haven’t seen the most beautiful city in the World. When people ask me about my favorite place, I always tell the truth …

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When I think of Florida, I always remember the amazing experiences I have when visiting it, from the amusement parks in Orlando to Winter Music Conference in South Beach and from diving in one of the most exciting places in the US (and the world) – Key Largo to ecological diversity of Everglades and the history of Florida Keys. Hence, when my husband had to attend a business conference at Boca Raton, Fl, I tagged along, especially since we were to spend 5 days at the world famous Boca Raton Resort and Beach Club, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. I didn’t venture much outside the resort, except to check out Mizner Park in …

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“In Mexico, Spaniards encountered history as well as geography. This history is still alive: it is a present rather than a past. The temples and gods of pre-Colombian Mexico are a pile of ruins, but the spirit that breathed life into that world has not disappeared: it speaks to the hermetic language of myth, legend, forms of social co-existence, popular art, customs.”                   Octavio Paz in his Nobel Laureate address in 1990 The home of tequila, Aztecs, sombreros and Maya pyramids –  not to mention Pancho Villa, Diego Rivera, El Chapo and Carlos Slim (though of Lebanese ancestry) – almost everyone on the planet …

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Georgia. July 2015

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The Alps we already knew, and the Pyrenees, but this was finer than anything we had ever seen or even imagined in our wildest dreams! This was the Caucasus….How I wish I had brought my copy of Aeschylus! Alexandre Dumas père (1858) “It is a magical place, Georgia,” wrote John Steinbeck during a visit in the late 1940s, “and it becomes dream-like the moment you have left it.” Georgia’s landscape, wine and extravagant people consistently win it friends. John Steinbeck heard from Russians about Georgia’s charm long before he set foot here. “Wherever we had been in Russia, in Moscow, in the Ukraine, in Stalingrad, the magical name of Georgia …

 

Azerbaijan. July 2015

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The countries of the South Caucasus have always been the “lands in-between”. In between the Black and Caspian seas, Europe and Asia, Russia and the Middle East, Christianity and Islam and, more recently, democracy and dictatorship. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the territories around them have the mixed blessing of being at the crossing-place of different cultures and political systems. However, in my memory, those 3 nations were a part of one country I was born in – USSR. The beauty of the land, hospitality and heroism, three things that are always associated with Caucasus, I learnt in childhood by reading Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Leo Tolstoy and watching the all-time …

 

Istanbul, Turkey. July 2015

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Istanbul – the only city that lies on both continents – is a place of wonder, curiosity, immense cultural tensity, history, architecture, food and human density. It is a place to be visited by everyone at least once in their lifetime, and it won’t leave you adamant or unbiased. It is a megapolis that, to some extent, carries on the traditions of a legendary city of Constantinople, its heritage, arts and tales. I have already visited Istanbul in 2000 as a law student and I, frankly, hated it. Not the city, but the obnoxious, stalking Turkish men who followed me around. I was 20 years old, it was my first cultural experience outside Belarus, and even …

 

Malta. July 2015

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I chose Malta as my wedding venue! Yes, I chose the entire island where early Christian catacombs and Byzantine walls, Muslim streets and Norman towers, megalithic temples and Knights’ forts defined the world history for thousands of years. When D. and I started to plan our wedding, we considered a few options, however, it didn’t take us long to settle on Malta as it had everything we wished for and even more (and of course, D’s great-grandma was Maltese-born). Malta isn’t just another European island. Its history goes back to the 5000 B.C. blending together the cultures of ancient Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans etc. It is home to one of the oldest European …

 

The Yucatán, Mexico. 2008-2015

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Every time I travel, I always get a tip to visit the country’s beautiful beaches, little do they know that we, New Yorkers, are blessed with multiple daily 3-hour non-stop flights to Cancun. Once you’ve experienced the beauty of the Riviera Maya, dove the underground rivers (cenotes) of the Yucatán, visited and learnt about the grandeur of the Maya archeological sites (Chichen Itza, Tulum, Uxmal, Calakmul, Xpujil), danced at one of the BMP Festival events in Playa del Carmen, you realize that you found your perfect “beach” destination. So, skip Goa or Brighton, come to the Mexican peninsula! First time I came to the Yucatán was in September 2008 to do an underwater photoshoot …

 

The Notes of a Cancerous Girl. February 2015

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Friday-Tuesday, January 30-February 3, 2015 Is this the end? Does the last chemo qualify as the end of the treatment? Does it end the cancer? Will it be the beginning of a new life? Is this the last chemo? Is this the last treatment? There are so many questions, but for the moment in time, I am taking a deep breath believing that this is the end. I didn’t wait for the last cycle, my superstitious self was afraid to look that far forward though, of course, I knew the day – Tuesday, February 3, 2015. And the day has come, at last. The New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell admission office …