Monthly Archives: July 2017

Star Alliance Worldwide Mileage Competition

Star Alliance

Here’s another travel-related contest for you. It involves Star Alliance, one of the world’s largest global alliances, and a million frequent flyer miles.

Star Alliance is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a worldwide mileage competition where travelers share their favorite cultural experiences for a chance to win one million frequent flyer miles (1,000,000 miles). Twenty-one winners will be rewarded with 1,000,000 frequent flier miles to be used on any of its 28 member airlines.

The competition is now underway and ends on July 31, 2017.

If you’re stumped on how you might use this prize, Star Alliance also offered some suggestions:

  • 2 first class tickets around the world. From New York to Paris to Dubai to Hong Kong, stop along the way and see the world in style
  • Fly an entire wedding party and guests to Hawaii
  • Reunite eight family members in Paris to enjoy all the city has to offer
  • Treat extended family to a Spanish beach vacation in Andalucía. Book luxury hotel accommodations with the miles and have some to spare for a rental car.

However, you have to enter first. To enter, visit this link. Note: you have to be a member of a Star Alliance FFP to participate. If you’re not but still want to enter this contest, you have to sign up and receive a membership number online in order to participate.


Then users select the Star Alliance FFP in which they wish to win the million miles and enter your FFP number. Next, contestants will upload a profile picture and an image of a favorite cultural where they will also describe their favorite cultural experience.

Judging will be carried out independently, by among others, Star Alliance’s 20th Anniversary partner, National Geographic. The winners wll be announced on September 28, 2017.

Seeing Suzhou, China


In May, I got to visit Suzhou, China. It’s considered to be the “Venice of the East.” Here’s why.

Based in the eastern part of China, and 60 miles south from Shanghai, Suzhou feels unchanged by time. In different parts of the city, you feel like you’re stepping back into another era. There are public gardens once belonging to prominent families or government officials; waterways still used for getting from one point to another; stone bridges that can walked over; and streets dating back centuries lined up with markets and teahouses. Here’s what I saw in Suzhou.

The Humble Administator’s Garden


Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Humble Administrator’s Garden once belonged to a Chinese government worker, who saw this place as a way to retire to a more simpler life.


Divided into three segments, one third of the Humble Administrator’s Garden is covered in water. You can walk along pathways that take you past pavilions, bridges, connecting pools, and halls. One of the garden’s buildings is called Distant Fragrance Hall, named after an aromatic lotus pond nearby.



Tiger Hill


A Song Dynasty poet named Su Shi once said, “It’s a lifelong pity if having visited Suzhou you did not visit Tiger Hill.” Its name involves two legends. One says that the hill physically looking like a crouching tiger. The other is a tale about a white tiger appearing on the hill after a funeral for a warrior king; the tiger is there to guard the tomb.

Legends aside, Tiger Hill’s main feature is not a tiger, but a pagoda. The Yunyan Pagoda stands seven stories tall and has developed a slight slant over the years, giving it the nickname “The Leaning Tower of China.”

Tiger Hill Pagoda

Other features at Tiger Hill extend to a section of tea plants; a garden of bonsai trees, with some dating as far back as 400 years; and a sword testing stone and sword pool, where it’s believed that the king’s sword collection may be buried underneath.



Shantang Street
and Pingjiang Road


Suzhou has historic roads that have been in use for centuries. Shown above, Shantang Street is graced with red-colored lanterns, restaurants and eateries such as Song He Lou, and various shops for getting local candies and snacks and a variety of souvenirs such as paper-cutting art and embroideries. Another one is the Pingjiang Road, with eateries and stores on its main road suited to every budget and taste. Besides shopping and dining, go to Fuxi Teahouse, to watch a Kunqu Opera performance.

Lingering Garden


Another renowned garden in Suzhou, The Lingering Garden has changed hands over the centuries, but has touches reflecting its various owners. One of these owners collected shaped rocks known as “scholar stones” and created a section known as the stone forest.


The garden is divided into four sections, with special features include halls of various shapes and sizes, a bonzai garden, and a pond and grotto area. Its major structure in Celestial Hall of Five Peaks, a structure noted for architectural asthetics such as girders with lattice patterns.



Part two of this post will feature more about Suzhou’s crafts legacy along with my excursion to Tongli, a nearby water town. Stay tuned.


Al Hirschfeld Exhibit at The Algonquin Hotel


News from the e-mail bag: If you know who caricaturist Al Hirschfeld is, or not, make it a point to visit The Algonquin Hotel in New York City this summer. From now through August 8, this grand hotel is exhibiting Hirschfeld’s black-and-white caricatures of celebrities and Broadway stars within its Lobby Lounge.



“Guys and Dolls, 1950” / © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation


Unveiled in late May, in timing with the 2017 Tony Awards, “The Algonquin Hotel Celebrates The Tonys As Seen By Hirschfeld” displays 23 of Hirschfeld’s drawings atop the lounge’s oak paneling.



 “Algonquin Round Table,” 1962 / © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation


The late Hirschfeld, who passed away in 2003, has his ties to The Algonquin. He frequently came to the hotel’s legendary Algonquin Round Table, where NYC artists, writers, and critics hung out at lunch as a group known as “The Vicious Circle.” Hirschfeld knew and worked with many of its members. Hirschfeld also sketched the circle’s famous group portrait, including member/writer Dorothy Parker, in 1962.


880124 Phantom

The Phantom of the Opera, 1988 /  © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation


Also, while seeing The Algonquin Hotel, ask about “Mathilda,” its resident cat. The Algonquin Hotel is located on West 44 Street along the Avenue of the Americas (or Sixth Avenue). It’s also near Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Call, so you can see a lot of places in one day. Better yet, get a drink from the hotel’s Lobby Bar or eat in at the Round Table Restaurant.