Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

On the last day of 2007, time to reflect on the previous year. I didn't travel as much as I hoped to, but did fulfill a long-held ambition of returning to Moscow to see all the changes since the end of communism. It is everything they say, and more. Time magazine's selection of Vladimir Putin as man of the year is a sign of how far Russia has come(Henry Luce would be proud.) The country and especially its capital are glittering, shining examples of capitalism now, or managed capitalism, with all that implies, both good and bad.

On this side of the Atlantic it has not been a great year for budget travel with higher oil prices, higher air fares and the steep decline of the US dollar. Things are not looking up much for 2008 either. One thing we can look forward to is an election that will bring new leadership in the US and we hope a more sound fiscal and monetary policy.

I'm writing this from Clearwater, Florida, where the real estate market has tanked since last year. As a renter that isn't a problem for me personally, but the malaise is obvious in the press here and in an exodus from the state. On the bright side, the weather has been excellent and indications are that the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel near here in Bellair will be saved. Unfortunately it is going way upscale, but that seems to be the price for saving what little remains of the old Florida.

Have a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ladies' Taxis

In Moscow in September I had my first encounter with the Ladies' Taxi, a taxi driven by a woman for women passengers. The experience was not altogether good, since the taxi was nearly an hour late arriving and I nearly missed my plane to Frankfurt.

On the plus side, the driver was pleasant and the car was clean. Moscow traffic is horrendous and the delay may not have been totally the driver's fault, but I doubt I would use that taxi company again.

The idea of taxis driven by and for women seems to be taking off around the world. They can be found in Dubai, in Moscow and perhaps soon in Mexico City, as well as in the UK. Good idea perhaps in principle, but they have to be able to deliver if they expect to build a repeat clientele.