Russians Just Now Getting Angry About ‘Lolita’

Our great frozen uneasy ally has got to be experiencing a fifty-year tape delay. I know it took a full decade after the publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita in France and the U.S. for a Russian translation to surface, but still: you’ve had the better part of a century to get upset about this. Why trash St. Petersburg’s Nabokov Museum now?

Well, if you’re part of the “St. Petersburg Cossacks,” a morality-obsessed but myopic right wing fringe group (hey, we have some of those too!), you might derange yourself into thinking that Nabokov was defending pedophiles. Or was one himself. Or is, at this moment, a pedophile ghost. The various attacks are all rather confusing:

A report from January 10th stated that “A lone vandal broke a museum window with a bottle on Wednesday night, escaping unhindered. A note stashed in the bottle threatened the museum with ‘God’s wrath.’”

Pretty sure God punished Nabokov when he allowed Knopf to print The Original of Laura. Hiyo! I just slammed a dead guy for the quality of his unfinished, posthumously published novel, and it felt great. Got a hunch that these criminals are just book reviewers who ran out of cutting barbs. 

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The 10 Cheapest European Holiday Cities

2011 has seen economic fluctuation all over the world, to say the least — and that’s meant some changes in where travelers have turned their attention. Despite the travails of the Eurozone, it still remains an expensive indicator for American travelers, and political turmoil is a factor in some classically popular destinations as well. For more more info, check out Budget Travel’s detailed list of of cheap destinations worldwide, as well as Price of Travel’s 2011 European Backpacker Index. With all that in mind, these are our top 10 best bets for bargain travel in Europe.

1. Dublin, Ireland – The city of James Joyce and George Bernard Shawboasts some of the lowest hotel prices in Europe, a cycle-sharing program, and well-priced restaurants as well. Despite the financial turmoil in the country, it remains a hub for theater and literature — and there are plenty of picturesque pubs, of course.

2. Lisbon, Portugal – The capital city of Portugal is a major hub, which means cheap flights from many destinations and relatively low prices on high-end hotels. And the lively bar, restaurant, and music scene offers lots of excitement during your stay.

3. Tallinn, Estonia – Though it joined the Eurozone in January, Tallinn still lives up to its longtime reputation as a budget paradise, with stunning architecture, cool restaurants, and cheap drinks everywhere you turn , as well as a busy schedule of events to enjoy related to the yearlong celebration of being named Europe’s Capital of Culture.

4. Krakow, Polad – One of the cheapest destinations in Eastern Europe is a backpacker’s paradise, described by many as Prague a decade before its popularity went through the roof. The historic old city and rich local culture includes great and cheap hotels, bars, and restaurants.

5. Bucharest, Romania – Eager to attract Western visitors, the city’s famed Parliament building anchors the city proper, while the country’s larger attractions (including Romanian wine country) are just waiting to be discovered.

6. Budapest, Hungary – The gorgeous riverside city is perfect for strolling, and there are plenty of cathedrals and castles to explore every day. Hotels and hostels are cheap, and the thermal spas that have attracted visitors for years are as relaxing as ever.

7. Istanbul, Turkey – Get there fast before one of the longtime jewels of the east returns to its former (expensive) glory. You could spend days just roaming the markets and enjoying the rich history of the city, and stay well within your budget doing so.

8. St. Petersburg, Russia – While there are fewer options at the midlevel than in other cities, cheap hotels as well as incredible luxury properties are plentiful. Everyday expenses are very reasonable, and the things that aren’t, like opera tickets and museum admissions, are more than worth the cost.

9. Bruges, Belgium – From the central Market Square out to the edge of the historic center, Bruges is a beautiful snapshot of Flemish culture, with many historic sites, adorable cobblestone streets, and picturesque canals.

10. Athens, Greece – The financial crisis has kept prices in this city (which had been rising rapidly) relatively stable this year, and the modernization done to the city for the Olympics have made visiting significantly easier.

[Image via Paul Campbell/Shutterstock]

City Sights from the Front Seat, Courtesy of Hotel Concierge

There’s a lot to see anytime you land in a new city, and your travel time is always precious. In an effort to accommodate their customers’ need for speed and comfort, luxury hotels are offering more options than ever for getting around.

The Peninsula hotel group has long been ahead of the curve in making courtesy cars fun — they offer chauffered hunter green BMW Mini Cooper S Clubman’s service at their properties in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, or Tokyo that are custom-designed with a mini-fridge stocked with goodies and cold towels and an iPhone/iPod connection in the front and rear. But it’s the Peninsula Hong Kong that really goes over the top with signature vehicles, which include a helicopter, 14 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, and one 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II in Peninsula Green, as well as the aforementioned fleet of Minis.

The posh grounds of the Intercontinental London Park Lane have recently seen some unusual company, as Alvaro Rey, the general manager, has instituted regular rides around the property with members of the hotel staff, during which they share with him their insights into how the hotel is running, and he shares with them facts along the way that transform them all into tour guides, so that guests who choose to use the hotel bicycles have plenty of assistance in enjoying their route.

In true Parisian style, the Four Seasons Georges V has the world’s only Hermès-designed Rolls-Royce Phantom, available to hotel guests through the concierge. The sleek gray exterior is complemented by a rose-gray Hermès leather interior, with the steering wheel and passenger console done in gold calfskin accents. Also in Paris, guests staying in the suites at the Plaza Athenee are provided with keys to either the elegant Aston Martin Rapide or the small, sporty Cygnet.

While the European bike-sharing programs are terrific for European travelers, American travelers without chip-and-pin cards may find their city bicycling somewhat curtailed. That’s why Park Hyatts in Chicago, Washington DC, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Toyko, Beijing, Moscow, Goa, and Milan are all providing bikes for their guests, with more hotels expected to roll out the program soon.

Up in the mountains, sportscars can be more of a liability than an amenity, so the Four Seasons Vail has opted for a fleet of Mercedes SUVs to take you on scenic drives through the valley, on a downtown shopping excursion, or up the mountain to begin and end your day. And if you have multiple destinations on your itinerary, they’re even open to a drive to Aspen or other mountain towns.

One of the world’s most luxurious hotels requires a suitably top-of-the-line vehicle, so it’s no wonder that the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi opted for a chauffeur-driven Maybach, available to guests of the hotel’s most expensive package suites. Other guests will have to content themselves with the Rolls-Royce option also on hand.

The broad avenue outside the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia is lined with BMW 7 Series limousines, as well as BMW X1 or X5 if you have heavy shopping to do. They’re available for airport transfers, nights out of the town (which come in handy if you’re out across the river late at night) or tours of the historic city.

Shutters on the Beach is one of Santa Monica’s most popular beachfront hotels, but when you’re ready to come off the beach, out of town guests who may not have a car at their disposal have access to a Jaguar XJ within the city limits. Of course, for a sportier option, the hotel also has adorable Kate Spade bicycles that are free for guests to use anytime.

Guests of the Beach House Maldives, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, have as much exploring to do by sea as by land, so the resort’s bright white DeHavilland Twin Otter seaplane is a welcome amenity for getting to and from the airport and around the island — and it doesn’t hurt that the plane is stocked with iPads full of entertainment, Bose headphones, and more.

As bike programs spread throughout multiple cities in the USA (Minneapolis and Portland may be the veterans, but DC, New York, and more are coming up behind them), hotel bike programs are more desirable than ever. All Fairmont Hotels in the United States have a set of BMW Cruise bikes that come complete with helmets and locks for cruising around town.

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