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Showing posts from July, 2006

Wasted Time

Since having one blog is so five minutes ago, I now have a side-project. Notice the new button on the right hand side. Along with other like-minded and thirsty folk, I am part of the crew that posts at Wasted Time . While drinking and blogging isn’t exactly new (Al Gore invented it in the early nineties), Wasted Time is a community blog created exclusively for such a purpose. Because when you’re drunk, you’ve gotta tell someone about it. Because when you’re drunk, the doors of perception are thrown wide open. Because when you’re drunk, you can’t spell worth a good goddamn and that’s fucking funny. Nowhere else on the web will you find nuggets of wisdom like, “ Vodka, in my mind anyway, is prized for it’s translucnet qualities. ” Or, “ this mango flavoured something or other is really good .” Or, “ Sweet Jebus cheese and crackers are delicious .” Or, “ I made plans to go surfin’ in Tofino with someone, but now I don’t remember who that was .” Check it out. Wasted Time : It’s the new

The Glorious Return of Discuss Amongst Yourselves

Pretend you have the ability to go back in time and film ten moments of your life. These can be moments of great consequence (a proposal, a birth, a Nobel Prize nomination,) or moments of no consequence (that time you were hit in the crotch with a football). Name one of these ten moments.

Cruise finale

June 30th – Day at Sea July 1st – Back to Dover. Unlike past cruises, this time we’re blessed with a decent disembarkation time and we enjoy a precious 7:30 sleep-in. To the dining room first for a decent breakfast, then it’s bye-bye to the ship as we step off the gangplank with luggage in tow. We’re off a little early as our ride isn’t set to arrive for another half hour. So we do some waiting, and then some more. Then more. Forty minutes after the scheduled pick up, Sarah calls the dispatcher—and she’s told that our van broke down and it’ll be at least another hour before the replacement van arrives. Way to totally fucking blow it two trips in a row, Woodford Chauffeurs . Fortunately there are taxis galore, and we score one for slightly less than the van would have been. By the time we get to London it’s about one in the afternoon, and it’s a scorcher. Brits are spread eagle, either sleeping or dead, on every strip of available lawn large enough to lay prone upon. After

A tale of three cities: two of which I can't pronounce the names of

June 28th – This inevitably happens on our long cruises, and it just so happens to come into effect on our day in Copenhagen: I’ve had enough. I’m saturated with culture and I’ve gorged myself on every kind of good food I can imagine. When this happens, I still try to enjoy the trip, but given the choice between another day of Scandinavian churches or eating Mini-Wheats at home in my underpants, I’d totally go for option B. On shore, our first stop is at the Little Mermaid statue, a tribute to the story by Hans Christian Andersen (which isn’t quite the happy tale that Disney spun it into). The statue itself is overrated, and not even impressive from an artistic standpoint. Even the locals are ambivalent about it, as in recent years they’ve cut her arms off twice and decapitated her once. From there we hike up to the city centre, an ‘octagonal square’ as our port lecturer described it. It’s the site of the Royal Palace and it has armed guards stationed at all corners. The ‘square’ i

And the Booby Prize goes to...

June 25th – It’s Sunday, and we have a relatively lazy morning before disembarking. We’re in Tallinn today, a well preserved medieval city, also the capital of Estonia, and while we’re glad to get the chance to be there it’s not something we need to rush or through. As we suspect, it’s a lot like Dubrovnik—ancient stone walls, steep cobblestone streets—but it’s a little less sleepy in comparison. Sarah leads the way on another Rick Steves walking tour, which takes us through the large, beautiful town centre, past a historic wheel well, and to yet another cathedral. The surprise, though, is when we step inside (along with about 200 other tourists) and find that there’s a service in progress. Note to the people of Estonia: when church is in session it’s generally wise to close the door and keep dumb ass tourists from waltzing in. We move along, passing the Canadian Embassy (closed for St. Jean Baptiste Day), more churches, and a few nice panoramic peek-outs of the modern parts of the

Have you heard? There's a rumour in St. Petersburg.

June 24th – Today is less of a bus tour, rather we have three major stops of varying length. First is Catherine’s Palace , where two Catherines—Peter the Great’s second wife and later Catherine the Great—called home. The palace was built as a summer retreat for Peter’s wife, and as if that wasn’t enough, there is a smaller complex on the grounds that was her hermitage (but not The Hermitage, which we’ll get to shortly). So if you’re keeping track: the royals had a proper palace (the Winter Palace); Peter had a summer retreat (Peterhof), and a retreat within that retreat (Mon plaisir); and his wife had her own sanctuary (Catherine’s Palace), and a sanctuary within a sanctuary. In no way excessive, this is. Catherine’s Palace is beautiful, of course, but all this extravagance finally starts to gall me. It’s just one grand room after another, each room a new demonstration of grotesque ostentation. Mirrors are expensive? Let’s build a room with 72 mirrors that are twenty feet high. Alumin

The city so nice, they named it three times

June 23rd – Something I’ve forgotten to note is that we’re in the middle of white nights right now, where daylight lasts a remarkably long time. Add to this the fact that the solstice was only two days ago and that we’re pretty much right on the 60th parallel, and we’re talking almost twenty hours of daylight. In Russia, even arriving by cruise ship, you need a visa to visit the city. This can be done relatively simply if you book a shore excursion, either through the ship or privately. After corresponding with a lady she met on Cruise Critic , Sarah signed us up for a private tour through a company called Red October. We disembark around 7:30 and meet our tour-mates, our guide, and our driver on the dock. The guide’s name is Polina. She’s actually a university professor, but she works as a tour guide “for the privilege of teaching for the rest of the year.” Our driver’s name is Igor. Nice guy, but unremarkable other than because his name is Igor . It’s a huge city and ther

Churched out

June 20 – Second day at sea. June 21 – Even just from the sail-in alone, I like Stockholm better than Oslo. I mean, fjords are fascinating from a geological standpoint but they ain’t much to look at. It's just a lot of long, flat, green land. At least the coast of Stockholm is populated. Fun Ship Fact The world posh comes the early days of cruising, where certain super-rich folks would change staterooms halfway through the trip, so as to ensure minimum sun exposure. They’d ride p ort o utward, and s tarboard h ome. The Constellation staff unanimously suggests the bus as the way to get into the city centre, but Sarah found a hop-on hop-off ferry that runs a good circuit around Stockholm and could pick us up about three hundred meters away from the gangplank. She’s amazing for that type of thing; it’s not the first time she’d been more informed than the staff about how best to export a port. We stay on for a circuit, getting a feel for the city and an understanding of the

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me

June 17th – Travel to Dover Day—not something I’ve been looking forward to. More than anything, I’ve been anticipating that moment where we first walk up the gangplank, get greeted by the welcoming staff, and get handed that complimentary glass of champagne. But between me and that moment is a two hour van ride through the countryside. Our driver is a nice lady, probably late fifties, and the van is comfortable enough. It’s equipped with a talking GPS device that she calls Veronica. I suck at small talk but Sarah and the family are up for the task, so I pop on headphones for a while and follow that up with a nap. Two hours later, I wake up glad that we’re almost there... except that we’re not. We discover that Veronica has totally shit the bed, taking us miles out of the way and running us in circles, and when the driver calls her dispatcher she finds out that we're somehow still two hours away. I'm thinking 2001 thoughts, pulling Veronica's memory chips out one b

Westminster Crabby

June 15th – It’s the first day I wake up feeling normal, like I haven’t just started a shift on nights. I’m accused by Sarah, many times today, of being bored by London. It’s not true; I like it quite a bit. But I’m not ass over teakettle in love with it either—it’s just too familiar for that. If you’d asked me ten years ago—before I’d traveled anywhere—what country I’d like to visit first, I would have said London in a second . But I’ve seen more extraordinary places since then: towns built into the side of a mountain, a city where paramedics use a boat for an ambulance—London isn’t that incredible in comparison. And with the terrible exchange rate, in addition to the fact that you spend a pound like you do a dollar, it’s hard to forget that time in London is spent hemorrhaging money. Westminster Abbey is the first major stop of the day. Ancient, huge, gothic, and crowded, the Abbey is the final resting place of kings, queens, soldiers, literary giants, the occasional actor,

Notes from the Baltic Cruise - first update of many

June 13th – We land at Heathrow around 10am after a six hour flight and five hours lost through various time zones. After disembarking, we fly through the fastest luggage retrieval of our entire lives, and queue up immediately for a taxi. Somehow, we manage to fit four adults and an excess of luggage into a single cab, and the driver has the single most overblown, stereotypical cockney accent I’ve ever witnessed. It’s all: “ Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. ” We pay him (and well), and run away. Too early to check into to the hotel , we drop off our bags and take a walk down the Queensway. I’m struck by how familiar London looks, despite the fact that I’ve never been here before. Of course, ninety five percent of the stores are ones I’ve never heard of ( Whiteley’s , Snappy Snaps ), and the architecture is a bit more Georgian then anything I’m used to seeing out m