Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Guest Writer - Iceland - Kristen

From Kristen:


Many people hear Iceland and think this:
Bjork: Iceland’s international superstar infamous for her fashion choices. But Iceland is oh so much more than just a woman who dresses up as a swan.

Iceland tends to fall under the radar. We know its an island and we know its somewhere north of us. I didn’t even know it was in Europe until now. But it is actually one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2007, the UN deemed it the most developed country. It is a free market economy with low taxes, universal healthcare and tertiary education open to all citizens.

Its coastline is basically a 4970 km fjord, where most of the 320,000 people who occupy the island, live. Two-thirds of the population call the capital city, Reykjavik, and its surrounding area, home. This is because the interior of the island is a mixture of sand and mountain terrain that is uninhabitable.

The land is beautiful, there is no doubt about it. Everywhere you look nature unfolds into a breathtaking landscape:
But let’s be honest. We, too, live in a rich and beautiful country with a gorgeous landscape and universal healthcare. So what really sets Iceland apart, makes the 7-hour flight worth it? The over 150 pickled penises they call their own, obviously

The Icelandic Phallological Musuem prides itself in having a penis for almost all mammals living on and around the island. This includes everything from whale wangs to seal schlongs to a hamster’s love machine. Not only are they preserved but penises and penile parts have also been transformed into scrotum-skin lampshades, walking sticks and toothpicks for the viewer’s pleasure. And in the future, the museum looks forward to having a human’s penis, as four men (still living) have chosen to cut off their member at their time of death and donate it to complete the musuem’s collection.

Now when you hear Iceland, I hope you picture more than just Bjork but also the lifelong work of the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Bon voyage.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Guest Writer - Iceland - JennB

From JennB:


The question I get most often when I tell people I am going to Iceland is “Why?” To them I say “Why not?”

Some people are travel people, some are not. The way I see it, Iceland’s economic misfortune gives me a great, cheap chance to visit a part of the world I have never really considered seeing before. Also, to be perfectly honest, I never would have even known about the fabulous travel deals had it not been for Christine.

Fast Facts About Iceland
-Population: 320,000
-Area: 103,000 km2
-Currency: krona (1 krona is worth approximately $0.13 CDN)
-Capital: Reykjavík (not sure how to pronounce that, yet)

Sunday, 29 August 2010


I have arrived in Iceland and met up with JennB at our hotel. It was so wonderful to see her!! She has our whole trip planned out, in a spreadsheet that she sent me a few days ago. Here is what we are planning on doing...

Perlan restaurant for lunch, free walking tour of Reykjavik, city swimming pool, Oliver,s Cafe for dinner and drinks
Goldon Circle bus tour, History of Reykjavik Comedy Show for dinner
Museums in Reykjavik, Lava Tour horseback riding, night club in the evening
Blue Lagoon spa for the day with pedicures, night club again in the evening
Final day exploring around Reykjavik

Itinerary Update - Iceland

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Flying to Iceland!!
I will be on Icelandair flight FI343 flying from Helsinki, Finland, from Vantaa Airport at 15:20 and landing in Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland. I will be meeting up with JennB at our hotel in Reykjavik so we can tour together around Iceland for the week!!

Saturday, 28 August 2010


* Please read LIVE UPDATE - # 21 & # 22 first *

So my camera saga continues... I am, again, without my small camera. Yes, the one I just bought in Russia to replace the one that was stolen. I had only had it for 5 days!! I'm pretty sure it wasn't stolen this time. I think I left it somewhere during the pub crawl I did in Tallin, Estonia, last night. Again though, I had just uploaded my Tallinn pictures so there were only about 3 pictures on it when I lost it. This morning, when I realised it was missing, I returned to the main backpacker's info tent and talked to the pub crawl leader, he gave me a list of the bars we had gone to. I gave the list of bars to the owner of the hostel I was staying in. He is going to try to find it for me and will mail it to Canada if he does. I have some hope as Estonia is much more honest than Russia. But, it was a nice camera so someone may have just picked it up and kept it. JennB is going to borrow a small camera from her brother and bring it along to Iceland. It will hopefully have an SD card so that I can load the pictures onto the netbook. So, I am having bad luck with the little cameras this week!!

Itinerary Update - Finland

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Taking a ferry to Helsinki!
I am only spending one night in Finland, but am hoping to see as much of the city as possible in the day and a half I have. Accommodation in Helsinki was just too expensive to spend any more time than the one night before my flight.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Guest Writer - England - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss
Photos by Stephanie Beach Photography:

English Style

In January 2008, Chris and I went to London. Most people who read this or my blog, already know this – but sufficed to say, it was easily the best trip I have taken so far. Now, this may be because I had been dreaming of this trip for literally years, or perhaps because it was the beginning of my non-student life. It also could have been because it knocked off a great deal of my bucket list.So many things made this trip wonderful. I won’t go into the details here, as I have posted my entire journal from that trip here and rewriting it would take some.
I would like to return and see more of this wonderful country as Chris and I mostly stayed in London itself. I would also like the opportunity to take some better shots as I only had my Kodak point and shoot at the time.


I'm in a fairytale...In A Medieval Alley
The Princess Looks For A Prince

Before A Prince Could Be Found
The Princess Gets Locked Into A Tower
As you can see, Tallinn, Estonia, is jaw droppingly beautiful!!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Guest Writer - Ransom - Taylor

From Taylor Collicot

Hansom Ransom

Don’t get me wrong, Christine’s cat (Binx) is great... but I think the canine variety is underrepresented in this blog. With that in mind, I would like to introduce my dog Ransom. My dog is a border collie crossed with an idiot. Seriously. He is a definite contender for the funniest/worst/best pet ever. That cute Labrador Retriever from the Marley and Me movie has got nothing on Ransom. Here is a list of Ransom’s shenanigans, which will remind the cat lovers why they love cats:
-- Eaten $120 worth of cash left sitting on my kitchen table
-- Consumed an entire bottle of Advil and a bar of soap to get back at us for leaving him alone for an evening (FYI: he survived)
-- Was recently kicked out of the groomer’s because he attempted to “herd” all the animals into a corner
-- Climbs the front windowsill while outside to check up on what’s going on inside
-- Ate Mark’s $200 mouth guard… then peed on his foot
-- Climbs into the shower to bathe with you and bite at shower head
-- Had a case of explosive diarrhoea on floor… which Mark’s slipped in while drunk
-- Attempts to climb trees to reach squirrels
If anyone thinks this list is too outrageous, I completely understand and encourage you to drive by my house any time and find Ransom keeping watch over the neighborhood from atop the rock in my garden:

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Itinerary Update - Estonia

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

On a bus to Estonia!
It was a strange mid-trip decision, but I kept finding Helsinki, Finland very expensive everytime I looked up hostels there. Someone on my Gap Tour had visited Estonia a couple of years ago and said that it was a cheaper place. (When they were there they did day trips to Helsinki, as it is only an hour ferry ride away.) I am visiting the capital city, Tallinn, which is on the Baltic Sea. There used to be a direct train from St. Petersburg but it has stopped running, so I am taking a Eurolines bus there, which should take about 6 hours, including the border crossing.

Guest Writer - Mornings - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss:

Every Day

I am the Queen of routine! I thrive on them. In that regard, Dave and I do the same thing every morning in preparation for a long workday.
6:00am: First alarm goes off (buzzer). After two-three snoozes Dave gets up and showers. He then starts to play/read/watch shows on his computer.
6:31am: Second alarm goes off (radio). After approximately half an hour I get up and shower. Get dressed and do my hair after my shower (and stepping on the scale).
7:15-7:30am: Dave and I get going with breakfast and making our lunch.
7:45am-8:05am: Dave and I head out the door after brushing our teeth.
8:30am: Arrive at work and start getting paid.
It is the same thing every day and quite frankly, large deviations from this start to screw with my day.

Monday, 23 August 2010


I'm on my own now. This morning I met up with the tour leader, who is the only one left in town, and we went to visit a church together and had lunch. Then we said goodbye and I was all by my self. I went on a half-day bus tour to a palace outside of town that was just beautiful. I have been chatting with a bunch of people at the hostel over the last couple of days so I feel like I have a little bit of company. I booked a ticket to go and see Swan Lake tomorrow night and I have a long list of chores that I need to get done tonight and tomorrow. (Things like booking the bus to Estonia, finding hostels in Estonia and Helsinki, shopping, going to a post office, etc.) I figure I will be fine as long as I keep busy. I have already perfected taking pictures of myself!

Sitting In The Gardens At Tsarskoe Selo

Taken by ME!

Guest Writer - Toronto - Teri

From Teri Osmond:

Cool things to do in Toronto

Where do I begin?
- Walk around the Distillery District at night and during the day
- Take a day trip to the Beach to play volleyball, walk, or just lounge on the beach – if you’re really brave you can take a dip in Lake Ontario
- Attend the many festivals happening every weekend in the spring/summer
- Take a walk or run through one of the many parks or ravines
- Walk around a new area to explore the houses, shops, and people
- Walk around the Harbourfront on a nice day
- Volunteer at one of the festivals
- Go to Second City Comedy Club
- Go to amateur night at Yuk Yuk’s for $3
- Get discounted tickets for people under 30 for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Opera, or National Ballet
- Try one of Toronto’s many excellent restaurants
- Watch a free taping of The Hour (Chris’s favourite TV show)
- Go to the AGO or ROM for free on Wednesday evenings
- Go to the Bata Shoe Museum for free on Thursday evenings
- Have a drink or dinner on a patio in the summer
- Go to a bar with a rooftop patio
- Eat in a restaurant with a view of the city (i.e., at the top of a tower)
- Go to a Blue Jays game
- Go to a Toronto FC game
- Go for a bike ride or rollerblade along Lakeshore

Sunday, 22 August 2010


* I know it is long, but read Live Update - # 21 first *

I was able to last 24 hours without a little camera - I bought one this afternoon. I got the newer version of the one that was stolen, can't really remember what the old one was beyond a Nikon Coolpix, but the new one is a Nikon Coolpix S4000. I really like it and paid pretty much what I would have had to pay for it in Canada. It is 12 Megapixels and has a 4x zoom. I think this means that it might take better pictures than my SLR. The language settings for the camera menus themselves can be changed into a million different ones, including English. I have the User Manual in English on a CD. The below picture is of all the stuff that came with it, since due to luggage space issues I have had to throw a bunch of it out (the box and everything that was in Russian).

Guest Writer - Ottawa - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss
Photos by Stephanie Beach Photography:

Ottawa Festivals

Ottawa is home to a wide range of festivals – from Winterlude in the colder months to the Tulip Festival in the spring to Bluesfest is the hot summer there seems to be something for everyone.

The larger festivals include:
-Tulip Festival, May
-Fringe Festival, June
-Jazz Festival, June/July
-Bluesfest, July
-Music and Beyond, July
-Chamber Music Festival, August
-Busker Festival, July/August
-Folk Festival, August
-Capital Pride Festival, August
-Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival, September
-Winterlude, FebruaryMy personal favourite are the Tulip Festival and Winterlude but I am planning on attending the Hot Air Ballon Festival in September as well.

To be honest, the music based ones aren’t of great interest to me, not because I don’t love music (because I do) but rather because I don’t like large crowds and though all the festival generate similarly sized crowds, they seem to be more dense when music is involved.

OttawaFestivals.ca is the place to go for information about ongoing and upcoming festivals in the area. June is the start of quite a few smaller festivals like the Dragon Boat Festival (18-20). If you are in the Ottawa area you should definitely see which festivals interest you. Most of them are free and the ones that aren’t are very reasonably priced.

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Let me tell you a sad story...

St. Petersburg, Russia, is a beautiful city. The streets are very wide and the buildings are beautiful, walking around it feels like Europe mixed with North America mixed with Russia. The main street, Nevskiy Prospekt, is always busy and lined with tall ornate stone buildings. I toured around the city today with two women from my tour. (Even though my tour is now over, there are a couple of people staying around for a few days and we are meeting up to see things together.) We visited Peter and Paul Fortress, which is across the Neva River from the main area of town, then after a nice snack in a cafe on Nevskiy Prospekt we decided to go and see the inside of The Church on Spilled Blood.

This church looks simular to the famous St. Basil's in Moscow, though the inside is vastly different. The walk from the cafe to the church goes along a lovely thin waterway called Kanal Griboedova. I decided that the view down the canal towards the onion-domed church was very pretty and that I should take a picture. I walked across the small side street that runs along the water for a better shot. I pulled out my little camera, which is affectionately known as 'my James Bond camera' because it is so slim. I have been carrying around a Lowpro camera bag which holds my large SLR digital camera that I got for this trip. It has a small front zipper pouch where I have been keeping my neck-money-wallet-thingy and my tiny automatic camera.

After taking a few pictures I returned to the other side of the street, where the side walk was nicer and wider. A few minutes later I felt something strange happen as a couple of guys brushed past me. I stopped, slightly confused. I can only describe the feeling as 'Huh? That wasn't right. Something just happened. Wha?' It actually felt simular to the feeling I had when I got my belly button pierced when I was 17. Since I had numbed the skin so much, and I didn't watch the girl do it, I only felt a strange sansation of 'something happening'. It was quick, caught my breath a little and then my heart rate quickened like when anxious.

I quickly stopped and looked down at my camera bag, which I carry around like a purse, and the front pouch was unzipped. My neck-money-wallet-thingy was in there, but the space in front of it was empty, where I normaly keep my small camera in its little leather case. I reached in and riffled through it and sure enough it was gone. I still did not clue into what had happened at this point and my mind raced through possibilities of where it had gone; "After taking those pictures did I put it in my jean pocket? Was it in my coat pocket, which I was carrying over my arm? Did I drop it? Did I not zip up the pouch and it fell out? Oh no! I was just pick-pocketed, and I mean just."

This was just such a strange realization that I didn't quite want to believe it. I rushed back a few meters still thinking that maybe it had fallen out and I would see it on the sidewalk. Also, one of the women I was with was behind me taking some more pictures. When I reached her, I told her what had happened. She was very upset and said that it must have been the three men that had just passed us. I could see one up ahead and I rushed towards him, still scanning the ground for my camera.

When I reached him, I could see that he had many square wallet/camera shaped things in his front and back pockets. However, none of them were the right size or shape for my camera. I started asking him, in a slightly frantic manner, about it. "I think I just lost my camera. My camera is missing. Have you seen it? Have you seen a camera?" By the time I had finished my questions I had figured out that the things in his pockets were not my camera and I couldn't really challenge him about taking it. I started looking ahead at the next man in the group, the third was gone and I don't think I would have recognized him anyway. At first he seemed surprised that I was talking to him and asking these things. Then he started to ask if I wanted him to take a picture of me with the church, and asked for my camera and made some taking-pictures gestures. I turned back to him, "No, it is gone. I lost it. Do you have it? Do you have my camera?" To this he said he didn't speak English, waved me off, and walked away. By this point the second guy up ahead was gone and I didn't know what eles to do.

I spent the next half hour feeling a strange combination of emotions, though was predominantly what I would describe as anxious. I am rarely anxious so it was a strange and slightly uncomfortable state for me. I'm no longer anxious but still feel a number of emotions like anger, sadness, and relief. I have never been a victim of thieft before and although always hear about pick-pocketing happening to travellers and people in large cities, I tend to adopt the 'it won't happen to me attitude'. Now I have more of a, 'that sucks and I will be more careful, but it could really happen to anyone and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it' attitude.


--the camera was a few years old and not that costly to begin with, there have been two newer models since mine, it should not cost that much to replace because though I loved it, it wasn't particularly fancy
--my parents new netbook that I have been using all trip and is my main connection home to friends and family was safe back at the hostel, locked into my locker along with a few other important things like my journal, chargers, flight information, addresses and phone numbers, etc.
--though it was in the same pocket, they did not take my neck-money-wallet-thingy, which at the time contained my passport, the photocopies of my passport, a fair amount of money, and all my cards
--in the large pocket of the bag was my big SLR camera that I just got and is quite expenisve, it was a recent gift from my parents and has a new lense which I bought just before leaving that cost me a lot, and it has all my nicely composed photographs from the trip which I believe is currently over 1500, thankfully they did not take/get this
--'the James Bond camera' only had about 8 photographs on it, having done another upload onto the netbook last night of all the pictures, which I have been doing once or twice a week, so it was only pictures from today and I have a bunch on the SLR camera from today's sites
--the entire experence was not, even in the least, a violent crime, occasionally pick-pockets use knives to slice open bags or cut straps, but this was not the case for me today, I did not feel scared, and when talking/questioning the man I did not feel like he was dangerous


--I loved that camera, it was so cute and fun, I have taken it many places and its tiny size makes it very convenient, I have dropped it I don't know how many times and it was really durable, though was a little scratched up by this point, it was also a gift from my parents a few Christmas' back
--the camera was kept in a little black and purple leather case, it fit snugly in it so still was small and thin, I think the case probably helped keep the camera safe with all the dropping I did, the case was Kenith Cole, who I think is some clothing designer, and was given to me by Little Brother Mike the same Christmas that my parents gave me the camera
--it was great to have a little camera to take quick pictures with and give to other people to take a picture of me with, now I will have to decide whether I will start giving my SLR to have pictures of me taken
--I had gotten into a good groove using it for 'quick shot' or 'record type' photos and taking more 'art' shots with the larger fancier camera, it was very nice to have a 'back up' of pictures in case the nice ones on the SLR don't turn out well, or get lost somehow
--it used an SD card and my other, and now only, camera uses the larger Compact Flash memory card, with SD I was able to upload pictures onto the netbook, while all the other camera ones I won't be able to see until I get home and load them using a special card reader
--now I won't be able to upload Teri In Hats pictures, Finger Puppet pictures, or Pin pictures for my friends and email them from the trip

** This also means that blog posts from now on will be only written as I can't get recent photos onto the compter anymore. You will have to read these long long posts without anything interesting to look at. **

Itinerary Update - End Of Tour

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Ending my tour!!
My 21 day tour with Gap Adventures ends today in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Friday, 20 August 2010


Due to train rides, early mornings, and late night boat cruises I have messed up my sleep patterns a bit and am a tad tired. I have spent the last two days doing a bit more resting than previously. Here I am taking a bit of a break on a marble staircase in the Hermitage museam in St. Petersburg. (So much art!!) Some of the rooms were set up like it was when the building was the Winter Palace. It made me sad that I was not a princess. I can still hope for movie star but I don't think that princess is a realistic dream for me anymore. It was great to wander around the place and imagine though. Going to the Peter and Paul Fortress tomorrow and a big palace on the outskirts of the city the next day. At some point I will make my way to Estonia, by bus since the train no longer goes direct and I would have to go back to Moscow to get there. The bus is only 7 hours or so. Starting to slowly plan out my next week. I'm looking forward to all of it!!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Guest Writer - Joke - JennB

From JennB:

Knock, Knock

Does anyone remember this knock, knock joke from when they were younger? It was one of my favourites!

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Banana who?

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana!

It was always fun for me to see how many times I could get the person to say “Who’s there?” before they abandoned the joke in disgust.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


I made it to Moscow! (For all those that were worried, it has been blue skys and only the faintest smell of smoke on occasion.) Yesterday, and again today actually, I saw The Red Square and the very iconic St. Basil's Cathedral. I was very excited walking up through the arches for my first glimpse of the church. It was definitely something I had been looking forward to but I was surprised just how awesome it was to see it. I would consider it 'my moment' of the trip - where I really realised where I was and how amazing this trip is. Over the past two days I have taken a million pictures of it. We are going to see it tonight after dark when the square is all lit up, so more pictures there, and we are still in Moscow tomorrow, so I'm sure even more pictures. Here are two with me in them...
(Photos taken by my roomate.)

Guest Writer - Blogging - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of Road to a Better Me:

Road to a Better Me

A few years back I had a great deal of success with my weight loss and managed to lose almost 30 pounds. I was very happy with that but wanted more as I was still overweight. Unfortunately, I plateaued shortly thereafter and lost all motivation and ended up gaining the weight back.

Recently, I have found inspiration in Chris. She started attending Curves in January and in May starting using their diet plan. She is a self-proclaimed diet-nazi. She sticks to her meal plans and because of her dedication has lost a significant amount of weight. I am very proud of her for doing so well and am also incredibly inspired by her. She was the one who turned me on to Curves and though I have not yet decided whether or not I will be using the Curves diet plan, I am doing better with my motivation levels as well as my weight loss overall.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Guest Writer - Fears - Teri

From Teri Osmond:

Deep Water

Over the past few years I have come to realize that my biggest fear is the depths of the ocean. Every time I take a ferry, go snorkeling, or even swimming across the lake at my cottage, I breathe a sigh of relief when I am back on land or in water where the bottom is visible. The thought of not knowing what is lurking below me or how far away the nearest land is scares me more than anything.

I have no idea where this fear originates. It might have something to do with the fact that Jaws was the first horror movie I ever saw (if you don’t count Ernest Scared Stupid, which is actually quite frightening.) It might be that fear of the unknown, since huge parts of the oceans are still undiscovered. It might be the high disappearance rate on cruise ships. Whatever the reasons, you will never find me scuba diving, on a cruise, or in a submarine.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


And I'm back on train...
Me And My Attendant
(Taken halfway through the last train trip.)


Quotes Of The Day

Russian Guide (Very happy and excited girl): Yes, I know that it is cloudy now but the weather may change. Weather is very feminine in Russia.
Russian Waiter (Young and very cute): So you two together on a bill, yes. You seperate, yes. (Now looking at me.) And of course you are seperate.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Girls Night Recipe - Blueberry Muffins

While I think muffins are a perfectly good appetizer, main course, or dessert at dinner, most people might think that they are more of a breakfast food. So, consider this recipe for the morning after Girls Night. Erin promised when she sent me recipes from Alberta that they were easy. I think she is lying about this one. It lists FLOUR as an ingredient, anything that makes use of flour is really cooking/baking and way too intense for me. Maybe this is for those people who don't get scared so easily by basic ingredients:

Blueberry Muffins
From ERin

2 cups of Flour
½ cup sugar
3 sp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup of Orange Juice
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 egg
¾ cup of blueberries

Mix dry ingredients together
In a separate boil whisk wet ingredients together
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing as you add.
Add the blueberries at the end so that your batter doesn’t end up blue!
Spoon into greased muffin tins
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes


I just spent 52 hours on the train, I have to say the last 6 draged along pretty slowly. I have made it to Ekaterinburg, Russia and will be staying in a hotel for a couple of nights. (It is a very nice hotel, feels like 5 Stars after two nights in a train compartment, though it is probably only 3 Stars.) I need to go and have a bath now, as my hair is so grimy I feel that it might crawl off my head at any second.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Guest Writer - Russia - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss


Stolichnaya is a Russian vodka made of wheat and rye grain. This also happens to be the vodka most purchased by Chris. It is fermented with artesial water from Samara, Russia and the Kaliningrad region. “Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled four times to a strength of 96.4% ABV. This spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesial well water. It is then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.”

A few interesting facts:
--The building in the background of the bottle’s image is that of Hotel Moskva, which is currently under re-construction.
--Stolichnaya is an adjective form of stolitsa, which means capital city in Russian.
--First confirmed production date was 1948, but could also be 1946, 1944 or 1936.
--In 1972 PepsiCo acquired the exportation and western marketing rights to this vodka in return for exchange, importation and Soviet marketing of Pepsi-Cola.
--There are 14 different varieties including various proofs and fruity flavours.
Information taken from Wikipedia


I will be in Moscow in a few days, as far as I have heard there has been no change in our tour itinerary. I'm on the train for the next couple of days, then am spending a couple of days in Ekaterinburg, then more time on the train. The current plan is to be in Moscow on August 16th. Lots of time for things to die down, or to buy a mask. However I got the following email ....

Message from the Embassy of Canada in Moscow regarding Forest fires in Russia

Dear Canadians,

Due to recent high temperatures and very dry weather, forest fires have been ravaging parts of Russia. Canadians should take into account that the air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.

The Government of Canada has issued an advisory against non-essential travel to Moscow, Marii-El, Mordovia, Vladimir, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod and Ryazan Oblasts due to deteriorating air quality. In addition, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has authorized the temporary withdrawal of non-essential mission employees and dependants from the Embassy of Canada in Moscow. In light of this and the hazardous levels of air pollution in the affected areas, we urge Canadians residing in or thinking of travelling to the areas to evaluate their circumstances and decide whether their continued presence is warranted. If it is not, it is advisable to consider re-locating.

Those residing in or near affected areas are strongly advised to limit their movement, minimize physical activity outdoors and keep windows and doors closed. Canadians planning to travel to affected areas should carefully reconsider their need to do so until air quality has improved. In case of forest fires, travellers should follow the advice of local emergency services personnel, stay away from affected areas, and monitor local media sources for up-to-date information. Canadians requiring assistance may contact the Embassy of Canada in Moscow.

We encourage Canadians travelling to or residing in Russia to regularly consult the Russia Travel Report for updated information, and to register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service at www.travel.gc.ca in order to receive the latest advice from the local Canadian Embassy. Canadian citizens in Russia requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the Canadian Embassy in Moscow at 7 (495) 925-6000, or call DFAIT's Emergency Operations Centre toll-free at 810-800-201-41012 or collect at 613-996-8885. An email can also be sent to sos@international.gc.ca.

Friends and relatives in Canada seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in Russia should contact DFAIT's Emergency Operations Centre in Ottawa by calling 1 800 387-3124, or by sending an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

Emergency consular services, including passports and medical assistance, will continue to be offered from the Canadian Embassy. Hours of Operations are from Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 3:00pm.

Embassy of Canada
Address: 23 Starokonyushenny Pereulok, Moscow, 119002, Russia
Tel.: 7 (495) 925-6000
Fax: 7 (495) 925-6004 or 7 (495) 925-6025
E-Mail: mosco@international.gc.ca
Internet: http://www.Russia.gc.ca


I am just back from visiting Listvyanka on Lake Baikal, where I stayed in a 'homestay' which was with this Russian women and really interesting. I was the only one in our group to go swimming, supposedly it adds 10 years to your life. My roommate and I went down after dinner, so I went for a dip at dusk.

It Is 12 Degrees Celsius, I Lied Down In It

(Photo by my roommate, who didn't go in.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Guest Writer - Travel - ERin

From ERin in Edmonton:

My Best Trip

This past February I went on a week’s vacation to the island of Maui. This was a big event- simply because I had planned the entire thing all by myself (I am not a planner) and Matt had absolutely no idea what we were doing, where we were staying or really, how long we were going to be there for.

We flew West jet, stopped in Vancouver and then went straight to Ka’anapali, Maui. We arrived just after midnight to warm, humid weather having left Edmonton which was sitting at a balmy -20°C. Maui, if you haven’t been, is an absolute paradise. There were no bugs, the weather was gorgeous, everything was lush and tropical and…the food is fantastic. There was tons of fresh seafood, amazing sushi and sashimi and fantastic fruit.

During our one week stay, we went to a luau, visited Pearl Harbour and the USS Arizona, saw the Dole pineapple plantation, went snorkeling in the pacific and also did a dinner cruise that included whale watching. The closest town was Lahaina, where we went for dinner and did some shopping. Our hotel was set along the beach with about 7 other hotels as well as a shopping district called “Whalers Village”.

Both of us agreed that we could easily become bums, teach surfing lessons to tourists and give up our jobs in Canada so that we could live in Maui.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Guest Writer - Travel - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss
Photos by Stephanie Beach Photography:

Dreams of Stonehenge

Ever since I was a little girl, I had been dreaming of visiting England. More specifically I dreamt of visiting Stonehenge. I wrote many essays and speeches on the subject read many books about the mysterious place. It wasn’t, however, until January 18, 2008 that I actually got to see it in person.

Chris and I went to London England for 10 glorious days (11 if you count the flights). We spent two of those days in Avebury and Salisbury – the latter of which is home to Stonehenge. We rode a very bumpy and nauseating double decker bus from the little bury up to the Salisbury plains. Everyone on the bus was looking out the windows to see who would catch the first glimpse of the stones. When they appeared in the distance I honestly felt like crying. It was such a powerful feeling that came over me – so much so that I cannot properly define it in words.
We got off the bus and purchased our tickets. We started walking along the tunnel that took you under the highway. It seemed incredibly long and eventually Chris told me to go ahead at which time I started to literally run as fast as I could. I spent a pretty long time at the stones, couldn’t tell you how long really as I was paying absolutely no attention to such things. Luckily, Chris was incredibly patient with me and watched the sheep that were all around the site while I took tons of photos and tried to take as much of it in as I possibly could. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I really hope I can go back.

Itinerary Update - Russia

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Entering Russia!!
I go through border crossing between Russia and Mongolia at a small town called Naushki. This is in the middle of a 40 hour train ride. I board the train in Ulaan Baatar early in the morning of Sunday August 8th and I don't get off until Tuesday August 10th in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. I least I get some excitement on Monday August 9th, I get to cross over into Russia!

Sunday, 8 August 2010


So I'm thinking about going to Estonia... After my tour for the week that I have alone, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do. Looks like it is cheaper than Helsinki, so I might bus there first from St. Petersburg and then take a ferry up to Finland after spending a few days touring around. I will keep you posted.


I have 24 people who I am sending postcards to. Some people only once, others are going to get a couple. I have done a few big mailouts, writing a whole bunch of them at once, and then taking them all to the post office to send off. I hope people start receiving some soon. (I will be home in less than a month, and it is always nice to get them when the person is still away.) I'm writing this update to let you know that I'm about to get on the train to head into Russia and will be there for pretty much the rest of August. I have been told that the Russian Postal Service is terrible. Our guide sent a postcard to France from Moscow and it got to her father 5 months later (it confused him alot since she was in the middle east at the time and no longer even in Russia.) I think this is just because Russia might not be really big fans of the French but I have heard that the mail takes 3 to 6 months to arrive to North America. So look out for those Russian postcards but you might not get them until the fall.

Friday, 6 August 2010


Ulaan Baatar and I have not been good bed partners. I have slept in this city twice and had really awful nights sleep, I slept better on the train. However, this morning we are off to a Ger (Yurt) Camp which for me is a highlight and reason for the trip. I'm sure I will sleep well amongst the sheep, goats, horses, and yaks!

Girls Night Recipe - Peanut Butter Cookies

I love Steph's Peanut Butter Cookies!!

Peanut Butter Cookies
From Steph

This isn’t my favourite Peanut Butter Cookie recipe, but it is a pretty good one and the only one that Chris seems to like. As you may, or may not, know she is not a fan of peanut butter and this is one of two recipes that are peanut butter based that she actually seems to like.

½ cup butter/margarine
½ cup peanut butter
½ brown sugar
1 egg
1 ¼ cup white flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream butters and sugars, add egg and mix.
Blend flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together then ass this to the butter mixture.
Add chocolate chips.
Drop cookie dough balls onto cookie sheet and fork them flat.
Cook for 10-12 minutes at 375OF

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Ittinerary Update - Mongolia

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Arriving in Ulaan Baatar!!
The tour boards a train in Beijing, China set to go to Mongolia early in the morning on Wednesday August 4th. However it isn't until the next day, Thursday August 5th, that we arrive in the nation's capital, crossing over the border from China to Mongolia at some point in the night.


Took the train from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar, which took just over 30hrs and was amazing. So many different types of landscapes. I got lots of pictures from the train. Sometimes I had to stick my head out a little...

Leaning Out To Get A Photo In The Gobi

Photo taken by my Gap roommate

(Taken using my little camera, knew there was a good reason to bring two)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Guest Writer - 5 Categories - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss:

5 Categories

During any time of the year, Christmas and Birthday included, people can always buy me items from the following five categories:
-Camera supplies/gift card for supplies
---I always have a lens I want to purchase or equipment I am interested in.
---I love Kitchenaid and alongside Nikon and Lowepro, it is one of the few name brands I am really interested in owning.
-Magazine subscriptions
---I love photography, cooking and National Geographic subscriptions. I have a few now but am always looking for more as I prefer non-fiction and magazines are great for that.
---Though I have a lot of movies, I can never have enough. As we don’t have cable, movies and TV shows on DVD are our main source of ‘TV’ entertainment.
-Clothing Gift Cards
---Though it would be near impossible for someone to buy me clothes, gift cards to the places I shop are always appreciated as I am constantly wearing out my favourite shirts, pants and skirts. I enjoy stores such as Ricki’s, Reitmans, Old Navy, La Vie en Rose, Bluenotes and other such stores (though some of those really contrast with each other).
I personally think I am easy to shop for as few people really ever seem to have problems buying me things. I do however, have problems buying things for other people as I have gotten into the habit of just asking them what they want and getting that item.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Guest Writer - Truth Police - JennB

From JennB:

The Truth Police

Lately I have taken to calling Christine The Truth Police. She is appalled by what she believes is the sheer number of white lies I tell in a day and so listens like a hawk for any deviation I may make from the truth in order to correct it promptly. For example:

Jenn: “Hey guys, it’s quarter after five and I am thinking about starting dinner. Are you hungry?”
Chris: “Actually, Jenn, it’s 5:13.”


Jenn: “Do you think this blue shirt matches these pants?”
Chris: “Maybe, if it wasn’t teal.”

Ok, I may be exaggerating (only slightly) but this leads me to a topic Chris and I have discussed many times – black and white people vs. shades of grey people. I am a shades of grey person. I find it difficult to think in absolutes, and I believe that often, there is more than one right answer. While this helps me see all sides of a story, it can also make me somewhat wishy-washy. Chris, on the other hand, is a black and white person. There is one truth, and you are either right or wrong. This makes her far more decisive than me, but the nice thing about Chris’s black and white belief is that she pairs it with an accepting spirit and utter lack of judgemental-ness.

What kind of person are you? Black and white or shades of grey?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Guest Writer - Super Freeze - Steph

From Stephanie Beach, writer of The Great Abyss
Photos by Stephanie Beach Photography:

Super Freeze

In March 2004 Chris and I were living with Emily in university residence. As it was Emily’s birthday, we bought her an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. We had gotten it a little early so Chris crammed it into the freezer of her bar fridge. A couple hours later it was time to celebrate and the cake was brought out. Unfortunately the cake was a huge mess as despite being in the freezer, it had somehow started to melt.Chris didn’t understand this as she had put it in there herself and ensured the door closed properly. She had even pressed the big red super freeze button. Wait a minute ... freezers don’t have super freeze buttons. Turns out she had actually pressed the defrost button, which explained the melting cake.


I have joined the tour and so far it has been wonderful. The group has 11 people and a guide, who is a very nice French woman and has done the trip 5 times already. I am the youngest person in our group with most people around retirement age. There is a couple, two pairs of sisters, a mother - daughter pair, a lone Italian guy, my roommate, and I. My roommate and I will be paired up for the rest of trip. The guy, the daughter, my roommate, and I are younger than the rest, but we all get along. There are other Canadians, also Americans and British. Tonight some of us are going to see an acrobat show and tomorrow we have a trip out to the Great Wall. The train journey starts on Wednesday.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Itinerary Update - Start Of Tour

Pre-Scheduled Post:
As per my trip itinerary (bar any issues/changes/complications etc.)
I should be ....

Starting my tour!!
My Gap Adventures tour starts today. I am meeting the group and guide in the lobby of the Harmony Hotel in Beijing, China at 6pm. The tour highlights, according to them, include visiting Beijing, Forbidden City, Great Wall, Ulaan Baatar, Terelj National Park, Ger stay, Lake Baikal, Listvyanka, Irkutsk, Ekaterinburg, Moscow, and St Petersburg. I may have to agree, I'm excited for all of that over the next 21 days! The tour runs from August 1st, 2010 to August 21st, 2010, starting in Beijing, China and ending in St. Petersburg, Russia. The website describes the trip as "Take an epic journey traversing a quarter of the globe and across three incredible nations. From the charm of imperial Beijing to the opulence of Moscow and St Petersburg, we journey through the vast grassy steppes of Mongolia, the seemingly impenetrable taiga forests of Siberia and the rolling Ural Mountains."


Yen just left. I was very said to see him go as we had really gotten into a good groove and he was an amazing travel companion. (For me at least, I think he may be glad to be rid of me, my carefree ways, and endless questions.) We stayed last night in the hotel that is my meeting spot and hotel for the Gap Adventures tour. This means that in about an hour I go downstairs from this room on the 7th floor, check out and then check back into another room on the 4th floor. According to the list that the front desk showed me last night, Gap has already paired me with a roommate, who appears to be British. She may or may not check into the room this afternoon as well. Everyone on the tour is to meet in the hotel lobby at 6pm, which is in about 5 hours, for a group meeting. I'm a little nervous but not as much as I thought I would be. The information sheet from Gap, that I got at reception, detailing the activities for the next four days, has calmed me somehow. Basically, I'm going to chill in the new room, maybe the roommate will show up and we can chat, if not than I have many days in my journal to write about and could do a couple more blog posts. The sad thing is that this down time comes at the worst possible time to call anyone in Canada, basically Midnight to 6am for people in Ontario. Hope everyone is sleeping well!!