When I found out I was going to Russia, the first thing I thought of – I need to see a ballet! That is one of the things you always hear about – the ballet.
The most famous is of course the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. This is almost impossible to get tickets to, especially if you are outside of Europe. Sure enough, the dates I was in Moscow – completely sold out!
My only other stop in Russia was in St Petersburg. There are many theatres there that have ballets, but the most famous are the Mariinsky Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theatre and the historical theatre at the Hermitage.
Once I had sorted out that I would need to find SOMETHING in St Petersburg, the next task was to pick a show! There are the traditional shows such as Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. I knew I wanted tradition, and I really wanted Swan Lake – a Russian ballet, in a Russian theatre, with Russian dancers – in Russia!
As luck would have it, Swan Lake was showing at the Mikhailovsky Theatre on a date that worked for me.
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I took a day trip from Cape Town down the Peninsula to Cape Point. Along the way I stopped at many spectacular viewpoints. I even saw some penguins – they were white and round, kind of like me. But, even though Coke commercials might convince you otherwise, penguins and polar bears live at opposite ends of the globe! I would highly recommend getting out of the city and enjoying the beauty of the countryside. As we drove ever turn offered breathtaking views and vistas.
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Ok, so last time you heard from me was this past summer after my 3-day Colombia trip. It’s been nonstop since the Fall, and when I sit and think about all the places I have been to in just the past 9 months, it’s crazy! How I manage all that travelling, a house and 2 kids plus 1 cat? I have amazing support from my parents, to the neighbour who plowed my driveway all year, to great friends, coworkers and school teachers and day cares that all know my life is nonstop craziness. Lucky for them I always have amazing stories to tell and I bring back souvenirs.
Here is how the rest of my year, and new year, went…
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This past September my husband and I were married on a sandy beach in Santa Barbara, California. We wanted a very small ceremony and after researching online, I discovered a company in Santa Barbara called ‘Weddings by The Sea’ with elopement style wedding packages. So we left the approaching cold of Winnipeg and were welcomed by sunshine and ocean breeze. We started our adventure with our friendly and boisterous cab driver who picked us up at LAX – upon hearing of our wedding plans in Santa Barbara he quickly convinced us that we picked a poor location for our wedding and he tried to persuade us to stay in Los Angeles where all the ‘fun’ beaches were. My heart dropped slightly as I was excited to explore the acclaimed ‘American Rivera’ I had read about online, Santa Barbara is known for its red topped Mediterranean style buildings and coastal town. But my disappointment quickly faded as we pulled around a bend on the highway and into the city, I was greeted by a sparkling ocean expanse and brightly coloured flowers flowing down the edge of the street underpass. Away from the sea were mountains with houses built up the sides, there was a haze from the humidity and afternoon sun lingering over them, which made for a dreamy sight. I was overjoyed to discover my research for our destination was all I had envisioned it to be and more. Read More >
I was told by many people before travelling to Finland – you can’t visit Finland and not visit a sauna! There are approximately 5.6 million people in Finland, and around 3.2 million saunas! The Finns take this very seriously! Here in North America, saunas are sometimes considered a luxury, but in Finland, they are considered a necessity! Read More >
Iceland has a fantastic tradition of the 13 Yule Lads which lead up to Christmas Day. The Yule Lad will come down from the mountains to bring children gifts and candy, and sometimes play pranks. Take the quiz on the below link to find out which Yule Lad you are? Read More >
“Sssshhhh, turn around quietly and look out the window.” Those were the words said in hushed tones by our tour host as we were happily sitting in the lounge car of the Tundra Buggy Lodge™, having a wee drink before dinner. We turned and looked in awe, as right outside the windows, casually strolling by in the tell-tale pigeon-toed gait, was a big, beautiful polar bear. You could hear the intake of breath as we all marvelled at the incredible wonder of nature walking right by us. “That’s a young male, about 3 years old” our guide informed us. His powerful muscles rippled underneath his fur telling us that he is a force of nature, a natural hunter and predator. But the round, black eyes and black nose set in that white face offered all of us that unmistakable sense of “Oh, you look cute enough to cuddle”. A feeling best kept as thought and not action! These are not cute and cuddly toys! Read More >
Attending a sporting event can be an exciting time. Especially when you get to see a team or athlete you really like, in their home country while you are there. This happened to me when I was in Iceland recently. I really enjoy watching the Icelandic Football team play and following their careers. I had a trip to Iceland planned for several months, and about 2 weeks before I was set to leave, it was announced that the Icelandic team would be playing in Reykjavik on the only night I was booked to stay in Reykjavik! It couldn’t have worked out better! Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with help from Shauna Cook
Our last day. It’s been a two week tour spending no more than two nights in each country: Iceland, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, and Denmark. We have had a few rain showers here and there. Today’s rain shower somehow feels different. The rain today seems like Europe is mourning its loss, the loss of us going back to North America. In no other place on our trip have I felt more welcomed, no where else have I been asked more questions by tourists. Perhaps I look Danish, or I look at home here. There is no question, I am leaving a changed man. Read More >
Written by Martyn Cook with the help of Shauna Cook
The hotel is bustling with people. The lobby has groups of people with laptops open, discussing subjects that elude context and understanding. We make our way to the breakfast bar which is just off of the lobby. A lovely mix of old brickwork and contemporary furniture gives a lovely vibe of traditions held, living alongside new. The smell of breakfast offerings dances in the air, a greeting for our senses. I find the usual fair of cheese, crackers, bacon and eggs, as well as the object of my desire, local delicacies. I try a pastry with rice in the middle which is traditionally served with butter mixed with eggs. They have ginger snap type biscuits, and an Oreo type cookie that contains a minty filling. The last local offering was a candy that had a fox on the label, it was a gummy candy that was given out by grandmas, information that I garner from local sources. We leave the hotel, making our way down the cobblestones to Senate Square to join our free walking tour. We are greeted by Sara, a young history student passionate about her city and its history. We walk the streets learning about Finland’s Germanic influenced buildings, the religion, political, and social struggles, and successes of its people. One building stands out to me on the tour, The Think Company. It’s a public space like a library, it has a cafe, bookstore, and free wifi. This place is free to go into, and you can take in a lecture, or discuss ideas for social change. This is why I love the Nordic countries, they inspire creative thinking; Ideas surrounding use of taxes, social programs, and the general health of the country are discussed and debated. Read More >