Saturday, August 30, 2008

hell in a handbag?

these were all the latest news stories on the calgary herald website this morning:

Ninth death linked to listeriosis outbreak

Dangerous ex-convict to be released in Calgary, police warn

Skies still unsafe 10 years after Swissair crash: Experts

Company recalls children's cosmetic bags after Health Canada advisory

pretty much, if you eat processed meat, live in calgary, fly in airplanes, or bought some kid a cosmetic bag as a gift, you are screwed.

here comes the writ!

i love an election and luckily for me, i should be around for the next federal election. i technically 'live' in steve's riding so it is always a forgone conclusion who will win, but i still love the whole process of democracy. functional democracy, not that kind of democracy where the opposition demands the election was stolen and then they settle in to a nice 'power sharing' deal.

ahem, kenya, i am looking at you.

not that a canadian federal election would be remotely as exciting as the american one next door, but i still love election season. and i love autumn, which feels like the beginning of things, so maybe it will be a nice time to be home.

but back to the canadian election being boring, here is how margaret wente, a globe and mail reporter, described it:

The election next door is a battle of the titans. Ours is a battle of the midgets. Instead of a warrior and a charismatic transformer, we've got a mean-eyed guy with the charm of a ball-peen hammer, pitted against a man so clueless that half his own party hopes he'll lose. The best reason to vote for Guy No. 2 is that he's not Guy No. 1. And that's a powerful reason.
i have been following the story of the listeriosis outbreak in canada and i am pretty shocked and can completely understand how that would create widespread paranoia about food. it was timely for me, as i recently watched a 4 part documentary (nerd!) on grocery stores' incredible influence on food options in the uk that had segments about processed food. so i was already feeeling all self-righteous and activist-y about food and then to hear that a huge food processing plant is making people sick makes me want to step a little higher on my soapbox...

if a listeriosis outbreak happens in a western, developed country that is chock full of processed foods then i do not want to hear any more naysaying about getting sick from eating food in africa. food will not kill you in africa. water might, mosquitos might (spread the net!), armed rebels might, but food most likely will not.

public health scare or not, i am missing canada.

oh, and i have contracted a cold. i think it originated in the army and was brought home to me like a sick kid from day care. the similarities in that analogy don't end with the cold.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

who doesn't like sad songs?

with my newfound regular access to unfiltered internet (it had been a few years) and my afternoons to myself i have discovered the beauty of youtube and searching for some of my favourite singers doing live versions of their songs. after doing this i finally purchased rachael yamagata's cd from itunes (see, pirating music isn't all bad!) and have been listening to it on repeat ever since.

then one day the soldier subtly put his earphones in and started listening to death metal (or whatever he listens to) and said, 'your music is killing me slowly. from the inside.'

Monday, August 25, 2008

right bank/left bank

oh, paris...

confession: i think it had taken me so long to get myself to the city of love, the city renown for joie de vivre because i was partly afraid that it would overwhelm me or that the parisians would eat me during a 7 course gourmet meal because i can barely stumble through pleasantries en francaise (bad canadian, i know).

but i am not afraid to admit when i am wrong. and apart from the occassional surly server and the woman who snubbed her nose at me for whipping out my guidebook on the metro, parisians did not even want to take a nibble. they were lovely.

actually, i wanted to package up the loveliest amelie-esque woman who worked at our local bakery and bring her home with me, she was just that sweet. and yes, because i was in paris for 5 days i get to say that i had a 'local' bakery.

i am going to miss that city. all of the regular culprits included - that food, that wine, that architecture. but for all that we saw and did, i am mostly going to miss wandering the streets of paris, looking in the shop windows, finding my way around the streets, and stopping whenever i damn well felt like it to have a croissant, a meal, a glass of wine, or a rest in a park.

highlights include, in no particular order:

- the best creme brulee i have ever had. and i didn't even think i liked creme brule. i was wrong. very, very wrong.

- croissants and espresso in plastic cups from the local bakery in the mornings
- staying at the ideal hotel design. if you are going to paris, stay there. (and book it on so that it is only 60 euro a night). it is artsy and funktastic and just my style. the night guy was surly and did nothing to dispell the parisian myth (ok, that makes 3 sour parisians), but the other staff were very nice and they actually had a pink reception area, purple hallways, and olympics in french on fancy tvs!

- the centre pomidou. i loved this place. it was like a croissant, a cafe creme, and creme brule all rolled into one museum of deliciousness.
- going up the eiffel tower. now i thought, yeah, sure we are in paris and we MUST go up the tower but i cannot be arsed to stand in a line to go up an elevator and i am too cheap to pay more when i can just walk up, but my legs are protesting when i even lift one to put it in front of the other because touring around europe for 3 weeks is tiring, whine, whine, whine... so we went back first thing the next morning and walked up. mild panic attack and begging the soldier to let us turn around and walk back to the 1st level aside, it was pretty damn cool. sort of like a delicious bottle of bordeax sipped on the bank of the seine.

- sipping a delicious bottle of bordeaux on the banks of the seine. as per a great suggestion, we bought some wine, a baguette, some cheese that made me want to cry it was so good, and some vine ripened tomatoes and had a little riverside spread. at first we felt a little sheepish drinking straight from the bottles (one of which was purchased at printemps and was actually not the least expensive one there, proving that i am not cheap and have lots of class, and the other for 2.50 at a grocery store - i think they were equally delicious), but soon got over that and just enjoyed the sunset with other picnickers/drinkers and watched the world go by.

- checking out armour at the musee de l'armee and then nosing through the pinkness of fauchon and smelling the teas, drooling over their pastries, and picking up a few little treats (because that is what you call COMPROMISE)

- eating crepes on the street in all their goozy cheesey, eggy (who knew?) goodness

- meandering through the pere lachaise cemetary and finding the gravestones of jim morrison, oscar wilde, heloise & abelard and some french dude whose package is apparently full of such vigor, if you rub it, you will become pregnant (i just pretended)

- eclaires! in the morning!

- the gargoyles at notre dame, but not the line to stand in and the entry fee to pay to get up there to see them. but it was much more enjoyable for me than the soldier when i was all hyped up on caffeine and sugar from coffee and eclaires in the morning and bounced up and down the entire way.

- having a nap in jardin de tullieres

- all the people who take photos of art in galleries like the musee d'orsay. there were some people that i am pretty sure were not even looking at the paintings themselves (matisse, picasso, van gogh, seurat...) and just fitting them irregularly in their digital frame and snapping away to bore their neighbours back home during the slide show

- speaking of cameras, fearing that someone was going to run away with our camera at the louvre. i think i'd been in nairobi too long. but it gave us a laugh.

i miss paris already. and i must find a way to get back there. and ideally, find a way to get paid while i go back there because that city makes quite the dent in the pocketbook. i also made a little commitment to my life's To Do List to go back to paris when i speak french. i better get on that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

highlights of the eastern european adventure (part ii)

the highlights continue...

- the sunny disposition of the hungarians (can you sense the sarcasm in that one through your computer screen? because it is dripping)
- buda and pest, together at last
- the danube and walking across it over some neato bridges
- watching olympics in hungarian
- the gellert baths and having a bath with hundreds of other people and trying not to think about the bacteria, hair, and flecks of other people's bodies floating around and touching my skin so that i could enjoy the experience
- the xo bistro and delicious hungarian wine
- the war history museum, which although i originally did as a 'relationship compromise' was surprisingly interesting and was another description of the world wars from the other side, which was new to me (and sort of blamed the germans, if i am being honest)
- pest has some interesting smells. and by interesting i mean that they reminded me of urine. because they probably were.
- a new orange dress! and an accompanying shiny black belt! and a new silver bangle!
- discovering my favourite hungarian bookshop that sells english books (it has been awhile since perusing the shelves, checking out the titles - you really miss english bookshops when they are not around)

i enjoyed budapest, hungary is very different than any other country i have visited. i think the city could use a good scrub, but i liked how things are more affordable there (apart from the public baths, that was a lot of money to pay to baste in others' filth) than prague and the skyline was stunning.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

highlights of the eastern european adventure (part i)

i am back at my nest and wow, was that a jam-packed, intense, fantastic, amazing, and exhausting trip! i seem to forget that i have trouble sitting still when in new places and even when we decided to have 'quiet' days, it was nearly impossible for us to just sit back, relax, and watch the world go by. no, there was too much to see, too much to do, and in some cases, too much to eat and drink. my legs are exhausted, my calves are more toned than ever, my lower back aches from the many mattresses, my cholesterol levels are probably skyrocketing, and my liver probably needs its own vacation, but man alive, was that all worth it.

highlights include (and i hope to be able to collate these into some not-so-steady streams of consciousness in the near future, but i seem to suck at writing about things in the past):

- the marathon walking tour with terry brewer that ended 12 hours after it started when we bid adieu to our favourite tour guide at an east berlin pub where the beer doesn't get any cheaper, the decor hasn't changed since communism was all the rage, and the sausages are served with toasted white bread and pickles
- the german history museum. i now understand a hell of a lot more about the reformation and how that carved out our modern world. seeing the documents that led to the greatest chasm in the christian religion was pretty damn cool.
- a new pair of birkenstocks
- the best chocolate shop with the cutest little chocolate hearts, thank you soldier
- seeing history that i actually lived through (even if i was 7)
- staying at a hotel with the best buffet breakfast ever (caprese salad at 8am is always welcome)
- walking, a lot of walking. like more than a lot.
- more pretzels. pretzels are great.

czech republic
- tourists, lots of tourists. mostly those who just stepped off their ryanair flight from northern england and sport their bikini tops in the centre of prague...
- the views of the castle (which were probably better than the actual castle, including the entry fee)
- the fancy blue outfits at the changing of the guard at the prague castle (even if the soldier was totally unimpressed with the wrinkled uniforms, the lack of unison, and the non chalant attitude of some of the czech soldiers - geez, critical)
- ice cream for dinner
- beer, delicious, delicious beer
- garlic soup that makes you breath garlic fire for 12 hours afterwards. delicious!
- reminding the soldier that there is no 'oslovakia' on the end of czech anymore
- pilgrimages to plzen and ceske budejovice to visit the homes of pilsen and budvar (pilsen being the home of pilsener beer and budvar being the original budweiser that can no longer call itself budweiser thanks to american anhauser busch...)
- you heard it here first, budvar is the best beer in the world. hands down.
- watching the opening ceremonies and turning to the soldier and saying, 'holy shiza'
- meeting the ever-friendly canadians decked out in roots gear at an irish pub to collectively cheer for the canadian, kenyan, british, and south african olympic teams coming into the olympic stadium
- street meat
- a little underground pub devoted to the rolling stones and too much beer (which led to nasty hangovers and day-long train journeys whilst hung over, blech)
- the museum of communism and its groovy t shirts. they really have a fantastic graphic designer who has done their posters and paraphernelia. which is the epitome of irony, really. clever and ironic.
- experiencing post-soviet influenced communist rule for the fist time. fascinating. absolutely fascinating. i must learn more about what it was like.
- a language where every language seems to end in -ska or -ky
- another country that loves hockey as much as canada. eh!?

ok that is all i can muster in one post, stay tuned for more highlights.

Friday, August 01, 2008

in awhile, crocodile

it hit me today that i am going on the great eastern european adventure (+ paris), that i leave tomorrow, and that i will be gone from my nest for nearly 3 weeks. i have been a bit stressed today because of it. we haven't packed (what if i forget something that i really, really need - like my new hat or a nail file or my water bottle??), but my lonely planets are chock full of sticky notes and i have great suggestions and recommendations from fellow travellers in hand.

i am pretty well prepared for berlin (bring on the 8 hour walking tour!) and am medium on the czech adventures. budapest will be a crap shoot and i figure i have another few weeks before sorting out paris. of course, i have the hotels and transport booked (with the help of a number of excel spreadsheets, like the hyper organisational nerd i am), just a matter of how we will we fill our days.

until then, sayonara, or however they say it german/czech/hungarian/french!