Nana

Color me Rad

November 26, 2013 in Fun, Marathon, Montreal, Sports

Once upon a time, my trainer tried to get me on the treadmill.

Like a cat that doesn’t want to be thrown into a bathtub of water, I balked claiming bad knees.

A few weeks later, I gave it a shot. And with a little practice I could actually run without stopping every few minutes.

All this to say, I was extremely excited to sign up for the Color Run.

Because if you’re going to run a race for the first time, why not have people throw coloured corn starch at you?!

It’s a simple concept: you run and every 1 km or so volunteers throw paint at you.

Each station is a different colour, and the method of delivery is different:

Sometimes powder is chucked at you; at other times, liquid paint is sprayed.

At the end of the race, runners are given packets of powder to toss in to the air while declaring themselves RAD!

Needless to say, keeping your mouth closed is a must!

The idea, says race director Justin Bankhead, came from the Hare Krishna celebration in Spanish Fork, Utah.

Marathons can be a bit competitive, but the idea behind this one is to make running a fun activity.

And this is definitely not a serious marathon. Participants aren’t timed and you can walk, rollerblade or frog jump your way across the course.

There are plenty of first time runners, and people who are happy to walk it, including moms and dads with their toddlers in prams. The Montreal race actually drew a crowd of 14,000 participants!

And what better way to introduce yourself to the sport of running than through a playful version of one?

It’s “that intrinsic desire to act like a child and be ridiculous,” said Color Me Rad founder Matt Ward.

And ridiculous we were! At registration,we were given a blue souvenir shirt, a fake tattoo of the word RAD, and a pair of sunglasses in our choice of colour: phosphoric greens and yellows, cherry red, and lavender.

At race time, runners were dressed up like they were running to a Halloween party: the Mario brothers made an appearance as did men in drag, a few ballerinas and-my faourite-runners decked out in massive cowboy hats.

And here my thought we were being creative with our coloured socks (pink for me)!

No, definitely NOT a serious marathon :D  
 
 

Verdict: Crazy, Colourful fun! Always do with friends!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dee

God in a Cup

May 4, 2013 in Food

I was stood there blissfully sipping heaven. Steamy, rich, chocolaty heaven – my first espresso of the night at the London Coffee Festival.

My friend Nat and I were sampling  Barbarella coffee as we listened to the Cimbali baristas explain how coffee brewing advanced over the years. Apparently, in the 1930s coffee was brewed using a lever at a pressure of 1.5. Years later, in the 50s the pressure was jacked up to 12 before it dropped at the end of the brew. The international standard was set to brew coffee at a pressure of 9 in the 60s, which is also when barista interaction kicked in giving birth to the current barista movement. Their coffee blend had a distinct personality, and a tangy kick at the end. OK for our first cup.London Coffee Festival 1

At the next stand, we were greeted by a bunch of coffee-worshipping, and might I say hawt antipodes – the makers of Volcano Coffee Works. Their Fullsteam Espresso blend is made using only specialty beans, which are carefully screened and selected. Did you know that there are only two main varieties of coffee – Arabica and Robusta? And that the early Arabs were the first to make use of this gift from god? Did we want to try their coffee? Well of course.

OMG. Coffee orgasm. The perfect crema blanketed the black velvety juice beneath, teasingly caressing my taste buds. No acidity, rich, full flavour and just the right amount of bitterness. We struck gold I tell ya! I was hooked.

London Coffee Festival 3The next booth brought on a completely different experience. Enter the Mojisso! A cross between a mojito and an espresso. I was nervously anticipating a fail, as the barista turned barmaid crushed some mint leaves topped it off with an espresso shot and garnished the iced cap with lemon and lime rind. One sip later, I was beaming ear to ear. It was surprisingly good!

Our next stop was Ozone, and we chose to try their Hodson blend – light and fruity with a hint of blueberry. Mmmm… Delicious. A perfect brunch addition and my personal runner up.

By this time, we were light headed and strolling around tasting other not-so-impressive coffees – Union Hand-Roasted and Blue Mountain coffees were particularly disappointing. However a few other things caught our fancy:

London Coffee Festival 4Kopi Kamu originating in Indonesia, is made from coffee beans that are consumed by the luwak. The beans pass through their digestive system and out of their… ahem… you know, before being harvested by coffee farmers. Great nature lesson, but makes for a very weak cup o’ joe. Not enough pizazz for my liking.

London Coffee Festival 5We then chanced upon this: an espresso machine that uses no electricity and allows you to brew a decent espresso without having to invest in a fancy machine. The next time the power is out and the Internet is down for the day, why don’t you make yourself an espresso? That’ll set your mood straight! :)

We wrapped up the night by watching the winner of the London barista challenge accept his hard-earned trophy and shed a few tears.

I walked, or shall I say, floated out of the Truman Brewery deliriously buzzed and jittery, dreaming of coffee.

Verdict: Hunting down Volcano Coffee is my next mission, but for now I’ll leave you with this little piece of wisdom :)

London Coffee Festival 7

 

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Nana

Star Wars Identities

April 29, 2013 in Entertainment, Exhibition, Fun, Montreal

 

Where do we begin…indeed! Who are you and how did you become who you are? Those were the questions at the heart of Star Wars Identities  exhibition held last summer (yes, last summer. It’s taken me almost a year to write about it because Word Press drove me crazy, but that’s another story).

In addition to a behind the scenes look at the making of the movies, this was a clever study into the forces that shape each and every one of us: genes, upbringing, beliefs..to name a few. The idea was simple:

  • Luke and Anakin share similar genes and were brought up on the same planet.
  • What forces shaped who they became? Why was Vader drawn to the Dark Side, and how did Luke resist?

Parents..upbringing..friends…genes…how does that affect your character?

Before beginning the tour, I was given a wristband which stored all the choices I made as I walked around the exhibition.

Ultimately, my choices would help design a unique Star Wars-y character (revealed later!).

Choose your character-human, Wookie, droid, and then choose qualities that determine your character’s personality!

It wasn’t all science, of course; most of the exhibit focused on the props, art work and design that went into making the movies, including the early sketches of some very famous characters.

This one could have become YODA! Looks more suited to a Disney cartoon (Disney DOES own the franchise now. Spooky coincidence?).


Lucas toyed about with the idea of a female “Luke Skywalker”:

One factor that plays an important role in shaping your personality is your upbringing; the idea that how your parents raised you as a child can positively or negatively affect how you deal with the world, as an adult:

…which brings us back to the question of Luke and Darth Vader. How did their upbringing affect their personalities?

Some more character sketches; I love getting a glimpse into the artist’s  mind:

Here’s another interesting idea that never was: Jabba as a humanoid and not a massive blob of..whatever:

Who could forget the infamous Jar Jar Binks..

 

 

Sketching out a pivotal  scene:

 

An early sketch of everyone’s favourite wookie

 

 

True..as Captain Jack Sparrow once said…”The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem”. Yes, I quoted a fictional character (savvy?!).

 

 

“Our personality is a combination of our emotional, attitudinal, and behavioural patterns…known as the Big Five: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism…together they combine to form our unique personality”.

 

Apparently,Yoda scored high on the Conscientious scale, and low on Neuroticism. Who knew ;)

 

 

A beautiful model of Yoda looking all serene-like!

 

No joke: early sketches of  Darth Vader had him looking more Arab, at least in wardrobe

 

 

 Long flowing Arab robes my foot…pshh.

 

One of the last choices to make.. join the dark side or be all goody two-shoes??

 

 

Do you take the blue pill or the..hmmmm…

 

 

 

Here’s moi with my friends, “Tanya” and “Rudolph” (yes, very alien-sounding names, I know).

 

You’ll notice that Tanya and Rudolph have images of Hans Solo and Princess whatshername behind them.

 

This is the person whose abilities you want your character to embody.

 
For example, you could be intellectual and a pre-planner OR intellectual and impulsive OR you can choose to be spiritual.

 

(I had chosen to be Intellectual and  Impulsive, but this did not show up in my final character for some reason ;)

 

 

 
 Verdict: All in all, it was a wonderful two hours or so of discovery, science and movie magic.

 

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Dee

Graffitified!

April 18, 2013 in Art, Fun

Graffiti‘I love the smell of fresh paint on a dark summer night’ reminisced a friend as he wistfully boasted of his past vagabond days. The edge in his voice and gleam in his eyes made me enviously curious.

When I showed up at Graffik Gallery for a workshop, I didn’t know what to expect. I was ushered to an open space in the back furnished with a few weathered tables and benches lining the walls. Paint was splattered all over the place. From ceiling to floor, stencils, tags and alphabets all danced together in an explosion of colour.

Leading the workshop was an English graffiti veteran – #CODEFC - who has been painting for a quarter century. He showed us how to create our own stencils taking me all the way back to 5th grade!

Graffiti StencilStencil done. Now to start painting. I glanced over at a crate that held over 30-something cans of paint. What colour of the rainbow was my favorite? Which cap to use? Dang! I was immediately overcome with indecision.

I was acutely aware that I had one canvas -  one shot at getting it right. Determined, I started on my background, blending in a few hues, some sprayed generously, others sparingly, a bit like applying makeup really! The stencil came on next and the glorious stark-black paint messily filled its crevices.

We were offered the walls as practice canvases but I shunned the chance to compete for shoulder space with the other wannabe graffitists.

I was hell-bent on doing some freestyle as I understand that sometimes stenciling is often looked down on in the graffiti world. When it came to choosing my phrase, in true graffiti fashion #CODEFC parted some wisdom: ‘Keep it real’ he earnestly said, staring at me with playful blue eyes.
Here I was, a privileged kid, trying to keep it real while getting paint underneath my fingernails. The irony of this textbookish moment wasn’t lost on me.

Graffiti‘C’est la vie’? he off-handedly suggested. Nah. ‘Amie de la lune.‘ I said. After all, wasn’t this poignant lady staring back at me from beneath the grainy golden background, me? Impressed, he asked if I was French.

To write the phrase, #CODEFC suggested I spray the bottom of a paint can, dip a pencil in this pool and freehand. Two hours and a few cans later, I finished off the piece with my tag.

There you have it folks! My first graffiti piece. Pretty fucking phat, eh?

But now the cherry on the top -  and the most important one to pop… I was itching to bomb the wall! Could I? ‘Knock yourself out.’ came the reply.

Graffiti

Graffiti 2

Verdict:  The next time I keep it real, it better be a more adrenalin-rushing-heart-pumping-train-bombing-caught-red-handed adventure!! If you receive a call in middle of the night asking for bail, you may very well know what I’ve been up to. ;)

Utmost thanks goes to the friendly people at Graffik Gallery! #CODEFC: Two words. Hand Action! Lol

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Nana

Ferarri & the World’s Fastest Roller Coaster

April 14, 2013 in Fun, Theme Park, Travel


From 0-240km/hr in 4.9 seconds? Well, how can a girl resist… 

I’m not a Formula 1 fan, but I’ve always loved roller coasters and was intrigued by the Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

Part of the Ferrari World theme park on Yas island, the Rossa  currently claims the title as the world’s fastest roller coaster, able to accelerate from 0-240 km/hr in 4.9 seconds.

I had the chance to visit the U.A.E. this year, and leapt at the opportunity to ride the Rossa.

The coaster gives you the chance to experience a g-force of 4.8 G, just like a Formula 1 pro.

“G-force” stands for “Gravity force” and is an acceleration felt as a weight on your body. Think of the way your body is pushed back when a plane takes off; in that case, you typically experience a g-force = 2 Gs.

Now consider that a g-force of “4.8″ means you experience a force on your body equal to 4.8 times your weight.

I don’t know about you, but 4.8 times my weight is a scary figure!


On the Formula Rossa, safety goggles are required because of the risk of contact with insects or airborne particles at that speed. Of course, my goggles flew off as soon as we started accelerating. They say insects are good protein.

The theme park is partially housed in an impressive dome structure that looks more like a top secret government extra-terrestrial testing centre than a theme park (too many conspiracy theory movies? I think so).

The design is inspired by the Italian race track Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

The scariest part?

They strap you in and move the train ever.so.slowly out of the tunnel.

And then it stops. And you wait…and wait…and wait..a barely heard hiss quietly signals the start of terror-and then you’re OFF, accelerating up to 240 KM/hr (150 m/hr) in 4.9 seconds.

And all you can say is OOoOFffFFfFffffwhatthef*ck?!?!?!

At the end though, you get to stand on the podium and pretend you’re a top ranking F1 Racer:

Verdict: 4.8 g-force cherries! The initial acceleration was incredibly impressive, but the rest of the ride was really just another roller coaster experience Still, if you’re a roller coaster enthusiast, this is definitely worth waiting in line for.
Explore it further:

- Here is a video presentation.

- And here is The Official Ferrari World page.

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Dee

Fencing: a Game of Thrones

April 7, 2013 in Sports

Fencing: a Game of ThronesIt all started with an unsuspecting email in my inbox, an invitation to attend a free taster session at the Fighting Fit Fencing club. Fencing? Aye sir!

So on the wintry afternoon of 1 April I set out to make a fool of myself. A bit nervous, I walked in and announced myself to the lady at reception who was drowning in a sea of papers and questions from curious customers. I was instructed to change into my trainers and sat down on the sidelines to take in the scene. The clash of swords, the sporadic yet frequent buzzing garnished with the smell of musty kits and the glare of the silver runways made my heart pump. I watched as seasoned and not-so-seasoned fencers swatted each other, a couple of them appearing as knights in their white garb and flowing shoulder length hair.

The clock struck 3. Time to suit up!!

Fencing: a Game of Thrones 3First came a white vest with a sleeve for my dominant hand. Next a blue straightjacket complete with… guess what… boobie cups! I was ecstatic at this point as I’ve always been a little…errr… small in that area. ;)
I was given a matching blue glove and to top it all off, the infamous meshed facemask. This heavy piece of armour hugged my face and imitated my neck’s every move. At first it was disorienting peeping through the million tiny holes, but a few seconds in and my eyes (and mind) adjusted.

We were lined up on the sidelines like eager school children on their first day of school to await further instructions.

Our dancing master, a round and comical fellow, began bellowing out instructions. The first and most important rule of fight club was: ‘NEVER take your mask off!’

Our foils – the thin lightweight curved swords – were our weapons. To score points we had to “Stick them with the pointy end.” Taps to the sleeve don’t count.

Fencing: a Game of Thrones 4‘Do NOT slash your swords! This is NOT Pirates of he Caribbean!!’ blared the dancing master, ‘Except for that guy over there.’ he added, pointing to a character who eerily resembled Johnny Depp, complete with a lip ring, a feather in his hat and did I detect a hint of eyeliner and a some blond dreads? Sigh… I may have been fantasising.

So how to carry our playthings? ‘Pinch the handle real tight with your thumb and first finger, then wrap the rest of your fingers as close to guard as possible’

Now, how to stand. In the enguard position, I placed my feet at a 90-degree angle and bent my knees slightly. Wobble wobble. Yeap! Ready now. My dominant hand was extended outwards to carry my needle while the other hand nested behind my head.

Time for tactics! ‘Keep your body facing sideways to make you a smaller target for your opponent,’ demanded dancing master. ‘Fencing is two parts, attacking but also defending yourself. The word fence comes from defense.’ We were shown how to execute a parry and to lunge.

At this point dancing master thought he had equipped us with enough knowledge to fence.

Fencing: a Game of ThronesGrouped in pairs, opponents stood on each side of the runway. My favorite part was saluting and greeting our opponents in a show of respect. To do this I had to point my foil to the floor, bring the guard up to my chin, point to the ceiling at a 45 degree angle; back to chin; back to floor.

‘On guard! … FENCE!!’ came the commands. My heart pounded in my ears and all butterflies were set loose!

My first opponent was a meek lady, an easy target, who retreated with every step I took forward. I was playing a game of thrones and I had waged war! The Brienne in me craved fiercer competition. ROAR!!

Second in line was a younger opponent, an Arya of sorts, deftly skilled at executing a parry and I think, I’m not entirely sure, he killed me a little. Sigh.

Back from the dead I faced my 3rd opponent, a middle-aged Italian fellow, skinny as hell, and left-handed. Now, I remember dancing master saying that lefties had a natural advantage over us righties. OK, lets put that theory to the test. As our foils played tag, a couple of taps to his sleeve, a few to mine, a lunge straight to his heart and he was down.

‘Haaaaalt’ brayed the dancing master.
As we shook hands, Fabiano said to me with a crestfallen look on his face, ‘You killed me,’ then walked away with not a broken bone in his body, but a largely bruised ego.

Fencing: a Game of Thrones 6Winter was over. Pleased but not satisfied, I had decided that I abso-fencing-lutey loved this sport and defo wanted to play again.

As I was leaving the battlefield that day, dancing master reminded me, ‘Don’t just ring your friends, invite your enemies as well. You’ll finally get a chance to take a stab at them!’

Wise words my man. Maybe when winter comes around again.

Verdict:
“What do we say to the Lord of Death?”
“Not today.”

I will fight again one day!

I’d like to say a big thank you to the staff at Fighting Fit Fencing club, for being so welcoming and informative!

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Nana

The Rainbow Connection

August 9, 2012 in Comedy, Entertainment, Montreal, shows

“It’s Time to play the music. It’s Time to light the lights. It’s time to get things started;

On the most sensantional,

Inspirational,

Celebrational,

Muppet-ational….”

 

I couldn’t believe it! Here I was watching The Muppet Show live in Montreal, a surreal event for someone who adored the show as a kid. And a young adult. And a teenager. And, ok, even now as a “grown-up”!

 

To mark its 30th anniversary, the Just For Laughs comedy festival managed to get The Muppets to visit Montreal for their very first live show.

 

 I loved that the Muppets stuck with the traditional opening for the theme song song, where each stood beneath an arch that spanned three  levels; they swayed side to side singing “This. Is. How. We. Call. The Mupppet Showwwwww”, and it even ended with Gonzo playing the last few chords on his trumpet…badly. It was just like on t.v., and it made me smile.

“It’s nice to be in a city where they speak French and I’m not an appetizer on the menu!” said Kermit the Frog. And that is how the rest of the night unfolded mixing variety show acts with cheesy humour.

 

I really enjoyed getting to see the Muppeteers-those are the puppet master- in action, as they weren’t always hidden behind props and scenery ( perhaps a bit traumatic for a few of the younger audience members!). The Muppeteers would often sit on what looked like skateboards and wheel themselves around. When seen on the flat screen televisions provided in the theatre, it appears as if the muppet is walking quickly across stage. Amazingly done!

 

Often, the Muppeteers would stand close together, with a few of the taller actors slouching or bending backwards. I imagine this was to ensure their alter ego (the Muppet) was not taller than other characters.

 

The audience went nuts each and every time a Muppet came on stage for the first time, and of course Waldorf and Statler were in the box seats for the theme song.
The Muppeteers held it together, completely blending into the backgrounds (except for moving mouths and feet obviously!). When they came out for their bows at the end though, you could tell they were delighted. I imagine this is the first time they’ve ever seen an audience of 3,000.
Apparently, I can speak Swedish because I understood The Swedish Chef when he explained how to make “pooootine”. He promptly went into cardiac arrest after eating some of the gravy and cheese laden fries, and had to be shocked back to life with a defribrillator.

 

A few snippets of other jokes and routines that I remember:

 

A conversation between Kermit and Animal ( with Dr. Teeth).

 

What’s your favourite joke”? Kermit asks.
“Um..you sure you wanna know?” says Dr. Teeth.
“….I’m sure” replies Kermit after a pause.
Animal punches Kermit, who doubles over. “”PUNCHLIIIIINE”, screams Animal. 
Kermit slinks away in pain.
“Apparently it’s not easy being black and blue either” laughs Dr. Teeth.
(Kermit is known for a song called “It’s Not Easy Being Green”).

 

- Since we were in Quebec, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew decided to try out his new invention: the French Immersionator 3,000, and turns Beaker into Youppi (the mascot for the Montreal Canadians).

 

-  Scooter informs Kermit that some of the Ciruqe Du Soleil troupe have pulled out of the show at the last minute.

“We lost ‘Cirque’ and ‘Soleil’ but… we still have ‘du’!”.Gonzo steps up to offer his act, the “Cirque du Poulet”, in which he fires chickens out of a canon..

 

- A bit of cheese from Fozzy Bear:
What do you call a Canadian firefighter? A Hoser!

 

 
No Muppet show would be complete without “The Rainbow Connection”, a song originally written for The Muppet Movie. I loved how many people around me knew the lyrics and sang along. We’re all young at heart after all.

 

A big thank you to the Muppet Wiki for images used in this post:  http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Statler_and_Waldorf

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Nana

The Bath Boy of La Soiree

July 16, 2012 in burlesque, Entertainment, Fun, Montreal, shows

Aerial Ballet involving a bath tab. Many things may come to mind., but I’m betting “circus” isn’t one of them!

When my friend told me he had tickets to see a “circus” show, I was a little hesitant at first. I love circuses, but not of the “bear on a unicycle” variety. And then he said it was part of the circus festival, and I was intrigued. Did you know Montreal had a circus festival?!

It’s a relatively new event, with only three years under its belt. Given Cirque Du Soleil started in Montreal, it isn’t surprising that our fair city should be home to a summer lineup of “circus-y” acts.

Montréal Complètement Cirque focuses on the “Oh my GAWD, how did he do that” physical acts that Cirque Du Soleil made world famous. Among its lineup is the 18+ only show La Soirée. It has been described as “new” burlesque (and if you have to ask me what burlesque is, you’re probably not old enough to read this!) mixed in with “circus sideshow” and “twisted” cabaret acts; case in point: the night we saw the show, there was a magician that stripped..I won’t tell you how many pieces of clothing she took off (hint: everything!).

Back to the ballet in a bath. There was a man in it. Half naked and in wet jeans, this former gymnast made slow-motion mid-air somersaults look easy and effortless. Breathless isn’t the word. I don’t think there is a nice word to describe it, really. In fact, I think a video speaks louder than words:

This adonis in denim is David O’Mer, one of 25 creative acts that play on rotation in the cabaret/burlesque circus show La Soirée, a magical combination of acrobats, Opera singers in drag, contortionists and comedy. He is also known as “Bath Boy”-not the stage name I would have picked for such a sexy act, but descriptive nonetheless.

La Soirée is not a new concept: it has its roots in a similar burlesque show called La Clique, which was created in 2004 for The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The show has been playing to audiences worldwide, and was the recipient of the 2009  Laurence Olivier Award. 

The show was held at the Olympia theatre in Montreal, which was made to look like a dinner theatre complete with soft mood lighting, and table seating in some sections.

The tiny stage was set in the centre of what is normally the dance floor with the audience mostly circled around it, which created a  much more intimate ambience and allowed the performers to engage the audience. And boy did they interact.



If you sat in the first four rows, there was nowhere to hide when serenaded by Le Gateau Chocolat, the baritone in drag who took great pleasure in singing to people while sitting on them (laps obviously; not actually ON them). He had a lovely operatic voice and a love of body hugging lycra- sadly I wasn’t allowed to take any photos, and I feel a bit bad stealing them.  On his Facebook page, he notes that Montrealers kept trying to correct his name; he insists it is not “gateau au chocolat”, but “..Le Gateau Chocolat; born first of the operatic term ‘LEGATO’ ergo, if a bit tenuously, opera chocolate”.

Oh, ok, I’ll steal one pic off his facebook site. Do visit it. Le Gateau Chocolat has a great sense of humour.

 

Apart from Bath Boy and Le Gateau Chocolat, the other act I really enjoyed was the Irish duo Up and Over It. I’m a big fan of the show Riverdance, and this duo masterfully combined traditional Irish tap dancing with “hand dancing”: think tapping the beat out with your hands on a table while accompanied by electro-pop and noveau folk music. They have been featured in a McDonald’s television ad, as well as in Britain’s Got Talent:

Verdict: Well, I got the tickets for free but would definitely pay to watch it all over again.

Burlesque, where have you been all my life?!


*Thank you to La Soiree, David O’Mer, Le Gateau Chocolat and Up and Over it, all of whom don’t realize I have borrowed material off of their sites (I linked back to you, I swear).

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Dee

Wimbledon: The Championships

July 9, 2012 in Sports

It’s no secret that Wimbledon season is in full swing. Millions of fans around the world tuned in to watch in awe as the inspiring athletes battled it out on the green courts. I had always dreamed of attending a match and never in my life thought I would. In a lucky turn of events, I finally got the chance to. Here’s my story.

My Wimbledon experience was a far cry from what I had expected it to be. Last weekend I had arranged to meet some friends at 7:30 am, to queue for hours on end in order to get hold of one of the much coveted ground tickets for the Qualifying Rounds that are sold on the day.

The Queue, as I was told, is part of the the Wimbledon experience. Wimbledon remains one of the very few major UK sporting events where you can still buy premium tickets on the day of play. I opted in and was up at 6am on the day. However, due to exhaustion from a shameless (or shall I say shameful?) night of drinking and dining with my colleagues, I ended up crawling back into bed, pulling the covers over my head and spending a lazy Saturday. The inquisitor in me was utterly disappointed and I woke up feeling furious at myself. How could I miss out on the chance to watch a live match at Wimbledon?!! :( FAIL.

Wimbledon 2012Friday started out as a gloomy day. On my way to work, I was greeted with a big splash from a speeding truck, the DLR was held up and I was running late. Ironically, I was drenched yet again by another mockingly cruel vehicle. I was steaming now and you could literally see smoke coming out of my flaring nostrils. To make matters worse, I had half the day off and had no clue how to spend it with all this rain.

The rain persisted. After lunch I decided to brave its torrents and try my luck at getting into Wimbledon.  It was the final weekend and I knew that there was no chance in hell I’d be able to get in.

I called the ticket office only to be told: “We are advising people not to travel to Wimbledon today.” That was their final recommendation.  Now, anyone who knows me, will know exactly what I did. Challenge accepted! I decided to go anyway. I braced myself for an incredibly long queue and for inevitable disappointment. With hopeful butterflies in my stomach, I rode the tube to Southfields station.

The Queue at Wimbledon 2012As soon as I arrived I was greeted by smiling attendants. I walked down, what seemed to be, a never-ending pathway, past security, bought my £15 ticket, and started looking around for the infamously long queue. I asked the ticket attendant: “Where do I go now?” half expecting him to point me to another walkway where I would come across a thousand eager fans trying to get in.

He said calmly, “Anywhere you want!” Then he smiled.

I shook my head in disbelief. I’m sure he was amused Wimbledon 2012by the semi-puzzled-semi-ecstatic look on my face as I walked into the grounds of Wimbledon. I was in! I could hardly believe my luck. No queue. I hadn’t come prepared for this, I was ready to put up a fight! Not just that, but as fate would have it, the clouds cleared and it was, all of a sudden, a beautiful bright sunshiny day. Sigh. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

Where do I go from here? I had a few options:

1. I could watch as many single and double matches on Courts No.3-19.
2. I could station myself on the grass lawn in front of the gargantuan screen to watch the main event of the afternoon (Murray vs. Tsonga)
3. Or I could queue for the re-sale tickets, for a seat in Centre Court or No. 1 Court.

Wimbledon 2012 - WilliamsEasy choice. I queued. Then I did a little calculation in my head. This was the semi-finals.

Andy Murray (GBR) was playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA). Who in the world would leave Centre Court during that game? I took the safe bet and paid for the first available re-sale ticket for Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s doubles. Excellent choice. I got to watch a couple of great sets by the Williams sisters and a full match for Gentlemen’s doubles. I did nip out to sit underneath the humungous screen to catch Andy Murray score his last few points that won him his chance to play against
Any Murray Wimbledon 2012Roger Federer in the Finals (who are in fact playing as I write).

Verdict: All in all, it was a euphoric experience. It was amazing to watch the effortless skill and prowess of the tennis players and the looks of relief and exhilaration as they won their matches. I will no doubt come back next year for a game or two. My aim is to see Federer in action!

 

 

 

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Nana

Is Whisky worth dying for? Or “Scotland, Part Deux”.

July 7, 2012 in Fun, Scotland, Travel, Whisky

<Editor’s Note: I had the good fortune to visit some lovely friends in Aberdeen, Scotland, this past summer.This is “part two” of a mini, mini series on my first time in Aberdeen. If you haven’t read part one of my fascinating visit to Scotland, you should! There are pictures..> 

Anyone who knows me really well knows that I’m not a big drinker. I have super sensitive taste buds that coil in disgust at the touch of fermented vegetable juice. I like to think I’m a “supertaster”, but possibly, I just have an addiction to sweet things.

Ok, I definitely have an addiction to sweet things.

However, you cannot visit Scotland and not make any attempt to visit a whisky distillery, in the same way that you simply cannot leave without trying Haggis.
My friend Roy had worked in a distillery when he was a younger lad, and suggested we drive to Moray to visit the oldest legal distillery in Glenlivet (That’s right: oldest ‘”legal”‘ distillery..more on that later).

The Glenlivet Distillery resides near Ballundalloch(which is a lot of fun to say really quickly). It was founded in 1824, and has since grown to be one of  the biggest  global, single malt distilleries.  Whisky connoisseurs will recognize The Glenlivet brand, which is the best selling malt brand in the United States, and the second best selling malt whisky worldwide.

It is known as “THE Glenlivet” distillery”, and not simply the “Glenlivet” Distillery. Because of the quality of its brand, The Glenlivet name was imitated with other distillers placing the name on their products. The distillery was eventually given ownership of the name “Glenlivet”; however, other distilleries were allowed to use it only if hyphenated with other words. An example is The Glen Moray-Glenlivet Distillery.

So what does dying have to do with it, you ask? Prior to the year 1823, illegal distilleries were quite common in the area, after which legislation was passed to legalize the industry. As rumour would have it, The Glenlivet Distillery was the first to apply for and receive a license, making its owner, George Smith, quite unpopular with the rest of the distillers.

See, back in the day, electronic banking did not exist, and the government was forced to send its people to the countryside to collect taxes. You can’t exactly hide a distillery, and the idea of the officials poking around and discovering them did not sit well with those who operated under the table. Needless to say, Mr. Smith was given two pistols with which to protect himself.

The tour was short and sweet: I learned that whisky needs to be matured for at least three years before being sold, and that The Glenlivet Distillery produces whisky in varying ages: 12 Years, 15 Years, 16 Years Nàdurra, 18 Years, 21 years, and 25 years. Age is important, as a lot of a whisky’s taste comes from the cask in which it matures. We were allowed to try some whisky (and whisky infused chocolate!) at the end of our tour.
If you ever have the good fortune to try the 16-year old, you’ll find there’s a rather shocking sensation in your throat, akin to swallowing a jalepeno pepper, which is probably why the distillery features this quote:

Canadian oak trees are used to create the ginormous “washbacks” in which the malt ferments. These trees are popular because of their immense height (I believe about 75 feet). We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the production site, so take it from me when I say Canada has some frickin’ huge trees. I’ve pulled a photo off of Wikipedia to show you exactly what a “washback” is:
I can’t quote the exact process used to produce a single malt, only that fewer people are required to run the process these days, thanks to technology. If back in the day it took upwards of 20 people to manage the production line, today it takes a minimum of three. For some, I suppose this would be a dream job!

 

I bought miniature versions of the 12, 15 and 18 year old whisky for a friend and for my brother. I wanted one of these, but it wasn’t for sale..

All in all, it was an interesting experience and a definite first. We set off to see something much sweeter: the making of the world famous Walkers shortbread. Mmmm…

 

Verdict: It’s always good to learn something new!

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