I flew in from Russia a few hours ago (and are my arms tired
Whoa Nellie, did I ever have the trip of a lifetime!
It ranged from the ridiculous (getting locked in the hotel bathroom, lost in the Moscow subway system, bitten by a "trained" hawk, gracing television screens in several different countries, having my camera whacked by a baton wielding soldier whilst attempting to take a picture of the KGB building, wearing five bulky sweaters at once in an attempt to keep warm and constantly wiping out on the icy, unsalted Moscow sidewalks) to the sublime (beautiful cathedrals with paintings rivalling anything I saw in Rome, fascinating architecture, Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb, amazing museums where I saw - amongst many other things - exquisite Fabrege eggs, mink lined royal crowns, gold carriages, clothing belonging to Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Ivan the Terrible and the engagement, wedding and coronation gowns of Czarina Alexandra, and basically had the marvellous opportunity to experience a most interesting culture - PLUS the gold medal winning skating performance of Irina Slutskaya….sigh, what a blast!).
I could write for hours
, but right now I need to concentrate on ridding myself of jet lag and working up the strength to stand on a scale (I was a very bad girl, but take complete ownership of my gluttony.
Sorry to disappoint and you may all go ahead and give me a cyber kick in my ample butt. However, I'm really ready to get back into the "you better lose it, girl" mode post haste, I promise!)
I'll eventually get around to a long-winded report of my adventures and I won't be offended if you just skim through it or avoid it completely
, but for now just wanted to pop in to say its good to be "home" and I hope all's well with everyone here!
Before I go, I'll tell you about "our" Sheila's Russian birthday. We'd been in Moscow for a few weeks experiencing all manner of Russian food when one of our group exclaimed that she was dying for some BBQ back ribs, coleslaw and a Bud Light. We canvassed the Moscow phone book looking for an "American style" restaurant and actually found a TGIFridays! We planned the best night for our excursion and it turned out to be April 6. I explained that I had an American friend celebrating a birthday that day, so henceforth we referred to our TGIF night as Sheila's "birthday bash".
Upon arriving at the restaurant we found it much like restaurants common to that chain, with American license plates, advertising posters, etc. on the walls, "western" pop music blaring and waitresses encased in "barbershop quartet" outfits. The biggest difference was the haze of blue smoke wafting out of the restaurant to the waiting area. There was no "Non Smoking" areas whatsoever and everyone around us was puffing away as if lung cancer didn't exist! After being seated and handed our menus, we pointed to the pictures of the food we wanted (naturally they were in Russian). Feeling the need to feed my salad craving, I ordered a grilled chicken Caesar salad with a side of garlic bread (which cost the same as a steak due to lettuce and almost all vegetables being in such short supply), a diet coke and a shot of vodka for afterwards (total cost $720 roubles or almost $40!). A table with Russian university students was next to us and upon hearing our voices, one asked in broken English "You come here all the way from America only to go to American restaurant??" I said, "Oh no, we're Canadians and have always wondered what Americans eat!"
He nodded enthusiastically, held up his drink and said "Good life to you, my Canadian friends".
Near the end of our meal (and in the presence of our waitress) we all raised our glasses and shouted out "Happy Birthday, Sheila"!
A few moments later, we were surprised to be surrounded by 6 or 7 servers who began clapping loudly and chanting in Russian what we presumed to be the equivalent of "Happy Birthday to you"! One of them was holding a plate upon which sat an object with a candle sticking out of it - he was gesturing as to whom he should present this offering. Well, we were too embarrassed to say the birthday girl was several thousand miles away, so everyone pointed at ME!
I accepted the gift graciously (and decided to cover the cost of the dessert in my tip), but had no idea what it was composed of…it was rather round, brown and spiky and sort of looked like a small curled up porcupine. To end the suspense, I poked a fork into it and chocolate began oozing out. Turns out it was rich chocolate ice cream dipped in cocoa batter, deep fried and rolled in toasted coconut. Dayum, it was gooooood (yeah, yeah, calories, sugar, carbs and fat galore, but I did let everyone else have a taste and it sure beat stripping wallpaper on your birthday!)
So, that's it for now, but before I go I'd like to wish a happy belated birthday to Jennifer the shrinking Teapot, express my happiness for Boiaby's joyful reunion with her Mum (I know how excited you were), say a happy "congrats" to our latest "expectant" lady, Hautbois, and offer the heartiest of congratulations to Sarah (and Lorraine) - the sense of relief must be almost overwhelming for you two! What great news to return home to!
Wow, I think I can sleep for at least 24 hours!