Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year - Year of the Tiger

A quick update on what is going on: at the moment, we are in Latvia, getting ready for the New Year's Eve celebrations (cooking, cleaning and... chopping wood for the "heating system" and Banya). Two of our friends gave birth, so yesterday we went to see two newly born babies - a boy and a girl. The girl is three and the boy is five weeks old - so tiny and so soft (I am still so fascinated by how a woman has a living creature in a belly for nine month).
Alright, it is time to go to the Dacha, so Happy New Year - Year of the Tiger - everyone! Wish you all what you wish for yourself - may everything come true!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Goodbye England, Hello Canada

For the last couple of days,  London was covered in white - kind of saying "goodbye" before we finally move to Canada.  Considering the last two cold winters and really rainy summers, "Global Warming" theory does not work...
This time around, the transport was working quite well (I guess local councils learned a lesson from previous year fiasco) and couple of our friends (Rob and Ira) came  over for the weekend to say goodbyes. In addition to the traditional visit to a local Nandos restaurant and (failed) attempt to deplete my Whiskey supply (Rob, take care of those lovely bottles of rare single malts that are now in your caring possession), we went to explore the "Abbey Wood".
Having lived in the Royal Arsenal for almost 4 years, we always wanted to explore the area but never had a chance - it was always raining and there is always tomorrow. There are really nice trails for weekend walks and thanks to the freak weather this weekend it was "extra" beautiful...!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Germany... Here I Come!

Lufthansa Banner

For the next two weeks, I will be spending some "quality" time in Gütersloh, Germany. Lufthansa will take me there, but who will take care of me there? At the moment, I'm struggling to find an hotel there since all the website are in German and majority (if not all) are actually B&B. When that will be sorted, I need to find a way to get there from the Paderborn/Lippstadt airport...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Recipe: Crunchy Oat Cookies

  • Wheat flour (1.5 glasses)
  • Oat flakes (1.5 glasses)
  • Butter (100gr)
  • Sugar (0.5 glasses)
  • Milk (20ml – tiny bit!)
  • Seeds and nuts
The first step is to preheat the oven to 170C (fan assisted). Then, mix butter, sugar and milk in large bowl. Separately, mix flour and oat flakes, and add it to the bowl with butter and sugar. The reason we do that separately is to make cookies crunchier. Otherwise, you can mix everything together in one go. If the nuts/seeds are too large, crush them a bit and mix it with the rest of the ingredients. The end result (dough) should be a homogeneous, quite solid, brownish mixture.
With dampened hands, otherwise the dough will stick to your fingers, divide the mixture into even portions and shape them (round shape is way outdated!) as you like on a baking tray. I tend to use non stick baking paper rather than buttering the tray.
Bake for 12-15 minutes; let it cool for a minute or two and they are ready to go...
Bonn Appetite!

P.S.: This recipe was shared by Irina Antonova and you can see the whole process at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rain is Back...

The autumn and the rain season is back to London...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day Skipper Course (Part 1)

I don't know if it is to prepare for a lay off (the recession is not over) or retirement, but here I'm doing a yacht day skipper course following which I will be able to take a yacht out in tidal water all by myself.
Click here to see the photo album of the first two days in the water.

Ay ay skipper!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weekend in Venice

Ohh Venice, beautiful Venice... Venice is a city of curved bridges and canals, beautiful architecture, hidden plazas and churches... a truly unique city.
It is impossible to drive in Venice and probably unnecessary around it. From the airport, there are two options to get into the city: ATVO Express (€3.00) and ACTV 5 (€2.50). You can buy tickets at the public-transportation booth in the arrivals terminal, which also sells 12- to 72-hour ACTV tourist tickets. If you stay outside Venice, there are numerous busses going everywhere, including Rome. We took the express bus to Venice and from there line 53E to Dolo, a small town between Venice and Padova. Villa Gasparini, a hotel where we stayed, is located on the outskirts of Dolo. Luckily, the bus stop is only 50m from the hotel because there are no sidewalks in Italy. Everybody is either driving or driving...
After a quick shower, we went to a nearby pizza (what else?) restaurant for a bite. Although there are a lot of Italian restaurants in cities such as London, Toronto, Tel Aviv and New York, you cannot compare it to a real Italian pizza; it is thin, crispy and loaded with goodies! On the other hand, stay away from their beer...
The day after, we sent to explore Venice. Since we stayed outside (in Dolo), our starting point was Piazza Roma (central bus station). So, without further due, here comes John Markh “A Parfect Day in Venice” guide:
From Piazza Roma (bay 4B), walk through souvenir booths and cross the small canal. Take left, then next right (just next to Mercure hotel) across another bridge which will take you to a small plaza where you can fill your water bottle. From there, walk back in the direction of the bus station and follow signs to Piazza San Marco. Don’t afraid to be adventurous and take small detours; there are signs every couple of blocks and you might discover a hidden gem which will make your journey more special (you might as well write your own guide to Venice). The rout should take you to the Academia (bridge) where, if you have a moment, you could take right to the waterfront to get a well deserved ice cream and fantastic views. Walk back to the Academia bridge and continue to Piazza San Marco.
Piazza San Marco was a centre of political and religious life in Venice for centuries and it is plainly displayed by the wealth of decorations and beauty of the place. Walk around and if the line is not to look, go inside Basilica to marvel at gold mosaics and up the Campanile (bell tower) for marvellous views.
From there, take left along Riva degli Schiavoni (the waterfront) and admire the views, crowds of people and turn nose up at all the trinket stands (you can do better for souvenirs elsewhere). When the crowd thins, take a table at one of the waterfront cafes and enjoy a slightly overpriced pizza or salad and bottle of wine (better service, quality and price the farther down you go....).
After a refreshing snack, find your way to Arsenale and either take a vaporetto (water bus) or walk the mazes of Venice to Rialto Bridge. Wander across with the incredible hordes of tourists and continue over bridge and through the mass of souvenir stalls to the outdoor markets - if you like seafood keep wandering a bit further up this main drag to the incredible outdoor fish market - quite a sight!
From here, start following (loosely) signs to Piazza Roma (bus station). It will take you through San Polo district. If you go to the far end and turn right, you should see Antica La Corte Birreria. It is a great local place for pizza, salads, light meal and dessert for a reasonable price at Campo San Polo. Also, there are number of interesting shops where you could buy souvenirs or Moreno glass for a decent price. Exit into the sunlight and go further up to Campo Santa Marguerite - very active place with lots of bars, small pubs and shops.
This was an unforgettable weekend...
Check out the photo album at

Traveller Tips:
  • Don’t stay in the Venice itself; it is a complete nightmare to drag your luggage through all those bridges. On the other hand, don’t stay too far as you won’t be able to use the ACTV tourist tickets.
  • If you use public transport, buy your tickets in advance (from ACTV ticket office or from snack shops). When you buy on board, it usually costs more. However, if all you have is a €100 note, the driver might let you ride for free!
  • In Venice, plan your route carefully as there are only 2 bridges across Grand Canal itself and it could be a really long walk between those two.
  • There are plenty of fountains with drinking water in Venice itself; all you need is a 1l plastic bottle to fill and refill when needed.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Microsoft Windows 7 available to pre-order!

I don't write it often, but Microsoft did it right this time. For the last two months I'm running Windows 7 RC (Release Candidate) and it is brilliant. Not only it boots fast, but it works faster and the battery life is at least 20% longer then with Windows XP.
You can pre-order Windows 7 with 50% discount on Amazon if you are into "legal" (hopefully you are):



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Eight – Jasper National Park

Previous Post: Cross Canada Trip - Day Seven – Banff National Park
After a long day in Banff national park (arrived around 10PM to the hotel), today we are going to explore Jasper; It is the largest park in the Rocky Mountain region and less crowded than nearby Banff. It is a bit colder as well, but hey, you are in Canada...
We have stayed at the The Best Western Jasper Inn & Suites hotel which is not far from the main road. Having said that, Jasper is small enough to have everything close enough to the main road. Since I woke up earlier than the rest, I went to a nearby Robinson's Good Food Naturally store to get some groceries for the breakfast and to the rest of the day. Do not forget, breakfast is the most important meal of the day...
The rest of the day was as following:
  • Mount Edith Cavell (30km from Jasper) – Fantastic! Absolutely stunning place! It is a bit difficult drive to the parking but well worth it; When we got there, around 11AM, it was cold and snowing! I guess T-shirt and a jacket is not a proper wear for mountains. The walk itself is quite easy (the more difficult path was closed due to the weather) and you can see hanging glaciers and alpine meadows. We were brave enough to drink from the mountain river which is basically melted ice...
  • Athabasca Falls (30 km from Jasper) – 23 meter waterfall, considered the be the most powerful in the park.
  • Maligne Canyon (10km from Jasper) – On the northern end of the Maligne Valle, there is a very (50 meters) deep canyon. The name is derived from the French "mal" to infer sick, or evil as in "malicious". It is incredibly narrow and has confounded geologists for many years ( If you get there, there are nearby Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake to explore.
  • Miette Hot Springs (60km from Jasper) – Two hop pools with the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies – fantastic end for a day. The entrance fee is about 6$ and you can stay for up to two hours (which is more than enough). Don't forget to bring your own towel, slippers and bathing suit (renting those is quite expensive).
That is it for today. Check out the photo album at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Seven – Banff National Park

Lake Louise
Previous Post: Cross Canada Trip - Day Six – Calgary
National parks in Rockies are amazing in beauty! Just to drive on scenic Icefields Parkway (93) is a fantastic experience. I consider this to be the best part of our trip and our only mistake was to make it as short as 3 days (actually, not even 3 full days).
One a first day, we covered Banff National Park. It takes about 1 hour to drive from Calgary to the Town of Banff. It is a very small town (population of 8721) but has all the essential services (post office, restaurants, groceries, etc). From there, we planned our day based on recommendations in AA Canada KeyGuide and Mountain Guide (free guide with maps and a lot of useful information).

From there, we drove to:

  • Johnstop Canyon (about 25 km from Banff) - Trail and catwalks which take you to a Lower (1.1km) and Upper (2.7km) falls.
  • Lake Louise and Lake Agnes (about 55km from Banff) – Fantastic, if a bit difficult, trail (3.8km) which takes you to a Tea House at Lake Agnes high above Lake Louise. To get there, park at Lake Louise parking area and walk along the lake shore promenade for about 1.2 km. Take the right fork (it is signed) which climbs immediately from the water edge. After 2km, you will reach a tiny plateau where you can pause to admire Mirror Lake (small lake trapped in the mountains and surrounded by rocks and huge trees). Another 1km up will take you to a Tea House at Lake Agnes.
  • Crowfoot Glacier (25km from Lake Louise) – A short hike (10 minutes) from a parking area on the Icefield Parkway for a magnificent view of the Crowfoot glacier. According to the Mountain Guide, it used to have 3 ‘toes’ of ice but since then the lower toe and part of the middle one have melted back.
  • Mistaya Canyon (72km from Lake Louise) – Only 10 minutes walk from the parking area takes you through rounded potholes and natural arches on the canyon walls.
From there, we continued straight to Jasper only stopping at Saskatchewan Crossing (77km from Lake Louise) to refuel and buy some food (we still had those 5kg of sausages), and rest points along the Icefield Parkway to stretch our legs.
You can see all the photos at

Travellers Tips:

  • Entrance to Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and Yoho requires a pass; daily pass cost $9.80 for an adult. Do not forget to take a Mountain Guide which is full with useful maps and a lot of information.
  • Saskatchewan Crossing (77km from Lake Louise) is the last fuel station until Jasper.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Six – Calgary

Morning flight to Calgary was flawless. Air Canada has surprisingly new and renovated fleet; all the airplanes are clean, comfortable and each passenger has individual TV screen. I have passed the four hours flight by watching a Pink Panther 2 and playing GTA Miami Vice (yeah!).
At the airport, we rented a car with Hertz for a following week (that's it, our "green" credentials will never be the same) and drove to the city.
First things you notice about Calgary are the vastness of the city and the lack of people on the street; at first it feels like a ghost town. After checking in into Ramada Limited hotel (although I strongly believe it should be called motel), we went to explore the city. Compare to London (and even Toronto), the streets are amazingly wide; five lanes in each direction and that was not a cross country highway. I think people here have no idea how to spell “traffic jam”. We went to a Glenbow Museum to see a collection of Canadian art and exhibition dedicated to the First Nation people. Later, my mom joined us (straight from Miami) for the rest of the trip. After picking her up from the Calgary Airport, we (now three of us) tried the same trick as with CN Tower in Toronto: free observation from Calgary Tower (even the restaurant name is the same as in Toronto).
Check out the Calgary’s photo album at


Travellers Tips:
  • You can get a segnificant discount on a car rental quote by using 'Counter Discount Programme' or 'CDP'.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Four and Five - The French Province

Quebec City, Quebec
Previous Post: Cross Canada Trip - Day Three – Niagara Falls
9 AM VIA train from Union station is how our French adventure starts. Five hours later we are in Montreal. The journey itself had nothing to write about; the trains in Europe are faster and better equipped.
We have stayed at Glamour Suits and Apartments hotel. It is a chick hotel in Parisian style right in the city centre. That day, we took a walk through older parts of Montreal (mainly for Notre Dame de Montreal) and Port Viex (lakeside park and recreation centre). The city is a strange mixture of “old world” and “new world”: the roads are wide, the buildings (downtown) are tall but the attitude on the other hand is definitely European.
The next day (this is our sixth day in Canada) we paid a quick visit to Biodome and after that took a bus ( to Quebec City. According to the local guide, it is where Canada was established by Samuel de Champlain, a French merchant. The old city managed to retain its unique style and charm, and it is the only walled city in the North America. The must visit places are:
  • Notre Dame de Quebec
  • Palace d’Armes
  • Governors Wall (promenade)
  • The Citadel
  • Fortifications (you can walk on the walls!)
  • Parc d’Artilleries

The city is full of small coffee places, restaurants, boutiques and historic building (with absolutely amazing architecture). We stopped to eat at Au Petit Coin Breton (1029 rue St-Jean, Quebec city) where they have 60 different kinds of creeps. The food was delicious! The cheese filling I had was melting in my mouth.

Check out our photo albums
That is it for now....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Three – Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Previous Post: Cross Canada Trip - Day Two – Toronto
Today, the day started with the usual pancake breakfast and we were ready to start our Niagara Falls adventure. We have booked with Magic Bus company through our hotel because... well, it was cheaper than others. That day we met John from Chicago who stayed in the Canadiana Backpackers Inn and joined the Niagara Falls trip. The drive to the falls takes about 1 and a half hours and there is nothing spectacular along the way. We passed Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton before reaching the Niagara Falls city.
First, we boarded “Maid of the Mist” boat which took us closer to both American and Canadian (much prettier) falls. You can summarise the whole experience as “getting wet”; although we were given ponchos, everything that was not properly covert got really wet. We spend another two hours in the Niagara Fall city (had too) which is another soulless breed between cheap restaurants, wax museums and amusement park.
After all boarded the bus, we drove through a Niagara Falls parkway to a Niagara on the Lake. It is a traditional town that kept the 1900 look and feel: no chain shops are allowed, no large vehicles drive through and all the signs written using old style. It is considered to be the prettiest town in Canada! As to the parkway itself, Winston Churchill said that driving through Niagara Parkway is the best Sunday drive ever.
Our last stop with Magic Bus was the “20 Bees” vinery for a wine tasting. The pinnacle of it was the ice wine. There are only 20 places on earth suitable to produce ice wine and Canada producing 80% of all. The process (in the nut shell) is to leave the grapes on the vine till January when temperatures are between -15 and -20 Celsius when the water in the grape freezes and when crushed it leaves pure concentrated grape juice. It takes 15 times more grapes to produce the same quantity of wine, which explains the price: average bottle of white ice wine cost around $50. The wine itself is very sweet and usually served as a desert.
Two hours after, when finally in Toronto, we went to meet the “family”: apparently, there are quite a few Markhs living in Toronto. After being dined and wined, and given 5kg (I kid you not) of different types of sausages and meats (those guys are running a very successful sausages business) we ended up having a drink in the Yorkville with our cousin Sarah and her friend.
Tomorrow, Montreal!

Travellers Tips:

  • Shop around for the best deal (We paid $45 plus £13.5 for Maid of the Mist).

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cross Canada Trip - Day Two – Toronto

Previous Post: Canada - First Impression

Today, we had major plans and that did not includ taking over the world (at this point, you should imagine an evil “muwhaa muwhaa muwhaa”).

Our morning started with “eat as much as you can” pancakes with maple syrup: SUPERB! When we finally managed to pull ourselves from the dining table, we went to a China town and Kensington market ( Between those two, you can fine absolutely anything you can imagine (go ahead, let your imagination fly). Since the weather was fantastic (25C with clear skies) and we had some time to kill (read on), we went through the University of Toronto to a Queens Park Circle (the university is really impressive, well worth the visit) and down the University avenue to the CN Tower ( - did you know that it is the tallest free standing structure in the world? As advised in our “Canada” guide, we have booked a table in the 360⁰ restaurant located 351m above the ground in order to escape the queues and save $21.99 (each). During the day, the food is reasonably prices considering the location, atmosphere (the restaurant is constantly rotates around the core completing the circle in 72 minutes and where else could you eat that high above the ground?) and the quality of it. After the lunch, you can walk one floor down to the observatory deck and with glass floors.
From there, we hang around the Rogers Centre ( and went to the Harbourfront Centre ( There was a “Toronto Nautical Festival” and the Harbourfront Centre itself is a waterfront walkways and parks which extend all the way through Toronto. We gave up somewhere around Bathurst street, went up town till Queen street and back to the hostel. The impression is that all Canadians decided to get out and spend the sunny evening in the local pubs and cafes; everything was filled to the brim.

Now, I’m sitting on a porch in the hostel and reflecting on two experiences I had today: people and... beer! Canadians seems to be a cheerful, friendly and generally good looking bunch of people. Some are smart as well (she is worshiping Lidia White who is a professor in the University of Toronto), but I guess it could be said about every countryman in the world (there are exclusions, but I won’t include those here). The same opinion cannot be extended to beer; after tasting this beverage in UK, Germany, Czech Republic and even France, Canadian brewers still have a long way to go... but maybe it was a wrong choice. My inner self tells me not to give up and keep trying as there is always a hope to find the “holy grail” of Canadian beer.

Check out the photo album
I will stop here as tomorrow is another long and exciting day: we are taking a tour to Niagara Falls!
Travellers Tips:
  • If you are going to the CN Tower (highly recommended), consider having a lunch at 360⁰ restaurant.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Canada – The First Impression

View on Toronto Downtown
Yesterday night (11pm) we landed in the frozen giant’s capital – Toronto. Air Canada’s flight was as good as expected, well worth extra 50 quid (if you compare it with Air Transat). Except having slightly different accent, it was an English Summer in a full blossom (raining). For those who are planning to travel to Toronto, there is a very good public transport system. From the airport, you can take bus 192 and then subway to anywhere in the city for $2.75 (don’t forget to ask the driver for the transfer ticket). After an hour in the subway and 15 minutes walk, we finally arrived to Canadiana Backpackers Inn (, a place we are going to call home for the next 4 days.
First (technically, it is our second) day was gloomy and rainy. Toronto is quite walkable, so we went to a new city hall (impressive curved skyscraper) and bought “hop on hop off” ticket. Don’t rush to buy it at the hotel as there are number of Double Decker bus companies and with different deals. We’ve got a 3 day ticket with Grey Line ( which includes (it is called the neighbourhoods route) Downtown, East and West Toronto, and South and North Toronto routes for $32. After doing the Downtown and East and West Toronto routes, we explored Eaton Centre (was not my idea) and then took a ferry to a Toronto islands (the ferry terminal is about 30 minutes walk). The place (island) is a must visit and well worth $6.50; even if you do not plan to spend any time on the islands, the views from the ferry on the Toronto downtown are amazing! There are nice parks, animal farm, beaches, lakes, etc. on the island and too easy to spend the whole day there. When we returned to a mainland, we took a subway to York (north of downtown) where (apparently) lives a large Russian community. No offence, but every time I go to Russian communities, I want to live there less and less. In the end we went to a jazz club on @317 King St. West Toronto where they serve an amazing Italian and a range of cocktails for $5 each.
Alright, it is a long day tomorrow (being a tourist is not an easy thing) and time to sleep...
Travellers Tips:
  • A trip on a (excellent) public transport in Toronto cost $2.75 and includes transfers. Don't forget to ask for a transfer ticket!
  • If you are a student, do not forget to apply (and bring with you) for ISIC card!
  • All the prices you see do not include state and government taxes!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Should I Buy or Should I Not?

This is my wife's way to convince me to buy her a dress. Isn't it cute?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sunny Sunday in London...

This morning, we went to see people running Flora London 2009 marathon and to cheer our friend, but unless you are a banana-man or beerbottle-man... you run as anonymous! According to the statistics, there were about ~34,500 people running and if you consider the width of London streets...
After watching people sweating their life out, we went to London bridge to meet with friends, have a well deserved lunch (we had to wake up early to watch people running) and wander through Wapping. Coincidently, we have discovered the “Wapping Project”. It is an old power station converted to a alternative coffee/restaurant place with exhibition and performance space. The setting and the exhibition itself were very original and different from the “usual” modern art (as far as modern art can be usual).
At 5PM, we had a choice of walking back to London Bridge (approximately 1 hour), or walk by the river to Greenwich (approximately 3 hours) and catch a train home from there. Guess what we choose...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter in St. Goarshausen by Coach

Yes, there is no typo in the title, it was by coach (bus). Isn't it exciting? NO!
Let's go 3 month back: I was on a business trip to Reading and while sitting on a bus I saw an advertisement of that trip. Since Alyona was moaning about living in Europe and not visiting Germany, I thought it is a perfect present for her birthday: a long weekend in Germany. And since the trip is going to be by coach, we will have a chance to see landscapes of Rhine valley rather than airport lounges, or so I thought...
Fast forward to the present: we were picked up on the streets of Eltham (15 minutes on a bus from where we live) at 6:30AM by a shuttle full of pensioners. At first, the driver did not want to let us in, and my guess is because we were too young compared to the rest of the passengers. Anyway, after 45 minutes drive to Dartfort, we changed to a main coach service (from New Castle). Now, don't get me wrong, going with pensioners is not as bad as it may sound. Actually, I was afraid that it will be with a bunch of drunken football hooligans or hooded yobs. Anyway, older generation tend to be more punctual, polite and intelligent, and if you play by the rules (their rule, including sing along 50s songs on a way back to UK) you could have a time of your lifetime. Anyway, to cut the story shorter, that day (14 hours) we crossed 5 countries: UK, ferry to France, then Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. And after all that, we ended up on the wrong side of the Rhine river...
St. Goarshausen is a gorgeous, tiny medieval town on a bank of Rhine river. On arrival, we checked in to a traditional Bavarian hotel (Hotel Pohl's Rheinhotel Adler), our home for the next 3 days. The hotel is based opposite the ferry, which can take you to St. Goar, but that is quite irrelevant as the whole town can be crossed in 10-15 minutes. For those who do not know, that area (middle/lower Rhine) is famous for its wine; vineyards are literal everywhere! The town is between two hills (or mountains) where Burg Katz (some say that twin Burg Katz towers resemble ears of a cat) and Burg Maus castles are. There are hiking trails around both of castles and I suggest to pop in to the tourist information centre located next to the ferry (or the police station) for a free map, information and guidance. We opted to climb the route to Burg Maus, have a walk around it and then through a potato field to an even smaller village of Nochern.
On the next (and the last full day in Germany), we took an organised full day tour to Boppard which included boat trip on the Rhine and half a day in Rudesheim am Rhein. The first town, although beautiful, is a tourist trap. I guess it is mainly because it is large enough to appear on a map (something that can not be said about St. Goarshausen) and frequent Kohl boat service which links it to a Koblenz and Mainz. The second, although beautiful, is a tourist trap as well. There is a statue of Germania on a nearby hill, which I recommend visiting (there is a breathtaking views from there). You can get there using a cable lift from the centre of Rudesheim. Couple of hours later, on a way back, we stopped on the Loreley cliff. The legend goes that Loreley was a lovely German maid who used to comb her long, golden hair, sing and lure shipmen to their fates with her hypnotizing voice. That evening, we went to a small vine cellar in the old part of the St. Goarshausen with Fred and Florence (thank you guys for a great company!) to try local Rieslings.
The way back was even longer! Since the tour agency had to make some money, we made a stop at the Belgian chocolate “factory” and French wine “warehouse”, both run by British. As Fred said “time is a great healer and memory short”, so looking back it was not that bad (although I didn't think that when sitting on a coach with 12 hour ahead of us). Well, maybe next time we will either drive there ourselfs or take a train (both St. Goar and St. Goarshausen are well connected).
Check out our photo album at


Friday, April 10, 2009

Recipe: Creamy Tomato Soup

Couple of months ago, I have discovered a wonderful “Creamy Tomato Soup” (Check out the photo album at recipe on the BBC website ( and it was a huge success! I've made some “improvements” to suit my taste, so let's cook a little bit more...

For this recipe. we will need:
  • 1 kg of ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large potato
  • 1-2 small/medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 litre of vegetarian stock
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 100 ml double cream
  • Spices (salt, peper, paprika and 1-2 bay leave)
First of all, if you don't have vegetarian stock ready, boil 1 litre of water, add 2-3 stock cubes and let it stand. Meanwhile, chop everything into even pieces...
Now, heat olive oil in cooking pan. Make sure you don't burn it as it will loose all the taste and healthy qualities it has (the trick is to heat it on the medium heat for longer period). Add spices and all vegetables, except tomatoes, and cook them on a medium/low heat for about 5-10 minutes. When they are soft, add tomatoes and cook for additional 10-15 minutes. I used to shake the cooking pot every now and then to make sure everything cooked evenly. When all the vegetables are soft, add the stock, bring it to boil, reduce the heat to medium/low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stiring from time to time. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking.
Uncover the soup (careful with the steam) and let it stand for 10-15 minutes to cool. Now, ladle the soup into the blender until it is about ¼ full (fill it with a mixture of cooked vegetables and the stock). Do not shorten the process by filling in more as you will burn yourself with the hot soup and then spend the next hour cleaning the walls (I did)! Blitz until the soup is smooth (about 20-30 seconds). Carefully pour the purée from the blender into a separate dish and repeat the process with the rest of the soup.
Now, to the last bit. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and reheat it over a medium heat for a few minutes, add double cream and stirring occasionally until you can see bubbles breaking gently on the surface.
Bonn Appetite!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Recipe: Dad Leon's Chicken in a Bag

Today, we will try to recreate a magnificent Dad Leon's Chicken in the Bag recipe. It is a very healthy and aromatic dish as it is baked in its own juices (no oil or butter required). As before, you can check out the slideshow before we start to have an idea what the dish will be.
For that we will need:
  • 5-6 Chicken Legs
  • 4-5 Large Potatoes
  • 2 Celery Sticks
  • 2 Small/Medium Carrots
  • 1 Small Red Onion
  • Spices (Red and Black Pepper, Salt, Garlic Powder and Bay Leaves)
The recipe is as easy as it is tasty. Dice everything (well, except chicken and the spices), stuff it in the oven bag (also known as roasting bag) and put in the preheated oven (200C) for 1 hour. A word of advice, don't get shy with red pepper (paprika).
Carefully, remove the roasting bag from the oven, untie it and let it stand for a minute or two to let the steam escape. That's it!
Bonn Appetite!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend of Music and Wine in Paris

This weekend, we went to Paris, a city of love (yeah... right!), music, food, good wines and French language. I have to say, that the main reason we went to Paris in first place, was Pianoamatures competition where my mother took 4th place (out of more then 110 participants from all over the world). This, of course, took some of the time we had to explore the hidden corners of Paris, but we enjoyed an excellent and very unusual (at least for me) evening of music and Parisian intelligentsia at one of the best houses of Paris (with magnificent view on the Eiffel Tower). How could imagine that people play "Guess the Composer" game with classic music as well...?
Instead of staying in the (very expensive) heart of Paris, we opted for a Hilton La Defence which is only 10 minutes journey by train to the very centre of Paris. La Defence is a modern neighbourhood made of steel and glass; very different from the historic centre of Paris. I definitely recommend spending an hour or two for a quick hop there , at least to see the Arche de la Défense.
Paris is a beautiful city, but “City of Love”? It is full of tourists staring at Eiffel Tower and Algerians selling fake copies of it to them (mind you, €1 is a very good deal!), but the food is so good! I know it seems that we are on a gastronomy-trip around the world, but I have to say that Paris will hold a special place in my hart (or stomach). So... buy cheese, vegetables, fresh baguette and a bottle of local wine and loose yourself in the city!
Check out our photo album at


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lichfield - The Gem of the Middlands

Once again, my work took me to a place no one heard or visited before. According to Wikipedia, Lichfield is a “city of the dead” where thousand Christians were martyred around AD 300, but today it is a gem of the midlands: the city has a very relaxing vibe, with quite young population (at least, that was my impression), beautiful cathedral, clean streets and numerous restaurants to please every taste.
I have stayed at the George Best Western hotel which has its own pub and carvery restaurant, but during my stay I have tried couple of places on the high street (including the amazing “The Thai Rainbow”).
For shoppers, there is a Friarsgate centre as well as traditional market. The high street is full of boutique shops and big chains.
As for transportation, there is a direct train link from London Euston, or 25-30 minutes from Birmingham.
Definitely will come back to relax for a weekend.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I have Discovered TripIt!

I have discovered TripIt by absolute accident on the LinkedIn website. It allows you to organise travel itineraries just by forwarding them confirmation Email received from the travel agency (hotel, train, airline, etc), and they organise it nicely with all needed information.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Simple Mathematics

Click here to translate this post to English.

Уравнение 1
Человек = кушать + спать + работать + развлекаться
Обезьяна = кушать + спать
Человек = Обезьяна + работать + развлекаться
Человек - развлекаться = Обезьяна + работать
Вывод 1: Человек, который не развлекается подобен обезьяне, которая работает.

Уравнение 2
Мужчина = кушать + спать + зарабатывать деньги
Обезьяна = кушать + спать
Мужчина = Обезьяна + зарабатывать деньги
Мужчина - зарабатывать деньги = Обезьяна
Вывод 2: Мужчина, который не зарабатывает, подобен обезьяне

Уравнение 3
Женщина = кушать + спать + тратить деньги
Обезьяна = кушать + спать
Женщина = Обезьяна + тратить деньги
Женщина - тратить деньги = Обезьяна
Вывод3: Женщина, которая не тратит деньги, подобна обезьяне.

Из уравнений 2 и 3:
Мужчина, который не зарабатывает деньги = Женщина, которая не тратит деньги

Т.о., Мужчина зарабатывает деньги, чтобы Женщины не стали Обезьянами! (Аксиома 1) и Женщины тратят деньги, чтобы Мужчины не стали Обезьянами (Аксиома 2)

И что мы получаем из этого?
Мужчина + Женщина = Обезьяна + зарабатывать деньги + Обезьяна + тратить деньги

Следовательно, исходя из Аксиомы 1 и Аксиомы 2, можно заключить, что:
Мужчина + Женщина = 2 Обезьяны, которые живут счастливо вместе!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

North Midlands, UK

After a weekend in Stockholm, I had a pleasure of discovering north of England (mind you, not United Kingdom). I have to say, that Sheffield surprised me most; it is up and coming city with a lot of money invested in it. There is a brand new train station, renovated high street, new trams are connecting different parts of the town and people are friendly. I stayed in Best Western Cutlers Hotel, which is nothing special but definitely good value for money (you are getting what you are paying for) and dinned at Vijays (not bad, but again, nothing special).
But the best part of the week was the drive from Sheffield to Knowsley (Liverpool) through the Peak District (check out the photo above). I would never believe that that was in UK...
In Knowsley, I’ve stayed in Suits Hotel Knowsley and it was surprisingly good, given it was £65 per night (including breakfast). It was closer to a small apartment rather than a hotel room; the double bedroom had a king size bed and in addition there was a lounge room with all the amenities you come to expect from much more expensive hotel chains.

That's it for now.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Weekend in Stockholm, Sweden

I guess if I had to summarise the weekend in one sentence, it would be “one day in fog, one day in cold”. Stockholm is a beautiful city with relaxed vibe, but very expensive (even compare to London). Although Stockholm is built on the islands, it is very easy and convenient to get around the city using public transport. SL website (has English version) allows you to plan your journey and estimate the fare. There is also a frequent and quite cheap (150SEK one way or 249SEK return) bus service to all Swedish airports; you can find more information on the Flygbussarna website.
We have stayed at Best Western Amani, on the outskirts of Stockholm, but since the transport was really frequent and convenient, it was more then fine. The hotel has a small sauna, but we were not able to use it (because of the Russians).
The city has number of excellent attractions, but most of them are a bit on the expensive side. If you want freebies, try the Stockholm Parliament Guided Tour, hung around the Drottninggatan, Gamla Stan or the Djurgården island.
Check out the photo album at


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I Live in Ski Resort Called "London"

Yesterday, when we came back from Scotland, we were in for a surprise and not a good one: it was snowing. Although there is nothing wrong with the snow itself, in UK the public transport does not function when it is more then 0.01cm of snow! All the buses were recalled to the depots (the people were asked to leave the bus in the middle of the street), trains were cancelled and the taxis refused to take passengers. Even private hire were not able to coupe with the demand! We had to wait for 2 hours around "Elephant and Castle" and to pay double fare to get home. As my friend Tal wrote "..the only thing that might have a more severe implication on the UK roads other than a wee bit of snow is a nuclear holocaust."
I really can't understand the reason why everything stops because of 6" of snow? It is not the first time it is snowing here ( and and we are not living in the village, so why London can not prepare for it?
Well, the only thing I can say is that snow is beautiful! Check out the photo album at


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Weekend in Edinburgh

After 4 and a half long hours on the National Express East Coast train, we are finally in the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. We have stayed in Best Western King Manor hotel on the outskirts of the Edinburgh (15-20 minutes on the bus from Princes street), close to the Portobello promenade. The hotel has all the facilities you can expect from Best Western (including pool, sauna and steam room), affordable and quite easily reachable. The only (minor) downside is that the interior and the toiletries are a bit worn down.
I did not expect Edinburgh to be that different from other cities I've been to: the architecture, the weather, the culture and the people. The first shocking discovery was that buses: they are clean! After using London buses for number of years I have used to food leftovers (fish and chips and fried wings are the most common), crazy drivers and loud people, but in Edinburgh the buses are clean, frequent and drivers are helpful and polite. Then, it is the whiskey they don't export! We've been sampling number of locally (by that, I mean Scottish) produced whiskeys and liquors (based on whiskey) and they are exquisite (we've bought a bottle of Old Pulteney Liqueur to enjoy at home)! As for the sightseeing, we've been to Portobello promenade (had a lovely breakfast at Beach House café), the castle (everybody goes to the castle and there is excellent panoramic view of the city), Royal Mile street (for whiskeys and tartan scarf/kilts) Princes street (high street shopping), Omni Centre (cinemas and restaurants), Scottish Museum of History (7 floors of museum dedicated to Scottish history – free) and White Hart Inn pub (for good selection of local beer, live folk musics and the best Haggis in Edinburgh). I've been told, that we should have climbed the Blackford Hill, but it was only 1½ days visit and didn't manage to do that.
Check out the photo album at

And as the saying goes, not everything that starts well ends well. When we came back, we were in for a surprise...


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Moment of Glory @Vendorcom Card & Payment

Today, I had my moment of glory speaking @Vendorcom Card and Payment Conference in Olympia, London. It also provided a glimpse on the dire state of the world's economy as the conference was suppose to be a part of The Retail Business Show which was cancelled due to firm behind the show has been forced to call in the liquidators. It is very saddening to see Olympia exhibition hall deserted...

P.S.:For those who are interested, I have discussed the issue of Call Recording and the PCI DSS.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Fly When You Can Take a Train?

Now, that is what I call "service"!
As I'm writing those lines, I'm on a Virgin Train service from Preston to London and there is nothing better after a long, hard day in the office than to relax in a comfy seat (quite coach) with a drink (tequila sunrise for me please) and a freshly prepared braised beef with herb dumplings. And, we are not talking about plastic trays and forks, but a proper silverware. Oh yeah, there a desert following...
Why fly when you can take a train?!?!


And Once Again… I’m On The Road

After a relatively quite week (had to travel to Reading everyday, but...) after vacation in US, I’m back on the road. During the next few weeks, I will be travelling through Preston, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, Hook, Stockholm (yeah… Sweden) and Riga.
If anything worthwhile happens, I will keep you posted. Meanwhile, anyone has suggestions where to go or what to visit there?


Friday, January 09, 2009

Christmas and New Year in US

OMG! New York, Miami and New York again; what a vacation…!

In those 3 1/2 week, we have managed to celebrate Christmas (or, shall I write Hanukkah?), New Year and more importantly, change our perception of North Americans (Barak Obama has nothing to do with it). I won’t bore you too much since there is nothing to add to those photo albums:

P.S.: Can someone please explain why it feels colder in London (-1..+2C) than New York (-6..-2C)?