Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm in Venice

It is really very much nicer than I had thought. Long journey here from Moscow but I will have some time tomorrow afternoon to explore.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Smile!

It says on the hotel information sheet that this hotel is in the Guiness Book of Records. It doesn't say why so I assume it's for having the world's rudest staff.

...but I'm not a pilot

I have done really well with speaking Russian, and I was very surprised how much I remembered. Today however, while buying a train ticket for Moscow my brain abandoned me (again).

The woman selling the ticket asked if I had any luggage, and the size of it.

I have this backpack, I said, and an AIRPLANE!!

I mixed up the words for suitcase and airplane (not even similar). She did have a sense of humour though and suggested I fly to Moscow in my airplane instead since the train probably couldn't take it.

I'm a little bit tired of making a fool of myself every two days or so. Train ride was nice.

Found the fish

It is fantastic how one's brain works. At 6 am on Saturday morning I managed, without any problems at all, find Fish Fabrique (bar) again. Fish Fabrique is located a bit off the beaten path, inside a dark alleyway, through a metal fire door. Downstairs. Through another metal fire door...then you can follow the music. Easy!

It is also amazing that I was still up at 6 am, on my way to another bar!

Petersburg rocks

I've had a fantastic time in St Petersburg with my crazy sister.

Amazingly enough, not much have changed in the past 8 years. All my favourite cafes, restaurants and bars are still there - a lot more expensive, but still there. People still do not speak English, and they are still very rude in a most wonderful, charming, Russian manner. Everything is difficult. Everything takes time. I am still in love with this city!


One new thing...gas lines are now above ground! In a city full of drunk drivers...why not!?




Oh, and the ballet dancer is still dancing Swan Lake! I couldn't belive it. He must be over 30 by now (I think my age). Surely that is too old to still be dancing? I avoided running into him afterwards. Some things are just better left as a distant memory.

I have had enough!

Since Prague I must admit homesickness has struck! Added to this, the HK office is chaotic and in need of some on-the-ground leadership. So I've cancelled my last week of travels and I am heading back home this weekend already.

I am really looking forward to getting home, even though I will be working nights (and days most likely) for the next few weeks. The pool will open just in time for my return though - I can't wait.

Still have 3 days of work left. I'm in Moscow now, and I'm going to Venice on Thursday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Waiting for Madde...

...to arrive in Helsinki. We are leaving for Russia tomorrow at 7 am. I hate getting up early in the morning. At least I have a nice 6 hour train ride to Petersburg. Not sure if I\ll have internet access in Russia. If not, I'll tell you all about it after Easter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going commando

My laundry plan has worked perfectly until Prague. This hotel doesn't have laundry service. I now find myself in the rather unpleasant situation of having no clean underwear. Hence I will be going commando for the next two days until the problem is sorted in Finland! I thought I would share this with all of you to illustrate the problems I face undertaking this trip.

My sister, who is sweet but sometimes a bit dim (family thing!), once forgot what this was called and told me she was going "attack".

My pjs - the crowd pleasers

Packing my suitcase I got a bit thirsty and decided to just pop over to the bar (on the same floor as my room) for a bottle of water.

I peek out and see that the bar is empty. So I walk out wearing my pjs. Of course as I'm standing in the bar waiting to pay, a big group of men walk in paying me lots of compliments for my red pjs with snowmen. Thankng them I quickly head back to my room only to realise that I've locked myself out! I have to walk back through the bar down to the reception, and then back past the bar a second time to get to my room - being cheered on each time!

I'm glad I'm not easily embarrassed.

Still in Prague

I extended my stay in Praha as I couldn't find a reasonable connection to Trieste. Tomorrow I'm flying via Copenhagen to Helsinki where I'll be until Thursday, when I take the train to Russia. I'll be in Russia until the 26th and then I'm off to Venice.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A certain resemblance there is




And the winner is...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6jz2Gc3VYM

It's ok but it's a bit same old same old from Sweden....it will come top 10 but not win. Although I am pretty crap at guessing the outcome so don't take my word for it!

Charlotte Perrelli has won the whole shabang before with Take Me To Your Heaven- that is a good song!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Half-time analysis

I must admit Charlotte did very well whereas the others have not quite lived up to expectations. Sibel did better than I thought...so did Nordman. Oh, who's going to win...

1l

I thought some wine would be nice and asked the bar for a karaff of house red. They gave me 1 litre!

10 min to go

I'm by the computer desperately hoping the online live show will work! Go Sanna and Amy. Please don't let Charlotte win, or BWO.

I'm almost missing the telecoms guys...almost

My hotel bar is now packed with Liverpoolers on a stag due...do I have to say more?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

You know that Prague-Trieste-Helsinki train?

I'm having problems finding good and cheap travel connections.

I have one more meeting in Prague on Monday. I then have to get to Trieste by Tuesday morning. Flights are currently around GBP700 - a bit harsh. There seem to be an overnight train though.

I then have got to, somehow, make it to Helsinki by Wednesday morning! I can't get a direct flight though - I might have to travel via London. This seems like utter madness. Any ideas?

Melodifestivalen the final!!

It's on tonight and it's very exciting. I hope AMY DIAMOND wins - she's fun and the song sticks.

Jazz, beer and ham














There's some sort of Easter market going on in Prague. I took some photos.


Can you read the sign by the blacksmith? It says "For Beer". I can't claim to be very good at giving money to street performers but I whenever it's for a charitable cause such as beer, I get the change out.

The band was playing Czech Dixieland! They were brilliant...I had to buy a CD. I'm sure the CD is crap but so is Black Car Race (from Italy, remember!?) yet I'm still listening to it.




Czech gold

I'm in Prague! I can see what all the fuzz is about. Prague is beautiful. Small enough to cover on foot, yet enough to see to keep one busy for days.


I was up early this morning to cover some sights before I have to start working but I'm not yet sure what to do tonight.

Did you know that the Czech Rep is per capita the biggest beer producing country in the world? It would be an insult to the Czechs to not sample some of the local gold...one doesn't want to be rude!



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Abba

I made a wee attempt to update my profile. I immediately received an email asking:

What is Swedish Schlager?

Swedish Schlager is a genre of music that you can only appreciate when lagers turn schlagers!

It seems I'm all magic

I emailed my boss yesterday to tell him that after Prague, Venice, Helsinki, St Petersburg, Moscow, Vienna and Salzburg I would actually really rather want to go home.

His reply was: Yes, I know it's a long time to be on the road but I need you! You have a certain magic that can't be replaced by others.

Wow! Isn't that a good line or what? Talk about knowing exactly what buttons to push. Appealing to Marie's ego ALWAYS works. It seems I'm stuck on the battle field a little bit longer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My old "boyfriend" Ilya

I've been working on arrangements for my trip to Russia next week. One of the items on my list was to book a ticket to Marinskij Theatre. When I lived in Russia we bought our tickets from a woman named Olga, who used to stand outside the Teatralnaya Kassa on Nevskij. Now you can buy tickets online.
No operas on the playbill so it will be Swan Lake instead.

I once had a little "fling" with the soloist (the Prince) in Swan Lake. It's quite a funny story but I won't go into it here.

My cousin Charlotte still considers him the most attractive man she's ever seen. So for her benefit I was going to dig up a photo. He's quite famous so there are plenty to choose from, but I wanted one with the standard figure-hugging tights.

I found this quite recent one instead! I always claim not to be superficial or care about looks but...man, do I wish I had kept his phone number or what! ;) Hehe - this one is for Charlotte and all my female readers out there- enjoy!


Blondest moment ever

I thought I had blown the fuse in yet another electrical adaptor. Panic sets in as my laptop is running low on batteries.

The hotel lends me an adaptor. It doesn't work. I try plugging it into a different socket. It still doesn't work. I try plugging in my iron instead - nothing.

I phone the reception to bring me another adaptor. Same again.

I phone the reception to tell them that there must be an electrical problem in my room - please can they send someone ASAP.

He comes, takes one look at me and goes:

If you put ze access card in ze slot you vil have power in your room.

Thanks! I know they are laughing at me now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh you all knew I wasn't going to go 9 weeks without buying shoes!

My name is Marie, and I'm a shoeaholic. I haven't bought shoes for 7 weeks now...until today!

I don't know what happened. I was just buying a spring coat when my hands, as in a trance, picked up a pair of puppies...just the right size!

I hate losing a bet! I think I hate not buying shoes even more. I don't know how I'll find room for them in my bag but I will make it work. They are so pretty!


So Simon, dinner's on me. Remember I get to pick the place though. I know this roadside place in Mong Kok - you can have as many fried fish balls as you like - really! No expense spared :)

Need a new hobby perhaps?!

I have wondered for some time if the guys who assigned international calling codes were stoned.

I mean, that Canada and US is +1, is fair enough! Then there's a gap until Russia on +7 - ok. But then the next country on +20 is Egypt?! What about all the numbers in between?

Denmark, Sweden and Norway are +45, +46 and +47. Finland, however, is +358?!

Why is Hong Kong +852? It's not like there are 852 countries in the world.

I have looked it up on Wikipedia but I still really don't think it makes sense!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

At least try to go out in style

Returning to the hotel yesterday I was prevented from returning to my room as some desperate person had picked the roof as a suitable place to the take the final big leap from.

I don't claim to understand what horrors in life would drive one to suicide. I think it is a selfish and cowardly way of dealing with ones problems. I feel very sorry for family, friends and the rescue services, who are the ones left to take care of the mess.

The man did jump. I'm sure it was a man as very few women pick the jump as their preferred method. I'm also pretty sure the jump was a success.

I apologise if I sound morbid...but if life has been to so hard on you that jumping off a building is the only remaining option...why on earth would you pick the roof of a budget hotel in the outskirts of Berlin? Surely there must be more spectacular places?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Strikes, upgrades and a happy Marie

There's a train and bus strike in Berlin! For a taxi monkey like myself this is fantastic news...and I enjoyed every minute of my taxi ride from the airport.

Then, as I was checking in to the (very nice) hotel I was UPGRADED to a suite!! I don't know why but I didn't object! I have a robe, slippers, lots of toiletries and mints on the pillows - like a real hotel.

I'm just going to spend the whole weekend in my room.



video

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ich bin ein Berliner


Off to Berlin tonight for a few days.

I have been "promoted" to manage all our office staff in HK. I have no idea how this will work with my current schedule and workload. There wont be much time to see Berlin, that's for sure!


No time for clubbing

I hate to admit this but I have had a very nice time in Oslo, and the evil Norwegians have all been very nice!
Hmpf! I don't like it when I have to re-evaluate my opinion on something. I still think Sweden should invade.
I have been working hard and haven't had time for typical Norwegian hobbies - like whale hunting or clubbing baby seals.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Secretary did well in Norway

...I'm in a lovely hotel! It is ok located and tastefully decorated. There's a gym, a pool and a nice hotel bar (with lots of really hot guys actually). The bathroom has nice wee hotel shampoos and soaps - I haven't seen this since Rome so I'm easily pleased.

I wish I could stay here and have Europe come to me. I don't even mind all the Norwegians (and I really don't like them usually).

My boss has sent me some really nice emails commenting on my work performance. He is so harsh with all the office staff in HK, I've seen some of them leave the office in tears, yet he never says anything but nice things to me. I don't know why - sometimes I think he might be a bit scared of me because I voice my opinions. I'm not complaining though...really not!

I can be so dumb sometimes

I was sitting in the airport hotel bar working before my flight at 19.10. With lots of time to spare I strolled over to the airport to check in.

19.10 to Oslo. Hmmm...there is no 19.10 flight to Oslo. There's an 18.10 SAS flight to Oslo. Shit!!

I run over to the SAS counter. - I know it's 17.40 and I'm really late but please please please let me check in!

The very nice SAS lady says - Your flight is 40 min delayed so no problem. Although, it doesn't look like you have a reservation.

What?! The very nice lady lets me use her computer to check.

Oh, my flight is with Finnair at 19.55!

My flight Oslo-Berlin is at 19.10...but that's on Thursday. I look forward to Germany where I can take the train instead.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Next stop Norway

I'm at the airport after a busy but successful day. Apart from the hotel staff the Finns have been very pleasant to be around. They insist on speaking Finnish with me though, probably assuming I belong to the minority in Finland that has Swedish as their native tongue. They speak and understand Finnish. I don't! I can't even guess it.

Flying out to Norway in a few hours. My attempts to get my boss to back out of sending me to Russia has failed btw! Looks like I'll be spending Easter in St Petersburg.

I can't sleep

...I've tried several times but a political discussion I had in the lobby a few hours ago still makes me angry. I will be putting some controversial opinions here soon. " Watch this space"

It's snowing again...

...like crazy! I'm glad I'm in Finland. Any other country would be shut down!

Bump on my head

Thank you for all the concerned emails regarding my big fall this morning. I do have a big bump on the back of my head but I'm pretty sure I'm not seeing double or if I am this this email email would would just just not not look look right right. My EGO though is heavily bruised.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Finnish hospitality

Conversation 1 with receptionist:

-Please can you ask the carpenter who is hammering in the corridor just outside my room to work somewhere else for an hour or so.

-No, he has work to do.

-So do I, I have to make phone calls but I can't hear anything.

-Well you'll have to call from somewhere else

- Ok, can you give me a key to another room

- No, you have a room

-Yes, but I can't work there

-Why don't you use your mobile phone outside

- I don't have a Finnish mobile phone. I want to use your landline.

-We don't have any other rooms available.

(I went over to talk the carpenter instead who didn't mind working on another floor for an hour)

Conversation 2 with the same receptionist:

-Can you tell me how long it would take to get to Esbo by taxi

- No, I can't. It depends

- Ok, well ballpark

- I don't know, it depends

-Are we talking 30 min, 1 hour, 2 hours?

- I don't know. I can't say!

- How far is it?

- It depends on how you drive.

- The shortest route

- I can't really say.

- Can you phone the taxi company and ask

She phones the taxi and hands me the phone

- Can you tell me how long it would take to get to Esbo

- No, I can't really say. It depends.

- Are we talking 30 min, 1 hour, 2 hours.

- It depends.

SIGH!

-Ok, I need to be in Esbo by 12.15. So should I order a taxi now though (it was 10am).

-No, that's too early

-When do I need a taxi by?

- I don't know. It depends

- Please send me a taxi anyway.

- It's too early

- I don't care. Just send one.

-Ok

Furious with all of Finland I strutted out of the hotel with my head held high...only to slip on the ice and fall flat on my back, where I stayed for a while pondering over what I might have done lately to deserve this.

It took 20 min to Esbo so I took a long penguin-style walk in a snowy park.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

It's snowing in Helsinki!

Melodifestivalen

I was feeling a bit homesick. Wishing I was back in HK, spending my Saturday evening as usual down in Stanley Main Street. But then I discovered that the Swedish Melodifestivalen will be live online! Provided the connection is reasonable I should be able to see it. I AM SO EXCITED!! I also think I might be a sad sad person- but I will raid the mini bar and think no more of it.

What is Melodifestivalen you wonder? It's the Swedish Eurovision contest. Only, in Sweden there are semi-finals, 2nd chance semi-finals and the big bad final. All in all Melodifestivalen takes up every Saturday for about 6 weeks! I've watched all three semi-finals so far and have the following comments on the finalists:

Semi-final 1: Christer Sjogren made it through due to people like my grandmother, whom I am sure voted multiple times. The song is embarrassing and what were the girls with the big feathers ala 30s cabaret doing there? The whole number belongs on a cruise ship. Only Germans will vote if Christer ends up in the Eurovision. He's very popular over there.

Amy Diamond: Good, cheerful song that is so cheesy it could win the whole thing - I love it! She reminds me a bit of Sandra Kim, who won the Eurovision in 1986 with J'amie La Vie - she was only 15, just like Amy. (I've heard rumors that she was only 13 but lied to be allowed to compete – juicy stuff).

I also liked how Suzzie Tapper made it to 2nd chance. Her voice is still fantastic, she must be pushing 50, so a very cool cat!

Semi-final 2: Sanna Nielsen, the girl from Smaland, did incredibly well! The best entry in the first 3 semi-finals by far.

Rongedal: Fun fun fun. I think maybe I liked the choreography most...especially in the tick-tick part. I liked the red suits too!

The best thing about semi-final 2 was that CAROLA only made it to 2nd chance semi. She is so SCREAMY. I don't know what Andreas Johnson was thinking when he teamed up with her. Carola has appointed herself the Eurovision Queen of Sweden. Three times she has represented Sweden in Europe. She won once, in 1991. In my world that makes for only a 33.3% success rate! I think you should win at least twice to be allowed to act like a diva.

Semi-final 3: The poorest semi-final so far.
BWO was ok but nothing new. I used to admire Alexander Bard for his inventive spirit but it's now kind of same old, same old. Nothing much has happened since Army of Lovers really.

Frida: I can't honestly say that I think singing in Skane-accent is a good idea but oh well. It livened things up.
Semi-final 4 starts in 1 hour! So exciting!

Putin is still our man


I feel like I ought to comment on the up-coming election in Russia.

No, I don't think I'll bother - I'll just leave you with some images of this hunk of a man!


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Am I a prude?

I have just decided NOT to go for an evening sauna. It seems the sauna towels are the size of hand towels. As the typical Swede that I am, I have never been too bothered about nudity. However, I don't find the idea of sitting stark naked in a sauna together with fat Finnish men very appealing. Perhaps the 7 years I spent in England has rubbed off more than I thought?

He did discover Austria!!

It was by mere chance I discovered that my secretary had taken it upon herself to change my flight Copenhagen-Helsinki from Sunday to Saturday. I'm a little bit upset about this because I wanted to watch the Swedish "Melodifestivalen" tonight.

Never mind. I'm now in Finland and there's snow! Not a lot, but it's the first snow I've seen since Gstaad. I'm wondering what the hotel clientel is like here. Perhaps I should go over to the communal sauna and find out?

My travel plans are now changing on an almost daily basis. Going through my emails it seems my boss did indeed discover Austria. I am currently booking meetings in Germany, Prague, Vienna, Trieste, St Petersburg and Moscow.