My epic fail or how I went to London to see Tim McGraw in concert

As a big country music fan, I always feel sorry that I can’t attend my favorite concerts anytime I want. The reason is that it takes at least an 8-hour flight from Russia to USA. That’s why I was thrilled to find out that my favorite country artist Tim Mcgraw was coming to London, UK as a headliner of Country2Country music festival.

London is only a 4-hour flight from Moscow. Another piece of great news was that I had enough bonus miles to get me a free airplane ticket. But darn, the airline had a limited selection of dates for those bonus tickets.

So I decided to pick the latest flight on the day of the concert. I figured since the Fest starts at 5 pm I should have more than enough time to depart at 11 pm…

Needles to say that I was wrong. Tim McGraw came out on the stage exactly the same time when the taxi arrived to take me to Heathrow airport.

So it turned out that I came to London to see the country guys I had never heard about: Kristian Bush and Little Big Town. Vince Gill was great though. Sorry, Tim, I missed your performance in the UK. Conclusion? Watch out, Nashville, here I come! =)

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I did see Tim McGraw. Only on this poster though. =)

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The famous O2 arena in London where the festival took place.

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Tim McGraw and I enjoyed the same view. =)

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Impressive London

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Tower Bridge

I was breathless with anticipation when I was going there. Now I’m speechless with impressions. It’s a magic city.  Have nothing to add really. 🙂

Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

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Westminster Bridge

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“Let It Be” performance

Buckingham Palace. Tourists are waiting for the change of guard.

London Eye Ferris wheel.

Change of guard, Buckingham Palace.

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The way to see the Vatican Museums through Bangladesh

St.Peter's Square, Rome, Vatican

Michelangelo could hardly expect that people from all over the world would be ready to queue for hours to see his Sistine Chapel.

True, it’s not easy to get into the Vatican Museums, especially on the last Sunday of each month when the entrance is free. But among the tourist crowds you can always spot young dark-skinned guys holding posters that say “Skip the queue”.

I was curious to see how it works, let alone get to see the Sistine Chapel without having to queue for hours. So I came up to one of these folks and started a conversation. The guy turned out to be Bangladeshi and he said he and his friends had been in the “tourist business” for more than five years. The essence of the business is not complicated. For 15 euro per person they take you to the beginning of the line and bravely squeeze you in from the side pretending you are all members of a tour group who have bought the tickets in advance. However, the whole trick can be halted for a while if the police suddenly appear near the queue.

Well, of course the shady deal is not very fair towards all those law-abiding people who wait in line to get into the Vatican Museums. But it can sure save you 2 to 4 hours of precious time. Moreover, it can save you 15 euro charged by the Bangladeshi guys because you can do it yourself absolutely free of charge. Simply go to the beginning of the line and bravely squeeze in from the side pretending you’re all members of a tour group who have bought the tickets in advance. Michelangelo would not approve though.

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Gloria Golf Resort, Turkey, Belek: a hotel that leaves you with a deeper tan, a fatter stomach and a much thinner wallet.

Hotel staff collecting used towels.

“What would you like to drink, sir?” – a courteous Turkish waiter jumped up to my husband as soon as the latter entered the cafeteria. Funny, but no matter how long I sat at the table with my 4-year-old son, nobody asked us what we would like to drink. Call it a coincidence, but during our whole stay I couldn’t help noticing that the hotel staff was reluctant to do anything requested by a woman.

Another example was with the room change. The first room that we got was far from being flawless. A friend of mine (who was this hotel’s returning guest) told me that there were much better rooms of the same type. When I called the reception they agreed to show me one. Upon my arrival the receptionist asked me to wait in the lobby for 5 minutes. 5 minutes grew into half an hour after which I still had to remind the guy of myself twice. Experienced travelers later explained it to me that things like that often happen at Turkish hotels: “If you’re not yelling or stamping your feet, they think that your problem will eventually take care of itself. So, remember that crying helps.” I will definitely remember this advice if I ever come back to Turkey.

To end my list of flaws for this hotel I must say that the place is indecently expensive. The mere accomodation cost us over $ 6000 (14 nights, 2 adults + 1 child). It would have been even more without a 15% discount that they applied to us as to returning guests’ friends. And surprisingly enough, though our board type was called “all inclusive”, some things happened to be less “all inclusive” than others. For instance, you will be asked to pay extra for playing bowling, cue sports and many other things. The hotel’s spa center offers very few free services: you can only use the indoor swimming pool and a few types of saunas for free. And the prices for eveything else are far beyond reasonable. A “relaxing massage” costs 90 euro (about $ 125). Doesn’t sound too relaxing, does it? Overall, there was a strong feeling that Turkish hotels decided to get the most from Egyptian and Tunisian turmoils.

Getting to the sunny side of life, I must admit that the hotel is perfect for a “cabbage-like” vacation. A beautiful green territory, an impeccable sandy beach, luring outdoor pools and water parks leave you with no choice but to enjoy yourself. The beach deserves separate compliments. It’s huge, comfortable, with hundreds of sun loungers under wide beach umbrellas, therefore it’s almost never crowded. At least you can always find a secluded spot. At either snack bar on the beach you can get strawberries and watermelon, not to mention a pina colada which is of course a symbol of a dream holiday.

Kids can have fun at the Gogi Kids Club where there are always special events for children and the “mini-disco” every evening.  The hotel even has a small zoo where kids enjoy feeding rabbits and birds of all types.

Needless to say that Gloria Golf attracts golfers from all over the globe and ranks among the top 5 golf resorts of the world. But if you feel like playing golf for fun or taking a lesson, plan more extra spendings.

When walking along the golf course I saw a luxurious house called President’s Villa. That left me with a feeling that what is good for a president might not be suitable for ordinary people. 🙂 

 

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“Smoke on the water, fire in the sky.”

 There’s a common belief that country livin’ can cure you of all city ills. “A country boy can survive” as declared by Hank Williams, Jr. Well, here’s a picture that I saw from my country house the other morning.

Yikes. Toxic air and smoke produced by hundreds of forest fires around Moscow have hit the big city and all the suburbs. Some Russian officials claim the summer of 2010 turned out to be the hottest for the past 1000 years.  On the one hand, it is big and exciting (wow, we are witnessing something that one doesn’t see every day or even every year) but on the other hand, it’s quite scary. What kind of situation is it when you can’t even escape into the woods?

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Why “Sex and the city 2” is a must-see for the Russian audience

A statistically average Russian girl is raised with a tremendous amount of “you must” over her shoulders. First, she MUST study well at school. As soon as she reaches the age of 20 (in some regions even earlier) she MUST get herself a fiance and she MUST marry him within a year or two. The next thing she must do is have kids, be a good mother and an excellent wife who is pleasing her husband with a delicious dinner every single evening.  Having a career is not forbidden at all but only if it does not conflict with all of the above.

One might think that Russian women are poor miserable slaves who are exploited all their lives. Well, not exactly. The thing is we take it for granted. And very few of us honestly think that it’s OK not to feed their husband when he comes home from work.

And here is what I find deliciously striking in “Sex and the city 2”. The main characters, Carrie and Big, are finally married. No kids. Carrie is around 40 and Big is considerably over 40.  When a friend asks them if they plan to have kids, they reply something like: “No, we don’t. Maybe some day”. Another thing is that Carrie is a freelance writer which means she doesn’t have to work 9 to 5 in a dusty office and is supposed to have enough time to do things around the house. But still, when Big comes home from work, he brings along a take-out bag from a nearby restaurant. Because he’s hungry. And because Carrie doesn’t cook. At all. But they are still in love and they are still together.

I think all Russian guys and gals must see this movie despite the fact that it’s far from being a masterpiece or a future cinematographic legend. It teaches that YOU are the only master of your life and whatever you consider right will be right for you and your family. Delete stereotypes. Stop listening to your mother (at least at some point of your life :)). And enjoy the fruits of your new ideology.

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Eat America!

Now here’s a question: where is the line between being funny and being offensive? This is a billboard in Moscow advertising a local sushi restaurant. The heading says “Eat America!” and the idea is that Alaska rolls are available for as low as 99 RUR (~$ 3.4) per portion. Maybe I’m overreacting but I probably wouldn’t be happy about some “Eat Russia!” billboard somewhere in NYC. What do you think? Rude or funny?

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