Loch Ness, United Kingdom + Yekaterinburg, Russia
We have a guest googler this week, Andrea Canny! You can connect with her on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and you’re going to want to, because she is awesome! She is a multi-talented talent (the list of what she does is looong), check out her album Cab Fab, for one. She also offers workshops, including From Princess to Gargoyle: Embracing Change & Creating Longevity in Your Career. Andrea's lived overseas a bunch and is just fun to hang out with, as the minutes of giggling at the beginning of this episode prove. Andrea tells us about traveling solo as a woman, traveling with friends, traveling for work. She loves to travel and clearly has some tales. Good thing she's a guest on a travel podcast.
Alison is obsessed with her new phone holder for her car. She is always super productive while in the car, a little too productive according to Lulu. She gets a day of work done while driving from Tampa to Orlando. So now that she has a place for her phone to rest, hopefully she will put it down and drive a little safer. Lulu got to see Company the Musical in London, and she was obsessed with the change of the main character to a woman, as well as a few other changes. She thinks it is the perfect modernization. Andrea is obsessed with Ricky Gervais' After Life on Netflix. While a bit uncomfortable in the first few episodes a la Gervais' signature style, she stuck with it and is now obsessed. Oh, and she's obsessed with Jason Mraz's new song Unlonely. It makes her "instantaneously happy", what high praise!
Alison wishes there were three of her. One for her kids, one for work, one for Lulu. But which one would be real? Aren't they all real? How does cloning work? What if one goes down a bad path, gets in with a bad crowd, dons black lipstick? Could they turn against each other? Would they have separate immune systems, or separate brains? This is getting real meta, and a bit into sci-fi territory. But let's be honest, it probably isn't science fiction anymore. It's 2019, and there is probably already cloning science out there in beta-testing stages. Okay, moving on, we are a little freaked out. Someone else wish for something! Lulu's wish is a bit more attainable and tame. She wants a new bag. She needs one for throwing everything in, a go-bag that actually looks good. She found it in the Ted Baker Gansu bag. Andrea is wishing for financial independence so she can follow her creative dreams, specifically, she already has a music video choreographed in her head for Jason Mraz.
Alison is headed to Loch Ness, in the United Kingdom. While not quite a town in of itself - a loch is "an arm of the sea, especially one that is narrow or partially landlocked" - it is an incredible area of Scotland worth exploring. Alison bases her explorations in Fort Augustus. And by her explorations she means their explorations -because guest googler Andrea and Lulu went with her. That's why she picked this cute and classy three-bedroom Airbnb apartment. It was part of the former Fort Augustus Abbey, so there is charm and splendor to boot. Because Alison hates driving, she looks for a driver. The Loch Ness Luxury Private Sightseeing Excursion comes with a luxury Mercedes Benz driven by a local chauffeur with "years of Scottish experience". Does this mean he's been Scottish for years? Or that he's dated a lot of Scottish women?
Who knows, but instead of the sightseeing part, Alison just wants the driver to take them around to all the other excursions she has planned for the day. Now Alison does some Airbnb experiences, which are all in the same location as her stay, which may be an obvious necessity, but a misunderstanding of how clicking on "Experiences" on the Airbnb website works led Alison to doing a samurai experience in Tokyo, when she was in St. Bart's. Don't worry, all of the forthcoming exciting experiences are all found in the Highlands.
The ladies get fully kitted out in wetsuits for the Great Glen Kayak Trip down several channels including Loch Oich and the Caledonian Canal. They also kayak to The Well of the Seven Heads to learn about one of the most gruesome episodes in Scottish clan history. After that macabre morning, they meet up with Wooden Tom, for a Nordic Woodcraft in the Forest excursion. They get to create their very own useful items, like a knife and axe...or a cutting board. Alison is way more excited about this than Andrea or Lulu, but she'll bring them 'round.
Now they head out into the Loch Ness waters on the Deepscan, a vessel named after the famous expedition carried out on the Loch in 1987, to go in search of the famed sea monster. She wants to find "Nessie". Needing to spend some more money, she tries to find a prop maker to build her a huge Loch Ness monster, that she would then place in the water to scare an unawares Andrea and Lulu. She couldn't find any real prices, so she searches “Loch Ness Monster” on eBay. What she finds would not scare Andrea or Lulu, unless they are gluten-free. She found a Loch Ness Monster Shaped Cheeto for $4,000.00 (between Alison's research and this post, the rare Cheeto is on sale for only $3,000...so, SCORE).
For a real taste of local flavor, the ladies head to a Scottish home for an authentic meal, beer and bagpipes. The menu changes seasonally and includes soup, fish/seafood, meat, local vegetables, cheese, and desserts. Among the local dishes they will try (they think) are Cullen skink, haggis, cranachan, and of course some local craft beers. The host is a Pipe Major, and has a special type of bagpipes that you can play indoors. Thinking their eardrums will be either excited or sore, we shall see. The evening ends with a dram of whisky (shouldn't it be Scotch?) and a special toast in Gaelic.
Lulu prefaces her destination reveal with a caveat that she is very likely going to mispronounce the name. Alison is elated as usually she is the one to mispronounce things. To be fair, Yekaterinburg does seem hard to pronounce at first glance. Lulu does a fair job of pronouncing this city that is roughly 1000 miles to the east of Moscow, and is in the eastern part of Russia that is considered a part of the Asian continent. Did you know that part of Russia is in Asia? I always assumed it was just in Europe, but part of it is in Europe, and part is in Asia. You probably already knew this. Lulu definitely already knew this. Moving on. Lulu stays in a suite at the Novotel, which was one of the most expensive places she could find, at less than $1,000 for two nights. But hey, this place has a Turkish Steam Bath as well as free wi-fi, so hello amenities! P.s. - why are hotels still advertising “Free WiFi”, when THEY ALL HAVE IT?! I digress.
Our usual standbys for black car service were unavailable, so Lulu allots $500 for a car and driver that she will ask the concierge to find for her. She heads for breakfast at Simple Coffee, an inexpensive spot that has hosted the World Barista Championships. She orders a breakfast of porridge, a pair of cheesecakes (yes you read that correctly), and a banana. Oh and an Americano, which they call “fast coffee for business people.” What people must think of Americans, huh? Fueled up and ready for business, or pleasure rather, this is a 10K day after all, Lulu heads to her first excursion, a journey to the past. Lulu is taking a tour called Missing Anastasia, as Yekaterinburg is where the Romanov family were imprisoned before being executed.
After her tour Lulu is ready for a nosh, so she googled ‘best lunch Yekaterinburg”...TGI Fridays and Pizza Hut came up. Obviously she's not doing that. Instead she heads to Zames, a hipster dumpling restaurant with a delectable selection of both savory and sweet pelmeni. The dessert dumpling made from cherry-infused dough with a cottage cheese filling and blackcurrant mousse sounds particularly delightful. Now one of the only things Lulu knows how to say in Russian is morozhenoye pozhaluysta, which means "ice cream, please". So she uses her phrase and heads to Russki Holod for a scoop of pistachio.
Now you may have thought that the unique history surrounding the Romanovs in Yekaterinburg is why she chose this location, but you'd be wrong. She is here for an adventure underground, and just you wait for it. She is headed to the psychedelic salt mines! These tie-dye looking caves 650 ft below the surface are made up of Carnallite, with tones of yellow, white, red, and blue. Sounds cool right? There is a very high salt content, so you are always thirsty, and they are not open to the public, because there is a high probability that chemicals and toxic gases are leaking inside. And there is a potential for landslides. How will Lulu ever get down there, or be prepared for such a challenging experience? Well, I’ll tell you. There is a man named Mikhail Mishnaik, who got permits from the government and went down into these caves, capturing iconic photos that have since circulated through all the travel magazines. She is going to find him, and pay him to be her guide and figure out the needed permits.
But first she needs some items to prepare. It'll be chilly in the salt caves, so a Salt n Pepa Jacket seems fitting. To stay hydrated, a collapsible canteen with a compass is a good buy, though not sure this gas mask will be heavy duty enough to do the trick. It seems pretty heavy duty, but so does the “potential toxic gas leaks”. Fingers crossed. Perhaps the most important purchases of all, and definitely the ones that will make the experience, are these Sennheiser Momentum wireless earbuds and Pink Floyd's The Wall. Those should make exploring these trippy cave walls even more epic!
In addition to paying Mikhail $2500 to get her permits sorted and be her guide, she is going to gift him the Tamron telephoto set, which you can get for Nikon or Canon, not sure which he favors. Hopefully this will sway him into taking pictures of her in the caves. Now, Lulu went on a trip to Kyrgyzstan IRL, and recalled a group of missionaries on her plane bringing a bunch of soccer balls as gifts to help "grease the wheels" so to speak of governments. She took note, and is going to bring fifty Orlando City Sports Club soccer balls to gift to anyone that stands in the way of her and Mikhail getting the necessary permits. Alison and Andrea are unsure of the necessity and usefulness of this, and imagine what it would be like if you did this in America. To wrap up her random but oh-so-groovy day, she heads to Gastroli Pub for dinner. Her "Last Scout" cocktail sounds unique - gin, cream, ginger syrup, almond ash, lemon, marshmallow. She's iffy about it, but Alison admits she would totally try it. Lulu’s pumpkin soup with crab, grilled rib-eye, panna cotta, and rosé sounds much more palatable.
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