Friday, June 28, 2013

Isle of MTV Concert 2013

It was so lovely (and a bit surreal) to meet some of my readers at this year's Isle of MTV. I forget people read this thing! Thanks for saying hi, guys!

Every June MTV takes over a square in front of a pretty church outside of Valletta and throws a huge, free, open-air concert: the Isle of MTV. Over 50,000 people attend each year, and past musical acts include Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, LMFAO, and Snoop Dogg (er, Snoop Lion?)

This year's lineup included Rudimental (an excellent, eclectic group from London's East End), Rita Ora, Jessie J and DJ Afrojack. 

jessie j doing sound checks at isle of mtv 2013

Rudimental was our favourite act of the night (but Jessie J was pretty badass too!) They have two lovely female vocalists, and a superb trumpet player. You might know them for this song but this song (Free) is my favourite. And they are so much better live than recorded! If you ever get a chance to see them in concert, go!

What are you up to this weekend? I'm finishing off the first half of my thesis, and we're hosting a Canada Day bash for our friends. Pancakes with maple syrup and Alanis Morissette for everyone!

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Meridiana Vineyard Sunset Tour

Mike and I have said for years that we would love to go on a vineyard tour in Malta. I'm delighted that we finally did this June, but the experience was made more special by the lovely hospitality provided by our hosts, the founder of the vineyard (and also my fellow classmate!) and his wife. Thank you M & J! 

During our tour we learned all about growing grapes in Malta and the art and science of vineyards. We surveyed the fantastic view of the island from the vineyard's rooftop terrace, and learned about the history of Meridiana. Best of all, we breathed in that beautiful smell of casks of wine maturing amidst limestone walls.

The vineyard has been designed to feel like a traditional Maltese home, and as in a Maltese home, you're made to feel like a welcomed member of the family here. As the sun set we were treated to a beautiful dinner (and tastings!) on a terrace overlooking the rows of vines, and the medieval city of Mdina. It was magical.

If you visit one vineyard in Malta, make it this one.

Tours available Monday to Friday
€11 per person including tastings
Catering and events extra, upon request
My favourite wine: Isis Chardonnay
Tip: Arrange a tour for sunset

Monday, June 17, 2013

The best money I ever spent in Malta

When my classmates and I completed the coursework for our postgrad degrees Mike had the brilliant idea of organizing a chartered catamaran as a celebration for us, our families and friends. 

It was the best money I ever spent in Malta.

Catamarans are fun. Can't wipe the smile off your face kind of fun. Giggling like schoolchildren fun. Sunshine, turquoise waters, and surrounded by love fun. 

Since the boat was ours for the day we picked our route. We sailed around Comino's Crystal Lagoon, hiked to the Blue Lagoon, and got a private tour of Comino's caves. We went up Gozo's coastline to the Azure Window, stopping in a hidden cove to sing Happy Birthday to one of our friends and devour chocolate cake. We snorkelled and rock climbed along the way.

There was ecclectic music pumped over the boat's speaker system. Grilled lunch, tropical drinks, and dance parties. A fantastic crew, and even more fantastic (fantasticer?) friends.

We kept looking at each other all day in awe. Is this real life? We are so lucky. I will miss you all.

As the sun began to sink in the sky none of us wanted to get off that boat. We half-joked about staging a sit in: the crew would have to drag our sunburnt, windswept bodies off the deck, kicking and screaming, and wiggling our hips to one last Beyonce tune.

Thank you, Mike, for your brilliant idea, and the time and effort you put into organizing that magical day. You gave me and my class a great gift that none of us will ever forget. I am proud to be marrying the kind of guy who does that. 

Thank you, ginger tablets, for getting us through the day without one sea sick incident. Thank you Sicilian bakery up the street for the chocolateiest chocolate birthday cake. And thank you to the crew of the Tip Top One catamaran - you guys are fantastic. 

Finally, thank you team MA IMC/MSc BA 2013 for the brilliant year. There were low lows, and high highs. Lots of laughter and cookies and Cokes and coffees. We challenged each other, learned from each other, and grew with each other. Yes, it's cheesy, but it's true. And hey, two more degrees under our belts ain't bad either. I'll be seeing you; our doors are always open. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beyonce in Warsaw, Poland

Spoiler alert: Do not read this post if you are planning on seeing a Mrs. Carter World Tour show!

The real reason my friends and I went to Poland - no shame here! - was to see Beyonce in concert at Poland's National Stadium. Sort of like a bachelorette party, but without the obscene straws and public humiliation.

I liked Beyonce before this concert. I could hum along to her songs (or belt them out in the shower) and I was smitten with her fashion choices and business sense. But then I booked tickets to her show, watched this documentary, and fell in love. Beyonce is more of an artist than many give her credit for (she's much more like Lady Gaga then, say, Britney Spears) and her live show is a testament to that.

Ballet, African dance, a full band, a grand piano performance, mind boggling dance numbers, glitter falling from the sky, intense and (seemingly) authentic crowd interaction (at one point Beyonce held up her arm and jiggled her arm fat winking at the audience, telling us that she is a real woman too!). Incredible videos - short films, really - and song transitions. And the most amazing mash ups ever (Whitney Houston songs, among others!)

It was all of my favourite things in one incredible show.

And then Beyonce came out on stage and started singing If I Was A Boy, a song I've always loved, but remixed to a different beat.

I looked at my friend sitting next to me, and gasped, No, it can't be!

Hours earlier I had just told her that Mike (being the secret softie he is) had one song request for our wedding. And Beyonce was now remixing that song, incorporating it into her own. Suddenly she broke out into Verve's Bittersweet Symphony, and I cried like a baby. 

skip to 2:30 for her little nod to bittersweet symphony! 

If you ever told me a Beyonce concert would make me cry I would have laughed at you.

But the Mrs Carter World Tour is that good.

p.s. My favourite song of the concert (can't get it out of my head).

thanks again to my wonderful friends for an unforgettable trip to poland.
i love and miss you all already.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Warsaw: The underestimated city

I'm ashamed to say I didn't have high hopes for Warsaw, or its Old Town. Like so many others before me, I underestimated this country and its capital city.

I've seen enough of Europe to know that when things are reconstructed post WWII they often feel...strange (Frankfurt, anyone?) Like Disneyland - a little too shiny, too new.

But not here.

3D reconstruction of Warsaw post WWII via
Maybe its the extent of the damage Warsaw suffered, or the sorrowful history Poland endured during that period, that makes this reconstruction feel so beautifully defiant and authentic. Either way, Warsaw's Old Town really is a joy to explore, full of folk art, easy smiles, and hearty food.

I wish one of these had fit in my suitcase! Aren't they incredible? I settled for a little hand cut paper artwork instead.

Yes, you can get beer served hot in Warsaw (with raspberry syrup and cinnamon). No, it is not good. (You've been warned. Have the hot mead instead!)

These are the most perfect little candy souvenirs, and (if they don't melt) they're coming to Canada as wedding favours!

We - my wonderful friends and I - left Warsaw's Old Town stomachs full, arms full of shopping bags, and full to the brim with excitement. We were heading to see Beyonce in concert in just a few hours! Come back soon to hear all about it: The most amazing art performance (because it wasn't just a concert!) I've ever had the privilege of seeing.

And, while I don't promote underestimating cities or countries, Warsaw reminded me that sometimes having low expectations leads to the greatest delights.

Thanks, Warsaw. (I'll be back for that paper chandelier someday.)

slept / Hilton Warsaw
drank / Pistachio Bar
shopped / the folk art store in the Old Town's main square, near the Museum of Literature
& the candy shop on Piwna street (follow the smell of melting sugar)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Tree at Auschwitz-II Birkenau: Growing Defiantly

Nothing - no books, articles, movies, lectures, or lessons - can quite prepare you for visiting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-II Birkenau. For rooms full of shoes, suitcases, spectacles, and heartache. For graves for millions, and buildings full of suffering. For the injustice, and frustration, and horror. For the numbness, and tears, and the breath that catches in your throat. 

Or for the one tree that still grows defiantly where it seems nothing should.

No, it's not a pleasant experience visiting Auschwitz. But you should, and not only so we do not forget, do not repeat history. But also to be reminded of so many other important things, too.

Be nice to people. Accept, and celebrate, differences. Do not blindly follow or accept. Question everything.

And grow defiantly, even where it seems nothing could.