St. Petersburg: a surprising Port experience

Russia.  Hard not to think about the cold war, the vastness of the country and vodka — not in that order.  We were in St. Petersberg for 3 days.  Probably I’m the only person that found the arrival and departure the most beautiful and exciting.  St. Peterburg is truly a beautiful city — who knew that it has more bridges than Venice.  And, that the bridges along the Neva River “open” from something like 1:30am-5:30am for ship traffic.  So if you get stuck on one side and your abode is on the other — tough luck.

We were having our first cruise experience on the Seabourn Sojourn — a 1-year old ship that has its own desalination plant, 4 engines (usually uses 2) and so on (I went on a tour of the bridge).  350 passengers or so and almost as many crew.

On the morning of our arrival in St Petersburg (after a day of cycling in Helsinki), I woke up early and noticed that land was almost so close you could touch it.  And the port activities amazing.


St. Petersburg cranes -- major port and ship-building

purple crane2

A wonderful purple crane...the port aesthetic

I loved the colourful purple crane — and the positioning of the St. Isaac’s golden dome in the distance.

Departure from St. Petersburg required 2 tugs — both bow and stern.  Although we learned during the tour of the bridge that this was really just an abundance of caution and the ship could really turn on a dime with the thrusters.  But I am a tug fan so it was okay with me.

croped stern

The tug on the stern with some of the Neva bridges in background

Next blog about the Erarta Contemporary Museum & Gallery.

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Copenhagen vignettes

We’ve been home from Copenhagen a couple of week now. I started this blog when we’d been in Copenhagen just over a month.

Anyway — starting to feel like we own the place — at least we have a pretty good sense of what is where.  Have been blogging on the site because of the richness of interesting and new findings in that area at the Copenhagen Business School.

Here are just a few vignettes from our experiences over the last month…

Osterport train station


Bicycle City.  We are staying close to the water/port in a redeveloped area of Copenhagen called Amerika Plads (that is like “place” not plaid pants — Danish is a difficult language!).  We walk for 10-12 minutes to the Osterport Train Station (conveniently it has an IRMA grocery store right there) and then we take the train (which comes every 1-2 “minutters” one stop to Nørreport Station where we change for the relatively new metro and travel 3 stops to Faranvej -one of the 3 metro stations that services the Copenhagen Business School.


After we did your train-metro adventure each morning, we’d visit Tor for morning kaffe.  His kaffe and juice bar and his conversation helped us have a good start to the day in Copenhagen.  We were also pleased to leave our English magazines (Monocle) and newspapers for his other customers.  We miss him!

torIf you are in Copenhagen you can find Tor at the exit of the Fasanvej metro stop.

Our CBS offices were is in the renovated porcelain factory of Royal Copenhagen/Georg Jenson.  So that was fun too.

the CarportTHE CARPORT has quite a significant collection of scotches and whiskies.  We came upon it on one of our bicycle trips.  Dave sampled.

Bella Sky Hotel

BELLA SKY HOTEL — we visited thanks to a couple we met at CBS who wanted to explore this newly opened hotel on the outskirts of Copenhagen.  It is adjacent to the conference centre where COP15 was held.

We had a drink in the top floor bar.  And wondered what it would be like to walk from the metro station in the dead of winter — the connection isn’t close.

From Bridgette Meinhold’s blog:

The Bella Sky Hotel and Conference Center, designed by 3XN Architects, opens next Monday in Copenhagen, becoming one of the largest hotels in Scandinavia. The dramatic twin towers twist and lean as they reach for the sky allowing all of the guests optimal views over the nature park ‘Amager Common’ located nearby. The triangular patterned facade, which may be a little on the wild side, was designed expressly to minimize solar heat gain and maximize energy efficiency.

postcard streetTHE POSTCARD STREET

Finally, the iconic view of Copenhagen.  We cycled and walked through many times but never stopped.  Too many tourists!  Doesn’t take long to think you are more than a visitor in a wonderful place like Copenhagen.

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Atelier — food design at its best

Ottawa trips don’t usually signal culinary extravaganzas.  On the referral of one of my Sauder colleagues, Tony Boardman, I signed up for a reservation at Atelier.  Made the reservation on-line (what a great invention) and then received a phone confirmation giving me instructions about how to find the restaurant due to the fact that there is no sign — just the address — 540 Rochester Street.

Tony had prepared me for the tasting menu which has a wine pairing that goes with it —  it sounds like it changes almost every night.  It was a Tuesday evening and the restaurant was quiet — but I got the sense that one always gets superb service at Atelier.

Of course they endeared themselves to me when the warm bread was presented with a tooth-paste-type-tube of butter.  Like this. Fun.

atelier butter

The first course was called Bubbles — it was a bit challenging for me because it had duck tongue (2 of them) but I really liked the balls of kohlrabi, little tapiocas, coconut bubbles and foam.  It was matched with a 2009 Hidden Bench Bistro Rose from Niagara.

The second course was Prosciutto and Melon.  Wonderful.  It was watermelon instead of the usual cantaloupe which I don’t really like.

melonThere was prosciutto, raw swordfish, seared watermelon (chunk in lower picture) and little cubes of watermelon as well.  There were daubs of red wine to balance the plate.

The third course was called Fennel Vision — it was caramelized fennel, wilted spinach, edamane, powdered olives — and things that I can’t remember.  The chef does a lot of freeze drying and powdering of food — the tastes are really amazing.  This was matched with a Sauvignon Blanc (2010 Astrolabe) from Marlborough, New Zealand.

The fifth course was 46 degrees Salmon with salmon, cucumber, dill, chervil (photo below).

46 degree salmon2 Then came Nachos & Beer — a wonton in beer batters with powdered cheese, sour cream, bacon and jalapenos — and of course accompanied by Birra Bruton Stoner from Lucca, Italy.

By this time, I was wondering if I could stay the course.  But each individual offering was light and so tasty.  So I persevered.

Liver Damage was probably my least favourite — fois gras deep fried with parsnip pieces, brioche and pistashio nuts matched with a NV Cossart Gordon Medium Rich 5-year Bual Madeira from Portugal.  Busy Beets followed with frozen extruded beets, beets and a little slide of brie accompanied by a 2006 Dr. Hermann Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese from Mosel Germany.  And then there was a delicious Duck Tortelloni with smoked mushrooms, what I wrote down as “amazing sauce”, hazelnuts and I think a quince paste.  This was accompanied by a 2007 Beresford Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia.  And the final savoury was Elk (a first time for me) — a steak which was delicately broiled and very tasty — especially with the 2006 A to Z Winewords Chemin de Terre from Oregon.

While I had requested a half-portion of each of the accompanying pairings, I was reaching my limit.  And now dessert of which there were three!  Pomme de Mars was apple rings with Ice Cream cake and a walnut crumble paired with a 2008nDomaine Pinnacle Ice Cider from the Eastern Townships.  iCup was a frozen passionfruit pure inside of which was a chocolate cake on a cookie.  Hmmm.  The match here was a 2007 De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon from New South Wales.  Just when I really thought I was done, The Troll Truffle arrived.  I’ll let you imagine what that was.

The design of everything was exquisite — the plating, the incredible tastes — it really awakens your taste buds and reminds you what food can taste like at the hands of a great chef.  I didn’t meet the chef — but I did see the kitchen where all this happens.  It is compact and, of course, well designed.

You can find Atelier at 540 Rochester Street Ottawa Ontario — 613-321-3537,  And apologies to Atelier if I made any mistakes in listing the ingredients — they were too many and too wonderful to remember/list.

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Dash +D'Bree…Melbourne Comedy Festival

Melbourne is abuzz with activity — lots of people on the street and tons of events t choose from.  There seem to be even more coffee places than in Vancouver.  And the quality is good (according to Dave).

On Saturday, we headed out to sample some of the comedy festival fare.  We chose DASH+D’BREE — or perhaps it is more accurate to say they chose us.  We happened to be zipping down one of Melbourne’s many urban lanes and we came upon a photo-shoot with Dash and D’Bree — they handed out a little flyer advertising their gig.

Billed as a “laugh out loud commentary on fashion, shopping and fame by two outrageous characters tipped to be the next Kath and Kim” they played to a small crowd in an upstairs room at the Portland Hotel in Melbourne.

And here they are — I think the fellow in the middle is their manager but not sure.  Anyway — it was fun to be entertained (mostly) for an hour by this energetic twosome — complete with pearls.

bree dash

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Nation Re-building…planning & dialogue

The Assembly of First Nations held its Spring 2011 Planning and Dialogue Forum on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  I was feeling out of touch with the evolution of governance and First Nations economies, so I attended the first day of the Forum.

When I was in the BC Ministry of Advanced Education (as it was then called) we did a lot of work on First Nations capacity development on the post-secondary side in terms of finding ways to support institutions in partnering with First Nations, thus attracting students to post secondary.  I know that this work is continuing.

The session began with a trio of welcomes:  Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation, Cliff Atleo (elder and father of Shawn), and Jody Wilson-Raybould, BC Regional Chief.

The morning keynote was delivered by Dr. Stephen Cornell, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy at the University of Arizona.  He spoke about the research and ongoing work of the Institute in supporting American Tribes in National Re-building.  His main messages were that there is a quiet revolution happening across North America in tribes re-building their nations and that it is “all about governance”.

Dr. Cornell gave us an extensive tour across North America of tribes who are successfully re-bulding their nations:  Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma who now own local food stores, the radio station and the First National Bank;  Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe who run Eagle Valley Outfitters — 10,000 years (!!) of Outdoor Experience and also created and run their own pharmacy and housing development and the list goes on.

While business, culture, health, families, justice, education and land/animals are all important, the bottom line in successful nation re-building is how you organize yourself — the governance.

So Dr. Cornell emphasized the key importance of systematically building governance capacity.

“Nations that govern well — that make good rules and live by them — do better in the long run”.

If you don’t address the governance problem, you won’t solve the health problem, for example.

His definition of governance:  “how you translate the will of the nation into organized, sustained and effective action.”  Governing tools and mechanisms need to be right for each nation.

Dr. Cornell left us with 4 questions:

1.  What does governance mean in your community?

2.  Have you considered sharing governing with other nations?  In other words, re-constituting the nation.

3.  Are you creating the governance tools that you need?

4.  If you are looking for effective governing tools, does the Indian Act provide you with the tools?

His parting shot was his view of the Indian Act in Canada:

  • it is someone else’s idea,
  • it screws up accountability — doesn’t adequately bring decisions and consequences together, and,
  • it is a lousy governance machine.

I found the governance discussion to be very useful for all of us to consider.  I was sitting at a table with Chief Anne Mack from the Toquaht First Nation in Ucluelet.    In 2008 the provincial government ratified the Maa-nulth Treaty – a treaty under which the band secured 1,600 hectares of land, including 46 kilometres of oceanfront property along Toquart Bay, in Barkley Sound.

Anne and her colleagues begin their serious nation re-building on April 1 of this year so she was at this Forum to learn more about what lies ahead.   I learned from a web search that Anne is a mother of six daughters. She earned an undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology took over the hereditary chieftainship from her father Bert Mack who at 85 had served his community for 67 years as hereditary Chief.

I wish Chief Mack and the Toquaht First Nation well in their endeavours.

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Soft power

Still working through Monocle (Dec 2010/Jan 2011) and was interested in their piece on “The New Soft Sell”.  “Which countries get their way in the world without having to resort to military might?  Who are the soft power leaders who know the value of well-placed aid or a good pop star?”

Having grown up in the world of Lester B. Pearson I still think of Canada as a leader in soft power.  So I quickly flipped the pages to see if we had made the grade.  Well — we are 13th out of 25 — between the Netherlands and Singapore.  At least we are still on the list.

Britain and France jointly held the top spot.  According to Monocle:

“Both have governments that seem to have little natural passion for soft power but have history, language, pop culture and more on their side.  Sadly both are also led by premiers who are unable to spake a second language.”

The piece goes on to say that both countries have soft power — but that their governments don’t necessarily know how to use it.  Witness the talked about cuts to the BBC.

The survey metrics include:  number of foreign correspondents in the country, audience figures abroad for stat-sponosred media,  gold medals at last summer and winter Olympics,  number of tourists per year, Official Development Assistance as percentage of GDP, Number of foreign students per 1000 population, number of universities in the Times Education Supplement Top 200, cultural missions abroad and so on.

Canada’s column headlines with:  Good on paper but its media needs to be more ambitious.

We have a reputation for punching above our weight in terms of peacekeeping ops and in producing female pop stars — e.g. Avril, Shania, Celine, KD, Nelly, Alanis) (?)

“Part of Ottawa’s problem is that much of what it does on the world stage is refracted through a US prism…The CBC could easily be an alternative international voice to the BBC but it’s not.”

Here comes the zinger:  “…Canada is very content with its lot.”  We certainly have a lot to be thankful for — does this make us less engaged?

I was interested in the numbers — we have 101 foreign correspondents in our country,  17.1 million tourists, 0.3% GDP spent on aid.  And the panel commented that Canada is:  “Let down by its airline and leader”.

And finally, the Monocle fix:

“Public and private sector should work on producing a world-class print/web/broadcast outlet of record to offer a distinct voice to the BBCs.”

Wouldn’t that be exciting.  Wonder if anybody would have the courage to reallocate resources at CBC to emphasize the web and radio — and perhaps de-emphasize everything but news TV?

Guess maybe we should start pushing for it.

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USCGC Hamilton — on its last run

Last week the US Coast Guard ship the Hamilton was in town.  When I was closely involved with the Pacific Coast Collaborative, I got to know the US Consul General Phil Chicola and his wife Vicky.  So Dave and I get these very interesting invitations from Phil like the one we received recently to a reception onboard the USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715).

USCGC Hamilton

The Hamilton was launched on December 18, 1965 out of shipyards in New Orleans.  It is a high endurance cutter — named in honour of Alexander Hamilton, who in 1790 was the first Secretary of the Treasury in the US.  The ship, like many Coast Guard vessels, has served collecting oceanographic data, search and rescue missions and assisting in curbing the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants entering the US.

Of course the most interesting part of these receptions is meeting the people who work on the ship — in this case the officers.  There are 167 men and women on the Hamilton.  I didn’t meet any women officers.  I met Captain Matthew J. Gimple who has the challenge of keeping everybody sane during 6 weeks at sea.  The ship is based in San Diego and on this trip they went as far as the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.

And experienced 37foot waves!  One of the officers was telling me that he reported to the bridge for duty — a bit bleary eyed because of the time of the morning — and couldn’t believe that he was seeing waves.  The bridge is 43 feet about the sea!  So they experienced some severe weather.

I talked to some of the officers about their educational background.  One had attended the US Coast Guard Academy and was an electrical engineer.  Several others had college degrees in a variety of disciplines.  I was also intrigued by the use of last names on their official name tags and asked how they referred to each other — by last names?  But no.  They call each other by what they do:  Ops (Operations), Sup (Supplies) and so on.  There is a gym on board — although they did admit that it wasn’t getting quite as much use as they had hoped.

While the ship is obviously well worn with use, I was surprised to find out that this was its last voyage.  It is going to be de-commissioned.   And the crew will move onto another Coast Guard cutter for their next foray out to sea.

Thank you to the US Consul General for broadening our understanding of the ships that ply the Pacific Coast of North America.

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