It’s Soft Soft Sunday, and here are my seven favourite cutest bunny pictures of my rabbits from this week. In the spotlight this week are Katie and Fifer because they did some really adorable things while I had my camera to hand for a change (usually they dodge the camera):
In the next four pictures, watch Katie eat a dandelion in realtime:
What did you think of Katie and Fifer’s cute bunny adventures this week? They had a lot of fun exploring places but all my cat-proofing (which has stopped the other 6 cats getting in) hasn’t stopped one persistent feline from trying to get at the bunnies when they’re out of their run (which is all the area behind that fence next to Katie in the final 4 pics), so I have to supervise them outside rather than from the kitchen window, which limits what I can do when they’re outside, so affects how long they can be out, which is a shame. Fifer is more timid and gets a bit scared about being loose in the garden if I’m outside, because he’s part wild and doesn’t relate to humans very well, so he hardly comes out while I’m there, but Katie will nose my legs and play chase with me sometimes. She’s come a very long way from when we first brought her home and she was too scared to come out of the travel box for over an hour, and Fifer was the bravest out of the two of them! I sometimes forget we haven’t had her for a full year yet, and that we’ve barely had Fifer for a year, they just seem so much like part of the family and I get bunnysick for them when we’re away from home, and they miss us too (all five of our buns usually won’t say hello for the first 24 hours when we get back from holiday just to show us that they are displeased that we let someone else come and feed them).
Just in time to make the Friday blog update, I got this video finished! I’m answering questions I’ve been asked about my hair including how I got it silver, how I get white hair, how I look after it, why my hair hasn’t all snapped off, whether I use silver shampoo and more. Check it out if you’re vaguely curious:
How to Cross The Bering Strait From Russia to Alaska, detailing everything from Vladivostok onwards for your convenience (last updated February 2016):
This article is going to explain the different options you have to get from the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway at Vladivostok, to Alaska (or vice versa), for those people who have looked at a map and thought, ‘gee, Alaska and Russia are real close, I bet I can go from one to the other.’ My friends, you are in luck, and I’ve done all of the hard work of research for you.
Why am I sharing this? Recently, I’ve been planning an ambitious if uber-budget (like, as cheap as it can get) round the world trip that will require me to get across the Pacific. My general preference is to fly the shortest distances at all times to the nearest land with an airport if it’s possible to go onwards, because let’s be fair, I could just fly on a plane around the world and it would be very, very boring.
It all started with a Trans-Siberian railway idea. You may already know that the Trans-Siberian railway ends either in Beijing or Vladivostok, depending which of the two you want to go to. Both take 6 days, I believe and they both cost about £450 for a one way trip in 2nd class (see Seat61 for more on train journeys across Russia).
That left me (on my proposed itinerary) stranded in Vladivostok with no onward travel. So I looked into whether it was possible to get from Russia to Alaska across the Bering Strait as one of several options (most of the others being to finish in Beijing and fly somewhere). In this article, I wanted to only talk about how to get from Russia to Alaska, since information on this appears to be very limited with loads of sites saying it can’t be done or being deliberately vague because they didn’t actually know. When I updated the article in February 2016, I have also included information about how to get from Alaska to Russia which is MUCH easier.
The Specific Details of getting from Russia to Alaska:
Can you get from Russia across the Bering Strait to Alaska? Yes, you can, although the amount of effort or money involved may leave you changing trains and going to Beijing International Airport instead, for a flight to somewhere less undeveloped. The last thousand miles or so of Russia are still remarkably untouched, like a corner of the world that’s still how it was before agriculture caught on, punctuated with the occasional Soviet-era city or town, and many traditional settlements.
Here’s your options, assuming you are starting at Vladivostok, which is fairly accessible having both roads and rails going to it:
1. Fly from Vladivostok (or Khabarovsk) to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, then get a flight from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Anchorage, Alaska, with Yakutia (www.yakutia.aero), a Russian airline. It’s about a 3 hour flight and goes every Saturday from 11th July to 29th August as it’s a seasonal flight. You can also travel from Vladivostok to Khabarovsk (or get off the train early) and fly from there to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. This certainly seems to be the most reliable way to get out of Russia towards North America without going to Beijing or Seoul. To get to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, you can use any of the following airlines from either Vladivostok or Khabarovsk: Aeroflot (operated by Aurora, use the Aurora site to plan this flight), S7 Airlines, then Ural Airlines only goes from Vladivostok and Yakutia Airlines only goes from Khabarovsk.
Why do you need to fly from Vladivostok (or Khabarovsk) to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky? There are no roads. Literally, the last 800 miles or so of Russia has no roads or railways, not even dirt tracks, literally no thoroughfares at all, connecting places with each other, there are just the occasional towns and villages (which do have roads). Some, like Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, are on the sea and sometimes get freighter traffic. Many other settlements in this area are inland and very isolated. These were the frontier towns during communism, and now, they lie abandoned, the new government seems disinterested in building roads to connect them to anywhere, and their concrete buildings are falling down. There aren’t even any maps aside from Google Earth – literally, this sheet map is the furthest east I could find a paper map for, and it pretty much ends with Vladivostok!
It has been suggested that freighters are another way to get from Vladivostok to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, but there are no regular sailings, I don’t speak more than two words of Russian, so I certainly can’t learn enough Russian to get a job or follow technical instructions by the time I travel, and anyway, I am female and therefore not being physically strong enough to do a lot of work on a freighter, even if the captain would allow me to try, which is unlikely, and freighters are unreliable as a mode of transport – your visa could run out while you waited for one to turn up, so I disregarded this option as impractical.
A note on Google: Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky confused it on some of the ‘maps’ searches, Petropavlovsk did not, Kamchatsky did, so the best search term for information on this place is Petropavlovsk. Some people call it Kamchatka but Google struggles with that too.
2. Travel from Vladivostok to Provideniya, the furthest airport towards the Bering Strait, from there, you can charter a plane from Bering Air, an Alaskan company. They fly Nome, Alaska to Provideniya, Russia and may be able to pick you up in Russia if all your visas etc are in order, and if you’ve arranged this with them. They will probably want you to pay the cost of a return flight because they fly out from Alaska for Alaskan tourists to have trips to this isolated part of Russia, but you don’t need to charter a whole plane; you can potentially do it as a “seat fare passenger” when a plane is bringing American tourists over. I would still expect it to cost some money, however. You need to book this at least three weeks in advance of when you wish to travel so they can arrange all the paperwork which needs time to get from Alaska to Moscow. Email them for further enquiries as they don’t have a scheduled service. This method has the advantage of the shortest flight from Russia to Alaska, but the disadvantage of being complicated and unreliable and potentially expensive.
Getting from Vladivostok to Provideniya:
This is a complicated multi-step trip requiring more than one short-hop flight due to the lack of roadage. Basically, from Vladivostok you need to go back upwards to Khabarovsk (or get off the train early, but then you’d miss out on Vladovostok, which may or may not matter to you), then you can fly from Khabarovsk to Anadyr (Ugolny airport, which is 11km east of Anadyr), then from this airport you can get a flight to Provideniya, from which you may be able to charter across to Nome or Anchorage using the information in the paragraph above.
3. You can walk across the Bering Strait when it is frozen solid, however, it’s about 53 miles of ice, after 800 miles of no roads and wilderness in Russia, and the US immigration office might frown upon your arrival in this manner (but at least they probably won’t arrest you if you have all the correct documentation such as a Visa, not sure where you’d get your exit stamp for Russia, though). There has been one known case of someone doing this in the opposite direction (they described the whole adventure as “brutal”) and they got into a lot of trouble with the Russian authorities because, due to lack of roads, it was impossible for them to register themselves at any police station in Russia within 24 hours of their arrival in the country. Oops. Other alternatives may include horseback or cycling if your off-road biking skills are outstanding, still not sure how you would cross the rivers, however.
Those are all the options I’ve found so far, as there are no direct flights from Vladivostok to anywhere in the U.S or Canada (but you can go on a 35 hour flight changing at Moscow going back all the way around the rest of the world to get to Anchorage or Seattle or anywhere else in North America if you’re set on using a plane and have loads of money). None of them come up on flight comparison services because they are not really comparable with anything. There is literally one option at every stage. Pricing information is also a bust so I don’t know how much any of this costs at the present, but I would guess at least a couple of hundred at each new flight. It’s also worth noting that the NAVTEX stations over that corner of the world don’t appear to be very well maintained so navigational information is often unavailable, which can lead to some scheduled flights being grounded.
Update: Alaska To Russia:
Since I wrote the original article, I have found a company offering charter flight services who may be able to take you from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (or to Vladivostok or Provideniya) or (less likely) Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (or Vladivostok or Provideniya) to Anchorage. This cuts out ALL of the uncertainty and means you will be able to go straight from Alaska to Russia or possibly vice versa with an reputable, accountable company organizing your independent journey by finding you a pilot and a plane. If you wish to book a chartered flight, you can find one here: Villiers Private Jet Charter. Villiers has lots of private pilots with planes around the world and is most likely to be able to meet your needs. Most charter flight services depend on where the individual pilots are based, but there are a lot of people in Alaska with planes so this is your absolute best option if you want to go from Alaska to Russia rather than the other way around, especially since you can book a flight for a date and time which suits you. There are some private charter jets offering the reverse journey (Russia to Alaska) but these are thin on the ground. To offset the cost, it would be well worth finding several other people willing to accompany you on this journey, and on a private charter flight you should be able to take items such as bicycles as well if you needed to.
Do you have any further information on how to cross the Bering Strait from Russia to Alaska, or in reverse? You can email me at email@example.com if you have managed to do this or if you have found any other ways of getting across, or know of a ship that travels this route and takes passengers (not freighters, as explained above), please do let me know I would love to hear how you have done this journey and can add your perspective to this article. If you have a first-hand account of the journey that you’d like to share with the world, I’d love to put you up as a separate article as a guest post (your name to your article, you keep copyright etc) if you email me. I am particularly interested if you’re female as all the articles I’ve read so far seem to be young men in their 20’s and 30’s who have even considered doing this journey. NOTE: I am not a travel agent, please don’t email me asking for detailed travel advice!
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Have you ever dreamed about getting married in a fantasy armor that you could wear again and again to LARP or comicon for many years to come? Ever wanted to make your own leather (or faux leather) dragon scale mail to really stand out in your wedding photos? Bored of suits and ties, cravats and cummerbunds? Looking for inspiration in a world where women are vibrant peacocks and men’s attire is designed to be as prominent as the tableware?
My future husband decided to design and make a leather suit of armor to wear to our wedding. Photos are at the bottom of this article.
He was still making it on the day of the wedding.
One word of advice to any brides whose intended decides to make his own wedding outfit: Shut him in a room with his project about two months before the big day and don’t let him out till he finishes it. Nobody needs the kind of stress on the morning of their wedding that comes from hearing the words “I just need to finish the shoes.”
He made his outfit out of fake recycled leather pieces** that had a backing which looked a bit like cardboard. He cut out every single scale separately in oval shapes that were all the same size, that he cut out with a craft knife and sponged very lightly with silver acrylic paint to give them a dragon scale glow. He then riveted them together onto a cotton shirt for an anti-chafe backing, using metal rivets, and set it all off with a belt with a dragon design on it, and he made a pair of boots made from the same material, using a pair of flip flops for insulating the soles. Underneath, he wore one of his pairs of suit trousers.
**I was adamant that no cows or other animals be harmed for our wedding but when this recycled leather arrived, I decided to compromise on it, because it had already been someone’s sofa or coat, or something else, and was reformed and reconstituted and held together with a polyvinyl derived glue which all meant that nothing died for this to happen. Even though it wasn’t to the letter what I had expected when he told me his plans, it was at least in the same ballpark, and my husband eats meat so I decided he had really thought this through. He had looked extensively at PVC, and realised it wouldn’t give the same rigidity and would make the whole garment a waste of effort since he would not be able to wear it regularly to go to LARP where it would get subjected to all sorts of things that I don’t know about because I don’t LARP. Throwing a useless worn-once PVC wedding outfit on a landfill would probably harm more animals than using recycled leather that would be kept until it fell to pieces, so I reluctantly agreed this was ok.
Click on any of the pictures to enlarge to their original size.
It’s Travel Tuesday and I’d like to share the cities I’d least like to visit again. Obviously, this was limited to places I’d already visited. I don’t have much in the way of photos as they weren’t the kind of places that inspired me to get the camera out. Before you put pen to paper about the North getting a bad rap, stay tuned for next week, when I’m going to look at my favourite cities in the North of England. I love a good city adventure, somewhere with style, romance, undiscovered cool stuff or great places to eat. The following cities failed to deliver on more than one level.
#9 Boulougne Sur Mer
This is a seaside town, slightly off the main route to Calais, and there is literally nothing of interest here. Usually you can be surprised by an interesting place such as a random church or something. This had nothing.
I kept misreading the signs, because it calls istself “City of Reading” instead of “Reading City” and I thought that was an accolade. Like international city of culture or city of lost dreams. Nope, it’s not the city of reading, it’s the city of Reading, (pronounced Redding), and their library and university are so-so.
Also it has far too many roundabouts and not enough traffic lights.
Its traffic management system is akin to three drunk penguins trying to run away from a walrus.
It’s a northern Italian city that’s renowned as the home of high fashion. Do you know why they invented such beautiful clothing? Because the city is really boring. There is nothing to do but worship at the altar of consumerism.
#5 Newport, Gwent
I had the dubious fortune of staying here a couple of years ago on my way to the Brecon Beacons. It’s had a facelift. but that doesn’t stop the skanky drunk women from shouting racial slurs at anyone who looks European. I think if I’d stayed here longer, I would have learned to hate it with the same passion that I dislike Luton.
Bleeeeeeeuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrgh. That is all.
I hate my birthplace in a way you only can if you lived somewhere then got forced out by gentrification and riots. London has PROBLEMS. You have to be uber middle class to live here and like it, or you will just keep getting kicked in the face until you get your head back under the poverty line. It’s saturated with people who just grab at everything and leave nothing for anyone else, it’s the most needy, desperate city of human misery, decay and lost opportunities which I’ve ever been to. But it doesn’t get the number one spot because I am aware it has several redeeming features such as the Natural History Museum.
It’s grey, it’s dull, it’s a shit northern town whose inhabitants like to shout racial slurs out of car windows at people who “look foreign” (i.e. Eastern European, i.e. anyone who doesn’t have the features inherent in the narrow gene pool from which Doncastrians draw their mates). Then they laugh about it with their friends later. It’s also the AIDS capital of the UK despite having none of the risk factors – they’re anti gay and anti foreign – because they’re so securely inbred that they refuse to take precautions so when one person got it, it spread like wildfire. The only good thing about Doncaster is that it was the birthplace of Jeremy Clarkson. Why do you think he learned to drive? To get the hell out of there!
Barnsley, Preston, Kingston upon Hull, Middlesbrough: More grim northern cities. I could quite happily go through my entire life by never seeing them again, as well. They’re all pretty much the same as Doncaster.
It’s got an airport. That’s its only redeeming feature. And Luton is on negative points to start with, for reasons such as the Labour MP used to put racist electoral propaganda through our door, and the Lib Dem opposition candidates tried to topple her by doing the same, because people in Luton are just that racist against a particular minority group, and it has no character or class, and their council is run by a goldfish who can’t talk to you on the phone because he lost his glasses. Oh and if you’re female and blonde? Expect to be sexually harassed on a daily basis. The whole place is a dump.
As you can see, racism, poor traffic management, and other completely arbitrary reasons earned many cities a spot on this list. My experiences are just that – my experiences, and Your Mileage May Vary. But what is travel writing, if not a way for people to share subjective experiences with other people for mutual benefit?
Where would you least like to visit again? Let me know in the comments.
It’s been an exciting 8 hours, and I have learned that Bob Dylan and Dave Gilmour are both touring in the UK this year (we’re definitely in 2015, right??).
So my favourite favourite band of all time is Pink Floyd. If I got stuck with one band on a Desert Island, they’d be it. If I could build a time machine, I’d go back and see Syd play “See Emily Play” along with my other favourites from their first couple of years as a band. They’re number 1 on my bands bucket list: The bands I need to see before they kick the bucket
So I regularly check the listings to see whether Roger Waters or Dave Gilmour are doing tours in 2015.
I was, in fact, checking them today, when I was crashingly disappointed to find out that Dave Gilmour’s first tour in years sold out within an hour of being announced on 6th March. All the dates are in October. I must have last checked hours before that got announced! I would have known this in April if my dad hadn’t died as I was totally caught up with that until now. To top it off, Dave (or his management, because it’s not a standard ticket condition) has insisted that to prevent ticket resale, the person who booked the tickets MUST be present with photo ID on the day of the event! So people can’t buy tickets as birthday presents, and if you’re in a group and the person who booked them is sick and can’t go, you’re going to get turned away at the door! If your circumstances change or you have a bereavement? Your tickets are non-refundable, voided and non-resaleable. This seems unreasonable conditions to impose on people who are paying to see someone perform. So no hope of last minute re-sales. I don’t think disappointed covers it. I thought I was going to start spiralling down into the blackness of depressionland again (and I’m not due for at LEAST another month or so), I mean, literally, I would have sold my car to go to this concert if that was a way to make it happen. Or blown my meager inheritance. I know my dad would have implicitly approved; Pink Floyd were his favourite as well, along with the venerable Bob Dylan, The Who and Jimi Hendrix.
I checked Roger Waters (because they often used to plan dates to clash with each other, back when they had a bit of a feud), and all his dates were in America (I might go to America to see him at some point). So I went to look at the Royal Albert Hall’s tickets page in case there were still some left at the venue and the “sold out” thing might have been a mistake.
No they were sold out of Dave Gilmour on all ten dates.
But they did have a scrolling banner of upcoming acts and Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan were both billed (not together, although that would have been epic).
I’ve never been the biggest Clapton fan although I totally appreciate what he did for the field of guitar music. Bob Dylan is one of my favourites, though, and the one that I never thought in a million years that I would ever get to see play live.
I excitedly went to the listing and looked at this:
There was only one UK date left for Bob Dylan, and best news ever, it was a Saturday sometime in October, so I looked at seats to see about getting some tickets. The only seats were those ones BEHIND the stage, that I remember looking at year on year back when I used to watch TV, whenever there was a televised performance, because I remember thinking, “why would people buy tickets to sit where they can’t see?” I still don’t understand why you’d do it to see, like, the Spice Girls or something (and y’know, when I was 11 I used to dream about being their long-lost sixth member, Jasmine Spice. Like literally go to sleep and dream this), but for Bob Dylan, I would do it. Bob Dylan is a freaking LEGEND.
This was all about 8 hours ago, then my husband came home from a party and I excitedly bounced up to him and said, “Bob Dylan, Albert Hall, 24th October, it’s a Saturday, they’ve got a few tickets left.”
He said we’d talk about it in the morning which is responsible-person-speak for “no. And I don’t want to talk about it.” Okay, London is very far away and train tickets are generally stupidly expensive and its neither of our favourite place, in fact we both have it at the bottom of any list of places we’d like to go, next to Slough and Luton (Paris is only slightly higher on the list, give me Salzburg or Rome ANY day), and he doesn’t tend to love 60s alternative hippie music as much as I do because his parents worked for the man their entire lives and mine tuned in, turned up and dropped out, and grew me in a cloud of narcotics and other “plants.” We are Dharma and Greg (except for the whole Kitty thing). But Bob freaking Dylan!!!
Anyway, it’s the morning (or it was when I started writing this) and we talked about seeing Bob Dylan live in concert in October, and I pointed out that although it was in London, it WAS a Saturday, and he agreed that this WAS a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a musical legend and that even choir seats were better than missing it since we missed out on so many concerts this year due to late announcements and tickets being held for fan clubs, and that’s how he very generously bought two Bob Dylan tickets, one each, and said that mine can be my birthday and Christmas present for a couple of years.
Excited doesn’t even cover it. And I know this sounds awful but things happen for a reason and if I’d checked Dave Gilmour in April I wouldn’t have seen Bob Dylan’s tickets because he didn’t announce until 1st May. So something slightly good came from losing my dad when I did. I know my dad is looking down on me going “yay! Tickets!”
Ooh and the third band I listed in the title, what about them? Well, I’ve had my Download 2015 tickets for a while, it’s in 2 weekends’ time, and I was looking at the line-up last night when I saw Apocalyptica were confirmed.
Which put me in mind of one of my favourites of theirs: The Hall of The Mountain King. Which is an awesome interpretation of a classic and reminds me of when I used to work as an Ice Dancer at Alton Towers (because they’d licensed the classical version as their “ambient music” for some areas). Enjoy:
It’s Anything Can Happen Thursday, and I want to show you my favourite cars. These are all cars that, for me, defined an era. Cars that make me go all wobbly inside and reach for my purse to check for loose change when I see them on Auto Trader.
First up is the iconic Jaguar E type, a beautiful vehicle that was a triumph of design:
Then there was this:
The Lotus Elan was an instant hit, thanks to it’s role as one of the two cars on The Avengers (nothing to do with the superhero characters, these were kick ass detectives) during the golden age of that show – Diana Rigg and Patrick MacNee (ok, Honor Blackman fans, I’m ready for your hatemail, because I firmly believe Emma was cooler than Cathy). If anyone has one of these and doesn’t want it, I will gladly take it off your hands, this is at the very, very top of my list of dream cars, but sadly I can’t afford it.
Then Austin made a car that could be parked outside tiny 2 up 2 down terraced houses. It also featured in a rather daring film, where some cockney gentlemen (such as Michael Caine) proved that you could park several of these in a lorry, in The Italian Job and then everyone wanted one. Presumably lots of people had parking spaces in haulage vehicles:
When Rover took over and re-badged it in the 1990s, it didn’t look any different, but the badge means a lot to car collectors. And clowns. This is the mini that you could be amused watching clowns get out of, because there’s not much space:
Let’s take it back to the ’70’s and look at a triumph of car design: It was named after a well known airplane used by the British Royal Air Force during the second world war – and it’s body design resembles a plane chassis. Put some wings on this baby and the Triumph Spitfire would be airborne:
And here’s what’s under the hood, from the days when you could actually feel a thrill by looking under the bonnet of a car:
But if you want a sports car for an eighties action TV series featuring someone resembling a young David Hasselhoff, you need something a bit more ridiculous. Undersized, underpowered, under warranty … these are not words that describe our next car, the Lotus Esprit, which looks not unlike the DeLorien because pointy angular cars were a bit of a thing for a while:
By 1989, however, it had had a remake and looked even more stunning than before:
Around the same time, this unassuming, more mainstream car was on the road:
What a stunner, the Ford Escort Cabriolet has it all. A year later, it got a facelift:
While all things must come to an end, these cars don’t have to yet – they’re all for sale on Auto Trader (which is where I got all of today’s photos, unless otherwise stated) although they’ll obviously set you back a fair bit – that Jaguar E type is going for £89,000, the Mini is £2,500 and everything else is somewhere in between!!! I think they’ve all got a fair bit of mileage in them yet, although I think I need something more practical and spacious for my next car camper conversion. Or something with more than four seats. This VW Devon looked like it fitted the bill:
But it appears to be missing something:
I wanted something that wasn’t lacking large chunks of the chassis, so I’m probably going to go for something like this Toyota Lucida (but this one is now sold):
Which one is your favourite? Let me know in the comments.