Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘romance’

Did I mention that I am in Paris? Even though I come here often on business I somehow think I’m going to wake up, six years old, back in my bed in Cleveland, Ohio having dreamt the whole thing.

That’s why today, on the taxi ride into the city, I kept saying to myself, “I’m in Paris. I’m in Paris.” And I did a little seated “happy dance” in the back of the car.

Paris is like a lover in that you never want to take it for granted. So, to keep my relationship with it fresh and exciting, on this trip I changed both my hotel and my district. This time, I have hung my hat at the Hotel Residence Europe in Clichy, a northwest suburb of Paris. The room rate is about half the price I paid when I was stayed in the 15th arrondisement near the Eiffel Tower.

Lest you think I’m out in the boonies somewhere, I’m actually next to the swish 17th arrondissement, which is only 4 miles from the city center and six Métro stops to the Champs-Élysées. From there, Paris is at your feet.

The hotel is also within walking distance of a lovely park, the Place de la République François Mitterrand, and lots of neighborhood restaurants.

Changing hotels has taken me out of my comfort zone. Life on the road has made me a creature of habit. It’s nice to have something familiar when visiting a strange place, i.e. a place that isn’t “home”. In my case it’s usually the same hotel, a favorite restaurant or, if I’m lucky, time spent with friends.

In this case it’s “my friend” Julia Roberts, whose familiar face is on transit posters all over Paris. She’s promoting Lancôme’s new fragrance, La Vie Est Belle. The tag line being: Life is beautiful. Live it your way.” Gee, that sounds familiar.

Life is Beautiful

“So Julia, what brings you to Paris?” I ask no one in particular, until I notice an elderly Frenchwoman standing next to the bus shelter. She just smiles at me indulgently – I know what she’s thinking: another crazy tourist.

As I continue my walk around the neighborhood, I decide to add a soundtrack. This trip I brought my IPod and wouldn’t you know it, the first song on the shuffle was Céline Dion’s “Taking Chances.”

If I believed in signs (like billboard posters and songs), I’d think that the universe was trying to tell me something. And maybe it is. From the moment I took a taxi to the Montreal airport on Sunday, I had this electric feeling of expectancy what the French refer to as a frisson, a feeling of emotional excitement.

It started with a handsomely chic Belgian who kept me company in at the Air Canada counter check-in line. His dark hair was flecked with a touch a grey at the sides, and when he smiled, he had wonderful laugh lines around his eyes. There was a rogue piece of hair that kept falling forward onto his tanned forehead, and I was tempted to push it back, like Barbra Streisand did to Robert Redford in The Way We Were.

Meanwhile back in Paris, I find a little restaurant and decide to have an omelette aux fines herbes and a green salad for lunch. It’s delicious. And the waiter is charming. He has a big smile that reaches all the way to his turquoise-colored eyes and he is very solicitous. He even invites me to change to a table where I am more comfortable.

We chat amicably in French and English throughout the meal. He explains that when he isn’t waiting tables, he studies architecture. That leads to a conversation about the beauty that is the living museum called Paris.

And that leads to invitation to a movie or an evening stroll around the city.

“Que dirais-tu?” What do you say? He asks.

I’m sure there so many reasons to say “no” but I can’t think of any.  In fact, I feel my comfort zone start to expand even more.

He asks again.

“I say yes.”

Read Full Post »

Last week I was the guest speaker at the Montreal Chroma-Zone meeting of the Color Marketing Group. My topic was how to create a personal color palette. I noted, and rightly so, that as color marketing professionals we’re so busy adding color to other peoples’ lives we sometimes forget to add color to our own. A short survey of the room proved me right.

My talk focused on the metaphorical use of color in your life or, to put it another way, how to decorate your soul. The best way to do this is to get out of your comfort zone, to shift out of your safe neutral, “beige” existence and take some chances.

Of course if you give a speech like this, you have to show your audience that you practice what you preach. And, so, I told them about three things I did this summer.

The first thing I did was to get my “glam” on. I treated myself to a photography session to experience the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Era when stars like Hayworth, Gardner, Garbo and Dietrich ruled the red carpet.

Get your glam on…

It’s amazing what good lighting and a little makeup can do for a girl. I did this for me but I am happy to share a photo with you. Notice the purple gown and the red lips.  This is one combination I would never have put together myself, but it has become one of my favorite go-to color combinations for special occasions. Now, whenever I need a little pick me up, I look at one of the pictures and then get dressed, i.e., get my glam on and go out with the girls. It works wonders.

My next colorful summer adventure was in the kitchen. I treated a friend to a lesson at a wonderful little cooking school in Old Montreal called Ateliers et Saveurs. Check out this colorful salad composé of corn, red pepper and cucumber dressed with a spicy Tabasco dressing. The only thing more colorful than the salad is my dress – a lively mixed pattern of salmon, rose, red and black swirls. Both the dish and me were hot stuff.

I rounded out my tales of my summer color by confessing to a dalliance with a much younger man which, while it was all too brief, was rendered unforgettable with a melody he composed just for me. One friend who heard the melody said that it captured me perfectly. Whenever I listen to it, I see the pastel colors of a Parisian sunset, all soft and pretty. And I wonder if that was how he saw me? And if, when he wrote it, he was thinking about last spring and Paris and our long walks by the Seine. I wonder if that melody colors his memories the way it colors mine.

Katja’s (Cat’s) Melody

And now we’re coming into one of the most colorful seasons of all – at least in my neck of the woods – fall.  For those of you lucky enough to experience a change of seasons, now would be the perfect time to kick back with a cup of coffee and contemplate the colors you can add to your own personal palette. And for those of you located in a more consistent climate, remember you don’t need a change of seasons to inspire your own personal color palette. All you need is a change of mind. It doesn’t matter whether your personal palette is bright and bold, or pastel and pretty, because color is a choice. And if you don’t like it, you can always change it.

In the meantime, own it, wear it, live it!

Read Full Post »

As you read in the previous post, sometimes I  want to shake off those good girl shackles and be “bad,” if only for a little while. And the perfect opportunity seems to present itself once a year in the form a handsome Brazilian pilot who shows up at my door during  the Montreal Formula One Grand Prix.

It’s the 21st century version of the play/movie Same Time Next Year but without the same emotional intimacy experienced by the principal characters, George and Doris, who meet every year for 24 years, sharing the ups and downs of their lives in a brief but intense weekend. Over time, you see how they grow individually and as a “couple.”

For the past seven years the pilot and I have passed through a smattering of weekends of mostly style and no substance and very little sharing. We as a couple seem to be stuck in a moment – the moment we first met.

Shallow you think? Absolutely. On the other hand there is no danger of drowning in something more profound, in a sea of those roiling emotions that framed our first summer together as friends and lovers. Now it’s safer for us to tread water in the shallow end of the sea of love. It’s less scary for him (he can’t swim) and less frustrating for me (forever throwing a lifeline to a drowning man).

But it’s the capacity to accept our relationship limitations that keeps us friends. We have an unspoken agreement that lets us honor the past without burdening the future with expectations. That agreement keeps us in contact throughout the year and enables us to share travel schedules in the hopes that someday our paths would cross on a bit more regular basis. But they never do. When I’m in Paris he’s in Palm Springs, when I’m in Beijing he’s in Barcelona – even with all that international travel our paths only cross here, in Montreal.

I don’t think it coincidental at all that Michael Buble’s song “Home” hit the top of the charts the year the pilot and I met. It defined us then and it defines us now.  It’s the stay/go paradox we both share.  And I know that when he turns up at my door with a box of dark chocolate covered strawberries and good Grand Cru like he did last weekend he finally feels at home and so do I…if only for a little while.

photo: © istockphoto.com/Yuri_Acurs

Read Full Post »

Solo travel is wonderful in so many ways. It forces me out of my comfort zone. And it gives me an opportunity to see, do or try new things. It’s as freeing as it is terrifying.

The downside to solo travel is the occasional bout of loneliness tinged with a hint of melancholy, especially when returning to some of those places that are haunted ghosts of lovers past. This is sometimes unavoidable when many of these places coincide with business – and the catch-as-catch-can of trysts in transit.

Room service on the 18th floor of the Hyatt in Chicago with the sun breaking over Navy Pier – coffee, croissants and intense conversation – now gives way to a mocha latte grande gulped down in the back of a taxi careering down Michigan Avenue. Champagne toasts to a bejeweled Paris at midnight are, these days, all too easily satisfied with a handful of almonds and a diet soda. And the magic of Athenian nights are transformed into mundane evenings of emails as usual.

No matter how many years pass, nostalgia creeps up on me just when I think I’ve made peace with my past. I was the kind of kid who liked to pick at scabs, so it doesn’t surprise me when I overindulge myself in a little bit of romantic reverie. Try as I might, it seems I can run but I can’t hide. Sometimes I don’t want to run or hide – such is the perverse nature of bittersweet memories.

This time, it all started innocently enough with a recent stop in the duty free. I love the smell of duty free. Have you ever noticed how they all smell the same the world over? They should bottle that scent. To me it represents freedom and a world of adventure just beyond the next boarding gate. You never know what to expect.

And so it was at the duty free that I came face to face with Ewen McGregor on a poster promoting the Davidoff fragrance – Adventure. It brought back the scent of a certain Swede – the Swede of the Chicago breakfast. And you know what they say about scent and memory…

Blue Paris

The second close encounter with sentimentality came in Paris when I decided to trade in my soda for a little bottle of white wine from the mini-bar. It was ’round midnight, when I turned on some Paris easy listening and was greeted by the sexy and sultry voice of Luther singing “If Only for One Night” just for me. I had pulled open the curtains to look at the impressive array of buildings dotting the skyline of La Defense. As I stared at my reflection in the giant window I knew I wanted just one more night with a certain jazz musician across town who was probably seducing someone else with the dulcet tones from his trumpet…playing just for her as he once did for me.

With spring showers and lightning strikes on the horizon, I’m reminded of a certain summer night in Athens. It was here that I learned lightning can indeed strike twice – especially if you test the gods. As lightning danced on the hills surrounding the Acropolis, I had challenged Aphrodite and paid for my insouciance. Okay I said, “This is your town, show me what you got.”

Ha! The words were barely out of my mouth when she did just that. I can imagine the laugh she shared with Ares as they looked down on me struggling with my feelings for not one but two men who appeared almost magically out of nowhere in the garden of a local restaurant called Balthazar.

Girlfriends would later ask half seriously: why not both? While the thought briefly crossed my mind I knew it was impossible, each one beautifully rendered like temple statues – today everywhere I look in Greece I see them – Castor and Pollux, each one so different than the other. One would feed my body and the other would feed my mind. To choose one over the other would be to drive a wedge between friendships old and new.

And so, like the proverbial starving donkey that had to choose between two bales of hay, each one appearing more appetizing than the other, I went hungry. Once flesh and blood, they have now turned to stone.

Stray memories and Greek gods aside, when it comes to love, I think Shakespeare’s Puck said it best in A Midsummer’s Night Dream: “Lord what fools these mortals be.” I guess when it comes to love I am and will forever be a fool for love.

photo: © istockphoto.com/matthewleesdixon

Read Full Post »

I never meet interesting men on planes. Given all the flying I do, you would think the odds would be in my favor. But it seems there’s a cosmic conspiracy to keep me uncoupled and out of trouble, at least while I’m in the air. In hundreds of thousands of miles logged on various airlines I only met one intriguing man. That was a long time ago, and I must confess that I treated him rather carelessly. I lost him, and the universe has been repaying  my ingratitude for its gift ever since. Until this past weekend, that is.

The Monday morning flight from Trieste to Munich was filled with predominantly male business travelers. As most of them have little or no manners when it comes to female passengers I didn’t hold out much hope this flight would be any different from the other commuter flights I’ve taken over the years.

I waited until the very end to board. I could see my row and the aisle seat was already occupied by a man who looked like just another Monday morning commuter. I bent down and politely indicated that I had the window seat.

“It’s okay, I’ll move,” he said.

“No really, I can sit there,” I said. He was tall and probably wouldn’t have been comfortable in the window seat.

He slid over any way. Very nice, I thought. I made a note to myself. “Must remember not to generalize.”

On the flight out one hears all manner of languages and accents — Dutch, German, French, Swedish, heavily accented English and, of course, Italian. As luck would have it – my gentleman was Italian. And he was the whole package, tall, dark, and handsome. For once the universe surprised me with pleasant view both inside and outside of the plane. I stole glances at him as we crossed the Alps. He folded up the newspaper he was reading to give me a better view, and our conversation started.

The depth and breadth of his conversation amazed me. He was well read, well-traveled and well educated in the social skills department. We talked for an hour and didn’t realize we’d landed until the flight attendant asked us to leave the plane. We both agreed to stay in our seats until everyone deplaned. This way we could avoid the crush. Besides the transfer bus for the terminal couldn’t leave without us.

As the last people on the bus, we squeezed into the crowded back end. I held my purse and my briefcase in one hand and a pole for support in the other. I had all of the weight on one side of my body and felt off balance. He towered over me as I stood to face him and continue our conversation.

He smelled good, like English soap and fresh air. His breath was sweet. As the bus turned a corner, I lost my balance. He put his free arm around the back of my waist to steady me as he pulled me slightly toward him. He apologized for being so forward, but I assured him that the alternative, me falling, was worse. It was the most gallant of gestures.

I lost my balance, and he steadied me, two more times on the way to the terminal. Please don’t let go, I thought. But the bus stopped and he had to let go. It was the shortest bus ride of my life. As we said goodbye, I reflected that I may not have fallen, but I certainly did lose my balance, at least for a little while.

photo: © istockphoto.com/TerryJ

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 147 other followers

%d bloggers like this: