Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

Anyone who has ever stared down a blank page and blinked first knows how devastating writer’s block can be. I’ve read several articles

on the causes of it, but the best reason I’ve heard to date is actually the simplest to cure – the cause of writer’s block is a lack of fresh ideas, and the best source of new ideas that I know of is travel.

My favorite place to stay in Trieste

You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth either to be inspired. A jaunt across town to a new neighborhood is just as inspiring as jetting off to Japan, and a lot more economical for those of us on a budget.

Let’s take a look at all of the potential ways local and long distance travel can inspire us.

First and foremost, it’s all about the place. First impressions can be quite powerful when you’re visiting a place for the very first time. For frequent travelers like me, who have been so many places, the challenge is to see a familiar place with fresh eyes. Armed with a seek-and-you-shall-find attitude, I’m always amazed at how many new things I can discover.

The most fascinating thing to write about is people and the cast of characters that make up the place you’re visiting. You can write about their physical appearances, perhaps so very different from your own. You can capture their mannerisms and customs, or you can dig a little deeper and find the commonalities. One of my favorite things to do is recreate conversations with the colloquialisms of unconstrained everyday conversation. It makes us feel like we’re eavesdropping.

Another thing you can do is take us on a tour of some of your favorite places and tell us why they’re your favorites. For example I’m a WWII history buff, and on almost every visit I make to London, I always go to the British War Museum. I become a time traveler. I can feel the sense of urgency, the life and death struggle of nations as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

Why not make up stories about your favorite places. I’m often fascinated as I walk the winding back streets and alleyways of old cities like Venice or Barcelona for example. I try to imagine the everyday life of the inhabitants of these ancient dwellings. What happens behind closed shutters, on bougainvillea-covered balconies or in local shops? I look at the laundry hanging on the balconies and try to guess, from the articles of clothing, who lives in that household. What they do for a living?

If it’s a gondolier, does he sing because he is happy? Is it a bank president having an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s back? Or is he madly in love with his wife and rushes home each night to plant a kiss on the back of her neck? Are the children bored with their over stimulated digital lives? Do they still play outdoors? Is a woman sick and dying behind shuttered window? Does she still have a burden of regret weighing heavily on her soul, pinning her to this earth like an insect in one of those shadow boxes. What was the regret and what could she have done differently?

Local culture, cuisine and customs also yield a rich harvest of stories, observations and ideas. Engage all your senses: taste, touch, hear, see and smell what the place and its people have to offer. Participate. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something new, something indigenous to the place. Mush a dog sled in Alaska, dance Flamenco in Barcelona or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Or be a tourist in your own city.

And, finally, never leave the house or hotel without a notepad and pen because Inspiration can strike at any time, curing your writer’s block in an instant.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

But that doesn’t mean I’ve run out of travel destinations.  Look for posts from the road in January from the UK, Germany, Italy and Las Vegas. And although Vegas may not be its own country like the others, it is somewhat of a wonderland.  My goal is one post for every passport stamp.

If you want to suggest headlines for each destination or travel in general, I’d be happy to have a go at creating a post around it.  Just leave me a comment.  In the meantime, here’s a little something to inspire you.

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller

Read Full Post »

I often find myself in new places for business and because I’m in and out of a city quite quickly, I don’t always have much time to spare. However, when I do get some downtime, whether I’m traveling for work or pleasure, I always do a bit of research before I set out to explore. I like to arrive in a place that I know a little something about, and I’m not talking about its tourist attractions. I’m talking about its soul, its character(s) and its culture.

There’s nothing more thrilling than the flash of recognition you get when you see or visit a place that has some significance  because you’ve read about it in a novel or seen it in a movie. There is a familiarity that arises from knowing a place’s “back story”. If you have that, you’re no longer visiting a stranger; you’re visiting a friend.

Let me give you a few examples of books and movies that can help you learn the back-story of specific places as well things you can do when you get there to enhance your experience.

Books

Barcelona – The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlo Ruiz Zafón. The novel includes hand drawn maps that trace the characters’ steps through plot twists and turns so you can follow in their footsteps.

India – A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. This sweeping epic does a great job of breaking down the early formative politics of the country. Reading it will give you a better appreciation and understanding of today’s India.

Montreal – Forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs sets many of her thrillers in Montreal. I sometimes half expect to bump into her character, Temperance Brennan in one of the many settings she describes.

Movies

Rome – Roman Holiday. Follow Audrey Hepburn as she hops on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck to see the sights in Rome. Fall in love with both the city and the guy.

Paris / France – French Kiss. Follow Megan Ryan and Kevin Kline from Paris and Province to the Cote d’Azur in this delightful little comedy.

New York – When Harry Met Sally. For me this is the best way to live vicariously in New York.

Having read a book or seen a movie about a place gives significance to the sights in the places you visit. It makes the experience that much richer. But you can also enhance your experience once you are there.

Here are five fun things you can do.

1)    Take a class in a “native” subject. Take tango lessons in Buenos Aires, cooking classes in Bologna and an Ikebana class in Tokyo.

My attempt at Ikebana

2)    Attend a cultural event. Attend the local symphony, a dance performance or a concert given by local talent in a club or a restaurant.

3)    Take a tour. It’s a quick way to get an overview of a place, after which you can pick and choose your favorite spots to go back to and savor on your own.

4)    Treat yourself. Travel can be stressful process at the best of times: standing in long check-in lines, losing your luggage or just getting oriented. Book a massage, facial, or a wash and blow dry at a local hair salon. It lends an air of “normalcy” to a place, and it makes you feel better no matter what situation you’re facing.

5)    Sample the local cuisine. Always make it a point to try one local dish, whether it’s pizza in Naples, poutine in Montreal or antelope in Africa.

Finally as a way to relive the experience once you return home, bring back a music CD of an artist or group that you heard while visiting a place. If the music isn’t live, but piped in through a sound system in restaurant or played on the radio in a taxi, go ahead and ask the waiter or taxi driver about the singer or group. They are happy to tell you about the music to promote their country’s talent.

Once home, you can become an armchair traveler and let the music transport you back in time and place to experience those magical moments again and again.

What the teacher did

Read Full Post »

I consider myself both a veteran and inveterate traveler. There are certain travel rituals that I practice that enable me to hop on a plane with little or no notice without having to think about what to pack. All I do, in advance and courtesy of a spreadsheet is combine “mix ‘n match” pieces of clothing that can cover climates from Dublin to Durban. However, there are five essentials that don’t necessarily fit neat and tidy onto a spreadsheet. I keep these in a medium-sized mesh travel bag always at the ready that is, pre-packed in my suitcase.

1. Protein bars are essential, especially if you’re crossing time zones. A protein bar can hold you over between meals, and if you wake up hungry in the middle of the night, it saves you money and calories. Avoid mini-bar madness.

2. A Pashmina shawl works in any season. It’s a perfect extra layer of clothing if you’re traveling to colder climates in winter or air-conditioned restaurants, movies, museums or shopping centers in summer.

3. A Shower Cap comes in handy especially if there are none immediately available, and calling down to reception while you’re wrapped in a towel is not an option. More and more hotels make you request amenities, so having your own saves time and aggravation.

4. Wacoal Hope on a Hanger biker shorts feel good on you and smooth out all of the wobbly bits. They’re perfect if you’re traveling light as you can wash them up in the sink at night and by morning they are ready to go again.

5. A white cotton blouse, with a bit of elastin and princess seams, looks great over dress pants or jeans and can be laundered easily in a hotel. When you send it to the laundry, be sure and call it a man’s shirt and not a blouse because it will save you money.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/scanrall

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thinking a lot about old sayings –you know – the ones we use to help us make decisions.

For example, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

I used to think that made sense until experience proved me wrong. It’s always better to keep both hands open.

Not too long ago I had a lovely golden bird in the hand. I was so happy and pleased that this golden bird chose to alight in my garden and stay awhile that I became oblivious to all of the other beautiful birds visiting my garden that summer.

One day the golden bird and I had plans to rendezvous at a little love nest in the south of France. I decided to take a day for myself in Paris prior to joining him in Nice. I stayed in the very posh neighborhood, at the lovely L’ Hôtel de Banville in the 17ieme. It was a beautiful summer’s day and I decided to take le Métro to the Les Tuileries and walk in the gardens.

The closest Métro stop was Porte de Champerret  in a well-to-do treed residential area  with small shops and restaurants. Thinking and smiling to myself about my upcoming tryst, I happened to glance up and catch the eye of a very attractive Frenchman.

He wasn’t too tall – I’d say about 5’10 – and dressed: very French in his summer slacks, form-fitting white Lacoste shirt, and a cardinal red sweater tossed carelessly over his shoulders, the sleeves looped in front of his chest. His eyes were the color of cornflowers.

He rested comfortably against the hood of a high-end performance sports car, his Gucci-clad feet crossed at his tanned ankles. He was talking on his cell phone.

He returned a smile that wasn’t intended for him. That caught me by surprise, and I smiled back. I guess you could say we had a “moment”. But what to do about it? I was not going to start a conversation with a total stranger, especially since I already had a man waiting for me. I didn’t need another devastatingly handsome, and charming (all Frenchmen are charming) European man.

And so I walked straight into le Métro and headed for the platform. Somehow I knew he would follow me. Sure enough, when I got to the platform and turned around, I saw him walking toward me, like he had every intention taking the Métro that morning. I walked farther down the platform curious to see if he’d get in the same car. I momentarily lost sight of him when the train pulled up. I walked into the car carrying my guidebook and, there he was, he came in right after me. He sat across from me and made eye contact, looking for some sign of encouragement from me. I smiled but I was determined to play it cool. If he was that interested, and he looked like he was, it was up to him to approach me. I was done doing the modern girl thing. Plus I was in France; I was determined to play the coquette – short of batting my lashes.

We continued to exchange meaningful glances all the way through the next stop but nothing happened. We rolled into a third stop and exchanged fleeting eye contact. I knew I should proffer something more than passing glances, but the golden bird was waiting for me so I was more than willing to let this one get away. Unless of course he came up with an introduction, a beau geste, that would make my heart skip a beat.

The fourth stop came and he rose to leave. Dejected, he glanced back over his shoulder as the doors closed and I shrugged as if to say, “It was your move, why didn’t you make it?” With a hint of unexplainable sadness, I waved goodbye.

A day later I was in Nice basking in the Mediterranean sunshine with the golden bird, and a month after that he flew the coop without so much as an email or tweet goodbye.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had only been a bit more receptive to the mysterious French stranger. If I had given up the bird in the hand, or what I thought was a sure thing, for the potential of two in the bush. Had I made a cardinal mistake? I guess I’ll never know. He will forever remain the one that got away.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Johnny Greig

 

Read Full Post »

There’s an old proverb that says, “Lucky at cards, unlucky at love.”  The Italians turn it around and say, “Sfortuna al gioco, fortuna in amore”.  Translation:  Unlucky at cards, lucky at love.  And they would know.

And then there’s me unlucky at cards and unlucky in love.  So what’s a Café Girl to do when she’s in Las Vegas?  Certainly not gamble. That would so be a waste of money. And certainly not flirt with that handsome stranger in the tuxedo at the baccarat table in the High Stakes Lounge. That would be a waste of time, especially since his name is Giancarlo. Tall, dark and dangerously handsome – you can just tell that he holds all the cards.

No, I kept my hands in my pockets and my heart in check as I walked back to my hotel.  No one was getting lucky tonight.  Then, as I was passing by the Trevi Fountain near the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace, I noticed a penny on the ground.  Oh what the heck! It was a small gamble and the only money Vegas would get off of this Café Girl. I gave it a toss … and made a wish.

Unlucky at cards? Usually. Unlucky at love? Most definitely!

But when it comes to adventure – all I can say is be careful what you wish for.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Juergen Sack

Read Full Post »

Travel is in the cards for me this year

The year got off to slow start but I will be making up for it in spades this spring – starting with a trip to Las Vegas.  Look for posts from Amsterdam to  Zealand and points in between – coming soon.

Photo: © iStockphoto.com/tonyoquias

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: