Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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!

Advertisements

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 »

Party of Four

While browsing through the iStockphoto offerings, I happened upon a photo of a famous West End restaurant, one that brought back memories of a previous trip to London. The Ivy is a restaurant popular with the theatre-going crowd, audience and actors alike.

The circumstances of my first visit were so perfect, it could have been a plotline right out of a West End play: two women strike up a conversation one morning over breakfast at a hotel. The older woman was at the hotel recovering from surgery, and I was there for a color conference with several clients. The woman reminded me of my grandmother. She had the kind of class you can’t acquire – you have to be born with it. We talk for an hour about this and that. Alone, with no family, she was happy to have the company.

While she and I talked, one of my clients stopped by the table to say hello, she looked a little dejected and when I asked what was wrong, she told us how she and two of her colleagues had wanted to dine at The Ivy that night but were unable to get a table. The first available reservation was weeks away.

I didn’t think I could help her. Earlier in the week I had bribed a few doormen at some of London’s more posh clubs. But my sense of it was that only an act of God or a recommendation from Sir Anthony Hopkins himself would be able to get my clients into The Ivy.

I looked at my dining companion and she smiled a slow indulgent smile. She picked up her cell phone, speed dialed and said a few words to the person on the other end of the line. Then she looked at me and asked, “What is your name, my dear?”

I told her. She nodded and concluded the call with my name and the words “party of four.”

She then smiled and told us we had a dinner reservation at 11:00 p.m. and told us whom to ask for. In the parlance of British slang, my client and I were gobsmacked.

I thanked our benefactor and asked her name. She politely sidestepped the question, rose and left the table like some regal grand dame.  And that’s exactly what she was.

photo: © istockphoto.com/onebluelight

Read Full Post »

It’s a good day when you can combine business travel with some personal activities. My travels in early May allowed me to catch up London Callingwith a friend in Dusseldorf over drinks, to take in the Artemisia exhibit at the Musée Maillol in Paris and to visit friends in Joberg and Durban. Go ahead and say it …I do all the time… I am a lucky girl.

And I’m also a café girl. This Sunday I will be joining friends for lunch in Covent Garden for a quick catch up. Since I’m migrating from being a prose writer to a screenwriter, I will take the opportunity to visit the London Film Museum.

I hope it will inspire me because I have come to learn that writing a screenplay is much harder than writing a book. Forget having to cram Any Color but Beige into 120 pages. I’m having trouble coming up with a “saleable” box office logline. It’s tough, let me tell you. Give it a try and you’ll see.

From London, it’s a quick hello / bonjour to Paris and before you know it three days later, I’m back home. The good news is it’s not enough time to feel jet lagged. The better news is I’ll be home in time for things like the Montreal F1 Race (where I am sure I will catch up with a breathtakingly handsome Brazilian pilot), the Jazz Festival, the Fireworks Festival and the Comedy Festival. The best news of all is that I will be able to enjoy Montreal all summer long.

photo: © istockphoto.com/ChrisSteer

Read Full Post »

Just add water

Lots of things arrive late: spring, the mail, airplanes, babies and, yes, even me on occasion.

And so here we are well past daffodil season and lilacs are in bloom. Welcome to May and welcome back to the Café Girl Chronicles. I rejoin you refreshed, re-energized and with a renewed approach to my writing.

I haven’t exactly been idle. During the past several weeks I have been working on an outline for a screenplay for Any Color but Beige – a little at a time. Piano (slowly) piano (slowly) as my Italian friends like to say. And I can do this because the only deadline I have to meet is my own.

It’s not a bad thing to let your brain lie fallow for a while. Treat it like a garden. Turn the soil every so often. Add new thoughts, philosophies and concepts as fertilizer. Prepare it well and harvest the ideas that come.

In my case, I’ve planted a few seeds that are already bursting through this fertile soil of my mind like unruly wildflowers in a meadow. To be a good writer you also have to be a constant gardener. Sometimes friends tend your garden for you by showering you with little drops of encouragement, just enough to get you started. And so it is with me.

Ever since I arrived in South Africa a week ago, my friend Julie has been watering the garden daily, checking for signs of life. This is the same Julie who precipitated the idea that I could write a book. (See Chapter 25 in the book). So it’s only fitting that I sit at her dining room table overlooking her verdantly wild and natural South African garden bathed in sunlight and start writing again.

photo: © istockphoto.com/manley099

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 »

Like most women I know, I am self-reliant, independent and opinionated. These are three characteristics that scare the heck out of most men my age.

I’m not a rabid feminist. If you must label me at all, call me a pragmatist. When I’m alone I open my own doors, slay my own dragons and gladly make my way in this world on my own terms. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy having a man hold the door open for me, stand when I enter a room, schlep my luggage, make me dinner or tuck me in at night. I do!  And lest the guys out there think it’s all one sided, I reciprocate!

It’s just that if there aren’t any readily available men in the vicinity – well a girl’s gotta do what girl’s gotta do.

Take this most recent trip for example. The last things to go into my suitcase are my accessories, like the colorful costume jewelry I wear to dress up an outfit. As I was packing this week, I noticed that my red rhinestone bracelet was missing a few stones. Luckily, I found the missing stones in the bottom of my jewelry box and got out the Krazy Glue.

As I was in a hurry, I performed the delicate operation on the top of my highboy dresser, standing on tippy toes and using my fingers – which narrowly escaped the fate of Siamese twins by a fraction of a second. I recalled hearing about people who glue their body parts to objects − or other body parts − then have to go to the hospital to get unstuck.

“What kind of crazy idiot does that?” I asked aloud.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror, said, “This crazy idiot.”

One rhinestone fell out of its setting, but I didn’t see it until it was too late. A little red rhinestone was solidly glued to the top of my dresser and nothing I could do would remove it, short of ruining the veneer. I tried nail polish remover and olive oil. Oh, I don’t know!  It was all I could think of at that moment. And with a taxi on its way, time was running out.

Now, I’m certain that a man would have thought of some way of removing the rhinestone without damaging the furniture. He’d figure it out just like the way he assembles barbeques, changes leaky washers in the faucet, sets up new stereo systems fully integrated with the TV, the computer and microwave so that we can watch movies and eat popcorn all at the same time.

I didn’t brood for long because I had a bigger problem: Tilda. What would my Portuguese cleaning lady do when she came later that week? She’d be dusting the dresser, see the rhinestone and try to pick it up. It wouldn’t budge. She’d pull, and push, and prod it as I did without effect. She’d apply cleaners and other concoctions as I did and still nothing.

With more time than I had and dogged determination, she might try more radical means until she perhaps would go too far and ruin the finish. Then, she’d be so overwrought with guilt and remorse for having ruined a cheap veneer finish that she’d probably have a heart attack right on the spot. And not only would I have a rhinestone stuck to my dresser, I would have killed my cleaning lady.

The clock was still ticking. I was sure the taxi had already pulled up to my apartment building.

What to do?

Oh, the pressure. Why hadn’t I performed the delicate jewelry repair with tweezers and at the table where I could see what I was doing?

So I did what any self-reliant, independent and opinionated woman in my position would do: I put a Post-it note next to the rhinestone:

Tilda,

Please do not remove the rhinestone. I put it there for good luck.   Obrigada (Thank you)

Well what else could I write? A Post-it note wasn’t big enough to explain the ridiculousness of the situation in which I now found myself. Besides I knew Tilda to be superstitious like most southern Europeans and all Irishmen.

Next, I phoned a girlfriend because I really wanted to share a laugh even if it was at my expense. Only she didn’t laugh. She took the situation very seriously and came up with the following suggestion, “Cat what a great opportunity. When you come back you go right out and buy some more rhinestones and turn that red rhinestone into a starting point for something beautiful and unique.”

Her unique approach and imaginative answer made me realize that while there are some days I miss having a man around – this wasn’t one of them.

photo: © istockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: