a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘london’

not that I would wear any of it ;)

I have been on the road almost constantly since my last post so have lots of new travel tales but haven’t had any time to commit them to paper.  My summer project… thought I would start with some exhibitions that are current in case anyone is inspired to check them out…

I was one of those children who made clothes for my dolls.  I didn’t have access to Vogue.  I’d never seen a designer dress.  I didn’t even know the concept.  My fashion inspiration came from the Simplicity and Butterick pattern books my grandmother brought home from the dry goods department where she worked when the new ones arrived.  I learned that I could put in a request and I could have my very own collection.  I poured over all the shapes and styles, noting the subtle changes that transformed the base pattern.  It was an early education in tailoring – and perhaps the reason I lean toward Armani rather than Galliano.

Most of the photos of me as a child show me dressed in embarrassing outfits.  I have no idea why they want to bring the 70’s back.  Those were some scary moments in fashion…

But it was a time of high drama, especially in western countries.  The 60’s ushered in the concept of social change but most of it happened in the 70’s.  I was too young to appreciate most of it, especially as I lived in a remote rural community where not that much was changing.  One thing I did know about was David Bowie.  Before the internet, information was hard to come by.  I didn’t even know the Talking Heads existed in 1977, let alone that I should be buying that album.

My first fledgling teenage romance was with a drummer.  It was a headbanger rock kind of town so most of his favourite songs just sounded like noise to me.  But then he played “Changes”.  We had common ground – and I liked him a little more…  It became part of the soundtrack of my life.

I am not particularly interested in famous people and think most of them would likely prove to be quite boring in person – but Bowie is an exception.  He was my first decent musical choice so I know quite a lot about him but never really thought much about his social impact.  Being a big Bowie fan, I was intrigued when I emerged at Gare du Nord last month and saw intriguing posters of him all over the station.  Luckily, I had dinner the next night with friends from Vancouver who informed me there was an exhibit at the Philharmonie de Paris.

philharmonie de paris

philharmonie de paris

I was worried that – in the age of the internet – my lack of research and preparation for Paris – would render me ticketless but the Philharmonie is new and in an area of Paris I have not yet explored so worth the trip even if I couldn’t get into the exhibition.  It appears there are still some tickets reserved for people willing to make a journey to the ticket office in person.  You need some patience but eventually you get in…

It was definitely worth the wait.  The exhibition originated at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  It’s called “David Bowie is”.  It’s hard to describe, as mercurial and enigmatic as Bowie himself.  You walk through a series of objects, videos, photos and costumes depicting Bowie’s biography.  You have headphones and the music changes as you roam to put the right soundtrack to the particular part of the exhibit in which you find yourself.  It includes the expected key points in his biography and the musical history but what makes it really resonate is the analysis of Bowie’s influences, collaborators and social impact.


I am one of those people who have spent a lot of time searching for the meaning to life.  For me, it’s been a combination of art, culture and relationships.  So it was fascinating to see how Bowie was influenced by books, music, travel and the people in his life – and how his achievements were generally part of a collective of talented, intelligent, interesting people.  He was just the most famous name in the group.

Anyway, go check it out for yourself.  It closed on May 31, 2015 at the Philharmonie de Paris but it’s touring internationally so see if it’s coming to a location near you…

The Victoria and Albert Museum featured heavily in my May sojourn in Europe.  They have also put together a killer exhibit on Alexander McQueen called Savage Beauty.  It’s on until August 2, 2015. I would recommend booking in advance.  I’m not sure if I just got lucky, or if my friend Monica’s E&Y connections scored us tickets, but they are definitely in high demand.  Seeing the exhibit I could understand why.  While there are very few items of clothing or accessories I would have any interest in actually wearing, it is fascinating to be inside Alexander McQueen’s head as he dreams this stuff up.


The V&A has made it very atmospheric so it doesn’t feel like a museum but rather a strange trip into a dark, gothic Romanian forest where you are wary that Dracula might jump out from behind a mannequin and bite you on the neck.  The coolest part is a room staged like a cabinet of curiosities.  On the walls, items are placed in boxes like a giant Renaissance cabinet of curiosities.  In the center, there is a 21st century bank of monitors playing video from multiple McQueen shows on a continuous loop.  It’s a perfect embodiment of his sensibility – strange old-fashioned exceptionally English clothes modified for the 21st century.

If you also made clothes for your dolls – or just are really interested in fashion…

There are two more stops for you in Paris.  The Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent is hosting an exhibit “Yves Saint Laurent 1971 – the Scandal Collection” until July 19, 2015.  It’s for fashionphiles.   It’s basically a chance to look into the archives at a couture house.  You can see the entire design process for one of the finished garments and see sketches and mannequins displaying some of the pieces from the collection as well as watch some very old-fashioned fashion videos.


The 1971 collection was heavily critiqued because many felt Saint Laurent was glamorizing the Nazis and the

marvels of paris museum route

marvels of paris museum route

war was still fresh in the memories of the people who could afford couture.  Like Bowie, he was pushing boundaries and making people feel uncomfortable.

My final foray into European fashion was at the Palais Galleria Museé du Mode, a new addition to the wonders of Paris.  Until August 23, 2015 they are hosting an exhibit on Jeanne Lanvin.  I know the name but that was about it until I went to the exhibit.  The clothes are stunning – the antithesis of H&M.  She started as a milliner so there are lots of hats.  The clothes are sumptuous, full of embroidery, topstitching, cut-outs and other couturière virtuosity.  Nothing I would ever wear but easy to appreciate the craftsmanship.


What was most fascinating though was her business acumen.  She was a 19th century titan of commerce, a self-made woman in a world in which women couldn’t even legally vote in most places.  Apparently she was very customer-focused.  She was a real estate tycoon.  Jeanne started the whole craziness of dressing toddlers in mini-me designer clothing 🙂  She branched out into lingerie, menswear, interior design.  She created her own fragrance.  She opened shops to sell her wares to the public.  She had a distinctive logo.  Jeanne Lanvin knew how to brand herself before the concept was even a concept 🙂  An inspiring lady.

There is much to be inspired about right now so start making your travel plans…


p.s. if you are a fashion junkie, there is also a Jean Paul Gauthier exhibit at the Grand Palais – but I discovered it is closed on Tuesdays – but the walk to the other museums was worth it.



the playthings of superpowers…

london on a glorious day

london on a glorious day

I’m not sure I would want to live in London as it is so crowded and expensive but it is a fantastic place to spend a few days imagining other lives and wandering through history.  I’ve been to the city enough times now that I feel like a local and I have to remember to pay attention.

One of the ways I have found to make familiar places interesting is to change up my accommodation.  ME London put me in a new location from previous visits.

I’ve been to London so many times it often feels like I am just a local in an alternate location.  Regular life amped up a bit.  Lots of walking.  Power shopping.  Dinner with friends.

I normally don’t spend the big bucks required to stay in a location that doesn’t involve flashing an Oyster card.  But my sexy cave was walking distance to Bond Street – and the cashmere luxuries of the Burlington Arcade.

I had brought the sun with me from Oslo so a long walk seemed an ideal way to start the day.  Since I was the official photographer for my mom’s inaugural tour of London I have more tourist photos of the city than I have of Paris but there are definite holes in the collection.

So I stopped to read the plaques 😉  Having just come from Norway and its history as a bargaining chip, passing from Denmark to Sweden and struggling to establish an identity independent of the bigger powers, some of the plaques and statues spoke to me a little more loudly.

Reading between the lines in Westminster, you see the sacrifices made by Canadians and Australians at the hands of a condescending Great Britain.  They don’t teach it in school but apparently at one point Queen Victoria wanted to trade Canada for Barbados – at the time, sugar was a lot more compelling than beavers…

It’s surprising Canada hasn’t turned republican 😉  Lots of Australians have.  They have been mishandled by the Crown in a more flagrant way.

On Sunday I wandered the Thames – and some of the most important historical buildings in London – with an Irishman.  This visit really illuminated the elusive nature of history.

wandering the thames...

wandering the thames…

So many countries are the playthings of superpowers.  Superpowers are the bullies of the global schoolyard.  What travel teaches us, though, is that often the individual citizens of superpowers are lovely and charming.  One has to keep an open mind and not hold someone’s flag against them.

Strangely it’s likely easier to be a tourist when you come from a plaything country.  The expectations on you are pretty low.  You don’t have to defend yourself from generalizations about your culture that might not reflect your own point of view.

Visit the superpowers.  Learn about history.  A lot of it won’t be pretty.  But, despite their roles as the playthings of superpowers, Norway, Australia and Canada emerged fairly unscathed.  And all worth your tourist dollars!  All tough places to make a go of it in the 19th century – but the kind of places where you innovate to stay alive.  And the landscape is rugged enough to discourage newcomers.  The world without man is an incredible place…  and there aren’t a lot of places on the planet where you can experience it in the 21st century.

But 21st century London is pretty benign.  And while it’s hard to get behind some of the historical choices, you just don’t see that kind of architecture unless you go to a superpower with a questionable past 😉


a hotel for narcissists ;)

I didn’t realize when I booked it that it was actually pronounced “ME”!  It’s the latest spot for urban trendsetters.  ME London – a new outpost of the über-stylish arm of the Melia chain.  I read about it on a recent airplane and was intrigued.


Five years ago I stayed at the first ME in Madrid.  How I met Javier and got a tour of Madrid with a local guide and one of my all-time greatest travel stories 😉  The rooftop bar at the ME in Madrid is more exciting than the rooftop bar at the ME London but I mostly stayed there so that I didn’t have to get past the velvet rope.


my room in the sexy cave

my room in the sexy cave

It worked!  And ME hotels apparently inspire memorable travel experiences.  There is an impressive view over the Thames from the top of the hotel.  I can’t show you a photo though because, as I was discretely trying to sneak a tourist snap, a very attractive gentleman in a suit caught me.

“Don’t do it.  You’ll spoil it.  Just drink it in so you can remember it.”

I put my phone in my purse and looked at him.  “Fair enough.”  I was intrigued…

a snap before I met Patrick...

a snap before I met Patrick…

It’s hard to resist an Irish accent 😉  So I let Patrick call the shots for the rest of the evening.  I learned about the real current state of the economy of Ireland and what it was like to grow up in Belfast.  Belfast is already on the list – and he just convinced me it likely needs to move up!

To date, I’ve only been to Dublin – and never with a really fun-loving companion.  So I have this sense of it as a place where a love of music and a talent for words combines with an irresistible accent in utero, such that the Irish really give the Latinos some serious competition 🙂

Perhaps it is the Irish in me that reveres music so much.  When someone introduces himself as a musician who dabbles in the law as a sideline, I need to know more.  And am happy to engage in a debate as to whether music is the most important art form.

I think it likely is.  It has always been my substitute for therapy.  And you can engage in the music of a foreign culture without understanding the language.  It’s a true lingua franca.

I live in a beautiful city – but it’s full of jocks.  If you want to debate the best mountain bike, the best run at Whistler or whether yoga is better than Pilates, no problem finding tons of candidates.  But a philosophical discussion with an intelligent man sporting a sexy accent…

Why do you think I run to Europe every chance I get? 😉  Patrick and I spent hours in fascinating conversation but the most memorable concept was the important discussion everyone should be having in the 21st century.  Am I paying attention?  Am I experiencing the moment?  Is it more important to me to experience the moment than to capture it on an Instagram filter?

I love technology and have been an early adopter of all the stages.  I see how it can enhance our lives.  But I have also seen how it can disengage us from any proper version of life.

“the Patrick moment” was a great 21st century life lesson for me.  Will I choose to engage in conversation with the gorgeous Irishman – or will I blow him off so I can get a great shot of the Thames on my smartphone?

I made the right choice 😉

When you are in the senior’s home, you will remember listening to “One” (U2) on a balcony in East London with a boy from Belfast drinking Jamaican beer.  After you’ve already sampled Leonard Cohen and Neil Young.  Hey, I know One Direction has a lot of fans.  But I still get a lump in my throat when I hear “Biko” – or “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”.  Like when you meet a boy and spot books about poetry and philosophy on his nightstand…

There is no guarantee you will end up in a fascinating conversation with a charming Irishman (wearing green might help – it worked for me 😉  It’s also good to look up and make eye contact with strangers 😉

Even if the hotel doesn’t provide any unexpected benefits, it is in a great location.  You will be able to wander

the sexy cave :)

the sexy cave 🙂

through English history on foot.  There is an Italian restaurant and a steakhouse in addition to the rooftop bar.  The rooms are gigantic by London standards.

And wandering the halls will make you feel like you have wandered onto a movie set.  Bring heels or a good suit and soak up the atmosphere of the sexy Spanish cave you have meandered into 😉


what turns you on? ;)

You will either be relieved – or disappointed – but this is a G-rated post.  We are finally back in London.  At the rate I’m going I will be hitting Frankfurt airport again before I have dispensed with London… but I try to squeeze in some thoughts when I can…

So… the header relates to the small epiphany I had while I was roaming the cobblestones in East London, frequently lost or disorientated, but enjoying even those moments.

I live in a city where sport rules.  People are fit.  People do sport.  People watch sport.  People talk sport.  I’m not anti-sport – and fitter than the average North American – but I always feel like a freak in my hometown.

Cause sport just doesn’t turn me on the way art does.  I do enjoy the endorphin high from a good run – or the wonder of the landscape when you hike here in nature’s wonderland – but I am equally thrilled by a great building or awed by a visually and intellectually challenging piece of art.

So, without question, London turns me on 😉 Architecture, art, theatre, music – and some of the greatest intellectual achievements of mankind.  Each trip is different – but I always come away knowing a little more – and having my worldview challenged – and reshaped.

There were a number of intellectual experiences on this trip to London but this post will be about the Tate Modern.


I’m not always sure what to make of modern art.  There was a time when it seemed to be following the “Fifty Shades of Grey” route… it just needed to be shocking, not necessarily great art.  I saw quite a few head scratching exhibits and came away convinced there was no way the general public was going to walk away enlightened and I just decided it was stupid art…

As this blog demonstrates, I am not afraid of having an opinion 🙂 And I am a huge fan of making the world a smarter place, but elitist bullshit designed for a clique that excludes most of the population… you will not be getting a “like” from me on facebook.

And art straddles that complex space.  It is meant to be more than just pretty pictures.  So, I will always be enamoured of the Impressionists… and they were shocking in their time.  But I also love the idea of art as a vehicle to ask questions about – and hopefully change – society.

So I try to understand modern art.  And definitely toss myself into its wake to see what happens…

And at the Unilever Series at the Tate stuff does happen!  Sadly, this is the last year of it.  And I just realized it was happening.  I went to see some exhibits in the Tanks… hey, it sounded intriguing 🙂  They were OK – but what was more interesting was the history of the Unilever Series at the Tate.

A number of years ago now I went down a slide at the Tate.  Not exactly what you usually do at a museum!  And I tried to avoid it! 🙂  Because it wasn’t a slide made by an engineer… it was a slide made by an artist… so it looked like my cashmere sweater was not going to make it out alive…

But I had met these cool English guys at Whistler.  One was an artist and the other an art aficionado so that was how I ended up at the Unilever Series.  And they graciously offered to hold my sweater so I could go down the slide…

At the time I didn’t realize I was part of art history – and the Unilever Series!  But it was one of the puzzle pieces in helping me understand modern art, the idea of conceptual art… The slide was meant to have people participate in the art… and you did… it was rough and not terribly slidey… German engineers would have designed it so that you went from the fourth floor to the ground in a couple of seconds!  But then it wouldn’t have felt like an experience… worrying you might get stuck in the tube – and having to push yourself through at points – made it an experience… both for you and for the spectators watching you…

While I might have entered the slide reluctantly, this time I was trying to find the Unilever art… it’s meant to be conceptual and maybe not so obvious…

I had noticed on the way in there was a lot of movement in the Turbine Room… and some of it looked choreographed… but not in an obvious way… but after I’d spent my time in the Tanks, I stood and watched for a little while…

Obviously that was the “art” for 2012… random groups of dancers who looked like art students but then would spontaneously combust in a modern dance piece that had them moving fluidly amongst the crowd… being disconcerting but never actually touching someone.

I was thinking about trying to photograph it so was standing still for a while… when some older gentleman approached me…

Strangers talk to me all the time so I was suspicious right away… it was more like an actor’s monologue than a conversation.  Apparently he and his wife had just moved into this “ready-made community” and they wanted them to join the local council.  He went on for quite a while and it was strange – but entertaining.  I wondered if I was being filmed 🙂

Finally he asked what I thought about “ready-made communities”.  I think I might have made his day 🙂 I live in a city where planning is an important foundation of the metropolis so first we discussed that.  The concept of zoning and approving development to “create a community” a concept I am very familiar with – and have seen work well.

But the most interesting part of the conversation was when I talked about the sense of community I experienced as a child growing up in a small town.  It’s a genuine community.  And, if you don’t want people to know your business – or expect you to participate in the community – a bad choice.  But it also means the community keeps tabs and knows what is going on in a way that is really difficult in a large city like London.

So… in the end… he thanked me for the conversation… I walked away having not only SEEN the art – but having BEEN part of the art… and – most importantly – we agreed, if you want to be a badass criminal, you better move to the city… in proper communities, you will be sanctioned by your peers to behave better… kind of like how you can’t steal from your own grandmother… food for thought… what all great art should be…

has everyone been watching jamie oliver?

Or Nigella?  My personal girl crush 🙂

This is definitely a way to prolong your vacation 😉  But I had some fun experiences in London so will attempt to share them… maybe a little late, but most things not of the moment…

I am hoping this post does not just represent some strange adventure in a parallel universe but an experience that could be repeated…

As noted earlier, I first arrived in the UK in 1989.  My memories of the food mostly involved trying to avoid the grease.  There was a lot of deep-frying – and not all that fat was fresh.  Accompanied by mushy peas and vegetables cooked to the point of torture (I think after that long in a pot you can be accused of crushing a carrot’s soul), it looked like a dream destination for a Weight Watchers commercial.

If, of course, you had a palate… and just said “no”.  On the very first trip, I did that a lot.  Of course, I got enough calories from shortbread and clotted cream I couldn’t exactly become a Weight Watchers spokesperson.  But I did develop an allergy to the stuff the English liked to trot out and suggest was food.

I wasn’t the only one!  And somewhere over the decades, gastropubs emerged, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay became so famous that even someone who doesn’t know how to turn on a stove has likely heard of at least one of them.

I wouldn’t necessarily thank any of them personally because they are just famous and I am sure it was lots of people we have never heard of that actually changed British cuisine.  What came first – the chefs stepping away from the fryer – or the palates of the customers expanding and asking for more – or less in the case of recycled fatty acids.

I was just an observer.  I have been going to London regularly for over 20 years and I have started to enjoy eating there once in a while.  It has always seemed obscenely expensive though.  I live in this rarefied universe that combines a climate favorable to produce, a bevy of talented chefs at every price point and an adventurous gang of local customers anxious to eat out and spoiled for choice.

To impress me, you have to be great!  And I will care about the value.  So great will not be enough.

Because my city allows me to be such a spoiled brat I am tough on the rest of the world.  So, if I am impressed, it is something to be reckoned with.

And, this trip blew me away.  I’m not sure whether it’s London, me, or the global economy.  My guess would be a little of all three.  London cuisine has definitely improved over the years.  And the multicultural stew that London has become has provided the ingredients for better stew 😉 I am getting more adventurous in my wanderings and less prone to wander into a tourist trap.  And London is feeling the world’s pain given that so much of it involves financing the world’s ventures.  So a menu promising good value, rather than good champagne, is likely a much bigger sell than in the go-go days of the City’s early century heyday.

Poor investment bankers work for me 😉 I was astonished in that every meal that I had in London was above average.  That has never happened before.  And – even more impressive – none was wildly expensive.  I hung out mostly in the East.  Next trip that will be my stomping ground.  But I stayed at the Rockwell Hotel en route to and from Stockholm because it’s right on the Piccadilly Line so it was fantastically easy to get to and from Heathrow.  And the restaurant?  It was astonishing.  A fresh salad full of yummy veggies and fruits.  A salad in the UK?  How the world has changed.  I love it.  And the best fish and chips I have ever had!


Gordon Ramsay would be jealous 🙂  Of course, Gordon’s food isn’t all his reputation suggests.  I think he spends too much time these days mugging for the camera… but that’s a story for another time…

Just in case anyone is headed for London, here are the recent adventures in dining I would recommend checking out…





The Botanist


Anchor and Hope

places to bring your mistress ;)

Sorry about the time travelling but the travel stories end up this way cause there are too many stories 😉  imagine it is Sat, Sep 15th

I am sitting somewhere in East London, slightly disorientated – but having a wonderful time.  I was waiting for my server to bring my Manhattan so was just checking out the venue.  I looked up at the ceiling and it’s spectacular – and unique.  It’s vaulted and filled with white beams intersecting with glass panels.  Two ceiling fans are whirling away beneath octopus shaped hammered silver chandeliers.  The cuisine is French and Malay and each ceiling fixture evokes a sense  of one of those locales.

What caught my attention though was the sparkling blue light that shines through the glass ceiling.  I’m not sure what it is.  It shines like a supernatural celestial being.

When you get old, your brain synapses with all kinds of strange connections 😉  The sparkly blue light sent me back to the 80’s and a place called – I think – The Stardust Café.

I am enamored of food – and architecture, art… I don’t eat at McDonald’s 🙂  As a result, I have now been to so many memorable restaurants a lot of the memories have blurred together and only the truly unique experiences are easy to channel in the current day.

My friend Karen was the one who introduced me to the Stardust Café.  Back in those days I didn’t have a lot of cash for restaurants so a night out was an event.  And we were always on the lookout for a value proposition.

That was the attraction.  Karen had been there before so suggested it for our catchup session.  I was young then so maybe it wouldn’t impress me so much today.

The food was good – but it was the atmosphere that made it stand out.  The lighting was very subdued.  You walked up a staircase covered in black carpeting and lots of glitter.  The fairy dust of my Brownie years 🙂  Maybe that’s where my love for glitter began…

Because it was a great value proposition, it became our meeting spot at that point in time.  Because it was in the part of town “across the tracks”, it was hard to find, you had to walk up a staircase to get to the dining room and it was filled with low lighting, mirrors and glitter, we decided on one of our visits it was the ultimate place to take your mistress 😉

The place I found in London because I got lost on my way home from Waterloo station because they were doing the constant upgrades on the Underground and the Jubilee line was down fits the same sort of bill.

But it was also a great discovery.  The food was excellent, the cocktails were first rate and the staff were lovely.  Apparently it is a family who used to manage Ronnie Scott’s.  Everyone is really friendly and the jazz is shockingly good for 5 pounds!  The plan is to do it every Friday.  It is a tiny room and you can chat with the musicians in the break.

They have only been open for a month or two so right now you can bring your mistress – but if it catches on, it might be trickier 😉

For those with no mistresses in tow, here are the details…


p.s. London has been amazing and there are fresh stories as usual – bear with me as it might take some time to get them on line!

grizzly bears, geox and her majesty’s secret service…

OK, this is a little stale-dated now… but too much has been happening… so pretend it’s Thu, Sep 13th…  I am mostly over jet-lag so will see if I can start catching up with the storyline…

I have arrived in London!  Because I was travelling on airline points I had to arrive at Heathrow via Frankfurt.  Marcel suggested had I prepared better I could have just jumped out of the plane when we flew over London and saved a lot of time.  I suppose I could have even skipped the gigantic customs and immigration line 🙂

But sadly I am not on the same terms with 007 as the Queen and I told Marcel I would only feel comfortable in a parachute if we were doing a tandem jump (James Bond et moi :))

I’m not sure if Marcel has jumped from a plane.  But I doubt it would phase him.  It’s the first time I’ve even seen someone’s scar from a personal encounter with a grizzly bear (and it has claw marks so pretty authentic!)

I grew up with the bears so heard myriad advice in my childhood about what to do if you get too close to a bear.  Apparently you are supposed to “play dead” because grizzly bears are the connoisseurs of the bush and they won’t eat road kill.  If it’s not organic free-roaming prey they know is as fresh as sushi, they will go in search of alternative fresh meat.  If it’s running away, they know it will be fresh 🙂

You may not have had a children’s game where you pretend to “play dead” just in case you need to steel yourself for that tete-tete with the bear but, no matter how convincing we could be in an empty field, we all secretly knew we would likely just run if we actually SAW a bear.

So I had to ask… apparently Marcel passed out.  And the bear didn’t devour him.  So perhaps your body will just “play dead” without your consent.  Likely the best possible outcome.

I am a big fan of the “pod” and most of my recent business class treats on airline points have provided me with my private cocoon to drink champagne and catch up on movies.

But I love to travel.  And there is a higher probability you will meet an interesting person who likes to travel on an airplane.

We bonded when they took our champagne away before take-off because we weren’t drinking fast enough.  Conversations with strangers on airplanes are always mysterious encounters.  You can’t escape for ten hours.  But you aren’t required to converse at all.  So there is always this mutual dance between being friendly and making sure you aren’t crowding the other person’s space.

Marcel is Swiss.  He has travelled a lot.  He has lots of opinions.  And he wrestles grizzly bears for sport.  I didn’t catch up on any movies but we seemed to arrive in Frankfurt in no time.

Frankfurt airport is kind of like a second home for me but those stories are for another time.  The next few days will be all about London 2012.  I have this strange habit of arriving in cities just after the Olympics have ended.  The same thing happened in Beijing in 2008.  It’s a little like arriving at a party after all the guests have gone home.  But maybe I’ll hear some stories about the party while they are fresh.  It won’t really matter.

Beijing needed the Olympics to get the world’s attention.  London did not.  As I write this I am sitting in a Mediterranean restaurant being filled to bursting with Persian food.  It was just a random pick near the hotel but it is bringing back fond memories of Istanbul and Egypt from earlier this year.

I’m pretty thrifty so I took the Tube from Heathrow.  I’m staying in a new neighbourhood for me – at the cool CitizenM Bankside.


Because I don’t know my way around yet, I went the wrong way out of Southwark station so I got to tour the streets of London with my suitcase.  This isn’t a tourist neighbourhood so it was more striking.  And made me think of the commentary during the Olympics about how many different cultures and languages there are in the city of London.  That will happen when you  decide to create an Empire to rule the entire world…

Paris is more romantic.  Amsterdam is more freewheeling.  Istanbul is more entertaining.  But London feels like a city of the future – where the past and the future fuse.  Where, imperfectly, but with a very low level of violence by world standards, almost the entire world lives together.  I think they said 250 different countries are represented in the city of London.  It certainly looks that way is you walk in the non-tourist zones or ride the Tube all the way from Heathrow to the center of London.

I’ve been to London so many times I had an Oyster card when not all locals had one yet!  (My London friends explained it was the way to travel the Tube for those of us with thrifty Scottish genes).

In a couple of years it will be 25 years since my very first trip to London.  Many of my visits to London have been lost in the shuffle of memories and the exact details are blurry but I still have many memories of that very first trip.

At the time I had an Australian boyfriend and he was returning to Sydney and I was going with him.  But – in the interim – he was travelling through Europe as Australians are prone to do.  But I had just received my professional designation so had been living hand-to-mouth and had no funds to gallivant around Europe.

So we made a deal.  He would start on his own and I would save money like mad and join him for the last three months.

I know it’s likely hard to believe, kids, but back then there was no internet, no Skype, no mobile phones even, let alone smart phones.  So every week he would go to a European post office to make a short, wildly expensive transatlantic call.  I would wait by the land line and jump when it rang.  Not so functional but far more romantic 🙂

And I think that was part of it.   He wanted me to come for a quick, interim visit before I joined him later.  He was staying with friends in Earl’s Court so I just needed the plane fare – and a passport.  My first!

Having no experience with international travel, I thought it would be impossible.  But Toronto-London was a popular route and there was lots of competition.  So I quickly found myself on a Wardair flight to London with a tiny backpack, some travellers’cheques and a spirit of adventure.

In those days they didn’t mark the streets and it took some time to always look the wrong way for traffic – because everyone was driving on the left – but I didn’t sustain any injury.  The food was absolute crap.  But the people were lovely (yet again today some stranger helped me with my suitcase on the stairs and another gave me detailed directions without me even asking – I was just standing with my suitcase and a map looking confused :))

And then you start seeing the stuff.  St Paul’s.  The Tower of London.  The British Museum.  That is only the tip of the iceberg.  I still haven’t done everything there is to do in London as a tourist, let alone a local.  But that just gives you a reason to come back…

And so it begins!  We’ll do some tourist stuff.  And we’ll weave together pieces from my enormous memory bank of the City of London – one of the world’s most spectacular and important urban settings.  Just imagine you’ve pulled the ripcord on your parachute and you and James are about to head to the bar for a martini.  Claridges, maybe? 🙂

p.s. you may be wondering why Geox?  It’s in honour of my new travel shoes.  Because I am famous for my eye-catching collection of stilettos, it would come as a surprise to many that I am equally obsessed with loafers.  Some time ago, loafers fell out of fashion and finding a pair that were non-orthopedic was like searching for pork in Israel.  So when they opened a Geox store in Vancouver I bought four pairs!  I have discovered the ballerina flat is even more versatile, possibly the perfect travel shoe.  I road tested my new Geox leopard  print ballet flats for this trip – and they are winners!  I have now been wearing them for two days straight.  With pants on the plane.  With tights and a leather miniskirt as I type this.


leopard print ballerinas part of Piuma collection

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