a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘music’

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.

http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/london/me-london/index.html

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.

http://www.melia.com/en/hotels/spain/madrid/me-madrid-reina-victoria/index.html

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 😉

 

we’re not in Kansas, Toto! ;)

eventually I will finish writing about New Orleans 🙂  April is usually less nuts so fingers crossed…

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived in “the big easy”.  The nickname suggested promise – and the friendly guy at Homeland Security in Vancouver had been there and thought I was in for a treat.

And he was right.  The first hint was when I checked in and the guy at the front desk told me about the libertine rules on Bourbon Street.  You don’t normally get to walk around with alcohol on the streets of the United States.

But New Orleans doesn’t feel like the USA.  It’s not quite Europe – or Montreal – but it does have an European flavour you rarely encounter in the land of the stars and stripes.  There is a relaxed attitude to life – and playful vice.  There is a rapturous connection to food and drink.  And there is a sense of hospitality that reminds me fondly of Europeans.

It feels more multicultural than most places I have been in the United States.  I think some of it stems from the history.  Much like Canada, it was a place whose potential was not obvious to 18th century Europeans, so it was tossed like a hot potato between the French and the Spanish with only the hardy and disadvantaged willing to try to make something of the place.

music on the streets

music on the streets

Fighting off the alligators in the swamps and hoping a hurricane wouldn’t wipe out your shelter couldn’t have been much fun but it did mean there was little chance of a hoity-toity Northern European culture developing.  It became a place for mavericks and outsiders.

And musicians apparently 🙂  Of course a lot of great music has come from the streets – and from the oppressed trying to find a way to cope.  In New Orleans you hear all kinds of music.  And some of the best comes from the streets.  It is a music lover’s paradise.

There is music on Bourbon Street – but also on Royal, on St Peter, at Jackson Square, in the French Market… and likely lots of places I never even got to…

One of the other big delights is food 🙂  I’ve already mentioned some of the meals – and beignets…

But there are other treats.  One of the most famous is pralines.  My aimless wandering brought me to Laura’s Candies, a place I can highly recommend.  Lots of free praline samples – but also salt water taffy, the largest truffles I have ever seen in plenty of exotic flavours and – only in New Orleans – chocolate alligators! 🙂

The other big discovery came courtesy of my guidebook… a gelateria (La Divina Gelateria) full of strange and exotic music on NOLA streetsdelights… I managed to score some root beer (locally made :)) gelato and then listened to an incredible band on the street – the serendipity of the streets of the French Quarter.

And you can also play Tom Sawyer and take a real steamboat up the Mississippi.  As a child I dreamed of taking a steamboat the entire length of the Mississippi.  I’m

the mighty mississippi

the mighty mississippi

not sure if that’s even possible but a couple of hours allows one some nostalgia and a view of the city from a new perspective.

And there are also garden tours, cemetery tours, swamp tours… maybe other cities have gardens worthy of tourism but only in New Orleans would cemeteries and swamps make the grade…

I didn’t have time for any of them.  I didn’t manage to find room for bread pudding.  I still have to try gumbo.  And fresh crawfish straight out of the Gulf… there are all kinds of reasons for another trip… the only question is when… 😉

 

winding my way to the mississippi…

Get ready!  There is going to be a lot to talk about… why you haven’t actually heard anything from New Orleans.  I was busy trying to do everything on my list – once I managed to make one – in three days.  But I came pretty close 🙂  And definitely have lots of great tips for anyone travelling to the city.

The plan is to organize my thoughts a bit and group activities and stories together so it won’t be a play-by-play of every moment in New Orleans but the moments will get captured.

To start us off, I am going to commence at almost the beginning… the first moment I took the trip seriously and tried to actually DO something in any event.  We will talk about the first night but, due to all the work commitments that extended right up until the moment I got on the plane, it was just an aimless stroll without any sort of plan.  But serendipity hit and it ended up being a wonderfully memorable evening!

I knew I had to get off Bourbon Street though and see something of the city.  My guidebook had recommended a steamboat trip on the Mississippi so I wandered into what I thought was an official tourism centre.  Not so much… really just people trying to pitch you tours.  But the young guy pitching the tour had a sweet disposition so I wanted to help him make quota and there was a brochure for the Natchez so I asked if he could book me on it so that he could earn his commission.  (I think I ended up overpaying so would recommend just going to the Natchez to buy your ticket but the US economy is suffering so I was there to help 😉

It also provided the agenda for the afternoon.  At that point I could locate Canal, Bourbon and the street I lived on (even though I didn’t know what it was called).  But my first step in a new city is always to walk around so I know where I’m going without having to pull out a map too much and look like a tourist.

At that point I was on Royal so wandered down a bit.  It’s a gorgeous street and fulfilled my Disney dream of the French Quarter.  It really IS as cute and charming as Walt portrayed it.

It’s also filled with dudes who have the same charisma and raffish charm Dennis Quaid exemplified in “The Big Easy.”  I don’t know if they birth shy people in New Orleans 😉  They definitely birth people who know how to party.

here come the beads!

here come the beads!

I had only been wandering for a short while and I heard a parade!  It isn’t Mardi Gras so I wondered what was up.  Of course I always head toward the happening when I travel.  It’s how you really get to experience the place.  It looked like a St. Patrick’s Day parade, complete with copious quantities of green beads.  But it was March 8th, not March 17th, so I wondered what was up.

Well, my photos are not so great because taking out my camera and standing still made me a target for lively guys brandishing green beads, which I quickly discovered were meant to be placed around my neck in exchange for a kiss.  Cheeky dudes 😉

But I did learn what was going on!  Apparently it was a PRACTICE parade!  Only in New Orleans would they have a practice parade J.  Later in the day, I was talking to another tourist who had also seen the practice parade.  As he astutely pointed out, this way they get to party TWICE for the same occasion 😉

It certainly got my trip off to a roaring start.  And I had free beads as souvenirs!

Once I had dispensed with the practice parade, I took a long, meandering tour of the Quarter and tried to take some photos to add to these posts.  Unfortunately for you, my camera is brand new so I am still learning.  Next time I am in New Orleans, the photos will be better 😉

I definitely learned that the first few sleazy blocks of Bourbon Street I had encountered my first night were not really New Orleans at all.  There was a tremendous amount of serendipity on this trip – and only wonderful encounters with strangers – so I ended up at the French Market without even consulting my map.

It’s the original Native American trading post, later used by the French and the Spanish to trade all sorts of cool stuff between the colonies and fancy Europe.  Now it’s filled mostly with junk made in China or Bangladesh but it’s still fun and festive to wander through.  And there are some gems if you look for them.  My favourite souvenir came from my second visit to the French Market – but that’s part of another tale…

The most intriguing thing I saw at the market was alligator!  Alligator heads, alligator on a stick, alligator bites… luckily no one walking an

gators and masks

gators and masks

alligator on a leash.  I wasn’t hungry at the time so haven’t tried it.  But learned as the days went on that it is really big in Louisiana and I will definitely have to check it out on the next visit…

http://www.frenchmarket.org/history/

I figured then that I was close to the river so wandered in that direction and there it was – the mighty Mississippi.  As dirty looking as I expected.  I grew up due north of the Mississippi and, as a child, I dreamed of taking a steamboat the length of it.  I did read a lot of Mark Twain 🙂

For now I was just going to settle for two hours on a steamboat – but I wanted to find it to be prepared for the next day.  Once I reached the river, my steamboat was easy to spot.

But first I spotted a lone gentleman playing a West African drum.  I took a photo of him and his music was really good so I thought I should give

the mighty mississippi!

the mighty mississippi!

him a tip.  It was money well spent.  We ended up having a conversation and I found out he was from Ghana.

I also found out he was a good guy.  Some young men came by and chatted with him while I was there.  Apparently one of them had lost his ID and the Ghanaian drummer had found it and gone to great trouble to get it back to him.  He’d done the same for some drunken teacher during Mardi Gras.  It really seemed to be the spirit of the place.  If you were standing on the street and looked a bit quizzical, someone would be checking if you needed assistance.  You hardly even needed a map 🙂

So, we’ve made it to the Mississippi!  Lots more happened that day.  I got to bed about 5am!  But we will let the stories unfold in themes.  New Orleans is a place for storytelling so I will do my best to reveal it like a good story.

To circle back to my questions… there is definitely a pretty, surreal, Disney vibe to the French Quarter.  There is a lot of music in New Orleans.  It’s not all jazz but you can find jazz (and I did!) but what is more delightful is the many varied musical styles you will stumble across just wandering the streets.  There is no shortage of charm in the men of Louisiana – and they have that delectable accent… 😉

when in doubt, play YMCA ;)

You may be hoping I have given up this silly venture to put my thoughts into cyberspace but, sadly for you, I keep having thoughts 🙂  My work life has just gone into overdrive so finding the time to commit them to bytes is in short supply.  The thoughts have been serious lately so I decided we would go more whimsical with a post that has been in my head for a while now.

My mom’s 70th birthday is now in the recent past.  As mentioned earlier, I am obsessed with music so spent many hours creating a soundtrack of my life for my recent milestone birthday.  During the process I told her I would do the same for her 70th.

A totally different soundtrack focused on the only period of her life when she was really into music, her teen years.  It’s the norm for most people.  People like me who can even impress a 20 year old with a new band recommendation s/he hasn’t heard of are the outliers.  But since music is one of my passions I can customize a soundtrack for almost anyone.  So to the 50’s and jive we went…

Contrary to my own musical taste, I even let her have Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson.  To her credit, also the Everly Brothers.  Neither of my parents was really into music so, when I was a child, my parents owned four albums – The Everly Brothers, Pat Boone, The Mills Brothers and Bing Crosby singing Christmas carols.  I know all the words to Mele Kalikimaka – Bing Crosby’s ode to a Hawaiian Christmas – look it up on the internet 😉

Luckily my maternal grandmother had a much broader range of musical interests – and even owned an electric organ!  So I got to hear a few other artists in my youth.  In general, though, my musical education didn’t begin until I hit university and the big city.

It is really thanks to Mike that I know how to design a soundtrack.  He showed me what the good stuff sounded like, added the colour of the stories of the performers and turned me on to lyrics and musical inspiration.

He was also the dude who refused to dance to WHAM – at the height of their glory.

Both viewpoints taught me a lot.  Mostly he taught me how to appreciate music, especially musical skills and genuine originality.  But his snobbery also taught me that it’s OK to get down with the masses sometimes.  And a crowd-pleasing soundtrack will likely include a few things that might make you cringe a little 😉

I always try to err on the side of the popular but not cringe inducing… how YMCA made it onto my mom’s birthday soundtrack.  It’s a song that will get people on the dance floor… and it even transcends nations as I discovered when the Egyptian guys knew the moves far better than me!

And my mom’s birthday helped introduce yet another generation to this “get the party started” classic…

I just assumed I would get a couple of people on the dance floor – if they weren’t already there 🙂  And a couple of adults would know at least some of the moves.  But it ended up being a big hit.  The ladies were almost as good as the Egyptian guys.  If I could have time-travelled and put them all together, it would have been outstanding.

But my mom’s birthday offered its own special entertainment courtesy of Kylie.

My mother’s birthday bash offered all sorts of entertainment, including a few live acts.  I was busy trying to take a few photos so she would have some mementos.  Someone pointed out to me what was happening on the dance floor since I had my camera focused on the stage.  There were two under 10s at the party.  Normally one would have expected them to be bored out of their mind.  But they both proved to be fascinating kids and they managed to sort of bond during the party and provide a complete floorshow in tandem with the musicians on stage.

Unfortunately Isaac had to go home but Kylie was able to stay.  And she LOVED YMCA!  So we had to play it at least three times while the older ladies taught her the moves.  So the torch has been passed to a new generation 😉

It was a fun night but what most resonated with me was the power of music.  To promote social interaction.  To inspire social change.  And to just help us celebrate being human – and define our own identity.  I may be tone deaf but I still love music and think it is one of those few human endeavors that is so often a medium for good.  You might wanna think about that, Republicans.  Ted Nugent?  Seriously???

I’m with the band :)

Will Hoge popped up on my ipod today in the random mix.  “Rock n’ Roll Star” – about a young kid being lured by a recording contract.  Made me smile.

As previously noted, music will be a serious element of my birthday party and this song will be part of the soundtrack.  Will is famous in Tennessee but I expect it will be a pretty obscure choice for the Vancouver crowd.

It all started when my friend and I were pleasantly surprised that the opening band for Midnight Oil were so good.  We started seriously listening and bought their CD in the lobby at the end of the show.  I bought a couple extra to force on other people to support Will 🙂

At that point they were four young kids touring North America to promote their first CD.  I have this habit of engaging people in conversation so my effusive enthusiasm scored us a place on the guest list for the next evening’s concert.

It was the first time a band had put me on the guest list!  My friend had a bit of a crush on the bass player so I managed to convince her to leave the house for a second night in a row – on a Sunday.  To support my boy Will – and to see Midnight Oil for a second time (they have a whole story of their own…)

Just goes to show.  Channel my grandmother and engage young people.  Be supportive when they are starting out in their careers and they just might put you on the guest list!  And even if they don’t, you will have connected with someone and helped to give his career – and self-esteem – a boost.  It’s a reward in its own right.

http://willhoge.com/wired/

it’s the end of the world as we know it :)

 

Apparently 2012 is quite the year to be celebrating a milestone birthday!  The movie came out just as I was having a non-significant birthday so was inspired to host a grand party for 50 since it might be the last one all the guests will ever attend  😉  Conveniently R.E.M. already wrote a theme song for me!  Music… theme songs… a big element of my life…

My poor guests are going to be subjected to the soundtrack of my life.  I think anyone with an interest in music has a soundtrack but most people don’t realize it.  Mine has been inspired by a number of events.

First, the fact that as a teenager I had atrocious taste in music, so my transformation into someone with better musical taste was not a casual event.  Second, I live in the city that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and when I went to the free Blue Rodeo concert by myself (because Feb is insanely busy for me work-wise and the visit was spontaneous), I realized almost all my boyfriends had a Blue Rodeo song and I could re-live my entire romantic history gratis – with fireworks at the end!  The final inspiration was my astonishing realization that some people don’t care about music.  It is not their form of cheap therapy.  When my dad died, choosing the right music to play at his funeral created a family crisis.  He was this guy to whom I owe so many of my best qualities but I had never appreciated the dude didn’t care about music.

But I do! Truly, Madly, Deeply… one of my favourite films.  And, while music may have not been on my father’s radar screen, my love of cinema is totally him…

So my guests will be subjected to images, sounds and words – all carefully chosen by me – at my birthday bash.  But at least there will be free food and booze… and I will do my best to keep the world from ending 😉

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