Tag Archives: solo travel

A Solo Architectural Adventure

I’ve been shivering like a hairless dog for the past few weeks. Why? Because I was in Palm Springs for Modernism Week. And it was miraculous weather. Well, miraculous in that it wasn’t winter in Vancouver—cold, wet and gray for as long as the eye dared to look out from under an umbrella. It was luxuriously sunny with a high of sandals all day and a low of thin sundress at night. For those darling loyal readers, you may remember I went to Palm Spring last year and fell in love. With the topography and architecture—there is a dearth of mature-ish heterosexual available men, so nevermind, I wasn’t there for that.

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During that trip I went on an incredible architectural tour of Palm Springs that was helmed by a masterful storyteller who had an encyclopedic knowledge of mid-century architecture and I was transfixed by his telling and obvious love of the design ethos the early visionaries had when they descended in Palm Springs in the 30’s and 40’s.  It was during that tour I heard a few architects talking about Modernism Week and decided there and then I’d go back and so I did.

Once again I stayed at the Movie Colony hotel which is an architectural gem itself. Initially built by Albert Frey, an architect whose designs saturate the landscape of Palm Springs with over 200 buildings, the small boutique hotel has a certain faded glamour about it that I really adore. For a solo traveler, Frey’s design suits me quite well as there is an intimate courtyard area where everyone gathers for a continental breakfast outdoors, reads their paper, pours coffee, talks about the horrible weather they just came from and likewise at 5:30 pm on the dot everyone comes back and gathers for free martinis and California wine and yaks about their day. It just so happened there were very interesting people there including a group of friends who’d known one another since college and were having a hooray-to-the-west trip together. An invitation ensued and David and Dan, Mike and Mark and I all went out one night to a restaurant that had a lot of buzz but we were all kind of disappointed. I was impressed with the copywriting of the menu however, as it really upsold the food in a creative way. Gravy was described as ‘huntsman’s jus’. I thought that was very clever. Another night I went out with Deb and Tim from Michigan, perhaps the nicest people I’ve ever met, to a night market that seemed to stretch the entire length of the San Jacinto mountains. Truly remarkable and entertaining experience I highly recommend if you are in Palm Springs on a Thursday night. There is nothing not being sold at this market, trust me.

The fact is, Palm Springs is the warmest city I’ve every visited and I’m not talking desert climate. For the first few days I was shocked when people warmly greeted me on the street and said hello. I looked over my shoulder, sure they were speaking to a friend that happened to be walking behind me but no, it was me and I responded, a beat too late, appearing suspicious and well, probably like a Vancouverite. Vancouver is well-known as a cold city, a city that doesn’t say ‘hello’ to strangers on the street, a city that has increasingly become about development—sadly, at the cost of its heritage and many neighbourhoods that were once bustling communities of unique personality and spirit.

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I tried to balance the week with a mix of sun, walking, swimming, tours, reading and lectures. I wanted a true holiday and not one where I was running around trying to find the next tour bus. This is the blessing of solo travel—you have only yourself and your own agenda to live by and if you can be confident enough to sit with five or six couples all talking about their adventures and happily talk about your own then you are likely a good candidate for solo travel. There’s no room for self-pity in solo travel—you have to live each day how you want and not give a whit what anyone thinks.

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One of the highlights of the week was visiting Albert Frey’s house high up the mountain overlooking the city and surrounding San Jacinto mountains. It’s said he liked to hang about nude and put a cow bell at the entrance so folks could alert him should they make their way up to his aerie in the mountains. The house just makes you weep with the elemental design of it, the ideal of desert life distilled down into this architectural gem and it whetted an appetite in me to one day build my own writing retreat in the desert region of Osoyoos.

Lectures on architects and design were held daily at the Palm Springs Art Museum, which is a gem in and of itself. I was very impressed with the collection for a city this size. I really loved learning about designer cum architect Walter S. White who designed affordable small concrete houses throughout the Coachella Valley for ‘real people’. His use of soaring curved roofs with floor to ceiling glass windows in his Alexander House are stunning.

The entire aesthetic of mid-century architecture inspires me in a way that makes me want to build. The low horizontal profiles, the exterior designed for intense privacy, happy breeze ways, patterned concrete, gobs of light, interior transparency, with a respectful relationship to the environment, in particular, the desert sun—all this design thinking continually delights me and I hope I can one day replicate some of it for myself.


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Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate


At the beginning of the week, as I sat in the airport fussing about whether my son would remember to feed the cat, another voice interrupted me and said, in a calm and adult-like voice: Just live the hell out of this week. Forget work. Forget the sore knee, dry eyes and achy neck. Forget about dishes and cat hair on the pillows and the weird niggling sound when the car is in reverse. Just live.

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And I did. I really lived the hell out of Modernism Week and I’ll do it again next year.

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Filed under Non-fiction

How I Found My Sense of Humour: Part One

Here’s the thing: I live in, and create for, one brand 7 days a week. I have never experienced this before. As an entrepreneur you juggle lots of brands and storyworlds at any given time and you don’t ‘live’ in any single brand. But I jumped all in last July and moved onto the property of the company I was working for so my world became, in every sense, the brand world I was writing and creating for. But you begin to feel like Boy in the Bubble, only I guess in my case it would be Girl in the Brand. I thought it was a good thing–and it has helped my storytelling to be sure–but it becomes a little like the Matrix after a while. Maybe people who live in compounds like the Kennedy’s feel this: a burning desire to get out.

It became clear I desperately needed to go on a vacation.

Now, as some of you may know who are longtime readers of this blog (thank you stalwart friends) I have been single for nearly 26 months. I mention this because during this time I’ve become a fan of Solo Travel. Why the capitals you ask? Well, for two reasons: it’s a legitimate, growing travel market and secondly, it’s my blog so I can capitalize things when I want to Emphasize something.

A few years ago now (hard to believe), I went on a solo adventure to Paris and it was so fabulous I officially joined the tribe, online and off, of solo travelers. I am addicted to planning trips even if I can’t afford to go on them. It’s like window shopping only it’s on Expedia and TripAdvisor instead of Saks or Bergdorf’s. I have noticed though, when I talk about traveling alone, I get a lot of friends who say, aren’t you scared? Lonely? I couldn’t imagine traveling alone like that!

Let’s unpack this for a moment, shall we?

First of all, I’m not traveling to places like Uganda. I’m going to go where it’s low-key and I fit in for the most part. I don’t wander drunkenly around at night and I’m not dressing like I’m for rent.

As for lonely? Well I’ve felt far more lonely with boyfriends on holidays than I have ever felt on my own. Also, when you travel solo you can completely and utterly give into your own eccentricities without giving a fig about what it might look like because no one is looking! And frankly, my days of saying “oh it’s okay I only had 7 minutes sleep” (because of your snoring) are over. My solo travel days are brimming over with conversations I genuinely choose to have–and while some of my days end at 9:30 pm, they never end in tears, regret or wishing I were somewhere else.

You meet people throughout your day when you travel alone. At the hotel, at breakfast, on tours, at the pool, and of course during Happy Hour. I need a lot of space–as in hectares–and I denied myself this for a long time because I felt obligated to make someone else happy. Now I am free and I can design a near-perfect–no, wait–a perfect vacation for myself.

But I still come against archaic attitudes towards female solo travel. For example, when I phoned my credit card company to tell them I was leaving town, here is the conversation that ensued (quoted here verbatim):

“I’ll be staying in Palm Springs.”

“With your husband?”

“Uh, no, by myself.”

“Just by yourself?”

“Yes sir I’m braving a southern Californian resort-hipster-haven all on my own.”

I desperately wanted to add ‘in my big girl shoes‘ but didn’t want to mock the large credit company that would be funding my trip.

Similarly, at the airport when I showed my passport to the US official, he said, and I quote verbatim again here:

“You’re traveling alone”


“No boyfriend or? You’re just on your own?”

“Yes sir, just a vacation with myself, sir.”

I had to really control my sarcasm so I could get into the country but I did want to say that I was afraid and felt in need of protection in First Class.

As I buckled up and looked out over the wing I realized I had really been a complete sourpuss for months. All work and no play was my permanent headline and I was deeply relieved to be getting out of the brand bubble and into a solo adventure in the desert where I could find my self and my humour again.




Filed under Non-fiction, Solo Travel

Mrs. Everett Goes to Italy

She had grown tired of dressing up. Somewhere — maybe in Pisa? — it had stopped being for her and started to be for an imaginary audience she couldn’t name.  Was it an expectation that hung in the air? An expectation or was it loneliness? She felt sad as she roiled in her own self-doubt, suddenly aware of how far she had journeyed out into the world alone with no lifeboat to take her back to a familiar dock. Gone. She was at sea in a makeshift identity that was taking on water fast.

She slipped on simple cotton flats instead of heels and pulled an A-line shift over her head that she had found in a market in Rome. It was a little tighter now through her ribcage but no matter–she wasn’t going out to impress anyone. She was going out to eat.

Italy had been good to her. She had left Eze and taken the Corail Lunéa night train to Nice then traveled Ventimiglia and on to Rome. Rome had been overwhelming and she had chosen the safe but predictable tours to explore the city: the Uffizi, Coliseum, Spanish Steps, and the Vatican. Tours that most people save a lifetime for had made her feel like a garish advertisement in her own life. “Look! Middle-aged woman in freshly-bought Italian shoes admires art!”. She had become a cliche in her own story.

With no plan other than to escape her tourist persona, she traveled to Puglia, landing in Bari and realizing at once she’d made a mistake. After the spectacle of Rome, Bari seemed like a working man in overalls. That wasn’t entirely fair; her stay at the Palace Hotel had been quite lovely and the staff, through a lot of gesticulation and broken english, were able to make one of her dreams come true: Drive a vintage MG. When she was a girl, her grandmother had a friend–they all knew it was a lover but no one was crass enough to name it as such–who would sometimes come by her school to pick her up in an old MG. On rainy days the snaps would drip down soaking the sides of the car and leaching into the ratty carpet that smelled of mould. She had loved it. She would ask  him to drive past her house and circle the block before dropping her off. The smell of gas, old leather, and burning oil was one that comforted her. She had always dreamed of owning an MG but Edward had crinkled his nose in disdain whenever she had approached him about the idea. “Why would you want to own a piece of shit when you can drive a car worth more than most people’s houses?” Always the pragmatist Edward, she said out loud and shook her head, remembering his sharp, condescending tone.

In an act of defiance against her old limitations, she’d rented a 1960 MG Midget and driven out of the mad traffic of Bari towards the Cilento Coast.


Car from Sprintage, the most fabulous way to get around Italy. http://www.sprintage.it/en/tourism.phtml

She had driven in abject terror of being run over by trucks and aggressive drivers that honked at her, alternately gesturing for her to pull over or some absurd sexual reference. She had questioned her course of action up until she entered the Campania region, where the whir of Cyprus trees, smell of crisp, salt air and empty roads welcomed her road-weary little MG and rattled nerves. She drove down Route 267, a two-lane road that follows the Cilento coast, a far cry from the glamour and glitz of the south of France but it offered her a chance to slip into a new self she was yearning to become.

She stopped wearing makeup and simply wrapped a scarf around her head as she drove. She would pull over and look out at the fisherman dotting the shore beside centuries-old crumbling vestiges of history and buy a simple lunch of artichokes, mozzarella, tomato and olives. Something was cracking open inside her and she felt her calls with Edward were less Mr. and Mrs. Everett and more what? Prue and Edward, a thread of humanness emerging she hoped would grow back between them, though not into the rope that had once been their shared marital noose.

By the time she had reached the Amalfi Coast, she’d desperately needed to stop driving and take stock of what was next in her travel plans. Edward’s sister Mara had invited her down to Australia and she had to respond and consider what that might mean to her, to Edward, and for Mara whose relationship with Edward was amicable at best. Which is how she ended up at the Hotel Caruso in Ravello. She’d received some raised eyebrows as she pulled up in her now dust-covered little road warrior, headdress of matted hair and windblown scarf, olive-stained shorts and flip-flops. But it was an Orient-Express hotel and one thing she could count on was a refreshing welcome that was curious but not judgemental. It likely helped she’d paid up front for a week’s stay in cash.

Her room felt like a safe cave nestled into the side of the mountain. Similar to Eze, there was a strong Moorish influence everywhere: high pointed arches throughout her room and faded fresco painting on the ceiling and exposed stone gave her the feeling she was in a five-star museum. Until she lay on the bed. After a week of hard beds and utilitarian amenities, she luxuriated in the comfort of an Orient Express bed story. She longed to fall into sleep but knew she couldn’t until she found something to eat.

She didn’t feel like dressing up to out to dine; it was true, her days on the road had given her freedom from her years of a pristine couture uniform. Her Valentino heels now felt painful and awkward her feet. She wriggled her toes and flexed them against her simple cotton flats bought at a roadside stand and decided take a walk and explore the hotel in her, what Edward would likely call it, ‘hippie chic’ attire.

She could hear music coming from the restaurant as she walked towards the terrace. The sun was cuddling up to the ocean and everything seemed to have a softly blurred layer over it; even the white wrought-iron fence that lined the terrace seemed to dissolve into the blue of the ocean below and beyond. She could smell lemon and fresh-cut rosemary and realized she ached for a long, complicated meal to take her through the night. Blue twilight gave the tablecloths a graphic look, as they’d only now been illustrated and were waiting for characters. Dinner was clearly over she noticed with a tinge of panic. She felt her stomach lurch with hunger and wondered if she would get a conciliatory offer of what was still available from the chef.  That was when she saw Ludano.

(Here’s a little video from the Hotel Caruso to give you a feel for where Prue is at. Escape. Enjoy! Note the full transmedia version of this chapter will be posted soon at http://www.whatisyourstory.ca so keep an eye out!)


Filed under Transmedia