Tag Archives: tourism

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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California revisited

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Hanging out in Long Beach, California.

I’ve been away–both metaphorically and figuratively–and have ended up untethered from my writing for a while. I think we do that when what we have to write isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it will feel more like a tonsillectomy without anaesthetic I’m sure. But I digress. So, where was I anyway? Long Beach, California. A place that I think once likely had a sheen to it but since the recession has a decidedly tired feel, like a convention town without the big acts playing anymore. But there were still palm trees and a pool and I got to present to universities from across North America on my Transmedia character named Emily who I created for a sustainability campaign last year so that was kind of great.

The highlight of the trip, however, was visiting the Queen Mary. Being a hotel nut, this was on my bucket list and it did not let me down. The old world elegance was there in her bones and as you walked the length of the teak deck you could imagine corsets twisting, tiny umbrellas dipping, waiters whisking drinks away and courtly flirtations all happening along the remarkable length of this stately ship.

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The ship was built in 1939 and the art deco details still remain. Apparently, 1.5 Titanic’s could fit inside the Queen Mary! Still used as a hotel, I ran into guests amidst the many tours that were being hustled around the ship and wished I’d stayed overnight. I did feel that the management could put a lot more effort into the tourism experience since I for one considered it to be a once-in-a-lifetime visit. They could take some lessons from a few of the heritage Fairmont properties in Canada.

 

Whenever I am in California, I always have the sensation of duality. On one level, I am so happy to look up and see palm trees and feel the warm air on my skin and slurp on beachside margaritas but on another I remember myself as a young woman with dreams and desires who worked, first in my sister’s print shop then in the San Diego regional theatre, and drove the California coast with my ‘official’ Californian licence plates. But my time there was also a time in my life when I had been lost, misguided and searching for a life that would bring meaning, joy and love to me. I found it, just not in California.

I do still like to visit though, mostly because there’s few things more joyful than a palm tree against a blue sky with miles of beach ahead of you.

 

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Summer Laze

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Holiday. It can be a state of mind, sure, I’ll give you that. But it truly only happens in a specific place. When we tell each other memories of our vacation, we usually start with the place. The way the trees drooped down over a boulevard or how the sun set every night beyond your balcony or the way the lavender smelled in the air long after you’d hiked beyond those purple fields lit by a moody afternoon sun or the sound of waves, crashing in the dark just beyond your window.

My holiday place every year is in Kelowna, British Columbia in a region called the Okanagan. It (as in life) has usually become so unbearable in Vancouver by the time July rolls around I am itching to hit the highway and get to my happy place where peaches hang from trees and counters overflow with fresh berries of every kind and I am at peace under the hot glare of a true summer sun. This time around I drove a slow, lazy route up to the Okanagan, stopping in Osoyoos which is a desert and hot as, well you can imagine a desert could be, and then meandered up to Kelowna where I stayed with my ex sister-in-law of nearly 30 years who isn’t an ‘ex’ anymore but a dear friend. She cooks, I eat. A lot. We talk, water the garden, cocktails are made, plans hatched, relationships pondered and dreams unfurled for inspection. Everything is extraordinarily ordinary and simple and satisfying. Salad and herbs freshly pulled get tossed in a bowl with homemade dressing. Magazines get sticky from the heat, and are turned slowly, as you drift off to sleep in the sun. But best of all, I get to laze around with a small dachshund by the name of Louie who is my favourite animal in the entire world. You’d love him too if you met him. You can see him in the slideshow below.

If you are reading this and thinking of coming to BC, please, spend a few days in Vancouver, but ensure you get up to Osoyoos, Oliver and Kelowna and all of the amazing wineries that abound in our beautiful Okanagan. It’s really heaven on earth. And don’t fly. The backroads are what make it a holiday.

 

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How I Found My Sense of Humour: Part Two

The Palm Springs airport really knows how to show off. There is an outdoor walkway from the plane to the baggage area with blazing white canopies for those who want shade under the penetrating heat of the sun. Palm trees stand like desert super models greeting you as you wander, stunned and squinting, to claim your baggage. But who wants shade? I was starved for sun having come from Vancouver where months of rain and cloud had contributed to my dour and rather humourless state of mind.

In typical fashion, I hadn’t planned much beyond an architectural tour that appeared to be run by a  couple obsessed with modern architecture. The Palm Springs Modern Tour was the only item on my itinerary for the whole week other than unplanned napping and spontaneous fiction writing and reading. As the sun blasted onto my neon-white face in the taxi, I smiled back up at it and nearly licked the window in gratefulness for its warmth.

I was in the desert and the desert was under my skin.

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When I arrived at the Movie Colony hotel (named after a  a neighborhood in Palm Springs where famous movie stars owned homes between the 1930’s & 1960’s including Marilyn Monroe, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore) I had the usual ‘oh, this isn’t what it looked like on the internet‘ moment then quickly schooled myself to just embrace the experience. The voice in my head that always urges me to ‘just embrace the experience’ has really got me into a lot of trouble in my life but in this case I agreed wholeheartedly with it. The hotel was designed by architect Albert Frey and as I passed through into the intimate courtyard area I could see I was in the hands of a master architect. Built in 1939, the hotel initially sat on acres of dry dusty land looking out to an open expanse just far enough from Los Angeles that movie stars could let their hair down–as in really down–in the desert. Albert Frey had studied with Corbusier and fell in love with Palm Springs on a trip there and stayed to claim the small town as his own. He left a trail of modern architecture in his wake and transformed the small desert town into what is now a mecca for modern architecture enthusiasts’ and hipsters who don’t understand what they are referencing.

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Architect Albert Frey

Albert Frey and many of his contemporaries seemed to be in love with an architectural feature seen everywhere in Palm Springs called the breeze way. Of course you want a breeze way in the desert! Albert Frey’s breeze way at the Movie Colony hotel led out to an idyllic pool surrounded by white deck chairs  covered in bright yellow striped towels surrounded by a tall row of green bushes and sky-high Palm Trees that hedged around the pool and provided  a natural barrier to the outside world. Instantly, I felt like I was staying in someone’s small, chic modern house. And that, I suspect, is exactly what Mr. Frey wanted you to feel.

My body really had gone through the ringer since I’d wrecked my back in May of 2013 and I had been slowly working my way back to some semblance of fitness and mobility again but had resigned myself on this trip to a one-piece which made me feel old but what can you do? It was not an experience I wanted to embrace but sauntered down to the pool and took my Chelsea Handler book, light as vodka and soda, with me. After dozing in the 103 degree heat, I crept down the little stairs into the pool. Most pools are too cold for me as are most oceans and lakes. The only two times in my life I had the right temperature of water to swim in was in Corfu, Greece and for many years at my two best friend’s  houses as a kid.

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This pool was the absolutely perfect temperature with low chlorine and a view of the hotel that was white against blue sky with two giant green Palm Trees like Dr. Zeus drawings dotting the zenith above. Heaven.

At Dean Martini hour that night (held at 5:30 everyday, seven days a week), I donned a light cotton dress and joined the other guests around the small outdoor kitchen area in the middle of the inner courtyard. Is there anything better than free martinis, fresh oranges, your hair still wet from pool and warm air on your skin? Being the only single slinging back the martinis, I got the usual questions and comments from the couplelanders: Aren’t you nervous to travel by yourself? Don’t you feel self-conscious doing things by yourself? My, you are far braver than I am!

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I wondered to myself as I looked at this very attractive woman in her fifties what she’d been doing with her life if my act of drinking a martini by myself was considered ‘brave’. But each to his own I suppose.

I won’t lie and say eating by yourself doesn’t have its challenges. For one, you can’t choose a place that has all couples drinking wine together because then you really stand out. What you want is a little family place that has just a few oddballs in it so you can relax and just enjoy your meal. I used to live in San Diego and for a time I worked with a Mexican printer–don’t ask, it’s another long story–and I discovered what ‘real’ Mexican food was so I was on a quest to have some in Palm Springs. I walked down the main Palm Canyon Drive in a thin dress covered in a pattern of flowers with flip-flops on my feet at seven o’clock at night and reveled in the feeling of warm evening air on my skin. The street was bustling with business and the restaurants were crowded. I surveyed one after another then stumbled across Las Cansuelas, a little hole in the wall family run Mexican restaurant and promptly ducked into its shady interior. It was quiet save the family eating together at the back, and I ate there for three nights in a row because it was so incredibly delicious. I just told them to make it like they would for themselves–I recommend you do the same if you are ever there.

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Pops of colour burst against the sandy browns and beige of the desert everywhere in Palm Springs. After the dull winter, my eyes seized on the bright oranges and yellows and reds like a hummingbird. I spent hours swimming, floating and staring up at the ultramarine sky, admiring the intentionally intimate hotel design of Frey’s who clearly saw the pool as the whole point of the hotel. And it was. In fact, most of the purpose of any good modern house in Palm Springs is the pool life.

Frey is everywhere in Palm Springs and I was glad to be further educated on his legacy by Trevor, the master storyteller from the Palm Springs Modern Tour company, who gave me a three hour modern architecture tour and told story after story on how Palm Springs was ‘colonized’ by architects’ with a new design aesthetic that saw function and simplicity take precedence over decoration and frivolous design. The love for modernism has gone a little berserk in Palm Springs along with the cost of owning an authentic mid-century house. The tour gave me a deeper appreciation for what those architects envisioned, including my favourite, Richard Neutra, and I happily joined the army of tourists’ salivating over the clean, sharp shapes and blissfully simple lines of these architectural gems. Among them, the famous Kaufmann house, an item on my personal bucket list I could now check off. Having been a long-time fan of photographer Slim Aarons, and specifically of his series of photos taken at the Kaufmann house, I was gaga when we stopped to admire Neutra’s genius design. I plan on immersing myself in the heart of it all next February during Modernism Week in Palm Springs.

Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House.

Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House.

Leisure living is a kind of sport in Palm Springs. I saw it in full bloom at the Colony Palms Hotel, a chi chi hotel where the elite of Coachella were staying, some of whom were capsized at the bar, smoking and acting as if they were in lawless land. Which of course they were. Hollywood, celebrity, power, stardom–these have the weight of influence here and the private cabana’s and money and champagne swirling around remind you just how the whole thing started out in the desert by a few celebrities who wanted to escape the studio glare and how in fact, it is still going on relatively unchanged since then. And for a time I lived it too in the Movie Colony: hot sun, salty rim of a cocktail, starlet temperature water, blood-red nails and a lemon-coloured cabana towel draped over wet shoulders. It may have been glamour with a small ‘g’ but it felt fabulous with a big fat sexy ‘f’.

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The private cabanas at the Colony Palms Hotel.

More importantly, I remembered what leisure felt like. I remembered my sense of humour. And I made a vow to keep a bit of the Movie Colony alive inside me until I could return.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mrs. Everett Goes To Tasmania

Dearest readers you probably forgot about me by now. I nearly did. That writing self, the one who makes it a practice to blog every week, where did she go? Mired in ordinary work I’m afraid. I’ve come to realize writing for someone else all day really takes the wind out of my creative sails by the weekend. I did carve out some precious time for my own work, however, and in a flurry of words, I managed to crank out the longest segment of my Mrs. Everett story since it began. It’s her voyage to Australia and Tasmania and it’s really about four chapters but given it is a transmedia story, I’ll just give you a little section of prose intro here. You’ll find the rest of it unfolding on my biz site at http://www.whatisyourstory.ca soon. Notice I don’t commit to a date.

To catch you up, Mrs. Everett has been in Italy on the Amalfi coast having a romance with a gentleman named Lodano. Of course it didn’t work out and she felt for the first time in two decades, a bit of a broken heart. Not a real broken heart (because we know those can be fatal), just a little hairline fracture but nonetheless it hurts her deeply and in this chapter we are joining her as she sets off for the wide-open spaces of Australia to heal her heart. At the end of this chapter we’ll see Mrs. Everett reuniting with Mr. Everett’s younger sister, Mara, which doesn’t go so well at first. But that’s a whole other story to unfold down the road.

****

She let out a sigh of relief as the plane door was finally shut with a deliberate clunk of the metal latch. It was the most comforting sound she could imagine hearing at that moment and she happily leafed through a safety pamphlet in Italian, feeling her shoulders ease and drop. She hoped the seat beside her stayed empty. She wasn’t in the mood to make anyone else cheerful. God knew she wasn’t.

How foolish she’d been! She stuffed the pamphlet roughly into the seat back ahead of her and stared out the window. They had begun to roll down the runway and the plane heaved and creaked as she leaned forward, hoping she could somehow help speed it up and get as far away from Italy as possible.

Lodano.

His name rolled around in her mind like dice in an endless game. It made her think of ice cubes and she looked up for a stewardess. A red seat belt sign frowned down at her. No drink to ease her nerves yet.

Lodano.

How she loved to say his name, hesitantly, joyously, sensuously, whispery. She felt ashamed at how much she’d said it. Like an addict, she had binged on his attention, watching his eyes watching her lips as she’d cooed to him, a long-lost femininity fluttering up into her face, her eyes, along her skin, and flooding her mind.

Until she woke up in their hotel room early one morning and looked out the window to find  him exploring the back of a sundress on a young, curvy Italian woman.

She’d believed her days of being cuckolded were over. Still, there was a certain sense of whimsy to it all that she’d not felt since she’d been in high school. She knew Edward would say she was an easy target, a cliché, but she’d really been deeply infatuated with Lodano. Or was it Italy? No matter,  she was on her way to Australia and she was determined to have an adventure. She was circling around the idea of visiting Mara, Edward’s sister, but first she needed to hole up and knit back the hole she’d torn in her newly acquired confidence.

***

It unsettled her. This feeling of apathy. What was wrong with her? She’d loved every Four Seasons she’d ever stayed in. But she realized Italy had changed her forever and no amount of amenity or luxurious food, bedding or service would be enough to shift the weight, to unburden her from the sense that the time had come for her to really and truly let what she’d set in motion happen, unfold and become.

The front desk was agitated. There was a lineup and luxury hotels don’t like lineups. They moved in precision with clipped, hushed tones as she leaned on one leg then another, watching for a every inch she could move forward. She was normally an acquiescent tourist but now she was a traveler and she wanted out of Sydney.

“Yes, that’s correct, today. I realize it’s several days short of when I’d reserved for but something has come up.” She had nothing else to add. She stared flatly at the woman who paused, with a brief nod that conveyed her slight annoyance and offered a polite  ‘certainly, ma’am, by all means we are pleased you enjoyed your stay with us’. Well, she hadn’t enjoyed her stay but it wasn’t the hotel’s fault.

At the lounge the night before she’d met a BMW instrument mechanic who had purposefully spent most of his life on the road so he could avoid his marriage. He was matter-of-fact about it and they had an immediate commonality of travelers with no true ‘home’. They’d shared a dinner of appetizers in the bar and he’d described his travels in Tasmania in such tangible, colourful stories she knew that she would have to go there next. It sounded like a place where she could escape everything. It sounded like a place where she might also find what she’d been looking for since she’d started her journey.

***

On the ferry to Tasmania there was a rack of cards advertising places to stay. She couldn’t understand what they were. They were pictures of homes with people’s faces on the front of the brochures holding dogs and proffering baskets of food seemingly on their own front porch. Did they rent their living rooms? She turned one over after another. They were B & B’s. Bed and breakfast. Breakfast in bed? In someone’s actual bed? Not a hotel bed. It was an odd idea.

She wandered to the deck and considered how she might sleep in someone’s basement. The prices did not seem a lot lower than some of the hotels she’d stayed at so what was the selling point? She imagined soem kindly husband supporting his wife’s small business, walking by in his boxers int he middle of the night, giving her a small wave and she brushed her teeth.

No, she couldn’t. She just couldn’t.

Stop it. You came here to do try new things. To remember how you used to live in the world. How your body felt without props, artifice or Edward. Why travel to the ends of the earth if not to end something? If not to find what you have lost?

She looked out over the cheerful expanse of blue ocean meeting blue sky and for the first time since she’d been a teenager realized she was truly free.

***

She stood at the edge of the property and looked up towards the house. She had the urge to call the taxi back. She felt like she was trespassing. There didn’t seem to be anyone home anyway. She turned to call the car back when a burst of energy piled out of the front door including two dogs, a man and a short, wiry woman with an unruly mop of silver curls that bounced as she bounded past her husband and met her with a hug. Prue broke into surprised laughter as her upright stance was  caught off guard and she stumbled in the woman’s embrace. The woman introduced herself as Ann and the man behind her as her husband, Ellis. He offered his hand and it was warm though roughly calloused.  Ann expertly guided her towards the shade of the deck.

“Are you parched? It’s hotter than usual out here the past few weeks and if you’re not used to it, can affect the noggin’, right?” The woman spoke quickly, sharp and precise like her movements as she scooped Prue’s bag from her shoulder and crossed the porch into the house, opening the door wide open for Prue.

“No, I’ve learned since traveling so much this year to always have a bottle of water by my side, thanks ever so much.”

Prue suddenly felt too formal and self-conscious, like she’d just barged into a family of perfect strangers (which she had) but her hosts instantly sensed it and offered her a tour of the house. It had large wood beams on the ceiling and artwork on every inch of the walls, with colourful  stained glass hanging in the windows that flooded the room with beautiful light. It felt like a home. She’d forgotten what that felt like and she her eyes blurred with the sudden prick of tears. Ann took no notice and kept up a steady stream of monologue as she led Prue to her guest room which was a kind of semi-detached space off the back of the house with its own small deck that looked out over a yard brimming with Ann’s artwork in all shapes and sizes of sculpture, paint, glass work, and pottery. The room was utterly silent save the soft chirping of birds she’d never heard nor seen before, some with flashes of green feathers as they moved between branches at the edge of the garden. The small bed butted up against a half-wall made of white slatted wood and huge windows surrounding it. Small wooden shelves lined one side filled with books and brightly painted pottery. An old-fashioned coverlet with bright embroidered flowers covered the bed. Prue instantly wanted to lie in it and listen to the birds.

“Allight then, you have a lie down and we’ll set about fixing a lovely dinner for you when you are good and ready for company. If you want to that is! We’re not fussy here and don’t want anyone telling us when and where we need to be–ever!” Ann said this with a kind of fervor that made Prue smile. She liked the rules of the house already.

“Thank you Ann, I think I will lie down for a bit,” Prue said, a yawn escaping before she could cover her mouth.

Ann made a noise of approval and whisked off, her salt-and-pepper curls dancing after her as she leapt up the two stairs to the door the separated them from the main house. The smell of the ocean drifted through the screens on the window and she was glad she’d chosen Coles Bay to begin her Tasmania adventure. It was remote, beautiful, and unpretentious. And so far, very poor cell reception which suited her just fine.

Prue had not felt so sleepy since London when she’d visited the hammam. As she closed her eyes she made a mental note to herself that this was the best check-in of her life.

***

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© Margaret Doyle 2014
Photo credit Laurine Croasdale

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Transmedia Spring

Artists are always making fools of themselves. It is required. Fail fast. Fall on your face. Test out boundaries. How else can you produce anything original? As some of you who read my blog may know, I’m writing a year-long transmedia travel story about a woman named Mrs. Everett. She’s adventuring around the world, having left her husband, whom, she has recently been informed, has been having an affair for 9 months with a very young woman by the name of Violet. The tricky part is all their messy financial, no wait, his (Edward is his name) messy financial situation as happens with extremely well-off people who are discovered having an affair. But to know more you’ll have to go read the chapters and follow it along on Facebook or start with the prose version at http://www.whatisyourstory.ca. Be Prue’s friend! She is on her way to Eze, France at the moment but would love some advice for traveling in that part of the world.

Here’s a poem written and spoken in the character of Prue about her husband and about discovering the ‘eternal sunshine’ within herself. I risk sounding like an idiot but I have to support the story so here is her (my), our, latest poem in the story.

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A few of my favourite places and things…

This week I have a big project to work on for my course in digital media so my fiction, poetry, and blogging is on ‘lite’. Hence, a few fun things that feed me body and soul in Victoria.

Cobs Bread 

Located near my family doctor, it’s always a pit stop on the way home. I throw all my carb fears out the window when I enter this shop because the smell just envelops you. The staff have it figured out–they’re cool, laid back with pitch-perfect service style and somehow you find yourself ordering things that will undo all the thigh-squeezing, squatting, lunging work you did at the gym. I just try to think like the French and enjoy every last lick of my freshly baked Cinnamon bun, ignoring my North American need to count the caloric damage of the insanely pleasurable taste of their thick, gooey icing. I always bring home some garlic cheese bread for my son who promptly sits down with sandwich ingredients and devours the whole thing while still retaining his six-pack, God love him.

The Bengal Room

Last I checked, I am the Mayor on Foursquare of the Bengal Room at the Empress (it says lounge on their website but I prefer room). Why am I the virtual mayor? Because I go there way too often. The Bengal reminds me a little of one of my favourite places in Vancouver which is the 900 West lounge at the Hotel Van (for non-native Vancouverites I am referring to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver) where I spent many a happy, formative, rainy afternoon. So I always feel a little sense of home at the Bengal every time I visit and likely also because the staff know me. (Thank you for great service Paul each and every time). The best time to go, in my opinion, is mid-week, towards the end of the day, in low season. There’s something about the stilled fans on the ceiling while curling up in the warm buttery leather chairs, and the always present scent of the delectable curry buffet (which just got more interesting I would imagine with Chef Kamal on board) that is enchanting. For summer, I would recommend the Verandah where you can enjoy people watching behind your sunglasses with a few pomegranate mojitos.

Scrimporsplurge.ca

If you haven’t been on this website, just bookmark it now. I am really so impressed by the volume of info Anita puts out on her blog and of course the incredible value of it all! The other reason I love this blog is that it gives me the news about my business community–I adore hearing how small business’ are marketing their products or what deals people are putting together for tourists’, or what free stuff is out there to do on any given day in Victoria. Anita is also a talented editor who used to edit the famous British Columbia magazine and is a writer I really enjoy reading every day as well. The best part about Anita’s digital deals, in my humble opinion, is that she deftly couples community news with real value, something that this single parent family certainly needs to survive in this town, though I think there should be a weekly column dedicated to hot shoe deals. Just saying Anita.

OKV Gewurztraminer

This is a terrible looking bottle of wine. You’ll snootily pass right by her in favour of a dependable Châteauneuf-du-Pape but if you are on a budget and want a decent tasting bottle of wine, try this one. It’s 9.99, yes, under ten bucks, and is mass-produced but this is a perfect bottle for a summer white sangria or with a picnic at the beach–just ensure it stays cold or she will taste a little cheap. For dinner, I would recommend trying any of the many small estate wines from the Okanagan, and I will be sure to post a whole blog on those soon as I go for my annual wine tour at the end of July. I simply cannot wait to stand in the blistering heat, looking down rows of lovingly cared for grapes, with estate wineries and orchards for as far as the eye can see, and nothing to do but sip, smile, and tuck bottles into the trunk as we lazily meander through our afternoon towards deliciously cooked dinners and conversations outdoors past midnight. No sweater required thank you.

Saxe Point

This often overlooked little park is really a magical place to escape to. In the summer, it is lovely to take a blanket down and read and watch weddings all afternoon in the adorable little wedding area enclosed by gardens and a low stone wall where sometimes 3 or 4 nuptials happen on the same day. The gardens here are really amazing but what is magical are the little paths through the woods surrounding the shore, with little secret benches here and there that open up to a vista of the ocean–perfect for watching the sunset, listening to music, and being mindful. On very hot evenings, okay, maybe the one hot evening in YYJ, you’ll find lots of older folks with incredible feasts laid out, bottles of wine open, playing cards or bbq-ing. (One year, a man of at least 85 shouted out to everyone: COPS! and we all rushed to put away our booze. It was one of the funniest moments of my life). This is a place I go to often in the summer but don’t make the mistake of falling asleep as I did in the little grassy wedding area, waking up to a disconcerted bride staring down at my disheveled guise, about to put her stiletto through my larynx.

Sexy Mouth Wash

I promised my dental hygenist Mary I would one day give her a shout out so here it is. Mary did research on essential oils and their remarkable ability to cleanse and soothe the mouth and leave it sweet-smelling and kissable. She smartly set to work using them in her work with patients at Dr. King-Brown’s practice and now she is manufacturing this organic mouthwash! Bravo for entrepreneurism with a healthy bite! Okay, sorry for the bad joke but her mouthwash really is amazing. She has two kinds, Fresh and Sexy and her company is Synergy Organics. Support this local entrepreneur who really knows her stuff and ensure you have a sweet-smelling kisser year-round! See what people have to say on their Facebook page where you can link out to all the info you need including their url and what local stores carry this awesome kiss-inducing product.

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