Tag Archives: 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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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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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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A Cheap Red-Eye with a Sliver of Lemon Please

An excerpt from my novel I’m sloooowwwwllly working on, feel free to read some earlier excerpts here.

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Sam looked out at the darkening horizon. She had been up since 4 am, stopped in three airports, been frisked down in security and curled her hair in a hallway in the Kansas airport. And yet she felt she hadn’t arrived yet. She was stuck in mid-air, her own halting hope that this dalliance was moving towards a relationship and her own nauseous fear that this dalliance was moving towards a relationship. She sat alone, surrounded by what looked like the who’s who of Washington, DC. Everyone seemed to have a wired ear and a Brooks Brothers suit on or be slithering towards one another in a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap and Jimmy Choo heels trying to look effortless and not succeeding. Her date had gone to the washroom and she realized there was nothing tying her here–not a reservation, not a phone number, itinerary, or address. She cringed as a voice in her head boomed: “Or boyfriend, get it? Get it? You just traveled across the continent for a date. Fuck this shit.” It sounded like a clip of dialogue from Entourage playing over and over like a film reel with a tick in it that wouldn’t let go.

Her instincts twitched around her ankles, shifting down to the tips of her toes, then back to her heels. She crossed and uncrossed her legs. She was like a runner at the beginning of a race only she was in Valentino, not leaning over her knees on a track but in a velvet booth casually leaning back as though she had not a care in the world.

Run. Run. Run. 

“There you are, I didn’t realize you’d snuck back to the table. Here are two more, just in case that first one didn’t hit the spot.” He placed the oysters on the table in front of her, their opalescent innards shaking slightly in the candlelight. He put his hand under the table and slipped it over her kneecap. She leaned into it; she wasn’t brave enough to go in the other direction.

“I am sorry, I can’t eat these. I really…I..” she stuttered while gently pushing the oyster towards him.

“But you just sucked that one back like –”

She cut him off so she wouldn’t have to hear him finish the sentence. It was easier if she just spoke the lines. His dialogue became so much better if she wrote it.

“Like a woman who is desperate for dinner!” She smiled encouragingly up into his face and pushed the menu into his fingers. He suddenly put his fingers up to her neck and stroked her skin. His hands seemed immense. Could he circle his fingers around, index to thumb, if he tried? She didn’t want to think about it. His largeness was something she always wanted to step away from, as if by sidestepping it she could avoid the truth which was she wasn’t attracted to him.

As she looked at the menu and concentrated on what she could stomach, she tried to ignore the fact–which now seemed to tap on her shoulder repeatedly like a kind of holier-than-thou referee–that all this might amount to was a cheap red-eye in the middle of the night.

“Martini. Dry. Sliver of lemon.” It was a perfunctory order that she softened with a smile. She slipped her hand into his, her small fingers disappearing into his oversized palm. She decided to just enjoy the view out over the city, the taste of expensive appetizers, a doting waiter and ice-cold vodka. She closed the door to her internal analysis and stepped into the make-believe world she willed to be real.

And he would come along with her. They always did.

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Fall for all the right reasons

On a stormy, sodden, Pacific Northwest fall day, I ventured up to Whistler to escape city life with one of my oldest girlfriends who was in need of a reconnect to nature–in a luxurious way of course! Thanks to a dear friend I was treated like a Travel Queen (yes, that’s a proper title) at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Since Whistler is less than two hours away from Vancouver, we were out of the bustle of downtown and into the forest in no time.

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Thoroughly soaked after a long walk, we were thrilled to come back to the hotel room to find a lovely welcome awaiting us.

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Reframing Whistler for both myself and my girlfriend as a place we could enjoy sans boyfriends or partners was totally liberating. We’d gone there carrying a lot more baggage than an overnight bag and had left lighter and freer with a detailed itinerary planned out for our next trip to Los Angeles.

Over breakfast, I said to my friend, isn’t it wonderful not to be wondering where our relationship is going? We both had a good laugh. We never had to second-guess our friendship. We knew it was for life.

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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.

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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!)

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