Sunday, May 31, 2009

One bag, one year, one happy girl

Today I made perhaps the most important trip purchase yet: my backpack!! The above will be my "home" for the next year.... YIPPEE!!

I did my travel shopping at Gulliver's Travel, the long-time travel experts locally. What sold me on the store was the truly awesome service from Chris - she must have spent 2 hours last weekend going through the store section by section with me, showing me all the latest travel gadgets, asking questions and giving spot-on advice (even what not to buy).... I feel I have a true travel partner in Chris ;-) Also like their return policy, there was no problem with me taking more gadgets home than I was sure I'd keep; that way I could sort them at home, make final decisions, and return the rest before I go.
When it came to selecting my bag, after chatting for a few minutes, and looking at a couple of bags in-stock, Chris said she thought the bag that would be most suitable would be the Rick Steves' pack. They were out of stock, but from how she described it, I felt pretty sure I would want it when I saw it. Apparently it is the store owner's fav bag and he swears by it. I didn't like the other colours available, so I asked them to put aside a black one when they came in. So, off I went, bagless, and waited for the call....
I got the call on Tuesday that the bag had come in, and they were holding a black one for me, and I said I would be in by the weekend. Then, Wednesday, Chris calls me personally to tell me that she noticed that there was a brand new colour, a nice pale green, that she thought I would like, and said she was holding both for me so I could take a look and then choose. How's that for service? When I went in today I took one look at the "sage" bag and loved it!
So... I bought the Rick Steves Convertible Carry-On Bag. It was even on sale, for $149Cdn, instead of $165, perhaps because it's on sale on Rick Steves' site; considering shipping and exchange, I got good value. The bag looks more like a backpack than it does in the picture, perhaps because it's not stuffed to the hilt. But I like it that it's on the classy side, and I can do a quick switcheroo with the straps and walk into a hotel with more of a suitcase look than straggly backpacker.
I was doubly lucky when I went in today as Chris was there, and she helped me with a few additional purchases. I was most impressed that she remembered what I had and hadn't bought on my previous trip, and checked in with me on several things. Awesome! Chris is one smart lady. And she's funny too...
At some point, I will try to list what I'm packing, but here are few of the other travel gadgets I have waiting to be packed for my trip:
  • Rick Steves' Civita Day Pack - I actually had this already from a PBS membership drive
  • Rick Steves' Super Size Micronet Travel Towel
  • universal (flat) sink stopper
  • clothes line
  • teensy keychain flashlight
  • teensy first aid kit
  • a few personal safety devices: a purple rubber wedged door stop shaped like a foot, a bright yellow emergency whistle that can be heard from 1km away, and a door/window alarm (not sure if I'll keep the last item or not)
  • a couple of combination locks
  • 3 pairs of incredible dry-in-a-minute panties - they cost about $28Cdn but they are as light as a feather (and, yes, that's all I am taking in that department)
  • suck-out-air clear plastic bags to squish clothes
  • eye mask and ear plugs
  • passport size round-the-neck waterproof swimmers case
  • a RFID Blocking Card Case - believe it or not, there are hacks who sit in piazzas and use wireless devices to steal your credit/debit card information while you walk by or drink your beer - this little case keeps 'em safe
  • super thin clear emergency poncho
  • the cutest little purple and lime green plastic spork and spoon that look like beetles
  • a roll of 10 TowTabs - about the size of a roll of Mentos
  • alarm clock
  • a couple different money belts - including a neat one that looks like a belt (similar to this one)
  • a bunch of black mesh zipper bags
  • NOTE: all of the above take up no more than a case of beer

I've also been learning all about the world of travelling with one bag.... Here are some of the resources I've come across:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Canadian Parliamentary Cats and feral cats in general

I did not know about Canadian Parliament's feral cats until today.... I suppose if I'd ever been to Ottawa, I would have seen them, been curious, and learned more... but, alas, that trip is still a goal.... anyways, very cool story. There's a line in the story that has me itching to make a snide remark, but I am controlling myself.... (think icy hearts)....

I also didn't know much about feral cats period, until I read about a cool family in Spain who provides a home to a little colony (enjoyed several funny cat stories...). This actually adds a lot to my knowledge that will inform my travels through so much of Europe where there are cats everywhere ;-)

Reflections on 30 days to go...

30 days to go until I leave for Europe for a year!

Random reflections:
  • Gave notice on my apartment today... will be hard to leave this wonderful little place that has been my home for almost 4 years...
  • I love love love love love my apartment so empty... I never want to have that much stuff ever again
  • It has felt so right to just give everything away, good karma to help other people, and have met some nice folks
  • I have said all along that I will go down to 6 boxes to store... and, interestingly enough, clearing my junk produced 6 purple plastic storage bins... guess that's how I was meant to store my stuff
  • I love how brutal I am being about purging... every day I look at the clothes I have left and pull out a couple more things to give away
  • It's so cool to not want to shop, I am not drawn to look at stuff, why buy anything now except travel essentials?
  • It is SO nice to be following my own rhythms again, to work when I want to work, play when I want to play, rest when I want to rest, doodle when I want to doodle... *happily shakes off remaining traces of corporate routine*

Other interesting purging discoveries:

  • 2 gold crowns (giving to my niece who is a jewellry student)
  • my old glasses (they say you should take some travelling and thought I didn't have them anymore)
  • remote control for my fan that has been hiding for years
  • ah, the box of the stuff from when I cleared out my sister's hospice room... wasn't able to face it before, so tucked it away... I've put it aside for a day when I have time to sit with my feelings... but it feels ok now - it was actually her birthday yesterday, and she loved to travel, so I feel she is with with me right now, and is excited for my journey
  • found the cutest little lime green keychain flashlight.... and I found it before I went out and bought one
  • good black leather coat that disappeared after my last move (kept it)
  • half a dozen copies of my book, didn't know I had any left, interesting...
  • 'discovered' it would have been good to keep 1 large spoon or cooking tool.... stirring a pot of lentils with a teensy spoon is tricky

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A litte Babyface Brass

Wandering home after dinner tonight my friend and I came across Babyface Brass doing a free street concert at the corner of Burrard & Robson. Or, should I say "discovered" as I hadn't heard them before. They were really very good. I was thinking inda jazz, kinda blues, but way more upbeat.... I see on their site they call themselves jazz/funk/samba. They said they play like this through the summer (until it gets cold, and then they hibernate)... They also have a dream of getting to Japan, so the crowd they gathered with all their donations were helping them along.... They had a guy videotaping them tonight, so maybe they'll put it up on YouTube (cuz I couldn't find them there...)
A nice cap to a nice evening.

Artist discovery: Milan Basic

The art above is copyright the artist - click to go to the source

A banking errand today took me to the HSBC at the corner of Georgia and Hornby, which meant I was in one of my favourite spaces in Vancouver: the Pendulum Gallery. So I took a few minutes to check out the current exhibition:

transFORMATION - milan basic
(May 11 - May 23, 2009)

The absract art was quite interesting, especially the way he uses coppery paint along with muted colours, with what appears to be a thick clear varish. At first, the pieces appear to be entirely abstract, but once you step back and look at them, you can see all sorts of things (I was able to see faces, doves, elephants).

What interests and excites me most about Milan Basic's work is what I discovered when I did some googling for this post.... he has a very cool background as a graffiti and mural artist in Vancouver. I have a new mission, to go and find a few of his pieces (the one above is called SLEEPY EYED GIRL and is located at East 16th Avenue and Main Street).

More info:
  • Hi-Fi Murals - Milan Basic's website
  • City for a Canvas. A 5 minute documentary featuring milan basic's graffiti art - and you can watch him paint the mural above
  • Milan Basic short film. Brave Art talks with MIlan about his roots in Vancouver Graffiti and the evolution of his work.
BTW, If you've never been to the Pendulum Gallery before, you should check it out. Even if you aren't into art exhibitions, this is wonderful space. It is large, bright and airy - and the precision of the huge overhead pendulum is amazing. There's also a nice little cafe with tables in the open space amongst a few fig trees. The space is also surprisingly quiet. You can sit back, sip your coffee and watch the pendulum do it's thing.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Image above is Copyright © Roger Dean, click pic to go to source
This post was inspired by a great idea I saw today: a personal Yes! page.

Of course, when I went to search for an image that said 'yes' it was only natural that the logo for Yes showed up.... one of my FAV bands and one of those things I still listen to regularly. I'm thinking Roundabout.... Almost saw them a few months back, but the concert ended up being cancelled.... who knows, maybe they will turn up in Europe while I'm there...

Anyways.... made me think about creating my own personal Yes page.... just might do it....

To get me started, some Yes!'s from my year of turning 50:
  • Truly celebrated turning the big 50 - I'm 50 and fabulous!
  • I seized an opportunity to transform my life
  • Made a decision from listening to my gut to take off to Europe for a year - then made all the decisions in about 10 days
  • Began the process to get rid of almost everything I own
  • Embraced my art

Hmmm... maybe I'll come back and add to this one....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To sleep in a cave........ !

Wowee... "Cappadocia has provided comfort and shelter in its easily hewn volcanic rock to people for centuries. Cappadocia ELKEP EVi CAVE HOTEL has been tastefully restored to welcome guests of today in the ambiance of the past. " As you can see from the pics above, it's truly beautiful.... and the last pic, well, um....nothing like an ancient phallic symbol to make you smile. Visit the website to see more incredible pics, the very reasonable rates and about the archaeological excavations of the ancient caves in this are of Turkey.

I don't plan on visting Turkey on this trip, but if I ever do, I would sure like to stay here....

Barcelona shoe sales are a July happening!

So.... surfing on my travel destinations and I find this post: Shoe for Every Occasion: Barcelona Shops. Now I'm not really going on a shopping vacation, but, wait, then I read this: A pair of sandals from Casas will start at around €50 and go steeply up from there. For deals wait until July when the sales happen. Ah, seems my trip is perfect timing. It would be fun to pick up a fun pair of sandals or Europe-fashion-savvy-unsneakers....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hackerspaces sound cool

Hadn't heard of hackerspaces before, but they sound pretty cool:
Hackerspaces: DIY Science Centers for Adults

Found this on Nina Simon's blog, someone I never knew about until someone tweeted that she was doing a webcast at the Smithsonian today (veerrry interesting)....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moo pic

Someone tweeted: Weirdest. Cow. Picture. Ever.
So I had to look.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Vaux le Vicomte, inspiration of Versailles

I am looking forward to visiting Vaux le Vicomte while I am Paris. This chateau was the inspiration of Versailles, is spectacularly beautiful and comes without all the crowds. At dusk they light candles around the gardens and fountains and it is apparently very special... I will go to Versailles as well, but I really look forward to Vaux and a nice relaxing day there.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Inspired by others' doodles...

You simply MUST click the pic below to view both sides of the page - this doodler's work is really cool when you see it all..... (do the same for the larger pics in this post)

click each photo to go directly to the artists' work
Was inspired by these doodles on the myMoleskine Artwork site. SO cool to see all the pics of people's doodles in their Moleskines.... Maybe I'll contribute one day...
I do know that I will be spending a lot of time with Moleskine books in the year ahead... and have been thinking about doing a little scrapbooking for each country I visit using these books.... Ah, Hemingway's Moleskine legacy lives on....

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A week in Aix-en-Provence!

I have just secured this wonderful apartment in Aix-en-Provence for a week, very excited!

I have had an interesting experience figuring out what to do between Barcelona and Paris, as I had 7 nights open. As I've been able to book mostly apartments for a month, with a couple of months of shared accomodation thrown in, all for not much more than my rent here at home, I was quite cognizant of my budget. Yet wanted a special experience somewhere new for this period. But, of course, it's peak season in Spain and France. I'd looked at San Sebastian, Nice, Antibes, Arles, Avignon and more... all expensive, then, bingo, this weekend, figured out where I wanted to go: Aix-en-Provence.

What drew me to this wonderful town is a special Picasso-Cezanne exhibition at the Musee Granet celebrating Cezanne's influence on Picasso. There are several exhibits - plus the Château de Vauvenargues where Pablo Picasso lived between 1959 and 1965 will open its doors to the public during the exhibit. As I am pursuing Picasso's works throughout my trip, it was an easy decision once I learned the exhibit was on. I also love Cezanne, so it's extra special. I was very glad I ran across the exhibit's info on the weekend, as this was 'made for me'. I'd also seen Aix-en-Provence on a few TV shows recently and it sounded charming. My timing also means that I will catch the last few days of a music festival there, a bonus.

So.... my place in the centre of Aix-en-Provence is a sweet transition spot for me. And a nice balance to all my big-city time. This charming mansion was once the home of Carmelite nuns and has been converted into seven apartments. After 4 weeks in Barcelona on the 4th floor of a flat without an elevator, this 2nd floor flat with air conditioning and a jacuzzi will be pure heaven....

It will also be a great intro to Southern France. I'll probably be back in the area at some point, as there is a Picasso museum in Antibes I want to visit, maybe in the new year....

Saturday, May 02, 2009

My lazy day

click the image to go to the artist's work
What a lovely lazy day...
  • I really did sleep most of the day.... pure bliss
  • Eventually went out this evening to turn in my bus pass (won't be needing that anymore, $90 saved)
  • that's about it... aside of some twittering, some doodling and scoping out good websites on how the locals live in Paris
  • 58 days to go...

Friday, May 01, 2009

Europe Travel Links

Just keeping track of some good links for myself, for the places I'll be visiting....

(I plan to update this post periodically as I discover new links, and will eventually copy over to a trip-specific blog...)

Spotted by Locals - Experience Barcelona like a local
Vila de Gràcia - Reading the signs & symbols - great public library in Barcelona, open to 1am
Bar Oller - Pop into Pep’s - neat Barcelona bar with € 1.20 draft beer, great place to hang with a newspaper and listen to Van Morrison
Frankfurt, Sant Jaume - Central, Cheap and Cheerful - great takeout place, a burger is only € 2.80 and the menu sounds great, even get a beer to eat in the square
Frederic Marès museum - Curious Curios & Crucifixes - courtyard café - on Wednesday after 14:00, it’s free admission
La Pedrera - A Mine of Art - turns out there's a great art gallery in the space that will store your bags and use the loo

Spotted by Locals - Experience Paris like a local
Stuff Parisians Like
BPI - Postmodernist book’s home - awesome Paris library with lengthy free internet
Saint Ouen Flea Market in Paris - wow, can't wait to hang out here for days
Jeans - an interesting blog post about wearing jeans in Paris (and I'm still gonna wear them despite being past 49)
Wearing Black - in Paris, black is in, bright colours are out, oh my! ("There is no wearing red or yellow in Paris if you are mentally sane")
What do I wear in Paris???- another great piece on what women wear in Paris, with lots of pics
Art Brut - awesome cafe / bar in Paris
Castle of Vaux le Vicomte - inspiration of Versailles, as beautiful, waaaaay less crowded
Paris' Train Stations - ways to kill time before your train departs
Drinking Dehors in Paris - destinations for a spell of civilized open-air drinking
Small Bites In Paris - accompanied with best nearby spots of grass in the city
ROME Spotted by Locals - Experience Rome like a local
Upter - Lifelong Learning on a Budget - continuing ed courses in Rome
English Yellow Pages - Directory of English-speiaking professionals and businesses in Italy -but it's also bloggish with other good info
What's Happening in Rome
The changing face of Rione Monti
- Fascinating Shopping in Rome walking in the Ancient Roman neighborhoud of Rione Monti
Districts of Rome: EUR The city within the city - the area in Rome where I will be staying
Rome Travel Guide
The Rome Guide
BERLINSpotted by Locals - Experience Berlin like a local
M1 - Tram trip from trash to classic art - Berlin subways and art stuff
Berlin Travel Guide
Free Walking Tour of Berlin, Germany!
Checkpoint Charlie and other Berlin Wall stories
Eat on the street in Berlin
Anne Frank Museum - didn't know there was one here (as well as the one in Amsterdam)
The Berlin Guide
Berlin in Your Pocket - awesome guide in downloadable PDF
Berlin's Historic Swimming Pools
Berlin's Smallest Cinemas
Getting Naked in Berlin's Saunas -sounds waaaay more pleasant than the ones in Paris!
Berlin in Ruins
Guide to Berlin's Platzes
Chasing Marlene Dietrich
Wine Bars & Cellars in Berlin
Eclectic & Local Berlin Nightlife
Berlin Graf Guide Redux
The Best of Cheap Stuff in Berlin
Moabit's Art Offensive
Berlin Graf Guide - there is some very cool stuff!
Berlin's Best Art Blogs Revisited
Berlin Street Art & Lowbrow Culture 101
Exploring Berlin's Courtyards in Loving Memory of Heinrich Zille
Greater Berlin's Smaller Museums
Hidden Bars in East Berlin
Offbeat Attractions in Berlin
Things Not to Do in Berlin
Building Berlin: Architect Hans Poelzig
Architecture Museum, Technical University
Berlin's Puppet Regime
Naked Beauty in Berlin's Museums - dated with past exhibitions, but still good stuff
Classical Music & Opera in Berlin - Berlin's a city where operagoers take their seats in jeans and t-shirts.
Medieval City of Rhodes - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Yoga in Rhodes - also offers art classes, retreats etc.
City of Rhodes
Living in Rhodes
Modern Greek Art Museum
ATHENSAthens City Guide
Athens in Your Pocket - awesome guide in downloadable PDF
GENERALSix surefire ways to get sick while traveling
15 Essential Items for a Trip Around The World
Six Tips for Introverted Travelers
Top 10 art museums in the world

Top 16 Museums of the World
Hillman's Wonders of the World

UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Traveler’s 101 - The Complete Travel Tip Post
Power Plugs and Sockets all over the World
Top 10 cities for art lovers
Top 10 destinations for iconic drinks
11 Essential iPhone Apps for a Road Trip
The Top 5 couchsurfing websites

Free as a bird

click the pic above to see the artist's work

Well, I am free as a bird, no more 9-5, not that I ever worked on that kind of schedule...

Some sentimental moments, but it was a full week and a good day (ok, it was a whirlwind)... and nice to have such a special send off. I was delighted by the folks who came out. And touched by all the folks who shared kind words, even if they didn't make it.

Interesting juncture in my life, I am looking forward to the next few days as I reflect.

Oh, and 59 days to lift off...