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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One day in the life of a frequent traveler

Interesting travel day.
Zurich all day client meeting Thursday sent me home to Paris at 10:30 PM.  Finished up some work, packed and in bed by midnight. 5 AM came early Friday, and brought with it severe thunder, lightening and heavy rain – never a good omen for traveling. In lieu of transporting my rather large suitcase through the storm, I optimistically called for a taxi. Good news is I got one right away (6 AM) and headed for Charles de Gaulle.
En route a truck was jack-knifed completely blocking traffic, a car was consumed in flames… but I made it in time nevertheless. When I checked in at Air France, I was asked if the second leg of my journey from NY to Halifax was by air or by bus. WTF?? I pointed to the boarding passes which clearly indicated both flights were Delta and my seat assignment was indicated. The agent got a bit huffy and said that many passengers do that leg by bus. Okay.Maybe. But not me.
In the duty free shops I looked at wallets. I asked if they had any with more places for cards. “No because men have more cards and women carry more change, so we design them this way.” Really!
Uneventful flight to JFK, and received a Quick Connect sign to transport me easily through immigration and customs. Leaving customs, I was told “You can walk to the Delta terminal; it’s right next door”. I started out, walked past Terminal 2, carried on to terminal 3, without aid of sidewalks, entered the building, and could not see a way to get to Departures. I exited, found an elevator that said “To Departures” and got in. Nothing moved. I exited, found an escalator that said “To Departures” entered through a door that said “Do No Enter” and was told by a security guard to return to where I started.  And I tried, but I could see the security line for my flight from where I was standing, so I took a little short cut and got in line. The agent there said he didn’t like my boarding card issued to me in Paris and sent me back to the Delta counter. Then back to the security line. Well you get the picture.
The Bloody Mary I had in the second bar, as the first bar was out of Bloody Mary Mix may have been the reason for the next little mix-up. Arrived in Halifax at 4 PM, took my luggage to the rental car, talked with the friendly people at the tourist bureau, had a Tim Horton’s coffee – all the while killing the two hours until Angie and Mom arrived. Whoops –they were waiting for me already. Guess time zones needed to be adjusted on my iPhone between NY and NS! Oh well we are all here now in ready for the week ahead. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Berlin

During my life I have always been inspired by the people I meet, the places I travel, the music I listen to, the books I read, just like you all. I have found that whenever I feel stuck, a trip either physically or virtually helps me to move to another place. This morning it was a beautiful dance routine showing two women imprisoned by their white picket fences, once again reminding me why I chose this life of freedom. Last weekend it was a trip to Berlin that moved me.
The whole trip came about rather randomly. A friend and former neighbor was spending some time in Berlin and offered to show me around.  In the meantme a new friend mentioned that he has an apartment in Berlin and goes often if I would like to go. I booked my trip, contacted my KC friend - and discovered he would be leaving Berlin 2 days before I would arrive.
What to do? Cancel or go anyway?
I went.
I am glad.
From the first evening I knew Berlin would be something unexpected. My new friend gave me a quick tour, traditional German wiener schnitzel for dinner, and lighted off to a fun filled evening with some other folks. I was feeling a little lost, but still welcomed the chance to spend some time hanging in a cafe on a cool street in a new place.
Saturday morning I gave my self a tour of the East End gallery, the powerful murals painted in 1990 on the remainder of the Berlin Wall. Then went with new local friend Alex to a big bio market, which has apprently become very gentrified over the years (can you say granolas?). Believe it or not lunch was hot soup on a very hot day, but delicious.
I headed off by myself to see the Holocaust memorial. Now I know this is supposed to be about oppression, confusion, etc., but I could not get to that space. Everywhere I looked I saw clear straight lines, paths leading to the blue sky and sun. I can't explain it, but it was the case.
Next I saw a rather lonely looking spot with a plaque memorializing homosexuals who were arrested (50,000) and starved or otherwise killed (15,000) by the Nazis. This is where my trip became more interesting. Imagine this for a memorial. A free standing small wooden structure, looking like a ticket booth at a circus, with a window. It is necessary to step directly up to the window to see a video projection of men kising, caressing each other, etc. I am not sure what the creators were shooting for, but to me it felt more like a peep show than something respectful. Might just be me but I am calling it "a swing and a miss".
Brandenburg gate was Brandenburg gate. I had already decided to give Checkpoint Charlie a pass, when my phone rang, with an invitation from my friend Alison's brother Ian to join him for a visit. I met him with his friend Sina and really enjoyed them both. We started with a beer at an Irish pub(!), then went to a cool restaurant along the river for dinner. Fod was average but the company was great. Tried to get into a nightclub across the river, but the line was long, and as they say it was already late enough. Opted for a cute little bar instead, which looked as though it was or still is someone's house. We walked across the river to my hotel, and finally called it a night at 3:30.
Sunday was a visit to Kunsthaus Tacheles, a 9,000 square foot building formerly a department store, prison, nightclub and now artist workspace and exhibit hall, it blew my mind. Completely coverd inside and out with graffitti and art. Cool art for sale. Defies description.



I was sad to leave Berlin and my new friends. I feel different. Better. Lighter. Hopeful.