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Sunday, April 22, 2012

I am not a wine snob

My friends think I am a wine snob. But I am not. For example, I recently attended a very nice wine tasting in Zurich. The name of the place? Can't remember. The wines we drank? Um there was one from Spain, one from Italy and also some others. Now you know that any self respecting wine snob would have noted the above and more, in order to tell the story back to unsuspecting friends who are usually bored to tears by stories of wines. 
I am however a wine drinker, and I prefer to drink only good wine. No plonk thank you very much. 

I was invited to a very nice wine tasting at a recent client meeting. We were lead down into a proper wine cellar with everything imaginable stored there. I noticed one bottle with a 2200 Euro price tag on it. I wonder what occasion would call for that particular wine? I mean I have a couple of bottles of wine that some would suggest I keep for a special occasion, but they are in a very different price range than this. They are good enough that just opening them will make an ordinary day a special occasion. But at 10 or 20 times the price, I would have to dig deep for the appropriate moment to crack one open.
Back to the wine tasting.

We had a very good caviste/sommelier who poured us a healthy sip of each selected wine, gave us a short spiel, then left us to talk amongst ourselves while we enjoyed the wine in our glasses. 
I like to observe who swirls their glass professionally, sticks their big nose deep in the glass, breathes air over the sip of wine on their tongue, and then,for no good reason, spits it out. (Please don't feel the need to fill me in; I do know why!)
There are also those who empty their glass into the jug provided in order to receive the next taste. I will admit that at one particular wine tasting in Germany I was surreptitiously dumping the wine into a drain behind me because it was truly undrinkable, but that is another story.
This is me normally. I like to look at the color and body, sure, and give it a good swirl and all that. I like to hear what the resident expert has to say about the wine we are tasting.
And I love the taste from my lips all the way to the back of my throat, and the warm tingly feeling it gives me on its way to my tummy. Spit it out and miss that part? I would rather not.
Living in Europe, we are often treated to excellent wines from France, Spain and Italy, and see fewer "New World" wines. So of all the wines we tasted, we were surprised to find the one we enjoyed the most was a 1979 Merlot from California.  I don't remember the name, but then again I probably can't afford to love it too much!
An enjoyable evening of wines I may never drink again with people I may never see again.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Glorious Fabulous Business Travel

Mom:Where are you going this week?
Me: I am catching a flight to London.
Mom: Sounds nice.
Me: Yes it is always nice to travel.
Okay so maybe I lied. Here is my real travel adventure this week.

After a one hour commute I arrive early to the office Wednesday for a very important client presentation. The kind where, if we do well, we might win a gazillion bucks worth of business. So we do our presentation, I skip lunch with my colleagues because I am busy preparing Thursday's presentation to another client, and we head off to catch an evening flight to Heathrow.
Well the flight is delayed. And it takes almost 2 hours to get through UK Immigration because for every 500 passengers there are exactly 5 employees processing. One employee who is doing nothing of obvious value then takes some time to talk to the woman who is working to relate a story about an angry passenger who found the waiting time a bit long. That was a real contribution on her part, as she mocked his American attitude.
Finally I make it through immigration, but cannot find my boss who had a somewhat shorter line, being European. Twenty minutes later we find each other and go in search of transportation to our airport hotel.
The information booth sends us to post 11 to catch the "Hotel Hoppa". The young woman at post 11 seems very confused about why I am there.
Her: You need the Hotel Hoppa
Me: Yes I know
Her: Well you need to catch it somewhere else
Me: Really? Where?
Her: Where it stops.
Me: The information booth said it stops at post 11
Her: (Here I am screwing up my face like she did. Sorry you can't see it)
Me: This is post 11 right?
Her: (Again with the screwed up face but no words)
Me: So I can catch the Hotel Hoppa here at post 11?
Her: Yes I guess you could wait here. It does stop here.
Me: Let me just go find a taxi.

So the taxi takes us on a £25 ride to a very nearby airport hotel. As we are pulling into the hotel parking lot, no shit, he runs into a bus. The Hotel Hoppa bus to be precise. When the irate bus driver comes over, our taxi driver says, "Sorry, I think I clipped you with my mirror". Meanwhile the entire side of his taxi is destroyed. On my boss' side of the car. We are now thinking mostly about how to get out of the taxi and into our hotel.

At the hotel reception we get a trainee to check us in. Joy of joys. Where are my patient pants? She spends a very long time finding us rooms close to each other. As if we care. I walk into my - oops make that someone else's room... yes I have been checked into a room that is already occupied. Imagine the surprise to the first guest when I enter!

Okay so blah blah blah, we take a taxi the next morning to the client presentation, having woken up at 3AM to finish the presentation we should have been working on the night before, and the taxi driver cannot find the building. He has two things in mind: 3rd Street and Micro something. Unfortunately our client is not Micro anything and is not located on 3rd Street. Nevertheless we spend 30 minutes on every possible permutation of 3rd Street and Micro something. We finally show him on the map how to get to the building, and off we go.

Final travel chapter for today. There is no queue at the airport for a taxi when I arrive back at Charles de Gaulle. Yippee! However every possible route home is blocked with accidents and traffic. Uh-oh. And I forgot to go the the ladies room before getting in the taxi. Oh boy. This ride is very long. Oh man, will we ever get there? Oh this could be very embarrassing.

Me after an hour that felt like a week: Sir I am very sorry but you will need to stop. You can let me out, leave without me, take my suitcase, claim my first-born or whatever you need to do, but you have to stop. Okay maybe I was a little less eloquent in my basic French but you get the picture. And so did he. He looked a little alarmed but he stopped.Thank God for kind people.
Now I am home, preparing for my next exciting adventure on the road. Ain't business travel just the most glamorous thing ever? Bet you wish you were business traveling right now.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thin Places

Holocaust Memorial Berlin
So the world had a secret.
Maybe you were in on it.
This secret explains why I have been struggling to write about something that happens to me when I travel to certain places, special places, and have been pretty much at a loss for words.

Peggys Cove
But maybe you knew all along what these places were.
It turns out they are "Thin Places", best described as where Heaven meets Earth. Or almost.
In a recent article in the New York Times, Sunday March 11, Eric Weiner shares his thoughts on thin places.
And you know what he says? Thin places are personal. Your thin place might be thick to me. And I love this idea most of all. 
I have always believed spirituality (go ahead and substitute religion if you want) is very personal. I struggle with "organized religion" I suppose because I don't understand it. I can't organize my own thoughts and beliefs around religion, so I am pretty sure being organized in a religion escapes me completely.
Notre Dame Paris
But back to the thin places. I have some, and continue to discover more as I travel. Apparently you can't just go find them, you have to stumble upon them. Like anything you go looking for, thin places become elusive when you try to discover them. Thin places are of course there all the time, but when they find their way into our hearts and souls, when we connect to them, we recognize them for what they are to us.

Wadsworth Falls Victoria Park Truro
My thin places?
Buddha statue in memory of Tsunami victims in Hikkaduwa
Berlin, New York, and yes Paris.  Peggy's Cove (far from the lighthouse) Victoria Park, many places in Mexico. 
I know there are people who are offended by my thin places, who might say a thin place by definition must be holy, or a religious site, or somehow recognized by an official as a thin place. 

The Coliseum Rome
And to that I say I trust myself to know when when I am in it. Just as we no longer need someone to read the Bible to us, we no longer need someone to tell us what is holy. Somewhere within each of us we still have the ability to recognize it.  Mystery. Power. History. Alive-ness.
Crossing a ravine in Cabo San Lucas
How do I know when I am in a thin place? I feel most alive, just as I do during near death experiences.  Crossing a ravine on a rope bridge, I felt very much alive, and knew how much I wanted to stay that way. 

This morning at the market in Place Monge I felt much the same way. Appreciating life, and very close to Heaven. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where have you met someone interesting?

Think about people in your life, past, present, future.
Now where did you meet them? Here are just a few examples from my life.

Lynn was introduced to me by my then fiancé. The friendship was the best thing to come from that. The first night we met (at the engagement party she was throwing for us) she told him that whatever happened she was keeping me. And I guess she did.

Alison, at L'Area Bar in Paris, introduced by owner Edouard the first week after I arrived. He thought we might get on well, and he was dead right. Who says you can't meet a nice girl in a bar?

Janice, fellow Canadian was introduced to me by my friend and neighborhood butcher in Paris. He thought two Canadian girls in Paris might become friends. Right again. Now he always knows where to find her!

Bob, an almost fling once in my life who I met in an airport terminal in NYC. I was bitchy to him when he attempted to chat, then found myself seated next to him on the plane. What are the chances?

Richard: we were introduced via email by our new boss and spoke together on the phone before arriving at my new job. We were supposed to figure out a project and I guess we eventually did. He became my mentor and friend during the process, and also my favorite artist.

Oh and at the time we were working for Richie, who in another chapter altogether offered me the chance to live in Paris.Well actually in a casual conversation he mentioned he was opening a branch in Paris and I somehow wormed my way in.

Gina? We met at a very contentious condo board meeting. Before that a mutual acquaintance had suggested that we might get on well, since we both like to drink wine.She swears that was the first thing I asked her, but I think she is exaggerating. I am sure I confirmed her name first.

Kathleen: I met through a mutual acquaintance when I arrived at her salon extremely frustrated by the receptionist's very poor driving directions. Can't believe she befriended me considering how pissed I was at being lost for so long, but the friendship was helped out by...

Chuck: who suggested we all sit together at a little Mexican restaurant in KC. My friend Beth had made me promise not to sit at home that evening even though I did not know a single person in KC. I forced myself to go to the restaurant, and received a very warm welcome and 2 new friends.

Don't you wonder how and why this happens? I think there is a thread, so fine that we cannot always see it. I would like to hear about random encounters in your life that have turned into friendships.