Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Venice reminded me that I am still missing out on that big part of life that involves love and relationships. Sure, I have met some fantastic people on my travels, but somehow I still find myself free of any commitments.
So I left the City of Love for Munich and pretended that it was Oktoberfest (or lets just call it Märzfest according to the current calender). Any excuse to drink lots of weissbier with my very good-looking acquaintances (VGA’s).
The VGA’s and I took the underground train to Odeonplatz, a famous square in the centre of Munich, then walked all the way to Marienplatz, marveling at all the old buildings and the little dancing statues in the clock-tower.
Ok, so it was less profound than that. My VGA’s were fondling the lion statues and I was practicing my photography skills with all of their cameras. Besides all that, it was simply too cold to walk around without gloves and fur coats; therefore we soon found ourselves seeking out the warmth of one of the oldest and most famous beer houses in Germany.
We enjoyed a few pints of Shneider Weisse and shared a meat platter as well as fresh bretzels to provide us with some blotting paper for the alcohol. I assume that the Germans traditionally all had cholesterol problems because of eating so much fat – but it sure tasted good.
After that we did some pub hopping back to the underground station, where some weird looking men tried to make friends with us. Luckily we escaped their German ‘charms’ and passed by the supermarket before going back to the Arabella Sheraton hotel.
Here we consumed the Riesling wine, cheese, crackers and Haribo sweets as though we were students again. I woke up with a headache, but besides that, I felt great. So what that I am still drifting! Freedom is glorious and I am having the time of my life.
Besides, when I eventually do find someone to call home, at least I won’t be able to say that I missed out on anything.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
You don’t have to be rich to impress your beloved in Venice. Neither do you have to be good looking or charming. This city itself commands love.
The Latin man that has been following me around the world awaits me at the Piazzale Roma, where all the buses from the surrounding areas terminate. From here we take a boat to cross the Grande Canal on the way to the famous Piazza San Marco.
The flattering Italian light, the water, the colours and designs of the buildings all come together in sights that perfectly please my eyes.
When the boat stops close to San Marco we get our feet onto solid ground. Along many of the walkways there are pink public benches for catching your breath (if it’s not drizzling like today) and perhaps a kiss, underneath the pink street lamps. Yes, in Venice the world is indeed rose tinted.
We cross the Bridge of Whispers and I see the gondoliers singing to lovers and Chinese tourists alike. I look at Mickael and almost say ‘I love you,’ but then I drop my camera. So we continue to the much photographed square where the tourists feed the birds.
Inside the San Marco basilica I struggle to lift my eyes. Not because the windows and the lanterns are not beautiful but because I just love the mosaics on the floor. The patterns and colouring is just so artistically and beautifully done. Same as this city, every little part of it is a different visual delight.
From here we get lost and eventually find ourselves at the famous Rialto Bridge where we stroll through the market and watch the sky turn pink.
We ask a local for advice on where to eat and end up walking a really long way to a restaurant called 'Hosteria da Franz' along one of the canals. By this time I am starving but it is worth the wait. We try the typical Venetian squid ink pasta and having been quite sceptical, I am surprised at the exquisite taste.
By the time we finish our 'biscotini' and sweet wine, it is raining outside and I am glad to have someone with me who can keep me warm.
Venice is a fantasy land of love and romance, so very far removed from my world. Being here once again restores my hope. The delicate, naked hope of finding true love.
Monday, March 10, 2008
When I open my eyes I am surrounded by huge flashing billboards. It reminds me of Piccadilly Circus – but the taxi’s and traffic lights are yellow and I can hardly fit my hand around my regular soda. There’s no mistaking it, this is New York!
My colleague Abigail and I are lucky enough to do our sightseeing around Manhattan on the seventh of March. Why lucky? Well, this is the one day between the bomb at the US military recruiting station in the middle of Times Square (see picture) and the weekend snowstorm.
There isn’t much evidence left of the small bomb that destroyed the door of the recruiting station, except for a burned poster that says: “Are you army strong?”
The police simply suspects vandalism, not terrorism - and while no one got hurt a local security guard says everyone here was “really scared when it happened”.
As my eyes scan the scene I notice a billboard and forget all about the news events of the day: “Lipstick Jungle: new series starting soon”.
Now that’s something to look forward to. ‘Lipstick Jungle’ is a novel by the same author who wrote ‘Sex and the City’. Let’s hope this series will be as good.
Abigail and I pass by Macy’s (the largest store in the world), Victoria’s Secret and the Empire State Building. It’s a cloudy, misty day and so we decide to leave the view from the top for next time.
The people here look content. And why not? They are all young, sexy and successful judging by the labels they wear. A giant limousine passes by as we walk down Fifth Avenue. Could that be Sarah Jessica Parker?
It starts to rain and we head for a trendy bar to have a Cosmopolitan cocktail. Anything to help us imagine that this land of dreams is ours, for just a moment.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
It’s as though there’s a worry filter at the entrance of any Mauritian resort, where the friendly island people take my luggage. I pass through and my worries get left behind.
The palm trees, sandy beaches, lazy tourists and enthusiastic birds all contribute to the peaceful atmosphere.
There is only one tiny source of irritation. I receive two welcome drinks, two hot towels and two questions, both the same: ‘Are you alone?’.
Now, I am here alone by choice. This is my time to write, to rest, to dream – and I got a great deal on a flight and hotel to Mauritius. Why pass on it just because everyone else is working? Besides, I am way past the phase where Blue Lagoon type seas and inspiring sunsets make me long for lovers I haven’t met.
I really do like to be alone and just because I haven’t settled into a second rate marriage or found love doesn’t mean that I cannot enjoy the pleasure of a resort getaway in Mauritius.
Later: ‘A table for one? For one? One?’
Perhaps I cannot really blame the locals for assuming everyone is on a romantic holiday here. It’s the perfect setting after all. But what I do not accept is that they automatically assume that because I am here alone, I am looking for romance.
“Can I invite you for a drink tonight?”
“It will be my pleasure to take you out and show you around.”
“I would really like to be your friend.’ (wink, wink)
So I escape to the Pamplemousse garden. Alone! The giant water lilies are a sight that I will never forget. Just to sit here under the palm trees fills my soul with new life. It starts raining. I close my eyes and lift my face to the skies. Fat, warm drops of tropical rain fall on my face.
This, this is what makes me happy: To feel the rain on my skin, the sea sand under my feet and the breeze playing through my hair. This is enough.
Perhaps next time I won’t stay at a resort alone, but rather opt for a guesthouse. But wherever I choose to stay, I will be back. To spend a few days without worries, practice my French and fill up my senses.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Forget Paris. Edinburgh is a fairy tale city, especially at night. This is when the castle lights up and tourists can feed their imagination with ghost tours and dinner at The Witchery.
Right now it is spring and the gardens should be full of daffodils - the yellow star flowers just add that little extra touch of magic.
As though this is not enough a rainbow breaks through the clouds as the train approaches Edinburgh station. I look at Mickael and wonder if he would turn into a prince as soon as we step out onto the cobbled streets.
But real fairy tales are indeed rare in this world:
We arrive only to find that the daffodils are being murdered by the wind. As is my hair and any idea of taking a romantic stroll through the city.
When I get tired of fighting with the wind, I drag Mickael into Maxi’s Bistro and Wine Bar. To warm me up in true Scottish style I start with a glass of Highland Park whiskey, but soon move on to my first love – red wine.
Maxi’s has a fabulous rustic atmosphere, with simple white candles stuck into empty champagne bottles and literary quotes on the walls.
Next time I will only have the clams offered on the starter menu, perhaps with some garlic bread. The portion is generous and the clams are fresh-fresh, while the tomatoey sauce is truly satisfying.
My main course of rib-eye steak is not great, but then maybe being raised on South Africa meat spoiled me for life. I also try a bite of Mickael’s duck, which is tender and delicious.
I could easily stay inside this cosy little place and live happily ever after on the seafood, the whiskey and the wine. But then, perhaps a pretty castle on a hill doesn’t quite make for a fairy tale after all.