Monthly Archives: August 2013

Shallow People Travel Too

london buttonYou may recall in the not too distant past that I dedicated one of my posts to the solicitation of potential shallow topics from my readers. While I can’t say I had an overwhelming response, I did receive a couple of ideas that seemed reasonable for me to pursue. As a matter of fact, there was one suggestion that stood out from the others as it was truly serendipitous. The idea was that I write about travel for the savvy, shallow person. Now I think it has been long established that I meet the “shallow” criteria and while I am not savvy about everything I am about some things, enough to say I’ve got that characteristic in the bag as well. But perhaps most importantly, I do travel a fair bit and as luck, and perhaps fate would have it, I just happen to be in London, making my way around town as a tourist, so I think I can safely say that I am fully qualified to wax eloquently on the subject at hand.

When I first decided that I could write a “how to” for the savvy, shallow traveller, I had in mind something like a “top 10” (you know how I love those lists) of tips. However, now that I am on a jaunt myself it seems that perhaps a better approach is to simply recount some of the experiences that I am having, as these alone should provide a guide of sorts to those who are so inclined to follow in my footsteps. And as expected, it turns out I’m a pretty good shallow traveller. So here, perhaps, is the start of a kind of series that follows me as I make my way through the rather crowded streets of London.

After three days of running around  like chickens with our heads cut off I can absolutely recommend that the first step to ensuring your travel is as shallow as possible is to slip into your nearest tourist information centre and ask to purchase a “City Pass” for whichever city you happen to be in. There’s a pretty good chance that your city will have one, particularly if there happens to be a river running through the centre, an original “settlement” and at least one national museum or monument. You see, what this pass will allow you to do is visit a multitude of sites over a specified number of days, for one seemingly low fee. There’s a pretty good chance that the booklet you receive with this pass will outline for you the remarkable savings to be accrued by following their suggested itinerary and by doing so you will ensure that you not only visit the most touristy of all sites in the city but you will do so at a pace that prevents you from getting to know even these on an intimate basis. In other words, you’ll likely spend more time in the gift shop which will be strategically placed between you and the exit than you will at the attraction. Which is not such as bad thing as it is there you will pick up a postcard or two so you can remember where you have been.

It’s entirely possible that the first stop on your sightseeing marathon might be an art gallery of some sort. In our case, we chose to visit the Tate Modern, a collection housed in a rather imposing building on the banks of the Thames. Now I have been known to appreciate the works of the likes of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Salvador Dali. At the same time I must admit that on occasion, while working my way through the many rooms of a gallery such as this one, I think silently to myself that I too could paint red lines on a white canvas but no one would pay me substantial sums of money to hang it on their wall. I do my best to be tolerant and understanding though until I come across a work of art that I simply cannot understand. On this day it was a mirror. That’s right, just an ordinary mirror. The idea behind this “work of art” is to allow patrons to reflect on what they see in the mirror without having an image imposed upon them by the artist. Now I might be shallow but I’m thinking that I do this every morning when I get up and go to the bathroom. So I was having a little trouble grappling the exact meaning of the work.

Nonetheless, as I stood and watched people walk by I had to admit that the mirror garnered a fair bit of attention and I’m pretty sure there were a few people who, like me, were kicking themselves for not coming up with the idea. But the longer I stood in front of the mirror watching all of the reactions the more I thought about the exhibit and somewhat surprisingly, I came up with an idea of my own. You see, most of the people who stood in front of the mirror decided to take a picture of themselves standing in front of the mirror. What if, I thought, I could capture the images of the people who had stopped to reflect on the images of themselves? What if I stood behind them and took a picture of them taking pictures of themselves? Would that not make me an artist as well? So that’s what I did and here are some of the results.

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I’ll be the first to admit I’m no Michael Angelo but come on, it was an art gallery! Not exactly a home away from home for a shallow gal. So here’s a hint. If, while on your travels, you find yourself outside your zone of comfort, try to come up with ways to amuse yourself. You never know what hidden talents you might uncover.

I’ll be back as soon as my heels heal with more great tips for the savvy, shallow traveller.

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Time to Recenter

yin-yang-symbol-4-1101202-mI imagine that many of you don’t think about me as much as I do. As a result, you probably didn’t realize that I have just spent three days sitting on a tarp in the middle of a park watching hour upon hour of truly wonderful music. Yes, it’s that time again and I spent the better part of the week-end at the Edmonton Folk Fest. If you’ve never been you can get ready for it by reading my primer on all things folk (parts one, two and three) and put it in your calendar for next year. Trust me, it will be worth the wait and while you’re here you can visit our other major attraction, the almost largest mall in the world. So plan on it. In the meantime let me help you understand the profound effect this event has on someone like me. And why this week you won’t be hearing much about being shallow.

This year the folk fest celebrated its 34th year of bringing the best music in the world to this little town of mine. Over four days the hills of our river valley are transformed into a city within a city, one with no worries, no crime, and a whole lot of organic food. There are 25,000 people on the hill, all of whom have clearly prepared for this event by raiding their own, or their parents’ closets for something, anything really, that was fashionable sometime around 1968. Or made of hemp. Perhaps organic cotton. And rather ill-fitting. There’s dancing and singing and lots of arm waving to the beats of the music. Or not. It’s a collage of hipsters and hippies, Mothers with babes in their arms, men and women sharing the stories of their lives on their tattooed bodies, Grandmas and Grandpas remembering what it was like to be young. Everyone seems happy, like there is no place else in the world they would rather be. And therein lies the problem for me.

You see, it’s tough to be shallow on the hill given the cacophony of not so shallow phenomenon that confronts me at just about every turn. Saturday morning as I walk past the pre-festival yoga class I can almost feel the chakras swirling onto the path in front of me.  A short while later my eye catches the rather trendy, handmade purses crafted from recycled tires hanging beside the “enviroresin” jewelry over at the merch tents. Before I know it my bff Kev (you remember “the Kev”) let’s me know that the song he just heard brought a tear to his eye. Who would of thought!  Then there’s the guy in the skirt on the tarp in front of me which imho, is a smidgen too tight and leaves me with questions about what he wears to his regular job.  And as if all of this is not enough to rock my boat, topple my house of cards, towards the end of the evening I find myself face to face with the woman beside me who, when the MC encourages everyone to “hug the person on your left” took him at his word.  And there I was, on her left. With nightfall comes the stars, the candles, the swaying, and the sing along with Canadian icon Bruce Cockburn who implores us to save the lions and pretty much everything else in the world. It’s all just a bit overwhelming.

And so it is that after three days of hangin’ with the folks, I find myself a little off balance. Which is why, with all due respect to the yoga people, I’m going to take some time to reconnect with my inner self, or as they might say, recenter. But please don’t worry. With a little luck, I’ll be feeling better in no time at all.

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I Have an Idea

light_bulbI’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because it’s summer and there’s not much going on. Or perhaps I’m still a little tired from my sojourn in St. Louis. I don’t think it’s because I spent the last 5 weeks looking at pictures of my friends saving the lions in Africa. I mean, if it was me saving the lions it might be the problem. But I’m just sitting in my chair looking at the pics so that can’t be it. I know it’s not because I have changed. And it’s certainly not from lack of trying. I’ve been wracking my brain for the last week trying to come up with something, anything really. I’ve tried everything I can think of, short of reading other people’s blogs of course. Even so, I can’t seem to put my finger on it. If I was someone else I might say I had writer’s block. But that just seems so presumptuous in my case given that I have never actually professed to be one. A writer, that is. Nope, no matter how hard I try I simply can’t come up with something shallow enough for the shallow blog.

You may not know this but I spend a good deal of my time keeping my eyes and ears peeled, looking for topics to write about. Normally it’s not all that difficult to snag some inspiration from something I overhear someone say at the next table during coffee. Because I listen. I’m nothing if not attentive. But strain as I might, this week I came up empty. This week there was no fuel for fodder, no drops in the bucket, the cupboard was truly bare. I suppose I could have set my sights on the ongoing landscaping escapade that I’ve been witness to each day for the past year and a half, while enjoying my morning tea at my local Starbucks. To be honest though, it’s been rather painful watching the workers plant and then pull, plant and then pull as each of the clearly misbegotten, “sustainable” landscaping innovations have failed to produce the desired effect. Or any effect at all really.

And I thought I had hit pay dirt while watching the current bachelorette date her “true” love, or more accurately, one of her final three “true” loves. That is until he dumped her and we watched as they cut to her crying and then him crying, her again, him again, then her, and, you guessed it, him for what I am sure was a full ten minutes. (Word on the street is that they end up together but I’m thinking that since we all pretty much knew that from the “get go” they had to do something to manufacture suspense.) Had I not been playing computer games while this droned on in the background I likely would have changed the channel. I didn’t but when it came to putting pen to paper I just couldn’t bring myself to writing about it. You gotta know it’s bad when it’s too shallow for the “shallow gal”.

And that’s when it hit me.  I have an idea!  Why not ask my readers (have I mentioned I now have 39 followers?) to tell me what they think I could write about. I mean you’ve been reading this blog for more than a year now so surely you have some suggestions. Or perhaps some questions. Maybe a “how to”. Anything will do. The more the better because, as you may recall, I’ve paid for another year which means I still have eight months left for my 18 bucks.  And that my friends, is a whole lot of shallow!

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