Making changes, Taking chances.

Travel

Lake Como – “surreal beauty nestled amidst lush mountains”

I’m very fortunate.  I travel a lot and take lots of pictures.  I’m very bad at sharing them however and in this new age of digital cameras and password protected computers, what is happening is that thousands of photos continue to occupy the hard disk of my laptop, generally without visitation rights.  Back in the day when we used traditional film and photographs were printed, at least they were sorted out in an album, tended to with more care and visited by whomever’s fingers happened upon the photo book.

I’ve therefore decided to retrace my Italian vacation city by city in an effort to share more of the photos I have taken and to find a way to document that experience so that I can return to its memory as often as I like.

We landed in Geneva and drove to Lake Como.  Arriving into the city is at first unimpressive as it is a surprisingly bigger town than one would expect and looks rather typical of other Italian cities.  As soon as the lake comes into view however, that impression is quickly transformed into one of awe.  The lake is serene and beautiful, nestled amidst lush green mountains dotted with beautiful houses.  My eyes curiously made their way up and down the mountains as I played the mental game of “which one is George Clooney’s house?”  There is not much to do in this beautiful town yet it was swarming with visitors, mostly elderly Americans and a few honeymooners.  Our hotel was an impressive structure reminiscent of Italian history and the view from our room was a breathtaking view of the lake. 

We were there for only 2 days so we didnt get a chance to see very much as Mother Nature rained down on us for a full day however you can take a ferry and discover the lakes romantic views as well as the neighboring towns around the lake.  Visit the many mansions dotting the area, walk through the old town square and see the impressive cathederal.  You can also visit the village of Brunate located at an altitude of 712 m on a hill overlooking Lake Como and reached by car or a funicolare.  The funicolare experience is wonderful as the ride up offers incredible views and the village is delightful.

Arriving in Lake Como by car – view from my window, spotted with rain drops 

From left: 1. a local hand-made keepsake from the village of  Brunate; 2. the funicolare to take you up to and down from Brunate; 3.  local fishing boat resting on the edge of the lake

Avoid September and the colder months that follow however.  We were there for 2 days.  It was cold and rained a whole day so there wasnt much to do as the experience of Lake Como is in being outside.  If you’re planning a trip and need tips and advice on what to see and do, visit http://www.discovercomo.com.

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The magic of children

In my post before last (eons ago yes!) I committed to completing a photo assignment I had taken upon myself to complete no matter how long it took me.  In the interest of attempting to finish something I’ve started (rare!), here is the first of my photos that fall into this “magical” theme I am pursuing.

This was taken at Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy.  I watched this little girl frantically jump around bouncing in all directions, hungrily catching the bubbles coming out of a toy contraption that a street vendor attempted to sell – as though her every happiness depended upon it – and I could not take my eyes off her.  In that moment, nothing else existed for her but that bubble chase.  I envied the innocent pleasure that children derive from the simplest of things.  I suppose my intention in pursuing this theme was to capture moments that, every time I looked at that photo evoked those same emotions I felt when I first took it.  In this instance, that emotion was pure joy.


La Dolce Far Niente…

Forgive me dear reader for this prolonged absence.  I have been a nomad for the past month or so.  Since I last wrote, I have been to Geneva, Lake Como, Milan, Florence, Siena, Pisa, Rome and this past weekend, Istanbul. 

September 14th is a day that will go down in (my) history as the day on which I presented to the company CEO.  The meeting was long, intense – and a huge success and will hopefully make its mark in the ‘dana annals’ as a career maker and a life changer.  It has certainly changed my outlook on work.  If I can prepare for a CEO visit in 3 weeks, I can do anything right?!  This meeting has changed my benchmark for stress, making everything else feel so effortless in contrast.  This meeting also made me realize how far my boundaries stretch.  Not for my ability to present to a CEO but for my ability to survive an incredible amount of stress, lack of sleep, lack of food, pressure, change, frustration and political nonsense.  As for the career maker part, only time will tell..  So following the three weeks of utter torture leading up to this big meeting, I escaped on a much needed vacation on September 16th, as soon as it was over. 

In that period, I crossed the fields of Tuscany, took in the magnificent architecture and history of la bella Italia and the Ottoman empire, ate a lot of incredible Italian food and traditional Turkish cuisine and indulged in too much gelato, baklava and kunafe.  I laughed a lot, fought a lot, walked a lot, loved a lot and really lived.

You see dear reader, the happiest moments in my life somehow always fold back to one thing: freedom.  My wanderlust soul craves adventure and liberty from the corporate chains that tie me down.  With travel comes peace of mind.  Even when I am walking endlessley for hours, complaining because of my aching feet or from dragging around my over-packed luggage; somehow on vacation, the pace of life suddenly slows down to accommodate me.  The biggest decision of my day becomes what I will have for lunch and all traces of stress, frustration and anxiety that may have found various ways of etching themselves into my face are suddenly erased.  If I must be honest, food also makes me immensely happy and the discovery of food through travel is even more special.  There is much to tell you about all these wonderful places I visited but I prefer to let my photos do the talking.  I hope you enjoy this photo food journal.                                                                                                            

Italian cuisine (from left clockwise)  1. Pizza Marinara with basilico in Roma  2. Pizza il funghi in Pisa  3.  Insalata mista in Milano  4. Spaghetti il pommodoro in Roma

Italian pizza

 

 Istanbul (from left clockwise) 1. grilled prawns on an eggplant puree bed with frisee and a sherry vinagrette at the Istanbul Modern  2. a doner kebab vendor  3. beautiful lanterns in the Grand Bazaar  4. Turkish Delight  5. Chocolate flavored baklava  6. Coconut covered turkish delight  7. Kunafe

Istanbul, baklava, Doner kebab, Turkish Delight, Kunafe, Grand Bazaar, lanterns

During my time away time, Steve Jobs crossed over to the other side.  In homage to his positivity, perseverance and passion and in honor of the incredible change he has brought to our everyday lives, remember to “stay hungry, stay foolish” and travel. The world is a vast and beautiful place.  Earlier this year I took a trip to Paris and fell in love.   Dare to explore this beautiful worlds’ depths.  You dont know what could be waiting for you..


A travelers soul…

I have come to discover that I have eternal wanderlust.  My heart is unable to settle in one place.  I have the constant urge to be on the move and to be discovering.  My inability to commit extends to many facets of my life Im discovering.  This has been an emotionally difficult week for me.  With the stress of yesterdays appointment (thank God all went well) and just the overall feeling of anxiety connected to the long-distance relationship I am in, I feel exhausted and alone.  I am finding myself in the usual place I run to a few months into a relationship – the need to escape.  Is this trend a fault of my own?  Do I create illusions in my head that prompt me to run?  Or am I finally accepting the reality that it is difficult to build a relationship over 1000 miles apart?  I watched “Eat, Pray, Love” again yesterday while exercizing my required bed rest and I feel the urge to go on the same journey of self discovery that Liz Gilbert did.  Am I fooling myself into thinking that a blog and new hobbies will do that for me.  I am still in the same environment, surrounded by the same daily pressures, the same work stress and the same lack of balance.  I am desperate for an escape and for clarity and I know not how to find it.

September will bring some form of salvation as we make our way to Europe for a much needed family vacation.  August I hope, with the arrival of Ramadan,  will allow me to practice some spirituality and to find peace of mind and peace of heart.  Until then I battle internal conflict.  People say the answers are all within but it seems that I am either unable to reach the core of me to find these answers or that I am truly blind. 

For this reason, I have decided to consult a greater power.  The art of Reiki.


Beirut-ing – Part #2

This weekend was very special.  It’s amazing what a weekend away can do for you.  Especially after the tough week I’ve had and the tougher one coming. 

In the interest of preserving his anonymity (at least until I make my blog public knowledge to those that matter) let’s refer to him as the BF in keeping with last week.  It’s been so nice having him in the same time zone.  Today we both head home.  I left this morning and he leaves tonight which will put us back in the 2hr time difference / 7hr flying distance zone.  *sad face*

He picked me up from the airport on Thursday morning which was in itself a lovely surprise.  Airports always remind me of the opening scene of the movie “Love Actually”.  It’s so nice to be “received” at an airport than to arrive and leave solo, like an impersonal man on a mission.

We headed north to Batroun and the sleepy fishing village of Byblos where we explored a castle, wandered the old town and had a seafood lunch overlooking the sea.  It was a hot summer day and a wonderful way to spend the day together.  We made an essential purchase each: a Beirut magnet to add to last months’ from Paris and to what will hopefully grow to become a collection from our travel adventures together.  Unfortunately I have no photos from this part of the day because I took them all with the BF’s Nikon D90.  I will post a few upon receiving them.  There are pictures of old cobbled streets, little boats named ‘Beach Bum’ bobbing on a shimmering sea and a few amazing ‘Kodak moments’, if I may say so myself.

Later that night we headed to the amazing Music Hall for a night of dancing and incredible music.  Amazing concept.  This place belongs to a mogul who apparently owned this space as a small cinema theatre.  He later converted it into a cabaret style club in which there are over 20 different bands performing every night on a massive and very elaborate looking theatre stage.  The artists were diverse and the music brilliant – we danced to Latino, Arabic, Pop and Reggae to name just a few. 

The next day was even more special.  Apart from the miserable morning I spent on my own doing some work, we had some deep conversations and what felt to me like a step forward in our relationship.  Oh the woes of long distance…  We wandered down to the American University of Beirut where he received a personal tour from his own alum!  It was a really nostalgic walk through campus and was particularly special to be able to share such an important and personal time in my life with him.  It’s a beautiful campus and probably one of the prettiest hidden gems in all of Beirut. 

After much hesitation over the past few days, the BF finally decided to join me to the 2nd wedding of this month.  Despite his fears and self-confessed nerves, it brought me great pleasure to see him blend in and to enjoy himself despite knowing no-one but myself.  His presence carried even greater significance because it was a silent announcement to everyone there that we were together.  The wedding took place in “Qasr Sursok” or “Sursok Palace” – it was an outdoor wedding set in stunning manicured gardens.  Beautiful wedding and an incredible night of dancing and fun.  To the BF’s (probable) fear, I caught the bouquet!  Maybe Lady Love will be on my side to stay this time. 

On a closing note, I wish to send out thoughts of love to the beautiful bride and groom of last night.  Z & H, may your lives together be filled with much laughter, joy and love.  And may we all find what you have together.  Amen.


Beirut-ing – Part #1

It’s been a while since I’ve penned my thoughts down.  Let’s see.  Since my last post, I learned a massive lesson in controlling my need for speed.  This involved a cop car, sirens and a HUGE dent on my credit card bill.  I also failed my detox miserably.  I did however learn that you cannot meander off the path for any exceptions (even just one scoop of Haagen Daaz Belgian Chocolate ice-cream) because once you do, there’s no turning back.  I learned this lesson one day into my 2-week detox.  Nonetheless, I managed to accomplish what I intended to with the detox in a mere few days, and unintentionally too!  I lost a couple of kilos to allow me to nicely fit into the dress for the wedding.  I spent the past weekend in Beirut despite the mania leading up to the upcoming meetings.  It was a beautiful wedding and perhaps the best part was meeting and getting to better know a few new people.  It gives me comfort to know that there are that many nice people inhabiting my desert.  I really should work less and devote more time to socializing.  Attached is a shot I took from our breakfast table on Friday morning.

Beirut carries with it so much nostalgia for the days gone by.  It reminds me of my college days and my rambunctious and restless character, wanting to take in everything and squeeze so much into so little time.  I must say, it seems nothing has changed!  I also got to savour some of the familiar and local delicacies I love: Saj, Manakeesh, and the largely underestimated merry cream from Bliss House as well as spend quality time with the BFF, the god child, the sis and the BF.  The perfect round-up.

On matters of the heart, things got a little shaky early in the trip but were back on track.  Long distance is like a time warp.  Events are disconnected because so much of what happens in between seeing each other is lost in the memory of cyberspace and phone space.  Alot of the communication also happens in your head.  Sometimes I wonder, did I have this conversation or did I imagine the conversation in my head and then think that I had it?  Hmmm… I think you get what Im saying.  The point is a cliched one.  Communication is key and the lack thereof makes room for issues.  That combined with the pressures of family.  My big question is, how do you start a relationship long distance ?  Does the path less followed, or rather, the more difficult path lead to rainbows and pots of gold?  Does anyone out there have any advice?   

The happy news is that I’m 3 days away from getting back on a plane, direction Beirut, for another wedding and hopefully more quality time with the BF.  For now, it’s best I catch up on my sleep given my late arrival last night offered me only 4 hours of slumber.  I wake up to French class and a ridiculously busy day at work.  Life is good.


Paris on my mind…

 

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It’s been a month today since Paris.  Amazing how time has the ability to warp past you at lightning speed so that memories only a month old start to feel so distant.  Attached are a few of my own photos from the magical city of lights and love.  Two weekends filled with lots of laughter, discovery, love and food.  Somehow the world is more whimsical in sepia. 

Paris je t’aime.


“Hate something, Change something”

Someone special recently said to me “Hate something, Change something”.  What a wonderfully simple notion for something so complicated. This ad captures that sentiment perfectly. 

This led me to the natural next question…why is it so difficult for us to change what we’re unhappy about?  Complacency?  Fear of the unknown?  Pride?  Financial implications?  All of the above probably apply to me and they may count as good excuses but what I know with certainty is that I’m tired of making any excuses whether good or bad.  In the interest of chasing rainbows and daisies like this colorful Honda dream, the time to make a change has come.  Hate can be good, hate can even be great if it compels you to change something and make something better.  Some of the best successes in my own life were born from taking risks, and maybe even a little hate!  Perhaps it’s time for a new leap of faith.  So, what’s next?

Here’s a list of the things I know I love but have never fully explored.  I will tackle them one by one over the next few months until I fall in love with one of them and then I’ll know.  Right?  That sounds pretty easy. I hope.

  1. Photography                                       
  2. Running
  3. Yoga
  4. Baking
  5. Cooking
  6. Helping Others
  7. Fashion
  8. Travel
  9. Interior Design
  10. Flowers
  11. Writing
  12. Dance
  13. Foreign Films
  14. Romantic anything…

*gulp*  Should I be feeling as overwhelmed as I do right now?  Maybe.  But I am scrapping any negative thoughts.  My cup is now half full.  I am plugging forward in search of my passion.  Baby steps will guide my way.