5 Current Fashion Truths That Make Me Smile

You can wear anything you want nowadays. Anything. New, not new, forgotten, rediscovered. If it’s old, then it’s not old, it’s vintage, should anyone be so involved in useless time filling as to actually try to tell you your clothes look old.

fashion1Individuality and personal style are on the rise. Whatever makes you feel like yourself, you wear it. Regardless of whether you saw it in a magazine, have loved it forever or reverted to (adult versions) of things you wore as a child.

fashion2Successful and gifted artists, like Lindsey Stirling, admit to loving dress-up! There is room for everything in this century.

fashion3Bright and wacky sneakers that are still comfortable and wearable.

fashion4And finally, the fact that you can find clothes your favourite TV show characters wore ONLINE.

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Thou Shalt Call Customer Service

‘Twas a fine summer evening, but I couldn’t enjoy it, as I had to call three different customer services of three different online retailers. One very large, the other somewhat smaller, and the third just a shop. It couldn’t be put off anymore. Not that I wanted to – I wanted to get it over and done with as soon as possible. But the usual paradox was that I felt less than enthusiastic about calling customer service. I wonder why. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. They only know what I ordered. Then there was that thing about just not wanting to be on the phone, because I guess that’s what I thought the internet was invented for. But we must do what we must.

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Call Number One

Excitement and adventure. After some clicking around hoping to find a hotline or general number, I found encouragement to let THEM call ME. This was unexpected. But after reading the extensive descriptions on what I would be asked and how much more damn effort it was to call by myself, I had to silently agree with the cheerful assurance at the end that it was much better for them to call me. All that was left for me after that was an impossible to miss button labeled CALL NOW. With a shaking hand I pressed it and jumped as my phone immediately began to ring. A very competent and energetic employee listened to my (rehearsed and succintly phrased) question and promptly answered. The unexpectedly simple resolution of the issue relaxed me so much that I temporarily morphed in to what customer service workers probably experience all the time: I started babbling about what had worried me etc etc. Stopped just in time before it got embarassing. In the subsequent feedback they sent me I gave them five stars.

Call Number Two

Classic. I listened to the waiting line music for a while and the appearance of a human voice seemed very sudden. After a (rehearsed and succintly phrased) question I was forwarded to someone else, to whom I once again had to recount my (rehearsed and succintly phrased) story. I felt tired. I had to repeat some points, but the issue also got resolved.

Call Number Three

Am I talking to a person? I open my mouth to state my (rehearsed and succintly phrased) question, but I’m confronted by a repetition of all the information I had just carefully read myself to save time. Somehow I get the feeling interrupting is not expected, and after all someone is just doing their job. After the recital is finished and I literally hear inhaling and exhaling, I state my purpose. Another reading of the fine print I had perused myself. Then the question that seemed very sudden after the monotonous speaking: “What’s lacking in the product?” “Nothing, it’s just too small”, I mumble. There, they made me say it.

An exercise in patience, elocution and manners.  I hope I was nice. They were all asking what they could do for me.

 

From the Writsomniac

During my online wanderings I stumbled on this article by Candace Ganger, How I Lost and Found My Writing GrooveI enjoy stories with a personal perspective to them that’s moulded by experience, but this title in particular made me stop, as have others capping stories on the same subject.

“…the dream I’d always had, no matter what distracted me along the way, was to be an author. I’m talking NYT bestselling, critically-acclaimed, buzz-worthy kind of author. The kind of writer whose words stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page… It was more than a dream. It was my lifeline.”

I studied journalism for my first university degree, and on the first day one of the professors said all (aspiring) journalists wanted to be writers. He was neither a nice person nor a good professor, but that was a sentence that stuck with me, because I had been wondering myself whether that was true, and whether it was true for me. The conclusion I came up with was that maybe not all of them wanted to be writers, but everyone who envisioned themselves in journalism obviously wanted to be an author, to have their name attached to a storytelling result with words or images. As for me, well…still lots of thoughts on that one.

A few years later I had one of those unexpected, but hey-I-feel-this-way-too-only-I-kept-it-to-myself-until-now conversations with a mentor who had the gift of people wanting to be near him. Due to this gift of his we got to talking about writing, and since he had studied some subjects similar to mine at university, some shared views led to him observing that “writing a book” is probably on the list of most people from these academic fields, whether at the front or at the back of their minds. Most likely true, or at least statistically valid, says my general observation. While journalists certainly receive the tools to someday be able to put a book together, and academic influences sometimes predispose, writing something finished that you want to go out in to the world is by no means a predictable process. And lastly it depends on the person themselves.

Bottom line, there are a lot and a lot and a lot of people out there who think about this.

Candace Ganger depicts how she started to climb the writing ladder and later arrived at a major blockage due to a string of disappointing experiences culminating in the loss of her agent. She describes natural feelings and how she ultimately won her writing spark back: “So I picked myself back up, and I wrote. A grocery list. A short story. Anything to get my groove back. And one day, when the tears dried up and the devastation all faded, I got it.”

Simple words that echoed and made me remember. They are true. Because while I am only starting out, there was a time when I stopped writing, or stopped doing what represented to me that I was writing, at the level I was at that moment in life. Things were not like they were before. What used to come effortlessly wouldn’t. Trying to come up with ideas felt like a chore and only discouraged me. Discipline felt out of reach. The words that did come  felt only wrong. And worst of all, the process of writing did not excite or take me away like it used to. Guilt was followed by mounting terror – was this it?

My epiphany was there all along, though, waiting to happen. I was detailing the above Angst in a journal, and then it hit me. I was sitting in an armchair in this very moment, writing. The notebook was almost full and I was worried the last page would not be enough to record what was flowing from my heart in to my pen. A half-finished list of books I wanted to buy, along with birthday present ideas for friends lay on the nightstand, and I remembered the scores of daily emails and messages I never stopped exchanging with family despite “not writing”. The family, by the way, just let me get on with things at my own pace. I still jotted random things down on scraps of paper and ran out of pens. Why did it take so long to realize? I guess I needed to sort through other things occupying my brain. Maybe for once that took up the space and energy otherwise used for coming up with stories or posts. But once it was done, it was over with, and it gave the writing experience a new depth, and me hopefully a new courage. Even if sometimes I was the only one reading what I came up with.

I had never stopped and realizing that fact was like a breath of fresh air after being inside too long.

 

Yes Please and Bossypants

It looks like I’m on a memoir reading kick now, more specifically those written by US female entertainers receiving considerable media attention. The stack of books in the abovementioned genre on my nightstand has become higher, and since it is in danger of toppling over and waking me up in the night (falling books make quite the noise), I got a move on.

Two of the books from said stack have been read. Before I pull out the parts that stuck with me the most, why did I turn to these memoirs? Because I was curious. They kept popping up in stories on sites I regularly visit and being mentioned by authors writing pieces I identified with. Quite a few of these books were bestsellers in the US and internationally, and as is sometimes the case for me with massively successful cultural phenomena, I wanted to form my own opinion. Also the authors of these books, whatever opinion one might have of their preceding and continuing work in entertainment, were hard-working women with established creative projects they felt strongly about and had pushed through themselves. I wanted to read what they had to say.

The first book was Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I opened the book straight to the middle, to be greeted by the simple statement, “If it’s not funny, you don’t have to laugh.” True, and thank you – that’s actually what got me in the reading mood before I started at the beginning. The order of events described in the book is not chronological, jumping from youth to childhood to adulthood and then back to childhood. Observations on family, friends, children, work and careers are interspersed with each other, which I found relatable, as that is basically what life is like on a daily basis. While some of the sketches described were not to my taste, quite a few experiences strike a chord, especially when Poehler switches from sarcastic to observant and humble in one chapter. Time Travel is a touching depiction of how time and friendships connect: “I believe you can time-travel three different ways: with people, places and things…In the shop, I found an old-timey bathing suit. I bought the bathing suit home and looked at it. I thought about who might have owned it before. The bathing suit didn’t fit into my life at that moment …I put this bathing suit in a drawer and it waited for me to take it traveling. And then six months later I went to Palm Springs with a bunch of wonderful women. They were my beautiful friends who helped me through a difficult year. We were going swimming and I reached into my bag to find a bathing suit….I realized I had traveled again, this time into a happier future.”

She also writes a succint and to-the-point passage about the reality of unwanted approaches women may deal with in the workplace, however small: ” But I did let him hug me. I let that creepy guy hug me. I stayed seated and he came over and hugged my stiff body while my arms stayed at my sides. All I was thinking at that moment was that if I let him hug me he would feel better and this would all be over soon. Do you think he would have hugged a male performer? Me neither. Either way, it never ends.”

Bossypants by Tina Fey followed, and I can’t help feeling I read it a little too fast, as I’m leafing through it now for this blog post and discovering passages that seem new to me. The additional catalyst for taking my own look at the book was hearing people talk about it at a party and rewatching Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin. In any case, one of the chapters I enjoyed most was titled I Don’t Care If You Like It (One in a series of love letters to Amy Poehler). The scene she describes, where Poehler speaks her mind about a, albeit jokey, reaction to her own joke, aptly sums up her creative approach to comedy entwined with views on independence: “With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not ******* care if you like it.” This is followed by a nugget of always true and handy advice that is never amiss (and also made me want to read on): “So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.”

The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter is one of the best parts of the book, and one I confess I skipped to before reading in orderly fashion. Both humorous and heartfelt, it rounds up what a memoir is for – writing about yourself without being strictly autobiographical: “Oh Lord, break the internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers.” Regardless of whether you’re a parent or not, you will probably find yourself smiling as you read.

Just like the two women are famously friends in real life, the feeling you get after finishing reading is that the books could be friends too. Both authors mention each other and the role they play in each others lives without overdoing it, and those parts of the books are some of the most heart-warming. You believe in this friendship. Both honestly mention what it was like to write books and are open about the process of writing – yes, it’s hard! But the unstopabble part is that they both wanted to do it. Most notably, when you have experienced and achieved a lot in what occupies the main time frame of your life, the truth is that it can make a book.

Off to read the next one from the stack.

5 Random Things I Don’t Understand

Selfie sticks.

selfie stick

Celebrities who take selfies of themselves brushing their teeth in horrible outfits or ugly onesies and then post said selfie on Instagram.

Guys who ask a woman, “Aren’t you a feminist?” and remain seated when she asks them to help her lift something heavy. What happened to helping each other out?

Heels that one cannot walk in and thus become unwearable. Which goes against the whole idea of shoes, so why make them at all?

high heels fall

Reality TV. It’s not reality TV, they know they’re being filmed.

duhMore to come.

 

Thoughts in a Large Airport

  1. This place is so HUGE and I’m just one small person in the shuffle of life.
  2. If you are just looking for one seat to rest your weary bones and don’t want to be bothered by neighbors, but there are no seats with other empty seats on both sides of the…seats, search for seats next to people with headphones on. Hopefully they have the same goal as you do.
  3. Despite encouraging advertisements to the contrary, why is there seemingly no WiFi?
  4. Walking back and forth between gates is not pathetic. It’s exercise! You might also notice something you did not notice before or decide you do want that muffin.
  5. Buy that magazine.
  6. Why is there no WiFi? This should be verboten.
  7. Boys can spend incalculable amounts of time watching planes land and take off. They don’t care about the WiFi.
  8. Maybe I should look up from my phone and watch those planes, or notice just how much light there is in this airport, or that it is clearly an example of a lot of architectural thought. Heck, who needs WiFi.
  9. Will I end up like Tom Hanks in The Terminal?
  10. I can see the pilot in the cockpit from here. I wonder if he’ll wave back to me?

Bon voyage.

 

 

Discovering Lloret de Mar

My toes dig in to the grainy sand as I look at the ever-changing blue and green of the Spanish Mediterranean after my evening swim. Azure, turquoise, transparent emerald and foamy white flow together just before the waves break on the shore. The beach stretches on to my right, the rocks of Costa Brava are clearly visible to my left – some small, some big. You can tell the sun is getting ready to set, but it will be a while before the evening turns dark. I breathe in the smell of sea salt and realize the only thing filling my mind and heart is the water in front of me. Welcome to Lloret de Mar.

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Getting There

Lloret de Mar is located some 70 km from Barcelona and 34 km from Girona. Direct flights to both destinations are available from many European cities. So far I’ve flown to Barcelona and proceeded to catch a bus to Lloret. Advance purchase of tickets online is strongly advisable! Lloret is a popular tourist destination even in these times of economic uncertainty and your nerves will thank you when you are standing in line to the bus with a ticket firmly clutched in your hand. Don’t worry if the next available departure time is an hour or two after you arrive. Barcelona Airport is large and you might walk through it quite a bit before you reach the bus terminal. Once there, time will pass quickly while observing other tourists and fantasizing about the beach in Lloret as the summer breeze toys with your hair. The bus drive takes about two hours and includes passing through the streets of Barcelona and a great view of the city harbour.

Lloret Beaches

I love discovering coastal towns. There are quite a few with “de Mar” in their names lining Costa del Maresme and Costa Brava. Lloret de Mar is definitely one of my favourites. Located on the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula in Catalonia, Lloret boasts five main beaches and an impressive seven kilometers of coastline. Long beach walks? You got it. Lloret Beach alone, one of the primary magnets for visitors, is 1,5 km long. A spot on the sand is always easy to find. This beach also provides a small adventure when entering and leaving the water – the shoreline slopes towards the sea and is steeper in some areas. This is good for working on those leg muscles, but can be a little tricky if you’re climbing out on a day when the waves are bigger. So take care.

If you walk further in either the direction of the castle clearly visible in one of Lloret’s cliffs or in the opposite one, you will see a number of coves and smaller beaches also fit for swimming. Some of the coves are rockier than others and it’s normal to encounter tourists pondering whether to approach or not. But these corners of Lloret make for fantastic picture-taking, and a sandy beach will definitely come your way. What’s noticeable is how clean the beaches are and the same applies to Lloret.

Speaking of That Castle…

20150806_160424-1[1]This is a local landmark and a postcard view in Lloret that few can resist. I have been to this town several times and every year I snap a picture. Construction on D’En Plaja Castle began  in 1935 and finished in the 1940s. It blends in seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, looking for all the world as if it emerged straight from the rocks it stands on. According to local information, initial controversy accompanied the project (as is often the case with new construction). Thankfully moods shifted, as the result of the work by Girona architect Isidor Bosch turned in to one of Lloret’s most irresitible attractions. The castle itself is actually a private building, which you realize thanks to a polite sign as soon as you try to find a way in. But the walk along it and beyond on the cliff path is one of the loveliest in Lloret, with breath-taking views of the local pieces of Costa Brava from above.

In Town

Lloret has a special quality. Even if it becomes familiar to you, after visiting it several times, you still want to go there and take the pictures you’ve already taken. The sea never looks the same. The light plays differently. The wind stirring up the water makes you feel giddily happy and there must be a better angle to catch the way the sunlight sparkles on the waves.

The beach, of course, makes up the main past-time and it’s glorious to live with just a few summer outfits for a while. Your only accessories are sunglasses and a sunhat (and sunscreen). Everything is a walk away. Days melt in to each other and it starts feeling like this will go on forever.

But there is one day to remember: Tuesday, when Lloret’s weekly market takes place from 9:00 to 13:30. Tip – start in the morning, as it’s not as hot, and walk to the very end. The last section overflows with fruit and vegetables from Fruites Peris and it’s absolutely possible to walk away with several bags for less than 4 euros. Biting in to a juicy peach afterwards is a special kind of moment. Everything seems to taste better with sea air surrounding you.

Shopping in Lloret is an enjoyable experience, especially in the Carrer de Venècia. Avoid the shops with no signs and salesmen shouting “Looky, looky” in various languages. Closer to the middle of the street is where the interesting ones start. If you want to look at the local souvenir fare, there are several similar, but not completely the same, shops recognizable by their long spaces and sparkling trays of pretty costume jewelry. For clothes check out the Rosy boutique. For shoes my absolute favourite is Vives Shoes. This is the place to go to if you are missing a pair of shoes for your vacation…or just want to look at shoes. Wearable heels, a satisfying selection of sandals and flip-flops, low sneakers, colourful flats. Affordable, but not cheaply made, these shoes will be good to your feet.

Carrer de Venècia changes to Carrer de la Vila, and right at the end of it is one the most inviting bakeries in Lloret de Mar – Pastisseria Can Carbó. The airy space makes for pleasant scrutinizing and subsequent choosing of a fresh treat. Lloret generally has the snacks everybody loves conveniently sold every few feet, just when you start thinking about it. Any gelateria is worth a stop. I was asked in one of them if I wanted chocolate sauce in my cone – hell yeah! Best stracciatella and pistachio ice cream combo ever.

20150806_153443-1[1]Right opposite the bakery is another local landmark –  Sant Romà’s Parish Church. The more recent modernist meets the older Byzantine in this building originally built in the 16th century.  Immediately visible thanks to its colourful roof, it’s an arresting combination of different architectural styles. The shaded square in front of it is a nice spot to relax between walking. Just to the right of the church is the Carrer de Sant Pere, a street with slightly quirkier and partly more upscale shops. Drop by Mata Hari if you’re looking for funny souvenirs to bring back.

Some More Words on Food

My favourite place to eat is the Pizzeria Safari on Av. Joan Llaverias. I first spotted this restaurant years ago and stopped to look at the clear and inviting menu. No one bothered me as I did so – an extremely important and often overlooked detail in attracting guests. Then I stepped in and a friendly waiter immediately appeared. An awning above the nicely spaced tables provides both shade and lets in air. The multilingual menu includes not only pizza, but a solid mix of Spanish, Italian and other European cuisine. The conclusion is simple: everything tastes delicious, always. The portions are just right, the atmosphere is family-like and comfortable. And it’s good to the vacation budget. But what really sets this place apart is the service – a mix of discreet and attentive, as well as recognizing guests who come there year after year. I found myself wishing very hard that the restaurant would continue to do well in the coming years. It’s a part of Lloret de Mar for me.

Jardins de Santa Clotilde

This is a very special place in Lloret that takes you to another small world as soon as you step in it. Located a short bus ride away from the town center, the gardens were designed in 1919. A romantic story frames its history – Clotilde was the wife of the owner, the Marquis of Roviralta. She died young and the gardens are named after her. It’s a place of beauty, as well as an example of stylish and harmonious landscaping that, once again, fits in the local backdrop.

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After all of the above I walk to my favourite beach, pick a spot and again let the view of the sea fill me up. Welcome to Lloret de Mar.