Sunday, 16 September 2018

Much Ado About Very Little

It's the calm before the storm around here at the moment. Hubby and I are treading water, not quite twiddling our thumbs, finishing up tasks on our list that need to be done before we leave for Italy, and generally trying NOT to get too excited too soon. 

I shopped last week. I found a great new travel purse, and a black Madewell tee that will round out my warm weather travel choices. I may have purchased a gorgeous pair of burgundy Paul Green loafers for fall. But you'll have to wait until we return from Italy to hear about those. I'm thinking they will lessen the post trip let down, when I know I'll be thinking, "Manotick is lovely, but it ain't Rome." Nothing like planning a new outfit to lift one's spirits, eh? 

This week, I'll be finalizing my packing lists, and then, well, packing. And trying to maintain my equanimity. I've been listening to books on my Audible ap on my phone. If outfit planning can lift one's spirits, there's nothing like a little gentle reading, or listening, to calm them. 

cover of the illustrated version of Pride and Prejudice

I'd never listened to Jane Austen books on Audible before. Rosamund Pike narrating Pride and Prejudice is sublime. Eleven hours and thirty-five minutes of heaven. That's her on the left below, playing Jane Bennet in the 2005 movie version of the novel. Not my favourite film version, I will say. 

The actresses who played the Bennet sisters in the 2005 movie, Pride and Prejudice
The Bennet sisters in the 2005 movie version.
I've been well spoiled by the 1995 mini-series with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet, and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. That's the definitive version in my books. No one can touch Colin Firth's Darcy, and Alison Steadman is annoyingly wonderful as Mrs. Bennet. I've seen the series so many times that I can quote a whole wack of it off by heart. But, it's been a few years since I've read the book, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much of the dialogue of the mini-series was in Austen's original words. 

The actresses who played the Bennet sisters in the 1995 mini-series, Pride and Prejudice
The Bennet sisters from the 1995 mini-series.
My hours of happy listening made me recall my visit to the Jane Austen Center when I was in Bath last year. And chatting with this gentleman outside who was done up to look like Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

woman with a man dressed in Regency period costume
Me and Mr. Bennet in Bath,  October, 2017
I told him all about the incident at my Mum's one evening years ago, when Hubby was upstairs reading, and Mum and I were in the living room drinking tea and watching Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. And as we watched the scene where Alison Steadman shrieks, "Oh, Mr. Bennet my poor nerves," Hubby descended the stairs. Mum paused the tape, jumped up from her chair, and in a perfect imitation of Mrs. Bennet, shrieked, "Oh, Stuart, shall we have some tea?" She then looked quizzically at me, as if she were thinking, "What the hell did I just say?" And then she and I fell over laughing. Hubby rolled his eyes and headed for the safety of the kitchen and some normal conversation with my stepfather. Ha. 

We love that story. Even more now I can add that in front of the Jane Austen Centre that day last fall, Mr. Bennet drawled in what I soon learned was a wonderful Somerset accent, "And di-id yourrrr husband, say 'Silly women?'" 

"He did indeed," I replied. And we chuckled.  Then I headed inside for tea. Besides my chat with Mr. Bennet, I loved the apricot cake, the fact that I was not the only solitary reader taking tea, and that glimpse of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy photo-bombing my shot. It's often the small moments on a trip leave the most indelible memories, I think. 

cup of tea, and plate filled with goodies, woman reading tn the background
Taking tea in the Regency Tea Room in the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. 
Yep, Hubby and I are in pre-trip limbo this week. I'm kind of enjoying the calm before the storm. Most of our preparations are complete. Hubby wants to have the garden cleaned up before we go, so he won't face a frost-riddled, soggy mess when we return in mid-October. So we've picked, and pickled, and simmered whatever we can. Our freezer is chock full of tomato sauce, apple sauce, pesto, and peppers. I'm sure the neighbours, my walking buddies, and Hubby's golfing and hockey mates, are right royally sick of the bags of garden produce we've been pressing upon them. 

red apples on a tree and blue sky
We simply cannot keep ahead of the apples.
In fact, I see Hubby out the window at this very moment picking apples from our still-laden tree. I might open the window and in my best Mrs. Bennet imitation shout, "Oh, Stuart, shall we make a pie?" Or I could try to NOT be annoying and simply help him pick. Yeah. That might be better. 

You know, I'm not the only one who enjoys this kind of limbo. Pop on over to No Hat No Gloves and see how much more eloquently Annie writes about much the same thing. You can find her post here. I think you have to love a woman who loves good books and colourful footwear, don't you?

Now, what are you up to these days folks? Speaking of calm and storms, I know that many of you are probably hunkered down what with all the big weather events this week. Hope you stay dry and safe. 

Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Planning My Travel Wardrobe for Italy

Our three weeks in Italy are coming up very soon. So, obviously I've been musing about my travel wardrobe. That's nothing new. What should I wear? And, how should I decide what to wear? These are perennial questions for me.

woman in white jeans, black jacket, black loafers, and scarf sitting on a deck
Still musing about what to pack for three weeks in Italy
I'm pretty methodical about wardrobe planning for travel. I always look at climate, the predicted weather conditions for our destinations, how many different "seasons" we'll be experiencing. In South America we went from the chilly, late fall conditions of mountain mornings in Patagonia and parts of Peru, to tropical, high summer temperatures in Buenos Aires and Lima. I look at the type of activities we'll be doing. Are they likely to involve lots of exercise in the heat, or might they instead require gloves, a waterproof jacket, and maybe even a toque?  Even the location of the activity makes a difference. For instance, if we're walking, will it be on trails where I'll not have to worry about looking good, or in a city necessitating an outfit that's comfortable, but still somewhat smart? So many variables, so many decisions. I call that last one the fleece or no fleece decision. 

I remember the stressing I did before we went to France in 2015. I was worried, in particular, about what to wear in Paris. Silly me. Everything was fine. But I remember one friend commented on Facebook that I should toss in a few tee shirts and a pair of jeans, carry a mostly empty suitcase, and shop in Paris. No, no, no... that would never work for me. It may seem shallow, but I always have a better time if I feel comfortable in, and confident about, what I'm wearing. And what Hubby would say if he had to trail me around Paris, while I shopped for those things I hadn't packed, doesn't bear thinking about. Ha. 

Packing for South America last year required lots of lists, much editing, then more lists. It was a complex trip requiring a variety of clothing, all packed into the same size suitcase I always carry. We spent some of our time in cities, some hiking in the hinterland, some in tropical climates, and some at elevation with pretty chilly temperatures. The range of activity, plus the need for a more complex "medical kit," and inclusion of bulky hiking boots and poles, meant that I only had room for a few outfits for each stage of the trip. 

My trip to England last fall should have been a doddle to plan by comparison. Most of our time was in cities and towns, one season only, no hiking or outdoor activities except city walking. But oddly enough I made better packing choices for South America. For England, I packed several pieces I could easily have left at home, and even a couple of outfits which I regretted bringing. That's partly due, I know, to my state of mind last September. My brother had just died after a long and difficult battle with deteriorating health, and we all felt kind of wrung out in my family. As a result, I was stressed and not making good decisions. In retrospect I guess I should have delayed or even cancelled the trip. But... water... bridge... you know. I'll move on and learn from the experience.

This morning I dug out my lists for both trips and annotated them, highlighting those items I could have easily left at home. 

travel wardrobe planning lists
Annotated packing lists for South America and England
In the final analysis, I could have packed five fewer pieces for our South America trip. Not counting the flip flops I never wore. Not bad for a six week trip that spanned numerous activities and conditions.  According to my lists, I could easily have left five items home on my England trip too. That does not include the outfits I hated. Not to mention the couple of unplanned pieces I squeezed in at the last minute... thank goodness. So, not great planning for a fifteen day journey.

This year I'm trying to learn from past mistakes. I'm identifying a colour palette to work with right from the beginning. Boring it may be, but I've decided to go with black, grey, and white. I plan to bring as "toppers" two black jackets, one casual and one a bit more dressy. And as much as I love it, I'm leaving my Veronica Beard navy blazer at home. It did yeoman service in England last year, but as a result I hardly wore my black Lafayette 148 zippered sweater. I'm going to substitute my black Helmut Lang blazer, instead, which will work with the same bottoms and tops as the Lafayette sweater, giving me more outfit variety with fewer pieces. Hopefully. We'll see.

notes for planning a travel wardrobe
Italy travel wardrobe planning. A work in progress.
To that end I've been playing around with combinations. Like my black Helmut Lang jacket, white jeans, and my black Stuart Weitzman loafers. Layering the jacket over this grey Aritzia hoodie and a short-sleeve white tee. 

woman in black jacket and white jeans posing on a deck with river in background
My Italian palette: black, white, and grey.
Then adding a scarf, either this one or my Burberry one, seen above in the first picture. I did something similar in England last year, but with the navy VB jacket and blue jeans. My goal is cobble together a few outfits in this palette that I really like, and go from there. I'm hoping that combinations like this can do double duty as a casual dinner outfit or smart, walking-around-in-cities outfits in either coolish or warm weather depending on how many layers I wear. I can wear all these pieces with my black leggings and the loafers or with jeans and sneakers. Of course, I'll bring a pair of athletic sneakers for some serious walking when we're not in cities, a rain coat, a couple of pieces for a pop of colour in my very neutral palette, and maybe a pair of ankle boots depending on the weather predictions. 

woman in black jacket, white jeans, and scarf posing on a deck with river in background
I wore something similar in France in 2015, and last year in England.
As usual, my goal for a travel wardrobe is NOT to be fashion forward. But to be comfortable, presentable, and a bit polished, in clothes that feel good, and make me feel like me. And to be appropriately dressed for the occasion, the location, and the weather. And in as few pieces as possible, so they will all fit into my suitcase. Ha. Sounds complicated, doesn't it? 

This week is my shopping week. I have a few things to purchase for Hubby. And I'll be on the hunt for a couple of long-sleeve tees, and maybe a light fall sweater for myself. Packable, washable pieces that won't break the bank, and which will double as casual or a bit more polished depending on which pants and jacket I'm wearing. I also have my eye on a new travel bag that I saw a few months ago. 

Yesterday an ultra-light down vest from Uniqlo that I ordered on-line was delivered. Oh my, it's lovely, a wine/burgundy colour, and it fits perfectly. Thanks to those of you who suggested it. I haven't decided if I will take it on our trip. 

But then, I'm not finished my planning yet. Now I must go. I'm not nearly finished trying on outfit combinations: discarding pieces, adding others, deciding which tops, which tees, which scarves. Do I pack those sandals, or my ankle boots, or neither? Not to mention the shopping that still needs to be done. 


I've miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep. As Robert Frost didn't exactly say. 

What about you, my friends? Have you had any packing "learning experiences"... let's call them that, shall we? 

Two Traveling Texans
Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeTurning Heads Link-upStyle Me WednesdayThursday Favourite ThingsFabulous FridayFancy FridaySaturday Share Link-Up 

Friday, 7 September 2018

On Being a Tourist

Hubby and I are off to Italy before too long. Our plans were mostly completed months ago. Right now we're refreshing our memories, reviewing all the arrangements we made way last spring. Reconfirming accommodation reservations that probably don't need re-confirming, but we'll do it anyway just for peace of mind. I'm researching details of what we might do with our days in Venice and Florence and Rome. Hubby is re-acquainting himself with the driving routes we'll take after we leave Florence, how we plan to get from one small place to another, what interesting roads we'll attempt. I have a rough plan for how I'll proceed with my jobs. Research. Shop. Pack. Go. 

And bubbling underneath all our suppressed excitement. While we're busying ourselves with everything that needs to be done, checking items off our list so all will be ready in a timely fashion, but not ready too early, which will only cause anxiety for both of us. Underneath all this and mostly unspoken is our desire to be on our way. To be tourists again.   

man and woman eating chocolate covered ice cream
Our chocolate-dipped-vanilla-ice-cream-face selfie.  Île d'Orleans, Quebec, 2014.
"Tourist" seems to be a pejorative term these days. Maybe it always was. Conjuring an image of hordes of noisy, clueless, middle-aged gawkers, with fanny-packs, selfie-sticks, three cameras slung round their necks, baggy khaki pants, and socks with sandals. Nobody likes tourists; nobody wants to be considered a "tourist," or, most importantly, look like one. Apparently. 

Seriously. I did an internet search with the search term "how not to look like a tourist in Italy" and got over a million hits. 

I spent way too much time this morning on a chat forum on the Rick Steeves website reading what people had to say about the issue of NOT looking like a tourist. Such a lot of palaver. And the upshot is that no matter what we do, how much we try to "blend in," we probably will be unsuccessful. And even if we do perchance blend in briefly, once we open our mouths we'll have given the game away anyway.

woman sitting in a sidewalk café in Paris
Didn't realize that I was "blending in" with the café decor. Paris, 2015.
So if the game is up as far as looking like a tourist, what does the traveller do to avoid looking like a clueless tourist? Well, obviously, do some research. Find out what local customs or habits you might be offending if you wear certain items of apparel. Mostly this has to do with not looking like you're going to the beach, or off clubbing, unless you are. Wear clothing that is appropriate for the location you're visiting and for the activity. That's just common sense, I know. But when we hiked the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand a few years ago, a full-day hike, with temperatures only a few degrees above freezing at the top, we saw a couple of young hikers wearing flip-flops and shorts, and we heard one of them complain to the other, "You told me this was mostly a flat walk." Ha. Not flat... not a walk. And quite dangerous, actually, to attempt the Tongariro without proper clothing and footwear. 

But other than being safe, being comfortable, and being respectful of local customs, I think we shouldn't worry about what we wear. Okay, okay, I can hear the guffaws. I didn't say I wasn't going to worry about what I wear. I always worry about what I should wear, and what I should pack. That's a given. I just meant that I don't worry if I'm spotted as a tourist, or not. That, my friends, is an exercise in futility. With my round face and colouring, only in Ireland could I have any chance of being mistaken for a local... and then, as I said, only until I opened my mouth. 

And even with research, and all good intentions to appreciate and respect local customs, we get it wrong sometimes. Hubby and I looked like clueless tourists in Buenos Aires last year, when we naively headed out to the restaurant recommended as a great place for dinner by the lovely young man who worked in reception at our hotel. We were surprised to find the door open but the restaurant empty at almost eight o'clock. We entered, sat, and glanced around us for a few minutes. At the back was a clutch of waiters, chatting among themselves, ignoring us. But at the stroke of eight, a horde of locals converged on the place, every seat was soon taken, the waiters flew from table to table, were especially nice to us, and we had a fabulous meal.

patrons viewed through the window of a restaurant in Buenos Aires
Norte in Buenos Aires after 8:00 P.M. February, 2017
Turns out that the restaurant doesn't even start serving until eight. None of the restaurants serve until eight, said the lovely young man at reception when he apologized for not alerting us to the fact. "Never mind," we said, "we thought it was hilarious." Kind of reminded me of years ago when a friend and her husband tried to go for dinner in a small city in Arizona, popular with retirees. In fact my friend's parents wintered there for years after they retired. At seven-thirty they found many of the restaurants already closing. Turned out that everyone else ate at five. Ha. When you "come from away," as we say down east, you gotta go with the flow of wherever you are. 

But going with the flow, doesn't mean, in my books, being afraid of making a mistake, or ashamed of being a tourist, a traveller, or a visitor... however we describe ourselves when we're not at home. Last year I was chided by a travelling companion for asking too many questions, for not "figuring things out for myself." In truth I think they were embarrassed by my queries. But I think that as long as we're not strident, demanding, or rude... there's nothing wrong with seeking help or assistance from locals. Of course you have to choose carefully whom to ask. In my experience most people are only too happy to help. In Dublin when Hubby and I exited the Guinness Storehouse from the wrong door (NOT attributable to the sampling we did inside, I might add) and had to stand with our city map for a moment to take our bearings, we were approached by a young mother pushing a stroller who spent fifteen minutes chatting with us after she directed us to where we wanted to go. In fact, if I hadn't become so sanguine about asking questions we might still be driving around County Kerry, looking for the Ballaghbeama Gap. And we might never have met a leprechaun. But I've told you that story already. 

woman and man in restaurant, smiling
Captain Stan's Smoke House in Georgia, 2014
So, yeah, we're excited about becoming tourists again very soon. We've done our homework, researched as much as we can about where we're going, what we're going to wear, and what we want to do. Hubby and I are not much for group travel, we'd rather paddle our own canoe. Well actually, Hubby does most of the paddling, in or out of the canoe. Ha. I'm the navigator. We'll no doubt do a couple of guided tours, half or full day. We've always found these to be wonderful, whether in Savannah, Georgia; Derry, Northern Ireland; or Machu Picchu, Peru. But we also love just wandering, exploring, and sometimes even getting a little lost. We know we won't be mistaken for local Italians. But hopefully we won't look too clueless. 

And, you know, we're okay with not looking like we're from wherever we'll be, but just once we'd love it if someone we met guessed that we were from Canada... instead of from that other big country to the south.  Not that there's anything wrong with being from there. Just that we're not. 

Where do you stand, my friends, on looking like a tourist? 

Two Traveling Texans

Linking up this week with Thursday Favourite Things and Saturday Share Link-up.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Summer's Last Gasp

It's the last weekend of summer. The autumn of summer, we might say. Soon we'll be saying, "Ah yes, remember last summer? Those white hot days at the beach, the languid afternoons, the warm, starry evenings of wine and song? Ha. As if.

Red barn with white trim and the shadow of clothes on a clothesline
photo courtesy of Aethne Hinchcliffe
More like... remember the searing, jabbing pain of that freaking shingles virus, the fog of pain meds, the creeping boredom of yet another day of enforced reading and reading and nothing else, except more moaning and cold compresses? 

Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little. I didn't actually get bored with reading. 

But now that I'm feeling better, and was even able to escape the dooryard wearing real clothes and... drum roll, please... upper-body undergarments twice last week, I've begun to realize that summer is almost over and I haven't worn my summer clothes since the middle of July. Gasp.

And even more gasp-worthy, I haven't worn my new Moncler jacket once. Not once. 

So last Friday, when it was a beautiful 22°C, and I was scheduled to meet my dear friend Barbara for lunch in the village, I wore my new jacket for the very first time. And what a palaver trying to decide which combination of red, white, and blue to wear. I tried my jacket with a red tee, blue jeans and sneakers, with my navy tee, white jeans and my red loafers, with a couple of different white tees with blue jeans or white jeans, and red loafers. Well, you get the picture. 

three shots of a woman in navy baseball jacket in blue jeans and red tee, white jeans and white tee, and blue jeans and white tee.
Too many choices?
I even tried my jacket with blue jeans, sneakers, and a crisp white shirt. I really like this look. It's a little bit lady-like, mostly casual, but still polished. I'll wear this in a couple of weeks when the weather will allow long sleeves under long sleeves. 

woman in blue jeans, white shirt, and navy baseball jacket
Who doesn't love a lady in a baseball jacket? 
So, I guess even a small, well-edited closet, where everything goes with everything, can sometimes be overwhelming. Somehow the choices that day seemed endless. Or maybe I was simply out of practice. Sigh. It sure does feel good, though, to be back on the road, and out in the world. 

woman in jeans, white tee and navy baseball jacket sitting in a red Adirondack chair
Just happy to be back in action.
My Moncler jacket isn't the only piece in my closet suffering from neglect. I've worn nothing but shorts and baggy tees for weeks. 

In fact, I've decided that from now until we leave for Italy in three weeks there will be a veritable flurry of outfits happening. I plan to wear a different outfit every time I leave the house. I should make a check-list so I don't miss something. I foresee having to wear the last few outfits to the backyard, to sip my tea, and watch Hubby while he harvests the last of the vegetables from our garden. 

Of course... I'd help him, if I weren't wearing my good clothes. :)

P.S. That gorgeous photo of the red barn and the shadow of the clothesline was taken by Aethne Hinchliffe a former student of mine. Aethne is a talented photographer. I love that picture. You can follow her work on Instagram here

Now, how about you, my friends? Are you cramming in the last of your summer outfits before the leaves turn and the weather gets cool? 

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeTurning Heads Link-upStyle Me WednesdayThursday Favourite ThingsFabulous FridayFancy FridaySaturday Share Link-Up and Continental Drift. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Vicissitudes of Travel

I write quite a lot on my blog about Hubby's and my travel adventures. We love to travel. But appearances on Instagram to the contrary, travel isn't all beautiful sunsets and stunning vistas. Sometimes it's exhausting, stressful, disappointing, and even painful. 

Sometimes you get to that beautiful beach, but the water is too cold to even paddle in the shallows.

woman wading in the sea
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France 2015