Unanticipated Scotland

I recently returned from a trip to Scotland. Unlike previous trips abroad, I had no artistic or cultural objective: I was there simply to get away from the day-to-day grind and be open to whatever surprises the trip had to offer. With no expectations, I was rewarded with a beautiful country, welcoming people, visual inspiration, history lessons, and experiences that truly celebrated the art of life and pleasure. The town of Oban, known to me initially because of their whiskey, and then somehow affirmed through a Rick Steves video endorsement :P, best exemplified the experience.

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The drive through the countryside to get there was simply beautiful. Rolling hills, green everywhere, sheep... just beautiful. The coastal town seems to originate from a cliff facing the ocean. Everywhere I looked, I found visual inspiration with a sense of familiarity that surprised me. The history of Oban is celebrated not only in the distillery (amen!), but several landmarks as well: McCaib's Tower and Dunollie Castle, to name a few.  Unusually dry conditions allowed the rare opportunity to sit outside for a dinner at Ee-usk, watching a colorful sunset as our group enjoyed some of the freshest fish I've ever had - mussels, sea bass and properly paired wine and whiskey. As we were finishing our meal, one of the locals stopped by our table and started a conversation with us that ended in song; I believe it was "The Road to the Isles". I was a kid in a cultural candy store. In the end, each city shared its own story and they were all very satisfying.

I was refreshed in a way that made the end of the trip not only bearable, but hopeful. I believe travel is such an essential part of life, as it enriches our perceptions of what is ultimiately important, in addition to offering a release from the routines that we can get into as part of the discipline of life's work.

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Dreaming Of A Life

I watched the Woody Allen film, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" with JQ last night. It is the story of two American women in their early twenties who go to Barcelona for the summer. There, they meet an artist who propositions them to spend a weekend together and through a series of events, a love-triangle forms and eventually becomes even more complicated as the artist's ex-lover enters the picture. Though I very much enjoyed the movie, there were really two elements that captivated me for the purpose of this blog.

The first was the way Allen successfully revealed the beauty of Barcelona through color and on-location scenes. The film has a red-tint to it, which I suspect is the influence of light specific to that particular region. Southern France, where Van Gogh painted for example, is well known for its yellowish light. The red in this film epitomized the passion of the story as well as the location itself. Additionally, there were various scenes of narrow streets, breathtaking architecture, cafés and the ocean which brought me closer to the experience, as if I was there.

The second part I found interesting was the life of the artist, as portrayed by Javier Bardem in the role of Juan Antonio: a renowned painter reveling in the prime of his passion and career. He was a charming character living his life fully- aware of his roots in family and career, a romantic, an intellectual- while appreciating the finer aspects of his life and remaining true to his art. Scenes of art openings, his home/studio, wine, taking friends on a tour of his hometown, hanging out with artists, poets and musicians all solidified the vision I have in my head of what I want my life to look like some day. Here's to hoping anyway. Watching artists portrayed in movies always serves to fuel my creative appetite. In this instance, it made me consider my life as an extension of my art... or vice versa.