Saturday, November 25, 2017

Travel & Lifestyle

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismIt’s raining shoes! This photo of shoes hanging in Toronto, Canada’s Bata Shoe Museum says it all. The average American woman will own more than 268 pairs of shoes in her lifetime and spend more than $20,000. And, it’s not just women around the world who ware shelling out over $30 billion a year on shoes. The Boston Globe reports that men spent nearly as much in 2016, shelling out $26 billion globally.

In truth, shoe designers are emptying our pockets at a dizzying rate. They hope we’ll fill our closets with new sculptural designs that seem to be flooding the expanding floor space in department stores. This reflects our love-in with shoes and our exploding thirst around the globe.

Dubai’s Shoe Garden

My visit to the shoe concourse in the Dubai Mall of the United Arab Emirates speaks to this shoe obsession. I was floored by the endless stream of showcases featuring ultra-luxury collections. All were housed under the aptly named Shoe Garden.

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerism

Shoppers travel down the garden path mesmerized by edgy shoe styles ripe for the picking. Whether it’s these $2,500 couture sneakers pictured below, or shelves of Louboutin’s ultra-comfy leisure shoes, I can’t help but wonder why we spend so much on shoes? And do they really have to be luxury designer brands?

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerism
Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerism

The answer is more complicated than you think. Many WomanScape readers who read about The World in a Shoe learned that, historically, shoe styles are a poignant indicator of social status and culture. But when I look at the increased accessibility to online shopping and mass consumerism, it’s obvious that today’s global shoe purchases are less about traditions and heritage. The new buyers are putting their wealth and their status on their feet.

Shoes As Status Symbols

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismShoes are definitely a status symbol in today’s world. We all know the sexy stilettos by Manolo Blahnik that took center stage in the “Sex in the City” television series. Kerry Washington from television’s hit show Scandal is also known for her shoe obsession.  She admits they are the most important part of an outfit and, like other celebs, she loves the red soles and high-heels of luxury designer Christian Louboutin.

But these aren’t the only shoes in the spotlight. You can see in the photos that people are hungry for all kinds of shoes, including the collectable “sneakerhead” shoes. Many are bought as investments and do little more than sit on a shelf to be admired. In fact, the resale business of these status symbol shoes has created a $55 Billion international marketplace.

I’m honestly not much for sneaker shoes, but who can resist these Versace “Winged Dark Angel in Green” shoes by Brian Atwood? Sadly, I can’t but I must. My walking-on-needles days are over even though I love the sculptural skyscrapers by architect Zaha Hadid. Her futuristic shoes are brilliant even though I couldn’t stand, let alone walk, in them.

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismAnd how I see these manufacturing marvels of Hadid’s limited edition, chrome-plated, shoes with cantilever heels has also changed. The sophisticated injection-mold and vacuum cast process is certainly impressive. But I’ve become more sensitive to the global realities of our consumerism.

Many people don’t realize that more than 300 million children and 1.5 billion adults around the world could not afford shoes in 2015. We live in a world where the number of people living below the poverty line is increasing, and inequalities and political disparities are tugging at our hearts.

I can’t help but believe there’s something terribly wrong when you consider the weight of poverty and the 85% of all shoes that end up in landfill sites. Turns out I’m not the only one concerned.  Shoes are still symbols of status, wealth and individuality, but our spending choices and shoe production processes are addressing some of these issues. So where does this leave us?

Socially conscious millennials are pushing industry changes. Global demographics are getting the attention of savvy marketers who want to align our wallets with our hearts. There is a new global conscience shaping the shoe industry, and a growing middle class in emerging countries and G7 powers that’s underscoring this whopping effect on consumerism.

Purchasing power is shifting from the West to the East, accelerated by rapidly growing population in countries like India and China. And according to World Bank projections, the Asia-Pacific region will have the largest middle class in the world. By 2030, this middle class of young adults will capture 59% of all global consumption and a hell of a lot of shoes!

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismAt a time when the world is rife with social and political discontent, shoe producers are smart to tap our ethical and social concerns. Companies like Toms shoes have continued to step up and align themselves with consumer demands. Toms’ business model rests on a one-for-one philosophy. For every shoe purchased, a free pair of shoes is donated to people in need.

Toms has partnered with dozens of companies and non-governmental organizations, helping over 70 million people in 70 countries around the world since they opened their doors in 2006. Their meteoric brand success has also fueled their expansion into new industries like eyewear, bags and coffee. They continue to shape new campaigns like access to potable water, safe birthing and bully prevention around the world.

Reshaping the Shoe Footprint

Other shoe producers are focused instead on the environmental effects of consumerism and production processes. Companies like Rothys are focusing on renewable resources given the  growing environmental concern of landfill sites. Addressing these sites will also stop gap air pollution and groundwater contamination that comes from production-related gas emissions.

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismEven though Rothy’s shoes are hardly the skyscraper sex kittens of couture fashion, their classic style and comfortable fit are undeniable. They are made from recycled plastic water bottles that are cleaned and broken into tiny pieces before their fed into 3D knitting machines. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow loves these shoes and will tell you there are no seams and no waste.

The demand for socially conscious shoes that are beautiful has definitely increased. Designers like Stella McCartney are jumping in and sourcing sustainable and ethically sourced materials. Stella’s black star-studded shoes in the photo below exemplify eco-friendly and high fashion footwear.

Toronto Bata Shoe Museum, Shoe Industry, Dubai Shoe Garden, Christian Louboutin, Rothys, Toms, World in a Shoe, Manolo Blahnik, Kerry Washington, sneakerhead shoe industry, Zaha Hadid, Brian Atwood, Millennials, India, China, World Bank, Stella McCartney, environmentalism, consumerismOn the heels of #AmericaRecyclesDay, I’ve decided my next pair of shoes will be a smarter choice. I’ll think twice about the water bottles I’ve dropped into recycling bins and treat my feet to some hip star-studded solutions. That way my new shoes can rain goodness in the world.

The most beautiful map of the world is sitting on my desk. It overflows with landscapes and contours not typical for an atlas.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

That’s because author Mihaela Noroc’s new book, The Atlas of Beauty, is a map of faces. It’s shares her four-year journey collecting hundreds of faces and stories of women from over 60 countries. Each picture captures the beauty of their culture and the soulful spirit of women.

Even though Noroc’s art is so visually compelling, it raises deeper questions about the meaning of beauty. The pictures are magical and show most women without makeup. But in a National Public Radio interview, Noroc admits many women were hesitant to appear this way. Often they saw themselves as anything but beautiful.

What is beauty?

Why is this such a universal feeling among women? What is beauty in our visually-oriented world? Too often, beauty is fabricated and sexualized in social media profiles and images that applaud slender bodies, bigger lips, and wrinkle-free faces. Beauty is synonymous with flawless, idealized and conformist standards. What happened to the beauty in our souls and hearts? Have we space in the world for something more authentic?

Thankfully, what resonates in Noroc’s book is a deeper perspective on beauty. Noroc’s photos redirect our superficial views, drawing us into a more spiritual understanding of beauty. Her portraits are simple. Women are seen in the larger totality of their life experience. And, something about each woman shines from their center and outwards.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

So where does the half a trillion dollar cosmetic industry fit in? For many, we are so hungry for beauty that we willingly spend time and money on endless beauty products. We want to feel attractive and and translate this feeling into happiness. Of course, this is natural but maybe we need to explore a deeper and more artful question: what is our true relationship with beauty and makeup?

Beauty Through the Eyes of a Makeup Artist

The advent of Halloween seemed like an ideal time to ask this question. When I saw the eye makeup photo above and the artful Halloween designs done by this young makeup artist I knew personally, I thought she might offer some interesting  insights about the role of makeup in people’s lives.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

Her artistry is certainly undeniable in the variety of stunning and fun looks pictured below, including the cover image at the beginning of this article. She inspired me to reconsider the role of makeup. Like many artists, Kelley uses social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote her KelleyOnTheBeat glam makeup services. What captured my attention was a follower who asked her how she wore so much makeup. Kelley answered with a 30 second video and two simple words, “Like this.”

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran
The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran
The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

Over 2 million people watched that video! Kelley’s video was 30 seconds of faces filled with colors that were far from subtle. They broke all the rules. Her purple lips and rainbow glitter eyes created bold, bright looks that were both fun and fantastical. What I couldn’t understand was why women responded in droves to these glamorous and theatrical looks. Was it pure escapism or something deeper?

I interviewed Kelley about her creative inventions  and discovered an attitude to life grounded in the joyful expression of self. I think you’ll agree and see why her brand is a celebration of the sacred beauty in each of us. As with all art, “there is a ray that springs for the sacred depths of the soul and illuminates the body.” (20th century Lebanese writer, Kahlil Gibran.) Here is that interview.

Q&A With KelleyOnTheBeat

Q: Why do you love makeup Kelley?

K: I love how makeup makes women feel. When they look in the mirror, they see something new and a beauty they might not have appreciated before. I started experimenting on friends when I was a freshman in college, and saw how happy it made them feel. Before I knew it, people were asking me to do their friends’ faces, weddings and proms.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil GibranQ: What should every woman know about makeup and beauty?

K: Everyone can feel beautiful and do their own makeup. For me, makeup should be a creative outlet. It can be a source of confidence and enjoyment. Of course, everyone is beautiful without makeup. Beauty is inside. But makeup can help you share your creativity and personality with others. Recently, I’ve even noticed that more men are wearing makeup. I think James Charles is the first Cover Girl man. I’m not sure but what’s wrong with men expressing this creative side. I would love to be able to make up a man’s face. Not everyone has been supportive of men wearing makeup, but it’s nothing new if you look at history and other cultures around the world.

Q: What future dreams do you have in the industry?

K: I want to work for myself but I would love to build relationships and collaborate with other artists. It would be great to influence the marketplace and I hope to own my own shop someday to provide women and men with the services they want.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil GibranQ: Do you collaborate with other makeup artists?

K: Yes. I’ve worked with a group of about twelve other artists and actually initiated a few collaborative projects. We talk about products and have challenged each other to do color-looks and themes to motivate each other. I learned that I could take the lead and influence others to grow artistically and connect in meaningful ways. We’ve become friends and I am now an ambassador for Glam Glitters.

Q: Why do you do glam makeup?

K: Glam is the best way to be creative – natural and browns are simple. Glam is big and not necessarily for everyone but it brings in colors and diverse opportunities for interesting and fun techniques. Glam also forces people to have an opinion about makeup. In a way, it’s like art therapy.

Q: Where can people see your work?

K: My YouTube channel is up but I’m still busy with school until I graduate this year. I’m not concerned with making money right now and want to enjoy meeting people and answering makeup questions. I love doing Facebook live because I can interact with more people, get good feedback, and answer questions. I post my status when I’m LIVE and people usually share it by joining my friend list.

Important writer’s note: Kelley is the youngest of my three daughters and I couldn’t be more proud.

The Atlas of Beauty, Mikaela Noroc, beauty, makeup, culture of beauty, traditional makeup, creative artisty, KellyOnTheBeat, makup artist, cosmetic industry, soulful beauty, Kahlil Gibran

 

 

 

As we jump back onto the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, part of the larger Sideways wine region, we also travel through wonderful history.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,The character Maya, from the movie Sideways, sets up this second series of tours  beautifully.  This next line serves as the perfect introduction. Played by Virginia Madsen, Maya tells Miles (Paul Giamatti) how she approaches each glass of wine:

I like to think about the life of wine…How it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained.

Foxen, Fess & Kitá Wineries

When my husband and I arrive at the Foxen Winery,  we enjoy both the history and their luscious wines in the busy tasting room. Foxen Winery is named in memory of British sea captain William Benjamin Foxen, who was the founder’s great great grandfather.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,Foxen arrived in Santa Barbara in the 1800’s, and purchased 9,000 acres of Rancho Tinaquaic which comprised what is now called Foxen Trail.  In fact, his ranch brand was an anchor that still  adorns Foxen wine labels today.

Next stop, Fess Parker Winery. It was large and accommodating, befitting this much-awarded winery.  Some of the bottles on display had small coon hats on their corks in homage to the former actor’s role as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone back in the 1960’s.  While Parker is no longer alive, he made Santa Barbara his home for many years. His vineyard is very

successful and his two lovely resorts in the area are flourishing under Fess Parker Enterprises.  We enjoyed sampling a wide variety of beautiful wines including two unique dessert wines, their Traditions Port Style Red Wine and their 2009 Finale.

In 2010, shortly after the actor/vintner’s death, Fess Parker Enterprises sold 1400 acres of their Camp 4 land to the Chumash tribe. Tara Gomez a member of the Chumash tribe, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Enology in 1998 (one of two women) from Cal State Fresno, convinced her tribe to make wine.  In 2010, they offered three different types of wine: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache.

It’s wonderful to celebrate Gomez and her successful Kitá Winery. It provides Gomez with a real opportunity to give back to her tribe. The name of the winery – Kitá – means “Our Valley Oak” in the Chumash native language of Samala. It pays homage to the gifts of Mother Earth and certainly preserves the historical spirit of the Santa Ynez Valley.

It’s also worth noting that only 20 wineries of the 200 in the Santa Barbara region are run by women. While women vintners are making strides into the 3400 plus wineries in the greater state of California, the 10% of women who are winemakers highlight the underrepresentation of women.

La Fond, Palmina & Santa Barbara Wineries

On our last day in Sonoma we toured the Santa Rita region.  Driving past Solvang, a Danish themed town, we spotted the “windmill” motel where Sideways characters, Miles and Jack famously stayed.   We Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,made our way to La Fond Winery, where we sampled light and fresh Chardonnays and medium bodied Pinot Noirs that were all reasonably priced.  These vintages are part of the Santa Barbara Winery, the first vineyard of the region.  Created  in the 60’s, Santa Barbara Winery is the granddaddy of them all!

Vintner Joe La Fond was a part of these early beginnings.  It’s amazing to see that after 40 years this small region has over 200 vineyards.  We enjoyed the scenic picnic area and beautiful jaw-dropping vineyard views while waiting for friends to join us for our afternoon tasting adventures.

Before long,we’re back on the road to Lompoc. It’s about a 15-minute drive through a vineyard lined highway from La Fond before we arrive at an area known as the Wine Ghetto.  This is an industrial park with several small wineries in close proximity.  While lacking the traditional vineyard views, the wines we sampled at Palmina Wines proved to be extraordinary and worth the visit.

You just never know what undiscovered treasures await. Palmina wines use many Italian grapes not normally found in California wines. The result is outstanding. We enjoyed delicious reds, ranging from the lovely Dolcetto delicious (served cold or at room temperature)  to the full-bodied Pinots and Syrahs.  We eagerly ordered a case of these wonderful vintages.

Knowing there is no rest for the thirsty, we head back to the vineyards at Babcock Winery for full bodied Chardonnays and delicious Pinot Noirs. Their tasting room were filled with eclectic wine displays and wonderful sitting areas. Different vignettes displayed everything from vintage album covers to camera displays. We loved the vintage typewriters next to a pool table made for our sipping pleasure.

Wandering with our  sampler, we were on sensory overload as you can see from the photo below. The nostalgic displays in the Babcock room were a feast for the eyes. Classic rock music tickled our ears, while full bodied and rich tasting wines rolled over our  taste buds. This vintner  had us opening our wallets and packing their bottled treasures to take home!

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,

What better way to end our final night  than by stopping at The Hitching Post for cocktails and dinner?!  The bar was exactly the same as the one used in the Sideways movie. I’m sure the restaurant will never change it, so tourists and locals who frequent it regularly aren’t upset. Many photos adorned the walls from the movie filming,  appeasing fans.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,While enjoying dinner in a traditional red booth, we choose from  menu offerings like lobster tail, a variety of steaks and seafood with traditional sides.  Our group enjoyed steaks, rack of lamb and lobster all expertly prepared and served.  I kept sneaking looks for Miles at the bar, but he was a no show.

We  did our own freelance tour but there are many tours that offer pre-packaged options like the Sideways Movie Tour for die-hard fans.  Biking and tasting tour options are also offered along with more traditional tours.  Frequent wine events advertised online make trip planning easy.  Because many of the wineries are small family operations, it is always best to call wineries before leaving. You can check their tasting room hours and also make a reservation.

Heading home,  we celebrated our sizeable stash of wines for our modest cellar and the memorable meals we enjoyed.  We had fun spotting movie sites from Sideways and discovering a few smaller winery gems closer to home without having to drive to Napa and Sonoma vineyards.  Each winery has its own interesting and definitive history and traditions that make each one a unique discovery.

Overall, the Santa Barbara wine growing region has come into its own, with talented chefs and increasingly popular restaurants providing the perfect complement to the region’s expanding wines.  Vintners are expanding their variety of grapes, once better known in Italy and France, with delicious results.  And increasing numbers of female vintners will soon add another dimension to the Santa Barbara wine region’s popularity over the years to come.

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, May, Sideways movie, Viginia Madsen, Miles, Paul Giamatti, Fess Parker Winery, Kita Winery, William Benjamin Foxen, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, port, Chumash Tribe, Syrah, Cabernet, Mother Earth, Our Valley Oak, Santa Ynez Valley, Samala, Santa Rita region, Solvang, La Fond Winery, women winemakers, Joe La Fond, Santa Barbara Winery, vineyards, California wines, Wine Ghetto, Palmina Wines, Babcock Winery, tasting rooms, vitner, The Hitching Post, Sideway Movie Tours, Napa and Sonoma Vineyards,

The Art of Food

The Art of Food and Power of NatureThe view from the sandy shores of Whales Beach and the culinary delights of Jonah’s restaurant are two of the purest joys in life. They’re a source of renewed faith in the world, particularly when life feels overwhelming and news outlets are mired in troubling domestic and global politics. The waters are a quiet haven nestled in New South Wales, and its serene beauty provides a fresh, meditative perspective on the trans-formative powers of nature and her bounty of feasts.

Although my first visit to Australia was filled with mesmerizing water and aerial views, from my Sydney Harbour Bridge climb to cruising across local waterways, I think most about this small parcel of land and its riches. I can still close my eyes and see the expansive blue waters, the rocky clifftops, and the houses dotting the verdant hills. Better yet, I can still savor the culinary flavors of creative dishes whose artistry helped me to escape the depressing tastes of PESTs – my acronym for stressors that include political, economic, social and technological pushes – in my mouth.

The Art of Food and Power of Nature

 

Looking at the culinary photos from my lunch at Jonah’s, it’s easy to see why their menu is so appealing. The restaurant uses fresh local produce, making Jonah’s one of Australia’s most award-winning restaurants. It has a history that dates back over 85 years and its contemporary Australian menus (from a la carte offerings to seasonal tasting menus) are all designed by chef Logan Campbell. Additional information is available at Jonah’s website.

Below are three photos, illustrating our first course – an appetizer mix seared carpaccio of alpaca loin, yellow beetroot, parmesan cheese, and plantain with a sprinkling of blackberries. This was followed by two different salads – one a combination of fresh grapefruit slices with simple mixed greens and fennel, and the other a delicious fig and buffalo mozzarella cheese combo with roasted pear and almonds.

Our main entrees and dessert were naturally the highlights: one pan-seared North Atlantic scallops dinner with light greens and a cauliflower puree, topped with pine nuts; the other, perfectly prepared sea bass with a beet puree and vegetables, outlined in a savory root sauce. The two lower photos of dessert were just sweet enough. The hot apple & cinnamon crumb pie with Manuka honey and a compliment of lavender ice cream and chocolate mousse ganache did not disappoint.

The Art of Food and Power of NatureThe Art of Food and Power of NatureThe Art of Food and Power of NatureThe Art of Food and Power of Nature

No fine dining experience is complete without an exceptional wine cellar. While I didn’t document any of the delicious wine pairings with each course, the restaurant’s cellar holds more than  1,600 bottles of domestic and international wines so the sommelier had lots of choice. The meal was sumptuous and  visually artful. I’m sure the many celebrities who frequent the restaurant or stay for this quiet luxury weekend getaway come back for the dining experience and the scenic views. You can see Whale Beach and 180 degree views of the Pacific Ocean from the walk-out patio overlooking the bay or from one of only 11 relaxing guest rooms.

The Art of Food and Power of NatureThankfully, my travel to Jonah’s included per-arranged transportation. The intoxicating wine made for a sleepy return to my hotel back in Sydney.

Traveling to this northern beach was almost as exciting as the dining experience. The journey 30 miles north of Sydney provided an incredible view of Australia’s beautiful landscape.

My husband and I booked a Sydney Seaplane package that included a small shuttle boat from our hotel in the Sydney harbor to Rose Bay, where we boarded a small prop plane. The water was calm but the roar of the engine was loud enough to cut through the silencing headphones. Flying conditions were ideal with clear skies and few clouds, that seemed to dissipate as we traveled over the water.

Sitting in the front seat next to the pilot was a dream come true, as I imagined what it must have been like for Amelia Earhart, the first female to fly solo over the Atlantic ocean. I was content to keep land in sight and to enjoy the Aussie greenery that looked greener than Ireland’s Ring of Kerry. Our flight lasted about 30 minutes before we landed on the expansive Pittwater waterways and a Jonah’s courtesy vehicle ferried us to the island pier.

The Art of Food and Power of Nature

When it was time to return to Sydney, I knew I would cherish this unique experience forever. Food has a way of bringing people together and helping us to appreciate cultures all over the world. It has become a unique driver in the travel industry, as people explore their love of nature’s bounty. In a globalized world, this shared love of food is forging new friendships. Hospitality is at our doorstep, whether it’s a seaplane away or welcoming us into the garden of our own backyard. Happiness is a state of mind. When we relish the simple joys of food, nature and travel, we welcome joyful living.

The Art of Food and Power of Nature

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda Seymour

Ever think about the number of successful queens in the entertainment industry? There’s the sweet success of Oprah’s new Sugar Queen – a series about a modern-day mother named Charley Bordelon who runs a sugarcane farm in Louisiana. And who can forget Beyoncé, the royal queen B whose superstardom rivals one of my long-standing favorites, comedic actress and singer Queen Latifah. I’m forever fascinated by the many women who call themselves queen. Whether it’s  Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile (Katharine Hepburn) or the recent WomanScape Queen of the Desert article, I don’t know if any of them rival one of the most moving stories you’ll ever hear. I’m talking about the Bugatti Queen.

The Bugatti Queen tore through the pages of history and onto my radar a few years back at the annual Goodwood Revival Festival. I’m a fan of antique cars and powerful engines, so it’s fitting that I met my girl there after striking up a casual conversation with a group of women standing around some pretty nice roadsters. This backdrop couldn’t have been more perfect.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda SeymourGoodwood is an annual three day festival held every September at the Goodwood Circuit Racetrack, 60 miles outside of London, England. The event celebrates the best of British vintage fashions from the 40’s through the 80’s. Luxury car makers like Maserati, DeLorean, Ferrari and Aston Martin flock there to test car engines and relive the glory days of antique car racing.

The 12,000 acre park welcomes over 150,000 people who come from around the world. They cheer celebrity car drivers like Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) and enjoy exciting air shows featuring old Lancaster and Spitfire bomber planes. Music shows and vintage markets are added attractions, and big ticket sponsors of the event attend the invitation-only charity dinner hosted by the Earl of March on Saturday night.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda SeymourWhen I arrive at the festival in my rented fawn-colored dress and head of curly hair decorated with oversized sunglasses, I’ve traveled back in time with the other attendees. Lord Freddie March, a proud patriot and car racing enthusiast, is the owner of Goodwood Estate and grandson of the Earl of March; he’s pictured opening the event. The Earl built the track in 1948 to showcase race cars and warplanes, flown by British and Canadian airmen using his property as a secret refueling station during WWII.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda Seymour

As I wander among the impressive rows of car paddocks, admiring the machinery and the costumed people walking by, I see three purring convertibles – a creamy Bonnie and Clyde looking roadster, a silver-blue speedster like the one from the first Bridget Jones movie and a rich, forest-green machine.  I fire questions at a beautiful, twenty-something redhead and another blonde dressed in a white, hourglass mechanic’s outfit.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda SeymourThere’s an entire pit crew of bond-esque women working the park and the racetrack. Some are dressed in pink and violet jumpsuits (see the photo further down) helping to stagger the cars for the start of the race. Others are in white or blue jumpsuits mingling with the attendees like me.

Thankfully the girl from the silver blue car agrees to pose for pictures as we discuss what it was like for women behind the wheel in the 20’s. At a time when many women raced to the altar for a Mrs., a groups of women around Europe were racing to the finish line in the French Grand Prix Women’s event.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda SeymourWomen of the 20’s were already pushing the boundaries of fashion and traditional rules in risqué flapper fashions, from low cut dresses and exposed knees, to rocking R&B tunes in smoky, dark speakeasies. New freedoms came as the Suffragette movement earned the vote for women in Britain, other parts of Europe and the United States; even though women in France couldn’t vote until 1944.

But the standout beauty I was enthralled with at Goodwood was a fantastic Bugatti car, and the story behind its driver was mind-blowing. After moving to Paris in her teens, Helene Delangle became Hellé Nice, an exotic dancer who worked in risqué dance halls like the Casino de Paris. These were the same kind of “establishments” where the famed American beauty, Josephine Baker, worked.

Hellé met wealthy club patrons, including the wealthy French car manufacturer Ettore Bugatti. He introduced her to life in the fast lane until she fell in a horrible ski accident. The injuries ruined her dance career but spawned a new one, when she traded her dance shoes for racing gloves. She jumped at Bugatti’s offer to drive his Type 35C racecar in five major Grand Prix races in France.  The photo below is a Bugatti Type 35C sold at Sotheby’s Auction in 2014 for $638,000.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda SeymourHellé soon discovered that the press loved her trail of blonde curls and her shameless bravado. She was given the nickname “Bugatti Queen” when newspapers reported stories of love affairs and a larger-than-life personality.

Just as Hellé was enjoying her success, she crashed her car  in 1936 on a Brazilian racetrack. Narrowly escaping death after her car somersaulted through the air and ejected her, she became even larger than life. The Brazilians idolized her when she woke from a three-day coma and left the hospital two months later.

With the onset of World War II, the racing scene slowed.  Hellé planned her comeback in a Monte Carlo Rally in 1949, but a fellow driver wrongly accused her of conspiring with the Nazis during WWII. The scandal ruined any chance at a return to racing and made her unemployable.

Eventually, Hellé was cleared of the charges but the damage was done. She had competed in more than seventy events and pioneered female race car driving. Sadly, she died forgotten and penniless. Yet, her fearless approach to life lives on in Miranda Seymour’s  book about Helle’s riveting life; The Bugatti Queen.

Sugar Queen, Queen B, Beyonce, Queen Latifah, Queen Victoria, Queen of the Nile, Queen of Diamonds, Queen of the Desert, Bugatti Queen, Goodwood Revival Festival, Goodwood, Lord March, Earl of March, Goodwood Estate, Lancaster, Spitfire, Bridget Jones, French Grand Prix Race, Helle Nice, Helene Delangle, Josephine Baker, Helle, Ettore Bugatti, Bugatti, Monte Carlo Rally, Miranda Seymour

As modern women continue to break conventional rules and expectations, Hellé confidence in a male dominated sport stands out. Sarah Edwards, featured in a WomanScape’s Queen of Diamonds article, reminded me of Hellé. They both exude a strength and conviction necessary for overcoming stereotypes. I wonder if Hellé’s career would have turned out differently had she been a man and no so outspoken and unconventional. Nothing can change Hellé’s French Grand Prix victory at the autodrome de Linas in 1929, and her courage can only inspire more women to race to their own finish lines with the same racer’s spirit.

San Clemente Island, women in asylums, Kempinski Palace Hotel, Venice, Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, Benito Mussolini, Ida Dasler, Italian dictator, Faschist regime, Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul, Trento, Rachele Guidi, Marco Bllocchio, Vincere, A Woman At Bay, Sibilla Aleramo, University of Toronto,

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of TorontoI tried to squeeze my camera lens between the barred windows of my hotel room, hoping to catch a morning shot of the glorious sunrise. The harbor and nearby rooftops were beautifully awash in gentle hues of soft pink and muted yellows. Unable to open the bolted glass panes, I fumbled with the aperture before the cloudy picture eventually dissipated.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of TorontoThis reminded me of scary TV shows that searched for a supernatural presence or tortured souls who lingered behind with unfinished business. Maybe it was my imagination, but the air felt cold and heavy despite the glossy hotel finishes and shiny gold plaques that numbered the hallway doors. Maybe the stories and women who had lived here decades ago were haunting me and refusing to be airbrushed so easily from history?

I don’t know, but during the mid-19th to late 20th century, thousands of women in Italy were housed in mental institutions, never to return to society because they suffered from conditions like postpartum depression, alcoholism, and dementia. The conditions were inhumane and photographs of abandoned hospitals like the one pictured below at Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra in Tuscany, Italy are disturbing. Women were locked away for any number of ailments or worse, for committing social transgressions like adultery.

San Clemente Island, women in asylums, Kempinski Palace Hotel, Venice, Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra, Benito Mussolini, Ida Dasler, Italian dictator, Faschist regime, Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia, Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul, Trento, Rachele Guidi, Marco Bllocchio, Vincere, A Woman At Bay, Sibilla Aleramo, University of Toronto,

Their lives were airbrushed from history because they lacked access to proper medical care  and had little social status, power or money. This eerie picture of the abandoned wheelchair and peeling walls are shocking reminders of the abuse in hospitals, where the population of patients grew by more than 30% under the reign of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship in Italy from 1922 to 1943.

I made this shattering discovery by chance, after my excited arrival at the Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia (train station) in Venice, Italy. After leaving the station, my husband and I boarded the Kempinski Hotel water taxi that would whisk us away to the beautiful island of San Clemente, about seven kilometers from Venice’s city center. The porter loading our bags onto the mahogany speedboat casually mentioned the hotel was once an insane asylum for women. As we sped off, I had no idea what to expect.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of Toronto

Having stayed at the Kempinski Palace in Istanbul, Turkey in 2012, I was excited to explore this five star resort but I have to be honest – this news shook my active imagination and sparked my googling fingers. I needed to know more about the island’s history. That’s when I discovered the shocking story of Ida Dalser. Incredibly, historians only unearthed Ida’s history in 2001 and her connection to Benito Mussolini, Italy’s Fascist dictator who rose to power in 1922.

During his reign, Mussolini reorganized and modernized many government sectors in Italy, with the exception of mental health hospitals. Prevailing laws in Italy linked mental illness to “social dangerousness” and Mussolini likely used these laws to his own personal advantage. Mussolini’s connection to Ida Dalser began in the Italian village of Trento, where she met a young Benito.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of TorontoHe was working as an political activist and she supported him with the earnings from her beauty salon. They soon married in Milan in 1914 or 1915, and Ida gave birth to a son less than a year later. When the couple separated shortly after, Mussolini went off to serve in the war. After he was injured and hospitalized, he directed his war pension to help support them. Things quickly deteriorated when Mussolini married Rachele Guidi, a nurse he had met while in hospital even though he was still married to Ida.

When Mussolini rose in the political ranks and was elected Prime Minister in 1922, he began to worry about Ida who voiced her opposition to his new marriage. Mussolini placed Ida and their son Benito under government surveillance, denying any relationship to them. Eventually, he tried to cover up his marriage by burning the town hall records in Milan, yet Ida persisted. She had kept a copy of their marriage license and pressured Mussolini, threatening to expose him as a traitor. She claimed he had accepted a bribe from the French government and favored Italy’s neutrality in the war.

Mussolini eventually had Ida arrested and exiled to a northern city in Italy, before she was moved to the asylum on San Clemente Island. In 1937, she died of a brain hemorrhage. Her son Benito remained under close surveillance, but continued to support his mother’s story after he learned of her death.  He too was sent to an asylum where he, at just 26 years of age, was murdered by a lethal injection.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of Toronto

Mussolini, like many politicians and powerful leaders, used these asylums as a convenient way to make women quietly disappear. Mussolini’s dark history in Italy, partnering with Adolph Hitler and dismantling democratic institutions, was further blackened by these personal crimes. Ironically, this sad story about Ida and her son was made into a movie, Vincere. Film director Marco Bellocchio debut his film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 but it was marred by news of Marco’s infidelities. Once again, Ida story seemed to be politically sabotaged.

After learning about the institutionalization of Italy’s women, I wondered if others like Ida dared to speak up. Were their voices joined in protest and, if so, how? The suffrage movement was starting fires and gradually helping women to win rights and the vote across Europe. Other real life femme fatales like Ida were garnering attention and spawning an underground movement in newspapers and journals. Together, their collective stories were making waves.

Sibilla Aleramo (pictured below) was one such woman. She caused a quiet storm when her autobiographical novel,  A Woman At Bay, shared her personal journey and raw emotional response to what she called her attempts at escaping the brutalizing existence of being a woman. In this novel, she showed how Italian law rendered women slaves to men.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of TorontoI downloaded a free English translation of Aleramo’s 1908 publication from the University of Toronto Press – one of my college alma maters. A copy of her original text Una Donna was translated in French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish, and Aleramo wrote under this pseudonym to protect her real name, Rena Faccio.  

I read Aleramo’s novel with great interest, learning about the difficulties of being a woman in Italy and the social expectations that made her feel powerless. Aleramo shows exceptional intelligence at a young age and a keen interest in science, but these are thwarted by prevailing social conventions. Aleramo teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown and details the moral stigmas society attaches to everything she says, wears, does or even thinks.  

Aleramo feels abandoned by her family and completely controlled and isolated by her husband. It’s so debilitating that she tries to kill herself, mirroring the actions of her mother. Aleramo scoffed at what she perceived to be one of her mother’s melodramatic attempts for attention, when she threw herself down a second story balcony. Only until she experiences the anguish of marriage and the unrelenting domination of a husband and society waiting to find fault with any misstep, does Aleramo identify with her mother. In a breakthrough moment, at the lowest depths of her despair, Aleramo suddenly realizes the possibility of escape through books and meditation.

She makes a conscious decision to focus her happiness on the freedom of thought and exercising her mind. She decides to build a better world by improving her son’s view of women. Aleramo finds solace in “a great collective force…(which is) the book of human life”. She exclaims, “To think, to use my mind!”  

Aleramo hopes the modern heart of a woman will find emancipation in the burgeoning women’s movement. She lived from 1876 to 1960 and became a “woman at bay”, withdrawing from her family and society until she made the difficult decision to separate from her husband. This was unheard of at the time and, as a result, she lost custody of her only child. However, she admits this type of self-imposed asylum helped her find happiness in philosophy and writing.  

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of TorontoTo look at the beautifully inviting San Clemente Island and the gorgeous Kempinski Palace, you might never suspect it had once been a hospital. Other than the long ceilings, curious windows and inexplicably long halls – we’re talking really long hallways – the history of its former existence seems to have been wiped clean from the internet. This article was a real connect-the-dots-approach to linking the hotel’s history to its former existence as a hospital.

The grounds are lush, the main dining room is one of the top restaurants in Venice and the staff and service are impeccable. I would definitely return to enjoy another vacation at the Kempinski Palace Hotel, and to lounge around the tranquil pool. The hotel is a convenient respite providing an easy commute to Venice’s main tourist sights.

The Kempinski hotel chain has conveniently restored remnants of its more saleable history – it was a 12th century monastery with beautiful Italian frescos and religious art – until the Fascist government repurposed it into a hospital.  But the legacy of Italian women like Ida will rest, albeit heavy, in my heart because they inspire us to call out social injustices. Ida paid a heavy price for others to better enjoy life and its freedoms, and Aleramo’s optimism and strength show us what’s possible in even the most desperate and isolated corners of the world.

 San Clemente Island women in asylums Kempinski Palace Hotel Venice Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra Benito Mussolini Ida Dasler Italian dictator Faschist regime Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Kempinski Hotel in Istanbul Trento Rachele Guidi Marco Bllocchio Vincere A Woman At Bay Sibilla Aleramo University of Toronto

A Cinderella Night in the Liechtenstein Palace

For one night in Vienna, I was a royal. During my Cinderella moment, I dined like a queen and caught an insider’s glimpse of royal life.

The dinner event was the culmination of a beautifully orchestrated business trip to Vienna, Austria. And, as I stepped from my pumpkin coach (it was actually a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van) humming the Royals song by Lorde (no lie), I tried to exude a kind of “I do this all the time” air. But stepping back in time and into the Liechtenstein Palace was anything but ordinary.

A Cinderella Night in the Liechtenstein Palace

The city of Vienna is exceptionally cool. I know a royal might not describe it this way but the city’s old world charm is magnetic, from its cobble-stoned streets to the many historic sights. Yet, Vienna is also a bustling and convenient European hub for travelers. Modern art museums, inventive cuisine, edgy fashion and a mix of architectural styles sit comfortably next to Baroque style buildings and churches; some erected on ancient Roman sites dating back to the 4th century. Even the famed Vienna Opera House has incorporated a modern flair, as people are invited to sit on benches outside of the theater to watch live performances for free. Culture is accessible and flashes of fanciful nouveau art like giant, brightly-painted modern sculptures, remind people that art is a living form.

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

After a week touring some of Vienna’s most beautiful sights, I saw grotto’s from the middle ages and tasted 12th century wines. I felt the sun on my face as we cruised the dreamy Danube River (photo above from the cruise). I studied the royal lives and storied past of the Hofburg and Schoenbrunn Palaces. These winter and summer palaces are grand glimpses into the dynastic lifestyles of the rich and the royal, inhabited for more than three centuries. But dressing in a long evening gown and experiencing the luxuries of life as a royal, felt entirely different than I expected. Here’s why.

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein, Two smiling gentlemen waved us into the Liechtenstein Palace, directing us towards the elegant gold-and-red-trimmed runner to the right of the magnificent stone archway. My eyelids fluttered under the weight of overly zealous clumps of mascara and the brilliant white light bouncing off the marble steps and glacier white Rococo sculptures. The newly renovated palace gleamed under its stucco ceilings giving the entire entrance and hallways a heavenly glow.

As we climbed the grand stairway to the second floor landing, I spied a massive gold and crystal chandelier in the room ahead. Without time to refuse, and not that I would have, a crisp glass of bubbly was thrust into my hand and someone said, “You better get ready for this Rose. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein, So forget Viennese coffee, fluffy, cream-filled pastries drowning in vanilla sauce and the Edelweiss song.

The trumpets sounded and the clouds parted as if Johann Strauss himself was welcoming me into one of the most beautiful ballrooms I have ever seen. But before I can pick my slack jaw off the floor, I do a North American quickstep, catching my heel on the bottom of my dress.

Thankfully, I stopped short of falling onto the waiter who, moments before, had handed me the delightful glass of champagne. I hoped to avoid another Bridget Jones moment as I took in the gold gilded walls and ceiling, and the giant cherubs with a more balanced eye.

A few things about Liechtenstein help explain the detailed wall decor and gold and crystal accents. Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest state in Europe and the sixth smallest country in the world, yet His Serene Highness Prince Hans Adam II (the current ruler of Liechtenstein) is the wealthiest monarch in Europe. With a nest egg of 5 billion dollars, Liechtenstein is only second in wealth to Monaco and boasts hundreds of millionaires. Prince Hans Adam himself has one of the world’s finest art collections, some of which are housed in the Liechtenstein Palace!

Nestled in the centre of the Alps and situated between Switzerland and Austria, Prince Hans Adam rules as a Monarch on a hereditary throne. The Liechtenstein economy is based on Swiss currency and the country is a tax haven that attracts more businesses than there are people. There are many unique things about Liechtenstein (like the railway track cutting across the land despite no any actual train system) but the strangest was that women could not vote until 1984.

This irony is not lost as the interior design of the Palace is considered to be quite feminine. The Rococo era followed the Baroque style, and is known for its feminine curves and intricate designs.

When you look up at the walls and ballroom entryway – from the golden chandeliers to the fanciful crystal accents – the “frivolous detail” is arresting. It’s interesting that designers call these architectural lines feminine as well as frivolous. The shapes actually come from nature, like puffy clouds and sea shells.

I don’t know what Princess Marie, Hans Adam’s wife, thinks of them or the “frivolous” design label. I do know that she was born in Prague, to the daughter of a Count and a Countess. She was a graphic artist before she married, and the royal family that includes four children still maintain family quarters in the Palace. To learn more about the architecture or to book a tour at the Palace, visit: https://www.palaisliechtenstein.com/en/home.html

As you can see from the beautiful details in the stunning professional pictures* throughout the article, it would be easy to get used to the royal treatment and the appetizers before dinner. The presentation of the food and attention to detail was breathtaking. The table settling cutlery, florals, and presentation of the plated food was spectacular. The ultimate was the main entree of asparagus, beef and a potato type grit. With orchestral music playing in the background, the wait staff walked into the dining room and timed the sequence of lifting huge silver domed tops off the warmed plates. It was completely grand!

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

As I relaxed into the small group setting and the tour of the castle apartments before dinner, our guide explained that important Viennese art from the Neo-classic and Biedermeier eras existed throughout the palace. Old masters like Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt weren’t available for us to see, of course, but the new style of art and architecture changed the mood in Vienna during the 19th century.

Industrialism and a growing appreciation of art by the middle class shaped the emerging German style of furniture-making that was more simplified. The more decorative French designs and interiors found in the summer and winter palaces were replaced in the Liechtenstein Palace by reliable, local woods and a more romantic style that would go on to influence the art deco period.

It’s virtually impossible to equate this so-called simplified interior design to our modern-day German furniture. Today’s sleek styles can be seen around the globe, with some even featured in WomanScape’s article about Grace Farms and the Japanese architecture. When the room filled with the sound of music ( an appropo choice of words to describe Viennese song), it brought the Cinderella feeling to life.

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

The small group of string musicians who played throughout dinner, disappeared for a few moments while a tantalizing dessert of fresh sorbet, berries, and pastry-like cheesecake, replete with an edible floral sprig, was served. Before anyone got up from the table, a sudden burst of quick paced, upbeat music rang out. Four elegantly-costumed couples took to the floor in swirling motions, twirling around our long table of seated guests.

They performed a series of traditional Viennese dances that included a waltz, tango, foxtrot and quickstep. Having raised daughters who Irish danced, I learned a little about the various genres of traditional dances. The footwork in a Viennese waltz includes a sort of three step rhythm that follows a simple box step; see http://www.wikihow.com/Dance-the-Waltz for additional information.

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,
Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

I don’t know that I’ll ever get the chance to relive this kind of dreamy experience. Living like a royal certainly isn’t a Viennese Waltz every night, but every time I hear the music of Johann Strauss – Austria’s undisputed Waltz King and most famous composer – I’ll remember my Cinderella time and the unique travels that filled my adventure with song and dance.

Thanks to Tomas Hercog for allowing me to use his amazing professional photographs, including the last one below; it captures the excitement of my husband and I as the night kicks off. I encourage readers to check out Tomas’ photography and video collection at: http://www.tomashercog.com For now, Gute Nacht, Wien!

And to learn more about Liechtenstein, visit https://tourismus.li/en/our-country/about-liechtenstein/

Vienna, Liechtenstein Palace, Austria, His Serence Highness Prince Hans Adam, Princess Marie of Liechtenstein, Rococo, Baroque, Danube River, Blue Danube, Royals, Lorde, Vienna Opera House, Schoenbrunn Palace, Hofburg Palace, Viennese coffe, Edelweiss, Johann Strauss, Swiss Alps, Austria, feminine, frivolous, #Princelymatters, Rubens, Rembrandt, Beidermeier furniture, neo-classic furniture, German furniture, art deco style, Grace Farms, WomanScape, Cinderella, Viennese waltz, King of Waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Tomas Hercog, Gute Nacht, Wein,

Venice, Italy, gondola, gondolier, floating city, 1600's, Giacomo Casanova, aristocracy, pimp my ride, seahorse, curley tail, ferro, stern, bow, Grand Canal, Venezia, sestieri, teeth, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Gondolier Guild, Giorgia Boscolo, female gondolier, symbol of Venice, tradition of Venice

I recently visited Italy for the first time, hoping to experience the romance of Venice’s gondolas.  

I have always dreamed of visiting Venice, as it seemed to be such an amorous, magical place in books and travel articles. Friends have raved about it so I was actually afraid to be disappointed.  

Venice, Italy, gondola, gondolier, floating city, 1600's, Giacomo Casanova, aristocracy, pimp my ride, seahorse, curley tail, ferro, stern, bow, Grand Canal, Venezia, sestieri, teeth, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Gondolier Guild, Giorgia Boscolo, female gondolier, symbol of Venice, tradition of VeniceThis fear subsided the moment my dream materialized. Venice is the epitome of old world charm and beautiful architecture. There are no words to adequately  describe this unique place.  It’s easy to get lost in the quaint shopfronts and unique bridges and canals that give visitors  the sensation of walking through medieval times. All of the grace and beauty of historic Venice are embodied in the traditions of the gondola.  

Maybe this sounds hokey but you haven’t experienced Venice unless you’ve taken a Gondola ride. And yes, it’s pricey. But you will forever cherish the memory of cruising through time in this storied city.  Just ask my husband, who believes he is the Casanova of romance, even though he insisted on negotiating price with our gondolier before we could enjoy a glorious sunset cruise. He thought why not save a few bucks to shower me with other baubles of love? Okay, maybe this is not a bad idea.

Venice, Italy, gondola, gondolier, floating city, 1600's, Giacomo Casanova, aristocracy, pimp my ride, seahorse, curley tail, ferro, stern, bow, Grand Canal, Venezia, sestieri, teeth, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Gondolier Guild, Giorgia Boscolo, female gondolier, symbol of Venice, tradition of VeniceMost people don’t realize that gondola prices are set by the city government, with 2017 rates ranging from $80 Euros for a midday cruise (which lasts about 30 minutes), to  $100 Euros at for a sunset ride. Budget- conscious tourists can always share  a gondola ride with  fellow travelers if a couple’s ride is too expensive, and enjoy some added merriment with new found friends!

I recommend chatting with your gondolier before sealing the deal.  If you want a tour guide and ride in one, ask if what he can do for you.  If it  doesn’t feel right, talk to another gondolier before stepping into the boat.  Once you’ve agreed to the  terms,  sit back with your companion, enjoy the lovely upholstered love-seat and bask  in the gorgeous views of Venice from the canal!

It’s always nice to know a little history about a place when you visit, even though many people realize  Venice is a floating city.

Gondolas came into use when horses were banned during the 14th century. The aristocracy adopted the gondola as the primary mode of transportation, traveling by the 1600’s in personal gondolas decorated in bright colors, custom cabins and elaborate fittings.  It functioned as a personal sports car for the wealthy who flaunted their vessels like a bad “Pimp My Ride” reality television episode!  

In fact, the real Casanova – Giacomo Casanova – earned his reputation as a great lover and “seduced women by gondola”. He installed an enclosed  cabin  on the top of his gondola so he was free to ravish his female guests undetected from public view!  Eventually, gondolas were so encumbered by excessive, weighty flourishes that the government banned all ornamentation to minimize ostentatiousness, and preserve the gondolas’ seaworthiness.  

This explains today’s simple, black gondola style, with only three flourishes:  a pair of seahorses, a curly tail and a multi-pronged ferro or prow.  These are the only metal parts of the gondola and they are steeped in symbolism.  The  decorative seahorses on either side of the gondola are a symbol of protection.  These hippocampus were named from the Greek word “hippo”, meaning horse or seahorse, and represented the horses of Poseidon’s chariot in ancient mythology.  The curly tail on the stern adds balance to the heavier prow at the bow of the gondola. You can see the elaborate details in the gondolas pictured below

The iron prow head of the gondola is called the ferro.  It provides counterbalance to the weight of the gondolier at the stern.  It is in the shape of a large “S” which is symbolic of the many twists of the Grand Canal.  The top of the ferro has a comb like structure with six “teeth”.  

Venice, Italy, gondola, gondolier, floating city, 1600's, Giacomo Casanova, aristocracy, pimp my ride, seahorse, curley tail, ferro, stern, bow, Grand Canal, Venezia, sestieri, teeth, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Gondolier Guild, Giorgia Boscolo, female gondolier, symbol of Venice, tradition of VeniceThese teeth represent the six districts or sestieri of Venice.  The curved top is in homage to the Rialto Bridge, one of the most famous bridges in Venice.  Some ferro feature three friezes in between the teeth to recognize the three islands, Murano, Burano and Torcello.

Back in the 1600’s, there were an estimated 10,000 gondolas!  

Unimaginable, given the boat traffic on my recent visit.  Today, there are about 400 gondolas that cater to the many tourists who visit Venezia.  Today’s boats are typically about 35 feet long and 5 feet wide, with the traditional six coats of black lacquer paint and customary metal decoration.  You can see from this “gondola repair shop” pictured below that gondola are fitted with very personal touches, from their unique upholstered seating to their decorative trim. Gondoliers maintain their vessels, traveling at about 3 miles per hour. It’s the same pace as someone walking on land but walking on water is obviously not an option!

Commandeering a gondola is one oldest professions in the world.  It is still a very closed profession and controlled by the Gondolier Guild; which has been in existence for 1,000 years and is strictly controlled.  A gondolier can pass his license down from father to son or any male  member of the family.

So who can be a gondolier? The average salary of a gondolier is around $150,000 US. but it’s “who you know” matters.  An aspiring gondolier, must find an experienced, licensed gondolier to act as his mentor, and attend 400 hours of instruction.  Upon completing said instruction, he must pass a comprehensive exam that includes knowledge of: the physical operation of the gondola, navigation, foreign  languages and Venice’s unique sights, culture and history!

What if you’re a woman and want to break into this  all male profession?

In 2010, Giorgia Boscolo became the first female gondolier!  She completed the rigorous training and exams, becoming  the first female gondolier.  The Gondolier Guild expressed reservations about granting her license and even her father admitted that he didn’t know if it was a suitable profession for a woman.  That said, Giorgia is only allowed to operate a gondola as a stand-in for a male gondolier and she remains the only licensed female gondolier ever.  

Venice, Italy, gondola, gondolier, floating city, 1600's, Giacomo Casanova, aristocracy, pimp my ride, seahorse, curley tail, ferro, stern, bow, Grand Canal, Venezia, sestieri, teeth, Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Gondolier Guild, Giorgia Boscolo, female gondolier, symbol of Venice, tradition of Venice

It’s impossible to know Venice without discovering its wonders by gondola.  There is no other place in the world that offers the same experience or perspective. Whether you glide through quiet, romantic alleyways or jostle for space in the traffic of the Grand Canal, the gondola tradition is the most storied tradition and universal symbol of Venice.

Article & Photos by Denise Benson

What makes more than 32 million people in the U.S. and fans around the world crazy over HBO’s record-breaking series, Game of Thrones?

Maybe it’s our love of fantasy? Even though we know creator R.R. Martin’s storylines are make-believe, they feel as real as the locations – Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Spain and Northern Ireland – where they were filmed. Or maybe we identify with the warring personalities of the Seven Kingdoms and the dominant women vying for power in unpredictable battle scenes and plot-driven entertainment that’s as richly complex as our own history of civilization? Whatever it is, Damien Hirst’s popular Arte Biennale show in Venice, Italy entitled, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable,” provides a timely example of how treasured art meets storied women warriors that merge our love of fantasy, history and entertainment.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow,

Visitors to the Hirst exhibit move beyond the romantic waterways of Venice’s Grand Canal and into the underwater world of buried treasure. The 53,000 square foot gallery space sets the tone, with an entryway display of three spectacularly large pieces: a massive stone Mayan calendar, a large photograph of deep sea divers excavating artifacts from the bottom of the Indian Ocean, and a large bronze female diver statue covered in colorful coral and oceanic crustaceans. The calendar seems out of place but suggests visitors are traveling back in time, before the sunken treasures from Apistos, a Roman ship, were discovered in 2008 off the coast of Africa.

The buried treasure from 2,000 years ago is presented as a collection of fabled treasures from the legend of Cif Amotan II, a freed slave from Antioch. He amassed incredible wealth around the first century AD and constructed large installations in Alexandria that were transported down the Nile River. The plan was to assemble them at Myos Hormos, a temple museum. But the ship sunk before it reached land.

As visitors walk through gallery halls and stroll two levels of interesting artifacts hidden in every corner, they learn about the process Hirst used to create his unique artwork. Big cast moldings made from the recovered pieces were painstakingly replicated with the use of molds transformed into fantastical works of art over a ten-year period. Each area displays a variety of artifacts from glass showcases of coins, jewelry, bowls, and masks, to larger scale treasures. Detailed descriptions provide information about their origin and historical significance.

Hirst’s creative artwork can be seen online in various reviews and video sites like YouTube, where critics debate its authenticity and artistic integrity. By the end of the tour, it’s difficult to know what is real and what has been carefully reinvented to look like an historic piece.

But critics miss the point. Hirst’s exhibit is meant to be a combination of real and invented art that pays homage to important works as well as our imagination.

What follows is a description of some of his larger installations that focus on women warriors. They offer the perfect parallel to the powerful women in Game of Thrones while also providing a provocative discussion of their history.

The first of five sculptures is The Diver at the exhibit entrance. She is a fifteen-foot statue, standing at the bow of gallery; the gallery floor plan is designed to resemble the shape of a ship. Seeing The Diver immediately reminded us of the same defiant posture we see in Queen Daenerys I Targaryen. At the end of season six, Daenerys stands regally on the deck of her navy’s flagship in this Businessinsider.com photo, charging into war with her new naval fleet while dragons circle overhead.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow,The Diver also looks like Cersei Lannister as she proclaims herself Queen of Kings Landing after the death of her son, Tommen.  Cersei stands with a cache of swords behind her, merciless and ready to employ any violent means for harnessing power.

Three large sculpture further into the gallery denote more obvious warrior women images. The  animalistic qualities of women are seen in the Warrior and the Bear, the Lion Women of Asit Mayor, and the Sphinx. The wild looking woman sitting on top of the bear represents the ancient Greek ritual, arkteia.  Arkteia pays homage to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt who was admired for her animalistic qualities. When Athenians slayed a bear as a sacrifice to Artemis, the city’s girls would imitate she-bears by dancing and celebrating their own female ferocity.

This type of dance is also a popular ancient tradition in the Near East, where women were considered divine guards for religious temples. Their protective, semi-god like qualities, are embodied in the sculpture which shows them taming predatory lions. The other animal-like sculpture is the Sphinx, dating back to the Egyptian period. A half-woman, half-animal creature guards the entrance of religious sites like the pyramids.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow,  

But one of the most interesting sculptures and photographs in the show depicts the mythological figures of Hydra and Kali. A massive photograph of the two Greek figures appears at the beginning of the exhibit, as if they are doing battle. Hydra was a seven-headed snake-like beast and Hercules’s most terrifying and immortal opponent. Every time one of her heads was cut off in battle, a new head grew back making defeat seem impossible.

Daenerys’ mythological dragons in the Game of Thrones have the same qualities: they are all powerful and destroy Khalessi Daenerys enemies on command. The mythical figure of Kali, aka the goddess of destruction, eventually defeats Hydra and seems to have much in common with Khalessi.  Khaleesi is the Mother of Dragons and fans will remember the scene in season four when she is trapped in a burning fire with the Dothraki overlords. The men perish but Khaleesi walks away from the pire, immune from its purge and seemingly immortal.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow,

Daenerys has become the leading contender to recapture the throne of the Seven Kingdoms. She aggressively takes matters into her own hands, wielding weapons of revenge and outmaneuvering her opponents. Both daughters from the House of Stark, Sansa and Arya, show similar strength as they focus on avenging the deaths of family members and looming threats. Arya wields a sword throughout her journey, having left a more skilled and nimble warrior after her stay with the Faceless Man. As she heads for home, Sansa is no longer the victim. She demonstrates strategic foresight sending Littlefinger to the Battle of the Bastards, in time to save Jon Snow and to demonstrate her determination to take back Winterfell.

See the before photo below, showing Hirst’s mold of Kali, the goddess of destruction, and what she looks like after she’s embellished with Hirst’s cretaceous sea life.

   

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow, The final sculptural art piece from Hirst’s show that communicates the warrior woman theme is the Woman Archer piece.  Ygritte, the fallen love of Jon Snow killed in the battle for Castle Black (and pictured in the BusinessInsiders.com photo at the end of the article) exemplifies the role of women archers in medieval battlefields, as do the sword-wielding Yara Greyjoy and Brienne.

As we tune into season seven, we escape ordinary life to see if Daenerys Targaryen will rule Westeros with her dragons, if Sansa Stark or Yara Greyjoy will become Queen of the Iron Throne, and who will win out in the battle between Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister in the looming battle for Queen of Westeros.  Artists creating stories of fantasy provide entertainment often rooted in historical significance.

An earlier WomanScape article that mentions the fantasy character of Katniss and her bow and arrow quest to save her nation of Panem did more than entertain us.  It showed us the treasures of our imagination and the daring possibilities of art. So even if storytelling is other-worldly and does not ring historically true, as many critics claim Damien Hirst’s exhibit doesn’t, it’s worth the provocative stimulus and discussion that ensues when millions of people can enjoy it.

HBO, Game of Thrones, Malta, Morocco, Croatia, Iceland, Northern Ireland, Arte Biennale, Damien Hirst, The Treasure of the Wreck of the Unbelieveable, Spain, Venice, Italy, fantasy, sci-fi, R.R. Martin, Mayan calendar, legend of Cif Amotan II, Antioch, Nile River, Myos Hormos, Queen Daenerys I Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Kings Landing, Warrior and the Bear, Lion Women of Asit Mayor,Sphinx, arkteia, Artemis, Kali, Khalessi, Hydra, Mother of Dragons, Yara Greyjoy, Queen of Westeros, Jon Snow,

 

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

Decorating trends and interior designs come and go, but silk is a timeless classic.

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

When Felicia Gimza, a great friend and award-winning interior designer from The Expert Touch, suggested a silk carpet to complete my newly decorated Toronto condo, I assumed we’d find a traditional silk rug. But I never imagined our search would introduce me to India’s women weavers and their one-of-a-kind Silk Road carpets that combine modern artistry with vintage silk scarves.

You may remember Felicia from an earlier WomanScape article about Grace Farms and Architectural Design. We’ve been friends for over twenty years and she knows I prefer traditional design – aka elegant, comfortable furniture with clean lines that stretch across many centuries of style. Color choices are typically simple, and the overall décor appeals to a broad audience.

It was love at first sight when I saw this carpet of my dreams. Felicia worked behind the scenes with Linda Payton, a design specialist at ELTE Furniture in Toronto, to pull some samples together when I met this magic carpet one rainy afternoon. I learned that having a good working relationship with local design specialists is critical when it comes to customer service. Felicia shared photos of my furniture with Linda and a colorful inspiration, a painting by Toronto artist Pietro Adamo.

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From ScarvesIndia's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

As we flipped through a pile (pun intended) of carefully curated rug options, Linda explained buying considerations like size, type and quality of the thread knotting, fabrication process used, and other factors that affect the price and history of the carpet. And that’s when I saw it – the pattern drew me into its mystical swoops of bright hot pinks, soft blues, and earthy greens. The unusual color combinations tugged at my heart like an old friend’s embrace bathing me in happiness. It may sound crazy, but I knew right away that this carpet was special. It pulled me in the same way a great painting pulls you into the whispering’s of an artist’s mind.

I’ve been lucky in love and marriage, and turns out I also have an eye for beautifully crafted carpets too. My new carpet is reinvented silk scarves and the story behind their production is just as captivating as the silken jewels. Linda graciously shared the story of ELTE’s collaborative production process by providing me with a copy of the details in House and Home, April 2017 issue.

The New Silk Road

In “The Silk Road: An Essential Part of India’s Social Fabric,” writer Wendy Jacob describes the collaborative process between ELTE’s Toronto buyer and general manager, Jamie Metrick, and third generation Indian rug makers who created ELTE’s Silk Orchid collection. The name is fitting and underscores the labor-intensive process used to create these exotic carpets. Silk threads from vintage saris are sourced, deconstructed and pooled into like colors. At this point, the silk is respun and may be dyed again before it’s rewoven by hand to create a new rug.  Traditional Turkish or Persian knotting techniques are used but the artful process isn’t finished. The rugs are laid out in the sun, sometimes for days, before they are washed and bleached in the sun, only for the process of washing and bleaching to repeat again.

Two things struck me when I read Wendy’s beautiful article about ELTE’s rugs. I loved the intensity of the manufacturing process, and I marveled at the new opportunities for women prompted by the increased western demand for the Silk Road. Captivating photos of charkhas (spinning wheels used to turn the sari threads into yarn) and Indian women creating design templates with laser tracing papers revealed India’s industrious women. The numbers in my 8’x10’ rug were mind boggling – more than 100 silk saris grouped, unraveled and respun into new rugs over 8-10 weeks. The washing process happens 3-6 times to bleach them in the sun and one rug takes 10 months to a year to complete.

You’ll have to subscribe to House and Home to read Wendy’s entire article, but this video link to Jamie Metrick and the Silk Orchid manufacturing process in India really captures the energy and spirit behind ELTE’s unique, old world meets new world, carpets. See:  https://houseandhome.com/video/sari-silk-rugs/#tab-b

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From ScarvesThe second point concerning the industry of India’s women was this re-imagined Silk Road. Silk was originally an ancient Chinese textile; a discovery that harnessed the protein fiber of silkworms as they built cocoons. The process of making silk dates originated in 2700 B.C., and was used by the imperial court for cloth, drapes, and other royal products. It quickly became an export and diplomatic gift, spurring the development of expanded trade routes from Europe to the Far East. Hence, the trade routes namesake, the Silk Road.

Today, silk is a luxury good in India and according to Wikipedia, 97% of raw Indian silk is produced in five Indian states: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Jammu, and Kashmir. It makes sense that the weaving industries in India developed around royal residences and holy temples, and now account for about 85% of the world’s silk production.

A recent resurgence in silk demand fueled by companies like ELTE is good news for India’s women living in a country where poverty levels affect 22% of the population. India’s poverty profile, according to the World Bank, estimates that more than 270 million people – 80% of whom live in rural areas – live below the poverty line and make less than $1.25 a day. Increased demand for silk production can translate into lower poverty rates if fair trade business practices  exist; especially since silk production is the second largest industry in India after agriculture.

Preserving the Artistry of Handlooms

On a personal level, I’m also thrilled that my rug supports the artistry of women who use traditional hand-looms. Indian women complain about the difficulties and dangers of power-looms, where flying parts can cause life-threatening injuries. Power-looms are also more expensive for the poor because they can’t afford to spend more on electricity. When mechanical repairs are needed, the process is expensive and slow. This increases the vulnerability of women, who live in rural areas where their livelihood depends on silk weaving. With few employment options, their weaving skills are also an important vital link for keeping the ancient tradition and quality of hand-loom products alive.

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

These issues never occurred to me when I visited Mumbai several years ago. I purchased beautiful scarves at low prices in outdoor market areas. Signs of poverty were everywhere but blurred in the abundance of bright colored sights, frenetic traffic and pungent smells.  How many of us think about the source of our products we buy, and whether fair business practices were used?

India's Silk Road At Your Feet: Vintage Carpets From Scarves

In 2004, the WomenWeave.org project was created to help women in India become less vulnerable to industry changes. The organization helps women dependent on jobs that use traditional hand-looms, by connecting them to potential customers and businesses. Additional skills training and design assistance is also offered, to increase profitability and create more sustainable businesses.

Every time my bare feet enjoy the luxurious feel of my beautiful handloom rug, I’ll think of the women and the scarves underfoot. I’ll treasure my friendship with Felicia and continue to celebrate her creative skills and impeccable design talent.  I’ll also remain ever grateful to my new friend Linda Payton, who generously provided information about her company’s Silk Orchid rugs. Most of all, I’ll cherish my connection to the women of India. Their artistry and future rests in the hands of global businesses and consumers like me.

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