30 March, 2010

Hotel Margherita Prainao

When traveling, I usually couch-surf, stay with friends or at a hostel but, I do occasionally stay at hotels. After being accustomed to the general cramped quarters and chaos (which I love!) that ensues from co-habitation, it is a real treat to stay in a hotel where even the smallest things, such as a complimentary toiletries, in-unit hairdryer, bathrobe, fluffy pillows and soft sheets, seem like a luxury. Because I love sharing my travel finds with others (and mostly because I like reminiscing), I will do a series of posts on my favorite hotels in Europe. Here is the first, and quite possibly, my absolute favorite.

Hotel Margherita Praiano
Via Umberto I 70 - 84010
Praiano, Salerno Italy

About a year ago, while browsing random travel websites as I usually do, I stumbled upon a small town on the Amalfi coast, Positano. I was instantly enamored with what seemed to be (and indeed was) a slice of heaven. One night, I showed my cousin photos of the town. Absolutely spell-bound, we stumbled upon a picture of this hotel and knew we had to stay there.

"Margherita, beautiful and elegant daughter of Praiano's town doctor, marries Giuseppe and moves to the United States. But the longing for home transforms her nostalgia into a desire: to go back and offer hospitality in the charming setting of the Amalfi Coast...Giuseppe's dream is to restore the family home of Praiano, built along an Aragonese watchtower, to turn it into a hotel. Today it is Suela, daughter of Giuseppe and Margherita, and her husband Andrea Ferraioli who...continue the works undertaken by Giuseppe....The care for guests remains the same as that of Margherita, extremely careful in the kitchen in order not to betray history and the spirit that has kept her dream alive"

A few moths later, we were in Italy. After a perilous drive through the twists and turns of the Amalfi coastline, we dragged our suitcases out of the car, took a look at the sun-drenched, white-washed facade of Hotel Margherita, the bougeanvilla crawling up the parking terrace and the stunning turquoise water just within our reach and knew, we were in Paradise.

The hotel itself is in Praiano, a neighboring town. But it is only a short bus ride away from Positano and the owner, Andrea, and his family never hesitated to personally drive us to town and pick us up later in the evening. Our room was small, but well decorated, clean and charming. We had a private terrace built right into the garden filled with lemon trees, and there is also a pool and deck with magnificent views. Breakfast is served in the morning, and we indulged in the succulent fresh fruit, various pastries, yogurt and croissants. Would our stay in Positano have been wonderful even if we hadn't stayed at Hotel Margherita? Yes, without a doubt. But to us, staying in a town, and in a hotel, that had previously only been accessible on our dimly lit computer screens at work, was a fairytale come true.
I am counting the days until my return...

28 March, 2010

Gone, Like Yesterday Is Gone

Having lived over seventy exceptional years, my grandfather had two milestones he always said he was living for: my college graduation and, my wedding. These symbolized the things he valued the most in life – a good education and, family. Though he lived thousands of miles away, he was my number one champion in school and in life. When I visited, we would sit on the couch together, him hugging me fiercely, tears streaming down his face, promising he would live to see me graduate and to dance at my wedding. I was his first and, favorite, grandchild. When I was younger, I would squirm uncomfortably while he told me all that he wanted for me in life. I shied away from his emotional talks, preferring his playful side, when he told me secrets about my dad’s childhood or, stories from his days as a doctor.

As I grew older and realized that he would not be around forever, I treasured his talks, encouraged that he had goals which he lived for, that he was so determined to be at my wedding meant he would be around for years to come. The night before I left Armenia last, five years ago, I stopped at the church near my grandparent’s house. As I lit a candle near the altar, I wished to come back in a year to see my grandfather. I didn’t come back the next year, or the year after that. In fact, this summer will be the first time I go back. This time, my grandfather will not be there.

Two years ago, today, I browsed through a chintzy souvenir shop in Montreal. Struggling to balance all the accumulated plastic trinkets in one hand, I answered my ringing phone – my mother, calling to check up on me; and to tell me my grandfather had died. I cried then but, by the time I walked out of the shop, dazed, my tears had dried and it would be almost two years before I would cry for him again. Perhaps because he was so far, or because I was used to not seeing him for years, I didn’t truly feel that he was gone.

Then, almost six months ago, I started a relationship with a man I will spend forever with. He is everything my grandfather wished for me. Now, I find myself thinking of my grandfather always. Tears well up at the most inopportune times –at work, at dinner, while watching a movie. I think of him and, suddenly, I miss him so much it hurts. As I plan my future with the love of my life, I am brought face to face with the fact that my grandfather will not dance at my wedding, that he will not even meet the man whom he dreamt of for years. The happiest discovery of my life has allowed me to grieve the saddest loss.

I am going back to Armenia in June. I don’t know how I will face the reality of it all – his grave, a missing presence in my grandmother’s apartment. I still can’t quite grasp that he is gone. But, his life and death serve as constant affirmations that, as cliched as it is true, life is short and, a life well lived is measured not in the number of breaths we take but rather, in the moments that take our breath away.

17 March, 2010

Notes from the Universe

The slate's been wiped clean, the past has released its grip, and before you sparkles eternity, yearning for direction. All that lies between you and the life of your dreams is just one teeny, tiny, gentle, little rule. Only one condition, prerequisite, principle that matters.

It's not fate, or luck, or karma. It's not complicated or esoteric, and you needn't sacrifice, plead, or pray to invoke it. It's the only rule that's ever existed, and it's the only one that will ever exist. No reality can exist in its absence. It's your purpose to discover it, and it's your destiny to master it. It's the beginning, the middle, and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. The be-all and end-all of every wish, desire, and dream, and you are its keeper.

This caveat of all caveats is that absolutely nothing can be anything until it is first imagined. Thoughts become things, nothing else does. And so, it's the thoughts you choose from here on out that will become the things and events of your life, forevermore. It is written in stone. There's no other way. It's your ticket to anywhere you can dream of. Your passport to abundance, health, and friendships. The key to the palace of your wildest dreams.

Your thoughts, and your thoughts alone, will set you in motion. Your thoughts will yield the inspiration, creativity, and determination you need. Your thoughts will orchestrate the magic and inspire the Universe. Your thoughts will carry you to the finish line if you just keep thinking them. Never give up. Never waiver, doubt, or ask.

Aim high.

You are so close. So extraordinarily close. The hardest work has been done. The wars have already been waged. The lessons have already been learned. The journey, now, is for home.

08 March, 2010

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

"I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me.

Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls. "

02 March, 2010

Paris Cannot Compete

I've always been a wanderer. Before the age of ten, I had already lived in four different countries and grew up not truly feeling at home anywhere - a gypsy. A few years ago, when I was fluctuating between moving back to Montreal, or heading to Europe, my dad sat me down and told me: you will not feel at home anywhere until you find your soulmate. You will constantly feel restless. When you do find that person, it will not matter where you are, as long as you are together. I laughed and brushed his comment away. You don't know me, Dad.

Blessed, or perhaps, cursed, with an intense wanderlust, I have traveled with a fever that could not be quenched. And though I may say that I loved discovering new cultures, or meeting new people, the truth is, I traveled to find love. Though I never quite found love itself, the possibility, that vague promise that Prince Charming was just around a cobblestone street, tempted me. I was seduced-- in a cozy Parisian cafe, in a crowded Spanish club, at a train station in Sorrento –each encounter, each brief intermingling, each new night spent strolling along cafĂ© ligned streets or, sitting along the banks of the Seine, was love, just waiting to happen. As I became an adult, my obsession with travel and, with Paris in particular, became synonymous with my future. I am destined to Paris, my soul belongs there, I thought.

Then, fate had her way and, I fell in love with the perfect man who had been waiting all along for me, here in the city I had long ago abandoned for daydreams of Paris and life abroad.

I still feel like a stranger in this city, and am still possessed with an intense and inextinguishable wanderlust. I don't know where I will settle down, where my career or travels will lead me but, as a wise man once said, what lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

When I rest my head on his shoulder and his arms envelope me in a deep embrace, my soul feels, finally, at home.