Browse Day

June 3, 2017

How I Got My First Oscar

Hollywood, California —  I’m holding my first Oscar and I’m uncharacteristically speechless. The little gold man is heavier than he looks, but part of that sensation may be the short wire that secures him to the podium.  I smile radiantly, my partner Rick snaps two photos and I replace the statuette, ready for the next person in line to take his turn.

It’s pre-Academy Award week in Hollywood and the town is buzzing with construction crews and security guards.  I’ve already tripped over Jay Leno and Sly Stallone, or at least their stars, on the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Blvd.

Now I’m trying to reach Mann’s Chinese Theatre to gawk at celebrity handprints, footprints and autographs captured in the cement courtyard.  Traffic cones, fencing and temporary metal bleachers block the sidewalk.  We lean over the railing to see Kevin Spacey’s star buried under a thick coil of electrical cables and a crushed Starbucks coffee cup.

Mike, a tall, gregarious writer/editor is making a few extra bucks as an Oscar security guard.  We tell him we’re visiting from Toronto, and he dishes some L.A.  observations with a smile. Work here is unpredictable and changeable.  Strikes are a common occurrence. Everyone is very insecure. And yet even unknown actors can earn over $750 a day, plus residuals. Mike says he’s looking for a real job, perhaps in software sales, outside of the Hollywood circus.

He casually directs us to his buddies, who run tours of stars’ homes if we’re into that sort of thing, but we’re not. He points out some celebrity look-alikes ready to pose for a picture with us, if we’re into that sort of thing.  We’re not.  When he mentions we can have our photo taken with a real Oscar, my pulse finally quickens.

Four flights of stairs bring us to the top of the Hollywood and Highland Center.  In the distance, the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign hovers over a smoggy green hilltop. Erected in 1923, the whitewashed 45 foot tall letters originally spelled Hollywoodland and advertised a new housing suburb. Ironically, this historic site is now threatened by real estate development. L.A. Councillors and residents are outraged but may lose their battle to keep the view unobstructed.  I take a few photos and hope the Hollywood sign gets its own Hollywood ending.

After a 15 minute wait in line, we are allowed to enter a darkened foyer.  It’s taken almost four weeks to produce this year’s fifty Oscar statuettes. Sans engraving, they are exhibited inside several glass cases. A display shows how they are created. The base casting of the pewter-like alloy Britannium is electroplated with subsequent layers of copper to prevent corrosion and nickel to improve adhesion. Silver provides additional corrosion resistance as well as a shiny foundation for the 24K gold plating. A top coat of lacquer preserves the finish.

I move from this hushed shrine into a corridor where exuberant fans and screaming paparazzi compete for my attention.  It’s actually a film loop that simulates the red carpet experience but I pause to bask in the adulation.  Rick urges me onward. The long line to hold a real Oscar awaits us.

We pass the time reading lists of this year’s nominees. The family of five ahead of us pushes their stroller and hyper-active child at a snail’s pace.  Some people are photographed in groups, others singly but at least the line is moving.  A photographer will take pictures of you with your camera if you’re alone or don’t trust your companion to adequately capture your moment of faux fame.

As we edge closer, I notice some people actually kissing the Oscar. Not an L.A. style “air kiss,” but a real, full-lipped wet smack.  What I don’t see is anyone wiping Oscar down after this show of passion.

My moment in the spotlight finally arrives.  I take off my jacket and drop my handbag.  If ever I deserved an Academy Award for outstanding performance, it’s now.  I fearlessly grasp the sticky statuette with gusto.   Smile. Flash. Smile. Flash.

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my hand wash.

This story originally appeared in the Globe & Mail but was subsequently re-edited.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Dildo, Newfoundland Travel Tale

In a province known for wacky monikers like Tickle Cove, Witless Bay and Come by Chance, one place still manages to stand out. Dildo. I had purposely avoided Dildo, not wanting to be another curious tourist stopping by simply because of the name. But as the sun sank lower in the sky, my husband Rick and I began to run out of options.

It’s our last full day in Newfoundland after a 10-day tour. We’re heading back to St. John’s from Bonavista, a 300-kilometre drive. The highways are empty, so we cruise at a leisurely pace, hoping to spend the night outside of the city. But travelling on the fly has its downside. We discover that much of the better accommodation is seasonal, and this is late October – the season is about to end.

Each successive town brings another disappointment, as Rick asks around for suggestions and I dial furiously on my cellphone. “Don’t drive at night,” we are warned. “You’ll hit a moose.”

Moose be damned, I am holding out for four-star lodgings. Unfortunately, the only promising stop on the map is Dildo. Our guide book shows several highly rated establishments that are open year-round, including a four-and-a-half star bed and breakfast overlooking Trinity Bay. My call nets only an answering machine, but we venture in anyway.

Dildo is a small community of about 1,200 people, some 15 kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway. Fishing and whaling initially attracted settlers, though today the main industry is tourism and heritage preservation. The Dildo Interpretation Centre is well-known for its fine collection of Beothuk Indian and Dorset Inuit artifacts excavated from an island in the mouth of the harbour.

Boat tours to see the archeological digs are also available. We catch an exhilarating whiff of fresh sea air as we enter town, and pull into our bed and breakfast at the same time as the owner.

The Inn By The Bay, built in 1888, is one of two establishments run by the same proprietor. It is right across the road from the ocean, while further up the hill sits George House Heritage B&B, with an art gallery and boutique. Close by is Dildo’s Kountry Kravins ‘n’ Krafts, a coffee shop that also offers local souvenirs.

The inn is welcoming, decorated in a palette of muted earth tones and furnished with tasteful antiques. There is also the odd curiosity thrown in, like a stuffed baby seal. Our room is stylishly elegant, with nary a doily in sight. An overstuffed club chair from the 1940s provides a comfortable spot to relax and the queen bed is dressed in a plush, down-filled duvet. Now assured of a fabulous place to sleep, we go to watch the sun set.

The harbour is sheltered and picturesque. Gentle waves lap against a pebbly beach. Clusters of frame houses perch on the dusky hillside. Half a dozen pricey fishing boats are moored at the docks and beside them, a couple of fishermen sit on a wooden bench, smoking. One of them reminds me of the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island. We stop and chat about real estate, the fishing industry, the weather… just about everything but the town’s name.

It’s not that anyone seems to be shy about using it; there is also South Dildo, Dildo Pond and Dildo Island. The name may have had its origins in the Spanish port of Bilbao, or it may come from the Portuguese, or the native Indians. But no one really knows and no one really cares. I’m sure the locals have heard it all. A while back, a proposal to change the town’s name was strongly voted down.

We meander along the shore, admiring the final pink and orange efforts of the setting sun. Later on, we’ll savour a home-cooked meal at a nearby diner. I’ll enjoy a delicious macaroni and cheese casserole while Rick tucks into a hot turkey sandwich. But right now, as the sun sets over Trinity Bay, the moon is rising over Dildo. And the next time we hear the word, we’ll think of this pretty fishing village instead of, well, the other thing.

This article and illustration was featured in the Globe and Mail.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visit Goldfinger’s Modernist House at Two Willow Road, London

It’s worth a visit to Hampstead Heath to see U.K. architect Erno Goldfinger’s striking and controversial 1939 design.

Situated at 2 Willow Road in London, this house was the first Modernist structure acquired by the National Trust.

Although the building it replaced was a dilapidated ruin, local council and residents fiercely opposed its construction. Author Ian Fleming, a Hampstead Heath neighbour, disliked the plans for 2 Willow Road so much he named a Bond villain after the avant-guarde architect. But Goldfinger’s creation has an enduring appeal.

Goldfinger and Contemporary Architecture

Goldfinger was born in Budapest in 1902 and studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He supported contemporary ideals but favoured structural rationalism – that is, wood must look like wood, steel like steel – over Le Corbusier’s white box approach.

Even so, Goldfinger tempered his plan by covering the concrete at in red brick and painting the metal windows white in order to maintain harmony with the surrounding Georgian houses.

Inside 2 Willow Road

Visitors enter this former family home through a small, dim foyer. An initally intimidating spiral staircase demonstrates Goldfinger’s attention to ergonomic detail. The treads are wide enough where needed and the risers are shorter than expected, making the climb easy.

The reason Goldfinger designed a tiny entry is evident once the main floor is reached. A wall of north facing windows captures light from the heath across the street all day and combined with the higher ceiling, creates a dramatic contrast.

Modernist Designs and Materials

The living room, dining room and Goldfinger’s office are all on this level. A series of folding and sliding doors allows them to become one large area for entertaining. These rooms are masculine and imposing, like the man himself. Walls are covered in oak or mahogany-veneered plywood or painted in colours from the palettes of artist friends like Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp, whose works are displayed here.

Ingenious built-ins preserve the sense of pure volume in this space and the furniture, designed mainly by the architect himself, has an industrial edge.

The all-white master bedroom is on the top floor. Small windows create an intimate feel though the room is bare except for a low futon bed, a chair and a bank of bookcases. Capacious storage is hidden behind a wall of doors.

Goldfinger and His Plans for 1, 2 and 3 Willow Road

Along with charts marking the heights of the Goldfinger children as they grew, the upstairs nursery now contains models and floor plans of 1, 2 and 3 Willow Road. This historic house is sandwiched between two smaller terraced residences the architect built in order to fund the entire project. One was initially sold while the other was first rented and later sold.

National Trust Legacy of Goldfinger

Goldfinger died in 1987 and his wife Ursula stayed in the house until her death in 1991. The National Trust acquired the house in 1994 when the Goldfinger children left it to them via the Treasury, in lieu of paying inheritance tax. Most of the contents, including tea bags and Christmas pudding, were in the bequest. Magazines and drafting tools are lying about and it seems as though the family might return at any moment.

Since 2 Willow Road was opened to the public in 1996, acceptance and admiration of Goldfinger’s work has grown. The building that was once reviled is now a modernist jewel in the National Trust’s crown. Joint tickets are available with nearby 17th-century Fenton House.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


A Tour of the Wallace Collection in London England

The Wallace Collection is a public museum in a stately London townhouse, filled with one of the greatest private collections of art ever bequeathed to the British nation.

The collection was amassed by five generations of one family, from circa 1760 to 1880 and is displayed in their historic former home, Hertford House. The mansion is tucked away on leafy Manchester Square in London’s west end, just behind busy Oxford Street.

Highlights of the Wallace Collection

Though the Wallace Collection is known for its superb 18th and 19th century French paintings and decorative art, the wealthy Marquesses of Hertford bought what they liked, not what they thought was fashionable. The result is something for almost everyone, from Rococo Sevres porcelain to 16thC Turkish Iznik pottery.

Medieval suits of armour, including a life-sized statue of a horse dressed for battle, are housed alongside crossbows, carved pistols and exotic jewel-encrusted daggers.

Paintings by Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens hang on the walls. The museum is also home to the famous Frans Hals painting The Laughing Cavalier.

The Marquesses of Hertford

Though the first four Marquesses of Hertford all engaged in buying fine art and decorative furnishings,the greatest collector of all was the neurotic and reclusive 4th Marquess, Richard Seymour-Conway. He spent the last thirty years of his life bidding through agents for works by the Old Masters.

Seymour-Conway willed the home and contents to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace. The subsequent 1897 bequest of Sir Richard’s widow Lady Wallace was possibly the largest private gift ever left to the British nation.

Opening of the Wallace Collection to the Public

Hertford House was opened to the public on June 22, 1900. Lady Wallace stipulated that it be a closed collection, that is, nothing can be added or removed from the items donated in her will. Curators constantly work to present the collection in different lights. Galleries are updated and the museum also offers art classes and degrees and diplomas in art and design related fields.

Hertford House as Private Home & Public Museum

A tour of the Wallace Collection at Hertford House is like visiting a stately private home, which is a large part of its charm. Visitors can wander over creaky parquet floors to admire a charmingly feminine desk that was once owned by Marie Antoinette. Or you can listen to the only recorded music from the 18th century, courtesy of a 1763 musical clock attributed to Jean-Claude Duplessis, The Elder. The clock chimes 13 different tunes, one before each hour.

Everything seems so accessible, with few velvet ropes in sight. However, behind the restrained presence of the guards, high-tech protection for the Wallace Collection artifacts from both a security and conservation aspect, is hidden in the woodwork. Hertford House still acts like a private home, not a purpose-built museum, so that large numbers of visitors aren’t actively encouraged. Hence the sensation that you have discovered a hidden treasure in the heart of London.

Dining at the Museum Restaurant – The Wallace

An a la carte menu is offered in the light-filled courtyard restaurant, where a soaring atrium provides an elegant setting for lunch or dinner. Seasonal French cuisine is featured, along with a seafood bar, cheeses and pates.


The museum provides some parking for disabled patrons, (which should be booked in advance), lifts to all three floors, wheelchair-accessible washrooms, translations of English audio guides, large print text sheets, magnifying glasses and flashlights.

On certain occasions, tours are offered in British Sign Language and/or Sign Supported Language. Please refer to their website under “visiting/access” for complete information.

Visiting Hours and Admission

Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm year round, except for December 24th, 25th and 26th. Donations are recommended as admission is free.

National Trust Homes in London

Visitors to the Wallace Collection might also enjoy a tour of two other historic London homes, Fenton House and Two Willow Road. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also a top cultural destination in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visit Historic Fenton House in Hampstead Heath, London UK

Visitors to National Trust Site Fenton House in London’s Hampstead Village will be transported into the bucolic past via glorious gardens, stately architecture and the melodies of prized early keyboards.

Wander down a quiet lane, away from the cafes and boutiques on the High Street. The entrance to Fenton House, circa 1686, is through an ornate metal gate, past lines of false acacia trees. This noble red and brown brick building is fitted with tall, white double-hung windows and massive chimneys that hover over the tiled rooftop.

 Famous National Trust Garden at Fenton House

Pass under the yew arbour into the award-winning garden. The grass is precisely mowed in alternating rows and the grounds are still “enclos’d with a substantial Brick Wall,” as listed on a 1765 notice of sale for Fenton House. Only now the wall is overgrown with ivy, bay and acanthus plants. At the end of the yard, benches appear in sunken gardens fragrant with lavender and rosemary. Magnificent mauve wisteria blossoms hang over pea gravel paths that are bordered by clipped boxwood.

Varigated holly bushes, pruned into cone shapes, become extravagant Christmas trees while a centuries-old orchard still produces more than thirty varieties of English apple.

Antique Keyboards from the Benton Fletcher Collection

Step inside to find that this merchant house is as elegant as the surrounding property. And Fenton House holds a special treat – an exceptional collection of early keyboards.

In 1952 Fenton House and a fine assortment of porcelain, paintings and furniture were bequeathed by owner and avid collector Lady Katherine Binning. However, according to the National Trust, beds and dressers were excluded from the will. These were taken by her heirs. The Trust filled the gaps with antique keyboards from the 1937 bequest of Major Benton Fletcher. All of the instruments are maintained in playing order and on a recital day, the house may fill with the unique sounds of a clavichord, spinet or virginal.

Lady Katherine Binning and Fenton House

On the main floor, the Oriental Room holds Chinese porcelain from the ninth to 18th centuries and is painted a soothing celadon green. An ancient bowl brims with dried lavender from the garden. Descriptions of the items are printed on cards which may be read at leisure.

Lady Binning’s collection of blue-and-white china from the Kangxi period of 1662 to 1722 is displayed in her bedroom upstairs while the drawing room next door is appointed with Sheraton-style satinwood furniture. Caroline chintz curtains, inspired by early 18th-century draperies in the Kasteel Duivenvoorde in Holland, are edged in fluttering pink and white fabric petals.

On the third floor, former servants’ quarters are now a small gift shop. From this vantage point, on a clear day, the modern office towers of London are visible. But on a hazy day, especially with Baroque music in the background, the past is still very present at Fenton House.

Information on Fenton House and Nearby Attractions

Tickets to Fenton House are available for garden only, house and garden or joint with nearby National Trust property 2 Willow Road.

Visitors to Fenton House might also enjoy touring the wonderful works of art in the stately Hertford House Wallace Collection  also in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!



Visiting Historic UNESCO Bath Spa UK Heritage Site


The ruins and spa at Bath are worth a day trip from London.

Historic Bath is an easy day trip from London. Visitors can tour ancient Roman ruins or indulge in a modern spa treatment. Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head out to Bath in the morning by train or bus. As the office towers and red brick houses of London gradually give way to rolling green fields lined with hedgerows and dotted with country homes, a sense of relaxation sets in.

The original Roman Baths were constructed between AD 65 and 75. Rebuilt in the 1700s, they reached the height of their popularity when Queen Anne’s regular visits to Bath made the spa fashionable amongst society’s elite. People bathed in and drank Bath’s foul smelling thermal water. Amazingly, the spring still pumps out 240,000 gallons daily.

UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bath

Visitors arriving in Bath will be charmed by curved rows of late 18th century townhouses. Elegant in their Georgian simplicity, the mellow patina of the facades contrasts sharply with the polished brass hardware and high gloss paint on the front doors. A popular door colour is oxblood red. These houses are one of the reasons Bath was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

The River Avon runs through the heart of town, and defines Bath almost as much as its Georgian architecture or fine Roman ruins. The Pulteney Bridge is reminiscent of Italy, not surprising since its unusual shop-lined design was based on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Ancient Treasures at Bath

The baths are an archaeological treasure, with an excavated temple, saunas and massage rooms. A trove of antique coins, mosaics, stone carvings and a fabulous gilt-bronze head of Minerva are well displayed. The Great Bath, an enormous swimming pool, impresses with its classic eighteenth century design. You can imagine lords and ladies cavorting around the columns and in the steaming, greenish-grey water.

Thermal Spa Treatment at Bath

Today’s visitors to Bath can enjoy the best of the old and the new with The Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes admission to the historic Roman Baths, a two-hour session at the new Thermae Bath Spa and lunch or Champagne tea in the Pump Room Restaurant.

Taste Bath’s Water at the Grand Pump Room

Along with lunches and afternoon teas, the Pump Room sells a souvenir of a different kind. Visitors can buy a taste of the spa’s water. Sniff, sip and gag. The murky brew of 43 malodorous minerals is absolutely vile. But what else would you expect from ‘Bath water?’

Historic Sites in London

Visitors to the Roman Baths might also enjoy a tour of historic Fenton House or the Wallace Collection in London.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visiting Chateau de Cormatin in Burgundy, France

A tour of this beautiful chateau was part of a cruise we took on the Saone River in France.

The Chateau de Cormatin is a beautiful castle in South Burgundy, France. Travellers to this region should make time to tour the chateau and its elegant gardens.

The Chateau de Cormatin rests on the foundations of a French medieval fortress built in Burgundy in 1280 by Henri du Ble. Both the chateau and its spectacular gardens are open to the public and are a popular destination for canal and barge boat passengers cruising along the Saone River.

History of the du Ble Family in France

The du Ble family can trace its noble French lineage back to the year 1000. A barony was acquired through a marriage in 1560 and Antoine du Ble further enhanced the family’s prestige by strategically throwing his support behind Henri IV.

The new king brought Antoine financial and social rewards, enabling him to rebuild Cormatin. The chateau was reconstructed using the existing feudal plan. The design – square with a tower at each corner – was both a practical and security feature.

As with many other French chateaux, the ramparts were later destroyed during the reign of Louis XIV. This indicated to the King that the nobility had no plans to revolt against his authority. The chateau’s slate roof not only showed the wealth of the du Ble family, it also announced their affiliation to the French Royal Court, as this material was the choice of royal residences.

French Chateau Staircase Architecture

The stunning open well interior staircase of Chateau de Cormatin was a relatively new development in early 17th century France. The arches and vaulting transfer the weight of the stones onto the outer walls. The plain, whitewashed space is a stark contrast to the highly decorated apartments. It allows one to appreciate both the engineering and the subtle colours of the various stones.

According to experts at the Château de Cormatin, neoplatonic philosophy, which was popular at the time, “attributed metaphysical virtues to numbers and geometrical shapes.” Therefore, a staircase designed using strict a mathematical formula was seen as representative of universal order.

Chateau de Cormatin Private Apartments

17th century French nobles would have “apartments” within their homes, which would contain four rooms: the anti-chamber, the bedchamber, the privy closet and the dressing room. Each of these rooms would be furnished according to its purpose.

At this time in French history, the bedchamber was the most important room within the chateau’s apartment and served as both a private and public place according to the time of day. Noble owners would also eat and entertain in the bedchamber.

The decor is rich with colors and complex symbolism that specifically relate to the person who inhabited the room. For example, paintings of fresh cut flowers represent the good deeds that one must perform daily, otherwise, like real flowers, their benefits will fade. The blue ceiling expresses faithfulness.

Beautiful French Gardens

The gardens at the chateau are notable for their variety and include an enormous maze, clipped animal topiaries and geometrically designed vegetable plots. You should allow ample time to explore and photograph the fabulous grounds.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!


Visit Monet’s Garden and House in Giverny, France

Claude Monet once said “Apart from painting and gardening, I’m not good at anything.” While I readily acknowledge his artistic skills, a trip to his house and garden 70 kilometres outside Paris may satisfy my curiosity about his green thumb.

Travelling to Giverny is easy even for someone who speaks limited French like I do.  I take an express train from Gare St.Lazare to the ancient Normandy city of Vernon and then hop on a bus for the final few kilometres.

I arrive early enough to enjoy lunch nearby before touring Monet’s house and gardens. I dine under the dappled shade of plane trees outside the Hotel Baudy, once a hangout for American and French artists in the late 1880s. I share my omelette, but not my glass of wine, with a marmalade cat that politely meows merci. It’s achingly picturesque. Even the walk to the bathrooms meanders past a rustic studio and along a path bordered with roses and daisies.

I enter the museum grounds through Monet’s old studio, now transformed into a first class shop. No photography is allowed inside so I’ll stock up on postcards and books on the way out.

I catch a glimpse of the verdant gardens but choose to start my visit with the house. Like Monet’s paintings, the interior is awash in vibrant hues. One hallway is covered in antique Japanese prints. The bedroom of his wife, Alice, has leaf green walls and sky blue trim. The living room is the colour of a robin’s egg and the curvy moulding around the wood panelling is outlined in peacock blue.

I feel like I have stepped inside a ball of sunshine when I walk into the dining room. Everything, including tables, chairs and walls is painted in shades of brilliant yellow. Two enormous china cabinets, also yellow, look cartoonish with elaborate Rococo styling.  The room is accented with piles of blue and white pottery.

The kitchen next door is plastered floor to ceiling with blue and white tiles and overflows with brass and copper pots and pans.  I could live here easily.

Outside I marvel at flowers blooming in harmonized colours. Masses of roses, dahlias, sunflowers and nasturtiums glow like brilliant jewels in the September sun. Monet’s secret was to plant with an artist’s eye for how the garden would be best reproduced on canvas.

The pond is dotted with lily pads and surrounded by stately weeping willows. It holds a perfect reflection of the cloudless afternoon sky. In the past, coal burning trains used to chug by here. I pause to envision a bizarre story – that Monet asked his gardeners to brush soot from the lilies before he painted them.

I fall in love with one particular aspect of the exterior, a vivid green that appears everywhere; on the doors, shutters, benches, trellises and the Japanese bridge. It makes everything from the pink stucco on the house to the pots of red geraniums appear more vibrant.

I’m disheartened, thinking I’ll never remember this exact shade of green. But then I notice a small blister of paint peeling from the bottom of the front stairs.  I bend over to examine it more closely and voilá! The chip magically hops into my tote bag. Once home I discover it’s a near match to Benjamin Moore’s Cat’s Eye.

Two hours later, I’m almost cross-eyed from all the colours and sensory overload. I’m hoping my photographs will capture the sights my brain can no longer hold.

Back on the tour bus to the station, I have an argument with the driver who wants to see my return ticket.  It’s lost in the maze of paper and postcards in the bottom of my bag but he begrudgingly lets me ride. It’s unlikely that anyone would buy a one-way ticket anyhow.  The road to Giverny is narrow, hilly and without sidewalks.

In Vernon, I quaff a cold Kronenbourg beer while waiting for the train to Paris.  I examine my tiny sliver of paint and smile. I may never have Monet’s green thumb, but at least I’ll have his green paint.

For more information on how to enjoy any trip, download my eBook Travel Like a Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!