Summer in Aspen is all about the sport. Wherever you look, tanned Americans with bodies to die for are biking, running, hiking, walking, climbing, golfing, kayaking, fishing or playing tennis.
The Husband was in HEAVEN.
When on holiday and surrounded by sporting opportunities, his motto is "which sport's next?" When on holiday…when on sabbatical…when in Jozi…whenever…my motto is: "one sport a day".
I thought The Sister was on board with my mantra, but it seems she can be heavily influenced by The Husband. It was either that – or the Bad Billy's All American Beef Burger she was struggling to digest which made her want to chase me around the tennis court for 90 minutes (at an altitude of 2,400m) AND go jogging – all in one day.
So the next day, before those two got any bright ideas about hiking up the mountain, I came up with a plan for a decoy: a cultural outing. I found it in a brochure in the hotel lobby and it was entitled "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous Tour". I decided to read them the promotional blurb on the tour. It went like this:
If you like People Magazine, you will love this tour!…You'll see the beautiful homes of Movie Stars, Television Stars, Sports Stars, Music Stars, Super Models, Fortune 500 CEO's and Royalty!…You'll have incredible stories to tell your friends when you get home!
(Capital letters NOT mine, by the way…)
The Sister and The Husband heard this, raised their eyebrows, looked at each other and then looked at me as though we couldn't possibly be related. The Sister then verbalised their thoughts, telling me that we weren't "those kinds of people".
Mission "Avoid Sport" had failed.
And so off we went on what was supposed to be a leisurely, meandering bike ride. The first 5km was utterly pleasant: we cruised along paved, flat bike trails, in amongst trees, alongside bubbling brooks. All very civilised and manageable. But then the gentle pathways turned into monstrously steep hills. Before I knew it, I was huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf. The worst was, there didn't seem to be any end in sight. In times like these, when I ask The Husband important questions like "how much longer is this effing hill?" or "how many more of these frigging hills are there?" he actually lies to me. He'll say that the hill we're on is the "last one". And when we get to the next one and I call him on it, he'll say that he wasn't lying, because, in fact, this hill is not at all like "one of the frigging hills" I was asking about – it's steeper. By this point, I feel like ramming my front tyre into his rear derailer – not that I would actually be able to identify one of those – but of course he's half-way up the mountain by then and there's no way I can catch him.
The Sister wasn't helping matters either. She took to this whole hill thing like a duck to water and soon she was wanting to see if we could cycle to the next town, Snowmass, just to "see what's there". And so, on I rode – or rather, on I wove because the hills were so steep I couldn't actually ride up them in a straight line. I kept thinking that I could have been swanning around the holiday homes of the rich and famous, listening to some American tour guide gushing about their marble kitchen counter tops and who they'd allegedly shagged on said counter tops.
Infinitely more appealing.
Three hours, one spate of tears and one numb bum later, we returned to Aspen. As we were wheeling our bikes back to the bike hire place, we passed a gorgeous looking jewellery store. But it wasn't just any jewellery store. This store had a very special sign in its window. It went like this:
"YOUR HUSBAND CALLED. HE SAID BUY ANYTHING YOU WANT".
Gotta love this town.
It is not every day that cycling trips lead me to cut price designer shoes. The last cycling trip, for example, took me to Badplaas. Other cycling destinations that spring to mind are shopping meccas like Op-die-Berg, Grabouw, Viscos and Himeville.
You get my point.
Aspen, however, is a little gem of an exception – if your Daddy's a billionaire. Still, I was content just to stare lovingly at the window displays of Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, J Crew and Fendi. I tried to go in to some of these stores to stare lovingly at the wares from the inside, but a part of me always feels like the salesgirls are onto me…they take one look at my Havaianas and they know I have absolutely no intention of buying a single thing. I've always admired a good friend of mine who has absolutely no qualms entering any sort of luxury store whatsoever – even the ones with those 2m-wide tuxedoed doormen out front. Her policy goes like this: "If I earn more than the shop assistants, I'll be coming inside – in my takkies". Great policy. My shrink and I are working on it.
Anyhoo, things got infinitely more exciting yesterday when The Sister and I discovered "the consignment store". We ventured in a little apprehensively, expecting a bit of an Oxfam-style set up. What we found was a little bit of heaven. So, "consignment store" is code for second-hand. Instinctively, we'd already worked that out. But here, they don't degrade their vintage designer merchandise by using terms like "second-hand". No. One refers to the luxury items as "new or like new" and on occasion you may hear, in hushed tones, the term "previously owned". Whilst the word "new" deserves a bit of an eye-brow raise, the words "like new" are totally authentic. Imagine a store filled with tons of immaculately preserved Kate Spade pumps, Manolo Blahnik slingbacks, Robert Cavalli cocktail dresses and Chanel handbags – all looking as good as new. In fact, looking even better with their significantly reduced price-tags.
Between us, The Sister and I may have tried on every piece of footwear in our size, determined to provide these orphaned shoes with a loving new home…
I fell for a pair of pointy Yves St Laurents with heels alot higher than anything I've worn since the start of my sabbatical. My half-hearted lament of "but when would I wear them?" was met with the following shocked retort from The Sister: "When would you NOT wear them?"
Besides, who can say no to a pair of Yves St Laurents with a Nine West price tag?
So, just to prove to myself that my new acquisition had deep-seated logical foundations, I wore them to dinner last night. I have to say that the three and a half blocks between the hotel and the restaurant resembled physical torture I haven't experienced since compulsory cross country in high school.
I'm blaming it on Aspen's cobbled streets – quaint to look at but very hard to navigate in stilettos. When I turned to The Sister for sympathy – or perhaps to blame her for talking me into buying this weapons of torture – she was like, "Duh! You put your plakkies in your handbag and your change your shoes around the corner from the restaurant! And PS: You'd never survive in London."
I still remember watching the news on the day that topless tanning became legal in SA. It was around the mid-nineties and I recall being grateful that SA was at last letting go of some of the puritanical vestiges of our past. But when I caught sight of these bronzing beauties on Barcelona’s beachfront the other day, I started to think that the top-less tanning law may have had some positive spin-offs:
As it turns out, the view above was nothing compared to what we were about to witness. About half an hour later we saw someone strolling across the beach, absolutely stark frigging naked. Yip – 100% kaalgat from head to toe. We checked the bodies around us to see if we’d accidentally plonked ourselves down on a nudist beach, but no – everyone around us had their crown jewels covered up. The good thing about having one, lone, naked ranger on a beach full of bathing-suited people, is that it’s okay to stare, because, hell, everyone else is staring their heads off.
Later on, we were able to work out what had given the nude dude the balls (pun completely intended) to prance around in his birthday suit. The secret was revealed to us in the form of a beach hawker, who approached us offering not your usual selection of Dairymaid – no – he was selling cans Spanish lager. “Sexy beer! Sexy beer!” he exclaimed waving the cans in front of us. We politely declined. He looked wounded for a second but then he narrowed his eyes as though he were sizing us up and tried the following instead: “sexy drugs! sexy drugs!”
Nothing like knowing only 3 English words to completely focus one’s sales efforts.
That evening, as we walked around the vibey little alleys in an area called Born, the products and services on offer were to get even spicier. We had paused to discuss whether we would have pizza or tapas for dinner, when I heard a voice near my ear. It seemed to being saying “Steaks! Steaks! Steaks!” Although I don’t like strangers coming close to me at the best of times, a little bief-steak was sounding like a good way of breaking the deadlock on the pizza/ tapas debate. Instinctively I turned in the direction of the voice.
I was confronted by a scruffy little man whose eyes lit up as I looked his way. And when he stared repeating himself I realised what he’d been saying all along. It wasn’t steak at all. Nope – it was “Sex! Sex! Sex!”
Despite the sexy drugs and the sexy beer we’d been offered earlier, I could not have been more taken aback. Once again, I politely declined. “Thanks, dude. I’m married so I wouldn’t be keen either way, but I respect the fact that you’re trying to feed your family, so I’d like to give you some hints on your marketing efforts: if you’re the guy who’s actually delivering the service, then best of luck. However, if you’re working on behalf of some sexy Spanish gigolo, you might wanna whip out a picture of your boss for potential consumers. I think it would really enhance the sales drive. Hasta luego!”
Okay, so that’s what I would have said if I hadn’t been so completely freaked out. What I actually said was, "Oh my God! AAAAHH! Help!", ran towards The Sister, clung onto her little legs for dear life and didn't stop shaking for a good five minutes.
I experienced some panic in my first few hours in Barcelona. There were strong signals that my girls weekend could turn into a solo expedition – The Sister and two friends were supposed to be arriving from London but EasyJet had started cancelling some of their London-Spain flights because of an air traffic control strike by the French! (Not just Transnet who enjoys a bit of strike action, apparently). Planes have to fly over France to get from London to Barcelona, so the girls were in danger of being properly stranded. Then there was the Best Friend who’d missed her Barcelona connection because a diabetic medical emergency had stopped her from disembarking in London. She was also now potentially stranded in London because of the frigging Frenchies on strike.
I'm always on high alert when I travel overseas. Kind of ironic for a Joburger, I know. I think it’s some kind of Moonbag Mentality of “they rob you over there”. It was instilled by my mother when I was a teen and it's somehow never left me. Arriving in Barcelona the other day was no exception. I was only meeting up with friends later in the day, so I was traveling into the city alone and was thus on extra high alert.
Long haul flights in cattle class are always a gas. Last night’s was no exception. I was seated in my safe, little, escapist aisle seat, scanning the passengers as they came down the aisle and playing games with myself to figure out who my neighbour would be. As long as they were skinny and practically mute, I was happy. Of course, the more you hope for Kate Moss’ Russian-speaking, distant cousin, the more likely you are to find yourself next to a 140kg Chatty Pants. As Murphy´s Law would have it, along came one of the largest young lasses I have ever laid eyes on – and plonked herself next to me. Not only did she spill over onto my seat, but she was with her (much smaller) back-packing buddy and they were chatting away in strong, Australian drawls at the top of their voices. It was official, I was on a 10-hour flight with Kath and Kim.
I swear these chicks could hear my thoughts because as I nicknamed them “Kath and Kim” in my head, they cracked open a packet of salt & vinegar crisps. Still munching open-mouthed on her crisps, the smaller chick dialed home on her mobile and I had the pleasure of overhearing her very loud, very lengthy conversation:
At which point “grumpy” friend to my left screamed, “hooi-ey!" (I think she meant "hey!”) and elbowed her mate in the ribs. This sent their packet of salt & vinegar crisps crashing to the floor, giving off an even more pungent, vaguely nauseating, vinegary aroma. On the bright side, the demise of the packet of Lays immediately got both girls attention, the chick on the phone yelled “gotta go, Mum!”, and they attempted to dive between the seats to try and retrieve their pre-dinner snacks. Much to the consternation of the Skinny B*tch Air France stewardess who looked on disapprovingly. Which got me really motivated to help Kath and Kim find their packet of Lays. Before I knew it, I was on my hands and knees in the aisle rifling under the seats in front of us, along with the girls. "Got them!¨I yelled triumphantly and the three of us bonded instantly over my successful expedition. The friendship cemented itself when the French cow told me to "Move out of zee way!"