Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hidden in the City

It’s not often that one finds a working vineyard in the middle of major city.  But in Paris, if you look you’ll find one – the vineyard in Montmartre.  Dating back to Roman times wine has been grown, harvested and bottled here in Paris.  On a sunny Sunday afternoon it was a delight to discover a tiny vineyard, perfectly manicured with plants and trees growing along side the vines.

Near the Basilica of Sacre Coeur that sites atop a hill, you can find the Vineyard of Montmartre.  Come in October and enjoy the Fetes due Vendages, the harvest.  Other times you can visit by making arrangements through the Montmartre Tourist office.

In a city known for the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre it’s exciting to find a tiny special piece of history, alive and thriving today.

It makes me wonder too – what other hidden spots exist here in Paris, in my own city of Los Angeles and other places I’ve visited.

What special places will we find if we look beyond the well known? 

Is there a spot in your city that you’d recommend?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How Much to Serve?

Sharing meals (food) is an important part of diplomacy, relationship building.  I wrote in earlier posts about  Former Secretary of State Clinton talking about meals as an element of diplomacy and about  a book written about Winston Churchill’s use of meals as a way of gathering and sharing information. 

We think of meals as time to get to know people.  From a protocol and a practical perspective we think of meals in terms of check lists.  Colors, centerpieces, what to serve.  Planning the menu. No beef if your guests are from India.  No pork for almost any group.  We want to be aware of, respectful of food in terms of religious beliefs.
But a recent article “Lessons in Culture from Twenty-Four Japanese Hula Dancers  reminded me that the amount of food we serve can also be culturally sensitive.  In many countries, cultures, we show our respect, interest in friendship and connection by serving generous amounts of food.   We may have to leave some food in our dish to indicate that host was go generous that we couldn’t possible consume all that they offered.  The abundance of what’s offered is given to make the guest feel special and welcome.

A lovely thought unless the abundance makes the uncomfortable.  The story of the hula dancers" reaction to the generosity of the author points out the Enough can sometimes be Too Much. 

It’s hard to think that what one culture thinks as generosity can be seen as wasteful excess to another.  If our goal is to build connections, have our colleagues and guests feel honored and respected, its one more thing we must consider.  How much is too much?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Getting Ready to Go

We all have our routines when preparing for a trip. About three ago before I leave I start. I pull out a bag I’ve been saving, this time one from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and start to drop things into it. Electrical adapters. Copies of my passport, city maps and a well annotated guidebook.  This time - getting ready to visit Paris, London, Rome and Florence in just two weeks -  I’m also taking a book written by my friend Sophia Stuart.  The book?  How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World to read when the travel gets crazy. ( 

Beyond thinking about what I need to put in my suitcase I’m thinking about what I need to know about where I’m headed.  What’s going on there?  How can I be current about local news - and not assume the issues that are important in LA  - who will be the next head of Disney? – are important in Florence or Paris.

To begin I did a quick  Google search that brought me dozens of links including one to the Huffington Post blog that led to a link to a new-to-me travel site   Reading it reminded of places I love to eat in Paris.  But today’s news?  Not so much.

To find the hot topics it’s easier to set a Google Alert.  I select the country or city and quickly a list of links  comes to my mailbox.  Today’s delivery included 17 articles on 17 topics from sources that included Reuters, the Irish Independent and SkySport.  By the time I leave I’ll know some things to discuss with friends at lunch in Montmartre next Sunday. 

My prep begins with gathering objects and information.  What’s the beginning of your travel preparation?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Champagne in a vending machine?

This week’s trend newsletter from, a global trend service that covers 180 countries thanks to their 2,500 trend spotters,  included a description of a trend they call Heritage Heresy.  According to their research consumers no longer are captivated by the history of a brand.  Rather they want to see a brand break new ground.

Examples of that?   The one that caught my attention was LVMH’s Mote & Chandon now selling their champagne in vending machines in the United Kingdom. Champagne being dispensed out of a machine like Coca Cola or Evian water?  Really?

But that isn’t the only illustration of a brand doing something unexpected.   Moet Hennessey now produces a sparkling wine under their Chandon label in India (and here we thought it would only be special to California).  Marriott offers “workspace on Demand” offering work space in their lobbies even if you’re not staying there as a guest  and Versace creates designs with a British-Sri Lankan recording artist. 

New approaches from brands with lots of history.   Most interesting to me is the cross border connections, global collaborations.  A new trend, a new approach to global business for a new global consumer.  Where will you see the next example of Heritage Heresy?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Private Zoo and stolen money

The news has been filled with reports of the crisis in Ukraine.  What drove people into the streets seems to be a combination two issues. Anger about the move to tighten links to Russia rather than the European Union and anger about the level of corruption throughout the society.  Discovery of a private zoo and a multi-million dollar tea room in the Presidential residence were seen as proof of looting from the countries coffers.

Although corruption in Ukraine made the headlines it certainly wasn’t a surprise to those who knew the country well.  The 2013 Corruption Perception Index  (CPI) published by Transparency International which is a non governmental organization based in Berlin.  According to their website they are  present in more than 100 countries, (including Ukraine).  It is a" movement that works relentlessly to stir the world’s collective conscience and bring about change".  Their stated goal is to create a world without corruption.   As part of their effort to raise awareness they publish the CPI that ranks 177 countries according to their perceived level of corruption.  In 2013 Ukraine was listed at 144 of the 177 countries.  (In their ranking the higher the number the more corruption is seen to exist)

What other countries were at # 144?  Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Iran, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea. The bottom, # 177?  That place was shared by North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia.    Least corrupt?  Tied at first place were Denmark and New Zealand.

Wondering about the country where you live, work or invest?  Take a look at the most recent report - see if you agree :