Thursday, July 30, 2015

Art Scene: London

Week one in London has been greater than I ever expected. Coming from Dublin, London is a complete change of pace that is definitely more my speed. My mission upon coming here was to visit museums, find the best shops, and of course be a complete tourist. For this week I must talk about the amazing art that I have found this far.

One | V&A Museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum was of course on my list of to-do's. While the whole museum was great, and I already have plans to go back, there was an open exhibit called What is Luxury? that I found amazing. It brings up a cool point that luxury is different for every person. While for me its handbags and shoes, for some its a well crafted piece of furniture, which will bring me to my next favorite exhibit.

Two | Alexander McQueen Exhibit
Amongst most fashionistas, this exhibit was probably my favorite. I won't go into details on my love for McQueen and how I think he is, or unfortunately was, one of the world's most talented and creative designers, I'll just talk about how well designed this exhibit was. At first, it was as ordinary as other fashion exhibits I have seen, but as I moved through the different galleries I was actually speechless in viewing some of his pieces. If it wasn't for the crazy crowd of tourists inside, I would have probably stayed for hours. Also, I got yelled at for taking photos, so the photo below is literally the most boring part of the gallery, so the rest will be up to your imaginations.

Three | Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel
The most amazing street art. Literally, crazy. This underground tunnel is a designated and encouraged spot for street artists to use as a canvas, which we were told is a common thing in certain areas of the city. My new goal is to find more places like this, and to venture away from the museums with crazy tourists (like myself). Definitely a must see for anyone who travels to London!

The art scene here is like no other and I might have to designate another blog post to talk about it so stay tuned!!

My Date With Kait

This is Kaitlyn Smith. She is my designated Thursday travel buddy since we both do not have Thursday classes. Today, we decided to stay local and go on a little adventure in London. Our plan was to wander around a few major neighborhoods and get a little lost. 

First stop: Muriel's Kitchen 

Muriel's Kitchen is this cute little cafe in South Kensington. Here, I had a traditional English breakfast and she had the blueberry pancakes. Both dishes were pretty amazing. Muriel's has a pretty good mix of cute and hardy. It kind of reminds me of a restaurant I would go to back home in the South.

Second Stop: The V&A Museum

Our original plan was to go the Alexander McQueen Savage Exhibition.  Unfortunately, all of the tickets were sold out. Since that was a bust, we decided to move on to our next destination. 

Third Stop: Camden Town

In Camden, Kaitlyn and I stumbled across this huge flee market. It was like a maze of tacky clothing, souvenir shops, and street food. It was awesome. We did say in the beginning that we wanted to get a little lost. Well, in this market, we got very lost. It took us about two hours to make it through the entire thing. 

Fourth Stop: Leicester 

Originally, Kaitlyn and I were going to go to Piccadilly, but then I saw a sign in the subway that said London Film Museum. I had to go see that. We ended up taking the Leicester stop and wondered around the square. Out of all the places we visited, this was my favorite. We got to see Chinatown, Covent Garden Market, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. Everything was so beautiful. We got so distracted that I totally forgot about the London Film Museum. 

Fifth Stop: Home 

I feel like I just walked back to The States. My feet are killing me. But, to say the least, today was an amazing day. I cannot wait to go on more Thursday adventures. Next time, it will be out of London. 

From the East to the West

Today was the most eventful day I've had in London yet. It felt like one of those jam-packed days I had in Paris! My roommate Arin was in London for the weekend, so we met up and spent the entire day out. We explored West, Central and East London all in one day.

Our meeting point was at Core Collective, which is a workout studio in South Kensington. There, I ordered a really healthy smoothie and then we headed to the bus stop where I coincidentally ran into one of my sorority sisters and a girl that used to be in my dance class. Our bus then took us to the Victoria & Albert Museum where we happened to run into another group of Drexel students. Several of them were also Design & Merchandising majors and one of them was actually my group partner for one of my classes back at home. At the museum we visited the Shoes, Pleasure and Pain exhibition, which showcased an evolution of women's shoes throughout history. There, I got to see one of my favorite shoes of all time, which were a pair of black 3D printed wedges. The wedges had an intricate geometric frame and inside the frame laid a pair of nude heels. 

Shoreditch was where we decided to have brunch and there we had Peruvian tapas at a restaurant called Andina. The interior design was really artsy and the food was absolutely delicious. I ordered two heirloom tomato salads, one with passion fruit mash and another with sweet peas, apple crisps and sweet mashed potatoes. After that we walked through Block Park, which was a street filled with unique pop up shops and pop up restaurants. We then took the tube to Ball Park, where we went shopping at the humongous Westfield Mall. There I got to shop at Pull & Bear and Fatface for the very first time. These were two very cool stores with rustic interior designs. I actually ended up buying a crop top from Pull & Bear for only $10. We completely forgot that London stores closed earlier than American ones, so we got kicked out of the mall at 6pm, since it was a Sunday.

From there we went to one of Arin's friend's flat in Stratford, which was in a beautiful building with colorful tiles on the outside. The inside came completely furnished and it was new and modern. They even had a balcony overlooking the river. Her friend is actually Australian, so we ended up meeting a group of her fellow Australian roommates and friends. They were so nice and made us a home-cooked meal of arugula salad with grilled chicken. After dinner they took us up to the twelfth floor rooftop where we saw a gorgeous night view of the city lights and skyline. From there we were even able to see the Olympic Park.

This morning I left the house at 10:30am and I didn't end up getting home until 10:30pm. I did so much walking, but it was so worth it. Oh, and did I forget to mention that it was also a rainy day? We definitely made the most out of this dreary day!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Au revoir Paris, Hello London

After a quick 4 weeks it finally came time to pack up all of our stuff and head to London! Although it was so sad to leave Paris, I was so excited to get to London.  However, it felt like we would never make it there since we came about 6 minutes away from missing our train.  Leaving Paris not knowing when the next time ill see it again made me very sad.  My 4 weeks there went by so fast,  I couldn't believe that leaving Paris meant that we were halfway done our time here in Europe.  However, I tried not to get emotional and look at the positive side.  Knowing I have a whole new country ahead of me got me super excited.

As we got to London, I immediately fell in love.  That fact that everyone spoke English was amazing for me since I had such a hard time communicating with people while in Paris.  The neighborhood we live in was like a dream, truly a once in a life time experience to be living in South Kensington. Although when we arrived it was rainy and cold, I still was overjoyed to be in London.  The next few days were pretty cold.  Definitely not what I was expecting and neither what I was prepared for.  We were told that the day we arrived was the first rain shower London had seen in about a month.  However, that did not stop us. On the first day we had a bus tour around London and tickets for the Parliament.  

That night we explored Piccadilly, it reminded me of a tiny Times Square.  The area was so fun and hip.  A few days later we had returned to Piccadilly to see a show, 39 Steps.  I can already tell I'm definitely going to be spending a lot of time there.  

Sunday happened to be another rainy day so it was hard to explore the city.  Instead we spent some time in Harrods and ended at The Tea Room.  Definitely a very nice experience! There were so many flavors to chose from, after a couple of minutes going back and forth I finally chose the English Rose. I sure made the right choice.  When I opened the lid to my teapot I found little roses floating around. Although i'm not a huge fan of tea, my taste was completely changed.  I would love to try as many tea rooms as I can while in London. 

Our first week here is almost coming to an end and I can't believe how fast it has gone by!  This weekend I will be going to Dublin.  I am so excited to see a new country, new cultures and add new experiences to my travels! 

Next Stop

Another weekend, another European city! This past weekend I went to Amsterdam with my 4 friends that I have been traveling with while here plus one of our friends who is Co-oping in Dublin. Amsterdam decided to give us a special gift and rain the ENTIRE time we were there… and when I say rain I mean pour. Olivia’s cousin lives in the city so we all met up with her for dinner one night and she said Saturday’s rain was the heaviest it had rained in 10 years. Needless to say it was a little difficult to see a lot of the city on Saturday, especially after we were drenched in water and freezing. The umbrella I thought I was so smart to pack did not help at all.
Thankfully the bad weather held off for an enough time on Sunday that we could do the typical tourist boat tour of the city which was beautiful. It really was the best way to see the city and as we drove through the canal we even found a restaurant on the canal to go back to for dinner. However after the boat tour it was back to rain so naturally we took cover in a cheese museum. Yes a museum dedicated only to cheese made in the Netherlands. I love cheese so this was like a dream come true. Especially considering the fact that you can purchase your favorite so I currently have a piece of Amsterdam sitting in the fridge.

One part of our time spent there that was both a low point and a high was going to the Anne Frank House. We had all heard that the line was always a super long wait since we weren’t able to get tickets in advance so we made big plans to get up early and get there by 8:30am but a combination of going out the night before with friends and then oversleeping meant we didn’t get there until 11:30am. By then the line was a 3-hour wait with on and off pouring rain the whole time-the low point. The wait was worth it though as the house and the artifacts in it were put together really well and really gave you a feeling of what it was like. It is defiantly a must see even if you are like us and are forced to wait online!
One of the only photos from the trip during one of the only non raining moments

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rainy days in Amsterdam

This past weekend I went to Amsterdam with my trusty travel buddies. Unfortunately, while we were there it was cold and rainy everyday. On Saturday it was the worst storm Amsterdam had seen in ten years! Before the storm hit, that morning we had a delicious breakfast at a pancake house nearby our hotel. The pancakes in Amsterdam are basically the same thing as a crepe. I got a ham and cheese pancake, it was so yummy! 
After the five of us went to the Heineken Experience, where we learned about the history of Heineken and saw the old brewery. We also had a beer tasting and two free beers at the end of the tour. The tour was a lot of fun and very interactive. I’m not a big beer drinker but I actually enjoyed it. The beer isn’t very heavy and was cool and refreshing. We then took the Heineken canal tour but when we walked outside it was raining buckets! It was very windy and freezing! Luckily the boat was dry but it still wasn’t that fun because we couldn’t see outside the windows due to the heavy rain. Walking back after the boat tour was not fun at all. My umbrella almost lifted me up because the wind was so strong! We were soaked when we got back to the hotel. Luckily the rain died down before dinner. 

That night the five of us went out to dinner with my cousin, Christina, who currently lives in Amsterdam and just finished her masters in Urban Planning. We went to this fun restaurant/pub where I had a delicious salad and fries. We then went out to some of the local bars. I got to meet her Dutch boyfriend who was absolutely adorable, very polite and nice.

The next day the weather was clear in the morning until around 6:00pm when it started to rain. Before the rain hit I had brunch with my cousin and her boyfriend at this adorable café near her apartment. Since it was actually sunny we then went on an hour plus canal tour around Amsterdam. It was a great tour with a beautiful scenic route. After the canal tour we were hungry and went to the much anticipated, Cheese Museum. I probably tried thirty cheeses. We were all in heaven! I couldn’t decide what was my favorite because I tried so many. I ended up buying a goat cheese that was accompanied with a fig jam.

It sadly rained all day on our final day. Out goal was to wake up at 7:00am and go to the Anne Frank house but we ended up sleeping in late and not going till 11:00am. This was a HUGE mistake because we had to wait in line for three hours! Luckily we passed by time by grabbing coffee and snacks and entertaining ourselves with funny stories, but it was long, cold and rainy. The long wait did pay off once we go into Anne Frank. I remember reading the book when I was younger and telling myself that I would one day visit her house. It’s such an amazing story but a very sad one. The house was very interesting and amazing to see. It was somewhat emotional knowing Anne dies at the end. I’m very glad we waited and went. Everyone should definitely go at some point, was a moving and amazing experience. After Anne Frank, we went to the Amsterdam sign and took pictures. We tried to go to the Van Gogh museum but it closed early! We were so mad! 

I had a great weekend in Amsterdam but the gross and raining weather put a damper on the trip. I want to go back one day when it'll be sunny and beautiful. It definitely would have been a different experience if the weather was better. 

Hit or Miss

Art museums and galleries of all kinds are abundant in Italy, and it is easy to feel like you need to see them all before you leave. Well I’m here to tell you that you really don’t. I promise. After hitting every major art museum in Rome, I feel like I can safely say that some are more exciting than others. I consider myself an art lover, but the overload of Renaissance and Baroque art drove me up the wall after awhile. We may have different tastes, so all of the museums and galleries are worth researching before you decide. If you are planning on visiting Rome, here is my hit or miss list of museums and galleries. 

Must See: Vatican Museums: I hate to say this, but you have to go. It is the worst experience in the world because of the crowds, and in my opinion, it’s a poorly designed experience, but you need to go. The highlights of the Vatican Museums are the Raphael tapestries, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Even though I was disappointed in the Sistine Chapel, I think it is an extremely important place to visit. 

St. Peter's Basilica

Choose Between: Nat’l Museum Moderna and Maxxi Museum: I you’re in Rome long enough and need a break from Renaissance and Baroque art, these modern and contemporary art museums are the perfect escapes. I preferred the Nat’l Museum Moderna to the Maxxi because it focused on many pieces that we studied in Art History 103. I also enjoyed that this museum featured pieces by modern Italian artists. It was fun to compare modern art from around the world to modern art in Italy. Some of the highlights of the Nat’l Museum Moderna are Alberto Pirri’s Steps, which is a large mirror and glass installation at the entrance of the building, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, and a really cool garden in the middle of the building where you can make creepy sounds by moving a stick through water (yes, they encourage this). Use the stick in the water as therapy to get your mind off of Michelangelo. The Maxxi is a beautiful museum designed by Zaha Hadid. May of the exhibits focus on architecture, which doesn’t interest me as much as I thought it would. The museum also felt very empty, as if there weren’t enough exhibits. I’d say that the Nat’l Museum Moderna is more bang for your buck.

Alberto Pirri's Steps at the Nat'l Museum Moderna.

Standing with part of the Food exhibit at the Maxxi Museum.

Worth Checking Out: Dorothy Circus Gallery: Nik and I stumbled across this contemporary art gallery while on our way to dinner one night, and it is definitely a hidden gem. It’s a great place to find a middle ground between modern art and Renaissance art. In other words, it's not too contemporary to understand. Their staff is friendly, their art is beautiful, and their gif shop/bookstore is awesome! (And it’s free entry, too!).

Tara McPherson's work on display at the Dorothy Circus Gallery.

Choose Between: Borghese Gallery and the Doria Pamphilj: Both of these smaller galleries contain relatively similar art, and even though they are both different in their own ways, it is possible to choose only one. If I had to do everything again, I would definitely choose to visit the Borghese Gallery because of its breathtaking Baroque sculpture collection. A couple of highlights from this mainly Baroque art gallery are Rape of Proserpine by Bernini, Apollo and Daphne by Bernini (my favorite), and David by Bernini. Needless to say, Bernini really dominates this gallery, but in a good way! My decision might be biased because when we attended the Borgese Gallery, Alaïa was in the process of setting up their new exhibit, “Soft Sculptures.” Seeing some of Alaïa’s most iconic designs up against some of the most famous Baroque sculptures was such a unique experience. I was less partial to the Doria Pamphilj, even though it has such an incredible story. The Doria Pamphilj was once only a home built in the 17th century that was filled with beautiful art over the years. Now, part of the home is opened to the public as a gallery, with the original family still living in the other parts of the building! It’s a strange experience to feel like you’re walking though someone’s home, but it really adds to the experience. The Doria Pamphilj is filled with Caravaggio paintings, and if you stay long enough and stare at the walls filled from top to bottom, I’m sure you’d discover some other hidden gems.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne at the Borghese Gallery.

Part of Alaïa's new "Soft Sculpture" exhibit at the Borghese Gallery.

The Doria Pamphilij.

Must See: Coliseum: This goes without saying, but you really need to see the Coliseum while you’re in Rome- no matter how long your visit is. We were lucky enough to take a night tour, which ended up being incredible. We were the only people in the Coliseum, so there were no crowds of crazy tourist groups (besides us!). Since it was so empty, it was easier to picture the Coliseum filled with spectators, athletes and animals. None of my Coliseum pictures turned out great because it was so dark, but the memory of standing in the Coliseum at night is so cool that I don't care!

This short list doesn’t even cover half of the amazing art we were able to see in Italy! It’s hard to wrap your head around the history and art that Rome has to offer, but there’s a museum or gallery for everyone in this cultured city- you just have to do some research!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The City That Stuns | Prague [4]

This past weekend, I was the only person from my program to stay in Prague. Tons of people ventured off to Vienna, Rome, and London, but I decided to save some money and stay in the beautiful city I have called home for the past three weeks. While, I wasn't able to go to clubs at night or go dancing, I managed to have a great time exploring the city and uncovering different areas. All in all, my weekend consisted of eating and walking, but that is never anything to complain about.

On Thursday night I decided to go see The Dancing House in person. It is a beautiful deconstructivist building along the Vltava River. It was built after communism fell in the Czech Republic, acting as a sign of freedom and expression. I had researched the building prior to coming to Prague and was so happy to be able to admire it in person for the first time.

I was very excited to visit the Dali and Warhol museum in Old Town Square on Friday.  The museum was relatively empty and the quiet atmosphere made for a much more enjoyable experience. I wandered from floor to floor, taking in the quirky artwork for about two hours. There was so much to see and I was happy to be able to take it all in alone.

I also managed to eat at some really quaint, local restaurants and cafes. One meal I had was hummus and bread with a small salad. It was the first time I saw hummus on a menu since arriving here, so I had to check it out. I got beet hummus with special rye bread and it was fantastic. I also had a great quiche for brunch one day. It had fennel and goat cheese and was the perfect serving size. The food here has yet to disappoint me!

Lastly, I visited Kampa Museum, which houses work from Czech artists. The building itself was incredibly cool, with various sculptures in the stairwells and lining the courtyard outside. The artwork inside was also visually pleasing. The best part was the roof. There were mirrors on the perimeter of the building, reflecting the sunlight in a stunning way. It also created beautiful shadows. I took this picture of the clouds because it reminded me of a heart.

While my weekend alone was pretty magical, it is great to have my friends back. I was getting a little sad only communicating with waiters and waitresses. This week should be fantastic because the weather is finally cooling down. I will keep you posted, of course.