Breathing Travel: My Photo Picks; Meaningful Scenes

Choosing a favourite photo is not an easy task so I am bending the rules a little in my coursework at Breathing Travel | MatadorU and featuring three meaningful shots taken on a recent trip to Southern California, as well as a bonus image from Spain.

I am open to your critique of the shots as this is part of the learning experience so please share any feedback if you can; I am developing a thick skin.

Here goes….

I like taking night shots, though struggle with them because I am always shooting from the hip. (The tripod hasn’t had a test run yet). This first shot, of the Capitol Records building, was taken on our final day in LA enroute to the airport. I jumped out of the car to take this photo; I tried to keep a steady hand though I was shaking in my boots for standing in the middle of a downhill sloping road.

To me, the photo is symbolic of the the music industry in its heyday; the architectural design is meant to resemble a stack of records on a turntable. I also like the lit up Patron Tequila bottle, advertised in the background.

The second image was taken at Westwood Memorial Park. It is symbolic of Old Hollywood. It is in the memory of an icon that will never be forgotten. “We are all stars, and we deserve to twinkle” – Marilyn Monroe

The third image is of The Cafe at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I like this shot for a couple of reasons. It was taken at one of my favourite museums. Secondly, in composing this photo, I was drawing inspiration from the talented photographer, Julius Shulman.

This last image – a bonus shot – was taken with my Sony Cybershot of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I was scrolling through photos today and really liked how the cranes seemed to mimic the towers of the church. A cool juxtaposition, I thought. Gaudi’s masterpiece is due for completion in 2030 (or thereabouts).

Breathing Travel: A Simple and Savvy Start…

When an article is described as ‘evergreen’, this means that its content is based on tips, resources, or other topics that do not go out of date as quickly as those of current events.

This is the objective of the first post on my Breathing Travel | Documenting the journey blog, where posts are dedicated to my coursework at MatadorU.

Inspired by my sister’s upcoming trip as a first-timer to Europe, I decided to collate a series of tips for her. Take a look and I’d love to know whether you’d add any more tips.

SOLO TRAVEL: Keeping it Simple and Savvy

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind. ~ Seneca

Barcelona's bustling La Boqueria

My sister is embarking on her first European trip in a couple of weeks and I couldn’t be more excited for her. Living ‘Down Under’, in 200+ year old Australia, the rest of the world can, at times, seem so out of reach; a trip to Europe is definitely high on most Aussie to-do lists. My sister’s own feelings of excitement will undoubtedly give way to wonder, amazement, and awe when she steps foot into London – her first stop after a 20+ hour plane trip. Jet lag? Shelve that for the trip back home to Sydney!

That said, I cannot help but take on the role of protective sister; about 2 weeks out of my little sister’s 4 week vacation will be traveled solo as she makes her way through Mediterranean exotica. As liberating as this part of the trip will be, I wanted to share some big sister advice on pre-planning; to try and avoid any unnecessary solo-traveler anxiety. (Mum, I am doing this for you too).

Sister, and interested others – this list is yours to print out and keep by your side.

Quaint Cannes

Packing:

  1. Don’t buy a black suitcase. Buy a well-made reputable brand – preferably one that is on sale because of a low-selling design pattern, or not-so-popular colour. Why? No-one will really want to steal it, and it will be easily recognizable on the carousel.
  2. Pack clothes to look like a local. Classic basics are ideal to mix n match on a daily basis; go easy on the shoe selection. Please – no ‘I Heart Roma’ T-shirts paired with stark-white sneakers… you know why. Leave the jewels at home.
  3. Keep the toiletries to a minimum. Save room in the suitcase and head to Boots pharmacy in the UK to stock up. Buy a small sunscreen to keep in the purse – the exposed top decks of the hop on/hop off bus tours double up as rooftops for sunbaking.
  4. Be sensitive with electronics. Keep chargers and the e-book safe in your hand luggage AND buy a plug converter.
  5. Care for the Camera. Keep the compact in its case; perhaps buy a second battery and memory card that are ready-to-go in case the others run dry half way through the day. Plenty of pictures will be taken – I know it!
  6. Load up the e-book and ipod with your favourite shows, files, and songs, to make the most out of those plane or train delays. Wandering around with earphones is a no-go, especially in cities like London where crowds and traffic reign. It’s easy to get distracted.
  7. Pack miscellanea. Gather together some wet-wipes, tissues, lollies/sweets, band-aids, notebook with pen, and Panadol/Advil – stash them in your purse. They will come in handy at some point, promise.
  8. Curb homesickness. Take a few of your favourite family-and-friend photos as well as something to remind you of home. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Artful Florence

Money and Documents:

  1. Photocopy documents 3 times: passport, itinerary (see * below), airline tickets, insurance papers, and credit cards. Leave one at home with always-contactable parents/friends; put another copy in your hand luggage, and the other, in the suitcase – just in case the purse gets lost. *Create a detailed itinerary with hotel, tour, train, information, airline details; as well as printing it, email to yourself and parents/friends.
  2. Convert some money at the bank before you leave, say AUD300 into pounds and Euros. Ask for low denominations (5,10,20 notes) so you don’t have to struggle with getting change back. I don’t recommend currency exchange booths – their exchange rates aren’t the best. Use a credit card when possible, and if you need to use the ATM, find one in a well lit public place.
  3. Look up destination specific blogs. When planning your itinerary, blogs are a really good resource to seek out as they can give detailed information on the who, what, where, how, why. Honest, first-hand accounts written by everyday travelers get really specific on the most intricate details, especially the watch-outs. e.g. how much to expect to pay for a taxi from the airport; the best train to catch between cities; Metro timetable limitations, surcharges, hidden fees.
A Fiat in Roma

A Fiat in Roma

Research

  1. Learn some key phrases. Write a few key words in the languages you’ll be encountering, and put these cue cards in your wallet, e.g. good morning, thank you, I’m not interested, HELP! Interest in the local language can go a long way – it can be fun trying to converse (with hand gestures too).
  2. Etiquette. Being culturally respectful and sensitive is always a good thing, especially as a first-time traveler. Even moreso if visiting sacred sites and churches. Here are a couple of good links for Italy: http://www.fodors.com/news/story_3872.html and http://www.cntraveler.com/travel-tips/travel-etiquette/2008/06/Etiquette-101-The-Mediterranean
  3. Museum Passes and Metro cards. Sometimes buying these from home, prior to travel, can give you certain privileges like jumping the queue at those line-riddled Parisian museums.Plus, you’ve just pre-paid so that saves you even more time.  e.g. The Museum Pass in Paris – Goodbye crazy long line; Hello Musee D’Orsay!
  4. Mobile/Cell Phone. You don’t want to be hit with a huge bill for roaming charges when you get home, so give the phone company a call prior to travel and find out your international options.
  5. Pre-book as many hotel nights, train passes, and tours as possible. It’s good to have a framework to travel within – it keeps you on track as time is of the essence.

Pretty Monaco

Solo Travel Tips

  1. Indulge in the café-culture. Coffee is necessary traveler fuel! Sit in an outdoor terrace of a Parisian bistro, or stand in an espresso bar in Rome; people-watch; get a feel of a neighbourhood; and, write a postcard (to me!).
  2. Always take business cards. From the hotel, café, restaurant, store – just in case you get yourself lost in Europe’s maze of streets, or need to show the address to a taxi-driver who doesn’t speak English.
  3. Make friends if you have a good gut instinct about them but don’t give out too much personal information. You can never be too sure…
  4. Going out. Hopefully with some fellow travelers, and try and keep it close by to the hotel – double check whether the lobby is serviced 24/7. Watch your drink with an eagle eye.
  5. Hotel Tips. Ask for a room that isn’t on the ground level, use the safe to stash your valuables, befriend the concierge – they are an invaluable source for maps, tour recommendations, and getting you in to a restaurant.
  6. If you can sense trouble. If you feel that someone may be following you – enter a store or café to surround yourself with people that could potentially help you out.
  7. Keep in touch regularly. Buy a phone card from each country; find out where the Internet cafes are (preferably, there is Internet access in your hotel). Call your mother, she worries! Email you sister, she worries too!

NB: Security lines at the airport – remember to wear hole-less socks and easy to remove shoes; the less metal on you, the better; buy that bottle of water after you’ve cleared the line.

Most importantly, relax and have a great trip. Bon Voyage!

A Roman Espresso

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Five (Sundays)

It’s Sunday and it feels like it was last Sunday, yesterday.
Before I know it, Christmas will be here, then New Year’s Day (both of which fall on a Sunday)…. 2012 will have started and 2011’s Sundays will be those of yesteryear!

Without getting caught up in the stress of it all, here’s to taking a step back… and enjoying every moment.

“Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

Owl, Netherlands ~ Photograph by Robin Utrecht

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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao ~ Photograph by Albert Perpinya

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“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville

Trees, Lithuania ~ Photograph by Matas Juras

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“Maybe that’s what life is… a wink of the eye and winking stars. ”  Jack Kerouac

Eiffel Tower, Paris ~ Photograph by Rick Wianecki

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“Imagine.” John Lennon

Baobab Trees, Madagascar ~ Photograph by Pascal Maitre

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“Be present – it is the only moment that matters.” Peaceful Warrior

The Astor Court, The Met, NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

Flower, Spain ~Photograph by Brendan Comey

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“He who would travel happily must travel light.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Prayer Wheels, Tibet ~ Photograph by Ray Chong

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“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” Rosalia de Castro

Steps from Wagner Cove, Central Park NY ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
Paul Theroux

Door, Seville ~ Photograph by Wenjie Zhang

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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller

Polar Bear Vs. Ship, Norway ~ Photograph by Michael Nolan

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5 Pointz – Graffiti Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens, NY

Having posted a few times on street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a fellow blogger, Victor Ho, drew my attention to a graffiti project in Long Island City (LIC), Queens called 5Pointz Aerosol Art Center, Inc. A hop, skip and a jump away from Williamsburg, I was eager to check it out. And so after a quick drive over the Pulaski Bridge that separates Brooklyn from Queens, I was in the area that is LIC.

LIC is not unlike Williamsburg. They are both undergoing gentrification, enjoy full frontal views of Manhattan across the East River, are easily accessible by subway or ferry, and are situated close to major bridges. In this case, the Queensboro Bridge that connects LIC to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. There’s a young professional vibe here though it’s not as tightly knit a neighbourhood, nor as developed (yet) as that which makes up Williamsburg.

Queensboro Bridge linking LIC to Manhattan

Simply dubbed ‘5Pointz’, this 20,000 square foot, empty 5-story factory building is covered from top to bottom in graffiti. The name represents the five boroughs of New York though the building has become a showcase for global graffiti works. Artists from the US and all over the world including Australia, Spain, Canada, Brazil and France have shared their art here. Located under the rambling elevated 7subway line and just off of a major road, Jackson Avenue, this one block long industrial complex is secluded within the confines of the dead-ended Davis Street. In one way, an oxymoron, for the area is far from dead. Today I spotted a film crew, photographers, iphone snapping fans and trucks aplenty in the enclave.

7 Subway Line

5Pointz Building…

5Pointz Building… continues along Davis Street

5Pointz Building… full frontal

Art continues down the complex on Davis Street

The fate of 5 Pointz is undetermined. Where the website claims that the curator of the outdoor art gallery, Jonathan Cohen, plans to convert the building into a “graffiti museum”, as well as “a school for aspiring aerosol artists, complete with a formalized curriculum that imparts lessons in teamwork, art history, and entrepreneurship in addition to technique”, there has been petitioning against knocking the building down to make room for condos. The building’s owner, John Wolcoff, has expressed interest in building two 30-story high rises to cash in on the migration of renters who cannot afford Manhattan, and has promised a rear wall accessible to graffiti artists in lieu of what may be torn down. Hardly compensation.

An homage to Dali

Marie Flageul, an event planner who is part of the 5Pointz team, recently stated on NYTimes.com, “What the landlord doesn’t understand is that 5Pointz is a brand and an icon, and if he knocks it down it will be missed. 5Pointz is the United Nations of graffiti.”

Ironically, LIC is located directly opposite the United Nations building in Manhattan.

View of the United Nations (left), as seen from LIC’s Water’s Edge dock

If you’re a graffiti artist who may be interested in staking a piece of wall real estate within this “graffiti Mecca”, perhaps the only legal place left in New York for tagging, you’ll need obtain permission from 5Pointz. According to the website:

The most coveted locations are given to accomplished graffiti artists who create high-quality, conceptual work that displays great artistic detail, while the less visible areas are preserved for new and aspiring aerosol artists.

The better the mural, the longer it stays up. Pieces and productions are typically left on display for anywhere from one day to two years, depending on the quality and effort of the work, as well as the pedestrian traffic level of its wall placement. Long-lasting, prominently displayed productions require a rough draft and demonstrate creative vision, a high-level of craft, and originality.

Frogs (mural located opposite 5Pointz building on David Street)

To sign the petition, click here: SHOW UR LOVE TO 5POINTZ

Condos along LIC’s waterfront

Please share your comments below. I’ll be tweeting this page regularly to relevant parties and discussion groups. This will be a way to support 5Pointz in their efforts to save their space.

Grimace…

5Pointz – Close Up