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is described as ‘evergreen’, this means that its content is based on tips, resources, or other topics that do not go out of date as quickly as those of current events.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 as if last Sunday was yesterday.
Before I know it, Christmas will be here, then New Year’s Day (both of which fall on a Sunday)…. 2012 will begin and 2011s Sundays will be yesteryear’s!

Instead of stressing over it, here’s to stepping back and enjoying every moment.

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

Owl, Netherlands ~ Photograph by Robin Utrecht

Image source

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

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao ~ Photograph by Albert Perpinya

Image source

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

Trees, Lithuania ~ Photograph by Matas Juras

Image source

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

Eiffel Tower, Paris ~ Photograph by Rick Wianecki

 Image source

“Imagine.” John Lennon

Baobab Trees, Madagascar ~ Photograph by Pascal Maitre

Image source

“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

Image source

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

Prayer Wheels, Tibet ~ Photograph by Ray Chong

Image source

“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

Image source

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

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

Image source

 

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

Because I have posted 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. From Williamsburg, it’s a quick drive over the Pulaski Bridge to LIC.

in some ways, LIC is similar to Williamsburg. Both neighbourhoods are both undergoing gentrification, enjoy view of Manhattan and the East River, are easily accessible by subway or ferry, and are situated close to major bridges — the Queensboro Bridge connects LIC to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. the area has attracted a young professional crowd though the  feeling of community doesn’t permeate as much as it does in Williamsburg.

Queensboro Bridge linking LIC to Manhattan

Dubbed ‘5Pointz’, this empty, 20,000-square-foot, five-story factory building is covered from top to bottom in graffiti. The name, 5Pointz, represents the five boroughs of New York, although the building is showcase global graffiti works by artists from Australia, Spain, Canada, Brazil, and France as well. Located under the rambling elevated 7-subway line, this one block long industrial complex continues until the Davis Street’s dead end. Today, the enclave was far from dead, which was filled with film crew, photographers, iphone-toting fans and trucks.

7 Subway Line

5Pointz Building…

5Pointz Building… continues along Davis Street

5Pointz Building… full frontal

Art continues down the complex on Davis Street

Unfortunately, 5 Pointz faces an undetermined fate. The graffiti art curator, 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”, yet there are rumours that the building will be knocked 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 renters escaping expensive 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 and are interested in staking a piece of real estate within this “graffiti Mecca”, perhaps the only legal place left to tag in New York, you’ll need to 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

Park Güell: Gaudi’s Whimsical Wonderland

As a kid, I was often caught up in the fantasies of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and my favourite, The Magic Faraway Tree. Twenty years later, I revisit these sensations at Park Güell.

Enchanting Park Guell

Park Güell is located on a hill in Barcelona, above Gracia, with a panoramic view over the city and sea. Artist Anton Gaudi designed plans for this space, originally commissioned as a privately financed suburb, in his Catalan style, which embraced mythology, history, and liturgy. The urban development project never eventuated; in 1923, it was turned into this park.

A gingerbread gatehouse

Gaudi modeled Park Güell on a nineteenth-century fairground: stone walls, fringed with pinnacles, are covered in mosaic tiles; the entrance combines white topped roofs with tall chimneys and windows outlined in patterned tile.

Second gingerbread gatehouse

Barcelona myth tells of Gaudi parsimoniously ordering his workmen to scavenge broken tiles from nearby building sites on their way to work. There were also reports of the workmen taking delivery of carefully transported Venetian tiles and smashing them in front of the horrified delivery man.” *

Ornate Mosaic Ceiling

Mosaic Detail

Gaudi’s design feels like a chapter from Choose Your Own Adventure. You may choose to climb a ceremonial staircase guarded by a dragon fashioned from tiny shards of tile; or meander along a pathway leading you to an outdoor hallway flanked by stone columns supporting the walkway above. Palm trees, bougainvillea, and stone sculptures serve as decoration.

Stone Columns and Palms

All paths lead back to the main plaza, the focal point of the park designed for social gatherings. A writhing serpent sculpture slithers along the plaza’s perimeter. Here you can enjoy a glass of sangria and look upon the park, Barcelona, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Fabulous Barcelona

Park Güell is a space unlike any place I have seen. Spending an afternoon here was as close as I’ve ever get to living in a fairytale.

Guell’s Emblem

Park Güell is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. It was designed in Gaudi’s singular Catalan style, where his “deliberate programme mixed classical myth, Catalan history, Catholic liturgy and the memory of martyrdom into something completely unique.” * This program was reflective of historical gardens in Renaissance Italy as well as Gaudi’s other works, the Nativity façade of La Sagrada Familia and the crypt at Colonia Güell.

Gaudi lived in a home here from 1906 to 1926. The Gaudi Museum (Casa Museu Gaudi) since 1963, it may be visited today for a fee and contains original works by Gaudi. In 1969 it was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest.

Casa Museu Gaudi

* Gaudi. A Biography by Gijs Van Hensbergen

Bolt of Inspiration Series, Part Two

It’s been raining, it’s been overcast, it’s been that type of day, and a good dose of inspiration was required. There is nothing like a good quote or a fantastic image to get those wheels turning and the creative juices flowing. As a continuation of my previous post, Part One, I share with you Part Two.

Prepare to be inspired and enjoy.

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag

Blue Pond – Hokkaido, Japan ~ Kent Shiraishi

Click for image source

“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.” Chinese Proverb

Cheetah in Africa ~ Louis  © rights reserved

Click here for image source

3. “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

At Western Qing Tombs in Yi County, China ~ Photograph by Danny Xu

Click here for image source

4. “The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by.” Robert Brault

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco ~ Vlad Min

Click here for image source

5. “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” The Buddha

Street Scene, Rio de Janeiro ~ Photograph by Rasko Ristic

Click here for image source

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

La Sagrada Familia, Spain ~ Photograph by Olivia-Rae

Click here for image source

7. “When you are everywhere, you are nowhere / When you are somewhere, you are everywhere.” Rumi

Masai Mara, Africa ~ Photograph by Daniel James Moore

Click here for image source

8. “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Unknown

Bird on Tap in León, Spain ~ Eduardo Serrano © rights reserved

Click here for image source

9. “Those who follow the crowd are quickly lost in it.” Anonymous

Maples Leaves in Williamsburg, Brooklyn ~ Photograph by Marina Chetner

10. “Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Adventure Challenge in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain ~ Photograph by Monica Dalmasso

Click here for image source

11. “I am convinced that to live is to travel towards the world’s end.” Ella Maillart

Water Ladder Binn Éadair in Howth County, Dublin ~ All rights reserved by Brendan Comey

Click here for image source

12. “Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.” Chinese Proverb

Summer Festival in Banyoles, Spain ~ Photograph by Tina Soriano

Click here for image source

The Essence of La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia must be seen to be believed. Photographs do it some justice (even my amateur snaps), but its essence is felt when standing in the thick of it all. From its intricate stonework (those detailed facades!), to its Gothic stained glass windows, to the high bell towers, to the vertigo-inducing spiral staircase, you’ll be filled with wonder… and in need of a sit down after being overly stimulated.

Spiral Staircase

Gaudi’s grand vision is easy to spot from any high point in Barcelona. I saw it from the rooftop of Casa Mila, another one of his landmarks. La Sagrada Familia does not impose. Rather, it watches over Barcelona and is emblematic of the city’s beauty.

Overarched by the Casa Mila, La Sagrada Familia stands tall in the background

As exquisite as La Sagrada Familia seems to one person, there have been naysayers including renowned artists.

For Picasso, Gaudi’s famous church, the Sagrada Familia, was something of a joke – more to Salvador Dali’s taste, he once commented, than his. In the living room in La Californie there used to be an enormous panettone that mice had reduced to a ruin: ‘Gaudi’s model,’ he would say.*

George Orwell thought it to be one of the ugliest buildings he had ever seen and “wondered why the Anarchists hadn’t wrecked it in the Civil War”.**

The decorative canopy of La Sagrada Familia’s interior

The church “could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century”, states La Sagrada Família website. The final result will be a variation of the artist’s vision. Though the aforementioned Anarchists had spared the building during the Civil War, in 1936 they had set fire to the crypt and destroyed the models, plans, drawings and photos in Gaudi’s former workshop. Construction continues based on those reconstructed plans. For some, there’s comfort in the thought that Gaudi watches over the building’s progress. In 1926, he was buried in the Carmen Chapel in the crypt of La Sagrada Família, where his remains still lie today.

*Taken from ‘Gaudi. A Biography.’ by Gijs Van Hensbergen ** ‘Barcelona’s 25 Best’ by Fodor’s

Amazing photos can be found within the blogs below:

Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia | Amy Davies

La Sagrada Familia photoblog by Angelo Samarawickrema.

The Nativity Facade