Wednesday, 21 April 2010
I know that I haven't written in a VERY long time but I will continue with it soon...!!
A little bit of a teaser about my next travels.... I will be heading to the US, Mexico and Cuba early June.
I am absolutely stoked about my next adventures. I will gallivanting around this part of the world with some very close friends, whom again, happen to be locals! Stay tuned for my next adventures. I have even been practicing a little Spanish to help me along in Mexico and Cuba!
Adios y hasta pronto amigos!
Besos y abrazos!
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
We begin the day by targeting a few of the shops in Amsterdam that deserve mentioning. De 9 straatjes (the 9 streets), filled with lively cafes, outlandish second hand shops as well as your externally fresh boutiques, this trendy area will steer you away from the extremely touristy streets of Amsterdam where it now seems to be quite difficult to avoid. First shop stop is SPRMKT, Rozengracht 191-193, is a supermarket-converted shop (hence the name) that sells clothing collections ranging from Acne to Raf with a touch of retro designer furniture pieces in the entrance. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might be able to witness a photo shoot going on in this store, better yet; at Hartenstraat 36 you will find the SPRMKT outlet store you can find clothing at a more affordable price than that seen at SPRMKT. Still along the line of affordability and De 9 Straajes, Episode, Berenstraat 1 and Zipper, Huidenstraat 7 are just 2 of the many second hand boutiques that personifies the Amsterdam retro trend.
If you want to step out of ‘high-end’ fashion and move onto urban-modern, head down to Waterlooplein where 290 sq metres, Houtkopersdwarsstraat 3 is evidently a concept store that has worked in all ‘290 sq metres’ of space with clothing, accessories, artwork by Futura and even fixed-gear bikes. With 290 sq metres of space to play with and ongoing events, you might be able to bystander magazine launches, art exhibitions or even the international launch of NIKEiD, you are never too far away from ‘the happenings’ in this city.
When feeling peckish:
Dutch cuisine is not exactly the most exciting or most innovative but one thing that is good is the pannenkoek met kaas en stroop (pancakes with cheese and syrup). It is not difficult to find a pancake joint in Amsty but Pancakes! Amsterdam, Berenstraat 38 is a personal favourite. This dainty café not only has great pancakes, but the friendly staff and cosy atmosphere will only heighten your pleasantry experience in Amsterdam. If you are after a quick afternoon bite after your long shopping expedition, Winkle, Noordermarkt 43 will provide you with the best Dutch apple pie in Amsterdam. If you simply ask them to serve you with their specialty, appletaart with a side of whip cream will be served to you pronto!
Other than these Dutch treats, the one and most important thing in Amsterdam is its multi-cultural balance of people, which can only lead to one thing, the abundance and goodness of different cuisines you can pick and choose from. Ranging from Moroccan, Surinamese, Indonesian, French and indie burger joints, you name it, it's there. For these choices, head down to De Pjip where all will be revealed.
What the guides don't tell you:
As Amsterdam grows, the city space diminishes. It is not surprising to know that Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities for rental space, where design and art studios are now relocating to other areas. The NDSM island located at the back of central station, is a man made island to try and solve Amsterdam’s urban working space problem. Designers and artists are now residing to this island where they are now able to set up their studio at affordable prices. With an eco-friendly café noordenlicht café and IJ Kantin, a skate park and various art installations located around the island, this island is an example of how the Dutch have tried to utilise abandoned space into a form of public spacing incorporated to working space, which I believe has shown to be very effective. To top it off, the 5-minute ferry ride to NDSM will also allow you to see Dutch architects MVRDV signature ship container houses that everyone so readily talks about.
The Amsterdam Bibliotheek (city's public library) is another exquisite example of Dutch architecture that has baffled us all. It is located at the new-development area east to the central station, where this area houses most of Amsterdam's contemporary architecture samples. The relocation of the city library has only generated more interest and appeal for the public. This beautifully designed library is fully equipped with all forms of literature and audio as well as your choice to use a mac or pc to check your email. The bibliotheek is always a good pit stop before heading to the next destination.
To enjoy a more modern cultural experience, Westergasfabriek Pazzanistraat 41, will provide you with just that. Westergasfabriek is constructed from a cluster of old gas buildings that are now transformed into a creative factory. Westerpark hosts a variety of events ranging from science to fashion as well as exhibiting independent art work from local artists. This idyllic complex is also a host to a number of bars and cafes including Het Ketelhuis, a small cinema featuring Dutch or international indie films and documentaries, which can be easily enjoyed by everyone to end the perfect day in Amsterdam.
Last minute tips:
Amsterdam is the ‘bike city’ of Europe, so it is only obvious that the most convenient and enjoyable way to explore Amsterdam is by bike. I can’t express how much more enjoyable Amsterdam is when riding along the canals without a helmet in your best Sunday dress. If you don’t fancy the bike situation, then walking is your next best option. One advantage that walking does give you are the small alleyways that leads to a surprise around each corner. Don’t be afraid to get lost!
As for myself, it is obvious that I have a clear passion and love for the arts. Whether it is from the portrait posters by OBEY around the city, enjoying gigs at Paridiso or simply just enjoying well-deserved time in a coffee shop, the more I return to Amsterdam, the more I fall in love with this city. Its well-crafted architecture with a convergence of contemporary is one thing that is difficult to spot throughout Europe, yet Amsterdam is able to fuse these two concepts with coherence and flair. As for myself, the current vagabond, Amsterdam is definitely my favourite city to visit as well as a possible city I could settle in. To my convenience, it would have never been as exploratory without my partner in crime Ffonz.
Till next time in another destination around the world,
Viv signing out.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Lets begin with the MUSTS:
Central Paris is divided into districts where it is very important that you research about places to go before you arrive. With Paris being a HUGE city, the most appropriate way to get around is by the underground. I do say the MOST APPROPRIATE, but I must add that it isn't the best running system that I have experienced and not the most comfortable. My only advice is, don't forget to bring your iPod, it will be your only distraction that keeps you away from the smell of urine down every subway tunnel leading to the platform, but despite the pungent smell, it is the most efficient way to get around.
Shopping in Paris is the same as eating Peking duck in Beijing. Despite the high end brands, Paris is enriched with small boutiques, local urban brands and au courant concept stores. The first stop is the Marais district which is located in district 3 and 4. Here you will find all the small french boutiques located around Rue Charlot and Vielle Du Temple where you will not be disappointed with any of the stores, but like every girl, I have my top picks. Le Bouclard on 15 Rue Charlot is a small urban wear boutique where underground local urban brands in combination with Raf Simons are enhanced on the wooden hangers scattered around the shop. To top it off, you will also be pleasantly greeted by a personal shar pei as a doorman. On the same street at 68 Rue Charlot, prominent Parisian urban brand Surface To Air display there creative printed shirts along with sophisticated tailored coats and jeans. Their unique style and innovative approach to their collection is seen through both the aesthetics of the store and in their gorgeous garments.
After shopping in small boutiques it is now time to grasp and experience the essence of a high-end concept store, Colette, 213 Rue Saint-Honoré. At Colette, fashion mixes with music, food, books, magazines and art. With Colette being one the most famous concept stores in the world, when you walk through the doors you now know what everyone raves on about. With a minimalist shop design, the interior and collective items inside speak for itself. Limited edition music, garments, books you name it, designed and made especially for Colette gives that extra spark to this special store. Its mixture of high-end urban wear, BBC, Neighborhood and PAM and high-end fashion house brands such as Balenciaga and Lanvin contribute to the outstanding formation of this store, not to mention the gorgeous childrens corner located on the top floor.
After the shopping expedition, a good way to relax without the shopping bags is by heading to the contemporary museum Palais de Tokyo, 13 Avenue du Président Wilson. Its 19th century architecture is seen from the outside, but don't let the old building deceive you. When entering the building, your eyes will instantly be attracted to the raw material used to create all the products and installations around the museum. With Paris enriched with famous museums and galleries, you will not be disappointed by any of the galleries or museums.
Something that you might not be used to hearing are the 'quite' places of Paris. As we all know, being in a vibrant and upbeat city, where on earth do you go for just the simple 'stroll in the park.' The answer to that is, Jardin de Luxemburg located in the 6th district. When Parisians want some time-out or go for a simple jog to test out their Nike+Ipod sneakers, Jardin de Luxemburg is fully equip in size and provides you with the calm atmosphere you are longing for. When taking the stroll around, take notice of the chairs located at every resting point in the park, they are all the same green garden chair that looks as if it belongs on the patio instead of a park.
An Unforgettable culinary experience:
When experiencing the taste of France confit de canard (duck confit) is one taste that you wish could stay in your mouth for the rest of the day. Le Pavé, 7 Rue Lombards is a restaurant located in the 3rd district that specializes in duck confit. The sauteed potatoes and mushroom only compliment the crispy duck leg that is served on your plate.
Another hit on the list is Le 404, 69 Rue Gravilliers in district 3. Here you will experience the vibrant flavours and rustic feel of North Africa, Morocco in particular. With everything on the menu worth choosing, the tangines and the lamb skewer with cous cous with your side of sweet yet minty Moroccan tea are definite combination's that are enticing to the eye. After a very gratifying dinner, a pleasant drink in an ambient bar is an enjoyable way to end your day. Head down to district 1 to 6 Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny where you will find Le Fumior, a cozy bar which feels as if you are relaxing in a 19th century library. With killer margarita's and a side batch of olives and cashew nuts as a welcoming dish, this upscale yet intimate bar will accommodate you with the pleasant and tranquil end to the evening.
Last minute tips for Paris:
As for Paris, there aren't any don'ts or must not's in Paris, just make sure you do your research on places, opening times and if there are any public holidays during your stay in Paris. There is nothing worse then traveling all the way to Paris to find out that everything is closed for the weekend or for the public holiday, heads up, Europe has quite a few public holidays. Just remember that if you happen to be taking a train and landing in Gard du Nord, don't trust anyone that is trying to sell you metro tickets or any form of tickets. You will realise that there are all different lines and connections that pass through the metro's where you might buy the wrong ticket for the wrong train. It might take some time, but it is better that you wait in line at the information desk where you can ask specifically which ticket will best suit your stay, your in France for goodness sakes, no one speaks English, or if they can, they just don't prefer to speak english, it's better to be safe than sorry.
For all you blackberry and iPhone users that are in need of free wireless and for those who can't go without checking your email for even a day, head down to district 3 close to the George Pompidou museum where nearly every cafe has a wireless sticker outside the window. You will find your business man or your student tapping away on their iPhone, or on their laptop like me.
We have all seen the picture perfect postcard of the Eiffle tower or the Lourve and in some sense, Paris is exactly as what you expect, but behind all that, it is evident that Paris is trying to unveil its urban and underground scene to show us that it's not only all about the high-end fashion (although you don't see me complaining) but the art, food, architecture, music, bars, people, language etc that lightens up the picture postcard that we have all seen.
On an end note, you will never run out of things to do in Paris, instead you will run out of time and money before you have seen everything. As they say in french Avoir un bon voyage et bonne chance (Good bye, have a safe trip and good luck!)
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
I could begin with a rundown on the history of Berlin, but to cut the long story short, I will just say that east Berlin is the place to be. West Berlin is considered 'posh' where you will find
your high end boutique stores and not your typical Berliner chilling here.
With a reliable underground system, the best way to get around Berlin if not by the U-bahn, the buses and trams are just as reliable. As we all know, efficiency to the Germans is AFL to the Aussies. Even the timers at each ends of the platform are 1 minute apart to inform you that if you are waiting for the front of the train to stop, it will take you 30secs-1min before the back of the train reaches 0min and for the to doors open..!! weird I know!
Eberswalder strasse is a definite place to scout. Here you will find good food at a very very affordable price, not to mention Berlin's most famous currywurst stand, which is located under U-Eberswalder strasse, which in my opinion I can't see what the fuss is about BUT Berlin is known for its currywurst. You will also come across Kastanienalle and Pappadalle at the intersections where here you will find cute shops, intimate cafes and 1euro foccacias! If you walk towards Prenzlauer Alle, you're heading towards the right direction! There is no particular shop, cafe or gallery you should visit, you will find the right one that will suit you by pure chance, the wonders of Berlin!! When someone asks me why I like these areas so much and why I suggest them to people, I answer, this is what Berlin is all about, although it is a bit of a yuppie area, it's unpretentious, full of spontaneous art installations which can all be seen through they way Berliners dress and the art crafted on the buildings and even sometimes on the trees (Schönhauseralle). I love that there is no particular Berlin style of fashion and no particular way to dress to fit into the scene, yet their quirky but trendy style still enables you to be able to distinguish between the electro clan from the indie to the jazz.
If you enjoy the walk, head down Schönhauser alle where you will now come across an area solely for shopping. If I had the money, it would all be spent on Alte Schönhauser strasse in all the small boutiques such as Acne, C´est, APC, Cos etc. A special mention must also go to Pro QM, a book store on Almstadstrasse 48 designed by architect J.Fezer and artists K.Reichard&A.Weider. They have created a quality bookshop that stocks every art, design, architecture..book, you name it. Not only is the variety of books and magazines that deserve ackonwledgment but also its gorgeous deco and hospitable setting where you are able to enjoy your book just as much as enjoying it in the comfort at your own home.
Just on an end note with shopping, for the ones interested in design and interior, go inside the Hugo Boss shop at Hackerscher markt, you will be suddenly drawn to the white and very clean display from the front. For all you music and record lovers, my fellow traveler that was with me during the time, was on a mission, the search and scour for records store that stocked rare LP's. For the dirt on which record stores to visit,
The FOOD and nightlife!!
Your food expedition, will start at brunch. Normally after a night of partying, you will be more than happy to wake up late. Head towards the Prenzlaur area or around eberswalder again and eat brunch in any cafe for a measly 2-3 euros!!! That's not the best part, it's all-you-can-eat!! It might not be your typical bacon and eggs but the Germans enjoy their eggs, wurst, cheese, bread, cereals, jams etc and to be honest, I actually prefer a German brunch then your typical English or American breakfast, it doesn't make you sick in the stomach for the rest of the day. For a late lunch you MUST MUST MUST have a döner kebab. My top recommendation would be a small döner and schwarma stall opposite Hasir Restaurant on Adalbertstrasse in Kruzberg (sorry the name doesn't come to mind). For 2.50E, friendly people and grilled veges in the kebab, who could ask for more!
The nightlife in Berlin has left me speechless, watch out Madrid, I think Berlin is close behind by means of an outrageous night! Berlin is filled with electro clubs. I am a fan of indie/dance/electro, although my night out in Berlin consisted of leaving the house at 1:30am for a hard electro club, a guy vomiting on the tram as well as my friends making friends with a bum on the way back home, But oh boy was it a fun night out and I enjoyed every moment. If you are looking for a night as like the one I experienced, head down to the Scala club where you will experience the two levels of hard electro where you will be entertained by the masked dj, but dont hold your breath, it is probably better that he keeps the mask on with the mixing that he was doing.
As for the dont's in Berlin, I cant think of any... it is a city within itself and is completely different to any other german city I have been to. In the winter, you are able to grasp the historical essence of the city because it's normally to cold to wander around aimlessly, where in spring and summer, the city lights up and show it's true colours. From the shops to the culture, Berlin is overwhelmed with it all!
I will end by saying that I wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much as I did if it weren't for my toughest critic, personal guide, information handout, inspiration and best friend, Narisha. I know that I said that you were 'such a Berliner' but you wouldn't have discovered these places without being a true melbournian at heart!
I have enjoyed every minute of Berlin and I would be back in a flash. I have now passed on my information that was given to me by Narisha onto you and I hope that you are able to enjoy Berlin in the fun and collective way that I did.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
If you're arriving by plane and happen to land in terminal 4, your architour will start here. This beautiful terminal was designed by British architect Richard Rogers where he is known for his grand yet transparent buildings with a bright and light filled layout. This might be jargen to a lot of you, but if that doesn't really interest you, then just look at the pretty synchronized colours on the outside of the airport, one minute its green, the next minute its red!
Where do we begin??
All situated in the centre, the museums lie in lined to each other, but which to choose? If you are looking for 12th century European art, then go to the Prado museum. If you are after modern comtemp art, and my personal favourites, go to Reina Sofia or Caxia Forum. With Caxia Forum recently opened, the exhibition is still free for you to enjoy the collection. Not only the collection, but architects Herzog & De Meuron have also created a piece which shows that art and engineering do make a good mix! I'll let you be the judge.
P.S Don't forget to check out the cafe on the top floor, the exquisite laser cut windows let you escape reality and enter a new found respect to creativity, well...that's what I felt anyways.
**Insiders tip, if you are in Madrid for the weekend, admission is free after 2pm, free is always good**
Next on the list is FOOD!!
Nothing is better then having tapas in the country where tapas originated from. First on the list is Alumbrah, located on calle de la Victoria 9 is a definite MUST! Order the mix platter of jamon (spanish ham), chorizo (spanish sausage), paella and the abondigas (spanish meatballs). I have also been told by an insider that jamon is like prosciutto, only 100 times better, I second that!! One last thing, if you ever come across LOMO DE BUEY on the menu, do not say no!!! it is beef tenderloin cooked to perfection.
If you're after a more intimate setting then head on over to Bazaar restaurant, C/Libertad, 21. The prices are affordable at 10E and under per meal, where the warm chocolate cake for dessert is too good to pass up!
After finishing your dinner at 11pm (true spanish style), Madrid opens up and reveals its secret, ITS NIGHTLIFE!! The Spaniards really know how to enjoy life, there is no such phrase as 'we'll go there on the weekend,' everyday is a weekend! The bars situated around La Musa latina and Cheuca are definietly worth checking out. La latina is a multicultural area where if you were up for a good meal, live entertainment, salsa dancing and a killer mojito, it could only be in La latina. Opposite the Irish pub O'Connels, you will see La Negra Tomasa, located at C/Espoz y Mina, 9, a Cuban restaurant that provides all the entertainment mentioned above all in one night!
If your after more of a quite, yet pleasant night, Ojala (pronounced OHALA) provides you with sublime cocktails, a movie projected on the wall and an indoor beach at your convenience! Located at C/San Andrés 1, the ambiance is what brings character to this cute and stylish cafe. The last and most important point, especially to all the crackberries and iphone addicts, Ojala provides free wireless access! WE'RE SAVED!!
Last but not least, Puerta America hotel, Avenida de América, 41, at the metro stop Cartagena, a hotel that was proven to be possible. The 5 star hotel was designed by 13 farchitechts (famous architects) where each architect and designer was given a floor to design. As you can imagine, 13 different concepts, 13 floors, in one building is too much, but surprisingly enough, it actually worked!! If you end up visiting, please keep in mind that you can't actually go into each floor unless your staying in one of the suites, although if you take the lift to the top floor where the bar is located, you are able to have a small sneak preview into each floor. So, if your willing to pay 3euros for a shitty hot chocolate but appreciate the concept of this hotel, it's worth the visit.
On an end note, the cafe downstairs is designed by our very own Australian designer Marc Newson, why not check it out?!
Last minute tips:
When walking on Gran Via (the main street in Madrid and covered with tourists), especially at night, it's not the safest place to be walking whilst being drunk nor is it the best place to piss off the prostitutes. They know that you are a tourist, and if you are drunk, your a prime target yet again of being pick pocketed, they are cleverer than you think!
Chueca is the gay district of Madrid, hence the impeccable taste in shops, cafes and bars. Just on an end note, boys who are there without the mrs, just don't be shocked if someone gives you a bit of a tweak on the bum :)
As you can tell, Madrid is one of my favourite cities in the world. It is full of character and displays it with style. If you are lucky like me and had an exceptional tour guide with immaculate taste, you will love Madrid as much as I did.
Adios y hasta luego!!
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Do check out the area where the museum of Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona is located. Not only is this museum worth checking out, but the area is very unique and filled with goodies to explore and enjoy! Just walk into any bar or tapas place, you wont be disappointed! As I've been told by the locals in which I truly believe, 'this is the coolest area in BCN, majority of the people here are art students so hence the graffiti everywhere' (ok they didn't use the word hence, but you get what i mean).
Go for a wander and also look out for the Camper store and Casa de Camper (Campers own boutique hotel!!)
For shoppers: Check out La Roca Village, which is located in the east of Barcelona. You have to take the metro to Fabra i Puig and take a bus from here to La roca, the bus is a Sagalés bus. In La roca they sell high brands for 1/3 of the price!! if you are lucky like me, you will be able to purchase 3 mandarina duck laptop bags for under 250Euros!
One more thing, if you are there during the football season, definitely check out FC Barcelona play at Camp Nou, even if your not really a football fan, like myself, you will still be in aura!!
The Dont's in Barcelona:
Keep in mind that Barcelona is in the South of Europe (THE ROBBERIES). As much as I love Spain, DONT TRUST ANYONE!!!!!! If your a small asian girl like me, it cries out TOURIST!!! so girls hold on to your bags and make sure that your bag does not have an easy opening... and men dont keep your wallet in your back pocket, that is the first place pick pocketers will look!! Dont help anyone if they require help, dont give out directions NOTHING!! I know it might sound harsh, but I have been in this situation so many times where I now know what to look for, so beware!!! Dont make me say 'I told you so!'
Sights have been seen, pictures have been taken and a lot of money has been spent. My traveling experiences can now be shared with all of you! From the Eiffel tower to the dingy little bar at the bottom of an apartment in Budapest, my travels will be something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. As beautiful as the main attractions are, if given a little time and effort, you will then see and appreciate the art of traveling.
That's enough from me... so enjoy!