I was lucky enough to live for three months in Florence (or Firenze), Italy a couple of years previously and every time it is middle of April I keep thinking about this beautiful, wonderful city, my favourite in the whole world. The city is really the cradle of the Renaissance, and it has practically remained unchanged from the Middle Ages, ensuring that each visit is one of a kind cultural and historical experience. Dante Alighieri (poet), Leonardo da Vinci (painter), Niccolò Machiavelli (philosopher), Galileo Galilei (physicist), Giovanni Boccaccio (writer), Filippo Brunelleschi (architect) and Donatello (sculptor) were all born in Florence or in its environs, among many other famous people. It is also a city of beautiful Catholic churches: Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce and San Lorenzo, to name just a few, and the sites of natural beauty around the city (such as Fiesole hills) are also worth visiting and appreciating. Everybody knows about the landmark sites of the city – The Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, The Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, and, in this post, I would like to share some of my favourite, slightly off-the-beaten-path locations in Florence. All photos on this post are mine (though, at that time, I had a very terrible camera). Continue reading “Florence, Tuscany”
Brussels may not have the immediate “cool” appeal of Paris or London, but it has its own, irresistible quirky and charming side. From the beautiful architecture of the centre (be it Gothic or Art Nouveau) to comic strip murals (from Tintin to Corto Maltese), Brussels will please many, especially fans of all kinds of art and history (there are close to 100 museums in Brussels alone). Those who are into gourmet food, will also enjoy speciality waffles, Belgian chocolate and the best selection of beer. For literature lovers, there are also things to discover, and below are three of my favourite bookstores in the city.
I. Cook & Book
This place is situated some metro rides away from the city centre, but the travel is worth it. Despite “cook” in the title of this shop, there are all kinds of books available in this store, and not only those on culinary delights. There are plenty of bande dessinees, books on art and travel, as well as fiction books. More importantly, there is a nice section of English-language books. The store is very beautiful (sometimes considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world!), with inventive art design (books hanging from the ceiling, Union Jack decorations) and lit lamps, providing this cosy, literary and unusual atmosphere. The great thing about this atmospheric place (which is also divided into nine thematic zones) is that there is an onsite restaurant too, and one can enjoy the books while eating and drinking; address: Place du Temps Libre 1, 1200 Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Brussels. Continue reading “My 3 Favourite Bookshops in Brussels”
I. The Innocent Anthropologist: Notes from a Mud Hut  by Nigel Barley – ★★★★
In the late 1970s, Nigel Barley went to North Cameroon to study the Dowayos, and choosing those that represent the most “ferocious” mountain tribe existing at that time. This is his debut non-fiction account of his travels and exploration in Africa as he embarks on his fieldwork. In this book, Barley is really an “innocent” anthropologist, an idealistic young man who is a bit ignorant about what to expect in the real world outside the academia. Barley tells us how he encountered the mind-boggling bureaucracy, got lost in “the vast range of loose kingship” in the country, overcame malaria, as well as survived a horror-trip to a local dentist, among his other stories. Barley’s style of writing is appealingly laid-back, and this concise book turns out to be funny and engaging as a result. It may not be the book on the Dowayos, but part of the charm is that the account is surprisingly honest and humorous. Continue reading “Recent Travel Non-Fiction Reads: The Innocent Anthropologist, and Magic & Mystery in Tibet”
I. Sir John Soane’s Museum
This museum was a home to the eccentric architect and collector Sir John Soane, who asked to preserve his house after his death, which happened in 1837. This house museum is a real marvel and full of wonders and curiosities. On display are various artefacts from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, as well as objects from ancient Egypt, including Pharaoh Seti’s sarcophagus. It also has art works by Canaletto, paintings by Hogarth, interesting architectural drawings and various fascinating sculptures. The cosiness and the mysterious nature of museum make it even more appealing. The owner definitely had a taste for the macabre, and the newly restored catacombs area is also on display. What is great is that this museum is free to the public, and it hosts various exciting candlelit nights throughout the year where you can see and admire the wondrous objects by candlelight; address: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. Continue reading “3 Quirky Museums of London”
These three museums are small, but they have their own peculiar attraction, and, therefore, are worth visiting.
I. Cinema Museum (Musée du Cinéma)
This tiny museum is part of the Cinémathèque Française, and is a host to a variety of objects on the history of cinema, from cinema projectors and props used in old films, to film costumes, original sketches and old photographs. The general impression on the web is that this museum is exclusively for cinephiles. However, given the nature of the artefacts on display, more people may be interested in visiting it. For example, there is a Mrs. Bates’s skull from Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie Psycho  on display, and who has not yet seen this psychological thriller masterpiece? It will be interesting for anyone who is into unusual and macabre artefacts, as well as Hitchcockian films. There is also a robot on display from the iconic science-fiction movie by Fritz Lang – Metropolis , and that fact alone can draw many people in, for example, those who are interested in history and science-fiction props. Address: 51 Rue de Bercy, Paris. Continue reading “3 Quirky Museums of Paris”
This November I went to New York, NY to celebrate my birthday, and am presenting some of the slightly off-the-beaten-track highlights of my journey below. New York is magical in autumn when it is covered in all those bright red and yellow leaves and it is not yet too cold.
Starting with Central Park or “the Green Lung” of New York, there are a number of interesting statues and sights there, including Strawberry Fields, dedicated to John Lennon, Hans Christian Andersen statue and the Loeb Central Park Boathouse. My favourite has got to be the statue to Balto, a heroic sled dog that led his team on the final journey to transport serum to Nome, a town that was battling an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925. Those who have seen the animation Balto  will be particularly impressed. Some people criticise the monument, saying that Balto was simply the last in the relay race to deliver the medicine with his man, but it is also fair to say that the statue symbolises the tribute to all sled dogs that were involved in this race to save lives, including to Togo and Jack.
Nearby, there is also the infamous and majestic-looking, in all its Gothic glory, Dakota Building, which was built in 1884 across from Central Park and was the city’s first luxury apartment block. It notoriously housed a number of celebrities, including Leonard Bernstein, Rosemary Clooney, Boris Karloff, Judy Garland and Rudolf Nureyev. The interesting trivia here is that the building has its own in-house power plant to provide heating for its notable residents, and the applicants who were rejected by the board to be residents include Cher, Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The site can now be considered strangely eerie and tragic since in the building’s entrance corridor occurred the murder of John Lennon and the building also features in the psychological horror by Roman Polanski Rosemary’s Baby . Continue reading “A Trip to NYC”