Posts Tagged With: art

Rome, Imperial vibes

Rome is not just a destination, it’s an experience. The capital of the old empire possesses a rich heritage with the relics of over two thousand years of inhabitation. The city is made up of layers of history interwoven to an almost overwhelming degree: medieval churches build on ancient basilicas above Roman palaces; house and apartment blocks that integrate remains of eroded Roman columns, carvings, escutcheons and inscriptions. Exploring the Italian capital by feet is a no-brainer if you look at the density of Rome’s traffic. With imagination I reconstruct the old empire as I walk the cobble roads, alleys and piazzas which follow the lines of ancient amphitheaters and stadiums.  I take Piazza Navona as the center of the city from where I calculate that I’m probably twenty till thirty minute walk away from most of the places I want to see – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, Castel St. Angelo, Villa Borghese or the bohemian Trastevere district. And getting to those emblematic places is the real adventure as behind every corner lays a new puzzle piece of what was. Sometimes it is a façade with angels, another time it is a beautiful fountain with no name and a lot of times it’s a kind of déjà vu sensation as we all have seen Rome a billion times on postcards, movies and so on.

It is always the unexpected here in Rome.  Every now and then it even seems like things doesn’t fit.  The Pantheon for example… or the building is too big, or the square is too small. The Colosseum for example… is that even possible the way it stands so high and vertical, the way it seems so solid and brittle at the same time, standing here in the middle of a modern city.  There is even a religious capital inside a political capital… a city inside a city. Is Nicola Salvi’s Fontana di Trevi the façade of a building?  I tell you, at every corner there is a new bit of the long story of this city. Rome has fifty monumental fountains and hundreds of smaller fountains and over 2000 drinking fountains, more than any city in the world, it counts over 900 churches, 14 catacombs and about 40 Roman ruins to visit.  It has the Tiber river flowing through and you can walk along it taking sunset pictures at the over 30 bridges it contains and even an island to take a rest at the riverside. It’s blessed with an endless list of restaurants, takeaway pizzerias, pasta bars, charming coffeehouses, taverns with sunny terraces and crowded ice-cream shops without closing hours.

Rome at night is what I liked most and what I recommend most. The heat of the day fades away and a fresh breeze runs through the streets. The streetlight gives a special vibe to the city and transforms it into a magical place with luring bars and clubs, with local youngsters gathering together on the minor squares and students from all over the globe celebrating student life as they do each evening. There is no queuing at 2am and at 4am there are no people to mess up a nice picture… a unique moment for a city as Rome.

There is this moment without the souvenir fridge magnets racks and without fashionable shop windows… there is just me and these small ancient stonewall passages. The same passages that were there a thousand years ago and now and hopefully another thousand years withstanding modernization.

Recommendations:

  • Before hitting Rome, read a bit about its history. Who were Julio Ceasar, Pompeyo, Augusto,…
  • The same for its art, lookup the history behind fontains, emblematic bridges, squares,… Having a bit of information before you get on the streets will save a lot of time and will change the way you perceive its beauty. You can click on the links in this post or click on this INFO-GUIDE that I found online and helped me a lot to understand more about Rome.
  • The ruins of antiquity allow us to reconstruct with the imagination how Imperial Rome was. But after spending three hours in the Roman Forum, looking at broken columns and scattered stones, you’ll want to enter a building that still stands. Similarly, if you visit 20 baroque churches in a single day, you will be so “saturated” that they will all look the same to you. So alternate between ancient and modern. In Rome you have enough variety to avoid monotony.
  • Most of the important monuments are inside the Aurelian wall, which delimits the center of the city and whose area is quite accessible on foot.
  • Rome, it’s an ancient place, yet it’s so much more than an open-air museum: its culture, its food, its people make up a modern, vibrant city so enjoy every aspect of it.
  • We all know what a pizza should taste like but if you really want something original, fresh and with superior quality… I recommend Pizza Grand Gourmet as an alternative on anything else you’ve ever experienced. 🙂

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Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Buenos Aires with Love

31/03/2014 – 09/04/2014

This post is going to be pretty long. So please, dear friends! Don’t be scared, no hurry, no worry. Have a seat, a mug of hot tea and enjoy it.

After almost one day and an half travelling by train, we can’t feel our body anymore. Our legs are sleeping. I stick my face out the window, feel the wind as we drive. Buenos Aires is standing in front of us. We can’t believe it. We made it and we are going to tell this story for the rest of our life.

Some friends are waiting for us at the train station. What a gloomy weather! We feel the rain and its embrace. After having stretched our limbs, this sweet elderly couple takes us to their son’s place, Federico, who, without even know us, will be our host for the next few days and finally we can have a shower, rest a bit and think about the odyssey we just experienced. When Fede gets home from work, he immediately makes us feel at home. He is so caring and hospitable. We start to know each other e we let him guide us in the very heart of the city.

A couple of hours walk is enough to understand that Buenos Aires is a place full of beauties and contradictions, worthy of being discovered in its deeper shades. With the map and all the detailed information let from Fede’ s parents we spend a whole week trying to get the best of this fascinating metropolis. Wandering around, all the time with our eyes wide open and our heads strained to look up at every sign and building, so as not to miss anything, we cross parks, a beautiful rose garden e the charming Japanese Garden, built in 1967 after the visit of a member of the Japanese imperial family. Located in the residential neighbourhood of Palermo, this Zen oasis is the symbol of the historical relationship between Argentina and Japan with its cultural centre, its sushi restaurant and the Bonsai nursery.

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The more we see of BBAA, the more we fall in love with it. Parks, historical buildings, many “barrios” (neighbourhoods), all of them worthy a visit and with different peculiarities, for all tastes and wallets.

DSC06033 Puerto Madero (the old port of the city), developed along the bank of Rio Plata and built to solve the problem of the docking of large cargo ships, is the latest architectural trend of BBAA characterised by streets named after women and a breathtaking urban panorama with old brick red warehouses at one side of the river and modern skyscrapers at the other one. After a massive regeneration effort, it has become an elegant meeting point with bars and restaurants, chic hotels and offices, and a popular destination for foreign buyers interested in investment properties.

Puerto Nuevo (New Port), the real port of the city and a popular weekend destination, is located in Retiro District and provides transportation services to/from Uruguayan cities, the touristic town of Tigre and river cruise ships.

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Plaza de Mayo, the main square of Buenos Aires and probably one of the most emblematic place in Argentina’s history, takes its name from the May Revolution (25 may 1810), the first step towards the independence of Argentina. It is surrounded by several political and historical buildings, among them the executive mansion and office of the president of the Country, more commonly known as Casa Rosada (Pink House), home to the balcony where Eva Peròn stood as she addressed Argentine masses. Location of revolutions and social demonstrations, this square began in 1977 the meeting point for the Abuelas (grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo who still fight for the localization and return of the children (their grandsons) disappeared in Argentina during the Dirty War of the military dictatorship, between 1976 and 1983. Painted on the ground of the square are the white scarves, symbol of the “mothers” engaged in the struggle for human and civil rights in Argentina and in Latin America.

The Barrio Chino or Chinatown, located in Belgrano district, is a commercial area where the Asian community live and work characterized by an impressive entrance arch. Is here, right before the entrance door that we find a small gazebo in which some people are dancing Milonga, argentine typical folk music that incorporates the same basic elements as tango with a greater relaxation of the body. Beautiful!

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In BBAA a close friend of us is having good time too. Charlotte, our French travel mate, is spending a few days in the capital and we decide to meet her at the Recoleta cemetery, a monumental cemetery where Evita’ s body came to rest in 1976. Her black tomb is all the time visited by tourists and admirers who nearly everyday leave notes and flowers. A truly evocative place! DSC05957 DSC05968

 

Walking around the city means enjoying the Buenos Aires’ street art, chancing upon unusual and spectacular artworks on buildings façade, walls or lamps. Wandering the streets of Palermo or San Telmo it is like being in an open-air museum with huge murals and creative handmade street decorations.

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Sifting through monuments, small roads and wide avenues, we end up in La Boca, one of the most visited neighbourhood thanks to its lively colourful houses, cosy pedestrian streets with tango performances and souvenir shops, and, of course,  Maradona and the Bombonera (chocolate box), the stadium owned by Boca Juniors (Maradona’ s football team). Sooo fascinating, too touristic and probably a bit “fake” (I don’t know what is left of the original neighbourhood and buildings) but still charming and worth a visit.

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As we get lost in its streets, we bump into the cine-theatre Brown. Its art nouveau façade and the huge hall welcome us in a friendly atmosphere. Lorena and her colleagues are enthusiastic of talking about their cultural centre with foreign visitors who are just chasing down stories. We suggest to visit and like their FB page in order to know more about their activities and initiatives.

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So…time flies when you are having fun. We spend a whole week in BBAA, roaming around the city during the day and having good time with dear friends at night, going out for a drink with Federico and enjoying a real asado at his parents’ place. We even have the chance to meet again Tio Cacho and Guillermo who invited us for dinner and prepared empanadillas. We talk about photography, we drink red wine and have a pleasant night walk along the shores of Rio Plata. The most delicious farewell ever! DSC05993

We will never forget them as we will never be able to get this city out of our mind and the warm-hearted people we met in this week.

One more time…we have to say goodbye and most important thing…we decide to book the flight back home. It seems like it’s time to go back. We realize it is almost one year since we last saw our parents and friends, we are running out of money and we start to feel a bit homesick. So…ticket booked…less than one month and we will have to leave such a beloved continent. To be continued…

Categories: Argentina | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Valparaiso, muralism and grafitti to the next level

10-12/03/2014

When we get out of the bus in Valparaiso, after a three hour drive from Santiago de Chile, we feel a bit lost and cannot figure out well where we find ourselves in this new city.  Overfriendly people spot us coming out of the bus and offer us the best price for the best hostel on the best location and they would even bring us to their hostels.  It sounds good but works badly for us as we feel trapped in this maze of competing ‘hotel-stuffers’ hungry for their part of the tourist-cake.  So we take a local bus and leave the rather dirty and dark district behind us and go for the centre of the city.  As minutes pass by, the image at the other side of the bus window starts to change slightly to cleaner streets, to better maintained facades, to less poor and to more joyful.  It doesn’t take too long to find Hostal Licanantay, a good place to spend the night, so we leave our backpacks and go for our first impression of the city.  We find the typical street market scene, people buying and selling local food and drinks, a harbour and coastline with its classic promenade with views on the Pacific horizon.

Surrounded by suburbs that are located on the steep hillslopes, the enclosed centre is actually nice and tight.  It’s a representative example of a with abrupt mountains encircled village that became a big city despite the geographical inconvenience or in this case I would almost say geographical impossibility, an example of an ever growing population of by now 876.000 individuals that have no soil to expand on and by that building up its population density.  Steep, almost vertical streets snake up and down looking for a mode to connect the different neighbourhoods of this city.  An infinite amount of little, almost hidden, stairways curl between the buildings to offer access to every corner of each hill.  Seven authentic, historical recognized, elevators offer an alternative on doing a daily workout of a couple of thousands steps.

DSC05331 DSC05381  It looks chaotic like an anthill with all these small passageways going somewhere and some of them going nowhere further then the entrance of a building.  It’s the ultimate urban jungle!!!  It could be easily the scenery of a ghetto ruled by violent gangs feeding daily their bad reputation as, local people say, delinquency and poverty are worse than elsewhere in Chile, the sextrade is still widespread and at night some parts of town are unsafe.  But despite of that Valparaiso found a way to brighten up the grey slum. Valparaiso has put its wish for banning that sad depressing dark image in the witch pot together with the need of political, economic and sociological freedom of expression of many inhabitants, it has stirred it a couple of times and magically has been able to brew a cultural gaudy adventure in a concrete labyrinth.  We feel like this secret potion has changed oppression into freedom, shadow into sunshine and indifference into pride while we walk the first few alleys.  Muralism, wall paintings, decoration of street furniture, graffiti and urban poetry have just been lifted to a complete new level for us.  Making street art legal gives the artist the time and liberates the devotion to make the best of it.  And that’s exactly what we are looking at here… the mother of all urban expressing.

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With every turn we take, another moment of silent marvel overcomes us, every step down different colours in new shapes are overpowering us and with every step up another miniature landscape is overwhelming us.  Some of them, on a quality level so good they should be in a museum and others with such a truly profound message they should have sound.  Valparaiso got eventually so famed for its colourful alleys that it didn’t take long for famous artists to join the movement which today is known as the “Museo a cielo abierto”, a marked tour through the hidden stairways guiding the fascinated public towards the many famous paintings. 2014-03-16 12.22.48

Nevertheless the big coloured walls, it is the countless small details that keep the whole act together.  Streetlamps that are taken out their traditional forms, small artistic altered bench on a square corner, fascinating handrails that guides you down, a small statue on the corner of a roof, an artistic composition hanging out of a window,… and after a while even the, amongst buildings hanging, colourful laundry drying in the sun starts to be part of the image.

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It is easy and uncomfortable at first, taking all this different sideways in all four dimensions, to get lost in an urban web like this but it turns into eternal gratitude to look for your way out passing by all this occurrences of the human soul.

Our recommendations:

  • Hostal Licanantay has everything you might need, has a reasonable price (6500 CLP per person/night), is close to the centre and offers a great ambient.
  • Ask for the ‘Museo A Cielo Abierto’ and try to get hold on a street map that indicates and gives explanations about several artworks all part of the old part of Valparaiso named World Heritage by UNESCO in 2003
  • Some of the cemeteries are worth a visit, they are packed with diverse beautiful statues and enormous mausoleums.
  • Get well informed about public transport, as after having asked on the street for directions we were walking in circles for quite a while, looking for the correct bus terminal.
  • If going to Argentina, change money into dollars (you might loose on exchange fees but will gain more on the black market in Argentina)
  • Being in Valparaiso means to be just a stone’s throw from one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda, talented writer and politician, winner of Nobel Prize for literature in 1971 and one of the most beloved poets in Chile. Here you will find La Sebastiana, located in Cerro Bellavista, a pretty bizarre house totally designed by the artist, with breathtaking views on Valparaiso’s hills and its coloured streets, a library, a cultural and tourist information center where you can find useful tips about the region and the poet, a bar with a nice terrace looking on the beautiful indoor garden and, of course, a store. An astonishing place, it is definitely worth a visit. Do not leave Chile without visiting the other 2 houses, in Santiago (Casa Museo La Chascona) and in Isla Negra, El Quisco (Casa Museo Isla Negra or Black Island).

Opening Hours

  • March to December: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm hours.
  • January and February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 8pm hours.
  • Monday closed.

Ticket prices

  • General ticket: $5.000 each person.
  • Students: $1.500 each person (with student credential)

 

 

Categories: Chile | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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