Friday, September 25, 2015

Europa Part Zwei

With the breathing space that a career change provides, I tacked on a week in Berlin and a final weekend in London before heading back stateside.  The three weeks altogether was the longest block of time I'd played tourist in awhile, but Berlin being the city that it is I felt right at home.  I read in a travel magazine once that Berlin is "the city where you don't feel out of place"; I certainly felt that on my first visit, a student backpacking through Europe, and again on this last trip.

It of course helped that I had the luxury of staying with an old Weimar girlfriend (10 year reunion!), but what really made me feel right at home was re-exploring a city overrun by designers and artists.  I'd heard a lot about its gentrification over the years, but it was so interesting to see what that meant for a city when the primary industries there aren't tech and more tech (and the wealth that comes with that).  Enter more open shared grounds, creative re-activation of spaces and good, cheap beer.

Case in point: my visit to Klunkerkranich.  This was a bar / restaurant complete with family-friendly sandpit was on the roof of a very unremarkable shopping mall in Neukölln.  I had to ask for directions at a run down dollar store to confirm that, yes, I should really just go to the top level of the parking lot and just keep walking.  I'm so glad I did!
Prinzessinnengarten was another gem of a space; a sustainably run community farm where you can come and enjoy lunch made from the vegetables grown, have a beer or just chill out.  Busy roads rush all around but you can't hear them once you're nestled in; importantly it was right next to...
...Planet Modulor!  Aka my dream store.  More than just a paper store, it's a comprehensive material store where they sell everything from ropes (above) to foam to cards and stamps and pens and packaging and even neon ribbon from the Netherlands.  I spent half a day there and considered that a huge act in self restraint *cue emoji of winged cash*.
Isn't it always zeit für brot?  Oh German bread how I missed you!  I also can't go this far in a travel post without mention of a good carb.  Not pictured: all of those dark, delicious heavy ryes I had before coming to this new kid on the block.
Succulents playing shoe adornments at Tempelhof Field - once a military base, airport and now a big sprawling mass of land for barbecues, sports and DIY gardens like this one.  The scale of it all was the startling part, it's so rare to be in the middle of a city and then suddenly be walking on broad, flat spans of land.
Obligatory photo of the canal, complete with tiny swan in the center.  What I especially love about walking along here in Berlin is that when the weather is good you see people really enjoying it, climbing over fences and making all efforts to swing their feet off the edge and sit with a beer, that always seems to magically appear when the weather is good.
Oh Berlin!  I hope it isn't another ten years until we meet again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Some changes - and Europa Part Un!

Hello again, my handful of friends who visit this little pocket of the internet.  It has been a long stretch between posts - a lot has happened since I was last here, the biggest change being that I finally cut the umbilical cord from Mama Goog, and have started working on my own thing (!)  
More on that will come soon, but before that I wanted to share some snippets from a most wonderful European trip with my family.  The bulk of our time was in France, sandwiched between England - Oxford to visit my not-so-little bro and then the requisite overnight in London catching up with friends. Onto some snaps!
My brother's college Magdalen from above - because he's a student there we got extra special access to climb up to the top of the tower - the experience was complete with giant rusty key as big as my arm to open the tower door! 
Small side note here: how did little siblings get so big?  This is a total brag moment but my bro is president of his college, so on top of his PhD he spends his time rallying for things like mandatory consent classes, free pregnancy tests and other important, necessary things for young people that are not easy to pull off.  I'm pretty sure when I was 26  I was just trying to not get fired and my big thing was whether or not I should get a fringe.  So proud of my bro!

Ok, onwards to the rest of Europa -

Palace of Versailles was as incredible as I’d imagined it to be - I couldn’t get over the scale of the gardens, we spent the good bullk of a day there but then when we looked at the map later it was like, jk, you didn’t even cover half of it.  And it was just their summer house?!  I need to find me some friends like that...
Following my instruction to ‘try to look French’ - that bag is from Bio c' Bon which is a hippy WholeFoods-type chain they have, where the milk presumably comes from even happier cows.  If you are thinking there was hummus and cheese in that bag to accompany that baguette, you’d be right.  Not pictured: the additional croissant we had ‘to sustain us’ on way back to our Paris Airbnb.  It was a <5 minute walk.
I was so happy to see so much pixel tile art everywhere!  I remember following the original space invaders in Paris a decade ago (and wherever I saw them) - I don't know if it's still the same artist but they seemed to have blossomed all over the city now.  These invader cum Super Mario flowers cropped up a few times, and I even spotted a Picasso around the corner from the official museum!
A quiet summer fruit snacking session in the afternoon.  Why is it that stone fruit always feels so much more luxurious when you take the time to cut it into segments and eat it with a tiny fork?  Gold rimmed china and being in France also helps.
And now, my parents following my instruction to ‘look French’ - at first I thought mama was defying my request with a blatantly Asian peace sign but apparently that's her pretending to smoke a cigarette ahaha!  This time we were on a little sidewalk in a town in the Loire Valley, in between chateau hopping.  Of course, croissants feature here too.
Back in London: mandatory coffee at Monmouth, Borough Market.  I know that place is a touristy rats nest on a Saturday but I enjoy it so much that I somehow find myself poking in on most visits.  Piles of fruit!  People looking charming in little aprons!  Free samples!
In conclusion: when traveling don't take any pictures of the Eiffel Tower or the London Bridge but *do* demand everyone 'look French' for you and eat lots of croissants and drink coffee.  You're welcome.

Europa Part Zwei in my most adored city coming shortly!  Au revoir until then!