Derelict roadhouses, rolling hills, whipping grasslands bleached by the high sun. The wayward journey to Marfa feels as though you are perpetually becoming more lost. Only when you enter and pass the schools of perfectly tailored men and glamorously robed women do you realize you have arrived. And it's somewhat off-putting. Here, in the middle of nowhere, where you have supposedly left the confines of highbrow society and its grasps on values, lies the exemplary dog and pony show of the art world. Another cast system relayed as a bohemian mecca.
The 2 x 2 pinhole in Southwest Texas airs a perplexing aura - there is an undisputed novelty in everything from an abandoned warehouse to the street light's glow. El Cosmico, the undisputed lodging treasure lies on the edge of the Chianti Foundation property, about a mile from the center of town and is no doubt an experience of its own. The teepees are luxurious and the company an interesting breed for a fireside tales. Nothing is as enlivening as an outdoor sunrise morning shower with the crisp desert air whirling through the steam in a tin and wooden bathhouse followed by freshly brewed coffee. A kick before the Chianti tour.
Visionary contemporary artist Donald Judd imagined a place where art lived amongst the landscape. The two former artillery sheds were renovated to hold his 100 aluminum works - each differentiating slightly, providing various reflections of light and color. The whole tour a stiff, cult-like pace with canvas-lad Brooklynites and art-lovers dragging their heels in reserved bewilderment. Silence besides the wind and leaves.
And then Chamberlain. His work punched us out of hypnosis. Crinkled graphic steel a tangible graffiti seemed to implode before our eyes.
The Highline Trail is synonymous with Glacier National Park. The 11-mile trail follows the Sun Road – curving through the pass to bestow immaculate views of the Continental Divide and surrounding peaks. The trail profile is practically a straight decline from Logan’s Pass to the Loop. The route follows along the mountainside so that you can see every nook and cranny of your surroundings.
Like the weather or traffic in the city, there are two impending dooms that are staples of everyday conversation in GNP – bear sightings and wildfires. During my first day in the Park, a local calculated my fate: at the rate of hiking 12 miles a day for 10 days, I was destined for at least three sightings. Maybe four.
Like any other runner (or human), I used my biased rationality to prove why this trail was an exception to the GNP tenet ‘avoid running’ (running increases the chance of a bear attack). Since this was a popular trail with unimpaired panoramic vision - it was safe for me to jog along this trail. Plus I had bear spray and a bear bell*, this was my chance.
As I galloped along the ridge, I couldn’t help but concentrate on the dry river beds, streams, waterfalls, glaciers. Smoke filled the air and a wraithlike haze lingered - a cornea over the landscape. The land dry, too. Dirt whirled around my feet. Is this a snapshot of the world that lies in our future?
The Sun Road is usually known for evoking a humbling sense of wonder in the face of nature’s grandeur. Below along the Pass, motorists stood on the side of the road with their binoculars hanging idle. Midwesterners seemly stymied in more of bewilderment than awe while looking out at the landscape. Although it was nonetheless still gorgeous, there was a deep sense of loss for the land.
I emerged near the historic Granite Chalet without even realizing that I was near the final decent - somewhat surprised that my half-baked timing was actually going to get me where I needed to be before sunset. I stopped to admire the view with a family that was perched on a rock in the bend. Five minutes later I was invited to stay in their extra bunk bed at the Chalet. The Chalet’s entire lodging for the season typically sells out within a few days of going live. I won the lottery.
Normally I would say yes immediately, but I’ve grown somewhat weary about whether invitations are sincere these days. I thought about this invitation for the half-hour as I climbed the steep trail up to Grinnell Glacier. The sight was if I was beholding a fragile, fragment of scenery. The glacial lake below looked broken, shattered bits and slivers of ice cut their way through the lagoon. The red faced peak looking straight at me behind its defeated body. Spectacular. As I crumbled down with the mountain. I saw the stone Chalet in the background. An patriarchal presence. In the foreground the family was waiting for me.
Dedicated hikers share a common bond which is rooted in underlying appreciation and willpower. That night we watched the sun set until 10pm with about 30 others then laid on our backs to catch the meteor shower. At sunrise the next morning, I tiptoed out of my bunk and ran down the mountain like a little kid who spent the night in an amusement park.
If you go:
Granite Chalet & Highline Trail details
Your calves will be burning but no bother, the trail is grassy and the endless array of mountains will keep you distracted.
Wear layers - storms emerge out of no where.
Stay: Te Wanaka Lodge
Dine: Relishes Cafe
Cheers: Kai Whakapai
An endless array of terrain over bridges, through the valley leading to the glacial lagoon.
Lush tropical forest. Depending on the weather, it feels like somewhere between upper Atlantic Ocean and Polynesia.
Stay: Furneaux Lodge is spectacular This is a difficult call though based on the length of your stay in the Sounds. Ferries leave from Picton in the am and pick up early evening. The schedule changes according to season. If you stay in Anakiwa backpackers you'll be isolated and nestled at the end of the track, but the curvy roads are mind-numbing at night. Only bonus is the glowworms and dolphin songs at night, which you can find anywhere along the track.
Dine: Furneaux Lodge at the end of the trek, especially if you're heading back to Picton.
Cheers: Bring you're own wine from one of the vineyards you past in wine country.
Mt. John Summit Track, Lake Tekapo
Run this route through the meadows, vie to take your own path to the summit and run down on pine needle trail then through meadows surrounded by the white-capped foothills of the Alps.
This place is tiny and does not have a ton of outdoor pursuits, best bet is a one night stay after you catch a golden sky and a starry night.
Stay: The Chalet
Dine: Tin Plate
The streets are lined with spreads of unwanted goods, vendors selling kebobs and pot dessert items, and jobless gypsies pitching games of luck for a buck. The techno soundtrack never fades too much as random DJs are dispersed every couple of blocks. Smells of cigarettes yet to be smoked.
King's Day Festivities he streets are lined with
Around each corner, a message left by the transitory reigning authority and the subsequent vigor and life contra.
History of Budapest
A dystopian illusion: drying rugs lying on wooden beams listlessly catching wisps of the bay's wind. Traces of human life, dark hollow windows match the hollowed eyes of the city.
The sky: lilac, a rosemary scent from the passing fields. Rows of lush olive trees, a donkey grazing on overgrown shrubs in a peach orchard.
Miranda do Duro History
An underlying melancholy, hint of paranoia. Birds move methodically taking their positions. Air uplifting the waters weight beneath the minimal white light.
St. Petersburg Statue Guide
Sun setting beneath the ocean's soft cape at midnight to the echoing sounds of heavy metal racketeering.
History of Bergen
An oversize fur cube glides atop a crowd of yamakas and shrunken black hats. Heels on cobblestone, flags whipping the dusty air as it encloses bright ribbons of color.
Safed, Israel History
The many hats of Judiasm
Left at the crack of dawn (possibly before) for the Normandy Coast. Took the train from Gare Montparnasse to Dol-de-Bretagne, then the bus from there to the island of Mont St Michel. Driving up the peninsula, the gray marble water of the Couesnon River looks like smoothed terracotta in the stillness of morning. The tide is low and calm- emitting an emanation of serene mysteriousness. It feels more like the coast of Ireland (i.e. Cliffs of Moher) then it does a part of France. Hikers energized with croissents and cafe-longe march along the marshy path, pressing their walking sticks into the silt. The seabreeze bitterly snaps the cold against my skin.
The mysterious aura is abrubtly ended upon entering the tourist trap. Packs of Asian tourists with their loudly clicking cameras and gereatrics cause a congestion as they snail upwards along the cobblestone path towards the Abbey. Intolerable clots form around stands offering free sugar cookies and apple cider. Then again around the shops handing out identical samples. Irritated, I hastenly navigate through the soon to be diabetics in time to vanquish my sins at twelve o’clock mass.
The cold wind chills the abbey like an icebox. It seeps in through layers and I can feel it in my bones. Constructed out of granite, it is almost unbearable . I think about retreating until the friars and nuns emerge. Dressed in angelic white robes, they begin to light the candles. The place suddenly feels warmer. The friar gathers the long rope laying between the center aisle separating the rows of stiff pews. Giving it a powerful tug, the bell echoes imperfectly, penetrating through my frigid body then once again after the waves ricochet back. The bell’s sound unnoticeablely fades to the comforting chants. The psalms softly follow a harp’s lead. I follow along, raking through the frail pages of the petite psalm book. Everything is serene until an old French man blows his nose into his hand (later of which I am to shake in greeting).
Then it is a slowly unraveling domino effect. Apparently unaware of social politeness, four-eyed Asians continue to ignore the multiple ‘No Photography‘ signs as they flash their Fujis. The last possible space untainted by tourists' assault. Undaunted, the young priest begins leading an inspiring sermon. He lifts my spirits, telling a story of a bird, free to choose any direction to fly in. After mass, I lookout at the residue of the Atlantic, swallowed by the Gulf of St.Malo's marble clay and glistening in the sun.
I weave down to the ancient, famous omelette eaterie, Le Mere Poulard, which has the fluffiest, largest omelettes even seen. Two eggs enlarge to the shape of twenty. The downstairs is oversimplified and overrated, but an unintentional escape upstairs uncovers character-lined walls leading to a high-class cigar bar (which is no doubt never as packed as the downstairs chicken coop). Afterwards, I hightail it back to Paris in need of class after endless free butter cookie samples and fanny-packs.
If you go, don't miss:
Mont St. Michel
- Free entrance into the Abbey with mass attendance (highly recommended)
- Morning mass recommended, 11:00AM
Le Mere Poulard Restaurant
Grande Rue, 50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France
+33 2 33 89 68 68 · merepoulard.com
It's like a dream. No, better. Porto is separated by the Douro River, that is made all the more splendid by its six bridges. At the base of the Dom Luis I Bridge near the Sandeman Port Distillery, colorful women dressed in traditional Portugeuse dress dance through a specialty market offering olive oil, wine, port, cheese, bollo pastries, boudain-like sausages. Inside the Sandeman Distillery, groups of tourists tour and hear the story of how an Englishman conquered the port industry two hundred years ago. After paying penance and completing the routine tour, everyone eagerly tastes the sherry and tawny. Too sweet for my taste, I prefer the dark red wine and salty olives of the Portuguese in the gardens of the Serralves.
During the Serralves em Festa, the Parque de Serralves are filled with art of all traditions- artists, musicians, and contemporary art demonstrations span the grounds. Giant plush Royal thrones sit patiently in the middle of a field. Women untangle from the limbs of a tree, their silky dress flutters in the breeze. Photographers appear out of nowhere with wide lenses, snapping up the beauty from all angles. The soundtrack of a live jazz chantress with an orchestra accentuates the fluctuating smells of minty herbs, geraniums, and mossy leaves. Artist hang their crafts, their flamboyant colors mosaicly broadcast amongst the dark greens of the forest. We relax in between the gentle foliage facing a quartet of jazz musicians that emit lazy Spanish beachcombing tunes ideal for cracking that first cerveza of a hot summer's evening.
Afterwards, we meander over to pop into the Museu de Arte Contemporanea, which reveals characteristic portrait of Porto's contemporary art timeline. An exhibit on 'Teatro Sombras', or shadow theatre, by Lourdes Castro is colorful, sexy, mysterious yet all-telling. A women's outline lit in the doorway by the light of the moon. On the screen, an unidentified body moves through the shadows, much like the alleyways of Porto.
If you go, don't miss:
Douro River Cruises
Speedy boat trip under the six bridges and almost to the ocean, quick and beautiful.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves
Rua D. João de Castro, 210
Show on MapTel: +351226156500
Shadow Theatre YouTube
In March of 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in Iceland leaving millions of travelers stranded across the world. I happened to be in a fairytale land known as Luxembourg at the time with a friend visiting from the United States. The next snipet is how I found myself in the squalor that is Brussels, Belgium...
An usual Icelandic volcano eruption compounded by a usual train strike in France made the Luxembourg train station was in utter chaos. One frustrated traveler was arguing with a ticket attendant, periodically switching between in French, Italian, and German. The stress was contagious and we began to feel that our immediate departure was more necessary by the minute. We decided to depart on the next train out, either to Brussels or Paris- whichever was first. After about an hour, we hopped on the train to Brussels, ecstatic to have escaped the madhouse in such a short time.
Once the train station was no longer in sight we began to take notice that, although there was a shortage in available transportation, the train was scarcely populated . The woman behind me reeked of stale cigarettes and her mutt continuously emitted a stench of rotten eggs. Every person in the car had a cellphone that rang on maximum volume. The ring, however, was not a standard ringtone but one that was a medley of the most irritating technical sounds obtainable. I began to be convinced that all the other passengers were in a conspiracy to see who could make me jump from the yellow tented windows onto the track.
Immediately once we crossed the border into Belgium, it became gray and cloudy. The landscape was gritty, the grass in the passing fields was dead. As we began to approach Brussels, vile graffiti became more prevalent. Homeless (or otherwise bored vagrants) drank cans of Belgian beer outside Gare du Midi amongst construction, throwing their empty cans into the dust - adding to the piles of filth. The Fine Art Museum was across the street. The color of its columns matched the grey of the street and the sky.
Meandering the streets, a storyline began to take over my mind: I’m in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus inducing dementia has taken over. The virus causes paleness and cravings for waffles from contaminated street vending carts. Instead of the Bourbon Street Lucky Dog carts, these carts were selling waffles instead of three-year-old minced meat conglomeration. I deduced this was the source of the virus.
The whole city is an anarchic toilet bowl. Instead of avoiding the litter on the streets, couples strolling hand-in-hand purposefully kick garbage while smiling at each other. A downtown art installation consisted of a giant orange construction cone. The city produces wafts of waffles, simulating being in a port-o-john while eating a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. If I had an appetite before arriving, it has now been bludgeoned into nothingness. I deduce that I will not be joining Erica for dinner, but drinking myself into an intended oblivion.
Irony mocked us continuously. Ironically, these were the people known for producing comics. The fact that these dirty, barking homeless beings' one call-to-fame was laughter and delectable sweets was impossible to imagine. The sole Tabac nearby carried a sparse selection of intoxicants: merlot or peach schnapps.
A peeing cupid statue dons the mantle over the front door to our hostel, the statue a welcoming to all the tired, poor guests to the Sleep Well Hostel. Needless to say, I was drinking straight from my bottle of merlot by 20:00 in the lobby. Walking up to the front desk (bottle in hand) I asked the receptionist, a Hunchback Dilbert, where to find the book exchange. The only geek to ever state, “I’d rather watch the movie then read the book” leads me to a dungeon where the 'book exchange' was located. It only consists of Lord of the Rings knock-offs. I tried to imagine Hunchback Dilbert joking with friends over waffles in a diner. The scene quickly ends in bloodshed after pancakes are brought.
Around 2:00AM a homeless man acquired a jackhammer and began to test it outside the hostel. Although we were on the 3rd floor, it sounded as though the Jackhammer Villain was beside my bunkbed. I awoke from my booze-induced coma delirious but ready to escape. Once we arrive at the train station, we drop 100 Euros, no longer pennywise, and step into our escape car as the whistle blows.
I was surprisingly pleased to be physically capable of supporting my fifty pound backpack after only four hours of sleep. From my couchsurfer's residence in west Bergen, I bused over Michael Krohn's Gate to Central Station and attempted to sleep on the train to Myrdal. Drifted in and out of pseudo-rest for an hour then proceeded to eat oatmeal cookies (for the sugar) and drink all café (for the caffeine) in possession in less than one minute. To my utter disappointment, it didn’t aid the utter physical and mental exhaustion one bit. I then came to the conclusion that this much anticipated journey would end in a disastrous fury. However, I was surprisingly pleased that my body decided to perform otherwise.
The Flambana train ride was absolutely splendid and included the following:
1. Numerous waterfalls, including one with a staged dancing nymph on a hilltop (or, rather, two alternating to create a disappearing affect- thanks to the subliminal mystical enthusiasm of the country).
2. Oh-ing and ah-ing Asian tourists, including one skinny twerp from Thailand repetitively doing spirit fingers at every stop.
3. 180* turn.
Upon arriving in Flam, its obvious that the inhabitants' income is comprised by the train ride as well as the town acting as a base for transport to the surrounding fjords. The brochures, variety of postcards, and tourism center and visitor support system is utterly immaculate. Once one sets eyes on the glistening fjord, you feel that you must be on it. However, a special certification is required to kayak and the fjord day trips must coincide with the limited arrival and departure train times. After deciding that bike rental was the best (and only) option, I rented a bike for 50 NOK from Rahl (as in Dahl), also another hungover being, and took to the streets.
I passed house after house with perfectly painted sides set on sidestreet all with views of rushing water in between the steepest mountains I’ve ever come across. Sheep grazed and their bells rand as they frolicked from salt-cube to salt-cube. I got happily sidetracked down dead-end roads which led to distant names or bridges to hiking trails (Apparently the waters gets its color because it is void of life).
After leaving a mom & daughters knit shop, I passed kindergarten-aged children all sporting neon-construction worker type vests walking down the road. The conversation went something like this:
Imagine a teacher mediating the conversation and a child echoing:
Marcus: What’s your name?
Me: Elyse, what is yours?
Marcus stares with bewilderment, eats flower.
Biked towards fjord park until the path ended, sat on a rock and watched the waterfall in the distance drop endlessly. Hesitantly, I returned bike and boarded the train to begin journey back to Oslo. As we approached Myrdal it began to snow.
If you go, don't miss:
Unable to find the name but the knit shop is near the Flam Kirk (Church)
Bike riding, kayaking, hiking, boating on the fjord
NOTE: This was before the horrible invasion and destruction of Crimea.
After an 16 hour train ride in second class from Kiev to Simferopol, and a bus transfer from Simferopol, we finally arrived exhausted, hungry, and dirty as hell in Sudak. Through eye-contact alone, we agree on a taxi and manage to hire the only skinny taxi driver in Ukraine. Not a minute after we had agreed on the fare and set off, did he swoop around the corner and picked up his Mother-in-law to hitch a ride.
The gangly fellow turned out to be a madman behind the wheel. One of his first travesties was almost an old man canning across the intersection. Built on hilly terrain, the streets of Sudak claw their way out of the sea into a maze- thus a traffic jam on the main thoroughfare results in a pertinacious stalemate. Or so we thought. The cabbie proceeded to reverse at 15mph (and gradually increasing speed) up a one way street as if escaping a lava pit. Miraculously, we arrived at the gates of our guesthouse, backwards, Locked gates and a malfunctioning buzzer appeared to be trivial to our proactive Formula One taxi driver. Unsolicited, he scaled the walls and yelled "WOMAN, COME!". Next thing we knew, a short Ukrainian woman was prying open the gates to an sylvan two-story guesthome shaded by cherry trees.
If you go:
Beach & Fresh Market
(Market near the Intersection of Ushakova & Mors'ka St.)
Walk down the road towards the fortress until you almost reach the end of the boardwalk. Along the right, a fresh market sells fruits, cheeses, and vegetables. Take your haul down to the furthest point of the cove to sit on the water's edge and watch Ukrainian women repetitively pose for their boyfriend's camera. After a toe-dip in the cold sea, take the dirt, Mountain Goat-like trail up to the Sudak Fortress (FYI: littered with an impressive amount of glass).
Explore the fortresses' views and various ramparts freely and gaze into the Black Sea's splendor. Tie a piece of fabric on the makeshift statue at the top for good luck. Don't slip down the anthill, the paths are not controlled. Spot the beach cove to the right of the fortress and plan your desultory route to it through side streets.
Isolated Beach Cove
(Near the end of Prymors'ka St.)
Once you emerge from the seemingly private garden path and you'll come to a rocky cove with a restaurant and plenty of chairs to lie on. The water is warmer and the place is rather pleasant (besides the horrible, blasting music which is the norm). I recommend drinking over eating, unless shrimp crumbles mixed with eggs, mayonnaise and tomato sounds appealing.
Transport: Novyi Svit Winery is three miles away, seemingly in walking distance. However, the route is along a winding mountain road. Luckily we took a cab . Even more luckily, we happen to pass a man running after pick-pocket who robbed him as he was walking along the very way.
The winery doesn't sell cold cuvee, you much purchase it around the corner at the store. Drink your cold Ukrainian cuvee on the beach and watch the boats. And, apparently, the jellyfish don't sting.
If you go:
Train + Bus (Don't even try the Black Sea Ferry, it is impossible).
Aivazovs'koho St, 17, Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine, 98000
+380 50 055 6564
Rule One: Never enter into a Shopping Mall, no matter how badly you need to use the restroom or crave the air conditioning. If you're body starts to gravitate towards Sim Lim, try to conjure memories of the valleys and creeks that you will never set your eyes on again after being sucked into the materialism that is Sim Lim.
Rule Two: Hawker Centers, food centers comparable to cafeteria style food courts, offer an array of food choices and give you the opportunity to try a variety of local delicacies. There are numerous Hawker Centresthroughout Singapore, typically one per neighborhood. Each food stall is graded according to cleanliness, housekeeping, and hygiene. If you end up choosing one of the more touristy Hawker Centers, beware of the vultures that will circulate you for business. I recommend the Hawker Centre in Chinatown, the Bukit Timah Market. Climb to the highest level for the Hawker Centre, the lowest level is the food market (grocery) and ground level is a clothing market.
Rule Three: Take a journey to the outskirts to the European-style Singapore Botanical Gardens and let yourself breathe before entering into the Marina Bay Sands complex, which has followed Abu Dabi and constructed its own landmass featuring a indoor-garden monstrosity surrounded by a resource-sucking 250 acres of gardens. It is, however, a extravegant sight and features massive tree-like structures that put on a light show to music at night. If you end up getting an hotel room to enjoy the infamous infinity pool on the roof at the Marina Bay Sans resort, you can watch and hear it from the rear bar.
Rule Four: Venture to the Arab Quarter (Kampong Lam) for everything. It is a tiny oasis that transports you out of the hustle and bustle. There are various shops, restaurants,eclectic spots with nightly live music and art happenings, and cafes. Remember that in the Arab Quarter, no alcohol is served or allowed. It is only allowed on the outer streets. While you're there, swing into Blu Jaz Cafe for a myriad of art and live music happenings.
Rule Five: There are plenty of architectural splendors and oddities that can serve as your escape route from the heavy metal and concrete. Below are a few traditional architectural hideouts, inquire for more...
#1. Parkview Square ("Gotham Building")
- Art-deco like structure, square features bronze statues of notable scholars, philosophers, and scientists. The ornate lobby has is simply breathtaking. Have a drink at the bar.
#2. Central Fire Station
- Candy stripped
#3. Raffles Hotel
- The atmosphere simply invites old-fashioned class and provides a refreshing breath of air, reminiscent of the past.
If you go:
Drink & Dine
Bukit Timah Market - (Coffee stand up the stairs and to the left is amazing. There should be a line.)
116 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588172
Raffles Hotel (They do have happy hour at the back bar, though not as special as the courtyard.)
1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673
Maharajah (North Indian Tandori Restaurant)
Cuppage Rd, Singapore 229461
- Singapore Botanical Gardens
- National Museum of Singapore (Wonderful collection of contemporary art.)
- Fort Canning Park (Great view of the city on this little, historic hilltop)
70 River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037