The Need for Speed

Fast and Furious, but tourism.

Speed dating, a form of dating that depends on first impressions and snap judgements. Now imagine that, but with tourism. 

For our time in London, we were granted a singular day and I can tell you with confidence that one day is definitely not enough to see even a sliver of a city. Our required destinations included Liberty and London, Harrod’s and the Alexander McQueen exhibit, then after those three, we were to be left to our own devices. My group and I only managed to get through the required destinations. We spent a lot of time (maybe even too much) in the exhibition and in Liberty and London. While I don’t regret my time in both places, since I considered my time well spent in both destinations, I was disappointed I wasn’t able to see other things I’d planned to see like the London Eye. 

So all in all, don’t try rushing the experience in any city you go to and give yourself enough time to comfortably explore. 

Liberty of London is a Godsend to anybody who has an interest in anything. A panacea for weary, curious souls, you can find just about anything you want in the department store called Liberty of London; and the store just happened to be one of the group’s required destinations. 

The exterior of Liberty of London

From shelves of scented candles ascending to the ceiling to bolts of wild tapestry transporting you to an untamed sliver of Earth, Liberty of London was truly a sight for sore eyes and a joy for sore souls. I smelled every candle that was worth smelling (until I smelled my nose raw) and I peered at every rug, sculpture and deco on display. Even just absorbing all the inspired interior decorations and apparel, one would feel content. So because of the fabulous furniture and aromatic perfumes, I ended up staying at Liberty of London for longer than what should’ve been appropriate.

Cabbage shaped dishes? Yes please!

Completely my own fault, but who could resist an ensemble of sculpted monkeys or an array of waxed scented perfection? Exactly. 

So to all prospective visitors of Liberty of London: 

  • definitely make a stop at this magical department store. 
  • And definitely stay in the store for more than what is considered socially acceptable!

Moving in from Liberty of London, my next stop was the Alexander McQueen exhibit. Located on the third floor of a McQueen store, the exhibition was beyond my expectations. Of course with McQueen, you can always expect to have your expectations surpassed, but as a designer, there was only one word to describe the experience: transcendental

Immersing myself into the exhibition, I transcended time and space, and was given the opportunity to peer into the mind of a genius. Like a bloated sea after a heavy storm, I was bursting with inspiration, with an energy to create. Sure, I held no delusions of reaching as high a pedestal, but I was granted sight. 

People say you should shoot for the moon so you may land among the stars. And in a sense, McQueen gave me a vision of the moon and one day, I hope to land among the stars. 


The Art of Haggling

When haggling is the way of life.

Today the group went to Florence where we hit the leather market! 

Stalls on all sides with bustling hagglers, tourists and sellers can be felt the moment you enter the vicinity of the market. The goods ranged from leather jackets to leather accessories and for all who are wanting to travel to Florence, I would recommend making a stop at the leather market to get the cheapest leathers you can possibly find made in Italy. 

However, on this note, it’s important to remember to haggle! Most of the prices are boosted up by sellers with the expectation that haggling will occur, so make sure to haggle the price down to an affordable and fair number. For this occasion, my one goal was to glean an affordable, authentic Italian leather belt for Father’s Day. The first stall I stopped at sold a plethora of belts; from buffalo skins to sheepskins, the options were vast, but the prices weren’t very appealing. After haggling with the seller for a hand full of minutes, he offered me his cheapest price: $17. I walked away, telling him I’d come back later but I never did, because a few stall later, I was surveying the wares of another stall owned by a Bangladesh man named Shakh.

Shakh has owned his stall for about six and a half years already and after making initial small talk, he offered me $20 for a buffalo skin belt. 

The original price was $35, but for you, I’ll make it $20, Shakh told me. But I was unconvinced with the price as my first offer at the other stall was lower. 

I let him know that I didn’t have a twenty and asked for fifteen to which he shook his head, insisting on the quality of his wares. 

But in all honestly, I really only had ten euros in my bag so even fifteen was a stretch for me. 

Okay, so guess I can’t get anything then, I said and made to walk away. 

$15 for you then because it is a gift, Shakh said. Sold. And so I bought an Italian leather belt for my father and my obligations for Father’s Day were satisfied. 

So if my bit of a long winded anecdote were to mean anything, haggle. Just haggle. Put aside all shame and pride and haggle, because sellers expect it and it never hurts to try. 

A healthy, refreshing lunch of Burrata cheese, baguette, and salad, because haggling is hard work!

But beside the leather market, the group I was with ended up at a cute Japanese-Esque store that sold beautifully smelling soaps. Between rosemary and Linden, there was a soap scent for everyone. With encouragement from my fellow group mate, I ended up buying a soap made of tomato leaves which I personally think smells divine. The scent was subtle but sweet enough without being overpowering. I’m no soap connoisseur but that was one purchase I won’t ever regret. 

In summation of my quick trip to Florence, the two things I’d like the point out is to haggle at the markets and to have enough cash. I’ve already explained the importance of haggling so I won’t drone on, but cash is important to remember. Cash was one thing I didn’t have in sufficiency and an aspect that hindered my shopping in Florence. Florence is a great place to buy affordable gifts so don’t ruin the chance to get something nice by not having cash. Perhaps some of you might think: well, just use a credit card. The issue with that mentality is:

One, some vendors don’t accept credit cards and 

Two, you might not want to use your credit card because the neighborhood the market is located in is not exactly safe and better safe than sorry. 

So if you grasped anything from this semi-long literary piece of work please remember to bring cash and haggle!


Louvre-ing Art

When you love art just that much.

Imagine a statue that made your heart stutter, either from the extent of realism or from sheer magnitude. Then imagine a room filled with that statue. This was what I felt upon laying eyes on the Louvre’s ‘sculpture garden’.

As an artist, my blood raced at the thought of so much inspiration surrounding me, enveloping me in a cacophony of genius conjurings bordering the mystical. There were sculpted fabrics , casted lovers and molded beasts of legends. I was in inspirational heaven!

For anyone who dabbles in Fine arts or simply has an interest in becoming a more well rounded cultured individual, the Louvre is definitely a place worth seeing. Besides the Mona Lisa (which is incredibly small in actuality!) there are other less mainstream artists and those are the ones I personally think are worth looking at. Through this museum, I found a new seed of interest in museums as I never found museums appealing before hand (ironic really since my interests lie in the arts). Because as an artist, I prefer delving into art, being elbows deep in paint rather than spend a day mulling over color choice and composition. However, being in the Louvre shifted my perspective just enough to allow me to appreciate fine arts in a more open light. 

Maybe the change was because of the romantic and light atmosphere of Paris, or maybe it was something in the water (European water tastes terrible if you are used to filtered or purified water), but the Louvre nudged a gear in the mechanism that is my mind and I feel like a more open minded artist for it. So in fewer words: visit the Louvre if you ever get the chance to!

Another place we visited, but on a different day, was the large flea market In Paris that had both affordable and more luxurious items. The wares ranged from milk bottles to Impressionist paintings. Anything you imagined could be bought at the flea market at fair prices.

From a small hole in the wall stall inside one of the compartments, I purchased a beautiful delicate looking necklace with arabesque inspirations. Plated in gold, the jewelry piece caught my eye from afar. But the best part of purchasing the necklace was the haggling. In a market like the one I went to, haggling is common place and even expected. If you see something, then haggle, because the worst thing that could happen is you walk away and find something better. 

One negative thing I would like to point out  about this market is the neighborhood. Near the last stop on the 10 train, the neighborhood is at best spotty and I would recommend keeping your valuabls close to you at all times and if possible, use cash when buying at the market so that there’s no chances of compromising your card. 

Odéon subway station

In summation, the Louvre and the flea market is definitely worth checking out, but remember to stay vigilante with your belongings and remember to enjoy your time with an open mind. 


The House of Kings

Have you ever dreamed of living like a king? 

The Palace of Versaille is a chance to peer into the glimmering world of a king’s world. 

The study abroad group arrived at the Palace of Versaille in the early mornings and I was stunned by the gilded palace as the structure caught the morning light and glowed. While I never dreamed of living in a place so extravagant, being in the presence of a palace is still awe inspiring. And if Paris street architecture was impressive, the structural design of Versaille was out of this world. Wherever my eyes laid on, I was struck by sculptures and gilded designs crawling up the walls and embracing windows. 

Model of The Palace of Versailles

The inside of the palace was just as impressive, if not more bewitching than the exterior. A museum in itself, the artist in me burst out of my skin and obsessed over every twisted door handle and every looming light fixture. For all those who dabble in fine arts or even those with an appreciation for the arts, the Palace of Versaille is the perfect place to fill yourself to the brim with inspiration and information. Instead of an in-person tour guide, the group opted on a phone -like guide where you typed in the number presented underneath paintings and inside certain rooms. Super convenient. You could walk as slow (or as fast in my case) as you please and admire as you please. 

Every aspect of The Palace of Versailles was opulent, almost overwhelmingly so. But even more satisfying was the restaurant inside the palace called Angelina’s. Although the price point of the restaurant is on the higher end of the spectrum (high medium) the food was a great exemplification of French cuisine. I ordered a sea bass with ratatouille and while the seafood was pretty good, my first taste of ratatouille was phenomenal. Ratatouille is easily one of my most favorite French dishes that I’ve tried as of yet. 

Sea bass and ratatouille galore!

After lunch, my group and I explored the palace’s garden which was surprisingly flat. What I mean by flat is that I could preview the entire gardens with one sweep of my eyes which only supplemented the sheer magnitude of the gardens and the palace grounds. 

The day was a day of glamor and opulence bordering on excessiveness, but for all creative and curious minds The Palace of Versailles is definitely a must see to capture the full beauty of French heritage and history. 


Beginning at Love

—Or rather at the city of love.

First day of Paris.

We arrived in Paris at 7 am. Though fatigued from a sleepless seven hour flight, the sleepy haze was soon to be wiped away by the view that was the city of love. 

All around us, beautiful neoclassic moldings were casually inserted into the everyday architecture. And as though not to be beaten, aspects of art nouveau crawled up carved buildings in the form of arabesque railings and gates. Unlike in New York where people went to museums to ‘get cultured’, culture was prominent in every nook and cranny of Paris no matter where you looked. The city is a paradise for creative minds or simply curious minds because every sliver of Paris is both a homage to the city’s history and an inspiration waiting to take flight. 

Inside the Galarie de Vivienne

Beyond the physical features of Paris, the culture shock was actually quite manageable. Like in New York, people of all walks of life milled the streets, chatting with each other, or taking a smoke. However, one of the biggest differences between the two cities was smell. Although both places boasted a decently sized homeless population, the smell of human waste was much more pungent in Paris, a realization which shocked me. As a New Yorker who coexisted with train track rats and mysterious sidewalk substances, I couldn’t fathom a smellier place. So imagine my surprise when the underbelly of the city of love turned out to be piss ridden. 

But beyond the sights and smells, Paris really is a foodie’s life dream. Between all the events of our first day, trying new French food was a top priority. Between chocolate croissants and escargot, the city is a treasure trove of opportunity for taste buds of all preferences. Albeit hesitant at first, escargot easily became one of my favorite French dishes and for all potential visitors of a France, I would recommend trying escargot at your earliest chance, because it may easily become a dish you fall in love with. Another must try food—or rather food group is pastries. France is easily acknowledged as one of the leaders in the art of pastry making, so as a rule, I stuffed myself with French sweets, a commitment I’d recommend to all tourists who get the chance. Sweets for three meals a day and no less. A patisserie I recommend is Gerard Mulot, a bakery located on 76 Rue de Siene, but any other local bakery works just as fine too.  

Delicious Escargot straight from the streets of Rue Cler!

In the same vein, Rue Cler is a must go street for people hoping to get a better perception of French cuisine. Restaurants ranging from cafes to tradition French cuisine lined either sides of the cobble stone street like sets of uneven teeth, each store’s aesthetic donning their own mix of art nouveau and neoclassicism. The cafe I went together with my friends was the Cafe du Marché which offered a range of dishes from large salads to escargot. Absolutely delicious, and a place I would recommend to anyone visiting Rue Cler during their stay in Paris. 

In a nutshell, my very first day of Paris was of a foodie living out her dreams amongst clouds of sweets and cuisine. For anyone with the opportunity to travel to the city of love, I implore you to explore the various foods Paris has to offer, because you definitely won’t regret it. I know I definitely won’t as I continue on my food tasting pilgrimage.