Thursday, March 24, 2011

Must Love... NYC Ballerina Project

Black Swan swept us all into the complex world of ballet, had us on the edge of our seats at the slow demise of Nina, and nearly in tears at how beautifully the dancers moved across the stage. No one was more pleased with Natalie Portman’s Oscar win than me.

You see, I’m a ballet fan from way back. I even did a couple of classes as a three year old. But it was watching Centre Stage and Save the Last Dance over and over again during my teenage years that had me hooked. And when the Queensland Ballet Academy came to Townsville to perform Swan Lake, I jumped at the chance and dragged Shark along to watch the graceful dancers glide across the stage, in their effortlessly breathtaking way.

So obviously I started to hyperventilate a little when I came across Dane Shitagi’s New York City Ballerina Project. “[The] project grew from the idea of New York City as a magnet for creativity; each photograph is a collaborative work of dance, fashion design and photography played out against the city’s landscape.”

And I do love a good collaboration.

Popcorn x

Must Love... Vogue On Vogue On Vogue etc

Check these pretty babies out!

Apparently created by fashion blog editor Shrubrub, this is a collection of each country's Vogue 2010 issues piled right on top of each other. Neat, huh?

Images courtesy of The Jealous Curator (check out her cool blog) and Bumbumbum.

Popcorn x

Must Love... Paris

Paris was one of my favourite destinations on what was truly the trip of a lifetime. It is called the city of love for a reason, and I couldn’t help but fall head over heels for it. Every building was beautiful, enchanting and full of life and detail. I loved walking along the cobbled streets, especially those of the Champs Elysees, and looking up at all the things around me, taking in how much dedication and soul has been put into this romantic city.

The Eiffel Tower is just as amazing as you imagine it to be. Some of the locals proclaim that it is an ugly, steel construction, but it is so much more than that. And to climb it at night, surrounded by the mesmerising lights, telling myself that ‘Yes, you are in fact in Paris! This is not a dream.’ was a very surreal moment.

The Arc de Triumph was another favourite of mine, as were Monet’s Waterlillies housed in the Musee de l’Orangerie. I had heard from a few people that they were surprised and a little disappointed in how small the painting of Mona Lisa was. But who needs big when you have that smile. I think the painting looks so much more alive in person, you are drawn in by her expression – is it a coy smile? A sad smile? A shy smile? A flirtatious smile? What was going on in her life when this moment was captured? Who was she? Seeing her was definitely a highlight of the trip. And the Louvre itself is just beyond words. After taking over an hour to very quickly walk through half of a single wing, I thought I would never see anything so large and extravagant again. Until we visited the Palace of Versailles. Can you say over-the-top?

Notre Dame brought me back to my childhood days of watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and as we walked through the gothic architecture, spying the gargoyles on top of the church and admiring the huge, brightly coloured stained glass windows, I was secretly keeping an eye out for my old friend Quasimodo. I’m not a religious person in any way, but there was definitely something spiritual about this place, where thousands upon thousands of people pass through, leaving behind their hope, dreams and prayers.

And of course, we couldn’t visit Paris without making a stop at the Moulin Rouge. It had it all. Beautiful food, rich wine, laugh-until-you-cry entertainment, spine-tingling vocals, electrifying dance moves and the costumes, Oh! the costumes. It was everything we could have wanted and more.

I cannot wait to go back and visit the city that had me smiling from ear to ear, and thanking my lucky stars that I was in Paris!

Au revoir,
Popcorn x

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Must Love... London

There’s something incredibly humbling about being in a country that is as old as England. To think about the millions of people who were there before you and the millions that will exist after you. How many amazing things happened and how many people who have changed history lived in the same city in which you now stand.

London was the place in which my love and appreciation for architecture and design began. The detail that went into buildings built so long ago is absolutely spectacular. They just don’t make things the same anymore, which is really sad. I loved walking along the busy London streets, staring up at each statue and monument, wondering what the people they were made to honour were like. We posed in front of Buckingham Palace, ducked into ruby red telephone boxes to pretend to make phone calls and strolled through the peaceful parks full of squirrels and birds.

By the time we arrived in London we were already starting to feel the lingering exhaustion that comes with fast-paced travel. We slept in, woke feeling refreshed and went out to explore the streets around our hotel. The first thing we saw was a protest, after asking around we discovered it was the result of education cuts. There's something very exciting about seeing a country passionate about their rights and looking after each other.

We then explored the British Museum, soaking in as much culture as we could handle before hitting the tourist shops, complete with coffee cups and dinner sets splashed with the images of the up and coming royal wedding. We continued our Irish tradition by spending the night out in London's West End mingling with our new tour members, berry cider in hand. By the end of the night everyone was following suite.

We were up early the next day on a driving tour of some of the major sites to see - Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, West Minister Abbey and St Andrews before heading out of town to mysterious Stonehenge and magical Bath. Our day was filled with hot apple cider, natural water from the springs of Bath, traditional Cornish pasties and rich homemade fudge. We topped it all off with dinner in London's Brick Lane area (think an up-scale version of a restaurant stretch in Thailand or Bali) and a drink in The Ten Bells, where Jack the Ripper met most of his victims.

Our last day in London was spent wondering through St James park onto Trafalgar Square and then Downing Street past the Prime Minister's house. If you keep walking this way eventually Big Ben and West Minister Abbey will creep into view, sitting just in front of the Thames River and the London Eye, which provides a killer view of the city. Then it was time for the shopping to begin as we stopped in at Harrods and Top Shop, Zara and River Island along Oxford Street. Our afternoon was spent in Madam Tussuad's pretending to rub shoulders with the rich and famous before seeing the Chicago stage show on West End. We finished the night at a club seemingly run by the mafia, downing tequila and jager and dancing like a gangster on stripper poles. We were all class.

Popcorn x

Must Love... Ireland

... you can't stay away!

Ireland has a very distinct feel about it. Maybe it’s because wherever you are in this scenic country there is a picturesque view to be taken in, or the fact that Guinness is consumed at every occasion and with any excuse. Either way I travelled Ireland with a permanent smile on my face, constantly performing mental jigs as we wound our way around the countryside from Dublin to Killarney and Ennis to Galway.

Coming from Australia it is hard to imagine being able to drive from one side of a country to the other in a matter of hours, but that's the beauty of Ireland. In the morning we could be surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, divided into endless green pastures by rock fences running through the countryside like veins. And by the afternoon we were peering out of the bus window at breathless drops of cliff face and creamy, sandy beaches.

It is easy to see why the colour green is associated with Ireland. At times it is the only thing you can see for miles and miles. However, it is more often than not dotted with the white shapes of woolly sheep, trailing young lambs behind them, each covered in different colourful marks to separate them from the other mobs. We spent hours marvelling at how far these snowy figures reached, sometimes seeing them at the very tops of mountains or along the jagged rock faces that dropped off into nothing.

We kicked off our Irish adventure in Dublin, a very kitschy city. Whether you are looking for a traditional experience or a new-age destination, this capital city has it all. We walked along cobbled streets, taking happy snaps of brightly coloured buildings, streets lights draped in lavish plants, and doors and doors painted unique shades. We stopped in at cute cafes like the Queen of Tarts where I had a hot porridge breakfast as Meg sipped contently on a latte from a vintage looking mug.

The next day saw us jump on a bus with 22 strangers and begin our tour of the southern part of the island. We stopped in at the Blarney Castle, walking down the winding path and along bridges paving the way over gentle running streams, filled with the coins of well wishers. We struggled up the tiny staircase to the top and pulled ourselves through the air to kiss the Blarney stone and gain an eloquence to our speech.

Australians are known for enjoying a beer or ten, and it is no secret that we like to have a good time. But our drinking spirit is no where near the Irish standard. Our first stop over was in Killarney, and after cooking ourselves some pasta in the hostel kitchen, we headed down to the local pub - O'Connors. It was here that we were treated to a private comedy show, infused with music by the local character known as 'Pa'. It was also here that we met a real life Leprechaun 'Patty", who I will continue to have nightmares about for the rest of my life.

It was our tour guide's birthday, so he was becoming quite jovial, when the police (in full uniform, Bobby hats and all) came to kick us out. We had been drinking past the hours of the liquor licence. Our tour guide's response to this was "Look guys, I ordered you some strippers!" Needless to say the police weren't happy. But we weren't concerned and wondered down the road to a bar that was still kicking on. As we walked inside we were greeted by Lady Gaga's Poker Face being covered by a rock band and a dance floor full of people drinking and gallivanting away. It was a typical Monday night.

I find it kind of ironic that I spent Australia Day in Ireland and St Pattie's Day in Australia. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have had it any other way as it was one of my favourite times on the trip. We explored the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, looked out upon a rock field in Burren that could have easily been mistaken for a location from the last Harry Potter film, and celebrated our homeland's Federation in Galway downing glass after glass of berry cider and listening to Aussie rock tunes with new found friends.

After countless hearty pub meals, Irish coffee, a pint of Guinness and digesting the daily history lessons given to us by our guide, we came to love Ireland nearly as much as the locals did.

There's only one more thing to say, the Craic was 91.

Popcorn x

Must Love... New York

Arriving in the concrete jungle of New York, we were greeted by a chill that soaked deep into our bones and made sure we were wide awake after our 28 hours of flying; we were in the city where dreams came true.

The cliché that New Yorkers are rude and unfriendly didn't hold true for us. We constantly met locals eager to show off their beautiful city with its rich history and to remind us that they are a part of what is truly the centre of the world.

However, we found other cliches to be functioning larger than life. You could not walk more than a few steps down the ice sloshed roads without hearing a car beep or a siren of some sort. At night people rushed by, chatting away to the companions they were strolling with, yelling into their phones or just to themselves. Lights shone and dazzle, illuminating the city below and making the buildings seem alive, especially on Broadway. Every meal we ate came with a large serving of home fries, onion rings and lots of grease. We drank endless cups of Starbucks goodness (yes, they really are on every corner) and smeared our bagels with mountains of cream cheese.

I walked more in New York than I would in a month at home, and loved it, striding past beautiful shop displays, enticing cafes and traditional diners. On a single day we could explore the Upper East Side and Fifth Avenue, have lunch in Greenwich Village and shop in Soho then visit Battery Park and take the ferry past the Statue of Liberty at the other end of Manhattan.

A must do, especially during winter, is a tour of the magical museums Manhattan has to offer. We started at the Museum of Natural History (where a Night in the Museum was filmed) and explored the hallways filled with artifacts and costumes, piecing together the long lost cultures of those who lived thousands of years before us, before gazing up at the huge dinosaur skeletons and wondering what it would have been like to be alive with them.

We then visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taking the time to marvel at its sheer size as we decided which exhibitions to browse. We walked past Ancient Egypt, seeing real mummies encased before us, before reaching the modern art section, housing beautiful works from Picasso to Andy Warhol. We then moved on to one of our favourites, the Guggenheim. The layout of this museum is the best I have ever seen. It's simple, yet effective and allows you to see all the pieces without getting lost. The secret is - it's a single spiral. We walked up the corkscrew, branching off at the floors we wanted to stop on, helped out by an informative audio guide.

Other highlights included chowing down on popcorn (yay!) and salted pretzels as we cheered on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden; belly-laughing our way through a Sex and the City tour, devouring cosmopolitans and cupcakes as we went; catching Wicked on Broadway - an experience definitely not to be missed; and taking snaps of the endlessness that is New York from the Empire State Building Observatory.

A less jovial and more humbling part of our time in the powerhouse state was visiting the Ground Zero construction site, and spending some time in the small museum across the road, displaying a timeline of how events unfolded spread across its walls, plans for the rebuild and a touching video by the survivors of the disaster.

Manhattan accepts you for who you are. Wear what you want, eat what you want and do what you want, because everything you could ever need is at your fingertips.
I can't wait to go back and take a bigger bite from this extra juicy apple. Popcorn x