Make time for the small moments in life

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I don't like street lights... never did, never will...

I saw the Eiffel Tower lots of times while travelling through France and through Paris, but when I came to live in Paris, I first saw it after 2 months and I'm not joking. Sure I had probably seen it during the first two months somewhere in the distance, but I never seemed to find the TIME to go up to the Champ de Mars to see it. Isn't it strange how when something great happens to you - like living a whole year in Paris - you just seem to find excuses and the important just slips away? How could I have been so busy during my first two months in Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower?! Speak about the quiet strolls... Probably one of my first real strolls in Paris was the week before having to leave back home for the Christmas holidays... I guess I realized how much I was going to miss Paris and I just wondered through the streets sucking in all that Paris meant to me.

Don't ever lose sight of what is truly important and what really has a meaning to your life, you will soon come to regret the time you lost...

Macca-Villacrosse Passageway

Monday, 29 March 2010

This is one of the most charming places in the old centre of Bucharest. It was designed as a passageway between the always busy boulevard Calea Victoriei and the heart of the old centre and of the merchant area, Lipscani Street.

It is shaped like a fork, each of its two sides bearing a different name – Macca like its builder’s brother-in-law and Villacrosse like Xavier Villacrosse, a Catalan architect who used to be chief architect of Bucharest and who owned the inn on top of which the passage was later built. It is covered with a yellow glass roof that creates a cosy, intimate atmosphere.

The first Stock Exchange House of Bucharest was first housed here before a more appropriate headquarters was built. The passageway is two-stories high, the lower part being meant to hold little merchant shops. Nowadays there are more and more cafés every year. The most interesting atmosphere is however the one you can find in the Egyptian cafés, where you can smoke water pipes with different enticing aromas.

What’s less interesting is the part where when you sit outside the cafés in the passage you get attacked by pigeons and by attacked I mean they spread poop all over you if you find them in a bad mood. However, if you know the right places where to sit (outside café Aida for instance, never under the cupola) you’re less likely to be confronted with that problem.

A fashionable society (Bucharest in the 1940s)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

I participated today in a vintage photo contest posted on one of my favourite style blogs – The Sartorialist. It all started when Scott found some beautiful old pictures of the same family in different places of a flea market a few months ago. He was very intrigued and started fantasising about the history of that family.

The photo I sent to this contest was something I found in my own family archive – a photo of my grandmother, Alexandra, while she was a student at the Pharmacy University in Bucharest at the beginning of the 1940s. She must be about 22 years old in this picture. My grandmother is the second woman on the right, the only one wearing a pleated skirt. I was really impressed by her and her friends’ sense of style – the women are very elegant and sleek, they all wear high heels and purses, and the men wear hats and ties. When I think that they are all about the same age as I am and that they are also students, I can’t even believe it! They look so much different than what students are alike now…

During that time it was a great honour to study at a University and not many people could manage to work hard and get the degree. That’s why they were so serious also about the way they were dressed when they went to the University. My grandmother, the daughter of the chief of the train station in Targu Jiu, graduated with a perfect 10.

... and this is the tramway card she had when she was a student.

And I think you've had enough of old pictures :)

On top of the world

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I know it’s sunny outside, but I just felt like looking through some of my pictures from this winter and I found these amazing pictures on the ski slopes of St. Anton am Arlberg, in western Austria. It’s one of the most amazing places in the whole world for skiing, it’s listed on many Top Ten Lists and what’s even better it’s known for having the best and wildest après-ski entertainment…. But only those who have been there can really understand what I’m talking about ;)

I took these shots on the higher slopes, that reach up to 2 500m altitude. It was so cold that my camera froze later that day (so cold means that I was skiing at -16°C, with a wind of 40kmph – it was so cold that my hair froze and I had snow stuck to my face all day long). You never have to underestimate the cold weather of the Austrian Alps. I do have to agree however that when it’s cold the town has a charm of its own and that everything looks much better, even the slopes when there’s no fog attached to the cold.

I know the slopes look deserted, but being as cold as it was, not a lot of skiers attempted to take the lifts all the way up to the top. I know I did it only by mistake! Because of the fog down on the slopes, I couldn’t see very well towards what ski lift I was heading, when surprise! When I couldn’t turn around anymore I realized I was actually on the highest lift. It was amazing to see that over the thick fog it was actually a very warm (-10) sunny day.

Next time I talk about Austria, and if you have been reading this blog for some time now you should know that will be next Thursday, you will get to see a glimpse of this fabulous après-ski life I was talking about earlier, and trust me – if all English people choose to come here to party, then it must be something special ;)

The smell of the South

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The South of France has always captivated ordinary people and artists alike. With its enticing aromas, small winding streets and friendliness of the locals. The sight of sunburnt houses against the pure blue sky of the Provence cannot be compared to anything – it’s simply unique.

I took this picture on a very hot summer day in the open-air market of Arles, home of impressionist painters Gauguin and Van Gogh. They both lived here and painted together for a few years until their big fight, that determined Gauguin to leave and Van Gogh to cut his ear off. You can see how the southern colours influenced most of Van Gogh’s work of this period.

The open-air market is held in the square near the train station once a week and it has some of the most amazing spices stands I have ever seen. The last time that I saw something this spectacular was many years ago in Morocco, in the medina of Fez. The smell just sweeps you off your feet and all you want is to buy something and just start cooking! The incredible mix of colours and the chattering of people with the vendors they’ve known for ages bring the sandy buildings to life even on a hot day. Every Saturday morning the market transforms itself into the central point of attraction of the city, for both locals and tourists.

While in Arles I heartily recommend staying at the Hotel Constantin, a hidden gem at a 5 minutes’ walk from the roman arenas in downtown Arles. The cosy rooms painted in southern colours are big, sunny and very clean and the owner is as friendly as southern French people can get. The old building is beautifully renovated and you can really feel in the south of France while staying here. It’s the perfect place for discovering the region at a very friendly price.

Reminiscences of the past

Monday, 22 March 2010

From Piata Universitatii, the so called KM 0 of Bucharest, the Regina Maria Boulevard is full of old buildings that were once some of the city’s most prized cinemas. Young ladies used to stroll along the boulevard towards the Cismigiu Park, maids on their day off used to meet young soldiers for a movie, what is now left are only the scrappy facades and some old movie posters stuck to the doors of the old cinemas.

Cismigiu Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Bucharest, with lots of trees and flowers and shaded alleys. It also has a small artificial lake, where you can row boats during summer or on which you can skate during winter time. Near the park is one of the most well-known high schools of Bucharest, Liceul Lazar. A few decades ago, during the glory years of this high school, it was said that its pupils were the best in all rowing competitions because they used to skip classes and go rowing on the lake in the park for hours. This could be an advantage of having to go through the park in order to go to class… for the pupils of course!

At one of the entrances in the park, behind the parked cars, you can find one of the last old newspapers’ kiosk left.

With its beautiful architecture, it still has the poster of an old newspaper below its rooftop, Tineretul Liber – The Free Youth, testimony of the restless past.

Dusk over Place de la Concorde…

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A photo can say more than a thousand words… I shot this picture last year in May in Paris, at Place de la Concorde, the beautiful roundabout that marks both the ending of the Tuilleries Gardens and the beginning of the boulevard des Champs-Elysées.

This is one of my favourite strolls in Paris on a sunny afternoon. I usually start at the Louvre, I go through the big arches, past the two pyramids and through the Tuilleries Gardens. There are lots of people hanging around on the grass or on the dusty chairs and benches reading books, listening to music or simply enjoying the last sun rays of the afternoon, while hearing ducks quake in the big pond.

From here you can go straight through the big doors of the Gardens and you arrive in Place de la Concorde, the biggest place in Paris. It was built in the second half of the 18th century by the same architect that built the Opera and it was famous during the French Revolution for holding the guillotine where King Lous XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were decapitated. Today it is marked by an obelisk that dates up to 1836 in the centre, a present form the viceroy of Egypt to King Louis Philippe.

The lovely Place de la Concorde is surrounded by beautiful buildings, such as Hôtel de Crillon, one of the best high-end hotels in Paris, and the Hôtel du Ministère de la Marine – the Hotel of the Navy Minister.

Place de la Concorde gives then way to the beginning of the boulevard des Champs-Elysées, but that’s already another story…

Bucharest – city of extremes

Monday, 15 March 2010

Bucharest is a strange city, a city living two lives, somehow like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It embraces modern architecture, while still hanging on to the old communist gray blocks of apartments; it thrives in adding new skyscrapers to its confused skyline, while letting beautiful century-old masterpieces collapse under mould and decay. Who could understand the reasons behind this duplicity?

Although it may sound depressing, one thing this city has never lived without it’s its joy – the buzzing of people on the streets, the humming notes coming from small cafés on the winding little streets of the old city centre, kids playing in its huge parks – it all makes you feel very alive!

While still struggling to accept its new identity as a European capital, Bucharest is still hanging on to its past and that isn’t always the best way to deal with change… Sure, it were once called Little Paris but that fame is long gone. The restoration of the old part of the town and of many architectural monuments is already in progress, maybe someday soon tourists will see the true beauty of this city and stop talking about its huge potential, while taking photographs of ruins and stray dogs…

In the meantime, you can enjoy the bohème way of life through the ruins of the old centre thinking of the better days that are yet to come.

1st post jitters…

Sunday, 14 March 2010

I’ve thought a lot about the format of this blog and about whether it was going to be a series of nerve wrecking random pics and descriptions of cities throughout Europe and I thought his could either be great or pure chaos… then I remembered a movie I had watched when I was a kid – If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium!

The movie is about a guy named Charlie that guides American tourists in their vacation through Europe… That sounds easy, doesn’t it? The catch is that they’re supposed to visit 9 countries within 18 days… Such an attempt can result in pure chaos or memory loss, that’s why the title of the movie is so great. If you don’t know where you are, just find out the date and look it up in the programme of the trip – you’ll see in which country you’re supposed to be!

Using this movie as a guideline, I will attempt to bring a little bit of order in my posts writing about a different country every day (when I can keep up with this pace :p). So you’ll be able to know about which country I’m going to write next simply by thinking what day it is. And you’re going to find this out during the next few days ;)

16.06 - it's really difficult to write about a different country every day and you lose any continuity, so as of today I officially state that the initial idea of the organization of the posts is no longer true. Effective immediately! (or actually for some time now)

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