In October 2013, Banksy performed a month-long outdoor extravaganza in New York City. He called it “Better Out Than In.” (Har har har). Each day of the month, he erected a new piece somewhere in Gotham. That’s a lot of pieces and a lot of work. I figured I’d see what remained a year and a half later. To my surprise, I actually found three pieces that remained. In street art circles, lotsa people really hate Banksy. With a passion. He’s reviled by most. I thought his work woulda been paint bombed or destroyed by now. I found three! I was delighted.
The first was this piece at 79th and Broadway on the Upper West Side. The owners of the wall put the piece behind plexiglass to stop people from destroying it, but that hasn’t stopped people from dropping their business cards down there. If you look closely, someone’s house key is stuck in there too.
Now I walked by this wall on Delancey near Bowery many many times as I was hunting street art and didn’t think much of it, until I gave it a good look. What struck me as odd about it was that the rest of the wall had been painted except for this perfect little square of what looked like random tags.
Ahhh, but look closer. Do you see the words “The Musical” embedded in there? Banksy did this thing where he added the tag “The Musical!” to random tags. For example, one tag had said “Dirty Underwear” and he added “The Musical!” This is New York after all.
For reference, this is what the wall looked like before it was heavily tagged:
Playground Mob, The Musical!
And I found this piece by accident 🙂
Finding this piece was a rare treat! It’s Banksy’s Geisha Girls and tree. I was searching for it in Bed-Stuy and couldn’t find it, until I came across one of those rolldown grate thingies on this wall. I figured the piece had to be behind it, so I went inside the business that owns the wall, an optometrist, and asked them politely if I could see the Banksy behind the rolldown grate.
They said sure, came out with the keys, rolled it up, let me take my photographs, and chatted pleasantly with me. And that was it!
Ask and you shall receive, people.
Check out my Banksy category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
By the time you read this, I will already be out gallivanting through New York City, Brooklyn and Queens, hunting Space Invaders, Banksys, Hanksys, Swoons, and many more of my favourite street artists. I am here for a month, housesitting in the Upper West Side. I end this year the way I began it: on my own terms, and travelling. I have never been more free.
And I win.
Enjoy some of my greatest goofy 2014 hits, in GIF form!
Rolling my eyes at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, leaving Germany for the last time.
Dancing on the streets of Bonn.
Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, built by… uh… Stalin.
The best Klezmer band in Brussels right outside my window!
(hit the volume button on the bottom right corner of the vid)
The Berlin eyes have it.
The ghosts in Shoreditch’s windows
Art imitates life imitates art.
Guns in Copenhagen are beating like hearts.
Brick Lane street art goes largely ignored. (It says, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”)
Where’s the Space Invader?
I like to call this one, “Ew, I smell that, was that you?”
I like to call this one, “Oh is that really what you’re wearing? How… brave…”
I like to call this one, “Is that a bee or a fly?”
I like to call this one, “I just had a small stroke.”
How I talk to Cats (part 1), filmed whilst housesitting in London.
How I talk to Cats (part 2), filmed whilst housesitting in Copenhagen
How I talk to Cats (part 3), filmed whilst housesitting in Enkhuizen (the Netherlands)
Now let us go out of 2014 with a bang, just like we did in Paris…
Goodbye 2014. I hope I never see you again.
As you read this, I am on my way back to Warsaw to catch a flight out of here, so that means my delightful #Polska14 adventure has come to an end! But what an amazing journey! Three delightful cities in one week, and an immersion in Polish urbanism, history, culture, gastronomy, innovation, exchange, economy, but most of all, wonderment! On our final day in Poznan, we basically had a free day to explore at will. So after a leisure morning in my posh hotel, I went out to discover some more street art gems! The above is just a section of BLU’s mural which I found by accident. I photographed him in Berlin this summer, but finding his work isn’t always easy, so I was delighted to find it. Soon I will post much better pics, these are just snaps made from my iPad. BLU is to talented, and this mural is overwhelming.
Water cubes, anyone?
I posted pics of this little Poznan character yesterday, and he seems to be everywhere!
So goodbye for the second time Poland!
Day 3 of this Polish extravaganza was jammed packed! Refreshed from my glorious sleep in the fancy hotel, some of the delegates took a walk through Poznan’s old town. And wow, what a glorious city. Unlike Warsaw, which was totally destroyed during the war and rebuilt, Poznan has original architecture dating back centuries, and while some buildings are in a state of disrepair, I actually really like the “urban decay” look. It gives the city character. And just because something is old, doesn’t mean it has outlived its usefulness.
I love how it looks like the fountain is vomiting.
After a leisure morning, we were ushered to the convention centre to attend the POLEKO conference. When it comes to being Green, this trade fair espoused the future of innovation. I was specifically interested in the recycling sector which presented products made entirely from recycled materials…
…lathering brushes and razors…
…and artisanal chaises.
Naturally, there were some tongue in cheek pieces, like an entire dining room set made of recycled materials made to look like Sigourney Weaver’s Alien and friends…
We were treated as honoured delegates from Canada and attended a business mixer to exchange ideas and thoughts with other countries and businesses. The conference, although young, is very international, with a big German and Scandinavian presence. There were school groups and very engaging booths with a highly stylized design. And free chocolates. Good GAWD, the chocolates!
Day 2 of #Polska14 saw us travel to Łódź and the special economic zone. This area is super cool because, unlike the rest of Poland that has centuries worth of history, Łódź was founded in the 19th century by business owners. It was all factories, mostly industrialized textile factories for Ludwik Grohman. They were in use all the way until the 1980s when the textile industry collapsed, and the gorgeous 19th century factories fell into disrepair and were abandoned. Finally in 1997 the municipality of Łódź and private investors began to revitalize them. Over 10,000 bricks were cleaned by hand! Now the revitalized and gorgeous SEX is used for seven different sectors, including IT, conference space, food, cosmetics… but also, people live in these factories! Some have been converted into lofts and ateliers!
There are 22 universities in Łódź. TWENTY-TWO! Toronto only has 3! It’s citizens are highly educated, and 92% of them speak English, 39% speak German, and 12% speak Russian (that latter stat would have been higher before the fall of communism, so it’s kind of interesting to see its decline).
This merry-go-round was at the Manufaktura complex, a shopping and gastronomic area in a revitalized factory. The horses were freaking me out, I had to photograph them. The horses waited to be tamed….
After Łódź we drove a few hours to Poznan where I am now. Stay tuned to #Polska14 for more from this awesome adventure!
Day 1 in Warsaw is complete! And what a packed day! When I arrived the night before from my short flight from Brussels, my lovely hotel room in the centre of the city with a big warm comfy bed and dinner awaited!
I love waking up in an Eastern European hotel room overlooking the bustling city. I feel like Jason Bourne.
Like I posted about last time, I had been to Warsaw before and it’s strange how the human brain works because I actually remembered where everything was! I had a sense of direction, I knew where the landmarks were, and I felt perfectly at ease.
This is the gorgeous Palace of Culture and Science just around the corner from my hotel. It was built by Stalin, modelled on the Empire State building, much smaller but just as grand. The people of Warsaw tend to hate it because they were taxed heavily to pay for it… ah Stalin.
So to begin the day, all us POLEKO delegates and I were ushered to the Polblume recycling plant to see what one of the leaders of European recycling can teach Canada about going Green and truly espousing the idea of waste-not-want-not. Funded by the EU, they collect, treat, process, recover, and recycle electrical and electronic equipment, like batteries, circuit boards, glass, metals and polymers. That may not sound so high tech, but when they actually take old batteries and recycle them into new batteries, something that Canada doesn’t really do. Also, walking around their plant was actually pretty cool. There was this giant cub of compacted electronics, and it seems a pair of surgical scissors survived the event.
To me, that’s super cool.
Those are two giant crates of discarded televisions. You could make a giant monster out of televisions with these. If any of my readers like reusing old/found materials to create art installations, this plant is like your Mecca.
Next stop on the tour was to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. I’m hoping that most people know by now about the 1944 civilian uprising in Warsaw that saw an underground movement attempt to drive the Nazi occupiers out of the devastated city. I mean, you can’t go through life without knowing about the absolute devastation Poland faced during WWII. The invasion of Poland is literally what kicked off the war in September 1939, the largest death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau is located in Poland, and they fought so bravely from behind the Ghetto walls and from behind occupied lines to save their people.
The museum was massive, and we didn’t have much time there unfortunately, so I tried to see as much as I could. They have excellent exhibits, most of it audio-visual. I actually sat and watched reel after reel of excellent documentary footage taken from the streets, close-up and in the face of the revolt and of the captured Nazi soldiers. They also had a great 3D film that reconstructs Warsaw at the end of the war, as it lay in absolute ruins. The city was levelled to the ground, so when you walk around Warsaw now, the entire old town had to be rebuilt from city photographs. Some old buildings were able to salvage the foundations or perhaps loading walls, but Warsaw was basically razed to the ground.
Look at this gorgeous Meteor typewriter! You all know typewriters are my kind of pornography, but this one was used by the Uprising in order to galvanize and organize the revolt. This typewriter changed history!
Some Warsaw street art for good measure! More from my adventures in Poland and #Polska14 coming up! Check the Twitter hashtag to keep up with my adventures in real time!
As I type this, I am running to catch my flight from Brussels Charleroi Airport to Warsaw Chopin! As I previously blogged about, starting today, I will be in Warsaw, then to Lodz and finally to Poznan to blog and tweet about Poland’s history, economy and environmental protection as a guest of the Polish Ministry of Economy!
I haven’t been to Poland since 2006 so I’m extra eager to see that wonderful country and people again. Here are some snaps from that epic 2006 European Extravaganza:
The old town of Warsaw at dusk. From what I remember, the entire old town was understandably destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising and the duration of World War II so they actually rebuilt the old town using pre-war photographs as a guide!
I loved the colours of the city.
And the breakdancing! The city was so alive with fervour and energy.
For years, this was the best photograph I felt I had ever taken. Those people at the end of the alley walked by just as I plunged down on the shutter, and it created a very haunting moment. I look at this photograph and I see a lot of flaws now, but I always am reminded of how I was discovering my photographic style and Warsaw helped facilitate that.
After a lot of sleuthing and getting lost a bunch of times, I also found all by myself the last remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto Wall. Built by the occupying Nazis, this wall cordoned off an area of just 3.4 square kilometres that held over 400,000 Jews. Just think about that for a second. Imagine in Toronto, the space between Harbord Street to the CN Tower inhabited by 400,000 people. That’s insane. Of course, most of the Ghetto and the wall were destroyed by the war and of subsequent redevelopment, but there is still a small section standing, and on this particular day in the summer of 2006, I had it all to myself.
Touching the wall was something else.
I hope to have more adventures and eye-opening experiences over the course of this trip, and I’m very humbled and grateful to have been chosen to participate!
And even better – I’m bringing along one of my favourite people ever: Anny Chih! Many of you might remember way back in 2009 when both Anny and I were Top 50 finalists in the global Best Job in the World campaign. We were strangers from opposite sides of the country united through that experience, and we became great friends! We’ve explored Vancouver, New York, and Toronto together, and there’s no one else I’d rather explore Poland with 🙂
Keep an eye on this blog and on the Twitter hashtag #Polska14 to keep up with all of our Polish activities!
See you guys soon in Warsaw!
Some of you might remember in 2012 when I was invited by Eurail.com to blog & tweet my way across Europe using the rail network (read up on that month-long journey in my Eurail 2012 category!), or in 2011 when I was invited by VIA Rail to vlog and blog my way across Canada on the cross-Canada sleeper train The Canadian. There was even that weekend trip to Montreal for Labour Day 2011, courtesy of Ford Canada, who lent me a brand new Ford Fusion 2.5 for the roadtrip!
Now I’m very pleased to announce that the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Poland and Ajencja M Promotion have invited me on a press/media trip (known in the travel industry as a FAM trip) to Warsaw, Lodz, and Poznan! The week-long trip will have a special focus on Polish history, environment and economy, which will culminate in my participation in the POLEKO 2014 conference in Poznan, which is the International Trade Fair of Environmental Protection. This trip was open solely to Canadian writers as the trip is part of the Polish Economy Promotion Program in Canada, and they want me to blog and tweet all about it!
I’m extra excited about this because I haven’t been to Poland since 2006 when I backpacked across Warsaw and Krakow (with a special trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau) and I really fell for the Polish landscape and people, so another visit has been long overdue!
So if you spot me mad-dashing through a few airport terminals over the next little while, you know why.
I just spent a month in Paris, where Invader is from. And thanks to the addictive nature of the Flash Invaders app, which turns the streets into an actual 1980s video game, I ended up finding 183 Space Invaders. ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-THREE, YOU GUYS.
Now, in order to prevent the onset of insanity (I was never sane), I won’t blog EVERY one here, just the best of the best. Which, granted, is a lot.
The Mona Lisa, aka La Jaconde, near the Louvre.
Yup, that’s Pablo Picasso.
Invader, Cost, and ENX went tagging around Paris recently. Their posters and wheatpastes are all over, it’s really quite impressive, they hit up all arrondissements, it seems. If you’re paying attention, you’ll find posters that say “Cost fucked Madonna,” “Cost fucked Invader,” and several variations of this. High five to the NYC crew.
High up at Point Ephémère, but I spotted it anyway.
Remember last year when I found this exact same piece in Brussels?
I saw this piece from the Metro Line 6 as it was bombing along the elevated rail between Nationale and Chevaleret. I was heading toward Nation and wasn’t planning on getting off, but as soon as I saw this whizzing by my window, I got off at Chevaleret, and ran toward this. Epic win.
Clearly site-specific. ‘Vader saw the architecture of this facade, measured it, and made this piece to fit. Love how nothing is an accident, everything is carefully planned.
Unsafe to drink.
This one is behind plexiglass!
The Pink Panther’s To Do List:
-To do to do to do to do to dooooooooooo
This is either Robin Hood or Peter Pan.
This was one of my favourites. Mostly because A) PacMan and B) it’s considered two different pieces on Flash Invaders, therefore, more POINTS!
Here’s something similar! One park post…
…two park posts…
… three park posts!! All worth separate points on Flash Invaders! WOOP WOOP!
This one is not only worth so many points on FlashInvaders, it’s STAR WARS! Remember when I found that Space Invader Star Wars piece in London last year? I’m beginning to think he’s not a Star Trek fan.
Hahahaha, get it? See how he’s referencing the name the courtyard? Ah, if ya don’t speak French, you’re missing out….
Is this what pacman looks like when he dies?
LEAVE US ALONE!
IT’S Q*BERT! I used to play this game all the time as a little girl. (I got love for you if you were born in the 80s)
This was found on the one day I stupidly forgot my camera at home, so this is an iPad photo. Sorry. (Ugh).
In a lot of these photos, I’m equally as enamoured with the ‘Vaders as I am with the Parisian architecture… look at that balcony… amirite!
This one is pretty funny. that’s a (destroyed) Vader on the left, and someone has mocked him in tiles on the right. Mega-lolz.
I saw this one from 3 intersections away (|Denfert-Rochereau) and like ran across 3 roundabouts just to photograph it.
As I was taking this photograph, two disgusting pervs started catcalling me, so I spit out my nectarine pit from my mouth and threw it at them. That’s become my latest defence: I eat nectarines on the street, and if someone says something obscene, I spit the pit at them. Trust me, I never had to throw my pit in the garbage once in Paris. Men are one-note garbage.
The problem with street art is that it’s usually erected in areas that aren’t safe for women. So it basically turns women off from graff-hunting, or even being graff artists, because of the level of harassment. Half the time I didn’t want to go hunting because I knew I’d have to deal with men’s shit. INVADER, CAN YOU PUT YOUR STUFF UP IN SAFE AREAS PLEASE?
I think this one is a favourite. Space Invader makes the piece look like a street sign, so if you’re not paying attention, you wouldn’t even realize it’s there!
for this one, I literally had to run across the Peripherique highway to get it. Cheating death for ‘Vaders!
I actually didn’t think this was a real ‘Vader until I got all these points for it on Flash Invaders.
Aw. Oscar the Grouch!
This one is interesting and a unique ‘Vader for many reasons. 1) It’s been burned. 2) it’s 3-dimensional 3) it’s one of the few pieces that ‘Vader made in his original style – in that, it’s made out of rubix cubes. He used to make his pieces out of the the cubes, but he changed rather quickly to bathroom tiles and that has been his technique ever since. this old piece is a reminder of his previous efforts.
So, that’s a lot of Space Invaders. But remember, this isn’t ALL of the ‘Vaders I found! I swear! I just blogged the best ones here, so trust me, there are so many others out there that I found, and if you are willing to hunt, you can find them too!
Side note: hunting ‘Vaders is great way to explore Paris. You get to see different quartiers and arrondissements, it gets you walking and/or biking, and most of all, it’s free. And it’s so diverting. Highly recommended as a travel activity whilst in Paris.
Check out my Space Invader category for more of his work that I’ve photographed around the world!
Otto Piene. RIP.
David and I went to the vernissage at the Neue Nationalgalerie and were blown away. It was thrilling. What a loss to the art world.
Nil Frahm playing on his custom made Una Corda piano at the Michelberger Hotel courtyard.
And then this happened, and we all collectively lost our shit.
This guy is on his cell phone?
Tom and his doggie Rocky.
This is called Brandenburger Tor as well… smaller but just as swell.
SOMEONE BREAK THE GLASS AND LET ME IN. This was on Schoenhauser Allee.
This is my pornography.
This is the Bendlerblock courtyard where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was assassinated by the Gestapo after his plot to kill Hitler failed on July 20, 1944.
The 70th anniversary just passed.
You did not bear the shame.
You bestowed the eternally vigilant symbol of change
by sacrificing your impassioned lives for freedom, justice and honor.
The spot where he was shot.
The Berliner Dom. It had just rained, so the platz was deserted. I sat on the steps of the church, pulled out my journal, and wrote. I had the entire Dom to myself… and, it seemed, the entire city.
The platz in front of the university.
This is the spot where the 1933 Nazi student book-burning took place. The plaque talks of all the kinds of writers whose works are lost, and then there’s a Heinrich Heine quote from 1820, which says, “This is only prologue: where they burn books, in the end they will also burn people.”
I photographed this 8 years ago too.
But what never seems to develop properly in photography is the empty library. Next to this plaque, in the ground, there is a window. When you look down through it, you see underground, empty bookshelf after empty bookshelf.
This church was bombed out during WWII and after the war they decided not to rebuilt it as a memento to the horrors of war. I photographed this 8 years ago when it didn’t have all that cubism shit all over it.
First, when Napoleon took the city, he marched his army through the Brandenburger Tor.
Then when the Nazis took power, they marched their army through the Brandenburger Tor.
It lay in near-ruins after the war, and then later was closed off from the public when it was in the killzone between the Berlin Wall.
Now the public is invited. All the time.
Critical Mass is CRITICAL.
A shining beacon and city called home.
Eight years ago, upon my first visit to Berlin, I went to the Jewish memorial and took these photographs:
Now that I’ve been back in Berlin for two weeks, I thought I might retrace my steps. Starting with….
Compare and contrast.
Expect a massive Berlin-photo-gasm on this blog for the next little while. I have been busy exploring and I have lots to share.
The month that was….
So my time in Copenhagen is coming to an end. This past month feels more like an entire season, I have done so much in such a short period of time, it feels like I spent more than just 4 weeks here! I hung out in Dybbolsbro, Norrebro, Christianshavn, Vesterbro, Frederiksburg, Valby, Oosterbro, Charlottenlund, Lyngby and of course, Christiansborg!
And the things I did! As you see above, I hung out inside an 800-year-old tree, I saw some avant-garde Danish theatre (that came with English subtitles!), I was thrown into the mix during the Eurovision Song Contest (Conchita for the win!), I rode bicycles and boats, I stumbled over cobblestones, I ran in and out doorways to try to stay out of the rain, I ate SO MANY DANISHES (the pastry, you sickos), I photographed street art, I saw live jazz concerts, I made a bunch of new friends, and I got to see Nils Frahm TWICE in concert, the second time for free! See the pics below:
That’s how close I was. I could literally reach out and play his piano if I wanted to. I waited outside to get into this show for about…oh…4 hours! In the rain! So I was damn well gonna make sure I had a good spot.
It was weird though because for some reason, he didn’t have a sound engineer with him. So my friend Mads literally just stepped up to the plate and did his sound for him the entire time. It was hilarious.
And then he played “Says” live and I nearly died. I couldn’t make out where the piano ended and his fingertips began. It was a blur of movement and motion. I think I had my hand over my mouth the entire time. At the very end, he just rips the chord right out of the amplifier to end the song, and I almost fainted.
And of course, I climbed a spire that overlooks the city. Normally, when you climb a church spire, the stairwell is INSIDE the spire…. NOT IN COPENHAGEN!
And this is where I was living. Seriously.
It’s so hard to believe this is Copenhagen and not the French countryside like Bordeaux or Toulouse!
Edit: I just realized that in 2006, whilst in Copenhagen, on my way to Berlin, I wrote this post. Notice the similarities? FREEEEEAKY.
Now, as I pack my things and try my hand at a new city (Berlin, can you feel me yet?!), it’s important to remind myself why I am this insufferable yet affable nomad…. because life is too short to spend it all in one place.
I never seem to stay in a city for very long. Keep that in mind, guys — In your towns (and in your lives), I am always only just passing through.
See you in Berlin!
I had read a long time ago on some of my regular favourite street art blogs that Roa visited Copenhagen a few years ago, but I didn’t know where his work was, until the other day when I’m wandering around the Valby area and I look up and see a huge Roa curling around the spire of a converted church! (Now it’s an artists centre). WIN!
Look at that gorgeous dead thing! If you check out my Roa category, you’ll notice that Roa always does animals that are either in death, in decay, or fighting for survival. His work is a gorgeous depiction of the circle of life.
And then I walk around the side of the building, and there’s a huge Aryz mural just staring at me!
Look at those colours.
Look at that face.
Go go gadget Copenhagen.
“Street art isn’t dead, it’s only sleeping.”
This is by KissMama
The construction boards all around Copenhagen have provided unlimited canvases for the city’s street artists. Case in point, this gorgeous mural by Zed1.
This giant iron gun, chained to a mailbox, is by TEJN.
You can read Shepard’s account of the attack here.
This EuroTrash is pretty impressive.
Stop Graffiti? That’s so meta.
That heart above the pillar is made of guns that were taken off of the streets.
We want to live together
More to come!
I’ve been on the road for three weeks now, and I’m so glad I decided to throw off the shackles of suspended animation and stationary living that were cutting into my skin (In short, paying rent is for suckers). I’ve been a backpacker for nine years now, and even though I have been to so many places, and learned a lot, I always seem to discover new places and learn new things. So far all the cities on this journey are places I have been to/lived in before (Brussels, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and soon Berlin), but it’s hard to be bored in these cities. I’ve forsaken flying, and have been taking the delightful European trains like a civilized person. I’ve been Couchsurfing and house-sitting, which has allowed me to make new friends, snuggle with some snuggle-pets, and take the time to really explore without feeling rushed. My days consist of drinking sweet lattes, writing in my journal while sneaking glances at the pretty bearded hipster dudebro behind the counter, walking around a European metropolis in the sunshine, taking photographs of provocative street art and urban art, indulging in Pain au Chocolat’s without a trace of guilt, going to flea markets, spending hours at enthralling museums, rocking out to Nils Frahm, and partaking in SO MUCH EUROVISION (I had no idea when I came to Copenhagen that I’d be here at the same time as the Eurovision Song Contest, but boy has it been fun! Go Conchita go).
A friend of mine recently sent me this message:
I am forced to agree.
Here are some highlights and urban art from my travels this past month.
In Brussels, of course my first stop was the Jeu de Balle flea market to spend hours upon hours rummaging through boxes to find some love letters. Remember this? Anyway, I found 10 love letters written between a husband and wife from 1956-8 in Brussels. He was a military doctor and so he was stationed away from home quite often. Look at that lipstick kiss in the letter! They totally got it bad for each other. I also found a letter written during WWII (it’s undated but I’m guessing from the letters’ contents that it’s from about 1944) written between cousins about how “les sales boches” (aka The Nazis) have invaded Belgium and the family misses their homeland. They are in exile in an area of France that was not occupied by the Nazis and 12 family members are living in a small flat. The cousin writes to the other cousin, begging him to join her, saying, “we will make space on the mattress for you.”
I love you, Jeu de Balle.
Jef Aerosol has an ongoing exhibit just around the corner from Jeu de Balle.
Of course no trip to Amsterdam is complete without going hunting for a few Laser 314‘s 🙂
I also spent a great deal of time at Amsterdam’s Resistance Museum, and then following a map to all of the important locations in the city during the Nazi occupation, including where Jews had to buy their Star of David armbands, the theatre converted for mass deportations, the Carlton hotel that a war plane smashed into, the bombs that dropped on a home on the Herengracht, the air-raid shelters, and more. Highly recommended if you’re into WWII history like me
This is Laser’s nod to 1984.
When you take the train from Hamburg to Copenhagen, the train (which is only 4 small carriages) goes ONTO THE FERRY. No one ever believes me when I tell them this.
Ah, Copenhagen. I was last here in 2006 (read my post from that time here, and this post has all my photographs from back then). If I’m being honest, my memory of my time here in 2006 is rather hazy, so I’m glad I’m spending a good chunk of time here.
This is wonderful. An underwater sculpture in one of the canals.
The boats have to be careful, otherwise their propellers will be destroyed.
Hans Christian Andersen’s grave!
I swear, Copenhagen is filled with so much antiquity, and so few people, that sometimes, you can walk down a street, preserved in detail for 200 years, and wonder if you’ve stepped through time, without the presence of cars and technology to distract you.
I’m still in Copenhagen, so this section is a work in progress. More photographs to come! I have SO MUCH STREET ART TO SHARE!
In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).
Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:
#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show
I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:
Read my blog post about my experience here!
But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.
I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.
When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.
#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!
Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free! And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!
#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event
(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)
I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.
#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!
I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.
#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!
As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!
Read my blog post about that experience here!
#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!
Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.
So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!
Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!
I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…
This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!
There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.
My table looked like a Star Trek console!
Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.
TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.
They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!
Here was the awesome menu!
And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.
I met some awesome people there too!
This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!
LOL at “interphalangial.”
Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.
You go girl.
The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.
Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.
Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!
So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.
As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.
I hope I never fucking see you again.
Ghost signs (if you don’t know the term) are my current fascination. I can best explain them as such: 100 years ago, instead of billboards, advertisers would literally paint their signs and adverts to the walls of buildings. In many places, those old painted signs, although faded, are still visible. Places like London and Amsterdam are fantastic for ghost-sign-hunting, because there are so many pre-war buildings sporting ’em. I like the calligraphy and fonts, I like the designs, I like the old-timey, antiquated feel of them. It’s the quickest form of time-travel, really. Here is a selection of ghost signs that I’ve been fortunate enough to find. I will endeavour to find more!
This one is my favourite, so let’s start with it! I found it halfway between Herne Hill and Brixton in London.
I find it highly ironic that this is an antique sign advertising antiques! THAT’S SO META. Can you IMAGINE what antiques you could have found 100 years ago? Stuff from the 18th and 17th century, surely.
You’ll notice that the bottom of the sign is cut off mid-sentence. According to the internet, it used to say “bought, sold, or TAKEN IN EXCHANGE.”
This old Bovril ghost sign is quite popular in Brixton, and I’ve been passing by it for years, without bothering to photograph it. Have you ever tasted Bovril? It tastes like battery acid. EAT UP!
This Dean & Co Chemist’s sign was hard to photograph, as it’s situated high up and is almost blocked by the adjacent building. There’s no chemist there now, just a hair salon. This was opposite Clapham Common.
Here’s another favourite of mine that is really faded, but it’s SO OLD-TIMEY COOL! It says, “For your throat’s sake, SMOKE the world’s premier cork**** cigarette.” I can’t make out if it says corklined, or corktrimmed, or corktarred, or something along those lines, it’s so faded.
This is an excellent reminder of advertising standards 100 years ago, where Doctors would tell you that smoking was actually good for you. And advertisers would lie and say it made you healthy, and shit. AMAZING FIND.
I found this near Stockwell tube stop.
Now to Amsterdam, with a cool Albert Heijn paint job. As I mentioned before, Albert Heijn is a supermarket chain in The Netherlands, and apparently, has been around for a long time!
There was no Albert Heijn shop in this building, just a Japanese resto and a sewing machine shop. This was in the De Pijp area.
Across the street from it was this amazing faded sign that says “Salon Voor Scheeren” which indicates a barbershop once was housed there. Not anymore, it’s just homes. LOOK AT THE FINGER-HAND! So cool.
There’s no way to know what this ghost sign above a billiards place used to say. It looks like two signs were painted over each other, and now over time, they’re fading into each other. But I like the calligraphy.
I have already found more ghost signs around that I have yet to photograph, so expect more soon!