"Blogging isn't journalism, it's graffiti with punctuation."

travel

What Remains of #Banksy’s Better Out Than In Project in #NYC

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!


2014 was the GIF that kept on GIFing

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.


2014: The Year That Taught Me Exactly What I’m Made Of

I don’t know how to start this entry so I’ll just launch right into the heart of it:

I spent most of this year homeless, broke and starving on the streets of Europe.

And I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Most of you read this blog soley for all the amazing street art that I find (as you should, I have found some incredible and moving stuff!), and I don’t really talk about myself on this blog anymore. I’ve barely posted any photographs of me on here this year, so let’s change that right now before I launch into it all…

wind in my hair on Make A Gif

 

Ahhh, that’s better.

So here’s the skinny

I will try not to ramble on for brevity’s sake and because everyone has ADD, but perhaps you might take 5 mins to read this, as this post, like most of my posts, will be mostly photographs anyway.

I started off the year in London. It was rough from the beginning. I was freelancing a lot to pay my bills, but money was still tight tight tight! My friends kept insisting on paying for me just because they wanted me to come out and see them, but I felt pretty shitty about having my friends pay for me. I mean, they offered, but what kind of woman does that make me? Always relying on the generosity of friends? I refused the majority of the time.

Still I managed to have some wonderful early experiences in London, like being invited to speak THREE TIMES at Spark London, which is a live-storytelling event.

This below video is from my first and most popular story. It has almost 6,000 views on YouTube, I guess it resonated with people.

Also, as many of you remember, I was cast in Channel 4’s documentary series, First Dates. My episode, the premiere episode of the season, had millions of viewers and broke the internet. Here’s the trailer and some screencaps from my small screen glory:




But life in London was still giving me headaches. I won’t go into too much detail on this point, but I was being sexually harassed by someone who had stolen all of my contact details and had been to my house. I had to call the police just to get him to stop. I couldn’t even get him arrested, I could only get them to force him to stop. It was truly frightening to be the victim of something like this that was completely out of my hands. I didn’t know this person at all, and to have my details stolen like that and used for such nefarious purposes really shocked my system. I didn’t leave my flat for a week because I was petrified to walk outside and find him there. Bless the London Police, they were so kind and understanding and helpful and full of useful information.

But the money issue started to grate on me. London is too expensive for a freelancer like me, and when my uptight and awkward landlady (who would burst into my room when I was sleeping naked and demand I get her a paracetamol because she was sick… or would bore me to tears by yammering on about her ridiculous love life like it was any of my business) decided to raise the rent on me for no good reason, I decided enough was enough. London clearly doesn’t want me here, so fuck it, I’m leaving for something better.

Homeless

I consciously chose to be homeless. I stuffed everything I owned in the world into my backpack, and set off for mainland Europe. I didn’t have the money to pay rent, so I decided I just wouldn’t pay rent. I would get by with Couchsurfing and Housesitting. And those housesitting gigs would last for months, so I would get to stay in these cosmopolitan European capitals for free; places like Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels (and a smattering of smaller rural towns).

But it wasn’t easy. I was so broke that I was living off of €40 a week. A WEEK. That’s how much most people spend in one meal, and that is what I was LIVING off of for a week. There were some really lean moments where I was like, “Should I put the peanuts in the yoghurt, or have the peanuts as a side-dish?” For  example, the entire month that I lived in Paris, I only spent €150 in total, and that’s being generous. I couldn’t afford to take the trains anymore between cities, so I started hitchhiking… which any woman will tell you is, well, interesting. (The one time that I posted on Facebook about my hitchhiking, a friend that I haven’t seen in about 15 years since high school transferred money into my PayPal and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was like, “TAKE IT AND GET ON A TRAIN DAMMIT” and I was moved to tears. People can be so kind). I’m ashamed to admit that I did a bit of dumpster-diving when I needed to. But the worst it ever got was when I was attacked in Brussels and in Paris. In Brussels, this guy smacked me right across the face in broad daylight. On the Paris Metro, I walked away with a huge welt on my thigh that lasted a month, and the tissue there is still sore, if I’m being honest.

Life as a waif isn’t all romantic and adventure. Sometimes it is pure depravity and despair.

But, for as bad as it was sometimes, I felt like going through all of this was good for me. Like I really needed it. The whole point is to go through a river of shit. The whole point is to crawl up a long ladder on your knees. That’s the whole point. Because it taught me exactly what I’m made of. I am resilient when the shit hits the fan. I am resourceful and crafty, sometimes hustler-charlatan, and sometimes the lucky beneficiary of the kindness of strangers. I never gave up. Going through the worst time of my life, oddly, was the best thing for me. I truly feel like the worst year of my life was also the best year of my life. I am so grateful this happened to me.

So how did I end up back in Toronto?

I was making some money freelancing, so I wasn’t completely in the shitter. I was even translated into Swiss-German when I sold a couple of articles to AufBau Magazine (and they paid me in SWISS FRANCS too! When you exchange that into Canadian dollars, it was more than double. I was like PIZZA FOR EVERYBODY!). But I couldn’t afford the planet ticket home. Then, the Polish Ministry of Economy who sent me on my #Polska14 adventure that you can read about here, paid for my transatlantic flight home. Without that, I would still be a wandering European nomad with no fixed address. So thanks, Poland!

Finding Meaning

Along this strange 12 month journey that was 2014, there were a lot of poignant and unique moments that will never come again. I was in Copenhagen during the Eurovision Song Contest, I was in Berlin when Germany won the World Cup, I was in Paris during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the liberation of Paris, I was in Amsterdam for their Remembrance Day, and I was in Brussels during Nuit Blanche.

I think one of my favourite moments of the entire year was in Amsterdam when my friend Laser 3.14 dedicated some street art to me.

But my favourite thing to do in all of these places (other than photograph street art, of course) was to visit the flea markets every weekend. Because I had no space in my backpack to actually buy anything of substance, the only thing I could buy on the flea markets were old love letters and monochrome photographs from 1900-1940s. The only spot I could keep them was in the space between my iPad and its case, because it was the only spot to keep them flat and safe. After a while, that little slot was bulging.

Here are some examples of what I managed to procure:

Most days I would spend all the money I had saved for eating on these photographs. I usually only ate 2 small meals a day anyway, and would load up on coffee during the day to suppress my appetite.







The small moments I never blogged…


Dancing with friends in London! Everybody in this photograph looks cool except for me. I need to increase my cool-game.

Celebrating World Cup in Berlin with friends! Aw Eric, tu me manques!

Enjoying the view of Berlin from the Klunkerkranich with my two favourite Germans!

Acrobatic performers at the Boxhagenerplatz flohmarkt in Berlin!

This photograph and street-art-hunt made it to the front page of WordPress!

In London, I was cast in a movie, and the costume/hair/makeup would take an hour every day. I was playing a 16th century Spanish lady in King Phillip’s court. My hair was teased, pinned, curled, and yanked within an inch of my life. That hat had to be SEWN INTO MY HEAD to keep it in place. And the corset & neck piece dug into my skin and took out huge chunks of flesh.

This is what my hair looked like after all the pieces were taken out of it.


Hanging out inside an 800-year-old tree in Copenhagen.


Overlooking Copenhagen!

At the Jewish Memorial in Berlin, which is a re-staging of a photograph I took of myself 8 years ago

Berlin olympic stadium … fuck yeah jesse owens.


Sachsenhausen….

Fireworks soar above the Brandenburg Gate the night that Germany won the World Cup

A massive drumming/capoeira parade in Paris that I just happened to stumble upon. They basically shut down Boulevard Saint-Denis!

Click on the volume button to hear! I made this and many other Vines, btw.

My last night in Paris, I cycled to L’Arc de Triomphe and just sat there, watching the city run circles around it.

Nuit Blanche in Brussels was a rainy, glorious night I will never forget. I love Brussels so much!



Overlooking the small medieval-walled village of Regensburg in the south of Germany.

Leaving Berlin, and for the last time too…

Dancing with the gang in Dalston… as all the hipsters do.

This was my housesit in Paris; a two-bedroom flat all to myself. Yes, I am a huge asshole.


And this was my housesit in Amsterdam. Being homeless isn’t all that bad.


Somedays I would wake up in my housesit and just be so happy!


Although, when I was Couchsurfing, some days I would wake up looking like this. Ugh. Don’t fuck with a recently-awoken woman!

Snugglecat in Brussels loves his kisses!


I saw Nils Frahm live in concert four times this year (for a total of 5 if you include last year).  Luckily he performed free concerts, so my broke-ass could still get a little culture. I saw him twice in Copenhagen….


…once in Berlin

…and then in Toronto!

Favourite 2014 Street Art Hunts


I found some amazing works this year, so it’s hard to pick the BEST, as everyone is a winner, but here are some highlights!
#1 Space Invader does Star Wars in London!

#2 Accidentally finding a Banksy in Copenhagen!

#3  El Bocho in Berlin, baby!

#4 Icy and Sot on the streets of Amsterdam!

#5 Finding 183 Space Invaders in one month in Paris!

#6 Jimmy C’s Ziggy Stardust mural in Brixton!

#7 Pablo Delgado in Dulwich!

#8 JR’s “wrinkles of the city” in Berlin!

#9 Roa in Dulwich!

#10 Phlegm in Dulwich!


Here are my greatest street-art hits from Instagram! What a year it’s been!

Favourite 2014 Albums

#1 Spaces by my beloved Nils. Although it came out in late 2013, it really picked up steam in 2014 so that’s why it’s included here. I would walk around my neighbourhood in South London (Crystal Palace) and would listen to Spaces as I wandered up and down the hills, and it kept me sane. Lend an ear to song “Says,” it will be the best 8 minutes of your life, I promise.

#2 Are We There by Sharon Van Etten. I would wander around Kreuzberg and Neükoln in Berlin, along the canal, sit on Admiralbrücke, drink a cola from the Späti, and listen to “Our Love” or “I Know” off this album and feel like someone else understood me finally.

Favourite 2014 Singles

#1 Enemies by Hannah Georgas. The song is simply gorgeous, but it was the music video for it that left me breathless. There’s something about that man’s face. I think it was his eyes. He broke my heart.

#2 Habits by Tove Lo. I know this song was pretty overplayed by the end of the year, but when it first came out, I would walk around Berlin during those hot summer nights when it’s still light out at 9pm, photograph street art, listen to this, and sing when I was sure no one was listening.

Favourite 2014 Films

#1 Grand Budapest Hotel, obviously! I saw this in London with Robin and we couldn’t stop talking about how great it was for hours afterward.

#2 Boyhood. I saw this in Berlin with David and he fell asleep during it, so it could have used a tighter edit (3 hours is too long, guys!) but it was still a tour-de-force.

Speaking of men…




10250319_10102185618515260_4203548847765856384_n




I was never lonely this year, let’s put it  that way.
Also… OMG BEARDS. EVERY MAN I KNOW HAS A SWEET, SWEET BEARD.

When it comes to the end…

Like I have for the past three years, I will be spending New Years in a country other than my own (2012 in Germany, 2013 in London, and now 2014 in….)

New York City!!


I’ll be housesitting (obvi) for a month (until the end of January) in the Upper West Side. Another place to live rent-free, another amazing city. I haven’t been in NYC since 2012 so it will be great to rediscover all my favourite places (Bushwick here I come!!) and also discover places I never knew before (I’m coming for you, Adele Bloch-Bauer).

NYC, like all the other cities I have lived in this year, is one of those places where you’re never bored. And if you are, you are doing it wrong.

So I’d like to end 2014 on a similar note:

“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say.
I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing.
So you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”

-Louis C.K.

2014 was never boring. May that continue in 2015.
See ya in NEW YORK CITY!!!


#Polska14 Day 4: the last dance

IMG_5541.JPG

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.
IMG_5539.JPG

IMG_5546.JPG

Water cubes, anyone?

IMG_5551.JPG

I posted pics of this little Poznan character yesterday, and he seems to be everywhere!

IMG_5549.JPG

IMG_5553.JPG

IMG_5552.JPG

IMG_5547.JPG

IMG_5550.JPG

IMG_5548.JPG
This mural kind of looks like the city itself. It is the city scape. It is the skyline 🙂

So goodbye for the second time Poland!


#Polska14 Day 3: The city of Poznan & The POLEKO conference

IMG_5512.JPG
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.
IMG_5526.JPG
I love how it looks like the fountain is vomiting.
IMG_5514.JPG

IMG_5527.JPG
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…

IMG_5530.JPG
…like bifocals…

IMG_5528.JPG
…canvasses…

IMG_5534.JPG
…lathering brushes and razors…

IMG_5529.JPG

…and artisanal chaises.

IMG_5524.JPG
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…
IMG_5520.JPG
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!
IMG_5522.JPG

IMG_5523.JPG
Optimus Prime?
IMG_5517.JPG
Course, you can’t wander around a new city without appreciating its local art scene.
IMG_5521.JPG
Don’t stop it now, I’m still dancing in here!
IMG_5518.JPG

IMG_5516.JPG
More photographs from my #Polska14 adventure can be found on my Instagram or twitter. Stay tuned for more!


#Polska14 Day 2: Łódź and the special economic zone

IMG_5499.JPG
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!

IMG_5501.JPG
There’s a British International School for the children of foreign workers, but recently Polish children were allowed to enroll as well. The curriculum is English and some are even in Japanese.

IMG_5509.JPG
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).

 

IMG_20141014_223617
There are so many cool cultural festivals in Łódź. They have a design fest, a Fashion Week, an International Festival of Comics and Games, the Four Cultures fest, and the Light Move fest.

IMG_5504.JPG
And there are 27 palaces in Łódź. TWENTY-SEVEN!

IMG_5503.JPG

IMG_5510.JPG
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….

SAMSUNG
After Łódź we drove a few hours to Poznan where I am now. Stay tuned to #Polska14 for more from this awesome adventure!


#Polska14 Day 1: Warsaw Recycling and Uprising

IMG_5470.JPG
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!
IMG_5434.JPG

I love waking up in an Eastern European hotel room overlooking the bustling city. I feel like Jason Bourne.

IMG_5436.JPG

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.

IMG_5466.JPG

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.

IMG_5450.JPG

 

To me, that’s super cool.

IMG_5443.JPG
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.

IMG_5461.JPG
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.

IMG_5464.JPG
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.

IMG_5471.JPG
I didn’t take too many photographs inside the museum because I was watching so much archival footage, but here are a few. If you’re in Warsaw, you must visit the museum!

IMG_5472.JPG

IMG_5475.JPG

IMG_5474.JPGLook 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!

IMG_5476.JPGOld town fountain.

IMG_5477.JPG

IMG_5479.JPGYou know what I love about Warsaw and her streets?  Sometimes you can turn a corner, and realize you cannot find any traces of the 21st century anywhere. Bless this town.

IMG_5486.JPGSome 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!


My #Polska14 Adventure Begins Today!

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!

Dziękuję!


#Polska14: I’m being sent on a Polish adventure!

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!

The trip begins October 12th, so make sure to check this space, and also follow along with my adventures using the #Polska14 hashtag on Twitter.

So if you spot me mad-dashing through a few airport terminals over the next little while, you know why.


The Biggest Fricken #SpaceInvader Post Ever

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.

Enjoy!


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 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!


Fucking tarp.


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).


iPad…


FLAPPY BIRDS!


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.


Hahaha, awesome.


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!


See it?


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!


Berlin light, colour, and stone

 

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.

Potsdam.

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 resisted.
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.

Berlin-henge.


One day in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

In my life, I have visited two concentration camps: Auschwitz (which I decided at the time not to post my pictures) and Dachau (which I decided not to blog about at all). I have always believed, however, that if you are in the area, you really should make an effort to go to them. So, being stationed in Berlin for the time being, I knew I had to go to Sachsenhausen.

I don’t want to say very much in this post. Jeff and I spent six hours at the camp, and walked out of there drained. So I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

This I will speak about, because this is such rivetting history, and new things are being discovered all the time at these places. In 2003, a construction worker at the Sachsenhausen visitors centre was taking down a partition wall when he heard a crinkle and a smash within the wall. Inside the wall, he found a bottle hanging from a wire, with a note inside. As he had smashed through the wall, he had smashed the bottle, so the note was now accessible. It had been written and left there in 1944 by two Sachsenhausen inmates! They had probably been able to leave this message in a bottle because, in all likelihood, they had been assigned to build the wall. The note was written by two guys who were both political prisoners and had been there for years, even before the war started. One guy, Anton Engermann, was from Cologne and lived on Severinstrasse! I know that street! He wrote  that he had been there since 1937 and said “When will I see my love in Frechen, Cologne once more? But my spirit is unbroken.  Things must get better soon.”

The great thing about this story is both men survived the camp and the war. Engermann lived to the ripe old age of 82, but died in 1983, well before this note was found. The other man, Tadeusz Witkowski, supposedly emigrated to Canada, but no one knows of his whereabouts or if he’s still living, they haven’t tracked him down. If he’s still alive (unlikely but possible), it would be cool to ask him questions about how and why the men left this note.


As a final note, if any of you have seen the Oscar-winning film The Counterfeiters, it takes place at Sachsenhausen. I saw the film earlier this year and had forgotten this is where it takes place. Upon visiting Sachsenhausen, and being able to see some of the forged British pound notes they created, it really brought the whole thing together. Highly recommend you watch the film.


Critical Mass at the Brandenburg Gate

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.

 


Ich bin ein Berliner

Eight years ago, upon my first visit to Berlin, I went to the Jewish memorial and took these photographs:

 

europeenglandon 127 europeenglandon 128

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.


I want my Danish

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!

SELFIE.

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!


#Roa and Aryz in Copenhagen

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.


#StreetArt and #Graffiti on the streets of #Copenhagen, Part 1


“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.


Remember when Shepard Fairey got the shit kicked out of him in Copenhagen? This mural is why.


You can read Shepard’s account of the attack here.


Hahaha.


On the left is Kid Acne whom I’ve blogged about before in London and Amsterdam. On the right is more KissMama from above.


This EuroTrash is pretty impressive.


#BringBackOurGirls


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!


The Best Life

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:

1526427_10101867707112260_8603528625040900854_n

I am forced to agree.

Here are some highlights and urban art from my travels this past month.

Brussels


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.

Amsterdam


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.

 

Copenhagen


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.


SELFIE.


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.


Kirekegaard’s grave!


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!

Stay glued.

 


Leaving Las London

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!

The Artist Live in Concert at Royal Albert Hall, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra from christine estima on Vimeo.

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!

ZOMG BRAIN-SPLOSION.

There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.


My table looked like a Star Trek console!


Torture chamber?


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.

Onward ho!

Goodbye London.

I hope I never fucking see you again.


Ghost signs in #London and #Amsterdam

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!