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

Posts tagged “Europe

Never Pay For Another Hotel Again: my latest in @VICE

You might have noticed I’ve been publishing a lot of travel writing lately, if you’ve been coming here often, which is fitting seeing as how much of my life has been spent on the road, or planning my next trip. My latest piece in VICE is about how I became a profesh housesitter, and all the fun, follies, foibles, fur-babies and FUBAR situations therein. It’s a great way to travel the world if you’re flexible and you’re not too fussy about where you go . . . and if you can solve clusterfucks like a boss. Read the whole piece here.

Speaking of housesitting and being on the road, my next housesitting extravaganza begins on MONDAY! I’m heading back to my old stomping grounds, London UK, to housesit for a month! I’ll be looking after two Snugglebum von Cuddletummies and hanging out with my friends. Super excited to have my Christmas and New Years there too. How very Dickensian of me.

If you need me, I’ll be sleeping in some corner of a European railway station.

Check out the official Christine Estima dot com for more of my published travel essays, short stories, spoken word performances, and more!

 

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Hunting #SpaceInvaders in London: my latest in @VICECanada

Many of you know I’m a huge fan of Invader. I have a whole category dedicated to him on this here blog, of all the times I’ve photographed his work around the world. This goes back yeaaaarrrrrssss. I love a good graff-hunt, and he is the epitome of that. In any case, I sold another essay to VICE in partnership with Travel Nation about hunting ‘Vaders specifically in London using the Flash Invaders app to maximize my huntin’. Read all about it here. All the photography published in the piece is also mine!

I’ve been publishing a lot of pieces lately, so scroll down this blog to read more of my stuff in various publications. And don’t forget to check out the official Christine Estima dot com for more!


Backpacking across Europe for less than €15 a day: my latest in @VICECanada

Wow, two blog posts in one day? This reminds me of my New York Clusterfuck of 2011 where I was blogging 13 times a day (ooof . . .  sorry about that btw). I never blog this often anymore! But when you’ve got a lot going on, it’s nice to share it with a network that supports your voice and your work.

All you regular munchkins know that I’ve been backpacking around the world since 2005 and have published A LOT of travel writing in various publications. To that end, VICE partnered with Travel Nation to create more travel content on the network, and they asked me to write a whole bunch of pieces from my days on the road. No problem, hope they don’t mind me spilling litres of ink on the subject. I’ve got stories!

The first of my many pieces was published in October (I just realized it now . . . I’ve been busy writing!), and it’s about that time I backpacked across Europe for 30 days with the challenge of living off of €15 a day. Read it here! Also, all the photography included in the piece is mine as well.

Yes, I actually did live off of €15 a day. Since I’m such a penny-pincher with purse-strings tighter than a sphincter, it really wasn’t that difficult for me. And not only did I live like a queen, I actually was saving money. I walked away with a surplus. I kept a ledger in my Notepad app to track how much I was spending, case in point, here’s what I would spend in a typical day:

haha, remember when the Notepad app looked like this?

There’s more where that came from in the piece, so read-on dear grasshopper if you want to learn how to travel the world without breaking the bank.

Expect more from me on this topic soon, I’ve already written many more that are currently being edited by the team for this sponsored project.

Don’t forget to check out Christine Estima dot com for more of my published travel writing!


Stockholm Syndrome

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The Lovertine: Watch my TV interview on TFO!

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Life is strange and unpredictable. You never know what’s coming for ya. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. A few months ago, you’ll remember I was interviewed and photographed for a Toronto Life feature , which itself was a lot of fun. Well, more people saw that interview than I bargained for.

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I was contacted by the good folks over at TFO 24.7, the Franco-Ontarian TV station here in Canada.  They noticed that I speak French, and that many of my love letters are in French, and they asked if they could come over and film me for a Valentine’s Day segment.

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They came over and interviewed me for 5 hours. The finished TV segment is less than 4 minutes, it’s a lot of work that goes into making a mere 4 minutes!  They filmed me in my bedroom here in Toronto, which I have decorated with the letters, old photographs, antique furniture and typewriters, and then they filmed me at an antique shop and a café.

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I really like the way this came out. The music they use is super sweet and it makes my 9 x 15 bedroom look much larger than it actually is! I’m also a little embarrassed, just because this is my bedroom and I’m inviting all of you strangers into my tiny little corner of the world, but hey…. I WOULD DOOOOO ANYTHING FOR LOVVVVVVVE. Har har.

 

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I think this is my favourite shot in the entire segment.

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Anyway, watch the entire segment below! It’s in French, of course, but you will probably still get the gist of it even if you don’t speak French. Enjoy! Savourez-le!


Prague doesn’t let go

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Check out my new story in the latest issue of @EVENTMags!

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I’m really excited to share that my non-fiction story, ‘Spray It, Don’t Say It,’ has been published in the latest issue of Event Literary Magazine, that for decades has published the best short prose and poetry in the country. I have been trying to crack into Event for 10 years (they are notoriously selective!), so I was delighted when they snatched this up with such kind words for my voice and style.  The piece is about my time as a waif on the streets of Europe, and specifically deals with this, where I blogged only peripherally about it at the time, so this story is the full story. Here’s a scan of the first page to pique your interest:

 

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And here’s my EVENT bio. Awww yeeeeeeah, dis mah shit. This is only a slice of my publications, my full list of publications can be found here

 

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You can pick up Event at any bookshop in the country. As always, don’t forget to check out the official ChristineEstima dot com for more of my writing, performances, and recent news!

 

NewWEbSite!


Translating the Abandoned German Letters from 1946

Last year when I was living in Brussels, I was frequenting my absolute favourite flea market in the world Jeu de Balle, buying photographs and love letters and other trinkets. As usual, when the flea market is over, the vendors usually leave a whole trove of junk just lying on the cobblestone grounds that either they couldn’t sell, that broke, that was damaged, that got soaked from the rain, or that they just don’t want to transport back to their warehouses. The thing is, the street cleaners come in very quickly after the market is over to pick up all the trash and wash the square clean! So if you’re crafty, quick, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can get your hands on some amazing antique and vintage gems.

Seeing as how I’m an excellent scavenger (and I don’t like paying for things), I would always scour the cobbles (and in between the cobbles!), go through the piles of trash, kick over soaked boxes and rifle through all the discarded remains for whatever meant something to me. From my scavenges, I have procured monochrome photographs from the 1920s, gold-rimmed picture frames, and these two letters written in German in 1946.

As you can see from the very top picture, the stamps were ripped from the envelopes (probably because 1946 stamps are worth a lot!) but I was more interested in the contents of the letters!

Luckily, the internet loves to help! I tweeted out for help in translating them, and a wonderful follower of mine from Berlin, who wants to be referenced here as Resa Lamego, offered to help! She was able to translate the letters very quickly because her English is amazing, and even though she was busy travelling down to Heidelberg, she still did a fabulous job.

The letters mostly just contain mundane minutiae of these women’s lives from 1946, nothing mind-blowing or tragic or epic, but the language employed is quite nice!

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st letter (edited for content… really just the most interesting parts!)

Malmö, the 28-08-1946

My dear Mady,

Thank you so much for your lovely letter! I’m glad to hear you are in Switzerland. It is wonderful that they all who have been/ used to be in Germany gain such a trip. From the photo I can tell that the nature must be very beautiful. I hope you are completely recovered/healthy when you travel back home! Do you really believe you will be able to come to Sweden? I would be so happy if it was possible. Then you must come to Malmö. As before I got the children from (..)? Now we got the Karl-Jo-Haus-School back. Last year sick children from France and Austria were living there […] One always needs to be with the children, one needs to help them to eat, to play and to bathe. […] It is very hard to write in German and I make many mistakes. I hope you are able to read it? I have never been very good in German but maybe it is harder than usual because I was reading in English the whole winter long. I received my major and can now be a teacher of English. Half of my summer months this year I spent in an international school in Helsingor and there English was the conversational speech. Now my head is full of English words and phrases. So now I need to practice in this letter otherwise I will forget my German and that can’t be!

My dearest regards,

Anna-Kerstin

And here’s an excerpt from the 2nd letter, unedited because the whole thing was totally cool.

Malmö, 13-10-1946

My dear Mady,

Thank you so much for your letter! From the date I can tell that it has been already over a month before I received your letter. I can’t really understand why. Time has passed so quickly. Now you probably are back in Belgium? If so, I send this to your home. Have you recovered dear Mady? Oh, I hope you are from the bottom of my heart!

So, Mady, you think I am chubby/big? Oh well, that is possible. I love to eat and maybe I do it too much. The photo was from summer and then I am always bigger because then I don’t have my work. So I think now it’s better. One doesn’t like to be big!

I got from your letter that you are glad to be back in Belgium. Here in Sweden we have a saying: Foreign countries are good, but home is always the best. And I believe that is very true. I haven’t been to foreign countries, you know, except Denmark and Norway and that for us aren’t really foreign countries. For the next summer I hope I will be allowed to travel to England. I am supposed to have English classes with children, you know and of course it should be very good for me to spend a few months in England. That way one learns the language much better.

Dear Mady, you say that maybe you will come back to Sweden. How happy I should be if that was possible. Will you come alone or with other people? Oh, it would be wonderful to meet you again. Please Mady, if you can, so come, come! I am telling you my dearest welcome!

And now, Mady, to a quick ‘hear-you-again’, I hope!

My dearest regards!

Anna-Kerstin

P.S. May I also send my regards to your family?

Oh Anna-Kerstin, you sweet Danish-living-English-teaching friend! How wonderful and sweet you were to your friend Mady! And such a shame that someone saw fit to discard your beautiful letters into a trash heap in Brussels. So glad I recovered them and saved them!

As I wrote about for VICE, the main reason why personal items like this end up on the fleas is because the owner passed away and their family just wanted to liquidate all the belongings. Why? They probably weren’t on very good terms.

So Mady, I hope you had a good life. Your surviving family is shit.

To the flea markets!!


My Writing Space

I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.


This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.


For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!


That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.


Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.


I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.


The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.


That’s a Bukowski quote.


I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….


… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.


That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.


These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.


Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.


There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.


Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.


I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.


I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.

Remember to update your links and visit the new home of ChristineEstima.com!
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Because Fuck You, That’s Why


Back in January, I performed at The Moth storyslam in Brooklyn, New York City in front of 400 people. The theme of the night was ‘Cravings’ so I spoke for 5 minutes about being heartbroken, homeless, and hustlin’ on the streets of Europe. It’s basically the conclusion to this spoken word piece I performed at Spark London in the UK back in 2013. I got a standing-O from this crowd, and people were approaching me afterward to give me high-fives and fist-bumps. The crowd was so kind. As I’ve said before, I’ve developed a taste for Spoken Word and live-storytelling, so expect more from me on this front.

My life has been pretty strange over the past two years, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s never fucking boring.

Live a life less ordinary, munchkins. There are no rules to this thing. Go out and make it yours.

Fanks for watching.


#Polska14 Day 4: the last dance

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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.
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Water cubes, anyone?

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

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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!


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!


Laser 3.14’s graffiti-poetry hits Amsterdam again

Sorry for not blogging for almost 3 weeks! It’s been crazy around here. I went from Berlin, to Regensburg, to Amsterdam, and now I’m in Paris, where I will be situated for the next little while … ah, the life of resourceful nomad. Expect more photojaculations about all of these adventures!

Anyway, you, my little munchkins, might remember the last few times I have blogged about Laser 3.14, the graff-poet of Amsterdam. Well, I let him know that I would be in Amsterdam for a week, and he sent me all the locations of his most recent bombings. The work, as always, is thrilling and moving. Dude speaks exactly what is on my mind and in my heart, and he has recently had a few gallery exhibitions and openings that have been met with lots of press and accolades. Dude is going places.

This one I found on my own. Someone had wrapped up the tarp & knotted it through itself (see the hole right before the 3?). I had to unravel it just to photograph it. Almost get yelled at the home owner. Totally worth it.


Found this one also by mistake. It’s part of an older batch, hence its poor state. It says “blind idealism destroys reason.”


Found this by accident. It’s one of my favourites.


Another from his older series. “Don’t just murmur your insanity.”


Again, an older one that I just stumbled upon. It says “Travis the streets are swept.” You’ll see in some of these pieces I’m about to blog that he likes to use the names of his friends in his tags….


“Oh you’ll know when it’s too late.”
When I found this one in the pouring rain, that red bike was blocking the piece. I had to pick that fucking tank up and move it out of the way. It was obvious that bike hadn’t been moved in some time because of the cobwebs on it. I’ve seen some pics lately of others photographing this piece and the bike is where I left it.
YOU’RE ALL WELCOME!!!!


“This panorama is for you.”
What a panorama…. cough.


“Mind control is everything, everything is mind control…” upside down.
NEAR…


FAR!


“Things don’t work that way Timmy.”
Remember what I said about the names?


“Nobody believes the media… except when it’s in their own interest.”


“Reap the tame heart, and all.”
NEAR…


FAR!


This was on the other side of the previous one! Two tags on one corner= my idea of christmas.


As I’ve noted in past blogs, Laser 3.14 almost exclusively only tags construction boards and tarps. My guess is that he does it so that no one’s property is damaged by his tags. Those tarps and construction boards are only up temporarily. Also, they seem to provide an awfully potent frame for his poetry. The boards act like excellent frames, and the tarps give his words a kind of ethereal beauty. Lately I find myself extremely disappointed when I pass a construction site and cannot find his work.


FUCK YEAH.


And this one was on the other side of the previous. It’s like a poetry corner!


“Wrong underdog, try the one next door.”


Again with the friends’ names 🙂


This has to be some inside joke, I don’t get it. Who’s egg man?


This one is my absolute favourite and really speaks to me. “Too much love for after the fact.”


Yes, yes, GOOD GAWD YES.


BACK OFF, GET YOUR OWN IDEALS!


So nice, he tagged it twice.


“The Goggle age questions your ideals.”

As you’ve seen from this huge haul of his work, Laser 3.14 is interested in online privacy, the theatre of the media, capitalist ideals, the state of Europe, personal agency, and of course, as always, matters of the heart. This is what good street art is, people. TAKE NOTES.

Check out my Laser 3.14 category for more of his work that I’ve photographed.


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:

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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.