Street art in Paris began in the early 70s and continues today. It can be found all over the city, in every arrondissament. It differs from graffiti here in the U.S., and is truly an art form unto itself. The Parisians are as serious about it as any piece hanging in the Louvre. Here is a taste of what I saw in my limited wanderings.
When traveling abroad and interacting with people who don’t normally speak English, they will say things in the most delightful way. For instance, someone described his street as “harmonious” when he meant that it was crime free. What gets mixed up in translation is so entertaining to me. That can be seen in some of their storefront advertisements. Other times, as in street art, no words or translation are needed and the message is universal.
Canals are an ever present part of life in the Netherlands. Amsterdam in particular is known for them. It’s one of the coziest, most charming cities that I’ve visited in Europe so far. You can’t get two blocks without crossing a bridge. Unlike Venice, which has it’s own charms, Amsterdam is a living vibrant city that doesn’t feel like its sole existence is tourism.
There are many ways to get around Amsterdam, but the most popular by far is bicycle. There are more bikes than people. Bikes have their own lane, and right of way over cars and pedestrians. There’s a technique drivers use to avoid “dooring” a bike, by using their right hand to open the driver door, rather than the left. That way you are more likely to look over your shoulder behind your car to see if a bike is coming. Check it out.
There is the standard Dutch bike.
But there are so many bikes!
So you have to make sure yours stands out in the crowd.
There are bikes for cargo.
And even the mailman delivers by bike.
In bad weather, just cover your bike.
There are other methods of transportation and the Dutch do it in style.
You can go by canal.
How about just a loaner boat.
You can always go by car.
Don’t go too fast – this one could tip over if you go faster than 40km (25mph) around a corner. Just hide it behind a tree:
Then there are delivery trucks
Insert human to put their size in perspective:
How about a race car?
Or the most ridiculous vehicle (because I don’t know how you can get it over the canals, or around any tight corner, of which there are many):
While planning a recent trip to Europe, I thought I’d try out Iceland Air. They have decent prices and a not terribly inconvenient layover to break up a long flight. That layover is really short so make sure you have long enough between flights in case the first flight leaves late. They will eventually get you to your destination (via another airline if theirs are not available) but it can be tricky. I am speaking from second-hand experience.
It feels like a giant ad for visiting Iceland, and I must say there are worse ad campaigns out there. The country looks breathtaking and some day I’d like to do a longer layover (a few days) to take in the exotic beauty of this country.
For now, a view from the air will have to do.
The quality isn’t great through an airplane window, but here’s the obligatory wing shot with emblem. The sun was just rising over Iceland which made for some nice color in the sky.
Little villages dotted the land. What struck me was the vast open space.
I’ve never seen country like this, and look forward to exploring.
On to the Netherlands…
Holland is an amazing country. They are an innovative people, they reclaimed a good portion of their current land from the surrounding seas after all! Next post will showcase the beauty and humor of the Dutch and Amsterdam.
If you don’t live under a rock, then you have heard all about Chicago public schools. From school closings to the teachers’ union strikes, it has been well covered in the news. Collaberaction Theatre Company takes a hard look at the issues in an intense 90-minute show.
Written by Sarah Moeller and Adam Joseph Seidel, Forgotten Future: the education project takes the audience through three classrooms, with teachers all at different stages of their career from brand new to 20+ years. The play focuses on three students and the pressures they face at school and at home, giving perspective to different facets of the problems facing our school system. It’s painfully clear that the children are the losers in the struggle between the teachers, the school, and the politicians holding the purse strings and the power.
Based on fact rather than drama, this powerful play drives home the current problem that is all too real and, quite frankly, frightening. Three students of Chicago public schools make their acting debut in this piece adding such undeniable realism you can’t help but squirm in your chair at the injustice of what they face every day.
Collaboraction Theatre is based in the Flat Iron Arts Building on Milwaukee and Damen, and is in its 18th year. According to their website, their mission is to “create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries in order to explore critical social issues with a diverse community of Chicagoans.” The stage is set up in classroom format with the audience seated as part of the classroom, putting them up close and personal with the action. Clever use of projection and sound bites lays out some disturbing facts about the U.S. education system as a whole.
This show runs now through October 26: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 3:00pm at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave, Room 300. The performance is approximately 90 minutes, followed each night by a Town Hall Meeting. Tickets are $15-$30. Purchase tickets online at www.collaboraction.org or call 312-226-9633.
Sometimes we take for granted just what an amazing city we live in. We’re surrounded by art in all forms and get used to seeing it on nearly every corner. Let’s never take this for granted. There are other wonderful cities in this world that yearn for what we have. One of those many coveted institutions is our very own Joffrey Ballet. The company was founded in 1956 enjoying residencies in both New York and Los Angeles before finding its permanent home in Chicago in 1995, earning a highly respected reputation worldwide along the way.
The Joffrey Ballet opened its newest work La Bayadère this past Wednesday. Performed in an iconic building, the Auditorium Theater, this ballet runs through October 27th and I suggest you run, leap, or jetè to get tickets before this remarkable show ends. La Bayadère, (French for The Temple Dancer) premiered in Russia in 1877 becoming a classic in Russian repertoire but remaining unknown to the rest of the world until the 1960s. The story is set in India but the music is classically European. The choreography too is a primary example of traditional ballet in its ensemble movements and solo numbers. This production is no small undertaking and is spectacular from the elaborate costumes to the stunning set. The story is filled with love, jealousy, betrayal and beautifully told through the medium of classical ballet. Above all, the dancing is remarkable. This is an important piece of work for any company to take on and will jettison The Joffrey Ballet to an even higher stature. You’ll leave breathless at the dancing and filled with colorful visions from a faraway land.
As the blizzard of February 2010 fades into the past, and the winter of present seems to be eerily warm, another storm is brewing. Chicago Dramatists delivers a punch with a new play, Blizzard ’67. Playwright Jon Steinhagen pens a tale of four businessmen employed in the Loop who carpool from the near suburbs. These four hapless gents get stuck in the great storm while trying to return to their homes. None are really friends and when faced with a life-threatening situation begin to act out in ways we all think we wouldn’t (or would we?). The characters address the audience directly which engages them right from the start. The show is interlaced with pictures of that fateful storm as well as other reminders of the past. The wonderful cast of four really occupies their characters and makes them despicable or tolerable making you side with one or the other. Actor Stephen Spencer brilliantly brings to life not only his main character, but sprinkles in a few others of varying ages and genders as they file into and fill out the storyline. This is a fabulous show, and another example of the fine works being created here in Chicago. Catch it before it’s too late, the show runs through February 12th.
Chicago Dramatists has been around for 33 years, offering workshops, readings, classes and special programs. They work to develop and advance playwrights of new works in an effort to keep alive American theatre.
Less than two weeks. That’s all you have left to see this amazing show. I was invited to attend the opening night on December 20th. Run, run and get your tickets before this show sells out, and then leaves for good. La Cage is a three-time Tony Award winning musical that was the biggest Broadway hit of 2010. How lucky Chicago is to have a run of this fabulous show, albeit short, starring the debonair George Hamilton as the owner of a Saint Tropez nightclub. His partner Albin (played by Broadway veteran Christopher Sieber), starring nightly as the incomparable chanteuse Zaza. George’s son brings home his fiancée and her ultra conservative parents to meet “the family” resulting in a hilarious and touching struggle to keep the family together (and true identity under wraps) while staying genuine to themselves.
This revival originated in 1984 and originally won six Tony Awards. Its 2005 revival earned it two more Tonys including Best Revival. The current production has received numerous other awards and accolades. The Bank of America theater, Chicago’s home for this run, is the perfect venue as it’s slightly smaller than some of the other downtown theaters giving this show a truly nightclub feel, intimate and interactive. The dancers and other cast members are all seasoned performers bringing their best and balancing out a delightfully raucous and highly energetic show. The dance scenes are amazing and will leaving you wanting more. You have until January 1st to catch this gem. Visit www.broadwayinchicago.com for more info and to purchase tickets.
Nacional 27, located in River North, has been around for nearly a decade now. They have established themselves as a staple in the nuevo latin cuisine category, complete with a decadent drink list, latin music, and salsa dancing. I was invited to dine there recently to explore the newer items on their menu, an expansion of tapas, ceviche, and empanadas, along with their popular items. Our server Ruth was amazing. She’s been there a while, and her intimate knowledge of each dish and cocktail was astounding. She took great pride in explaining every item, the key ingredients, and what with it was best paired.
We sampled a number of their signature cocktails including: El Corazon – el jimador blanco, pomegranate, passion, blood orange, salt n’ pepper rim Chadwick – rum, pomegranate, ginger, habanero Summer Fling – avion silver tequila, st. germain, muddled fruit, yuzu juice La Jefa – bulleit bourbon, lime juice, agave sugar, a kick of cayenne and their ginger-infused white sangria (on tap!)
These beverages ran the gambit from sweet to savory, each with their own kick and each amazingly complex.
They have four types of ceviche. We sampled the ahi tuni with mouth-watering watermelon and spicy vinaigrette, and the smoked salmon with pequillo pepper, jicama, and roasted corn. These were served with a refreshing shooter that I would like to have taken home by the quart. It was comprised of mint, cilantro, pineapple juice and Japanese grapefruit juice blended to the consistency of a wheat grass drink, but with none of the gagging after-effects. Quite the opposite, it was a brilliant sidekick to the ceviche samplings, all served on ice.
We had a marinated chicken skewer that was just the perfect size, and juicy. Next came a mini lamb taco. Some folks don’t like lamb because it can be tough and gamey but this little number was dressed up in guava, organic agave, avocado salsa and the meat itself was tender and not a hint of game. We were served two of their empanadas, the queso (with pepper jack, cream cheese, roasted peppers & tomatillo salsa) and chorizo (queso fresco, pickled jalapeño crema) which make a great light bite or to share with the table.
We tried their beef medallions (which bring repeat business) and which were so good my dining partner almost didn’t share. Their grouper, served with tomatillo salsa, spicy green rice, was an eclectic flavor parade. One of my favorites was the last to come out, and boy did I have to make room. It was the grilled marinated skirt steak with crispy costa rican potatoes, salsa criolla.
For desert (yes, of course I’m not leaving without trying dessert) we sampled three separate items. They have an amazing flan (and I’m not normally a flan fan) that was thicker and richer in consistency topped with fresh whip cream. There was a chocolate shooter that as our server appropriately described as chocolate bliss, and a chocolate cake with gran marnier and a cream topping.
If it’s been a while since you’ve dined at Nacional 27 or you’ve never been, be sure to visit! You can drool over their menu online at www.n27chicago.com and go in person to 325 W. Huron.