La Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu

După cum reiese din titlu, am fost în Pelerinaj la Arsenie Boca cu Patriarhia Română. Acum, știu, e firesc, să se ridice câteva întrebări.

Cum și de ce? Simplu, am simțit că e ceva ce mă ajută spiritual și mental, că am nevoie de liniște, că vreau să înțeleg unele lucruri și să le văd cu ochii mei și să le simt pe pielea mea.

Păi și cum te rogi? Mă rog pur și simplu, câteodată în română, câteodată în engleză, câteodată în arabă (limba Coranului). În mai am fost la o meditație în retragere în care rugăciunile erau în pali, o limbă străveche, dispărută, vorbită în vremea lui Buddha. Sunt sigură că Dumnezeu nu se supără. Rugăciunea este, până la urmă, numai  formă.

Cum e în pelerinaj? Eu am fost deja la toate mănăstirile importante din țară, fie în excursie, fie în regim propriu. E prima dată când merg în pelerinaj și am ales unul scurt, de două zile, pe weekend și cu nu foarte multe mănăstiri pe itinerar. Întâmplător, sau nu, a fost weekend-ul 8-9 septembrie când se sărbătorește Nașterea Maicii Domnului, respectiv Sfinții Ioachim și Ana, chiar părinții Maicii Domnului.

Am plecat dimineața din Dealul Patriarhiei, de la Unirii. Pe drum s-au spus rugăciunile dimineții și, surprinzător, le țineam minte de la ora de religie de acum 20 de ani. Rugăciuni pentru drum. Foarte frumos, mi-a adus aminte de rugăciunea de călătorie care era recitată pe toate zborurile spre toate destinațiile, la fiecare zbor, la compania la care am lucrat. O rugăciune nu strică niciodată.

 

Prima oprire la Mănăstirea Caraiman din Bușteni

La poalele Masivului Caraiman, pe care se află Crucea de pe Caraiman despre care am aflat că are o lățime de 14 m. Cu o zi înainte, la cursul de croitorie am aflat că în medie, o deschidere de mâini are 1,4 m.

Mănăstirea Caraiman se află la poalele Masivului Caraiman

Maica Domnului i s-a arătat în vis părintelui Gherontie Puiu, care a înălțat mănăstirea, indicându-I locul unde aceasta trebuie ridicată. Întâmplător sau nu, în timp ce scriu acest articol aflu că weekend-ul acesta voi fi…tot la Bușteni.

Mănăstirea Caraiman

Am luat tămâie (că mir nu au), magneți cu îngeri (că îi întâlnim în mai multe religii și pentru că recent mă fascinează) și un mic card cu Arborele Vieții cu Iisus și cei 12 Apostoli (care chiar mă fascinează și pe care-l urmăresc în diverse religii, culture și semnificații). Acum, eu văd multe lucruri în arborele acesta. Văd multă simbolistică, văd numerologie, văd paralele de tipul 12 Apostoli – 12 Imami (din Islam). Oricum, bun de purtat în portofel.

Lumina se reflectă superb pe pictura murală de la Mănăstirea Caraiman

Am stat la slujbă, am admirat pictura din mănăstire, dar și chiliile, unde se poate sărbători Crăciunul, am dat niște pomelnice, am admirat orătăniile și animăluțele mănăstirii. Un loc de liniște și pace interioară.

Crucea de pe Caraiman nu se vedea din cauza norilor. La un moment dat îi arăt prietenei mele că a apărut. O admirăm și în scurt timp dispare din nou printer norii albi. Semne.

Am o droaie de întrebări în sacul meu cu de ce?-uri, dar prietena mea îmi spune te rog eu, dacă ai ceva întrebări mai controversate, pune-le la întoarcere, să nu ne lase pe aici. Adica, în pelerinaj este loc și pentru glume, că e pentru oameni.

 

Izvorul Părintelui Arsenie Boca de la Sâmbăta de Sus

Este în apropiere de Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu, într-o poieniță, într-un loc deosebit de liniștit. Înainte să ne îndreptăm spre mănăstire, s-au rostit câteva rugăciuni de însoțitorul de grup, iar una, chiar a Părintelui Arsenie mi s-a părut foarte plină de înțelesuri și deosebit de frumoasă:

“Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, ajută-mă ca astăzi, toată ziua, să mă lepăd de mine însumi, că cine ştie din ce nimicuri mare vrajbă am să fac şi astfel, ţinând la mine, să Te pierd pe Tine.
Doamne Iisuse Hristoase, ajută-mi ca rugăciunea Preasfântului Tău nume să-mi lucreze în minte mai mult decât fulgerul pe cer, că nici umbra gândurilor rele să nu mă întunece, căci iată păcătuiesc în tot ceasul.
Doamne, Cela ce vii în taină între oameni, ai milă de noi, că umblăm împiedicându-ne prin întuneric. Patimile au pus tină pe ochii minţii, uitarea s-a întărit în noi ca un zid, împietrind în noi inimile noastre şi toate împreună au făcut temniţă în care Te ţinem bolnav, flămând şi fără haină, aşa risipind în deşert zilele noastre, umbriţi şi dosădiţi până la pământ.
Doamne, Cel ce vii între oameni în taină, ai mila de noi şi pune foc temniţei, aprinde dragostea în inimile noastre, arde spinii patimilor noastre şi fă lumină sufletelor noastre.
Doamne, Cela ce vii în taină între oameni, ai milă de noi, vino şi Te sălăşluieşte întru noi, împreună cu Tatăl şi cu Duhul Tău cel Sfânt. Căci Duhul Sfânt se roagă pentru noi cu suspine negrăite, când graiul şi mintea rămân neputincioase.
Doamne, Cel ce vii în taină, ai mila de noi, căci nu ne dăm seama cât suntem de nedesăvârşiţi şi cât eşti de aproape de sufletele noastre şi cât ne depărtăm noi prin păcatele noastre. Ci luminează lumina Ta peste noi, ca să vedem lumină prin ochii Tăi, să trăim în veci prin viaţa Ta. Lumina şi Bucuria noastră, slavă Ţie! Amin”

M-am așezat în iarbă pentru conectare cu Pământul și pentru reamintirea simplității vieții și a acelor momente când încă păstram inocența de copil. Am văzut gaze în covorul verde, dar și flori de câmp și brândușe mov.

 

Mănăstirea Brâncoveanu din Sâmbăta de Sus

E o bucurie să mă reîntorc la Mănăstirea din Sâmbăta de Sus, a doua mănăstire ridicată de Brâncoveanu, unde, în urmă cu mulți ani, am stat chiar și peste noapte. E o încântare să văd stiul brâncovenesc, unul dintre preferatele mele în arhitectura românească.

Aici am admirat biserica veche, stema familiei Brâncoveanu, boltele simetrice ce încadrează curtea, pictura pe nuanțe de turcoaz a bisericii noi, sculpturile în lemn și piatră, pictura ce reprezintă decapitarea brâncoveilor de la Constantinopole, am asistat la slujbă după răbdarea și interesului fiecăruia, am observat forma de octagon al locului de rugăciune din curtea interioară.

În biserica nouă se desfășoară nunți, iar eu cu prietena mea am mai fost la câteo slujbă, că știm de la Dragoș Argeșanu că se deschid cerurile și participarea la slujbă e asemănătoare unui duș energetic. Adică te curăță, carevasăzică.

Printre altele îi spun Iuliei că, pe cât de controversat o fi el, Argeșanu a trimis la și spre biserică mai mulți oameni decât mulți popi. Inclusiv pe noi. Am zis!

Martiriul Sfinților Brâncoveni

La iesire scrie Căutați mai întâi împărăția lui Dumnezeu. Dedesubt e steagul României, o țară eminamente ortodoxă, cu toate avantajele și dezavantajele la pachet.

 

Cazare în Hunedoara

Ne-am cazat la un hotel din centrul orașului Hunedoara, pe unde ne-am și plimbat seara. Un oraș mic, liniștit și frumușel.

 

Mormântul Părintelui Arsenie Boca și Mănăstirea Pislop

Drumul spre mănăstire e frumos și peisajul e pitoresc, pot spune reprezentativ pentru România. Pe ici, pe colo, turme de oi cu oieri ce ne faceau cu mâna. Îmi place mult când văd un zâmbet sincer și bucuria vieții simple. Norocul ne-a urmărit și nu am asteptat mai mult de 20 de minute pentru mormânt. E foartă multă liniște în locul acela și se simte. Pe drum am cumpărat crini pentru mormânt. Oameni de tot felul cu motivații diverse.

Înainte să vină rândul meu a venit o femeie în scaun cu rotile. Eu de rugat, nu mă rog pentru lucruri concrete, ci mai filosofice. Pe scurt, n-am cerut nimic. Dar am mulțumit de 100 de ori când am văzut ce binecuvântare e să ai picioare sănătoase, ochi care văd, mâncare în fiecare zi.

În apropiere mai este o peșteră destul de greu accesibilă, dar până la care ne-am aventurat. Apoi am stat pe-o piatră și-am ascultat slujba de duminică, ce s-a desfășurat afară, într-o filigorie de lemn. Am luat mir și tămâie, am aprins lumânări. Ca tot omu’. Poze n-am făcut.

 

Mănăstirea Cozia

A fost ridicată de Mircea cel Bătrân în 1388, în Călimănești, pe malul Oltului.

Mormântul domnitorului se află în mănăstire. Aici am fost de mult ori, dar niciodată n-am știut că se poate ieși prin cuhnie pe pontonul din spatele mănăstirii, chiar pe malul Oltului.

 

 

 

 

Pe drumul de întoarcere s-au mai rostit niște rugăciuni, s-au recitat poezii și s-au cântat cântece laice. Am aflat mai multe despre viata Părintelui Arsenie Boca dintr-o piesă de teatru pe care am ascultat-o.

Una peste alta, a fost un weekend reusit, liniștit, petrecut cu rost, în aer liber, cu rugăciune – nici prea multă, nici prea puțină. Nu e o activitate pentru fiecare zi, dar cu siguranță dacă nu necesară, foarte folositoare din când în când.

La Mănăstirea Cozia

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Looking at the locals, living in a restrictive regime where self-expression and the free propagation of ideas is not exactly what you would be inclined to do, I’m wondering how many live for a dream and what is that dream?

Travelling through tens of countries from Bangladesh to Japan and Argentina to Kenya, seeing different cultures, political systems, schemes of thinking, beliefs, religions, behavior models, my personal dream is to get to the people’s core way of being and understanding them.

Judgment can only be stopped by knowing, by documenting, by understanding, by seeing and genuinely trying to put one in the shoes of the other. We live in a globalized world that is more racist and less understanding and tolerant to other beliefs, cultures and religions than ever.

Before judging someone or something try to understand where they’re coming from, how they think and what they have to say.

I wanted this trip for years and it must be 15 years since I’ve been in a group tour, an itinerary organized by somebody else. While this is the most common route in Iran, when I come back, I have to visit Tabriz and maybe Mashad.

Mashad is a holy city in the East of Iran where Imam Reza (or Ali al-Ridha), the 8th Imam of the Twelver Islam, a section of Shia Islam, was buried.

Globalization: A Basic Text

Closing my eyes, I can see where I am on the world map. So far, yet so close. What about my mission, my life? Where am I? We’re so good with practical aspects, yet with the less tangible we still seem to struggle. At least I do and I’m unceasingly searching, searching. Sometimes I feel like a dog scratching the ground in search of something he cannot see or feel, yet his senses tell him it’s there.

It’s second day and I wished I talked less and listened more. Does human interaction scare me? Does it make me look inside? Simply cannot sleep. Does a story that resembles mine make me sad? Does my competence make me too proud? Do I not take rejection, criticism?

Travel, just like love, is meant to change us. My motto is:

If love and travel did not change you, it means you did not love enough or traveled far enough.

Love, another force that makes the world spin.

I’m working on myself without even noticing, washing away pain, learning to deal with my thoughts, at the border between acceptance and understanding. Between these two doors I walk back and forth.

It’s a long way, a long process. It means dedication to myself and meanwhile I’m trying to observe where selfishness ends and giving begins.

Personal Revolution: How to Be Happy, Change Your Life, and Do That Thing You’ve Always Wanted to Do

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Read about my very first trip to Barcelona and about a mysterious story.

 

June 6th 2016, Doha, Qatar, at the airport

I came from bay 101 with flight 220 (Bucharest) only to go to Barcelona (flight 137) and come back with flight 146. All 11s.

It’s Ramadan already, new month of June.

My friend asking me when I will return home. Me, being ironic: “Are you kidding me – haven’t you seen that I didn’t know yesterday what I’m doing tomorrow”. The surprise of June: I just found out I’m off to Barcelona tonight for 2 days.

From January’s Barcelonaa Romanian saying tells the sum of vices is constant. However, I am addicted. Truly addicted to traveling, but not as a purpose, as a mean. To provoke myself, to expand my limits, to put myself at risk, to uncover myself and discover my depths. To spend time with strangers, to trust them to get help and help them, to do secret charity and accept the kindness of others, to speak people’s language, to lie and pretend, to find what’s real for me, to find meaning and to click with moments, people and a certain scene, to be all, to play fool, to act smart, to take sweet and low decisions, to control myself, to let go…

I travel and travel and travel.

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This times for me are times of searches. And God, what I find.

 

June 7th  2016, Barcelona, Spain 

Arrived in Barcelona, where I’ve had one of the best adventures last time I was here. Checked in my room with a view to the Torre Agbar, the condom looking one, the older brother of the one in Doha.

People say information comes to you when you need it or when you’re ready. Well, apparently the person in front of me gives me the right (usually encrypted) information with such ease. As in a movie, the person does not care or seems not to give much importance to what we’re speaking about. They give me precise information, with details, like it’s a cookies recipe.

Every now and then I meet this kind of people and I feel we’re from the same story, that there are other characters in my story.

Walking on Avenida Diagonal wearing a long Islamic Art pink and green motifs on black fabric, a beach black blazer with long and thin tassels, green ballerinas with small holes and a fedora hat.

When I pack for a destination, I pack my dreams and principles, my stories and my thoughts. Also, the clothes I put in my suitcase – this sort of magic carpet – have to be from the same magical lands of my stories. Cruise collection for this 2 day stay in Barcelona, which I got packed with a ribbon from standby as an absolute surprise.

Cruising. Trippin’. La vida es un carnival.

Morning from Barcelona! Bed view! Bad ass. Barcelona. No sleep. Pack. Unpack. Don’t pack, just go. Is it morning? Coffee. No coffee. Just champagne and oysters. ‪

 

June 7th 2016, Barcelona, later that day

Be bold be free and do whatever the fuck you want. Try to kill your ego and you will no longer knock at the gates of despair. Other gates will open.

Accept you limits, only this way you’ll expand them.

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I love to say I’m limitless and I am, I truly am, but within my limits. There’s no limit my friend, but we set limitations for us. Of course I have limits and you have limits, but what is average for me might be unconceivable for you and the other way around.

And walking in Barcelona and writing this in front of my eyes the Mediterranean opens – blue and limitless. Oh, yes with some geographical limits.

Don’t I get bored traveling alone? Nope! My soul needs solitude.

Why am I alone? And a Guy whom I suspect is a Benedictine monk.

Part two of the cruise collection. Wearing a mid-calf A-line high waist thick cotton white on white print skirt bought from my recent travels together with my mom’s white on white embroidery blouse with leaf shaped holes and wide angles cut, gold sandals and same fedora beach hat. I’m walking on the beach of Barcelona and men are looking at me more than at the topless women.

I hate you and I love you every second of my life.

I walk by the lively beach from Parc de Poblenou until the Port Olimpic, I look at the ships and waters, think of him, continue to sip my fresh fruit mojito that I bought from one of the fancy bars on the beach, I pass by Pacha and Opium, where I will get fucked up tonight, arrive at Playa Barceloneta, keep walking. Buy cocktails on the way. Almost at the W, where I wanted to have some fancy dinner, but decide last minute to go by the funicular up Montjuic- Miramar. Of course it is stuck up with other people, but who cares? I wait 10 minutes and still go.

I eat seafood paella and drink yet another glass of rose wine while admiring Barcelona from above. I can see the Agbar Tower, Passeig de Colon, Museu Maritim, Sagrada Familia, the sea, the W – all the city.

Came back walking by Port Vell, in the silence of the sun set, by the huge cruise ships and small sailing boats, looking at them merchandise of the blanket stands in front of the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya. I would’ve stopped at one of the nice restaurants there, but I was in a hurry to get to eat at that particular restaurant and then I need to get changed in by backless jumpsuit and high heels and hit the clubs. All in a little over one hour.

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June 8th 2016, Barcelona, La Vida Buena

And all of a sudden I’m thinking about working on a boat. Well…if God and destiny wants.

To be undercover means to identify yourself so well with the person you “are” that even you are confused about your identity. Pure theatre! Teatro, la vida es puro teatro – La Lupe. And yes, I will get in Cuba this year.

Just ate oysters Central America style en El Rey de las Gambas 2 where he took me.

In the taxi, which I ordered in Spanish, plays Is it in His Kiss – Cher? Is it?

I’m starting to know Barcelona well, as I know quite some cities by now – New York, Jakarta, Milan.

I wished I would remember all the details of that night when …

 

June 9th 2016, Doha, Qatar, 2:20AM

Came back from Barcelona, parked at gate C11.

I’m taking off for Bucharest, second time in one week. This month will kill me or cure me. Seoul-Bucharest-Barcelona-Bucharest. Sydney.

And Gosh, it’s time to bid (ask for next month’s flights) again. Life is passing by so fast.

The life and the intensity of my life living is overwhelming even for me.

That which you are seeking is causing you to seek. – I read this 10 times and still did not get it, yet I’m still seeking. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

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How many times can one see this bear in the Doha Airport in one month? Literally living in airports and aircraft even when not working Loving the egate , which allows me to exit and enter the country just by swiping the Qatari ID. It’s funny how I need a passport to enter Romania – my national ID is somewhere in Cambodia – and can enter and exit Qatar just by blinking my eye. Life is an interesting journey!

Slept all the way in the plane. I live, work, travel, sleep, make friends, have joys and disappointments in planes.

 

Later that day, Bucharest, Romania

Read during landing from the book “to die is not to die” and found something I know before – we choose our parents and our life. We sign a contract before we come (back?) here. Should this be why I chose the path of law for the very beginning?

How did I chose my life – I don’t know, but I was fucking schizophrenic or drunk when I did it.

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Saw homeless talking alone and I wished one day I have the possibility to take care of them, actually my dream for years is to have a canteen for homeless.

Feeling particularly good in my cousin’s flat in Bucharest.

Just arrived from flight and I have my feet up looking at her bamboo wall drawings.

Thinking for a moment how would it be to come back to Bucharest, have a normal life, go back to office or semi-office job.

[…]

Forget about it! I’m going back to fly. My home is in the sky.

 

Pack like me

Be careful what you wish for, cause it might just come true. For years I dreamt about  a jet set life, that one afforded only by the rich and famous. To take a flight just to have dinner in Rome, by Fontana di Trevi, to fly to Melbourne for the latest Warhol exhibition, to book for the following day to see the great temples of Angkor in Cambodia, to cuddle the koalas in Australia, ride the gondola in Venice, take a tuk tuk to the Royal Palace in Bangkok, see the cherry blossom in Japan, have lunch in Algiers Bay etc.

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I was blessed with all this and the most exciting of all is to be able to do it together with my mom, every now and then. So when I found out she’s traveling to Rome for Easter I asked for the flight and in less than a week we were together on the beautiful streets of the Italian capital.

Timings were short, but nothing feels better than having Easter dinner in the family, in Rome and arranging some plans for the future while sipping prosecco and Aperol Spritzer looking at the Pantheon.

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Besides, it’s always good to be in Rome. There’s something about this city, this museum city. You don’t need to go anywhere special to feel you’re at the best museum in the world.

It’s almost time to go back and the taxi driver tells me in Italian he is 50 and he never left the country. Asks how many countries and cities I’ve seen and keep calling me a citizen of the world. He’s extremely nice and the ride is about almost 40 minutes, so we have time to chat, although I could fall asleep any minute because of the rum to grappa to red wine menu and also because I woke up somewhere 24 hours ago.

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What I loved was his approach to life and work. Taxi driver for only 3 months, he says he loves it because he feels free, he has all Rome for him. Beautiful, no? This reminds me of my decision to become a flight attendant. It makes me feel free, I have the world all to myself. Like this incredible opportunity to fly just to spend an afternoon with my mom for Easter. In Rome.

He also said he decided to treat tourists nice because he noticed taxi drivers don’t treat them too well. So that the tourists can go back and say there was a taxi driver who was different. Reminds me of how I promised myself to treat people on board. Like humans.

You know, I think he is happy. A happy man!

Night rides in different places around the world make me feel alive and get some adrenaline pumping in me. Like the late night-early morning 1 and a half hour ride from Zanzibar City to the East shore, like the very fast ride in a night in Algiers. Like this one by the Altare della Patria, Fori Imperiali, the Pyramid of Cestius, Piazza della Repubblica…a place where I’ve been before, around 10 years ago…

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Read here the first part of the story:

Venetian Fantasy (I) 

IMG_4587March 31st 2016, Venice, Italy, on some canal, crossing some bridge, so happy

So, here I am on this tongue of land sustaining the train I’m in that’s taking me to the city of waters, of art, of love, of culture, of canals, of sweets, of masks…

In my Vietnamese traditional black pants – bought from Zara Romania, made in Vietnam, Japanese print sneakers – made in Romania, green Ralph Lauren shirt from US, bought on my way to Niagara Falls more than 7 years ago, cream leather jacket from Times Square, made in South America, green Chinese leather purse bought from Madrid, with an elephant from Khao San Road, Bangkok, hanging from one of the handles and an Islamic print colorful scarf from Istanbul, coming from Doha, here in Venice…

It’s such a crazy world!

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Probably by now you know I’m into art and especially modern art, so I gave away the countless classical art museums for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Collezione Peggy Guggenheim).

Who was Peggy G.? Art addict, art collector, art dealer, art supporter – all art. Extremely rich, a New York City socialite in the golden years. Niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, founder of the museum with the same name in Upper East Side. Where? New York City, of course. Pretty, free spirit, elegant, bohemian. Ashkenazi Jewish – if it matters. Inherited tens of millions of dollars when she was 21, but was one of the poorest of her family. Her father sunk with Titanic. Worked in bookstore, moved to Paris and was in the art and writer entourages. Friend of Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp. Married and divorced with Max Ernst. At little over 50, after the WWII she settled in Venice, about which she said:

“To live in Venice or even to visit it means that you fall in love with the city itself. There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else”

…and she was coming from uptown glitzy lifestyle of New York City and Paris. Read more about here or try her book Ma vie et mes folies.  

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The Collection used to be here home and it is simply amazing. Cubism, surrealism and abstract expressionism right by the canals, by the gondolas, with a terrace on two levels right by the water.

Here you can admire Angel of the Citadel, a real size sculpture depicting a man on horseback, both having erections.

Peggy Guggenheim (left) described Angel of the Citadel in her memoir, Confessions of an Art Addict: “It was a statue of a horse and rider, the latter with his arms spread out in ecstasy, and to emphasize this, Marino added a phallus in full erection. But when he had it cast in bronze for me he had the phallus made separately, so that it could be screwed in and out at leisure.” – Source

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If you’re not into mainstream, The Collection is the place to be, it has two sections and a lovely café, with black and white pictures of Peggy.

Entrance fee in 15E, but it’s totally worth it. At least, this is how I choose to spend my money. To enhance my spirit and my brain. I remember when I arrived in New York in the summer of 2009, I was there already fourth time, but never got to see Guggenheim Museum. At the door, the girls said they prefer to spend $16 on something else, like a shirt. No comment!

Art makes me alive, makes me go deep into my thoughts, become creative, take my so, so closed spirit to unseen heights, makes me write, draw, dance, pray, go nuts.

In what used to be a dining room, in a corner enhancing its perfection, lays Maiastra, Constantin Brancusi, the Romanian genius sculptor’s masterpiece. I shed a tear, because that’s what art supposed to do, make you feel. Don’t ask me for what exactly, but I did. Art must make you cry, laugh out loud, scram, shiver, otherwise it has no purpose.

Probably every time I will step in a museum – and I do it quite regularly – I will remember Beatrice B., my Arts teacher in high school. She put the seeds of my love for art. Of course it was always there, but she made me know with her truly unique teacher vocation. She said you must recognize the style when you see a piece of art and showed us countless projections showing us classical art, fauvism, pointillism, Art Nouveau, Dadaism…

Probably that’s all I’m left with from high school, together with the one year spent in Amboy, Illinois, USA. So, what defines me from a young age? What do I vibrate with, where my heart is? Art and travel, exploration, new, far-away places, unknown, unpredictability and spontaneity, fearlessness, colors and brushes, pop art, all together. And I chose something as dull and inflexible as law. Oh well…Queen of Contrasts.

How do you get to The Collection? By losing yourself so many time, that you forget what’s your destination by being charmed and falling in love with each alley and mirroring water, arcade window, astonishing façade, history confession, spumiglie, gondolier that shouts something funny in Italian…

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“Here’s a general rule to abide by in Venice: If you don’t get lost, you’re not doing it right. Even visitors with a GPS-like sense of direction will likely be bested by the meandering streets of the city. There’s no better way to explore the lovely maze than in a haze of mild confusion.” – Katherine LaGrave

What can you see at The Collection? Kandinsky, Severini, Picasso, Miro, Duchamp, of course Brancusi, Malevich, Nannucci’s “Changing Place, Changing Time, Changing Thoughts, Changing Future” – which I’ve seen this summer in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (MoMA – where? New York City, of course. It’s interesting to see how you’ve changed in such a short while, where you were initially, to which horizons you moved and where you are now. Where you want to be…) all on the Venetian background. A gondola is passing bay in the background of this amazing Kandinsky and there’s one accordion player onboard and the music plays within me.

On a marble bench outside it says: “Savor kindness because cruelty is always possible later”.

In Café dei Frari I buy some wonderful sandwiches and the ladies are talking that Elton John was in Venice.

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Lion or slave shaped door knobs on narrow alleys, cafes where you can serve the best wine or fresh orange juice – everything to go if you’re in a rush to see the city, la dolce vita, art galleries selling from few euros to sums that might close the bank, Venetia Studium shop leaving you with your mouths wide opened at the beauty of the velvet and silks, furnishings, lamps, furniture and clothing accessories and also at the prices – just to form an idea, one small round pillow covered in gold velvet, like the ones in 1001 stories or let’s say Venetian Palaces is around 200E; check it out yourself , the Paul&Shark sponsored gondolas , the so-many coat of arms, the boutique hotels by the Grand Canal, the Aperol Spritzer at the tables, the St Mark’s lions, boat and gondolas parking places, delimitated by thick vertical poles, charming mail boxes, Mediterranean vegetation, small piazzas, paint your own mask workshops, art galleries and bookstores…

 

The bookstore with the best selection displayed I saw it in Venice on topics from the Imperial Russia to Isis Islam and everything in between, but all of maximal and current interest. Hats off!

Oh, and until 7th of August, there’s an Helmut Newton exhibition I’d love to see.

Dolci tipici di Venezia, Trattoria Dona Onesta  (but why so serious?), fantasy shoes with Alice in Wonderland as a heel, crazy outfits.

In this labyrinth I identify myself with a white horse, a confused white horse.

It’s time to fly back to Doha, without promising myself I’ll come back and see it over and over again…my way. Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller! Do bring your kids here. They’ll love it. You’ll love it, too.

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Read here the second part of the story:

Venice Fantasy – Just Art and Feeling

The two days I spent in Venice were all about fantasy, my own fantasy. I walked around with a mask although the Carnival is over, I went by myself to fancy restaurants, drank Aperol Spritz (Spritzer, the orange one) to-go, talked to some very interesting people, got – as usual – my fair share of free stuff, took my very first gondola ride through the canals thinking of the Sarah Dunnant’s In the Company of the Courtesan which I left on the night stand when I moved from my second floor room to the Middle East.

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March 29th, preparing for Venice

Some people you spend days with and then forget they exist. But all of a sudden they reappear in your life and fill it with joy.

How I get rid of crew – I tell them I’m going to the museum.

Plan for Venice sightseeing done! It’s 7 PM and I’m ready to shut down – I did wake up at 4 AM after all. And tomorrow I’ll get up a little earlier than 3 AM. Flight attendant life!

 

March 31st, 4 PM

I have prepared almost the whole month for this trip – selecting my outfit that I’m so proud of, looking for things to do. March was a tough month for me with long flights and short layovers – Berlin, Hangzhou, Perth, Manchester – so this long Venice was like a breath of fresh air at the end of the month.

It’s almost spring and I chose to wear kilted black boots, a sky blue sweater, black pants and the colorful Berber motifs long blazer which I bought from Beirut, the blanket size blue cotton scarf and the green purse with the happy elephant hanging from the handle. I’m all set and I picked the outfit especially for Venice.

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On the train from Qarto d’Altino (East Venice) to Venezia St. Lucia. At some point there’s only water on both sides of the rail and the land is only as wide to support the train. It reminds me of Sylt, an high end island in North Germany where I went for a detox program a few years ago. To arrive to the island – one hour ride by train, even for the cars – we had the same view. In that trip was the very first time when I started writing about what I was experiencing.

One of the most touching moments of my traveler life was when I stepped outside the station in Venice. I was simply shocked of the beauty of the place in front of my eyes. By know I have seen so many places, but few compare with Venice. The canal right in front of the station, and beautiful palaces with arched windows and gondolas with gondoliers wearing blue and white stripes and hats with navy blue ribbon.

I don’t know what my purpose in life is, but I want to live one month in Venice. Besides that month in Buenos Aires and few others in South-East Asia. Yes, I want to travel all my life.

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First of all, I booked a gondola ride (30E) from the booth in front of the station and bought a map (3E – yes, nothing’s for free in Venice). Since I was supposed to meet with the gondoliers in Campo S. Luca, I started walking by the Grand Canal on the same side of the station.

The city is simply thrilling, with or without the prosecco and to-go Aperol Spritz that I had. I hopped here and there, having huge slices of pizza, or classy tagliata di manzo con rucola e parmigiano, but never gave up the prosecco.

The paths/streets are narrow and odd, a true real life labyrinth. Sometimes you could think they all look the same or get lost. Besides, don’t rely too much on Google Maps as the signal is quite low because of the tall buildings and narrow streets. It’s also tricky and makes your brain work more than normal, because getting to a parallel street might mean you need to walk 5 other streets otherwise you either reach a dead end or the canals and you cannot walk right by the water.

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Lucky as always, today it’s a beautiful day, the last of March and I’m walking and walking with my Lebanese robe, stunned at the beauty of the city, munching on a Pescatore al Pistacchio – so beautifully matching the robe and my green purse, admiring the sweets displayed in the windows, the colorful pasta for sale, the navy hats, the flowers in front of each door and window, the street indicators, the gondoliers talking on the phone or shouting at each other, talking with each other as they row, pushing the gondola from the wall with their leg against the walls, the so Italian clothes hanging on a rope, the Borsalino hats, the round windows by the canals, the flying Lion of Venice, the pigeons, the lofty gondolas in gold and black or gold and red, the tourists, the boats distributing supplies from toilet paper to rare wines to the restaurants by the canal, the wooden poles keeping the gondolas parked perpendicular to the buildings, the columns, the arches, the decorations, the colors, the Italian spirit and the vibes, the elaborate masks, the art, the mystery of the city, the Murano glass shops. Water and beauty!

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After I reached the meeting point for the gondola ride, I did not use the map or asked people around. Because Venice is a place where you need to get lost. Besides, I love to get lost, to see what I attract. So this time it was:

  • Bacaro Jazz bar, a normal bar unless the whole ceiling would not be covered by bras of all colors, shapes and sizes. Here, I stepped in wearing my mask and robe, asking if I could take some pictures and ended up being there for almost two hours, either talking to the bartender (who prepared a complimentary amazing Spritzer for me, adding a garnish with cucumber, olives and cherry tomatoes) or talking to myself while listening to Frank Sinatra’s Don’t Take Your Love From Me and When Your Love Has Gone
  • I’m wondering how the other solo female travelers are, cause I know I’m weird.
  • Jewish neighborhood where some pubs were still opened at midnight, they offer Kosher ice cream and Kosher pizza and where I met one Arabic restaurant owner and a Moldavian bartender
  • A Somali smoking in the garden of the restaurant where I had dinner asking me some naughty things;
  • A senior and very Italian restaurant – Trattoria da Bepi – owner by Guglie Bridge being over friendly, but pleasant and fun. A street entertainer singing Oci Ciornie and me singing long the lyrics. Met with him a few hours later, towards them morning in the train station where here recognized me after my…mask;
  • The amazing cocktails at Frulala made with spirits and fresh fruit juice, tasting absolutely amazing. How did I not think about this before?
  • One whole restaurant – Trattoria Alla Palazzina – staring at me have dinner with my robe and mask on in my own fantasy.

Of course, I did not miss the Piazza San Marco, the stunning Basilica di San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale, the Campanile Tower and the sunset by the Canal. I did not visit the interior of any of the above, but it’s on my list. Because I chose to spend my second day in a modern art environment and where better to go than the Peggy Guggenheim Collection – an oasis of calm and art, the former home of the American socialite in Venice.

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And you know what? I make my own rules when I travel. If I want to see a museum or palace I see it, but if I don’t who says I need to kill myself looking at something I know I won’t like? On the other hand, if I want to look at one painting two hours, that’s what I will do. Simple as that, make your own rules. I make my own! Why? Because it makes me happy!

When I reached Piazza San Marco, I thought it’s the most beautiful place on Earth, really. The narrow streets are so charming, that I cannot know how to see more, how to express my joy. As a child I absolutely loved secret paths, mysterious labyrinth so I think this is a good place for kids.

By now I’m wearing the gold mask I bought (prices between 2,5E and a few thousands of E, depending on your budget). I walk boldly and mind my own business, alone. I am fascinating for men over…a certain age. Young men will never understand me.

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One thing that caught my attention was the people asking me why I wear the mask, they looked strange at me, one said I have horns. How judgmental is this human race if, even in Venice, people judge you because you wear…a mask. In Venice?

Someone is playing Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro at the accordion and another day is over on the canals of Venice.

March 8th, Doha, Qatar, 4AM

Sometimes I see only black and white and sometimes I see all the colors, but at the end of the day I don’t forget who I am.

March 9th 2016, Berlin, Germany, late evening

Arrived in my room having lots of windows on two of the walls. Drinking some champagne looking at the view towards the Berlin Philharmonic and Tiergarten. Thinking about the countless opera, classical music, theater, underground lays, ballet shows I’ve been to in my previous life. Each path we take has its purpose and limitations.

Down at Le Bar thinking about this Insurance Law conference going on in the hotel. Owned by Qatar. Thinking about the future and it’s bright. Cheers to that!

Because life is ironic and because life deserves being celebrated – lawyers’ professional meeting in Berlin…

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March 10th 2016, Berlin, Germany

Woke up before most of the souls sleeping in this hotel.

My windows overlook the new building of the Social Sciences University. It’s weekend and only one window has the lights opened. It should be around 7 AM, one hour later, the same light opened. Making me think of that one who gets first to work before everyone and leaves last…

Put on a thick dress looking black coat tied around the waist and over the knee boots and got lost in the hallway labyrinth of the hotel until I stepped out.

My nose froze by the time I arrived at the first corner.

Passing by Gemaldegalerie, bullet holes covering the walls of the building nearby, lonely black crows and nobody on the streets.

Berlin is a beautiful place, but finding it in early March, in this cold weather outside and some cold feelings within me, makes me see it in black and white.

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This is a personal evolution blog and not a travel one. My words and pictures reflect my states and my feelings and not the city itself. This is applicable for Berlin or any other city I write about. Because I don’t write about cities, I write about myself.

A huge tree conquered by mistletoe by the park lane. I see it as a sign – mistletoe is renowned for bringing luck. Nobody’s up yet and even the traffic is low. A bold man in jeans and thick coat on a bicycle with a tiny dog jumping around the bike. Inscription “56” in red on a tree. =11. Right when I think about a soul I used to know before, before, before.

The trees wear no leaves yet. In the middle of a place without trees I see a big square grey construction and a small square on it, like a window, at eye level. That kind of clue that makes you curious. What is there? I’m thinking it should be something connected to the war, to the Jews, to the Wall. I peep inside. A projection of two men kissing passionately…

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I keep walking, touching my ears to see if they’re still there. Goethe Monument. I cross the street and I reach The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a site of 2711 concrete square constructions of different heights. It cost around 25 million euros and it’s a place that sends the message. I took various pictures and videos of the place and I particularly like one that shows the no exit situation of the Jews at the moment.

Let me tell you I was harshly judged for my pictures in Berlin. By different people from different countries, different religions, but all of great quality and highly qualified in their fields. First because of a picture I took at this Memorial. Of myself. And because I offended somehow the memories of the Jews. Then because of the numerous black and white pictures I took in the city. Apparently I presented it in a…black and white perspective.

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Over and over again. My blog posts, my words, my pictures and videos are my thoughts, how I see the world that day or how I see the city. I am not paid by anyone and nobody is forced to agree with me. Whatever I write or click is fully assumed and while feedback is highly appreciated, I will not change anything just to please someone. I’m not a public authority, I’m an individual…

18th of March Square. Brandenburg Gate. Siegessaule – Victory Monument somewhere in the background, in gold through the foggy air. Some Russians visiting the city. Very happy and cheerful. Heads with furry hoods around. Reichstang Building. Some sun.

Museum fur Kommunikation Berlin. Street art. Wide spaces and a hot air balloon “Die Welt” on the sky. Next to the musem, a modern art piece. Hope for those Who Hope. An imaginary cathedral with iron contour. Art Nouveau stunning buildings around. A good contrast.

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Soon I’m at Checkpoint Charlie. Noir Berlin shop with its colorful Trabants. Pop Art. McDonald’s on the background of the “US Army Checkpoint”.

“You are leaving American sector” sign in English, Russian, French and German.

“Unity in Liberty” in mosaic on the sidewalk. Same languages and for some kind of reason the Russian one is extremely appealing.

Topography of Terrors. Black and white as before. This trip was about some suffering – it should be my own connecting to the one of the city in times of tumult – flashes and black and white images.

The hot air balloon goes up and down and I’m by the steel structures in the concrete wall that used to be The Wall. The street art brings some color and joy in my agitated soul.

It does not matter where we go and how long we stay. What we see, eat, drink. It matters what we feel when we do, how it changes us, how it takes us connect the information with what we know from yesterday or a few lives before. Life is about experience and evolution. Purpose and fulfillment. Of our destiny, of our purpose in this world. Of how we can help others…but first of all we have to help ourselves.

The thing I like most about aviation is that first you have to place your oxygen mask and then help others. For the simple reason that if you’re lost, you cannot help. Like in life…

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March 11th 2016, Doha, Qatar

I feel I have some going away syndrome and love it.

Just came from flight, going to sleep just to wake up to go to another one. Saw a plane on the sky. Wished I was in it. So obsessed.

Read here about last month’s adventure in Barcelona 

January 26th 2016, flying to Barcelona, Spain

We try to change people. That’s one of our life’s problems and source of disappointment and grief. If you want to change somebody, change yourself.

I’m a lion away from the pride. A lonely horse. I just fly and land with my thoughts and plans in and out of my own world. Luxury for me is being wild and young and free.

A few days ago I met someone that made me think that that is exactly how I don’t want to end up. Today I met someone who has the “I always do it like that” mentality, something that is not foreign to me. So when he – living in Barcelona for longer than my life – asked, I took the risk although it meant ruining my already made plans. And actually he changed his plan to fit my plan too, so let’s see…

Although I am awake for many hours and I flew from Doha to Barcelona I cannot sleep, so I’m again on the top of the hotel, next to the pool. There are around 16 degrees Celsius and the sun is up.

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[…]

 

I took him to the museum and he took me somewhere away from Barcelona. We got lost few, actually many, times and I was thinking in life we spend most of our time to get back to the main road.

Over the years I have had periods like this one, when I simply cannot stop partying and the people around me seem in the same mood. Dhaka, Doha, Phuket and now Barcelona, in just one week. It’s fun, but Christmas time is over. However, these memories will last forever. Of course, the ones I remember.

A Romanian saying tells the sum of vices is constant. However, I am addicted. Truly addicted to traveling, but not as a purpose, as a mean. To provoke myself, to expand my limits, to put myself at risk, to uncover myself and discover my depths. To spend time with strangers, to trust them to get help and help them, to do secret charity and accept the kindness of others, to speak people’s language, to lie and pretend, to find what’s real for me, to find meaning and to click with moments, people and a certain scene, to be all, to play fool, to act smart, to take sweet and low decisions, to control myself, to let go…

I travel and travel and travel and my suitcases will not move from the journey corner (North-West). Try it! I suggested it to my cousin and she left for one month to Germany and The Philippines with work. Feng Shui works. Use it!

I missed some museums I planned on visiting, but I gained so much more and this is what is meaningful to me. Not want I should do, but what I end up with from what I actually do.

So we went to see Park Guell.

IMG_4875Driving in Barcelona is crazy and confusing and I would really not recommend it. Barcelona is the city of Gaudi, that’s for sure and Park Guell, entrusted to Antonio Gaudi by Eusebio Guell is one of the most enjoyable places to spend an afternoon and taste the unique art air of Barcelona.

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We walked on La Rambla de Poblenou and ate some good beef at La Vida Buena. Like ours right now. Tomorrow I don’t know what is going to happen, but I have a feeling.

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Sunset somewhere in Spain…

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We had dinner in Barceloneta in the El Rey de la Gamba 2 and went for some more drinks at Makamaka Beach Burger Café. Slept all the way to departure.

I learned how to eat oysters in two ways. Loved the one with beer, tabasco, salt and lemon and I just can’t wait to taste it again. He lied to me and I pretended to not notice.

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I missed the interior of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, The Picasso Museum, /casa Milla, The Palace of Catalan Music, The Monserrat and The Dali Museum, but I lived what I like to live – la vida loca, la vida imprevisible, la vida real. Life by the edge, the real life.

Read about my other trip to Milan: A Milanese Story

January 16th 2016, Doha, Qatar
My friend said see you next weekend in Milan. Next weekend? For me it’s an eternity until then. It cannot be next weekend. I Mean until then I’m going to Dhaka for one night, flying to Chennai and I’m tanning two days in Phuket. Living the fast life!

 

January 23rd 2016, Milan, Italy

I arrived in my room in Milan – as always 11 (1145). The #goingplacestogether ad is on BBC. Then news about the ones who travel by boat to get into Europe. Such a paradox, hundreds of people complaining about their Gucci life while others struggle to survive, be where their dear ones are, eat today.

The world is not a fair place that’s for sure. The world is not a safe place anymore.

Why can’t I remember? The train from Malpensa to Cadorna is at 26 past and 56 past. Missed it third time by minute.

In the airport there is a tile on the floor leading from the terminal to the train station saying “tutti I passi che ho fatto nella mia vita mi hanno portato qui, ora” meaning “every step I have taken in my life has led me here, now”. Couldn’t be more true.

On the train. There’s no fog this time, but it’s much colder, although sunny.

40 degrees less than my last destination and I hope I can stand it. I’m cold even in Doha when it’s less than 30 degrees. Now there are -6. I’m thinking about the interview for this job when I said I am adaptable, including different changing weather conditions. This leads to knowing my weaknesses. I’m for the hot and dry weather.

On the train I’m thinking I don’t consider I made any mistakes in my life. I’m more proud of some things that I’ve done than the others, but that’s all.

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I walk the same paths I’ve walked a month ago and I see ten times more. Oh, there’s no fog now, that’s why. I head to the Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) next to the Sempione Park and am amazed by the beautiful weather and the sunny day, at the end of January. The Castle includes many museum and collections.

A few men of color try to offer some braided bracelets and they run away when the bicycle police comes by. I’m not sure what their purpose is, but my friend I., now living in Milan, tells me they do this in case you want to give them some money, to avoid begging. I am with my map of the city and the notes of where I want to go, prepared after my last trip to Milan, in December.

Milan looks as if in autumn and the beautiful old tram on the castle background makes me nostalgic. I’m heading to the Equestrian Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II in front of The Dome, where I’m meeting my friend and on the way I stop on the Via dei Mercanti to photograph Palazzo della Ragione, where there is a photography exhibition (Henri Cartier-Bresson and others).

I. takes me to the Santa Maria Presso San Satiro Church, close-by to the Dome, built to safeguard a miraculous icon. The church is hidden between buildings and it is easy to ignore while walking by Via Falcone. It is very different than any church I have seen and the altar side is just a painting, yet it looks like it has perspective, being actually a 3D painting. The style is very rich with elements of most of the styles, all put together.

From here we turned left of Via Speronari where we entered in Princi – Spirito da Milano, a chain of espresso bars around Italy, where you can have great pastries or buy many types of breads. Here I see a couple from the flight travelling business class. I love these coincidences, as a matter of fact even last time I saw three men downtown by night and the following day they turn out to be a royal figure and his bodyguards travelling with us back to Doha.

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As recommended by my friend E., we’re heading to the Ambrosiana Library (Biblioteca Ambrosiana), the historic library of Milan and one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. IMG_4608Here we could see The Original Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Atlanticus, only to complete what I have seen in the exhibition Leonardo3 – Il Mondo di Leonardo.

IMG_4623The library also has an art gallery – Pinacoteca Ambrosiana – and is a must-see when in Milan.

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You can only walk the streets of Milan without entering any place to enjoy it.

The coquette balconies, small flowers at each door entrance, narrow and cricked streets, Armani advertisements, museum looking facades, huge jamon pieces hanging on some windows, fashion stores with the latest collections, Vespas, churches, people who seem to step down from glossy magazines, the sun, design shops, pizza, music.

We stopped for lunch at Ristorante Nabucco – having very good online reviews – in Brera, where we had a delicious seafood risotto and ossobucco alla milanese and of course complementing wine.

By now we are walking towards the Porta Garibaldi to get to Corso Como, where I want to see 10 Corso Como, picked by BBC as one of The World’s 10 Most Beautiful Libraries. I am really proud to already have seen the El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, also included in the ranking. 8 more to go!

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Opened in the beginning of the 90s by the Italian Vogue’s editor-in-chief in a garage, it is an amazing concept with a café, a 3 room hotel, a high end fashion store, art gallery, book store, party rooftop garden overlooking at the new and posh area of the city, Porta Nuova Business District.

IMG_4757The book store concentrates on design, architecture, art, photography and fashion and here I have seen more than 100 book I’d like to own – about Zaha Hadid, Yayoi Kusama, Demarchelier, Helmut Newton and many others close to my artistic side of the brain.

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The exhibition room (Galleria Carla Sozzani – the founder of the place) featured the photography of Daido Moriyama, some pictures revealing a very interesting and f***d up life.

From the rooftop garden you can see Milan’s tallest building – Unicredit Tower in the Porta Nuova Skyskrapercity, designed by the same architect as Burj Khalifa. Although a high-end place, 10 Corso Como looks very down to earth, approachable and natural. The real luxury. 10 Corso Como has branches in Shanghai, Seoul and Beijing.

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We’re going to see the new city and then return since it is already Aperitivo time. The tradition of Aperitivo is a culture in Italy, meaning when you go out for a drink or for cocktails, you can eat for free tasty appetizers. In Milan you will find no difficulty in having some sips and enjoying fresh olives, slices of pizza, chips, spinach cake, pasta, vegetables.

I still need to see a show at La Scala, see The Last Supper, visit the Moseo del Novecento, go to some posh cafes I got my eyes on, but what is 2016 ahead for if not for this? Besides, I’m going back to Milan next month. Thank you for following my stories.

 

 

December 28th 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland

Don’t take garbage with you in the New Year. We tend to hang on to our unhappiness and it’s hard to let go because it’s ours, right? … but at the end of the day, if we learn something from it,  we should be thankful for being given the chance to evolve. I still lead the crazy month, expanding my limits everyday more and more.

I work on myself, on my foundation. Empower myself, strengthen myself. I’m moving up, I’m growing. It’s hard, but I don’t need anyone to pull me down.

Few hours later…

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We arrived at the hotel and I think my mom needs to arrive a little later, but she’s already here and I feel so happy. I have a cold and I think I have fever, but I would have never called sick for this flight. My suitcase is full of gifts for here and, as I got to find out later, hers is full of gifts for me. Besides I had an assessment, so, here I am.

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It’s December cold, but I brought thick clothes and I’m ready to go out in this fairy tales city. Literally, the city looks as a story and you’d expect kings and queens and witches and princesses to appear from anywhere, the castle is already there and the atmosphere, especially now, after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve is of a beautiful story.

We’re going up Market Street to see the castle – Edinburgh Castle – dominating the skies of the city and the city itself. The Christmas Market lights are shining in the dusk and it heats our frozen smiles. Mysterious stairs lead to castle looking huge mansions or to stores and hotels. The trees are leafless, yet the climbing plants around their bodies are still green. Looks like witchery books. Maybe not by chance.

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My mom is so pretty with her furry coat and happy to be with the lion cub – me, of course. The rocks of the buildings are mossy. In front of the great wheel in the Christmas Market we see the columns of the Scottish National Gallery. Wrought iron gates and stone buildings. Moss and leafless trees. Spooky and cold!

Scotch and whiskey tasting invitations all around the Castle. We skipped the visit of the castle as the shortest was two and a half hours and it’s freezing.

On the Castle I see “Nemo me impune lacessit”, a Latin motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty of Scotland, meaning No one can harm me unpunished.

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At the bottom of the hill of the castle, Kick Ass Café. Some contrasting glass office buildings.

A lot of cashmere stores and adorable shops. Really, every corner of the city looks as the decoration of a movie filmed long ago, in a magical world, away from reality.

There’s so many things you can do in Edinburgh, this mysterious and attractive place. You can choose a book lovers’ tour or ride Edinburgh Necrobus – black of course, to take a ride to the dark side.

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We stopped in Deacon Brodie’s Tavern – The Original Gin Palace (142 years of Botanical Heritage), a place I really recommend for the variety of gin they have and the great food and ambiance. The legend says he was an official by day and a burglar by night. On the menu it says – A story in every bottle. We tried Hendrik’s Gin 41.4% – made of 11 botanicals, with infusions of cucumber and rose petals. Wow, very tasty since I’m not a gin fan. Other aromas include juniper berries, lavender, chamomile, citrus, honey etc. I don’t know the name of what I ate, but if I was in Buenos Aires I would call it osobuco. So, meat on the bone.

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Narrow cricked covered walkways give access to some apartments or to the other streets. It’s night and we’re walking the streets of Edinburgh for a few more hours to admire the wonderful buildings and Christmas decorations.

Seeing the world is a great opportunity, but seeing it together with your mom is priceless!

December 17th 2015, Stockholm, Sweden

Hello everyone, it’s my second time in the city. Read about my other experience and what I did in this wonderful city: City Break in Stockholm

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This time it’s raining, but Christmas is just around the corner, so the atmosphere is quite cozy in the design lobby of this airport hotel. And when I say airport I mean, inside the airport. However, it is one of the most attention to detail oriented of the ones I’ve stayed in. I like the very modern fireplace in the lobby and the Christmas tree decorations and I love the way they write “have a good day” on the paper in the room, “you look good in this” on the hangers, “you look great” on the mirror, “let me help you” on the shoe mart.

We’re off to the city and since it’s Thursday (it is applicable for the rest of the weekend, too) you get 3 return tickets for $95 with the speed train to the city, which normally costs $60 for one return ticket.

We know it’s raining, but what can keep us in the hotel?

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We walk in Gamla Stan and I think it started snowing a little bit. I’m wearing a dress looking coat and a colorful huge scarf which I wear as a hijab and a matching umbrella.

This is the home of design and I stop at each window to admire the Christmas decorations, then I enter the Nobel Museum. If you are around, don’t forget to hop in. Then you can try the absolutely magical cocktail bar across the square and one of the very old restaurants.

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After we had one hot drink – Swedish Glogg (spiced wine) – with some heart shaped cookies, we entered a small, but chic restaurant called Restaurang Kaffegillet. I wanted to try the Swedish reindeer roast with game sauce and I did together with a very dry glass of red wine. The waiter was so playful and enjoyed our jokes.

Every small corner of window, every porch and step is decorated in the most artsy way.

The Mora Horse or Dala Horse is present everywhere and I bought a red one with some decorations, too. Be careful where you put it, it is said to represent a man. However, I’m a horse in the Chinese horoscope. Well, this horse is the symbol of Sweden and you can literally find any item with the happy design horses, from mugs to tiny as a pinky finger nail magnets.

It’s cold and dark, but the light of the sky lightens the night. Enough to take bright pictures of city’s famous city hall.

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On the list for this visit is the Ice Hotel, one of the top destinations worldwide, where the rooms are made of ice and they also have a freezing ice bar – IceBar by IceHotel. They say it’s -7 degrees in there, but it feels -30 although you get a thick fury cape on top of whatever you might wear and thick gloves. There is an entrance fee and it includes one square shaped ice glass and one drink. Don’t miss this experience, but don’t stay long – like you could, haha. I told the guys at the entrance that it should be free and then they should charge for whoever wants to go out. They’d be making double for sure.

 

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