Monthly Archives: June 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #64: White City of Tel-Aviv

Posted by on June 14, 2009

UNESCO World Heritage Site #64: White City of Tel-Aviv

UNESCO World Heritage Site #64: White City of Tel-Aviv

From the World Heritage inscription:

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 and developed as a metropolitan city under the British Mandate in Palestine. The White City was constructed from the early 1930s until the 1950s, based on the urban plan by Sir Patrick Geddes, reflecting modern organic planning principles. The buildings were designed by architects who were trained in Europe where they practised their profession before immigrating. They created an outstanding architectural ensemble of the Modern Movement in a new cultural context.

I try to take at least one representative photo of each World Heritage site I visit. I had a difficult time even knowing what I should be taking a photo of in Tel Aviv. It is by far the most ambitious World Heritage site I’ve visited. There is nothing which jumps out at you. There is no one single building or even collection of buildings that says “this is what we are talking about”. I searched on-line and the one building people mentioned as an example of modern architecture in Tel Aviv was the Cinema Hotel which wasn’t too far from where I was staying.

The White City of Tel Aviv now holds the position of the lamest World Heritage site I have ever visited.

Paris Part Deux

Posted by on June 14, 2009

Suffice it to say that my Paris experience has improved dramatically since the weather improved. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last several days wandering around the streets of Paris, eating in the restaurants, and seeing the sights. Unfortunately, that hasn’t let much time for blog updates, especially considering the hotel I got moved into does not have any sort of internet.

I met up for drinks with Chris Carriero from who lives in Paris. He took me to a Basque restaurant and a local expat pub where the England vs Andorra World Cup qualifying match was on TV (yes, Andorra has a national soccer team). Chris is a former tour guide and is working on some audio guides for cities you can listen to on your iPod. He has recently released an audio guide to Rome following the sites from Angles & Demons. If you are going to Rome, or even if you aren’t, you should check it out.

I’ve also been able to visit Versailles, which totally made me understand why the French had a revolution. It was the most ostentatious thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m surprised that the British monarchs never had quite anything so large and gaudy as the French monarchs did. That might explain why they are still around and the French kings are not.

Today I’m going to the Eiffel Tower, which I actually haven’t bothered to do yet, and hopefully Sacre Coeur.

Like Rome, there is no way I can see everything there is to see in Paris in a single week. You have to come here with the assumption that you will return. I’ll be leaving in a day or two for the Motherland: aka Luxembourg. I’m one of the few Americans, along with my brother, who can claim to have ancestors who come from all three of the Benelux nations: Belgium (my father’s, mother’s family), Luxembourg (my mother’s, mother’s family), and the Netherlands (my mother’s, father’s family). I assume that Luxembourg is the rare card in the set.

Not So Gay Paris

Posted by on June 10, 2009

Since I’ve arrived in Paris, I haven’t been having the best of times. The weather here has been cold and raining. Temperatures have been hovering around 10-15°C (50 to 60°F). On top of the weather I did something stupid on Sunday and ate a slice of pizza which was stupid as it kicked off the wheat induced stomach pains I’ve managed to avoid for so long. On top of that, my hotel has a very poor record keeping system and last night at 10pm I got a knock on my door and the front desk asked why I was in my room as they had scheduled someone else there.

I’ve been focusing on indoor activities since I’ve arrived in Paris which has included a visit to the Louvre, the Museum d’Orsay, and the tomb of Napoleon. The weather reports are predicting more rain on Thursday and Friday so I’m going to try and visit the Eiffel Tower and other outdoor attractions today.

I’ve also suffered a problem with my camera. The ring which houses the lens cap on one of my lenses has come off. It still works fine by it is a real pain to not have a lens cap and makes putting the camera away awkward. Slowly, everything I have with me seems to be falling apart. All of my pants are falling apart at the seams

*NOTE* Since I wrote the above, the hotel notified me that they only had me booked for 2 nights and I have to find another hotel.

I’m hoping the rain lets up. I’m finishing this post at an internt cafe near Notre Dame. It has been raining on and off all day. I was planning on going to Versallies but now I’m going to wait and see how the weather pans out.

If anyone in Paris would like to meet up for drinks or dinner, please contact me via email or Twitter. I should be here at least through Sunday when I think I’ll be going to Luxembourg.

Daily Travel Photo – Pisa, Italy

Posted by on June 7, 2009

Cross and window in Pisa Cathedral

Cross and window in Pisa Cathedral

As I was walking around the cathedral I spotted a beam of light coming through one of the windows. It had a pretty dramatic effect on what it was illuminating so I waited a few minutes until it hit the crucifix that was on the altar. I originally didn’t think the photo would turn out well because the lighting was so poor.

I manipulated this image more in Photoshop than I normally do. There were some dim glints around the window that showed up that I blackened out so just the stained glass and crucifix were visible.

Had the beam of light been a few inches more to the right so it was on the head, the image would have been even better.

First Thoughts on France

Posted by on June 6, 2009

Photo I took in Paris in 1999

Photo I took in Paris in 1999

I’ve been in France for several days now after my stunning train ride across the Alps from Turin, Italy. It was by far the most beautiful train trip I’ve ever taken and I crossed five national boundaries during the journey: Italy, France, Italy, France, Monaco, France. I have never been in the Alps before so it was quite the experience. Sadly, I didn’t get to take any photos as I was inside a moving train going in and out of tunnels the entire time.

For the forth time on my trip, I am in a country which I have previously visited (the others being Japan, Taiwan and Singapore). I have also been to two French territories at the start of my trip: French Polynesia and New Caledonia. I am hardly a Franco noob, yet I find visiting France a bit more difficult than I did visiting Italy. I think it is primarily due to the language. Italian is very easy to pronounce. If you can read English, you will have little trouble pronouncing most Italian worlds. French, on the other hand, will usually just make you look foolish if you try to pronounce things like you would in English. I feel that I could pick up Italian if I made a concerted effort to try. I’m not sure about French, however. I realize that French and Italian both have similar roots, but for the life of me something about French just doesn’t click with me. As in Italy, the movies and television shows from outside the country are dubbed, not subtitled.

Painting at Chagall Museum

Painting at Chagall Museum

Nice is…..nice. (Sorry, I just had to use that one) The French Riviera isn’t what I thought it would be. I had always heard legends about the beaches here, but honestly, if I were to rank them of all the beaches I’ve seen, it would not rank very high. There is no sand. The coast is very rugged and beaches I’ve seen in Monaco and Nice are mostly gravel. The seashore is very beautiful, but that doesn’t necessarily make for great beaches. Likewise, my trip to Monaco was pretty underwhelming. I’ll be writing more on it later, but suffice to say if you don’t have a mega yacht, it isn’t really designed for you.

Once thing I’ve noticed about France compared to other countries is that you don’t see a lot of mom and pop French restaurants on the street. You’ll find brasseries and cafes, but French cuisine seems to be a really high end thing. (haute cuisine?) You wont find many of the classical dishes with sauces at low end establishments, or at least I haven’t seen any. I don’t know if that is a Nice thing or a France thing, however. I would like to have one high end French meal before I leave the country.

Street scene in Nice

Street scene in Nice

While in Nice I’ve visited the Musee Matisse and Musee Chagall which focus on works from both painters. I was only vaguely aware of either artist prior to visiting the museums. I had heard of the names but if you had challenged me to describe what they did or to identify one of their works I couldn’t have done it. I was very impressed with the works of Chagall. I from what I’ve seen (and subsequent searches online) I think there is a good argument to be made for him being one of the 20th Century’s greatest painters. I wasn’t nearly as impressed with the Matisse works, save for some of the designs he had made for a chapel, which I don’t know if it was ever built. The Matisse museum is located in his former house which is almost as picturesque as the art inside.

Nice is a much more diverse city than I would have expected. There is a sizable population of Africans, Arabs and Asians who live here. The immediate area around my hotel is mostly Asian restaurants and kebob stands. Nice is the second largest city in France, but you’d never guess it. It just doesn’t seem like a huge city. There is no discernible city center with large office buildings. Even Paris has one off in the suburbs (so not to ruin the classic skyline of the city).

I’m always interested in border communities and how political boundaries make such sharp divisions between cultures. Nice used to be part of Italy (called Nizza) and was lumped into all the politics of the Norther Italian region. It was ceded to France in the 19th Century and now you’d be hard pressed to see any evidence of it once being Italian. There are many communities which have switches hands in Europe I’d love to explore, especially the ones which moved between Germany and France. That however will have to be for another time.

Next stop, Paris!