All posts tagged: europe

Amsterdam’s Crooked Canal Houses

The canal houses in Amsterdam are an iconic feature of the city.  These tall (and often very crooked) buildings lean precariously over the narrow streets and canals, bestowing a magical and elementary fun-house quality into the cozy neighborhoods.  At first glance it seems like the entire city is a bit tipsy! The houses are often very narrow, as property was assigned value based on width during the early days of the city.  Also, the roofs of the houses are often adorned with a hook for lifing furniture into the top floors, as staircases in the city are infamously steep. Having a house that leans forward a little bit would be beneficial if you are using the hook to hoist up furniture from the ground, but why do some of the buildings lean so dramatically? The city is built below sea-level and the ground is very soft.  Most houses will shift a bit after being built (our Dutch host refered to this process as settling), and once a house has settled it will stay put for …

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less

This charming port city is truly a hidden gem in Europe.  When visiting Belgium, many people choose Bruges (a medieval tourist destination) or Brussels (the capital and headquarters of the European Union).  Off the beaten track is Antwerp; it possesses the perfect combination of fairy-tale beauty and gritty urban charm, and offers visitors a rare glimpse into the golden age of Belgium.  All this, plus the corner stores sell world-class beer at a fraction of the price you would pay in the states at a specialty shop.  Boon Oude Gueze Mariage Parfait for €2?  I’m sold! The Grote Markt, or main square, is a beautiful example of the city’s rich cultual heritage. ^^^The Flemish baroque master painter Peter Paul Rubens called Antwerp home during the golden age in Belgium, and his influence is everywhere. Now a museum, the Rubenshuis is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens. ^^^It’s like a 16th century version of MTV Cribs! ^^^Little known fact: Antwerp is also home to the sassiest statue in Europe! ^^^A few geuzes that we bought from …

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp

Belgium at last!  We have been traveling without a chance for updates during the last few weeks and we are a few countries behind, but it’s time to take a short break to share these three stunning displays of Belgian heritage and pride.  We were only in Belgium for four days, but during that short time we got the priveledge of seeing the city through the eyes of a lifelong Antwerp resident, philanthopist, and friend: Kamiel.  He took us on a tour of each of these iconic buildings which dominate the city skyline and explained their part within the history of the city and their various restorations. 1) St. Paul’s Church  Located in the old city-center of Antwerp, the interior of this church epitomizes Baroque design and sensibility. ^^^Of the countless works of art displayed inside the church (including works by famous Antwerp residents Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck), the wooden Baroque confessionals are the most unique.  These sculptures line the enitre building and include meticulously detailed life-size wooden figures carved by generations of …

Best Art Museum in Paris: Centre Pompidou

The Centre Georges Pompidou contemporary art museum is a must-see while visiting Paris.  The stunning views from the museum alone are worth every cent of the €11 admission fee (we can thank Jaime’s old student ID for the discounted rate, usually €14).  This museum is a world-class contemporary art venue and holds revolving exhibitions of the highest caliber.  Who’s down to check out the Mona Hatoum show and soak up some sun on the decks of this postmodern steel superstructure in the center of Paris?  I am!  Let’s go! ^^^The Mona Hatoum exhibition on the top floor of the museum. ^^^Centre Pompidou has an amazing permanent collection as well, as evidenced by this mind-blowing piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat. ^^^The museum lobby.  The entire building has an interestingly inside-out quality. ^^^Thank you Centre Pompidou!  Long live love!!!

Paris: It’s All About the Crêpes and Macarons

Paris is a well-known foodie destination… and there is definitely a lot more than just bread and cheese going on here.  Of course bread and cheese is a staple of the budget-travel diet to which the Parisian boulangeries (bread bakeries) cater very well, but we are going to take a second to talk about the desserts.  Some of the desserts aren’t even desserts but entire meals in themselves, like the savory crêpes that can be found in their full glory among bustling Montparnasse crêperies.  But we will get to that soon, right now it’s time to check my blood sugar.  Hmmm it’s a little low… obviously it’s macaron time. ^^^Pierre Hermé and Cafe Pouchkine serve delicious macarons that are easy to obsess over. ^^^We visited multiple Pierre Hermé locations multiple times during our week in Paris.  The consumption of one of these delicate treats could be compared to a religious experience. These are priceier than macarons sold at other pâtisseries, but the taste and quality of these are well worth the splurge! ^^^Still a little low?  Tarte aux …

Copenhagen for Free | Best Art Destination

Copenhagen for Free: Best Art Destination

Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery of Denmark) wins the award for number-one best, must-see, don’t-miss-it, gotta-go-there, how-is-this-even-legal-it’s-so-good art destination.  This museum is located in the center of Copenhagen and is known to locals as the SMK.  And the best part: it’s free.  But like LeVar Burton says on Reading Rainbow, don’t take my word for it!  Check out these pictures and you will get to know why this gem is worth so much more in this often-pricey Scandinavian capital. ^^^The interior gazes out into the Østre Anlæg park through massive floor-to-ceiling glass panes.  This is the section of the museum that contains contemporary art, so obviously this is where we spent most of our time at the museum!  Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon here?  That being said, where are all the tourists?  Where are all the selfie sticks?  Usually art museums of this caliber are full of them! ^^^The views from the museum are worth the trip alone.  When you get around to admiring the artwork, you will notice that the museum …

The Catacombs of Paris

A lot of people live in Paris, and have been living here for a long time (since 9800 B.C. to be precise).  A practical question arises with this: what happens to all the the dead people?  The Catacombes de Paris is a sprawling underground network of tunnels which stores the remains of over six million corpses.  It’s hard to belive that the beautiful and vibrant city of Paris lies on top of a massive underground grave which contains centuries of  deceased Parisians. Wow this is sounding pretty creepy… can’t the bones just be buried under the ground and then we can leave it at that?  Nope, this is Paris and everything is beautiful, so the bones are displayed in an overtly ornamental manner and tickets are sold to visitors wanting to explore this “curiosity” of Parisian culture, and this is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the city. Woah hold on a second, isn’t The Alternative Atlas  based on avoiding tourist traps?  What about this is cool and alternative?  While waiting for entry to the catacombs we got …

Doors of Paris

Step one for visiting Paris: find a place to stay.  We rented a chambre de bonne, which is a fancy french word for a former maid’s quarters.  Our tiny room was situated at the end of a six storey climb up a narrow staircase; on the top floor of an old iconic apartment building in the center of the Pigalle district.  So what is so cool about that?  The doors to this building are beautiful.  Not just beautiful, but stunningly ornate.  And so are all the other doors in this neighborhood, and all the surrounding neighborhoods, and pretty much everywhere in the city now that I’m paying attention! Are we really doing a post about how beauriful the doors are in Paris?  Of course we are!  Just look at these amazing entranceways!  They are everywhere you look; every color, every style you could imagine.    We should take a second to discuss the most famous doors in the city… ^^^Considered a masterpiece of French-Gothic architecture, the doors of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral are also …

How-to Avoid Lines at the Louvre

Formerly a royal palace, the Louvre is an iconic monument in the center of Paris labelled as the universal museum among museums and is the #1 most visited museum in the world. What does this mean for us?  It will have a ridiculous line, as any #1 universal iconic monument should… and it will be full of tourists.  Maybe you are a really good person and you just smile and wait patiently as hordes of people push by you to stand in front of the artworks and take selfies; or maybe you’re like me and think that there should be a law against selfie sticks and annoying museum tourists in general.  Ok that’s a stretch, but we shouldn’t let them ruin our experience here, since the Louvre is all about heritage and excellence.  But I clearly won’t do any justice writing about the cultural heritage and overall excellence that this institution represents, so I will simply write about what I’m good at, which is seeing awesome artwork and saving money and having diabetes!  Sorry – …

Stockholm Photo Tour

This city has some serious cuteness going on.  During our six days in Stockholm we split our time between two different apartments and explored the city (with the exception of one magical Archipelago day trip, which you can read about here) with the help of some locals. The slender cobblestone streets lined with minimalist design spaces in Gamla Stan (Old Town) and trendy bars and restaurants in nearby Södermalm work so well together.  Seriously how can a city be this cute?  I thought Sweden was known for death metal and corpse paint… isn’t Watain and Ghost and Meshuggah from here? We visited the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum Moderna Museet on a Friday evening, when admission is free. ^^^Doris Salcedo at Moderna Museet. ^^^We rode the tunnelbana (Stockholm’s metro rail system) everyday and were so impressed by its cleanliness, timeliness, and ease of use. ^^^Each of the stations is themed like an art exhibition. ^^^We stopped by one of the last metal record stores in Stockholm: Sound Pollution.  Check out the zombie hanging down from the ceiling!  And …