Posts Tagged ‘street art’
In France, in England, closed buildings will end up being bought, destroyed, rebuilt as something else within a few years. Small countries, any square metre matters. But in the USA, distances are something else entirely. Space is all around. Driving through, I keep being fascinated by abandoned petrol or railway stations, houses, motels… The colours have faded, the signs look eerie, time has started eating up the structure but a certain beauty remains in that slow erosion. Nature steps in, slowly – plants growing inside a window, tumbleweed collecting at the bottom of the stairs. Some places give a peaceful feeling, others a rustic nostalgia.
A few miles before Meteor Crater is Two Guns. A ghost town. Not exactly a town – it was established in the late 20′s to serve travellers of the iconic Route 66. Petrol station, shop, hotel rooms, this tiny hamlet even housed a zoo at one point, with lions it seems but only rabbits and chipmunks guard the place these days. A few buildings are left. An armchair forgotten on the porch. Windows and doors have gone, leaving just a silhouette framing the desert. The walls have been repainted with graffiti, some really good. It’s evident the pool is now a playground for skateboarders. Eras mixing beautifully. Rumour has it that Russell Crowe bought Two Guns a few years back to use as a background for a sci-fi movie…
Las Vegas, Sin City by night, Disneyland for adults by day… Where else would you find a volcano (eruption every evening at 8pm), a giant rollercoaster going through a hotel, a mini Eiffel Tower, gondolas (and yes, you can go on them), the biggest ferris wheel in the world (putting the London Eye and Singapore Flyer to shame), more impressive fountains than Versailles’, a pyramid (sphynx included) all on the same boulevard, The Strip. Hotels compete for grandeur, from Italian opulence to Asian inspiration, endless corridors, always awake, with so many options you barely need to step out. It’s a gambling city but put in perspective… Still jetlagged, I went for a walk at 07.00, not anticipating at all the heat to come. By 08.00, I was starting to cook. Both jumping in a fountain and drinking a margarita before breakfast seemed perfectly conceivable… The nearest cool point? Casinos with their air conditioning, every few meters along the way. And well, swimming pools here fall into two categories - all allowed or over 21 only. In the latter, the smaller the bikini the better. And you can play blackjack in the pool with a cocktail. Can you beat that? On The Strip, there’s music everywhere. You dance as much as you walk… and yet, Vegas also has its fair share of homeless people. They just sit there, quietly, not harassing, baked by the sun. With sometimes rather honest signs “Why lie? Want a beer”, “Poor but optimistic”…
Vegas, baby, once you have seen the thousands of neons flashing at night, calling you, hypnotising, merry-go-round like, also has a downtown. So retro and kitsch that compared to the center it feels much more real. There is a neon museum showcasing the original signs - some are in the street still, like the very first one, a cowbow waving you a welcome. You will find street art around. Container Park, shops and bars in sea containers like our Boxpark in Shoreditch. Speakeasies. Also nearby, The Arts District, up and coming, a myriad of tiny galleries around, some no bigger than a room, grouped inside buildings like The Arts Factory. Talk to the artists who are delighted to share their universe, the story of the neighbourhood. In Vegas, it seems dreams can come true, you see.
I love to see cities differently. Lose myself. Step away from the historical core after a while, wander towards more normal neighbourhoods, more real ones somehow. See how people live, which beers they like to drink. A different heartbeat.
A more original way to discover Ghent – once you have been seduced by its laced architecture, its medieval castle, the sometimes tragic, occasionally funny stories behind the imposing buildings, the sculpted reliefs – is to procure from the Tourism Office their rather clever street art map. Not as condensed as in Shoreditch so this will take you all around the town. I covered only a quarter in a couple of hours so do choose the ones that best fit your program. It is so worth it though.
Start close to the Fish Market, dominated by Neptune’s statue then head towards the Werregarenstraat. This narrow street is the equivalent to Leake Street in London. A legal place to practise tagging. The paint layers are regularly cleaned off by the Town Hall, the locals joking that if not, within a few years it would be impossible to squeeze through.
The north-west route will take you to rather quieter streets, some along the canal, others where families meet at the end of the day, here a sculpture half-eaten by passing time, signs from old shops, factory chimneys now turned into luxurious apartments. On the way, you will see pieces by Blu the warrior, Phase, Roa, Hard Nesh… Further on, if you like abandoned industrial places, you will find what used to be a concrete factory, now covered in tags, completing, overtaking each other. Welcome to the DOK site, the old docks coming back to life during the summer with creative events, markets, pop-up cinemas…
What can you do if you only have a few hours to spend in Brussels? Amazingly, quite a lot. Just by having a good stroll, there are so many street art gems or murals dedicated to famous comics to see. Have a look at the Grande Place to see the sculpted building completely adorned with gold, but also the nearby Galeries Royales Saint Hubert, with its glass roof – such splendour. Don’t forget to salute the Manneken-Pis. Did you know that it has no less than 800 dresses and uniforms? They are displayed in one of the city’s museums or if you are lucky, depending on the day, it might be wearing one.
Where to dine and have a beer? At Nuetnigenough, a small restaurant doing amazing Belgian recipes. Like saddle of rabbit in a Gueuze Cantillon beer sauce. Or cherry pie with Oude Kriek cream. And their beer menu is fabulously rich. I tried a Belle Fleur, a Kriek Mariage Parfait and a Gentleman Sour, so varied and different from anything you come across in England. Be warned though, they are stronger than traditional beers.
And afterwards? Stop at Goupil le Fol, a very atmospheric little bar, playing traditional French music – Piaf, Brel…
What to take back in your suitcase? Apart from chocolate and beer? Real Speculoos (including Speculoos jam) from Maison Dandoy, the reference in Brussels.
How to get here? Eurostar, of course! They offer any tickets to any Belgian station from £79 return, including Ghent, Ypres, Bruges and Antwerp. Eurostar operates up to 9 daily services from London St Pancras International to Brussels Midi and from there passengers can use their ticket to connect to their final destination. Fastest London-Brussels journey time is 2hrs. Available from eurostar.com or 08432 186 186.
Being a little too early for the Feel Good Café on Hoxton Square (do try it, the two course menu is free until May 23!), I indulged in a street art safari in Shoreditch. The neighbourhood seems even more vibrant with it than usual…
Stepping out of the London Coffee Festival, I could not resist wandering through colourful Shoreditch. It has always been the core of the street art world, even more so now. To the point that I sometimes wondered whether the pieces were indeed camouflaged in the urban jungle or whether the buildings were starting to be the ones hiding behind all these murals! A few pictures of this safari:
These days, my steps always seem to take me back to the Canal Saint-Martin. Time has a different essence here. No one ever rushes. Is it the soothing quality of walking along the water, the succession of romantic bridges and locks, neo-bistrots, trendy cafés, dream-like bookshops, poetry on the walls, between geometry of vintage tiles and street art blooming everywhere… More pictures and our favourite foodie places here.
A stroll on Nantes island is like entering another dimension entirely. Such a mix of fascinating architecture – sometimes modern, sometimes surreal, some other times inherited from an industrial past. And yet, there is so much space, the sky always so present, almost no traffic, such a sense of peacefulness, wild flowers. Even street art blooms on the wall. You will meet the colourful cat of La Fabrique and the giant elephant walking around, splashing passers-by, machine of wood and metal. You can dream on the carrousel des mondes marins, fantastic fishes and flying shells inspired by Nemo… or throw a few balls around the basketball tree. Further on, Buren’s rings are framing the clouds. There a few cafés at the Hangar à Bananes, you could enjoy a Flower Power beer, infused with petals and just sigh in happiness…
Artistic laboratory – so perfectly named. Here are simmering a thousand culturel projects, concerts, exhibitions, ideas of all sorts. The architecture is fascinating indeed, metallic lace, ribbons of red plastic, a glaxy of folding and unfolding triangles, like a cocoon about to open up. Here, a truck has been encapsulated, there a giant cat crosses a concrete wall, further on, an urban garden playing on recycling. Extraordinarily inspiring.
62 Boulevard de la Prairie au Duc