An Indian Adventure

This time last year I was on a big blue train with a Dutch business man, two Australian nurses, a grinning Muslim tour guide, some cockroaches, a cup of chai and lots of curious, staring natives. This time last year I was in India.

A year later, there are many memories and experiences I know I’ll cherish. A  few of the things that stand out most are:

The food – My trip explored Southern India, which is renowned for its delicious dishes. Highlights included freshly baked chapati bread, yellow daal, egg curry (for breakfast!), home-made Keralan fish curry and the yummiest of all snacks – masala dosa.

The company – My Intrepid tour group was very small, consisting of three older travelling companions in ther fifties and a very excitable and enthusiastic local guide named Thoufeeq. I couldn’t have been in safer hands or better company – most people assumed we were some sort of dysfunctional family and as the ‘daughter’ I wasn’t bothered much at all.

The surroundings – crowded, dirty, hot cities like Chennai and Madurai littered with skinny cows but with their share of breathe-taking temples. Dramatic coastlines and sunset ocean views in Varkala and Goa. Supreme palaces in Mysore. Winding backwaters in Kerala. Luscious tropical landscapes in mystical Hampi… The variation was astounding.

The people – smiling, staring, curious and excitable. Always willing to help or make a sale, or both. (I never knew how good children could be at persuading me to part with my money before.) And I learnt all about the ambiguous head waggling gesture, which can mean yes, no, maybe or ‘whatever’ depending on the mood of the waggler.

The shopping – flower markets, incense making, fruit selling, ethnic bangles, cushion covers, pashminas, carved jewellry boxes, multi-coloured powders…. I could have spent days ambling round Indian markets. If only my backpack had been a little bigger.

Although a massive culture shock in some ways, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I hope these sketches reveal something of the sights and sensations I experienced.

November 27, 2011. Tags: , , , . Food, India, Me, my artwork, travel, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Weekend in Wales

Montgomery Castle

Rhaedr Waterfall

Lake Vyrnwy

A singing walk

Powys Castle

Some Welsh Cheese and Lebanese Wine

BBC Modern Masters - Picasso

If you are wondering what you’ve just been reading and why, then please consult Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief – in part of this book one of the characters (a fist-fighting Jew) creates his own picture book, which is featured in the text – made of simple sketches, it playfully interrupts the text with childlike pictures that are all the more enjoyable for their technical lack of ability. So I thought I’d have a go.

For a more accurate representation of what I saw in Wales and how beautiful it was there are some photos below.

May 31, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . architecture, art, books, Me, my artwork, travel, Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Mussels in Brussels

Don’t worry, I’m not about to do the blogging equivalent of a holiday slide show. Just thought I’d draw your attention to some fun things I discovered on a recent trip to rockin’ Belgium. Of course, I indulged in all the expected treats of the land: beer, mussels, choccies and chips but I also found some unexpected cultural gems:

Belgian Symbolist Art at the Musee Royaux des Beaux Arts: From a quick Google I can tell you that broadly speaking symbolism was a reaction against realism, focusing on spirituality, dreams and the power of the imagination. A stroll round the exhibition showed me that in the late nineteenth century these dark, moody paintings and sculptures were the order of the day in Belgium. While I’m not sure I’d want any of them hanging on my walls (think of the nightmares), they were certainly interesting to behold and very atmospheric. Here are a couple of examples:

Felicien Rops, La Buveuse d’absinthe, 1865:

And the very famous Orphee mort, (Ophelia’s Death), 1893, Jean Delville:

Some more Googling tells me that decorative elements of Belgian Symbolism had an influence on the subsequent Art Nouveau movement, bringing me to my next Brussels highlight: the Belgian architect Victor Horta’s house and the various cool Art Nouveau buildings around Brussels including the Music Museum, which reminds me of the glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Victor Horta wanted to break free from convention and redesign functional objects to make them beautiful. The interior of his house, which you can just stroll around as if you were his guest, is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

Speaking of individuals with a passion for modernity and creativity, another cool dude I learnt more about from my trip is Benedikt Taschen, a German publisher who puts out books on all things art, film,  fashion and erotica. There’s a lovely Taschen bookshop in the heart of Brussels and I spent a good deal of time browsing the pages of these beautiful books.

Which leads me nicely onto the final thing I have to say about Brussels: they have a surprisingly good shopping scene. Not blinding, in-your-face fashion saturation like London and New York, but small independent boutiques and a refreshing lack of chain stores. (This goes for their cafes and restaurants too: they just don’t do Starbucks, OK?) My favourite shopping find was a boutique store with the unusual name of Mr Ego. Its website describes it as ‘cool attitude shopping’ – I love frenglish. I picked up several nice pieces from this place, and think they will make welcome additions to my Topshopified wardrobe.

So that concludes my Belgian observations. I hope you find them useful for future trips to a land that does indeed go beyond mussels and chips. Incidentally, it is a very easy place to get to for a weekend break thanks to the legendary Eurostar! And even more convenient if, like me, you have lovely friends living out there like Tom and Laura who provided me with free accommodation, a guided tour and invaluable local knowledge.

May 16, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . architecture, art, books, fashion, travel. Leave a comment.