• Banksy Paris

    I decided to stay in Paris for one day after a work week in France on a search to find the new Banksy art that was created at the end of June when the artist visited the city. It is always important to find his pieces as soon as possible because they are always outside in the elements and also often vandalized because of the political undertones. There are eight new graffiti art pieces that highlight issues ranging from France’s tough immigration laws to the tragedy at the Bataclan Theater.

    The Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel concierge Fabrice helped me plan the most efficient route and hire a driver named Nolan to start my scavenger hunt around the city for all the Banksy artwork. We had the perfect weather with 75 degrees and sunshine to track down the pieces, which were located in alleyways, under bridges, on signage in tourist hotspots and on the side of homeless shelters across the city.

    Banksy always makes political statements and these particular art pieces have ties to French politics in the past and present.  Several of them are believed to be a tribute to the May 1968 uprising like the piece where Banksy sprayed a rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under the caption “May 1968” near the Sorbonne University over the weekend, one of the centers of the uprising, which some say implies the decline of French revolutionary spirit.

    Another of the new works touches on the sensitive subject of the ban on the niqab in France. It’s a take on the famous painting of Napoleon on the back of his rearing horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800. Except in Banksy’s version the figure on the horse is wearing a full red Islamic headscarf. This piece has now been covered with clear plexiglass to protect it from vandalism.

    The one Banksy painting that hit the closest to home for me personally was the image of girl huddled in mourning in a fire exit next to the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred by jihadist gunmen in November 2015. I know the Eagles of Death Metal and spend so many of my evenings photographing rock shows that this one felt personal while remembering this tragedy.

    The only painting that was completely destroyed was in a north Paris neighborhood next to a refugee shelter that was controversially closed in March. It was of a young black girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and a teddy bear. This was a rough neighborhood in Paris and I had issues when I got out of the car to photograph the art. The people outside had put up a barricade and when I attempted to take pictures I was yelled at to leave immediately. Nolan drove me past while I was in the backseat with tinted windows so that I could at least take a few photos of the scene and the remnants of the painting.

    Some of the pieces are more festive like the one on the city’s famous Montmartre staircases in the 18th arrondissement, Banksy has painted a rat being catapulted like a cork out of a bottle of champagne.

    On my last stop and the hardest location to pinpoint, there is also a faded picture of a rat couple admiring the Eiffel tower in the city of love under a bridge.

    If you are interested in finding the artwork this article gives the approximate locations with descriptions of all the remaining pieces.

  • My Perfect Day in Paris

    I was only able to stay in Paris for one day due to work commitments but after many trips to the city I planned and designed my complete Saturday. A lot of help for the day was provided by the staff at Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel with special assistance from Fabrice the Concierge. My perfect days always involve photography so this day was no exception.

    I started out very early Saturday morning with a lovely breakfast at Odette the restaurant in the hotel of fried egg whites, waffles (the best EVER!), bacon and a cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. Don’t judge…I need fuel for the perfect day.

    The hotel had arranged a driver for the morning to take me on the ultimate scavenger hunt to find all the new Banksy artwork across the city. The weather was amazing at 75 degrees and sunshine. My driver Nolan was a great sport and patient as he parked at eight locations across the city and helped me search for the graffiti art. We were successful in finding all of the pieces.  We then extended the tour an hour and visited some great locations for Eiffel tower photos since there were puffy clouds on the horizon.

    After my morning car trip, I decided to take a walk outside to the Louvre only a quick 10-minute walk from the hotel to see my favorite of all time – Mona Lisa. I expected large crowds in the middle of a Saturday afternoon but to my surprise, there was no queue outside so I went in for a visit after taking photos outside of the pyramid structure. I still cannot believe it only costs 15 euros to visit these masterpieces.

    I went back to the hotel after the museum visit and walk around the city and decided to check out the spa and again to my surprise an appointment was available for an aromatherapy massage within an hour. The massage was flawless with orange blossom essential oils and provided much-needed relaxation after a long week of work in Europe. The spa was beautiful and private inside the hotel and has a full-service spa for guests.

    I had an early dinner at a small café called Le Moliere where I found the impeccable snack of warm goat cheese salad with honey. Back at the hotel, I was happy to find an endless supply of the most delicious gummy bears for guests in the lobby, which provided the perfect ending to the perfect day.

  • Groove Cruise 2018

    Groove Cruise sets sail from San Diego, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on October 10-14 on the Norwegian Pearl.

    Groove Cruise has always been about the fan experience with one of the longest running dance cruise parties at sea.  This year headliners include Benny Benassi, Cosmic Gate, Green Velvet, Laidback Luke, MK, and Shiba San along with many others provide over 96 hours of non-stop music across the ship and on land in Cabo.

    Theme nights include Tutus and Ties, Show Your Colors, Back to School, Neon Me and more.  Come dressed to impress!

    Deposits to hold your spot for a room is $200. Prices for sharing in a quad start at $734.50. Triples go from $969 to $1,849 per person. Double shared rooms starts at $1,069 to $1,949. For more information on prices for staterooms, go here. The minimum age for Groove Cruise Cabo is 21.

    I experienced Groove Cruise west coast style in 2016 where Cabo became one of my favorite cruise ports ever. You can get off the boat and spend the night on land filled with music and sensational seaside views.

    Also, watch out for the 15th anniversary of Groove Cruise which takes place 2019 from January 10-14 featuring Kaskade as a headliner. The cruise sails from Miami to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

  • Interview: Chef Jose Salazar

    Chef Jose Salazar was born in Colombia, raised in New York and resides in Cincinnati. He will be attending and cooking at the Bourbon & Beyond music, food and drink festival in Louisville, Kentucky from September 22-23. The festival is the largest bourbon festival in the world. Salazar will be joined by fellow chef Kevin Ashworth, the duo will show why great steak might pair better with bourbon instead of red wine. Salazar talked about his roots, his love of ham and cheese sandwiches and much more. Check out The Travel Addict’s interview with chef Jose Salazar:

    How did you find yourself in Cincinnati from Queens, New York?

    It was very, very random. My wife and I had just had our son. He was just under a year when we moved here. Right when he was born, we weren’t sure if we wanted to raise him in New York. We thought there had to be an easier, a more tranquil place to live.

    Since neither one of us had lived anywhere else, we didn’t know where to start. My first instinct was to send out some resumes. I sent some out to places on the East Coast. We thought we may move to Philly or somewhere within driving distance of New York but didn’t know where that would be.

    A headhunter got my resume and called me about this job as an executive chef at a hotel, and it all sounded really, really great, but it was in Cincinnati, Ohio. I didn’t really know anything about Cincinnati so it was thanks, but no thanks. Long story short, he eventually convinced me to come out and do a tasting and then, of course, we decided to give it a shot. We thought we would only do it a couple of years. And ten years later, here we are with a couple restaurants and we aren’t planning on leaving any time soon.

    If you have any advice for people coming to Cincinnati, what would you tell them to visit? What are your favorite things to do?

    It is a really walkable city. I think the river is really nice. The Roebling Bridge is beautiful. It is the bridge that inspired the Brooklyn Bridge. I think Findlay Market is really cool. It is one of the oldest markets in the country. Over the Rhine, the neighborhood, the whole neighborhood, has been transformed. A decade ago it was probably considered one of the worst neighborhoods in the country and now it is so transformed in a short period of time.

    It is beautiful. The architecture appealed so much to me when I got here. Walking around that neighborhood, there are so many things to do and so many things to explore. Definitely Findlay Market, I think that is a must for anybody visiting.

    You have had a really good experience in Cincinnati. You have opened two very successful restaurants, Salazar and Mita’s here in town. What advice would you give any aspiring chef who is starting out opening a restaurant?

    Listen to your gut. I think that is important. I feel like the media, no offense, makes it all about being new and hot and what’s different. To some degree, young restauranteurs forget that what is so wonderful and without them it would be a difficult business.

    At the end of the day, the people who are coming to your restaurant are who are going to sustain you long term. I think listening to what their needs are and being attentive. That is really what our industry is all about, hospitality and being as attentive as possible.

    We were down in the Over The Rhine area recently it really is a beautiful neighborhood. It did remind me of New York a little bit.

    A little bit yeah. We have been told that, especially Salazar because it is tucked away on a little side street. It is a little Brooklyn-esque or Paris, depending on where people are sitting. They can kind of feel they are transported somewhere else.

    You’re from Colombia, one of my favorite places to visit. I went last year for Carnivale and went all over the country. I know you spoke before in other interviews about your grandmother and spending time with her. What was your favorite dish she made growing up there?

    For some reason, breakfast stands out to me. She would make big, big breakfasts. There wasn’t anything fancy. There was arepas (corn pancakes) and eggs, chicharrón (fried pork belly or pork rinds) and maybe a little fresh avocado. But the hot chocolate – she would make fresh hot chocolate by hand in an aluminum cauldron with a wood heater. Maybe it was just the whole, pomp and circumstance she did the whole hot chocolate thing. She was so nurturing and breakfast was when everyone was gathered at the same time.

    Have you been back to Colombia lately?

    Not lately. It has been five years or so.

    It is a coincidence. Medellin and all these places used to be the worst in the world as well. They are now safe and wonderful, open to tourists. I met some of the warmest people there I have ever met. I feel like they have had a huge transformation as well.

    Yeah. I am glad you had that impression. The country was definitely plagued by a lot of things that went wrong, a justifiable bad rap. The people have always been wonderful and sweet and caring and party animals. It is sad the whole world didn’t get to see that because there was so much turmoil.

    What is your favorite meal or type of cuisine?

    I really love Japanese food. When I can get wonderfully, beautifully cooked Japanese food. But I love a good Ham and Cheese sandwich, when you have good bread and great ham and good cheese, maybe a little bit of butter or mustard. That is my go-to. I am the biggest fan of Ham and Cheese, the best combination ever.

    If we were to go to your refrigerator in your home, what is one thing we will always find?

    Well, I don’t cook at home. I’m right near the fridge, so I will open it up. My wife cooks quite a bit. So there is always orange juice, eggs, milk, yogurt. As far as cooking, your typical stuff. There is a nice array of fruits and vegetables. My wife cooks. She shops in small quantities. She cooks 98% of the meals in my house.

    What dish would you consider your guilty pleasure?

    I don’t know. Nothing really makes me feel guilty.

    You are going to be a featured chef at Bourbon and Beyond. What are you looking forward to most participating in at the festival?

    I did it last year and it was a blast. It was one of my favorite events ever. The music for sure – there are so many wonderful acts. Then, of course, all the bourbon and rye, you know the combination of those two.

    And then the collaborating with other chefs, that is a huge event for me because I don’t get a lot of time to travel and I work a lot. Getting away to these events is cool to meet and work with other chefs. That is one of the things I look forward to the most.

    What is your favorite bourbon?

    Probably Angel’s Envy. I like their rye even more than their bourbon.

    Angel’s Envy is a great place to go in Louisville to visit, just to go to the actual distillery is a cool place.

    That is what I have heard. I have not been able to make it there.

    What is the oddest thing you have ever eaten when traveling?

    Probably bugs in Mexico, a lot of different kinds of bugs. They were actually really good. A little odd but tasty.

  • Banksy LA

    Banksy is an anonymous street artist, political activist, and film director. His works of social and political activism are featured throughout cities around the world. He has a dark sense of humor that is displayed in his distinct stenciling technique.  I am always interested in finding his art as I travel to different cities where he has visited. It usually becomes somewhat of a scavenger hunt since many of the pieces have been vandalized or painted over.

    Swing Girl is located in downtown LA. It was originally drawn in a car parking lot in downtown on Broadway. The “ing” portion of the parking sign had been whitewashed out to form Park with a young girl swinging from the letter A. As with most of Banksy’s artwork there is an element of social or political tones. Swing Girl clearly points out the lack of places for kids to play safely in this downtown area of Los Angeles. This piece appeared in 2010 a few days prior to the LA premiere of Banksy’s film Exit Through The Gift Shop.

    I had some difficulty finding the piece once I arrived at the pinned location on Broadway because there is no longer a parking lot where the piece resides. I had to ask a parking attendant for the location and he pointed across the street where I could see the mural between two large buildings in an alley that was gated off to the general public. I have walked by this corridor over a dozen times and never noticed the painting so it was like discovering a hidden treasure.

  • Hollywood Forever Cemetery

    Hollywood Forever is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and may seem like an odd tourist attraction but the cemetery regularly hosts community events, movie screenings, and even concerts. Gary Numan even recorded a live album in the cemetery during his 2013 Splinter World Tour.

    As a music photographer and fan, I wanted to visit the cemetery to see the final resting spot of Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone and pay tribute to one of my favorite musicians Chris Cornell. The two are buried within steps from each other and hopefully, have formed some sort of all-star rock band in heaven.

    The cemetery was an extremely peaceful place and a sort of calm washed over me as I walked around their burial plots and sat for a while in front of the pond near the famous grave sites.

  • Warner Brothers Studio Tour

    Warner Brothers studio is the only place on earth where you can hold an Oscar, sit in Central Perk from the set of Friends and transform into Batgirl all in one afternoon.

    I am usually always busy working while in LA and rarely have time to check out tourist activities but last week on a day off I was able to spend the day at Warner Brothers Studio for a VIP Deluxe Tour of the studio. So many of my favorite TV shows and movies have filmed at this location in sound stages and back lots on the property over the past 40 years. It was amazing to stand there in person and see how it all comes to life.

    I love TV and spend most of my plane time binge-watching downloaded TV series. Many of my favorites including Gilmore Girls, Hart of Dixie, Friends, Sex & the City, The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon have all filmed onsite at Warner Brothers. During the tour, we were able to see The Big Bang Theory filming an episode of their last season, Conan O’Brien’s studio, and tour the new soundstage for Taye Digg’s new football drama All American that will premiere on CW this fall.

    The deluxe tour also takes visitors into the amazing costume department and prop house on the property. We saw original props from Casablanca, The West Wing, The Matrix, Batman and countless other movies and TV shows.

    One of my favorite movies series of all time is Batman so we could see many props including the Batmobiles during the tour. At the end of the tour, you can also film a small video and take pictures using green screen technology riding the bat-cycle from the Dark Knight Batman movies so of course I took advantage and transformed into Batgirl for a few minutes.

    Overall it was a great day and I would recommend the tour for anyone who had some time in the LA area.

  • Quebec City Observatory

    The Marie-Guyart Building in Quebec is the tallest building in the city at 132 meters and has an observation deck on the 31st floor for panoramic views of the city.

    The building does not look like a tourist attraction at first glance. It looks like an administrative building from the outside but inside there is an entrance to elevators to the observation deck with 360-degree views of the city at Observatoire de la Capitale.

    During Festival dete de Quebec you can also get a great view of the festival grounds from above. The observation deck is open 9-6 most days of the week.

  • Montmorency Falls Quebec

    About 30 minutes outside of Quebec City you can visit Montmorency Falls. This huge waterfall stands 275 feet high and 150 feet wide. It is the tallest waterfall in Quebec and stands 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. It is worth the short drive to see the spectacular falls.

    There are staircases that allow visitors to view the falls from several different perspectives. A suspension bridge over the crest of the falls provides access to both sides of the park. There is also an aerial tram that carries passengers between the base and the top of the falls. Adventurous visitors can even take a zip line across the falls.

  • Air Canyon Quebec

    In past years when I have attended Festival dete de Quebec, I have stayed inside the city and just attended activities related to the festival. This year I contacted the Quebec tourism board for ideas of tourist activities outside the city.

    One of the activities that immediately jumped out was to visit Sainte-Anne Canyon. Sainte-Anne Canyon is a naturally sensational area right outside of Quebec City.  There is a beautiful park with walking trails and a few adventure sports for families who are feeling adventurous that include rock climbing in the waterfalls and a suspension bridge walk.

    There is also a new ride that just opened one year ago called Air Canyon where two people sit in a chair and take an exhilarating ride across the canyon. This was a fun activity for anyone who wants a birds-eye view of the canyon.