• Ny London – Svalbard

    We woke to our first morning on Ortelius entering Kongsfjorden under blue skies and sunshine. The relatively calm waters overnight had made for a restful sleep and we were all eager to head off for our first excursion in the Svalbard archipelago. Onshore there was one guesthouse where visitors were having a holiday far from the comforts of city life.

    During the course of the day, we learned a little about the history of Arctic exploration and the attempts to reach the North Pole from Ny Ålesund. One amazing thing about this trip was that the expedition leaders are trained in safety for our tour but also in history and science. They conduct lectures daily on a variety of topics on wildlife and arctic expeditions.

  • Oceanwide Expeditions – Norway   

    On August 1, 2018, I started my journey to one of the most remote places on Earth to visit the Arctic Circle and photograph the vast landscapes and wildlife found only in the Arctic regions.

    I took 4 flights over 30 hours to reach Longyearbyen, Norway, a small city named after American John Munro Longyear. John Munro was one of the first pioneers in mining industries and expedition cruises in Spitsbergen. He founded a coal mining settlement in 1906 in Adventfjord called Longyear City.

    We boarded the Ortelius for our 10-day journey and once onboard met our expedition team led by Captain Mikka Appel and Ali our expedition leader. I quickly realized this was not one of my normal cruises when we attended mandatory safety training, which included topics on Polar Bear safety. It was clear the goal was to not meet up with a polar bear on land. All of the expedition leaders carry weapons in case of emergency but there are heavy fines for killing any wildlife in Norway. Their goal is to protect the environment with responsible tourism.

    The crew on the Ortelius provided a regimented schedule each day with excursions by zodiac boat and hikes on foot throughout our 10-day journey. This schedule helped me cope with the fact that there is no nighttime because the sun does not set this time of year in the Arctic. We had fantastic service and meals on board with an amazing staff and I cannot say enough positive things about Oceanwide Expeditions. If you are planning a trip to any of the Polar Regions, I highly recommend this company for a safe once in a lifetime experience.

     

  • 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.

  • Top 10 Museums in Paris

    Paris is arguably one of the world’s centers for seeing art and culture. I have visited Paris over a dozen times and during each visit, I still find hidden treasures inside the museums throughout the city. The museums range from displays of classic artists and their work, as well as writers, geology, architecture, fashion and much more. Check out a list of some of my favorite museums in Paris.

    10. Musee Marmottan Monet

    Housed in a former hunting lodge contains the largest collection of Claude Monet’s work in the world.  The museum also includes works by other famous impressionists of the time Degas, Renoir and Manet. The museum is on the outskirts of the city center so it is rarely crowded.

    9. Musee Rodin

    This museum is a charming space dedicated to sculptor Auguste Rodin. It is housed in an 18th-century mansion called Hotel Biron that the artist used as a workspace and exhibition venue until he donated it to the city of Paris with the stipulation that it be used as a museum of his works of art. The gardens around the museum contain several of his most important works and are a must see.

    The museum is home to the majority of Rodin’s significant works are located on site including famed statues The Thinker and The Kiss.

    8. Musee de L’Orangerie

    The Musee de L’Orangerie is a renowned art gallery filled with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings including the famous Water Lilies painting by Claude Monet.  The museum is situated in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens.

    7. Maison de Victor Hugo

    This small museum honors literary giant Victor Hugo. Hugo is one of the romantic movement’s most famous writers. He is best known for Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He lived in the house where the museum is located for 16 years from 1832-1848.  It is a unique view of the living quarter and art collection of the writer.

    6. Pompidou Center- National Museum of Modern Art

    The Pompidou is a unique piece of architecture inside and out. It looks like a building that has been turned inside out. Inside the building houses the National Museum of Modern Art, which is the largest museum for contemporary art in Europe.

    The Pompidou is the only museum in the world to offer a comprehensive view of modernism from the 20th and 21st centuries.  The museum is also home to many traveling exhibits that usually include unique photography exhibitions.

    5. Louis Vuitton Foundation

    Frank Gehry designed space to display art and culture. The $143 million museum in Paris was opened in October 2014. The museum was funded by LVMH and bears the name of its flagship brand, Louis Vuitton. The building will pass into the hands of the city’s government after 55 years.

    Temporary exhibits that highlight modern and contemporary art are open to the public throughout the year. The combination of works shown includes art owned by LVMH such as works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a few other artists. The foundation commissioned works by Ellsworth Kelly, Olafur Eliasson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

    4. French Museum of Natural History

    The French Museum of Natural History was founded in 1793 during the French Revolution but was established earlier in 1635 by King Louis XIII.  It combines three museums into one, including a four-story taxonomy wing, a building of skeletons and fossils and a separate structure devoted entirely to geology. There’s also a zoo nearby! As of 2017, it has 14 sites throughout France, with four in Paris, including the original location at the royal botanical garden.

    3. Louvre

    The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world and one of Paris’s most historic monuments.  Over 10 million visitors attend each year to see the over 35000 paintings including the Mona Lisa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

    My favorite exhibits also include Napoleon III apartments that you can tour as well as the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre of Paris, comprising over 50,000 pieces, includes artifacts from the Nile civilizations which date from 4,000 BC to the 4th century.

    Travel Tip: By tickets ahead to avoid long lines. Insert link

    2. Musee Picasso

    Set in a 17th-century hotel the National Picasso museum houses over 5000 works of arts by Picasso. Works include drawings, paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from every period of his career.

    The museum also houses some of Picasso’s personal art collection with works by Degas, Seurat, and Matisse, as well as an extensive collection of African art, from which Picasso drew inspiration.

    1. Musee d’Orsay

    Musee d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900.

    This is my favorite museum because of its vast collection of Impressionist artists including Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir and my personal favorite Edgar Degas. Degas produced amazing paintings of Ballerinas that are on display. Other famous items include Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone Aries and Renoir’s al au Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre.

  • Beyoncé and Jay Z Takeover the Louvre

    Beyoncé and Jay Z broke the internet with the release of their video for their new song “Apeshit” off of their collaboration album Everything Is Love. The setting of the entire video was the Louvre, the largest art museum in the world located in Paris.

    Throughout the video Beyoncé and her dancers are swaying and strutting around the museum, upstaging a lot of the artworks behind them.  “I was thinking a lot about how people – especially white people, European and American people – go to really romanticize empire, to think about genealogies of white male artists, and then we have Beyoncé, a black woman, and her husband, dancing around in the Louvre,”art historian Alexandra Thomas told TIME Magazine. She went on to call this juxtaposition “an embodied intervention of Western art.”

    There’s also some representation of black art in the video. Their commentary on black wealth resonates in the Louvre’s Egyptian galleries, where Beyoncé raps in front of the Great Sphinx of Tanis. At the end of the video shows the two in front of the Mona Lisa, with Beyoncé conveying a similar facial expression to the famous artwork.

    Personally, I love the Louvre and I can stare hours at the Mona Lisa….some call it small but I think it is an amazing masterpiece from DaVinci. I go and visit her every time I visit Paris.

  • Top 10 airports in the world

    The Travel Addict rated the world’s airports based on shopping, food options and ease of transfer in the list is below. This is limited to airports I have actually visited all over the globe so some of my travel issues may have changed the rankings in a positive and negative way. I have flown over 2 million miles through countless airports. A lot of my experiences are based on how helpful the staff working is at each airport and how happy they are to help you out when you really need it.

    #1 Seoul Incheon International Airport, Korea (ICN)

    Everyone working there is gracious and super helpful. This airport is a joyous place, to say the least.

    This airport has some of the world’s best shopping with all of the popular and luxurious brands including Chanel, LV, Gucci, Hermes etc. You can also participate in the Korea Heritage Center arts and crafts where you can learn the art of origami or paint a traditional fan.

    There are also two of my favorite travel snacks, Mr. Donut for their specialty Pon De Ring and Smoothie King for a liquid pick me up between flights.

    #2 Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok Thailand (BKK)

    This airport is fairly new, it opened in 2006 and is the ninth busiest airport in Asia. For the adventurous foodie, there’s everything from Thai dishes and ramen to sushi, pizza, pub food and much more. It has amazing people and shops, even a Tiffany & Co., in the airport.

    Despite being built over an old graveyard, Suvarnabhumi is Sanskrit and means “Land of Gold.” The architecture of the building was designed by Helmut Jahn and is stunning. The airport is on what has been known as Nong Nguhao, also called Cobra Swamp.

    #3 Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (DXB)

    Everything is modern and state of the art and probably the cleanest airport I have visited. In my opinion, Dubai has some of the best airline lounges in the world and that’s what sets it apart. You can literally have almost anything you desire in the Emirates Lounge.

    I was stranded in Dubai airport for 24 hours once and I was able to get a massage, fantastic meals and they somehow found a strawberry milkshake for me at 2 am once without me leaving the lounge. They also have a secret way to board your plane without entering general population from the lounge.

    They have dedicated people working there and an efficient a bus system that takes you to different terminals at a rapid pace. Not to mention it’s the world’s busiest airport for international travelers.

    #4 Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport, Georgia (ATL)

    My top pick in the US. I am a very dedicated Delta customer and ATL is the heart of the Delta team and they are always willing to help as needed. I find their train system extremely quick and easy to navigate

    ATL has Minute Suites near Gate B16. The company offers snug rooms available to rent by the hour for long layovers where you can take a nap on their daybeds, catch up on work in a quiet room with high-speed internet that actually works or watch TV on the giant flat screen in every room.

    Also, ATL often has live musicians playing in several terminals. It can be a live piano performance in the International terminal or smooth jazz saxophone on the domestic side of the airport.

    If I am going to be stranded in any airport in the states, this is the place I’d rather be stuck at.

    #5 Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan (NRT)

    It is quiet…maybe the quietest airport in the world. Japanese people and culture are known for their politeness and attention to detail. Everything is clearly marked, the staff is very helpful and did I mention it is so quiet? After you leave the pandemonium of Tokyo which is one of the most bustling more populated cities and it’s a nice change of pace to relax and wait for your flight.

    They also probably have the best restrooms in any airport. The cleanliness is impeccable. They think of everything in these bathrooms from the Toto toilets with the heated seats to places to rest your purse while you use the facilities inside the stalls.

    As a side note, I’m not a huge fan of Japanese food so this airport boasts the best tasting McDonalds in the world.

     #6 John F. Kennedy Airport, New York (JFK)

    Ease of connection and access to the world. JFK is located in one of my favorite cities to visit NYC and I connect through JFK a lot to get a direct flight to Europe, South America and Africa.

    It has a great selection of restaurants including mid-range price options like Marcus Samuelsson’s Uptown Brasserie and fast food spots like Shake Shack.

    The Delta Sky Club lounge is a flagship and one of the best Delta lounges in the world. In concourse B there’s an observation deck to watch planes take off and land. It provides a rare glimpse of the outside and fresh air in an airport setting.

    #7 Detroit Metro Airport, Michigan (DTW)

    When you think of Detroit you may not think of the best airport in the world but it is actually a beautiful bright space. With two main terminals and a sky train, it’s easy to navigate on flight connections. Since the merger with Northwest, DTW has many direct flights all over the US and Europe.

    You can get spa services at Be Relax or calm down from the rigors of a long travel day in the lounge area with Starbucks while watching the water feature simulating flight patterns around the world in concourse A.

    #8 Salt Lake International Airport, Utah (SLC)

    You can’t beat this beautiful view as you land at the airport.  I love an extra tourist option. The airport offers free shuttles and tours downtown of the church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints Mormon temple.

    If you decide to stay at the airport there are plenty of affordable fast food options to grab a quick bite or drink. Chef Cat Cora also has her restaurant which serves cocktails and tapas in Terminal One. While in Terminal Two Cora has her on-the-go gourmet market for more bustling travelers.

    Want to take the edge off of traveling? High West Distillery serves up Rocky Mountain Whiskey. It was Utah’s first distillery since the 1870’s, High West Distillery and Saloon offers a truly unique experience as the world’s only ski-in distillery and gastro-saloon in Park City and now explorers can experience a bit of it in the airport.

    For all of the chocoholics, you’re not forgotten. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory features locally made gourmet chocolates and candy.

    #9 Sydney Kingsford Smith International, Airport Australia (SYD)

    My experience in Sydney is somewhat crazy. I have traveled to Australia several times and sometime between my first and second trip, they changed the visa requirements to enter the country for Americans. I did not have the required visa and was somehow allowed to board the plane in Seattle to go to Sydney.

    Upon arrival, I was stuck in customs and I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal.” They would not let me enter the country even though I tried to convince them the US and Australia are friends. (I used those exact words!) Usually, you have an option to get a visa when you arrive but not in Australia, you have to buy it from outside the country.

    They did however eventually take pity on me and allow me to enter the Air New Zealand business class lounge and access the internet with a very helpful staff who allowed me to rebook and transfer to a flight to New Zealand to get a visa. It was a very expensive travel mistake. I am pretty sure my luggage didn’t travel with me but when I landed in New Zealand. I was able to purchase a visa to Australia for $15. It was the longest day (two days) of travel I have experienced.

    For their hospitality and being the gateway to an extraordinary country, this airport makes the list.

    #10 Charles De Gaulle Paris Airport, France (CDG)

    This airport makes the cut solely because they have Laduree Paris macarons, simply the best cookies on the planet Earth. Macarons come in flavors such as pistachio, black-currant-and-violet, and caramel. There are also gift collections of candles, totes, and almond-scented body creams. There is no seating, there is a collectible box featuring the portrait of a Parisian pooch named Mademoiselle Fifi.

    The airport is the largest international airport in France, the second largest in Europe and the seventh busiest airport in the world. CDG has over 120 shops from Cartier to Sephora. Whether it’s fashion, chocolate or spirits you can find everything your heart desires even Mademoiselle Fifi.

  • Tour Montparnasse

    I am always looking for amazing views when visiting Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. The Tour Montparnasse offers panoramic views of the city and is one of the tallest buildings in Europe.

    The tower is a 210-meter (689 feet) office skyscraper located in the Montparnasse area of Paris. It was constructed from 1969 to 1973 and as of March 2017, it is the 14th tallest building in the European Union.

    You can visit during the day or night. One of the best ticket values is to buy a ticket for 2 visits on a weekend so you can see the view in the day and in the night of the city of lights

  • The Basilica of the Sacred Heart

    The Sacre-Coeur Basilica also known as Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a beautiful Roman Catholic church situated at the highest point of the city of Paris.

    The Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie, construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914. The construction was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.

    Even though the use of cameras and video recorders are forbidden inside the Basilica, visitors can explore the dome and enjoy the views of the city outside the church. Free audio guides of the church are also available.

  • Maison de Victor Hugo

    Sometimes I try to visit attractions off the beaten path. In Paris, on Easter weekend, I visited the Victor Hugo museum which is located in the house he lived in for 16 years from 1832 to 1848.

    Hugo is one of the romantic movement’s most famous writers. He is best known for Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hugo was a lifelong French political activist and two days before his death he penned his final written words “To love is to act.”