About Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett
I came across these IMO Camera straps by accident and fell in love with their design and so, of course I wanted to test them out. If you’re regular readers of We Blog the World, you know we love color, great design and products and style catered to women travelers, since so many product manufacturers limit their options to neutral colors or black.
Have a look at this Classic Damask Navy option and the nice leather edging to it at the end – classy! This option also comes in a Classic Damask Brown option as well.
This jacquard ribbon strap is bottomed up with neoprene which is very soft and comfortable and the length is adjustable from 40 — 50 inches. The Fashion part? Around 26.5 inches and the width is around 1.6 inches. The nyon webbing is 13 inches on each end.
I also learned that they’re not a U.S.-based company, so it was cool to find a creative new discovery with a new twist in….Hong Kong! Their tagline of sorts is: Personality + Functionality and their straps are tested to hold heavy cameras, so even though they’re gorgeous to look at, you don’t need to worry about carrying an SLR. For quick release straps, they could hold over 90 lbs and for those without quick release, they say that more than 180 lbs could be supported. As noted above, the ends of the straps are made of leather but the leather color may vary as is the case with most leather products.
Below are some of my favorite designs that popped out on their site:
There are 3 colors of this series: Red, Green & Native Village. This neoprene strap is made with quick release and it best suits for DSLR with 1/2 inch width brown color webbing which is very sturdy. It has an adjustable length of 44 — 54 inches, the fashion part is around 28 inches, the width around 1.6 inches and the nyon webbing is 13 inches on each end. This strap goes with the webbing connector, but if wish to change to loop connector, you can by letting them know in advance.
A few more visual eye candy shots for your enjoyment:
THE WHITE NAVAJO
These were how mine came packaged and arrived from their Hong Kong facility.
We really love their designs and encourage you to take a look at their website for a favorite of your choice. Think about how often you have your camera around your neck if you’re an avid traveler – why not make a fashion statement when you’re out there making art?
Details can be found at: http://www.imostrap.com/.
Anyone who has been to Puerto Rico has heard of Palomino Island, which is the El Conquistador Resort‘s private island, a stone’s throw from the main property and easily accessible via a ten minute ferry ride. The area is on the Eastern part of Puerto Rico, roughly an hour’s drive from the main airport. On the island itself, there’s an enclave of water sports, recreational activities and sheer serenity along white sandy beaches. And oh yes, large iguanas who are eager to eat off your plate if you dine at the island’s only restaurant, Iguana’s Cafe.
To get to Palomino Island, there’s a bit of a process but an easy one once you know the system. Cable cars leave regularly from the El Conquistador Resort and are a boat load of fun to take. Below is a shot I took while declining from the top part of the resort, which is set up on a 300 foot bluff overlooking the ocean below.
Once you get to the bottom, you’re faced with more resort goodies, such as a water park (tons of photos and details in our main El Conquistador write-up), an outside bar, restaurant, infinity pool with stunning views, and of course ferries to get across to the island.
Close to the dock is the main beach which has tons of lounge chairs but is fairly busy so it’s best to venture to the right and walk down the coast to where there’s less people.
The view as the ferry arrives at the dock….
The view looking out towards the ocean from the boat as we docked….
Happy feet that we have indeed….arrived!
The main drag has thatched umbrellas you can sit under and a swimming area — this is a great place to bring kids as it’s family friendly and there’s plenty of water activities.
If you want a little more privacy, go for a walk and while the island isn’t that big (a half an hour or so to the other side), you don’t need to travel far to get a whole lotta serenity and peace and quiet. We found areas where there were no people at all (by foot) and there were plenty of lounge chairs facing the ocean. Go on a beautiful stroll with me along the beach on a sunny afternoon in May!!
I also managed to have some fun inside the shallow waters as well as on the oh so stunning palm trees.
Ahhh yes, bliss!
And, after you’re done with the island’s serenity, if you want to follow one of the amusing iguanas around, there’s plenty to be found. Did I mention there’s chickens on the island as well?
Palomino in the region of Camuy is a town in Puerto Rico, some 50 miles west of San Juan, the country’s capital city and as I mentioned above, an hour’s drive from the airport and then a ten minute’s ferry ride from the resort to the island. Think of it as a 100-acre tropical island paradise where you can get jet ski, kayak, swim, snorkel, windsurf, go hiking, horseback riding and more.
Be sure to check out my other blog posts on Puerto Rico:
- Wellness Alert: Puerto Rico’s El Conquistador’s Spa Makes a Healthy Getaway
- Waldorf Astoria’s El Conquistador Resort in Puerto Rico
- Foodie Delights Along the Puerto Rican Coast
- Jockey, Great Stylish Activewear For Any Getaway Trip
- Hiking La Mina Trail in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque Rainforest
Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s no better way to see a city than by foot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of fun experiences on a Segway, from Prague and Salem to the lush natural wonderland of Hawaii’s Big Island, and, it’s no secret that I love to cycle when I travel so I can get off-the-beaten path as quickly as possible – Amsterdam, Montreal and Copenhagen being among my favorite biking cities.
As massive as it is (9 times the size of Paris for those of you who love quirky factoids), Berlin Germany is no exception. Although I did spend a day cycling through four of its inner city neighborhoods (I used Berlin on Bike), mostly on the East Side, I found myself once again becoming most reflective when I hoofed it, with nothing less than my purple day pack on my back and my trusty Canon 7D dangling off my shoulder.
Because Berlin is so well known for its murals, graffiti and creative street art culture, you can more effectively process the city’s dynamic imagery when you’re walking. It’s also rich in history, from its GDR days, the Hitler era and the falling to the Wall to a city which has been reborn over the past 25 years. Berlin has changed so much, it’s no wonder friends said I would hardly recognize this edgy city that never sleeps given that my last experience of her was 20 or so years ago.
For a city that can likely boast more transformation than any other European city in my lifetime, I was eager to dig as deep as I could for the mere week I had, knowing that it wasn’t enough time to get an accurate read on the social, political, cultural, arts, music and food scene. Who was I kidding?
That said, there’s nothing like several days of walks to get acquainted with a city’s urban sprawl. Like many European cities, Berlin supports the notion that culture and education should be available to all and as such, many museums and attractions are free. Memorials are apparently always free and given Berlin’s past, you shouldn’t be surprised to fall upon small memorials in various parts of West and East Berlin, from Mitte in the city center to its diverse neighborhoods to the east and west.
HISTORY & CULTURE
Before I really had a chance to absorb the various neighborhoods first hand, my friend David who lived in Berlin for many years but now in Heidelberg, happened to be in town while I was there, so we did a very scenic night drive through Mitte in his impressive BMW, which was decked out with so many features, I lost track of them after trying to figure out his German-speaking GPS system on two hours of sleep.
Stunning at night, we hit the German and French Doms at midnight on our somewhat circular tour of Berlin’s city center. Interestingly enough, the doms look identical and are as inspiring by day as they are by night. The German dom’s 18th-century structure including displays on the parliamentary democracy of the German Bundestag.
Berlin’s German Dom or known locally as the Deutscher Dom – not to be confused with the Berliner Dom which is the largest protestant church in Berlin – is best known as one of the three buildings which make up the spectacular ‘trinity ensemble’ in Mitte’s Gendarmenmarkt Square which includes the Französische Dom (French Cathedral) as mentioned above and the Konzerthaus or Concert Hall, which David tells me offers a myriad of outdoor and indoor concerts worth putting on your bucket list.
It’s worth spending some time in and around the square as well, as it makes for great people watching and the architecture is stunning as well.
The Museum Scene
From here, you can easily walk to the Sree River, grab a boat that will cruise you up and down the city for views from the water, or grab a coffee at one of the nearby cafes, which if the weather is favorable, I’d recommend sitting outside to absorb the best of Mitte’s cultural and social eye-candy. Additionally, you’re faced with remarkable views of the historical Berlin Cathedral and Museum Island.
A Unesco World Heritage Site since 1999, Museum Island highlights the best culture and art history from the Stone Age to the 19th century. Suggested visits include the Pergamonmuseum, the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie for nineteenth century art and the Bodemuseum for sculptures from the Medieval Age and the Renaissance period.
The German-Russian Museum is a permanent exhibition about Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II and is the authentic site of the signing of Germany’s unconditional capitulation on May 8, 1045. Running through the end of August is the Allierten Museum Routes of Liberation Exhibition, which showcases European Legacies of the Second World War. Additionally, the German Culture Forum for Eastern Europe offers various lectures and the German Historical Museum has an exhibit through the end of October that focuses on the 12 European countries and their new “starts” after World War II.
Celebrating 70 years of so many historical events that happened in Berlin, the city is abundant with open air exhibitions throughout the city showing what various parts of Berlin looked like in the Spring of 1945. These can be found at Brandenburg Gate (below), the Lustgarten, Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz, Joachimsthaler Platz and Wittenbergplatz. Large-format historical photographs bring it to life, bringing you back to a sadder era in time, reminding you the importance of learning from history so the next generation doesn’t repeat horrors that should never have happened.
The Jewish Museum, which is open year round, has a permanent exhibition that captures the culture and history of Jews in Germany in 13 Chapters: the first Jewish Communities on the Rhine, sweeping cultural changes during the European Enlightenment, struggles for social equality, the rupture of the Holocaust, legal attempts to process the murder of European Jews and the present day situation of Jews in Germany.
Objects from the Judaica Collection offer a glimpse into religious traditions and rituals. It is architecturally interesting as well — slanting walls, sharp angles and gaping voids, the zinc-clad construction by Daniel Libeskind creates its own symbolic language for the history of Jews in Germany.
The DDR Museum is Berlin’s interactive museum on all things East Germany, what was once the first Socialist state on German soil. Because it’s so interactive, allowing visitors to open doors, pull out drawers, press buttons and pull levers in order to access information, pictures, films and objects, it’s a great family choice as well. The museum brings you on a journey into Germany’s Socialist past, where you have an opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of Real Socialism as it was.
Everything from their education system, fashion at the time and queuing for food to Stasi surveillance and the Berlin Wall, they have it here. There’s even a living room with the original GDR smell, an Erika typewriter, a Robotron computer and a landmine from the border. Marx, Engels and Lenin come to life before your eyes as you can listen in to prisoner interrogations, feel what it was like to cast your vote in the elections to the GDR parliament or construct the New Socialist Man.
Above 2 photo credits of DDR Museum, courtesy of their website.
I have only highlighted a handful, but there are over 170 museums and galleries in Berlin so the city has plenty to keep any culture addict and historian going for weeks. A useful resource for more museums to take in can be found at Berlin.de.
Another must visit is the The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial along Cora-Berliner-Straße. Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, the memorial is to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and it’s structure is supposed to be left up to the viewer according to a friend.
Further east and a little south, you’ll find more murals and street art in the “growing in trendiness” neighborhood of Friedrichshain in the East, where we stayed for the week. Almodovar Hotel, which houses a vegan only restaurant and top floor spa, is a mix of hip, chic and healthy and artistic grit, with basic but fashionably styled rooms on 5 floors. Be sure to read my write-up on the hotel, which includes an overview of their organic eatery on the ground floor and their relaxation area and spa lounge on the top floor.
The view from my hotel one afternoon…
The view from my hotel window at dusk started settling in….
For those who like to stay in chains, the Radisson Blu is located not far from Museum Island along Karl-Liebknecht-Straße. The main reason I even mention it since I didn’t stay there during this trip or ever, is that it houses the AquaDom, the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium which is the centerpiece of the hotel lobby as you enter and its Atrium Bar makes for a great spot to have a drink if for nothing else, to absorb the magnificence of this impressive piece.
Photo credit Radisson Blu website.
For political and history buffs, be sure to stop off at the Reichstag, which is one of Berlin’s most iconic buildings. Story has it that this building has been burned, bombed, rebuilt, buttressed by the Berlin Wall, wrapped in fabric and finally turned into the modern home of the German parliament.
View from the top….
The original building was designed by Paul Wallot in 1894, and since 1999, it is the place where German Parliament, the Bundestag, has been doing “it’s thing.” This followed a total makeover by Lord Norman Foster, who preserved only the building’s historical shell while adding the striking glass dome, which is accessible by lift.
We had a chance to walk up to the top, taking the time to absorb this remarkable architecture from inside and out, before dining at Kafer Restaurant, its internal somewhat formal dining room, which boasts great views of the city, including the building itself from the balcony.
The food at Kafer is delicious and beautifully presented — for foodaholics, be sure to read my Foodie Guide to Berlin for other great restaurant picks.
A short walk from the Potsdamplatz, the Gestapo Memorial is located on Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. It is on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime between 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the body of intense repression during the Nazi era. The Memorial is a combo inside museum and outside exhibit area, which apparently changes all the time.
I spoke to a local who saw an exhibit there earlier on the Aggression Against the Poles, however the The Topology of Terror exhibit is what took center stay in May. The section adjacent to the Topography of Terror site is the longest extant segment of the outer wall (i.e, the longer East Side Gallery section in Friedrichshain being actually part of the inner wall not visible from West Berlin apparently).
I learned that the first exhibitions of the site took place in 1987, when the cellar of the Gestapo headquarters, where many political prisoners were tortured and executed, were found and excavated. The site was then turned into a memorial and museum, in the open air but protected from the elements by a canopy, detailing the history of repression under the Nazis.
The Topology of Terror takes you on a journey from the Nazi’s progression and Hilter’s assuming power to Kopenick Blood Week, the notorious Book Burning, and the Shaping of the Nazi Reich. Photos and short stories brought you back in time to Fuhrer’s dictatorship, the leaders of 1936 and the People’s Community. For those not familiar with the People’s Community, it refers to the Nazi’s concept of their ideal social justice system at the time.
The Nazis used propaganda and economic and social policy to win commitment to the community. As Fuhrer of the nation and military propaganda continued to grow, Germans lived through the Boom Myth, where media wrongly described Hitler as the originator of Reich autobahns and new jobs. Schemes apparently shunted young workers into agriculture, prohibiting them from moving into cities.
This led to the persecution of pretty much everyone who didn’t fit perfectly in the myth of the Ayrian family – from homosexuals and gypsies to Jews, when the Nuremberg Laws were enforced, depriving Jews of their civil rights.
Reflect on how tragic of a time this was for anyone who lived in Berlin at the time, and also imagine yourself being part of such propaganda, living through war (or not), the Holocaust (or not) and how that would impact the traditions, values and set of expectations you’d pass onto your offspring.
We forget that this was only 70 years ago and a mere 25 years ago that some people only took back their democratic freedom for the first time. We also forget that families were separated, some living on the East side of the Wall and some in West Berlin, never being able to physically touch or see loved ones for decades. Forward the clock to a society today that is remarkably wild and free, expressed through a variety of ways, from a city that starts partying at midnight and is still rocking at 7 am, to the alternative art and music scene found in nearly every neighborhood.
Not far from Potsdamplatz is a juxtaposition of sorts — from the modern skyscrapers in Mitte…..
……to to the outside exhibition of figurines below that depict the former “East” and celebrate 25 years of freedom and unity between the East and the West.
Albeit small, there’s an interesting Panoramic Exhibition which they call The Panorama that is definitely worth checking out. In order to keep the memory of life in the period of the division alive, artist Yadegar Asisi resurrected a part of the Berlin Wall in the form of a 360 degree Panorama view.
The Panorama reflects a cross-section of his experience from the 1980′s, which he spent in the Kreuzberg district and the imagery reflects daily life with and in the shadow of the Wall — beyond the tragic events. From Kreuzberg in the western sector, you look over to the Mitte district in the eastern part of the city, just as at the original Wall itself. Your gaze sweeps from Oranienplatz across the Engelbecken and Sebastianstrasse over to the Heinrich-Heine-Strasse border crossing point. The result is an intense, eerie if not almost romantic view of the city by dusk, a blue haze setting the stage and the mood.
East German slogans set in red on a white background are to be seen on the grey facades in the eastern part of the city, while the grey facades in Kreuzberg are illuminated with colorful advertisements. The scenes and stories shown are centered on people going about their daily routine: moving flat, as a graffiti artist, at a snack bar or as a drunk emerging from a corner bar. Impossible to overlook are the border guards in their watchtowers in the East observing life in the West across the Death Strip.
The volume of expression from such a torn and destructive time is vast and you see it throughout Berlin, from its vibrant gay scene and world renowned street art community to its extreme night life and growing foodie scene. While this may long be a city known for its grunge and grit, it also offers a helluva lot of sophisticated art, culture and fashion, as well as its deep history and a growing fine dining scene.
There are some great Walking Tours in Berlin from Jewish Berlin, the Third Reich Berlin, Cold War Berlin, Berlin Today and Potsdam. Through Insider Tour walking tours, you can also do a Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Tour and a day trip to Dresden Germany. There are a few meeting points on both the East and West part of Berlin.
If you do rent a bike or do a bike tour, then you’ll be able to hit some of the greener neighborhoods, which is well worth doing – remember that green covers a third of the city and there are plenty of parks as well.
ART & DESIGN
Home to 440 galleries, Berlin houses world-class collections with works by international artists, so the city has gone up a notch or two on the global artistic circuit. For contemporary art, head to the Hamburger Bahnhof, a massive museum housed in a former railway station which is bursting with paintings, installations, sculptures and videos.
From recycled furniture that is raw and grungy but artistically done, to modern sculpture and glass work, Berlin has it all.
Studio Spaces & Renovated Buildings
Alternative art is also sprouting up around the city and there are a number of “art spaces” in hidden places, such as former factory buildings and complexes that were abandoned after the fall of the Wall when many industrial and commercial businesses left the city. Many of these vacated spaces were rescued through an initiative of the Kulturwerk bbk Berlin, an association of visual artists in Berlin.
Together with the Berlin Senate and other partners, a grant program to support studios was developed that now offers over 800 subsidized artists’ studios and studio apartments. In Neukolln, the studio buildings at Donaustrasse 83 and Hobrechtstrasse 31 are just two of the former factories that have been revitalized this way. Located between Maybachufer and Kottbusser Damm, they now house 21 studios.
In the historical Barn District, an art gallery space, Museum The Kennedys, a private museum that displays documents and photos from the lives of the Kennedy family and a couple of up and coming trendy restaurants now reside in the former Jewish Girls School on Auguststraße, which people still apparently refer to as the Jewish Girls School.
Vibrantly colored modern mixed media and abstract art hang from painted walls while the concrete floor remains un-renovated, un-painted and pretty much untouched, giving it a raw urban warehouse feeling as you make your way up each flight of stairs.
Downstairs on the ground floor, Pauly Saal Restaurant, with its white table cloths in the main dining room, compliment its old world bar with worn tapestries and Asian kilims on its uneven wooden floors. I felt as it I had walked into old England for a moment, colors included, although the young handsome German who greets you at the check in desk is a reminder that the building is part of a much greater gentrification movement.
A stone’s throw away lies the ever so casual but trendy Mogg & Melzer with its open air kitchen that faces a bustling lunch scene.
The tiles on the exterior lobby area as you exit are yet another reminder that it’s a building designed to be hip and cool, nothing more, nothing less, but also cognizant of the fact that the building has a rich and important history for Berlin.
In this area, there are also plenty of murals and street art, largely found in alleys and courtyards off a major drag. There’s no shortage of expression from a city who has a lot of history and much to share with the world.
On weekends in the area referred to as RAW, the Neue Heimat Market is located in a relatively new up and coming urban and edgy part of town, a 10-15 minute walk from the Warschauer metro stop on the U line. As you walk to the station from the market or vice versa, you’ll get a taste of an area that is more warehouse than residential and more edgy than chic. For those who are familiar with London’s East End, I got the sense that it was Berlin’s attempt at the Docklands. They sell everything from cocktails, wine and oysters to bruschetta and salmon and dill on crackers. The ambiance? A combination of edgy, urban, recycled space, artsy, trendy and grit.
In the same Neue Heimat space, they have a Village Market every Sunday, which is essentially a flea market mixed with street food, art and music all day long. There’s both DJ’s and live jazz and in addition to an art gallery, they also have a kid’s corner, making it a great family-friendly option as well. It is located on Revaler Str. 99 / Dirschauer Str. in the Friedrichshain section of East Berlin.
While there’s no doubt the area is still brimming with grunge and raw art, the trend for funky and hip companies to move into nearby warehouse buildings is growing. According to Henrik Tidefjard, one of Berlin’s ever so chic personal lifestyle guides who showed us the ropes one Saturday night, “everyone from start-ups and fashion designers to the likes of MTV, Universal Music, Coca Cola and Viva Studios have migrated to this area.”
From the visual decadence that you’ll find in the arts and galleries and 5 star hotels and michelin star restaurants to the grit and grunge of the city’s graffiti, warehouse buildings and wall art, there’s plenty of both modern chic design and rougher edgier styles to take in during your time in Berlin. Fashion can be retro, grungy, urban and young or over the top glitzy (not quite Milan though) or simple and conservative.
Then there’s great lighting with a little decadence while you’re sipping a martini — below is a shot taken inside the Radisson Blu Hotel lobby.
Then we headed to the trendy Bikini Berlin mall, which has been renovated and is filled to the brim with tons of unique shops – a great place for the shopaholic.
Also here is the funky 25 Hours Hotels which prides itself on the “unique,” from the design on the fringes, to their inside shop, the bar and lounge area and the lobby, where you can lounge about on cozy hammocks.
In the Barn District, there is so much renovation and gentrification happening, that you can find yourself in a French-styled cafe one minute, then at an outside beer garden and before the end of the afternoon, marveling at the latest in Dutch design at the DAD Gallery along Oranienburger Strasse. Below is a creative shot I took inside their gallery after a hearty lunch one day.
In and around Alexanderplatz, they have an outside market that is worth meandering through (an hour should be plenty of time) and here, in addition to sweets, jewelry, bags and clothing, there’s some interesting design if you look closely enough.
And, while you won’t find a ton of the old Eastern Bloc cars from the 1970′s, every now and then you come across one.
In and around Augustrasse…
Street Art & Theater
There is plenty of street art to be found in central Berlin, in Mitte, Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and the Jewish Quarter, also known as Scheunenviertel or the Barn District.
From the more polished and renovated Die Heckenschen Hoffe courtyard, which also houses a trendy theater, restaurant and shops to its nearby alley on the same side of the street, which is much grittier and I’d argue, more authentic. Vibrantly colored graffiti and political statements splatter the walls and ceilings of this ever so creative and powerful detour off the main drag.
In the Scheunenviertal neighborhood, the old Jewish district – you’ll notice a juxtaposition of sorts.
Notice the yoga mat on one side, and the celery from a market on the other (below)
In the Friedrichshain neighborhood, to the far east of the city, there’s a ton of street art. The area is urban, funky and hip – where the artistic meets alternative grunge.
I came across the ever so creative Zozoville Gallery – I loved this place.
While there is no shortage of theatrical performances in Berlin, not to mention it’s renowned classical music and opera, we went to an alternative dance performance one night at Chamaeleon in Die Heckenschen Hoffe, where we saw DUMMY LAB.
Above photo credit: Chamaleon website.
The production is modern, creative and dynamic, where you never know what to expect next. Directed by Eike von Stuckenbrok and directing pro Markus Pabst, DUMMY Lab shows hos contemporary circus should be done and how the individual boundaries between genres can be overcome. From interactive video design and acrobats, to circus style performance and modern dance, it all comes together.
At times, I felt as if I was transported via a holodeck into a world where Blue Man and Cirque du Soleil met on stage and simulated a modern and edgy dance performance that combined elements of both while adding shadows, angles, floor acrobats and sound that brought you into a modern world we haven’t quite met yet. I felt as if loneliness was symbolized by each of the performers in the dance troupe, beautifully done via multimedia, mixed media and something I’ll refer to as “movement art.”
Photo credits: Carolin Saage
There were moments of where I was lost in a complete trance throughout this remarkable show, in part due to the soft and dreamy blue lighting and shadow imagery on a big white screen depicting the artistic movements of the performers and in part due to the surreal sound mashup of Berlin-based music producer and singer Reecode and the Australian composer and cellist Lih-Qun Wong. DUMMY Lab is filled with superlatives that come together in an organic artistic way through motion, design, dance, acrobatics and music.
Wow! It was a spectacular, creative and innovative performance – I absolutely loved it!
Photo credit: Carolin Saage
Also in this area, you’ll find little gold plaques set inside the pavement directly in front of apartments, houses and buildings. They symbolize the Jews who lived there at the time and a bit about them, including when they were born and died.
A lot of well known street artists post on walls and buildings in Kreugberg, which is also where you will find a large Turkish population from a big immigration that started in the early 1970′s. Pasting is also popular where people draw or stencil in advance and then glue / paste it onto a building. Largely, street artists stay anonymous but fans and followers know them through other names, not unlike Banksy, the pseudonymous English graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.
Murals, graffiti and wall art and the work of street artist icons can be found throughout various points of the city and regardless of where you go, you’ll find creative expression in some form of another, one of the things that makes Berlin so unique among its European counterparts.
In the Bavarian District of Kreugberg is Cafe Haberland, an eclectic cafe that focuses on educating people about Berlin’s history. Named after Salomon and Georg Haberland, the founders of Bayerisches Viertel, the cafe is bustling with information on the district’s history.
The ambiance is eclectic signifying a bohemian time where artists, philosophers, poets, writers and thinkers (Einstein lived in this neighborhood) once gathered. While the cafe is casual in every way, chandeliers hang from the ceiling, vibrant signage on the wall takes you through history and candles on the tables create add a warm, artistic and intellectual creative vibe.
From here, you can walk to various historical points in and around the Bayerischer Platz (it is the closest metro as well). You can walk past painter Karl Hofer’s home at 44 Grunewaldstrasse to the east, take in Munchener Strasse, the wall of remembrance stones for Jewish citizens in the Locknitz School’s courtyard, see plaques of remembrance, visit the Zum Heilsbronnen Church, view a mural of Bayerischer Platz as it once was at Rosenheimer Strasse, walk down the street where Albert Einstein once lived, and see the “Jewish House,” where Inge Deutschkron was once forced to live.
The abundance of historical events in this area will remind you of a lesser enjoyable time in Germany, where people were forced out of their homes and often away from their families based on culture and religion.
The Bayerisches Viertel area was once a center of attraction for renowned lawyers, doctors, scientists, artists and literary figures, many of whom came from the liberal Jewish middle class. After the National Socialists came to power, Jewish residents were disenfranchised, forced to emigrate or murdered. The bombing raids that followed destroyed more than half the properties in Bayerisches Viertel.
The Eastern Gallery is a must visit regardless of your interest area and yes, I strongly recommend you do it by foot. This impressive artistic sprawl that are displayed on parts of the original Berlin Wall run along a 1.3 kilometer section near on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. The actual border at this point was apparently the river Spree.
Plastered on top of original remains of the Berlin Wall is expression after expression, from well renowned imagery that made loud statements, such as Dimitri Vrubel’s iconic ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’ mural, to political cries, kitch and everything in between.
As the longest open air gallery in the world, it also carries with it a lot of pain for so many who lived through that era of terror. Remember that this wall divided families for decades and served as a significant measure of oppression until it fell in 1989. Along what still remains of the original Berlin Wall, 101 large format images painted directly on the wall represent the celebration of the fall and overcoming the Iron Curtain in Europe, as well as the euphoria over new found peace, freedom from persecution, and the symbol for a better and more human society.
The East Side Gallery is understood as a monument to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful resolution of boundaries and conventions between companies and people and apparently more than 3 million visitors come to the East Side Gallery every year.
The Berlin Wall Memorial is a must visit even if you only have a couple of days in Berlin. The Berlin Wall Memorial is the central memorial site of German division, located smack in the middle of the capital. Situated at the historic site on Bernauer Strasse, it extends along 1.4 kilometers of the former border strip.
The memorial contains the last piece of Berlin Wall with the preserved grounds behind it and is incredibly effective at giving you the experience of how the border fortifications developed until 1989. The memorial is part of the Berlin Wall Foundation, which also includes the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum, the central site dedicated to the history of flight and emigration in divided Germany.
Below is a shot I took on the former East Berlin side looking between a crack in the back wall, which is commonly referred to as the Death Zone.
Here, security guards paced along a path with guard dogs and shot to kill if an East Berliner tried to escape. Also in this area was the renowned watch tower which remains in its original form today.
As for Checkpoint Charlie, which is was the former border crossing between East and West Berlin prior to 1989, it’s still very much there, however has turned into a kitsch tourist attraction that I found disappointing, but largely because I experienced that border crossing in 1995 where we spent hours there while the militia at the time tore our van apart.
If you’ve never been there, it’s worth a pass by but I found the Starbucks and McDonalds on each side of it was somewhat off color, although others who have no prior experience to compare it to, could simply look at it as the price of progress and open democracy and be glad that the street now houses stores, shops and restaurants, rather than being the gray grim plot of land it once was.
Shopping & Chic Streets
Since we stayed on the East Side of Berlin, I’ll start with Alexa, which is a fun walk from the very central Alexanderplatz (easily accessible on the U and S lines on the Eastern side of town). Alexa boasts a 56,000 square meter mall with 180 stores with 17 restaurants.
Along Friedrichstrasse, you can find Saint Laurent, Donna Karan, Furla, Dussman Music, Armani and Galeries Lafayette, which houses some of the most luxurious brands. Not my cup of tea since I tend to look for the unique and local but for brand addicts, make this one of your stops. You can access this area by getting off at Stadtmitte on U2 or U6, or simply do what I do, walk until you drop, drawing an efficient line on your map from east to west or the other way around.
They also have a lovely open plaza area here which makes for a great meeting spot and people grab a coffee, hang with friends or pass by on bikes.
Heading over to Charlottenburg on the west side, which is where we started our extensive neighborhood tour one day, you’ll find the infamous Kurfürstendamm Street. Let’s face it, every city has a people watching street for those interested in observing the latest fashion trends and those dressed to the nines and Kurfürstendamm was the street in the roaring 20’s and is still one of the hipper streets today.
High end designer stores and restaurants line both sides of Kurfürstendamm, with trees lining what feels more like an old fashioned Boulevard than a classic shopping street. We hit this Champs-Elysees of Berlin, aka “the street” to be seen, from Bleibtreustrasse, a wide avenue where the houses are largely from the early twentieth century.
Nearby, trendy shops and cafes line the equally chic Schluterstrasse, a stone’s throw from the famous 60,000 square foot department store KaDeWe along Tauentzienstrasse, a main reason why most hipsters land in this area. Others worth checking out are Peek and Cloppenburg and between the malls and boutiques, the shopaholic can hit over 100 shops if they have the time. Note to foodies: hit KaDeWe’s sixth floor and stock up on everything from chocolate to savory culinary gems.
Heading north from Kurfürstendamm, which I learned that locals shorten to Ku’damm, you’ll hit the more central part of Mitte, which has plenty of shopping but is probably most known for its museums and historical landmarks as noted above.
Highlights include a wide array of bars, bistros, food markets and fine dining……from authentic down-to-earth German restaurants and street food to the upscale Fragrances Bar at the Ritz Carlton and michelin star picks. Check out my detailed Foodie Guide (aka Food Guide to Berlin), which will give you a sample of all of it, from east and west to north and south.
Above shot taken at Crackers Restaurant where we had dinner one evening.
Remember that Berlin has 12 districts, all of which have a very different look and feel, history and attractions. A great resource can be found at http://www.visitberlin.de/en/plan/city-info/berlin-districts. I flew direct to Berlin from Chicago with Air Berlin, which was a godsend — they have direct flights from both Chicago and New York and just opened up new direct service from Miami as well.
- We Blog the World on INSTAGRAM: http://www.instagram.com/weblogtheworld
- We Blog the World on TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/weblogtheworld
- We Blog the World on PINTEREST: http://www.pinterest.com/weblogtheworld
- We Blog the World on FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/weblogtheworld
- Air Berlin: http://www.airberlin.com/en-US
- Almodovar Hotel: http://www.almodovarhotel.de/en
- Berelagenten: Henrik Tidefjard, Personal Lifestyle Guide: www.berlinagenten.com
- Berlin on Bike: https://berlinonbike.de/en/
- Berlin.de (Museums): http://www.berlin.de/en/museums/
- Berlin Welcome Card: http://www.visitberlin.de/en/welcomecard
- DDR Museum: http://www.ddr-museum.de/en
- Insider Tour (Walking Tours of Berlin): http://www.insidertour.com
- Enjoy Berlin: http://www.berlin-enjoy.com
- Go Germany: http://gogermany.about.com/
- Panorama Wall – Asisi Panorama of a Divided City: http://www.asisi.de
- Visit Berlin (Shopping): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/shopping/shopping-districts
- Visit Berlin (Gay Scene): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/gay-berlin
- Visit Berlin (Family Guide): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/berlin-for-families
- Visit Berlin (Bike Tours): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/sport-metropolis/bicycle-tours
- Visit Berlin (Hotels): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/book/overnight-stays/hotels
- Visit Berlin (Berlin Neighborhoods & Going Local APP): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/article/going-local-berlin
- Art Connect Berlin: http://www.artconnectberlin.com
- Berlin Art Week: http://www.berlinartweek.de and http://ww.gallery-weekend-berlin.de
- Chamaeleon Theatre: https://chamaeleonberlin.com/en/site/theater/heute
- Kulturwerk bbk Berlin (Art Studios): http://www.bbk-berlin.de
- Kunstfabrik am Flutgraben (Art Studios): http://ww.flutgraben.org
- East Side Gallery: http://www.eastsidegallery-berlin.de/
- Visit Berlin (Shows & Musicals): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/shows-musicals
- Visit Berlin (Design): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/shopping/berlin-design
- We Blog the World Foodie Guide to Berlin: http://www.weblogtheworld.com/?p=197776
- Biteclub: http://biteclub.de
- Neue Heimat and Village Market: http://www.neueheimat.com
- Markt Halle Neun: http://www.naschmarkt-berlin.de
- Ritz Carlton Fragrances: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Berlin/Dining/Fragrances
- Visit Berlin (Nightlife): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/going-out
- Visit Berlin (Markets): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/shopping/markets
- Visit Berlin (Restaurants): http://www.visitberlin.de/en/experience/food-drinks/restaurants
Photos Renee Blodgett unless otherwise noted other photographer and website credits.
I’ve experienced some of Digital Health Summit‘s energy, largely at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, where it has grown in size over the years and now represents some of the most innovative technologies happening in the health, wellness and medical arena. Last week, they held their Digital Health Summer Summit in San Francisco, which consisted of a full day of panel discussions, keynotes and something they refer to as Digital Health Playground, which is an expo of companies showing off their latest products.
Photo credit: LearnersOnline.com
The reason I’ve been so interested in digital health lately is not just because of the marketing and communications work I’ve done for HAPILABS and Kolibree over the past few years, both of which announced the world’s first in their respective categories (connected fork and connected electric toothbrush). This world obviously got me into deeper into the world of quantified self and devices that measure everything you do, from the quality of your breathe, to your sleep patterns and the steps you take every day.
While I find quantified self interesting and in some cases, leaps ahead of our time, empowering individuals about their bodies in ways that was never possible before, I’m also concerned about over monitoring since doing so means that the EMFs emitted and other electrical energy that comes from these devices are close to our bodies if not on them 24/7. I for one sleep more peacefully when I’m far away from anything that has bluetooth or wifi connectivity and when I’m not using my phone for texting or browsing, I turn it to Airplane Mode as a safety precaution.
That said, the benefits of self monitoring for more serious medical conditions can be a godsend, particularly for kids and seniors, so that other family members can stay on top of their loved one’s health as well. It’s also useful for sending data back to your family when you’re traveling and they’re not with you.
Photo credit: www.kpcb.com
The idea of digital health centers on the convergence of the digital and genetics with health, healthcare, medicine, living, and society. The biggest benefits of digital health as noted above, include the empowerment of consumers to better track, manage, and improve their own and their family’s health. There are of course compliance issues, as well as hospital and corporate adoption curves that run alongside these revolutionary changes happening in the digital world today.
At the Summit, we heard from Chief Medical Officer for AFIA Rob Smythe MD and author of The Digital Doctor, Professor and Associate Chair for the Department of Medicine Robert W. Watchter MD, who addressed the need for digital health to better demonstrate its effectiveness, as well as the issues around privacy, security and regulatory challenges.
With the abundance of health tech accelerators and seed funders pushing out a wide array of digital health companies, we also heard tips on how to avoid the funding valley of death given the long time gap between institutional funding and ultimate launch. Reps from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Launchpad Digital Health, dRx Capital AG and DNAnexus took this subject on, which was soon followed by an interesting keynote from Michael Blum, MD and Associate Vice Chancellor for Informatics and Professor of Medicine and Cardiology/Chief Medical Information Office at UCSF.
Other panels discussed how partnering with strategic companies can better harness the power of talents and resources from both sides. One of the more interesting dialogues was between moderator Karyn Skultety, Ph.D. and VP of Health Services at the Institute of Aging, and Commercial Lead at Big Health Dickson Waterfield and Co-Founder of Ginger.io Karan Singh.
I like what they’re doing at Ginger.io, which uses smartphones to improve mental health care. Their app uses sensor data collected through the phone and self-reported information to identify people who may need help. Providers can use this data to better deliver support to the right people at the right time, making care more timely, effective and engaging. Ginger.io’s Android and iPhone apps use data from your phone to safely and securely watch for days when your health may take a hit.
The Dealmaking, Piloting and Scaling panel presented the question: You Have What It Takes? Travis Good, MD and CEO & Co-Founder of Catalyze, Molly Coye MD and Sense.ly CEO Adam Odessky took on the topic head on, sharing insights on how to sell, pilot and scale successfully within the healthcare system. Questions addressed included what healthcare systems looking for when they evaluate new technology, are all hospitals different or are there unified approaches entrepreneurs can take when working with them, and do you have a product that hospitals can actually implement to scale, among others.
Although nature will always win if I had a choice between trees, mountains and lakes and gadgets, toys and devices, I am a bit of a tech nerd when it comes to nifty things that can improve the quality of my life or my productivity. I’d argue that more devices than not add hassle to my life and extra time trying to figure out how they work and their effectiveness than the benefit they may actually provide. One of the more interesting products being shown in the Expo part of the show, a small area set up for companies to do demos and show off their greatest, was Breathometer. Their mission is to build the World’s First Portable Breath Analysis Platform to help people make smarter decisions, improve healthcare and to save lives.
You download the Breathometer mobile app on your smartphone, power on the Breeze product using the small button on the bottom of the product and the Breeze should automatically pair / connect with your smartphone. Once connected, confirm it has been 20 minutes since your last drink, take a deep breath and blow into the mouth of Breeze for 5 seconds and Breathometer will give you your results. Beyond providing dependable blood alcohol concentration levels, the Breathometer app is designed to help you make informed, dependable decisions.
Another cool product at the event was Splitsecnd, emergency assistance the instant you need it. Splitsecnd is the only plug-in device that can provide live trip data, detect a crash, call for emergency help in less than 7 seconds and notify your emergency contact in an instant. This is a great device when you’re traveling of course, but it’s also great for seniors and teenagers — parents can not only detect if and where there has been a crash instantly, but monitor the driving behavior as well.
The device plugs into any vehicle’s 12V lighter outlet and uses airbag sensor technology to activate the emergency response system on impact, calling for help even when you can’t respond. The GPS monitoring features allow you to keep up with family and loved ones on the road. Using build in location software, splitsecnd works with local 911 dispatchers to send emergency aid right away. The splitsecnd response team will call your emergency contact so your family knows within minutes you have been in a car crash.
You can also view the past 10 trips of anyone on your account — where and when they went and even the route they took. For android users only, it currently also tracks how often the driver texts while driving making it easy to see how often they are making safety a priority. Wow!
I also learned a lot about hearing loss — I had no idea it was such a huge problem in the states, how much hearing loss impacts one’s emotional state, how expensive hearing aids are and the fact that they’re not covered by insurance. Huh? When they’re priced in the $2-6K price range per hearing aid, imagine how many seniors go without, trying to live day to day without accurate hearing? Apparently there are a significant and growing number of kids who suffer from hearing loss as well.
I chatted to the Audicus team at the show, who focus on providing affordable hearing aids. Apparently traditional providers and manufacturers mark hearing aids up more than 10x to cover overhead and other miscellaneous costs whereas Audicus cuts out the middlemen by working with a top-tier, independent German manufacturer and delivering it straight to the consumer.
They believe that everyone deserves to “Live Loudly” so are focusing on dramatically bringing the cost of hearing aids down so it’s more affordable to the average American. They also sell accessories — two thumbs up!
Producer Jill Gilbert, Organizer and founder of Living in Digital Times Robin Raskin and their team put together an incredibly enriching event full of great ideas, people, products, services and platforms. The event was co-hosted by CDHI – Center for Digital Health Innovation at UCSF — more information can be found at www.digitalhealthsummit.com. Be sure to watch for their developments, updates, future event dates and locations.
If you have Arizona’s Grand Canyon on your agenda and are coming in from another country, you may not have time to explore the surrounding area depending on the length of your trip and where else you have scheduled in the states on your itinerary. That said, I’d recommend three additional stops, all an easy (and beautiful) drive from the Grand Canyon.
First up, you’ll hit Sedona Arizona if you head south on the Flagstaff road and be greeted with stunning views and majestic red rocks and canyons on all sides. It is known to be a spiritual place with its vortexes, abundance of spas and healing centers and easy access to natural beauty. Read my write-up on Sedona which has useful links to other resources, including restaurants and tours.
Sedona is more well known than some of the smaller towns in and around Sedona which can be done in a lovely southernly loop that takes in both the town of Prescott and Jerome. You can also visit both towns on a side trip from Phoenix as well.
While we did not make it to Prescott in our most recent trip in February, I’ve visited a couple of times in the past. Prescott is a lovely historical town that is also known worldwide as the host of the World’s Oldest Rodeo and most recently now the host of the annual Whiskey Off-Road Mountain Bike endurance race, the largest competitive mountain bike race in North America.
While both little towns both off the popular Route 89A, are small, they attract American tourists who want to a little seclusion time in the beautiful Arizona canyons. Both towns are also known for their artsy ambiance and Jerome in particular, has a number of art galleries and funky shops along the main street that passes through the town itself.
I felt I had to return to Jerome as it had been many years since my last return and my recollection of the place has always been positive after each visit over the years. What’s unique about this special little Arizona gem is its location! Nestled on the side of Cleopatra Hill on top of what was once the largest copper mine in Arizona, the only way to reach Jerome is to climb to the top via a windy two lane road until you reach the main drag, which like most small towns in America, is called Main Street.
Below is a landscape view from the top of the hill inside the town itself, at dusk around the time we arrived on our first evening. The photo below it was taken around the same location along Hull Avenue, which juts off Main Street, within the same hour so you can see how the lighting changes as you’re greeted with evening.
During the day, when the sky is clear and blue, the winter spiky trees protruded upward into the sky and through the bare branches, you can see that magical view from nearly any point in the small town of Jerome.
Additional views facing outward from the center of town…..you can easily see why people might want to escape their urban life for a little R&R in this quiet and authentic town.
Jerome, in its heyday, produced an astonishing three million pounds of copper per month, through a combination of efforts from miners, smelter workers, freighters, gamblers, bootleggers, saloon keepers, storekeepers and preachers. Gold, silver, lead, zinc, azurite and malachite also contributed to the wealth of the time in its early days.
Founded in 1876, it was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona territory because of this mineral wealth. Jerome’s mines closed in the fifties, which brought the town’s population at a peak of 15,000 down to only around 50 people in the late fifties! WOW! Within five year’s of the mine’s closing, Jerome became the largest ghost town in America.
Interestingly enough, ghost town is how many I’ve talked to in the area, referred to Jerome, even today. The population remains small and the survivor instinct of those who remained brought on a bit of a counter-culture. My memories of my earliest visits to Jerome, now over twenty years ago, were loaded with artists and misfits, the kind of misfits you learn from and cherish every story. Artists and creative types settled in, renovated homes (refer to the back story of Andrea Prince’s renovation project of the Surgeon’s House B&B) and sold their creations in what what once abandoned shops.
The town’s appearance hadn’t changed much since my last two visits although if you talk to locals, there’s more traffic than ever before and it’s busier, something that can be annoying if you moved to Jerome for peace and quiet, and wanted to get away from traffic jams, which I’d imagine could easily happen during tourist season with a small two lane road leading into the town center.
Below is the view of Main Street from Miner’s Cottage where we hung our hat for a couple of nights (highly recommended). The Miner’s Cottage a historical old two floor house with an apartment on the upper floor and lower floor – the wood floors are uneven on the upper floor where we stayed, and dark antique wood fixtures and furniture add a rustic charm to the place that is both cozy and romantic.
There’s an old fashioned wooden porch, similar to the others in town where you can take it all in while sipping a morning cup of Joe. (the above shot shows you the architecture of nearby buildings along Main Street)
Below is the a lovely porch area of the Surgeon’s House, a charming B&B on the top of the hill, just above Main Street, boasting stunning views of the valley below. We also stayed here during our last trip to Jerome in February – see my write-up on places to stay in Jerome, which includes more details on both of these lovely accommodation gems.
The Haunted Hamburger is a known classic in town and every local not only knows about it, but frequents it on a regular basis, kids and all. Note the mishmash of bar and family style restaurant, with salad dressing toppings on the right, adjacent to the bar and further along, there’s a glass case of scrumptious homemade desserts.
What’s so fun about this place is that you can sit at the bar with locals and spend a relaxing social evening out (note the chandelier, not a common thing to find in a family restaurant or a pub/bar), or you can sit out on the porch (with heat lamps on if it gets cold) and order one of their classic burgers.
Located on 410 Clark Street, it has been around now for roughly 20 years. Like so many other buildings in Jerome, it was old and abandoned and in need of great repair before Michelle and Eric Jurisin , the husband/wife team restored it. During renovation, they noticed things like tools had gone missing and then reappeared in the most conspicuous of places where supposedly the “ghosts” had returned them.
You don’t need to spend much time in Jerome to believe that ghosts could easily be an integral part of the shop buildings and homes in the town, even if you’re not a big believer in spirits. While it carries the “hamburger” name and most certainly has classic burgers on its menu, it serves a number of Mexican dishes as well, all casual in their appearance and style — from enchiladas and quesadillas to fajitas. There’s also cheese steaks, fish & chips, chili, and outa this world deep fried pickles, onion rings and zucchini.
They also have really delicious barbecue ribs & chicken with fresh veggies…..definitely worth a stop when in Jerome.
The Mile High Grill & Inn on 309 Main Street has live music on certain nights of the week and is more like a funky bar with a menu than it is a formal restaurant. Everything is casual in Jerome and fine dining isn’t why you head to this remote artsy town.
Remember you can rent out apartments and houses with full kitchens in Jerome. In addition to Miner’s Cottage (above), the Kelly House, located just down the street heading into town on the left and above Gallery 527 on Main, is another great longer term rental option (also included in my Jerome lodging write-up).
If you do stay at one of the hotels noted on the list or B&B (Surgeon’s is my favorite – tell Andrea Renee and Anthony say hello), then you’ll want to explore some of the fun eateries in town.
Below is a grilled chicken and bacon sandwich creation – simple but delicious and it goes well with one of their beers on the menu, although you can explore like we did and get a bottle of red. It wouldn’t be America’s west if you couldn’t find a Cabernet Sauvignon with a cowboy rising a horse on the label.
While you can eat light and healthy at this casual restaurant on the main drag (there’s tons of great salad options, including a very delicious blackened salmon kale salad), some of the less light but oh so classically American and naughty options may just leave you feeling a little guilty afterwards.
That said, how often do you find black bean ranchero, bacon cheeseburgers, Buffalo chips, battered cheese curd (yes really), pickle fries (seems to be popular here), pretzels, corn bread and chicken livers, bacon and crispy onions all on the same menu?
The Flatiron is on the opposite end of the spectrum. More of a breakfast and lunch eatery than an evening hang out (in fact it closes at 3 pm daily — closed on Tuesdays at the time of writing this), The Flatiron serves whole foods breakfasts, featuring organic and locally sourced ingredients.
They offer vegan and gluten-free options as well throughout the menu — from black bean tostadas and quinoa salads to tofu tacos and and chicken taco salads. You can get toast and bagels regular or gluten-free as well and they have a delicious organic oatmeal with pecans, butter and brown sugar. For those who have an issue with dairy, they serve almond and soy milk on its own or with your coffee.
We had lunch one day at Grapes on Main Street, which has great ambiance and plenty of wine choices by the glass. For food, they mostly serve pizza, pasta, salads and sandwiches – it’s a great lunch spot and if the weather is nice, be sure to ask for patio seating.
On another day, we headed to Passion Cellars who has a tasting room — our friend Howard went to town and ordered a bunch of different tastings – white and red selections, so we could get a handle on Arizona wines. While we didn’t have time on this trip to take side tours (okay, after being on the road for over a month, we were too overspent to), we wished we had taken a Tour of Jerome (866.996.TOUR for more info) which takes you on haunted, historic and wine tasting tours in and around Jerome.
Shopping & Art
A fun place on the main street is the Jerome Ghost Pepper Company, a great spot for people who love their food hot and spicy and where you can buy some spices to take home with you.
While Arizona vineyards are relatively new and not on the national radar yet, there are a bunch of passionate wine lovers who are trying. The Verde Valley Wine Trail has several Arizona wineries and four tasting rooms cushioned in the red rock countryside and lush canyons surrounding Cottonwood, Jerome, Clarkdale, and Cornville, all small communities south of Sedona.
Known far beyond the reaches of Jerome is Nellie Bly or the longer version – Nellie Blyscopes, a shop which offers a unique gallery of kaleidoscopes and art glass and has been around since 1988. Cool stat is worth knowing is that Nellie Bly is the largest dealer of kaleidoscopes in the world, featuring over 90 kaleidoscope artists.
Discovered in Nellie Bly II, the gift shop next door, which has a number of quirky gift ideas, including these ceramic chocolates, definitely delicious enough looking to eat….but warning to those you give them to – please don’t!
I have to give a call out to one of my favorite jewelers on town – Arum Jewelry. The work of the artists they carry so inspire me that each time I’ve been to Jerome, I end up purchasing a piece.
This year, I also went home with a piece from Turquoise Spider, which doesn’t just carry jewelry but other interesting turquoise artifacts and crafts as well – also not quite as pricey as Arum, which tends to carry a wide range of stuff – don’t forget the price of silver remains through the roof, so those fabulous silver cuff numbers will cost you a bit.
The Jerome Art Walk
The Jerome Art Walk happens on the first Saturday of the month, a fun thing to do if you can plan your trip around it. Various galleries, art studios and shops serve wine and snacks as you browse through their latest creations.
Some of the galleries who participate include Gallery 527 (a great place for fun, eclectic and more unusual gifts, pottery, art and photography including the work from Donna and her husband who helped us navigate our way through Jerome – tell them I said hello if you stop by), Flux Gallery, Western Heritage Gallery for rustic Heritage furniture, the Zen Mountain Gallery for local contemporary art, jewelry and pottery, Pura Vida Gallery, Made in Jerome Pottery, Lincoln Gallery for fine art, Cody DeLong Studio, Spirit Dancer Fine Art, and one of my favorites the Jerome Artists Cooperative (Jerome Artists Coop for short).
Each time I’ve been to Jerome, I leave with something from the Jerome Artists Coop, made up of previous work by local artists in and around the town. From pottery, wood work, crafts, jewelry and clothing, to photography, crafts and paintings, it’s impossible not to find something that catches your eye in this golden nugget of an art gallery in town.
Because it’s a coop, the artists share manning the till so it’s likely you’ll meet the artist of your fun-filled discovery and the prices are still reasonable, a godsend after dealing with rising prices in Sedona, likely due to the Hollywood crowd who fall upon Sedona during certain times of year — remember that it’s an easy shuttle from LA to Phoenix.
Like the last three times, I left with something from the artists coop….okay, more than one thing. I happily walked out of the coop’s doors with a small horse painting which has now replaced my Paris clock in the kitchen and a hand-painted cotton wrap with sleeves, which is one of the more creative pieces I’ve seen in awhile. Anthony surprised me with a beautiful turquoise painted bowl and matching mug done by an artist I have supported in the past. Two thumbs up — we love this place!
And oh btw, we loved Jerome and I had as much fun here this time around as the previous two times. If you haven’t yet explored it, add it to your list and let us know what you thought. If you have been, let us know what was your favorite part about Jerome and/or the surrounding area. Join the conversation in comments below!
I first experienced Sun Valley Idaho 15 or so years ago during a memorable Idaho – Montana – Utah trip. Who knew about Idaho? I guess that’s one of the reasons that while Sun Valley might not quite a ‘kept secret’, it still gets more attention from Hollywood types, those who have second homes there and well, ski-aholics. The truth is that Sun Valley has a totally different vibe from Tahoe, Aspen and Vail, which all have exclusive resorts and plenty to do on or off ski season.
Above, The Sun Valley Lodge
Forward wind the clock to last year, my first return to Idaho since that road trip so many years ago. It started in Boise where I got to visit an old friend who moved there from Phoenix and wound up in Sun Valley, where the DENT Conference was being hosted for its second year, an event which has not only grown on me, but its community integrates you in a way that feels like family, all while educating you and leading you through the world of technology and innovation. Read my write up on last year’s DENT Conference and this year’s event, which also includes a link to a CNN segment where my friend Daniel Kottke was interviewed on-site about his time with Steve Jobs and Apple in the early days…..and I mean very early days.
Because the conference is held in the Spring (purposely so), attendees get an opportunity to tap into Spring Skiing at Sun Valley, which was so amazing last year, I had to pinch myself when I looked at the views and the mountain’s beauty in my ever so stylish ski gear (Thx to Therese Magner, who set me up with all things chic). We also went on a wolf walk, led by industry pal Oliver Starr and learned about the heart and value of wolves, likely something most yanks know very little about, such a fitting activity given Sun Valley’s natural environs. While Sun Valley is most certainly about the environment and outdoor activities from skiing to hiking, its main town Ketchum, which is the cultural hub for the area, has no shortage of great restaurants to dine at, regardless of your preference.
A lot of the activities are held at the main Sun Valley Lodge, which had just announced a major renovation project last year. Below will give you an idea of the front exterior of the lodge today, which won’t be impacted – it’s the behind the scenes details which went through an overhaul, including the rooms, spa, pool and so on.
I signed up a bit late last year so didn’t have a chance to stay at the Lodge but luckily got one of the last rooms in the main building this year and despite the fact that renovation was still underway, we didn’t feel it — they did a great job at keeping renovation under the hood so we could still enjoy the facilities, including the fabulous massive soaking tub, a hot tub the size of a swimming pool where you can relax with a cocktail and unwind at the end of your day (a HUGE plus)!
Renovation was much further along and while we missed the grand opening by a few months, people who head to Sun Valley this summer will be able to experience all the benefits and new decadent trimmings of the NEW Sun Valley Lodge. Originally constructed in the mid-thirties as America’s first destination ski resort, the project refurbished guest rooms as well as updated the lobby, restaurant and other guest amenities. Some of the smallest rooms were combined to create suites with fireplaces and expanded bathrooms with large showers, baths and vanity areas. Bravo!
The lobby was enhanced to provide space for more gathering and visiting while enjoying the views of the terrace, ice skating and the ski mountain. I chatted with the team both years and there’s no doubt that they’re committed to maintaining the Lodge’s original character and essence of this magnificent historic building that was originally designed by Stanley Underwood in 1935. For nearly 80 years the Sun Valley Lodge has been recognized as an icon of architecture, hospitality, comfort and entertainment. As the pictures in its hallways display, it has been a place where movie stars, dignitaries and other celebrities have visited with their families from around the world.
An adjoining 20,000 square foot full service spa and salon have been added, offering resort guests and the local community access to a wealth of relaxing treatments, health and wellness activities, salon services and more. The spa area is designed to harmoniously interact with the Lodge pool and the spectacular views of Baldy Mountain in the distance. The spa now has 15 private treatment rooms for both individuals and couples, large locker rooms with steam and sauna facilities, relaxation lounges, a yoga studio and a large fitness facility with the most up to date aerobic and strengthening equipment.
The goal of the interior is to create a mixture of creative, cozy, traditional and warm. All guest rooms will be upgraded and refurbished, and many combined to create larger rooms (king and double-queen suites) where as all bathrooms will be enlarged & modernized, with plumbing upgraded throughout. The public areas (i.e., Lobby, Gretchen’s, Duchin) will be refurbished to make them brighter and more welcoming. Take a look at the photos below.
The spa has been expanded and now resides in a separate 20,000 square foot building adjacent to the Lodge, together with the salon and fitness center. The main entrance and reception for the spa is now in the new building, which also houses the salon, treatment rooms that have great views overlooking the pool, and, on the top floor, a few guest suites. The spa is accessible from the first floor of the Lodge and the spa lobby and reception area has a large granite fireplace on each side.
They now have an expanded game area and new bowling equipment. What you might notice by the priorities they had during renovation is that much attention was paid to improved accommodation and comfort for families, which makes sense given the area’s appeal. Whether it’s summer season and you want to head to Sun Valley for hiking, biking and water activities, or ski during the winter and spring, there is now more space for families who wish to stay at the Lodge, which is a huge plus when you have kids in tow.
The area around the existing pool will be expanded to provide a more spacious terrace and an inside poolside café will feature both food and drinks.
For longer stays or if you have a larger family with you, you may want to consider one of their Deluxe Condo’s or Apartments (shown below in order). More informaton can be found here: https://www.sunvalley.com/lodging/deluxe-condos/
Whether you are traveling with your family, want a long weekend getaway or simple some solo R&R, the newly renovated Sun Valley Lodge a great go to place, where you can be pampered while taking in the area’s natural beauty. Personally, we LOVE it here and give it two thumbs up — highly recommended for your bucket list!!
Sun Valley Lodge
1 Sun Valley Rd., Sun Valley, ID 83353
Hotel Reservations: 1-800-786-8259
When you think of great foodie cities, Providence Rhode Island may not necessarily come to your mind if you’re a global traveler since top-tier cities like Paris, Singapore, London and San Francisco always seem to get the biggest bow. That said, I’m always surprised by what I discover in lesser known cities, whether that be my heavenly restaurant tries in Montreal, the incredible sustainable movement happening in Kentucky, culinary surprises in Winnipeg Canada or most recently, the gems we found in Providence, a stone’s throw from where we dined well in Boston last summer.
And, let’s remember that we had outa this world sushi in Amarillo Texas recently, exquisite food in Sedona, including old world Italian and truth be told, I’m still savoring the tastes from the ever so rural Windham Hill Inn in southern Vermont. While we’re on the topic of exquisite food and before we dive into Providence, be sure not to miss my coverage of Memphis restaurants and Nashville foodie gems as well as unusually delicious finds in Santa Fe and of all places, Clarksdale Mississippi.
Let’s explore Providence’s known and not so known restaurant gems. Note that the order of our picks are completely random NOT in the order of preference.
First up is Cook & Brown Public House on Hope Street in the east side of Providence. Entrees ranged from a healthy pan roasted codfish with chowder broth, yukon golds, grilled leeks, lavash and celery leaf to a heavier but oh so delicious Baked Orrechiette, which is a beef and pork ragu cooked with braised greens, ricotta and breadcrumbs.
On the lighter front, their salads are delicious, from Radicchio with quinoa, squash and goat cheese and a more classic Spinach salad with egg and capers to the incredibly fresh Beet Salad (below), served with whipped feta, orange, olives, hazelnuts, toasted kasha and herbs. Yum!!!
Since we had kids in tow, the Smoked Bluefish and Potato Fritters were a godsend — it was a great way to get them to try fritters with bluefish baked in since they didn’t know the difference. One step at a time as they say. The perfectly round fritters came with a delicious horseradish mayonnaise.
OR, how about this to-die for Squash Soup with curry marshmallow fluff, apple, yogurt, pomegranate, cider and fried mint? OMG!
Then there was my favorite (well, okay, perhaps tied with the soup), the Roasted Local Lamb, which was a special on the menu the night we dined with them. Head chef Nemo Bolin and team did a top notch job with the preparation and presentation, which was served with pea greens, mint, fennel, orange and olive.
With dessert, we had children on the voting list as well and how can you beat this creamy rice pudding number topped with salted caramel? Bottom line — you can’t. Be prepared for your mouth to water – it tastes as good as it looks. Did I mention we took a care package to go? After all, we did have a fridge in our Marriott hotel room.
Next up was Local 212, for all a continued trend on all things local and organic. At Local 121, which is housed in the former Dreyfus Hotel, a historically devine building and the most architecturally significant in all of Providence.
Chef Tyler Demora practices his penchant for perfect technique and snout-to-tail butchery on ingredients that he personally chooses from local farms. The result is a menu that changes daily depending on the season and availability of ingredients at any given time. We were pleasantly surprised by a cold potato soup teaser with pomegranate as soon as we sat down. Be sure to read my standalone write-up on the restaurant.
Ready to die and go to foodie heaven? You will when you hear about some of the appetizer options on their menu, starting with the Bomster Scallops, served with coffee roasted kabocha squash, vadouvan curry, pickled raisins and winter greens (scroll down to be enticed), the Crunchy Point Judith Calamari with papaya, frisee, cashews, and smoked chili gastrique and of course, one of my favorites, but uniquely prepared – Foie Gras, from Hudson Valley. He roasts it with French green lentils and a sauce bordelaise.
The kids fell in love with the ever so basic but simple Chips and Dip, so beautifully presented.
Below, the ever so exquisite Risotto Carbonara made with shucks Maine lobster, cured egg, bacon, chives and uni cream. Tyler was particularly proud of this creation and we could see why — even though it was on the rich side (lobster meets bacon, cream and risotto), we couldn’t put our forks down.
My favorite was their Chianti Braised Fava Farm Rabbit served with oat pappardelle, bitter chocolate (OMG), black prunes and a thyme jus. Bravo!!!
Our favorite dessert was the ice cream trio which we devoured in a few short minutes – the Salted Caramel was a true standout!
Time to meet old world Italian Angelo’s Restaurant on Atwells Avenue in historic Federal Hill. They focus on rich southern Italian cuisine and given its historical past and family ownership, it’s about as authentic as it gets, from the ambiance to the dishes themselves.
Angelo’s has been around since 1924, it is a combination of old fashioned, comfort and divine! They do everything from pasta, homemade meatballs and gravy, macaroni and bean soup, braciola, seafood, veal chops, and the best eggplant parmagiana you’ve ever tasted to baked macaroni, ravioli, fried peppers and tripe, which has been on the menu since it opened its doors.
The atmosphere is charming and family friendly while boasting old-world esthetics, and hospitable service. Unusual items on the list include a Snail Salad and below you’ll find the ever so classic Pastine, which we grew up eating in upstate New York.
Their classic Veal & Peppers which has apparently won awards and is a favorite among locals — they serve it with sweet peppers and sauce.
Famous at Angelo’s is their Eggplant Parmesan, which is not deep fried, but rather pan fried and served with melted mozzarella cheese and Angelo’s house red sauce.
Fried calamari with hot pepper rings, olives, roasted red peppers and spices, topped with pecorino (my favorite) romano cheese!
A favorite with the kids was the Breaded Mozzarella, served with their house red sauce.
Tripe, a favorite with southern Italians and something my grandmother used to occasionally make and she’s not even Italian.
Traditional meat Lasagna.
Also known for classic Italian desserts, they had spumoni served plain or with a claret sauce and the ever so delicious Cannoli, which is an old time favorite made with a cream cheese and ricotta cheese mixture piped into a crunchy mini cannoli shell. YUM!!! I should add that Angelo’s is a great restaurant choice for families.
While we didn’t have time to test out the below list of Providence restaurants, they’re based on local’s recommendations, and so, from a local foodie’s point of view, here we go:
- Old Canteen for old world and top notch Italian dining on Atwells Avenue – a high-end family-run establishment for traditional Italian specialties & drinks, with valet parking.
- Andino’s for Old World Italian on Atwells Avenue (I get the feeling that all the Italian restaurants are housed on this avenue) – murals, tile & moody lighting set the scene for traditional Italian fare made from family recipes.
- Antonio’s on Thayer Street – casual pizzeria chain serving traditional, thin-crust & Sicilian pies, plus wings, pasta & subs.
- Julian’s on Broadway – hip brewpub with exposed brick walls popular for house-smoked meats & numerous vegetarian options.
- Nick’s also on Broadway - imaginative seasonal New American bistro with open kitchen & casual vibe.
- The Grange also on Brodway – a vegetarian hub serving seasonal dishes, with a juice bar, vegan bakery & cocktail bar.
- Cav on Imperial Place – an eatery/antique shop featuring an upscale global menu, historic bar & live music on weekends.
- Cassarino’s on Atwells Avenue – unlike Angelo’s, this eatery focuses on Northern Italian cuisine and is known for their generous portions and long wine list.
- Duck and Bunny (gotta love the name) on Wickenden Street – a crêperie & tearoom in a historic house, also offering beer, wine, cupcakes & a cigar lounge.
Note: We were hosted by restaurants by all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
Rewind the clock to the beginning of my career, where I was promoting products about as far away from technology as you could get. I started in the agency world and we were known for crisis communications, retail and healthcare, so in addition to companies like McDonald’s and Bausch & Lomb, we represented Rockport Shoes although I wasn’t on the team. The Rockport team loved the shoes and wore them with pride and not just because they were a client. Bottom line, they were known for comfort back then and they continue to be known for comfort today.
One of the things I’ve noticed in footwear in recent years, particularly sneakers and running shoes, is how screeching bright the colors are – neon pinks mixed with oranges, florescent greens, turquoise and hell, why throw in a little red for good measure. Unless you’re a teenager, there’s no chance in hell that they’re going to go with an outfit. You could argue that when you exercise, you don’t really care about whether your exercise shoes match your outfit, but as a traveler who has limited space in their bag on the road, you need to pack as few pairs of shoes you can get away with, with the idea that one pair can use for 4 or 5 different scenarios, not one.
Walking shoes need to not only be practical and comfortable for a traveler, but serve those multiple purposes that come up when you’re on the road: walking the city all day or taking in a hike and then in the evening, being able to use that same pair of shoes for a casual meal. Depending on the culture, you may want to be a bit more subdued, choosing boots or shoes that are understated rather than shout and make noise.
We got a couple of pairs of Rockports on for testing, largely for our cross country trip earlier this year. While you can afford to pack more pairs of shoes in a car, you still need to be practical. The hikes we were planning weren’t extensive — we had bikes with us too of course — and camping was not part of the game plan, since it wasn’t that kind of trip. In the evening, we were planning on more fine dining than not being serial foodies and when we were going through more arid areas of the country, we wanted shoes that could easily slip on and off.
A variation of what Anthony wore most of the time was the Ledge Hill Too Plaintoe Oxford. The leather is soft and while it is designed to be more of a dress shoe, it’s easy to clean and maintain and also comfortable enough to wear during the day for long city and town walks. The EVA outsole and midsole provide shock absorption to help reduce foot and leg fatigue during long days, without adding excess weight. An anti-microbial liner keeps feet dry, cool, and odor-free.
One of the great things about Rockport is that their shoes are VERY cushioned using ADIPRENE by Adidas Sport Technology, which is a key reason why you want to wear your Rockports every day. While brown pretty much goes with everything, they come in a variety of colors, another great benefit with going Rockport – they’re creative in their color choices and realize the whole world doesn’t live in only black or brown.
Both of his pairs had more support for the ankles because of how much walking we were planning to do at various stops – this allows for extra support and decreases the risk of ankle sprains or sore legs. Below is his pair after a lot of wear and you can see how well the leather wears in, giving it that slightly antiquated soft leather look that goes well with a pair of jeans as well as pair of casual dress pants.
The other pair was even more casual, making it a better choice with jeans while looking chic along the way. Look how great they look after being worn in and this pair also made it through some muddy trails.
Personally I found the men’s collection to be more extensive and diverse, with tons of stylish but also comfortable options, from running shoes and walking shoes to casual and dress shoes, all of them boasting the same level of comfort as the last one. Take a look at this Path to Greatness Chukka shoe, where classic meets modern comfort with full grain leathers and suedes. It has a sponge EVA footbed with Memory Foam for added cushioning, which comforms to the shape of the foot for a more personalized fit – love it.
Their Dewix linings help keep your feet dry, a godsend when you’re in wetter climates. It’s a great option when you want to go from work to play in a casual style and typical of Rockport, they have a variety of rich, versatile colors to choose from — I personally love the Glacier color shown below.
A completely waterproof option is the RocSports Lite ZoneCush Mudguard. It may look like classic lace-up style, but this durable men’s shoe gives you all the style and comfort you need. Outside, the rugged rubber outsole helps provide a sturdy grip to a variety of surfaces. Inside, the dual-density IMEVA midsole helps provide lightweight shock-absorption to help reduce foot and leg fatigue. For a more personalized fit, the sponge EVA footbed will hug your foot and conforms like it is made just for you. Like so many of the others, the Dewix anti-microbial lining helps keep moisture and foot odor at bay.
For women, this Lorraine II Lite Chelsea boot offers the style you crave with waterproof shoe technology you need to keep the elements at bay. Constructed with Rockport’s Hydro-Shield drainage system and waterproofing materials, your feet are sure to be kept dry in wet weather, a great plus for travelers who are passing through divers climates. This comfortable and waterproof women’s shoe features a rubber outsole to give you a durable grip on a variety of surfaces, while an elastic shaft helps provide a smooth, personalized fit. Like the others, it is infused with ADIPRENE by Adidas Sport Technology for added comfort. Rubber outsole helps provide a durable grip on a variety of surfaces.
A favorite of mine although I don’t have a pair, is the Tristina Chelsea. I love this boot mainly for its flexibility, the fact that it will go with everything (casual dressy and casual with jeans) and it’s deep rich brown color.
The Tristina Chelsea is not only stylish, but believe it or not, it’s waterproof. The boot combines a rubber outsole that helps provide a steady grip on a variety of surfaces, with their Hydro-Shield drainage system. Available in a vareity of colors, this leather boot won’t just keep you dry, it will keep you looking good as well, which is one of its biggest pluses in additon to Rockport’s known functionality and comfort (also infused with ADIPRENE by Adidas Sport Technology for that fabulous extra cushioning that you get with Rockport shoes).