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Weekend Getaway

Oslo

January 21, 2011
tags: face hunter, , fram museum, fram vessel, gustav vigeland, norway, opera house, oslo, photo journalism, , sculpture, , street peeper, , , travel blog, travel guides, vigeland park, , what to do, what to see, where to go
by Sonia

I admit that on my list of places to see in the world, Oslo was never really high on my list, but after reading about it in my brand new travel book (I’m seriously obsessed) the Norwegian city went up about five slots. Much like any other major metropolitan city, Oslo is full of a variety of architecture both modern and old as well as beautiful parks, museums, and quaint cafes you long to become a regular of. The Opera House is the most well-known building in Oslo as it was the first modern design to be constructed in the city. Shaped like a glacier (something that Norwegians are relatively used to), the bright building appears to be both breaching out of and melting into the surrounding waters.

Since I’m a sucker for castles and palaces, I’m naturally drawn to Oslo’s Royal Palace and the medieval castle, Akershus Festning, which allows its visitors almost complete freedom to tour its tiny hallways and corridors. Let a game of real life Clue begin!

Aside from the Opera House, the one place that my travel guides keep mentioning is Vigeland Park which has an enormous amount of strangely disturbing sculptures by Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland. Surrounding a beautiful fountain and what at first appears to be a heavily textured totem pole are smoothly carved sculptures of strangely contorted children and interloping men and women. Not exactly what I would deem inviting outdoor sculpture, but the place is said to be quite pleasant and relaxing.  The Fram Museum is another must-see on my list as it is home to the Vessel Fram, the world’s first ice breaker and last polar expedition ship constructed entirely of wood. I love a good shipwreck/sea story.

Along with all the sight seeing, Oslo is also known for its beer tastings or two hour beer school as well as a number of major shopping districts; but be warned, Oslo was ranked the most expensive city in the world in 2010, so careful what you do with those credit cards! Then again, the Oslo street style I’ve seen on Street Peeper and Face Hunter is so darn cute that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to splurge on some Norwegian clothes…just a little bit ;)

Frogner Park •

University of Oslo •

Vigeland Park •

sculpture by Gustav Vigeland in Vigeland Park •

Royal Palace •

the Opera House •

backside of the National Theater •

Akershus Festning (medieval castle) •

Have you ever been to Oslo?

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photos via tumblr & flickr

Berlin

January 14, 2011
tags: adventure, berlin, berlin wall, berlin zoo, berlinerdom, brandenburg gate, bust of nefertiti, , fernsehturm, fete de la musique, Germany, marienkirche church, photo booths, tiergarten, tour guide, tourist, , , what to do, what to see, where to go
by Sonia

If you couldn’t already tell, one of my favorite things to do is fantasize about places I’d like to live someday. Paris, London, Amsterdam are all on the list but there’s one city I have yet to see that my Mom seems to think I’m going to be adding to the tippy top of said list, and that city is Berlin. When I was studying abroad in Barcelona (see here), my friend Alana and I traveled to a different city or country with each other every weekend. The only weekend we didn’t travel together was over Thanksgiving when I went to Venice to see my Mom and she went to Berlin to visit a friend who was studying there. While I came back to Barcelona boasting about having seen Elton John at a restaurant, she topped my celebrity sighting with all her stories about Berlin and how I just “have to go there”. Since then, those four words “have to go there” have continued ringing in my ears like a mosquito you can’t flick away. Berlin, it’s time you and I met.

Berlin is the largest city in Germany and is known as a cultural mecca of design, art, music and fashion. Sounds right up my alley already, right?! The city is filled with a vast number of museums, concert halls and shopping districts and is one of the only cities that has as much new architecture as it does old. Much of its culture is a result of the city’s destruction after World War II and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, parts of which are still intact and currently function as a Memorial Site.

Berlin is one of those large cities that even given a weeks visit wouldn’t do it justice (and I’m just saying this after being overwhelmed by reading about all there is to see/do/experience!). There are at least five museums that I’d like to spend a week’s time in, but at the top of my list is the Pergamon Museum which houses Ancient Greek sculpture and the newly renovated Neues Museum which contains tons of prehistoric findings as well as my personal favorite, Egyptian art, including the bust of Nefertiti! There are also dozens of architecturally and historically interesting churches that offer views of the city, but the unbeatable view has to be within the Fernsehturm (aka TV Tower) which has an incredible observation deck.

The city is also filled with picture perfect parks such as the Tiergarten, where people picnic and barbecue on the weekends, and epic flea markets open every weekend. And speaking of shopping, after reading through my travel books it seems that Berlin is filled with not one, not two, but three major shopping districts. Credit cards beware! Oh! And how could I forget the Bronx Zoo!? Home to the largest amount of animal species in the WORLD! HELLO!

I’ll say it again, Berlin, it’s time you and I met.

Judging by how my exclamation points increased by the end of this post, I clearly got more and more excited as I thought about the possibility of visiting this incredible city. There really are just too many amazing places to see in the world, when oh when am I going to find the time!?

left over bits of the Berlin Wall •

if this little guy isn’t incentive enough to go to Berlin, then I don’t know what is •

• Brandenburg Gate •

• Fete de la Musique - a musical festival that takes place throughout the city

photos booths are open to the public 24/7 •

Tiergarten •

Fernsehturm (aka TV Tower) •

Have you ever been to Berlin?

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photos via tumblr & flickr

Cuzco

January 7, 2011
tags: , cusco, cuzco, inca, inca walls, inti raymi, nightlife, peru, , pictures, plaza de armas, qoricancha, south america, sun temple, travel blog, , , what to do, where is, where to go
by Sonia

And so the great debate on where three of my best friends and I will travel to in the spring continues. Next up on the list: Cuzco, Peru.

I’ve never been to South America and have always wanted to go. Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, the list goes on…but today I focus on Cuzco, a large city located along the Southern Sierra Mountains. Once the capital of the Incan Empire, Cuzco is filled with tons of historical architecture from colonial buildings to Inca Ruins such as the famous stone walls that can be seen throughout the city. Along with incredible architecture and history, Cuzco is also more touristically known for its fun and wild nightlife which, let’s face it, is appealing to a group of four young girls experiencing a new city together. But as much as we may try and convince ourselves that we’re the “ladies of the night” type, I’d be lying if I said we weren’t more of the sort whom enjoy wandering through museums, exploring neighboring towns and landmarks, and indulging in delicious local foods; all of which, Cuzco is full of.

While Cuzco is filled with breathtaking monuments and well-known museums, many of my handy dandy guidebooks and travel blogs recommend strolling through the smaller galleries which feature local artists handicrafts, weavings, prints, etc. The Qoricancha, aka “The Sun Temple” is another must-see on my Peruvian itinerary as it used to function as the central site of worship for the Incas. Although now partially in ruins, it still contains both Catholic and Inca ancestry and also offers beautiful views of the surrounding area. Many of Cuzco’s festivals and dances begin at the Qoricancha before making their way through the rest of the city. The most notable festival is the Inti Raymi (the Sun Festival) which is a remembrance celebration of the winter solstice, an Inca tradition.

Although known for being more touristy, the city’s historical center, Plaza de Armas is said to be a perfect way to spend an afternoon enjoying the many shops, vendors, restaurants and bars all surrounded by the Incan Walls. I must admit though that much of what draws me to this beautiful city, aside from the historical architecture and ruins, is the delightfully colorful clothing that so many Peruvians wear on a day to day basis. I’d love to get my hands on some of the heavily printed full-circle skirts and even the detailed adornments used to hang around llamas necks.

So, as much as our other options are enormously appealing (see here, here, here, and here), I have to say that after writing this post Cuzco may take the lead as my choice of destination, though I’d really just love to travel anywhere!

Agricultural Terraces •

Saxayhuamán - the end point of the Inti Raymi Festival •

the Qoricancha •

oh, hi! •

• Plaza de Armas •

Have you ever been to Cuzco?

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photos via flickr


Napoli

December 17, 2010
tags: acquario, european aquarium, grotta di seiano, italy, mount vesuvius, museo archaeologico nazionale, museums, naples, napoli, neapolitan pizza, parco virgiliano, pompeii, sansevero chapel, tour guide, tourists, tyrrhenian sea, villa comunale, water, , what to do, where to go, where to go in italy
by Sonia

I have my Mom to thank for my deep passion for all things Italian. As of a professor of art history with a focus in Italian Renaissance, my mom has been taking me and my brothers to Italy for as long as we can remember; acting as our own personal tour guide through countless museums, cathedrals, tomb sites, etc. So, naturally, when I brought up the trip that my best friends and I are planning on taking this coming spring (last mentioned here), she immediately suggested a visit to Italy. As we went through a list of potential towns and cities, I stopped at Naples, a city along the Tyrrhenian Sea.

While I’m automatically drawn to anything near the water (although I’m admittedly not much of a beach person - go figure), what drew me to Naples was its colorful buildings, must-see works of art, and its close proximity to Pompeii, a location I plan on featuring as a “Weekend Getaway” in the near future. Listed in my fantasy itinerary for my potential trip to Naples is a visit to the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale, a museum which houses remains from the Pompeii disaster, as well as the third largest Egyptian collection in Italy, and incredible Roman sculptures and mosaics. Also listed is the Acquario, Europe’s first public aquarium in the Villa Comunale, the Grotta di Seiano which is an artificial cave that you crawl through to look out onto the turquoise waters, the Sansevero Chapel which contains extraordinary veiled marble sculptures, and obviously a feast on Neapolitan Pizza which was created in Naples. And if by chance there is a day that I decide to venture out of this historical city, a thirty minute trip out to Parco Virgiliano gets me a view of the surrounding area as well as the magnificent Mount Vesuvius. What more could one need in a Weekend Getaway?

Museo Archeologico Nazionale •

• Hercules Farnese (left); Alexander Mosaic (right) •

• Acquario Villa Comunale •

• view of Mount Vesuvius from Parco Virgiliano •

• Castel dell’Ovo at Porto Santa Lucia •

• Veiled Christ at Sansevero Chapel •

• entrance to the Grotta di Seiano •

Have you ever been to Naples?

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photos via flickr

Puerto Rico

December 10, 2010
tags: el batey, el morro, el yunque, fortresses, kasalta beach, la fortaleza, old san juan, parrot club, pictures, puerto rico, rainforest, san juan harbor, , waterfalls, , what to do, where to go, zipline
by Sonia

Last October my best friend Jennie surprised me with one of the most amazing birthday presents I’ve ever received; a four day weekend getaway to Puerto Rico. Since the flight and hotel were already booked and paid for, all I had to do was pack my bags, skim through some travel blogs/books, and hop on a plane to spend four days with my best friend in a new city.

We stayed in Old San Juan, a small, historic section in the center of San Juan. It’s surrounded by stoney fortresses, old churches, colorful colonial buildings, and obviously tons of bars and restaurants serving traditional Puerto Rican drinks and food - my personal favorites are: El Batey on Calle Cristo and the Parrot Club on Calle Fortaleza. Some of my favorite places we visited were: El Morro, an enormous stone fortress overlooking the San Juan Harbor, a trip to Kasalta Beach (make sure to take a car - we made the mistake of walking for miles!), and a walk along the western edge of Old San Juan to see the many watchtowers and indescribable views of the surrounding waters. But I must admit we discovered so much about the city just by wandering through its cobblestone streets and dipping into local cafes and restaurants. Had we had more time however, and was I not so afraid of snakes, I would have loved to take a hike as well as a zip line through the El Yunque rainforest and bathed in one of its many hidden waterfalls. Luckily, Puerto Rico is only about a four hour flight from New York so hopefully Jennie and I will be making our way back sooner rather than later.

• La Fortaleza •

view of San Juan Harbor •

• one of the many watchtowers •

• El Morro •

• La Rogativa •

• El Yunque rainforest •

• Iglesia de San Jose •

• graffiti I saw while there •

Have you ever been to Puerto Rico?

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photos via me & flickr