EXPLORING SANTIAGO WITH NERUDA

It wasn't until long after I moved to New York that I was introduced to the poetry of Pablo Neruda. As a lifelong Francophile, my literary interests always led me elsewhere, eastward - and quite honestly, I was intimidated by the thought of traveling to South America. Despite the beautiful Chilean imagery and love I found in his words, I found myself anxious at the thought of planning a trip south. I'm not exactly sure of the root of this travel anxiety, but I do distinctly remember hearing about Pinochet as a child and seeing scary footage on the TV. 

But discovering Neruda's work was just what I needed to kick me into gear to read more South American modern masters, and not surprisingly, this has shaken up my travel wishlist. So when I saw a good opportunity to head to Santiago for a long winter weekend, I packed my swimsuit and summer dresses and left my snowboots at home. After an overnight flight through Atlanta, I checked in bright and early to the Crowne Plaza (free stay, thanks to points!) and immediately set off to explore the nearby barrios - Lastarria and Bellavista. I was absolutely blown away by all the street art, which puts many areas of Brooklyn to shame. And the people were so friendly, and street life so vibrant! I even found myself in the middle of a parade celebrating dozens of native South American cultures - marching bands representing Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and more.

One of the highlights of my short trip was booking a guided photo walk through Foto Ruta Santiago. I met up the next morning with Cat, a local professional photographer, to explore street scenes off the beaten path. We met up at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral to explore the beautiful and imposing campus, which has a complicated story that follows the arc of recent Chilean history. Originally built to be the venue for the United Nations trade and development conference in 1972, it was repurposed by Pinochet's military junta as the center of operations for the Ministry of Defense. Cat told me that to this day, people don't know the full story of all the terrible things planned within its walls. But now, it's been restored and reused as a beautiful cultural center at the heart of the city, and it was obvious how effective the restoration has been. We watched dozens of dance teams and musicians meet in its enclaves to convene and practice.

Setting off from the center, we explored the back streets and alleyways of the city, checking out star attractions like the Mercado de Flores and Mercado Central along the way. I loved seeing the city through her eyes and hearing about her experience living there, and it's definitely an experience I'd recommend for any photographer - especially one traveling solo as I was. Returning to my hotel afterwards, I was pleasantly exhausted and buzzing with stimulation, so grabbed my handy Neruda compendium and headed to the pool to relax and dream about my next trip back. Perhaps it should be to Valparaiso and the Pacific coast to see his houses at La Sebastiana and Isla Negra? Let's go!

All photos shot with either my Pentax 645N & Kodak Portra 400 or my iPhone.

WINTER IN AMSTERDAM

When the temperature reached 100+ heat index a couple of weeks ago, I asked my co-worker to help me figure out which of my photo sets to edit (He's a photographer too! Follow him on Instagram!). He smartly recommended something cold and refreshing and told me to stop being lazy at editing. Smart guy, that Andrew.

So I immediately thought of digging out my film from our trip to Amsterdam back in February of this year. I'm not sure if it's the power of suggestion or what, but editing the photos felt like a cool, refreshing project. Or maybe I was just experiencing heat delirium. Totally possible.

 

Anyway, we had a total blast exploring Amsterdam for the first time. The earliest spring bulbs were just starting to push up their shoots, and the days were so pleasant for going on brisk walks to sightsee, shop along the Nine Streets, and grab groceries at the Noordermarkt greenmarket. We stayed in an old house in the Jordaan, originally built in the 1600's as the home and storefront of a baker. We definitely found a whole lineup of favorite spots, in case you're interested:

  • Record Shopping: FleschWaxwellDistortion
  • Brown Cafes / Pubs: Cafe Chris, where Rembrandt used to take his pints. In De Wildeman for European beer connoisseurs.
  • Delicious Eats: Bar Brandstof for deliciously fresh salads and sandwiches.  MAZZO for hip Italian and pizzas. Salmuera for creative ceviche dishes and South American tapas. 5&33 for cocktails and fresh, inventive Mediterranean (Don't miss the rotating modern art exhibits in the basement gallery! I saw Milette Raat's wonderful solo show, and I guess Banksy is exhibiting now?!)
  • Fun Activities: Foam for modern photography in a lovingly restored modernist canal townhouse. Heineken Music Hall, where we got treated to our first Massive Attack show and some legendary acoustics.

And of course - the walking. I found Amsterdam INFINITELY beautiful with all its rings of canals. It was such a simple pleasure to take my camera out for walks and capture all the ways the sun lights up the city. The layout of the streets in the center city just begs to be wandered, as it's always a little unclear in which cardinal direction you're headed. Plus, all the exercise is good justification for why you definitely should stop and get some famous french fries. The alternative wouldn't have anything to do with all the coffeeshops, now would it?

All photographs shot with a Mamiya C330f twin lens reflex & Mamiya Sekor 80mm lens.

FALLING IN LOVE WITH LUGANO

It's no secret that I'm kind of a fanatic about jumping on great airfare deals. If there's one recommendation I have for those hoping to travel more, it's to buy great airfares first, and sort out the details later. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the decisions that go into planning a trip, but for me, I find that the first step of buying a plane ticket is just the kick in the pants I need to begin my planning process. 

Plus, I find that the closer you pay attention to the ebb and flow of airfare deals, the more trends you can spot year over year. A few years ago, I realized that there are almost always great deals from NYC to Milan in November and December. That time of year is certainly the shoulder season, and weather can be totally unpredictable. However, Milan is so centrally located, it's an ideal starting point for an array of wonderful excursions. Florence is three hours by train. The Cinque Terre coast is two and a half by car. The slopes of St. Moritz are just as close, as are the vineyards of Tuscany.

After I nabbed a great pair of tickets for Zach and myself, I started my research. What caught my eye was a small town I didn't know much about in the south of Switzerland. Lugano sounded lovely, an Italian-speaking city in the canton of Ticino. Year round palm trees, towering Alps nearby, close enough to the glitz of Lake Como without being in the center of all the action? Count me in. 

 

Lugano has an interesting (and ancient) history. Scientists have found evidence of inhabitants all the way back to the Stone Age, and monuments that originate from the Etruscan and Celtic civilizations. The Romans came to Lugano in the first century BC, Napoleon conquered it as part of the Helvetic Republic, and then George Clooney colonized all of the nearby villas with an army of celebrities and billionaires.

History aside, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of our trip. After a quick couple of nights in Milan and a side trip up to St. Moritz on the Bernina Express (which was awesome!), we bought train tickets for an early morning departure from cold, rainy Milan. As soon as we left the city and curved our way around to catch our first glimpse of Lake Como as the sun rose, we knew we were in for a treat. The fog began to lift and the depressing drizzle gave way to sunshine and beautiful blue reflections for miles. The ride was 90 minutes of jaw-dropping views.

Once in Lugano, we walked downhill from the train station and checked into the conveniently close Hotel Federale where I'd booked us the top floor double room, lured in by its wrap-around balcony and incredible vistas. Its online promise delivered: the lake stretched out towards the horizon with the city around us sleepily waking up, and all was good in the world.

I wish I could say that we saw all Lugano has to offer, but in truth, her beauty foiled our best-laid plans. Long walks were in order, the spectacular sunsets melting into the glacial abyss. Our nightly strolls through the Christmas Market at the Piazza della Reforma were full of fairy lights and the intoxicating smells of mulled wine and cider. We stopped at sidewalk cafes to warm up with Italian coffee, indulged in gelato after shopping up and down the steep cobblestone streets, and rode the funicular to the top of Monte Bre for some of the most stunning views I've seen in all my years of travel. We bought baguettes at tiny boulangeries, ate obscene amounts of Rolf Beeler cheeses, and finished it all off with great Italian reds. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lugano, we'll be back someday.

All photographs shot with my Mamiya C330f & Mamiya Sekor 80mm lens. This gallery includes a selection of films, mostly Fuji Velvia and Kodak Ektar.