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Topcuoglu in Dubai

Posted by mandy on November 30th, 2009

Dubai has come to shine as one of the most exciting destinations for travelers these days.  It’s a fantastic place to get a taste of what’s happening in world culture, from art to music and beyond, and it’s also one of the major financial centers of the world.  People come here for a variety of reasons, and sometimes the reasons are more splendid than others.  There’s a lot to see in Dubai.  Beach resorts are a great way to see this world from a very particular perspective, a place where luxury reigns, and connections are made between the body and nature, in some of the most elegant beach settings the world has ever seen.

There is some fantastic art in Dubai, and it’s not only visible during the art fair, when the international scene comes to see what’s happening here and everywhere.  One of the first galleries to open and pave the way for a real art boom, was the Green Art Gallery.  Its focus then and now was on art in the Arab world, offering a look into the modern and contemporary art practices happening here.  It’s a very capable barometer for assessing what’s happening right now, and a bit into the future as well.  One of the most anticipated shows is its next exhibition, where Dubai can see the work of Turkish artist Nazif Topcuoglu displayed in all of its troubling and sublime connotations.

Topcuoglu has two master’s degrees, one in photography, from Chicago, and the other in architecture, from Ankara.  He has had a spectacular career, with works displayed all over the world.  His work in photography is extremely evocative, with a splendid surface holding multiple meanings, as if the photograph itself were investigating the architecture of memory.  The subjects are almost always affluent young women from Turkey, enacting interesting and lively dramatic scenarios, then captured in a tableau for the camera.  The effect is rather stunning, not only for their elegance of composition, but for the complex references buried in the imagery.  He places elements of literature, art history, and religion in the works, to create a sense of memory being erased in the moment, and an unspeakable longing for a moment that’s fading before our very eyes.

The Harvey Smith Ladew Topiary Gardens of Baltimore, Maryland

Posted by mandy on November 30th, 2009

One of the most popular attractions in the city of Baltimore was built by a man who grew up in New York City.  Harvey Smith Ladew grew up in luxury.  His father had started a business making leather belts for use in factories, and by the time Ladew was a young boy, the family business was profiting in the millions.  Ladew became a self-proclaimed man of leisure, stating that he would tour the world and have fun during his younger years, and then go to work when he turned fifty years old.  He wanted to reverse the the way most people lived their life, of work in the younger years, then play.  Ladew wanted to enjoy life first.

He traveled extensively to Europe, where upon the onset of WWI he headed back home to New York.  He spent spent the time following the war as liaison officer for the US Army.  He left the family business soon after and dedicated his life to fox hunting.  This is what he was doing when he came upon the house that is now the Harvey Smith Ladew Topiary Gardens.  He found the house in the middle of Pleasant Valley just outside of the city of Baltimore.  Plumbing and electricity were not included, and the house was in a shambles.

The year was 1929, and Ladew was starting his life over at the age of 43.  And although he was used to staying in castles, living in mansions on Long Island surrounded by gardens and greenhouses, Ladew was intent on staying in Maryland to pursue fox hunting, and so the run down house with one wilted and dying lilac bush became his home.  He began redoing the house immediately and did so for the next forty seven years, the rest of his life.  The garden that now grows there makes up 200 acres of Ladew’s dedication.

Ladew was the designer of all of the renovations, but James O’Connor his dear friend and architect, is the one who saw the designs through to fruition.  The house is open to the public, and is just as Ladew left it.  There are many paintings, statues, carvings and priceless pieces of furniture in the house, but what the site is known for are indeed the gardens.

There are more than thirty different sections to the garden, and many are with a touch of Ladew’s sense of humor, such as a sculpture of Adam and Eve located in the apple tree orchard.  Topiary statues surround the grounds, there is a cafe, and guided tours.  Each December the celebration, “Christmas at an English Country House” draws many to the gardens.  This is a must see site, a New Yorker who left his legacy in Baltimore, in the form of flowers, trees, gardens, art and culture.

Melbourne, Melborn or Melbin

Posted by mandy on November 24th, 2009

If you ever find yourself in the Southern hemisphere and landing in the second largest city of Australia, it might be helpful to know that this city’s name is pronounced closer to Mel-bin, as opposed to Mel-born, a mistake travelers might easily make, considering the spelling of the city’s name: Melbourne.  I recently made the same mistake myself when speaking to an Australian resident.  He assured me there was no “born” in Melbourne, in one of those quirks of pronounciations that tend to confuse visitors, somewhat in the same way New Orleans, if you’re in Louisiana, is usually pronounced N’awlins.

Of course, like many world class cities, it wasn’t always known by the same name.  The settlement was first known as Bearbrass, but by 1837, the name changed to honor the 2nd Viscount Melbourne, William Lamb.  Ten years after that, Melbourne officially became a city, declared by Queen Victoria, and it became the capital city of the Victoria colony.  Like California on the opposite side of the world, in the 1850s, Melborne experienced a gold rush, known as the Victorian gold rush, and it was this period that molded Melbourne into one of the great cities of the world.  When nation of Australia was createad in 1901, Melbourne was its first center of government.  Today, if you find yourself in a Melbourne luxury hotel, outside your door, you will find a city that is now a center for a whole range of entertainments:  Here is the city in which Australian film and televison was born; it’s where the Heidelberg School of art (the impressionist art movement) began.  From film to dance to music to sports, the city well deserves its title as Australia’s cultural capital.

In another recent talk, I learned that four million residents of Melbourne are also called Melburnians.  Why not Melbinians?  I’m not sure.  Looks like I’m going to have to go back to my friend from Australian with even more questions.

Wild West Mallorca

Posted by mandy on November 23rd, 2009

There are few places in Spain that are not worth visiting at least once, and Mallorca is a place that bears repeated trips.  Despite its long history as a sleepy fishing village, it is also a very lively place, where cultures meet and reinvent themselves every evening.  There are a number of spectacular attractions here, with historical tours that will take you to Mallorca’s prehistoric past, and up through the staggering number of civilizations that have passed through here.  And there are also plenty of art galleries and museums where you can see the products of inspiration by the local artists, along with many international works of visual beauty and imagination.  There are many things that can bring travelers to Mallorca.  Hotels are certainly among the big draws, as the hospitality industry here has it down to a magnificent art form.

You’ll enjoy waking up to the splendor inside and outside your hotel, and on some mornings it might be hard to decide between the spa treatments inside or the call of the sea outside.  But island life here is laid-back, and the days are made for pleasure, so there’s no such thing as the wrong decision.  Once you do make it outside, however, you’ll see what the place has to offer, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  It’s a rather sophisticated place, with pockets of artists and intellectuals where you can enjoy passing the days talking about the world at large.  There are also opportunities to escape into fun, at places like Westen Park.

This water park has a Wild West theme, and some Wild West shows that would make Baudrillard very happy indeed.  There is a diving show, where people perform amazing feats diving into the water, and the western theme comes to play here, reminding people of when cowboys used to jump into swimming pools.  Then there is the wheel of death, to please the kids, an acrobatic spectacle, and finally a simulation of a bar fight in Guadalupe.  The European fascination with the West in general is in itself fascinating, and here there are plenty of chances to see it in action, all while enjoying the pleasures of a water park.

Broadway Production of the Lion King Inspires Costume Designer

Posted by mandy on November 17th, 2009

Charlotte had been dreaming of the day that she could actually sit in a Broadway theatre and enjoy in person one of the great world musical events. This dream has been with her for the last twenty years. It originated when she was five saw a production of The Wizard of Oz at their town community center. There at that performance a love was sprung from this small child for musical theatre. She didn’t quite realize what that meant but for two years she repeated sang the tunes from that show and the words off to see the wizard rang throughout the house.

For the next fifteen years Charlotte imagined that one day she would be performing on the Broadway stage. However, as she continued to mature emotionally and intellectually, she began to realize that she had an extreme case of stage fright and simply dreaded getting onstage. This first struck her in high school and it was the first time that her dreams met the real world and she was crushed by the revelation. Charlotte could not bare to stand on the stage to perform, though she still loved it more than anything. During this transition, she remembered that one of the things that struck her most about that production of the Wizard of Oz so many years ago was the great costumes she saw. This led her to think that perhaps she was more suited to be a costume designer, and suddenly a new world opened up and Charlotte realized what her true passion was.

However, that did not change the fact that she still longed to sit in a New York theatre and see up close and personal a Broadway musical. But instead of imagining herself to one day be up on that stage, she imagined herself designing the costumes for the production. So, when she graduated from college with her degree in theatre and an emphasis in costume design, her parents gave her a couple of New York Broadway tickets to the Lion King as a gift. Charlotte could not have been more pleased and beamed as she sat there fascinated by the Disney production and the costumes and wondered how she would have designed them herself.

More than One Reason to See Ibiza

Posted by mandy on November 16th, 2009

Ibiza Town or Eivissa, whatever name you choose to call the capitol of this island, it’s a place which is hugely popular for its nightlife and its beaches and, because of this, travelers may be quite surprised to find there’s a greater world here that goes well beyond clubbing, so here are a few reasons you might want to see this place.

Of course, terrific weather is a given for Ibiza, and there is a great nightlife.  But there are also fine Ibiza restaurants, and a people and country that’s rich in history, appealing far beyond the town’s seeming twentysomething demographic.  If you want to see that side of Ibiza, then you should arrive either early or late in the season (which runs generally from late April until October).  By October, then, most of the clubbers have left, and the town is given over to travelers more intrigued by history and culture, seeing the town’s interesting cathedral, or seeing its various museums.

If you want to see Ibiza Town for its history, the place been the home down through the centuries to Moors, Romans, and Phoenicians, and like many ancient towns, it contains various areas, such as D’Alt Vila — the old town on the hill.  King Felipe II built this ancient fortified city, protecting it from sackings and invasions from pirates who sailed the Mediterranean.  Walls and watch towers have all been preserved, and you can have a really fine view of the bay here.  Another key spot to visit, would be the town cathedral, a Gothic Baroque building, the Church of Santa Maria, which was built some time in the 14th century.  While Ibiza Town itself doesn’t have a beach, but the beaches are close by, at least three within a mile or two, especially Playa D’en Bossa, which is about a mile and a half or so from the center of town.  About a fifteen minute walk past the marina will take you to Talamanca, as well, which has a sandy beach and is very peaceful.

Raggle Taggle Gypsies in Mallorca

Posted by mandy on November 2nd, 2009

It’s a real paradise, by any standards.  Enviably situated in the heart of the Spanish Mediterranean, Mallorca has a fantastic and deserved reputation for pleasure and excitement.  It’s also a wonderful place to come to relax and come back to your senses by engaging the senses.  The heady combination of sea, culture, and music is very potent, and can cure most anyone’s ills.  People from all over the world are drawn to Mallorca as if it were a magnetic, and perhaps it is.  It certainly does have a special magnetic charm, and for all these reasons is a superb place for five star hotels.  Mallorca has a long tradition for cultural exchanges, having seen a dizzying number of civilizations pass through here for thousands of years, and they know how to take care of guests.

You’ll be treated with world-class hospitality, where the traditions of Mallorca’s great past mix with the latest in contemporary Spanish sensibility, which is to say, the height of style and fashionable courtesies.  Mallorca offers something for everyone, with fantastic explorations of the island’s historical and prehistorical areas during the day, and a magnificent night life after dark.  You never really know what to expect here, because there’s such a wide range of music.  There’s plenty of techno everywhere you look, and there are also some extraordinary culture clashes that happen here, with so many guests coming from other parts of the world.

The Raggle Taggle Gypsies, for example, have been becoming a local favorite, giving audiences a magnificent time of it.  They’re based in Central Scotland, and have a very busy schedule with their regular, and irregular, gigs in Glasgow.  They’re a very lively collection of guys, playing a fantastic selection of Celtic classics, but also play their own music, and even dive into Latin music and pop music covers.  It’s fascinating to see the energies of multiple places blend together, and in Mallorca, this particular blend is just exquisite.

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