Texas is big. (Dinner plate cinnamon roll big.) It’s a whole other world with regions and cultural divisions that I can’t even begin to cover or, as a foreigner, ever understand. As outsiders, we cling to our stereotypes of Texas in an effort to make sense of it all. Television, the media, and George W. Bush have helped us, for better or worse, attempt to understand the subtleties of what it means to be Texan. But, let’s push those preconceived notions of Texas out of our mind, for the moment, and take a look at another representation of Texas, its cuisine.
When you head into an art museum, you probably tend to stop in front of the wall-sized works on canvas or the towering sculptures in the front lobby. But what about those dimly lit rooms with small works on paper? Old Master Prints, the common way to refer to printmaking efforts made prior to the 19th century, are often a large part of a museum’s collection. Despite their prevalence, they’re also often the most overlooked items in the collection. Why? It's because the destructive effect of light on paper means that works are rarely on display, or when they are, kept in dimly lit spaces or tucked out of the way of harsh daylight. They are the unsung hero of a museum’s collection, in my opinion, and one of my favorite areas of study. There’s something about the intimacy of paper that allows you a step closer into the mind of the artist.
While international radio stations have been streaming on the Internet for many years, finding them has always been a major issue. But recently, new apps and services have greatly simplified the whole process of radio streaming, opening up whole new worlds of opportunity to discover new music and culture. This is also great news for travelers, as it allows us to immerse ourselves in the language of our destination before we leave home. Which, as we've said before, is a great idea. As Italy is one of our favorite destinations out there, lately I've been practicing some "virtual immersion" in the language, listening to Italian radio at home and on my smartphone when I'm out. I've been surprised at how quickly I've soaked up new words, phrases, and how easily I can understand the DJs and commercials. Keep reading and I'll point you to some of my favorite Italian radio stations and give you some listening tips so that you can improve your Italian skills, not to mention find some new music, before your next trip.
Thinking about heading to the Dominican Republic, but concerned about finding good, local food? Rightfully so. There are a lot of all-inclusive resorts and a tourism market that seems more concerned with pleasing a wide audience rather than teaching you about local flavors. When there’s Maine lobster and clam chowder on the menu, you’re right to be suspicious.
I’m by no means an expert, but on a media trip earlier this year, I saw both sides. The buffet and the tourist restaurant, a local favorite and the farmers market. I watched, I observed, and when faced with it, I ate the strangest foods on the buffet. I hope that my virtual smorgasbord that follows will help guide you and your palate through the Dominican Republic and far, far away from the dreaded buffet.
In the postmodern era, it's easy to overlook the work of Mies van der Rohe. His walls of glass, rectangular forms, and open spaces look all too familiar. When we hear the name Mies van der Rohe, we don't instantly think of his architecture or his contribution to our landscape, but instead we think of an icon, a brand, or a chair at Design Within Reach. His ideals have become ingrained into our society and its visual vocabulary. "Less is more" is often said when referring to his work and this aesthetic has proliferated our landscape since the mid-20th century. Look at an iPhone or the Apple store itself to see how designers have reduced our objects to be only what is necessary. Or flip through the pages of Dwell to see how open floor plans, modern materials, and transparency are now commonplace in contemporary homes. Mies van der Rohe's philosophy of design surrounds us. So much so, that when you walk by one of his buildings in your travels, you might not even notice it. In order to avoid missing out, let me give you a crash course in who Mies van der Rohe was and some key elements to his buildings.
Beginning in 1971, with the opening of the Rothko Chapel, the de Menil family had big plans for this neighborhood in Houston, Texas. The Chapel is a structure designed to house the paintings of Abstract Expressionist artist, Mark Rothko and a place for reflection and spirituality, regardless of your god. It set the tone for what was to come. A few years later, in 1987, the Menil Collection opened its doors and over the years has become more than just the art collection of a family housed in a museum. While, it does refer to a building of such expression, it is just one of many in a campus of art, architecture, and sculpture collected by the de Menil family displayed in the Montrose neighborhood. In addition to the Rothko Chapel, there is outdoor sculpture, galleries dedicated to the work of Cy Twombly and Dan Flavin, and until this year a re-imagined Byzantine Chapel to house frescos saved from Cyprus. (After 15 years, the frescos were returned to Cyprus in March 2012. You can learn more and see video and photography of the former installation, at Byzantine Fresco Chapel website.) All-in-all, the Menil collection and its environs is a place to be inspired, to feel, and to interact with art in a way that’s uncommon in today’s wall-text driven art experience.
This summer, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to try out a Windows Phone, something I'd been itching to do for a while. I was intrigued by the clean, sleek look of the OS, but I couldn't help but wonder if it would actually be useful for travelers. I know that many tech-savvy travelers will inevitably gravitate towards the latest iPhone or a popular Android device, but after some time with a Windows Phone, I can clearly say that they should consider these relative newcomers, as well. With the release of Windows Phone 7.5 and beyond, phones boasting this platform provide a clean, well-designed, and fully capable OS and app marketplace that offer travelers everything they need and more. Keep reading to find out the best features and outstanding apps that prove Windows Phones are ready to go on the road with you on your next trip.
The Oregon Coast, just a few hours drive from Portland, Oregon, may be well known for its 300 miles of public beaches, haystack rocks made popular in the film The Goonies, or for its many lighthouse photo ops. But that's not all that there is to enjoy in this scenic corner of the Pacific Northwest; the food alone is worth the trip. Fresh seafood, locally made cheeses and beers, and seaside restaurants that serve up stellar views alongside their locally-sourced cuisine. Whether you're planning a trip to the Oregon Coast or just looking for a bit of travel inspiration, a sampling of our favorite bites from last summer will be sure to whet your appetite.
In 2010, I was invited to visit Belize on behalf of their tourism board. I spent most of my time inland, instead of on the cayes (or islands) that draw most visitors to Belize. My last two days however, were spent in Dangriga, a town midway down the coast, with easy island access. In Dangriga, I learned more about the Garifuna people and even spent the night dancing with them. I also took a boat trip off this pier above to privately owned, South Water Caye. As I stepped onto the tiny island, I saw honeymooners staying in rustic cottages and thought this is world's away from a pampered, sterile resort. A roof over your head, three square meals, your own hammock and the ocean in your front yard. Now, that's my kind of getaway.
Thinking about planning a trip to Belize? Check out my things to see, do and eat in Belize from my trip in 2010. And, as always, put this travel inspiration on your desktop, iPhone or e-reader. Just choose the size that best fits your screen.
Sometimes it seems like the search for the perfect travel backpack is neverending. Even if you've found a great bag that you love, styles change, gear wears out or gets damaged in transit, and your body changes. So, to aid you in this eternal quest, we recently got the opportunity to try out a new Mission Workshop bag on a few of our recent trips. We tested out a multi-pouch, weatherproof, expandable backpack, named the Vandal. How did the Vandal stack up in our tests? Keep reading to find out.