Mobile Pass is the Best!

One of the biggest annoyances of traveling is entering back into the US and going through immigration and customs after a very long flight with pretty crappy food. Global Entry was an awesome solution to this problem and made the customs process pretty easy. However, this came with a fee and you are not guaranteed to be granted access.

There is a new app that has recently been released called Mobile Passport and it is AMAZING! I downloaded this app before I left for my last trip in hopes that it would work when I entered back into the US. I had set up all the information before which was as easy as entering my passport information and verifying that I am who I say I am. Upon landing, I entered my flight information into the app and answered a few immigration questions and a code was sent to my phone. I walked to the mobile Passport line and no one was in it while the regular line was wrapped around forever! From deplaning to reaching baggage claim took me all of 7 minutes!

This app is only available in 20 airports and 1 port at the moment but is growing in popularity. If you want to save yourself a ton of time and headache, download this app and use it and you can thank me later.

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London for the Millionth Time

Jumping across the pond tends to be easier to do in/out of London. There are so many flights and then all of Europe is open to explore!

It seems that every time I travel I meet about 4,000 new people that live in London. I had plans for a few nights but I wanted to spend a little time on my own to get everything ready to fly home and explore.


The beauty of having no plans is the ability to do something spontaneous. There were some last minute tickets available for Kinky Boots and so I took myself on a little date. I was able to get a half price ticket for a pretty good seat.


One of my friends from my travel family found a free alternative walking tour which had a ton of street art and graffiti. The tour guide was full of interesting and fun facts about London based on street art. I highly suggest this tour.

Located on Fournier St. by Shok 1

By artist Stik

Crane by Roa

Artist Bolt

Paste up by Pyramid

Street art can be found anywhere

Artist Citizen Kane

Artist Ben Eine

Artist Noriaki Noriaki

One of my favorite things is getting people together from around the world. I met up with some friends for dinner with people I met in Plovdiv, Bern, and Rome and introduced them all to each other because they all now live in London. It was an awesome way to end 46 days of traveling!

Read about my other trips to London here and here and here and here and here and here.

Going Through Berlin Like a Local

I really have been repeating destinations on this European tour but every time I travel I meet more people and just want to visit them. This time a friend from West Hollywood moved to Berlin and there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to see him! You can see what I did in Berlin last time here and here.

Obviously my love for street art will never go away. Since my friend moved to Berlin he has not seen a single touristy thing in Berlin. I thought we had to at least see the East Side Gallery because I love it!


We basically spent the weekend eating at the restaurant he works at and hanging at his house and going to different bars. It was really nice to not be a tourist most of the time and just hang with a friend.

The dog was probably one of my favorite parts of the visit. He was incredibly cuddly and made me feel like I was home!

Prague for a Second Time

Prague by day and Prague by night are two totally different experiences. Last time I didn’t adventure at night as much as I did this time and I am so glad that I did! After midnight either everyone was at the club or asleep so the normally very crowded tourist areas were pretty empty. I am glad I chose walking around over heading to the club!

The Powder Tower

Prague Castle


Even though I went to the Lennon Wall last time, I had to again because graffiti is always changing and will never look the same even a day after you visit. I love it!

The weather got pretty cold super fast and I was not prepared. I found the jacket pictured above in this amazing thrift store where everything is 49 Koruna ($1.98)! I could not believe it and was incredibly happy with my purchase.

I spent my other evening in Prague adventuring around the Signal Festival which you can read about here.

Signal Festival Prague

I love traveling to cities having no idea that a festival or event is even happening. I went to Prague a few years ago (read about it here here and here) and loved it and wanted to go again to cut the traveling time of my trip from Vienna to Berlin. Signal Festival or Festival of Lights happened to start the night before I was leaving and I totally geeked out and went to as many installations as I could in a few hours! There were pretty long lines for each installation so I could only make it to five but obviously I took enough pictures of each one to make up for it.

Brocken 5.1.

The installation Brocken 5.1 is based on a phenomenon called the Brocken Spectre or mountain spectre. This phenomenon appears high in the mountains when a climber stands with his back to the sun and gazes from the ridge into the mist, creating a gigantic shadow of the observer that is surrounded by a rainbow. In this installation the viewer enters an interactive object intersected by 60,000 holes that create the illusion of a flight through a starry sky. Brocken 5.1 also makes reference to the topic of absolute darkness, that is, a commodity that is altogether insufficient in large cities.

Brocken 5.1 was first presented as part of the DEPO2015 project in Plzen and subsequently at the BLIK BLIK 2016 festival. In both cases the installation gained great popularity with viewers. This interactive object is also influenced by daylight, and the installation can therefore be visited and tried out before night falls.

The Japanese artist Yasuhiro Chida originally studied architecture at Musashino Art University. His interests include specific topics such as spatial awareness or change of somatic perception. Part of his creative process involves nature, where he spends much of his time, and which he incorporates into his work. He allows various forces of nature to act upon his installations, such as the movement of the sun across the sky throughout the day.

Voice of Figures

This videomapping by Radugadesign transforms the façade of the Kinský Palace into vivid color. And yet there is more to this performance, which at first glance seems like a cheerful play of basic abstract shapes and saturated colors, than meets the eye. Radugadesign has taken the large volumes of data known in the world of computer technology as “big data” and converted them into a soundtrack. The initial confusion and cacophony of shapes represents the unorganized data the creators of the videomapping have used as their medium, which ultimately come together through the facade of the Kinský Palace into shapes that form a harmonic melody.Thus the patterns and sounds created through this technically challenging process serve as the end product of a range of figures and formulas.

Since its founding in 2007, the Russian media and design studio Radugadesign has managed to carry out an unbelievable 350 projects. As a result, the studio has established a leading position in Russia in the field of entertainment technologies and interactive installations, achieving renown beyond their homeland as well. Radugadesign has been featured, for example, in France, Belgium, Korea, and even at the North Pole. The wide range of their activities includes everything from audiovisual shows to interactive installations, using combinations of their primary specialties – space, technology, and design. They collaborate frequently with a range of experts across creative fields including architects, designers, artists, musicians, and even programmers. The collective efforts of these individuals have created projects that for almost ten years have resonated with audiences throughout the world.


Rezonátor

Rezonátor combines elements of technology with a philosophical subtext, all derived from scientific understanding. As expressed by its title, it consists of a model of a resonator – that is, a fundamental component of the mechanism of a laser module. And yet the artist doesn’t stop at the technical aspects of this device, but also presents the resonator as a metaphor for human existence. In his view, each human being figuratively functions as a sort of sociocultural resonator. During our lives we perceive all possible external influences of society in the same manner as this device. In response to feedback and reactions within us we give forth our own “memetic light,” reacting most frequently in the form of spoken expression.

Czech visual artist Jan Hladil studied graphic design and subsequently supermedia at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague. During his studies he worked intensively on mastering the entire process of creating video in all of its forms. For several years he has worked as a VJ and has worked on videoinstallations and created content for the audiovisual label Lunchmeat. He has also collaborated, for example, with Laterna Magika on the New Scene at the National Theatre. In his freestyle work he focuses on interpretations of social, cultural, and yet physical processes, converting their specific visual manifestations into an artistic form of understanding. He has presented his audiovisual works at the National Gallery, the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, the Gallery of the Capital City of Prague, the Chemistry Gallery, and the Zdeněk Sklenář Gallery.



Fantastic Planet

Five otherworldly beings have occupied the planet SIGNAL this year. These giant figures
created by Amanda Parer seem to have just landed on earth, and now explore their
surroundings with silent interest and awe. They curiously touch the ground, timidly observe the activity around them from behind a corner, or roll delightedly across the soft grass. At first glance they appear fearsome, but their viewers soon recognize them for the kindhearted visitors they are.

This monumental installation is inspired by the 1973 Czech/French animated film of the
same name (known in Czech as Divoká planeta). It represents an incomprehensibly remote future in which our planet is settled by giant futuristic beings, where humans are merely wild aborigines no more sophisticated than creatures of the forest.

The work of Australian artist Amanda Parer explores the world of nature in all its vulnerability, as well as the role of humanity within it. In all her works, whether paintings, sculpture, or installations in public spaces, the main role is played by all manner of unconventional beings and wild animals. Enthusiastic audiences the world over have encountered the installations of Amanda Parer at festivals from Sydney to Sweden. While she has already been introduced to neighboring Slovakia through the White Night festival, her work will be presented to the Czech Republic for the first time as part of her Fantastic Planet installation. The SIGNAL Festival therefore serves as the European premiere of this completely new installation.


Monolith powered by Mercedes-Benz

The Monolith installation gives homage to the quiet and the noise of the city at night. This light object absorbs all surrounding light sources and transforms them into an engaging digital show. Through alternating landscapes and environments, the installation evokes the impression of a dynamic ride in Mercedes-Benz brand automobiles, providing its viewers with an original experience of night in the city full of light, energy, and elegance. An integral part of the installation is a hypnotic sound that was created specifically for the Monolith by world famous composer from Bosnia Billain.

This installation is composed of 3,328 LED bulbs. Each of them is an independent point of composition, capable of displaying the entire color spectrum. This technology ranks among the newest trends and is now appearing at SIGNAL for the first time ever.

Hyperbinary is the latest project by Amar Mulabegović, Jan Šíma, and Martin Pošta. This international studio for Experiential Design is devoted to the development and production of light installations and videomappings, as well as concept development and visual presentation for large-scale cultural events.

*All descriptions of the installations are directly from the Signal Festival website

 

Budapest Round Two

Last time I was in Budapest was a few years ago and I was sick and didn’t really get to experience much. The ticket from Milan to Budapest was only about $11 so I figured why not give it another shot and see what the city really has to offer.

Every airport is different and unique and some are pretty awful. Milan had a wonderful airport with delicious food. A glass of vino and a delicious baguette and I was one happy camper and ready for my flight!

Much like when I stopped at the Four Seasons in Paris, I took myself on a little tour of the Four Seasons Budapest. The brand is known for their flower arrangements in the lobby and while this one was not as grandiose as Paris, I found the simplicity to be quite lovely.

Budapest is full of amazing architecture and history. The Bookcafe is no exception to this. Hidden inside an actual bookstore, the cafe is full of incredible details and a ton of gold. It just so happens that this can be found on the way to one of the thermal baths as well and makes for a perfect stop prior to a day of lounging.



Budapest sites over multiple natural thermal springs. The bathhouses are a common activity for locals and a tradition that has spanned ages. I chose to go to one of the more touristy ones since it had a gorgeous outdoor warm pool. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day to be here. Some of the bath houses have different days for men and women but this one is always open to all. The pools range from ice cold to about hot tub level and the entrance allows you to stay all day! This really was a great experience and a must see in Budapest.


I often forget to take pictures and show or explain what hostel life is like. The hostel in Budapest was very cozy and small which is exactly what I was looking for. Hostels are where you can meet new people and create memories with total strangers without thinking about cultural differences or age. The picture above had people age 21-32 and from Israel, Brazil, Sweden and the states. The one thing that bonded us together was our love for travel!

Milan

For some reason Milan has never really been a place I wanted to go but it was on the way from Lugano to Budapest so I thought a quick stop here would be helpful in not moving around a lot.


The main site in Milan aside from the fashion and shopping is the Cathedral. When you come out of the metro the cathedral just looms up in front of you. By this point of the trip I have seen my fair share of cathedrals so I opted out of entering this one. However, it is a beautiful site.


I like to find some of the random focal points of a city and the finger statue did not let me down. This statue was dressed with a ribbon for breast cancer but stands in front of the stock exchange as a big FU from the people to the Italian Stock Exchange. Personally I thought this was pretty funny and entertaining.

One of the amazing aspects of social media is the ability to stay connected with people and make plans. I found out my friend Sarah would be in Milan for 3o minutes for a train switch and so we met up for a quick hello and a hug. Traveling really does show you how small the world can be.


The main tourist area of Milan is pretty clean but once you get out into some alleys, there are some grimey sections and of course some street art. I thought this little guy was pretty cool.

I am glad I went to Milan but it is not a spot I would add as a must see when there are so many other beautiful places in Italy.

Lugano

Not a lot of people have heard of Lugano, Switzerland. It is the Swiss side to the very popular Lake Como and from what I have been told, just as beautiful. My friend that I was in Paris with is currently working and living here so I thought a visit for a few days would be great!

There is a small airport in Lugano but it is much cheaper to fly into Milan and take about an hour mini bus for €25.00. Once there we jumped on a mini tram and showed up to the house.

I spent two days relaxing and doing laundry and hanging out with my friend and the little guy you see pictured below. Switzerland is very expensive (think $30 for a hamburger) so two days was enough for me and it was time to move on to Milan!



Paris for the Weekend

When you have a friend that lives in Lugano and they ask if you want to meet in Paris for the weekend, the answer is always yes! This was going to be my fourth trip to Paris but the first for my friend. We basically had one day to try and experience the best of Paris.


We stayed at an Air Bnb instead of a hostel because it was actually less than getting a private room. I arrived before her and went straight to the grocery store to create a little welcome snack to get us started. I think one of the best things about Paris is the affordability of the cheese and wine. A lot of people assume that Paris is a really expensive city but if you shop at local markets, it really keeps down the cost.


What is a visit to Paris without a stop at the Eiffel Tower? We were within walking distance of this gem and took the time to take some pictures an enjoy a glass of rose as the sun was setting. Year round the tower is lit up at night and sparkles every hour on the hour. You can even take a bottle of wine and sit on the grass and enjoy the show. It is absolutely worth seeing at night.


Next was a little walk down Champs-Elysees starting at the Arc de Triomphe. There are tours you can do to head to the stop of the arc but we decided just to admire it and continue our walk.


The Four Seasons Hotel George V is one of the most iconic Four Seasons in the world.The lobby is full of gorgeous flower arrangements year round. I had to pop in and walk around and capture the beauty. It was fashion week while we were there and so there were kids and paparazzi camped out front of the hotel. I have no idea who was staying there but I was glad to not end up on a worst dressed list!

Continuing on the tourist path of Paris must-sees put us at Notre Dame. The line was incredibly long to take a tour so we didn’t even attempt to go in. You can still appreciate the gothic architecture from the outside and there are plenty of cafes around to sit and relax and people watch.

There is so much more to do in Paris but this was the perfect way to see some of the major things in one day. Au revoir Paris!

Porto

Porto was always on my list of the must visit places in Portugal. Before looking at a map I actually thought Porto was where Lisbon is and visa versa for no particular reason except I had never looked closely at a map of Portugal. This just goes to show you how much I actually know about geography. The city is incredibly hilly and you better be prepared to walk a lot to get anywhere but so worth it!


The Douro River flows along the coast of the city and eventually leads to the beach. There are these lovely little boat tours that tell you all about the history of the 6 bridges in Porto which they are very proud of. I was a little more focused on the view rather than listening to the history. It is a great way to see the city from a birds eye view.

I spent most of my time walking around and just exploring the city including an entire day of port tasting which you can read about here.

Porto is an absolutely gorgeous town with spectacular and an amazing history. Sadly, this was the end of my time in Portugal but I fully intend to come back for a longer visit.