Art Nouveau walk in Vienna

When I think of Vienna, I think of Gustav Klimt and Art Nouveau artists. This summer, I visited Vienna, admired its palaces and magnificent 19th Century buildings and of course I went to see some famous Art Nouveau spots.

Are you ready for a Art Nouveau walk in Vienna with me?


Itinerary of Art Nouveau walk in Vienna


Itinerary of my Art Nouveau walk in Vienna (click the map to enlarge)

(1) Kettenbrückengasse

The walk starts at Kettenbrückengasse subway station (on the U4 line). And the first Art Nouveau site is the subway station itself. It was built in 1899 by architect Otto Wagner, who designed other stations on the U4 line. Otto Wagner can be compared to Hector Guimard who built Paris subway stations. However Kettenbrückengasse subway station is more sober than Guimard’s luxuriant subway stations in Paris.


Kettenbrückengasse subway station in Vienna


Kettenbrückengasse subway station

We can find foliage patterns that are typical of Art Nouveau style: indeed Art Nouveau artists wanted to reintroduce Nature into Art.


Detail of Kettenbrückengasse subway station


Detail of Kettenbrückengasse subway station

(2) Majolica House and Medallion House

The second stop is not far: located Linke Wienzeile 38 and 40, next to the subway station, Majolica House and Medallion House buildings were built by Otto Wagner in 1899.


Majolica House in Vienna


Majolica House

Majolica House or Majolikahaus is covered with pink flower ceramic tiles. That makes a change from facades that are all the same color!


detail of Majolica House in Vienna


Majolica House

Medallion House is decorated with golden palm leaves, garlands and medallions of women’s heads by Kolo Moser.


Medallion House in Vienna


Medallion House


Medallion House. Detail of the medallions


Medallion House. Detail of the medallions

Art Nouveau artists thought that Architecture or Wrought-iron Work were Art in the same way as Painting or Sculpture. For them, there were no major arts or minor arts. All the forms of Art were valuable and collaborated for a total art.


Medallion House in Vienna. Detail of the balconies.


Medallion House. Detail of the balconies.

(3) Secession building

Then we take Linke Wienzeile and go along Naschmarkt market. After 600 meters, we arrive at a building topped with a golden openwork dome. In Austria, instead of Art Nouveau, people use the expressions Jugendstil or Vienna Secession. Originally, a group of artists decided to secede from Vienna conservatist artists. They needed a place to exhibit. So in 1898, architect Joseph Olbrich designed this building which is called… Secession of course!


Secession building in Vienna


Secession building

The building includes many symbols, as if there were a coded message in the architecture. For example, gorgon heads (a gorgon is a woman with snakes instead of hair) and owls are attributes of Athena, goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology. And laurel is associated with Apollo, god of the arts.


Secession building in Vienna. Entrance door topped with three gorgon heads


Secession building. Entrance door topped with three gorgon heads


Secession building in Vienna. Owls statues and crown of laurels on the facade


Secession building. Owls statues and crown of laurels on the facade


Secession building in Vienna. Laurel patterns on the facade


Secession building. Laurel patterns on the facade

However I don’t know what those small turtles strolling under a big mosaic pot symbolise.


Gigantic vase and turtles statues at the Secession entrance in Vienna


Gigantic vase and turtles statues at the Secession entrance

(4) Karlsplatz

We walk on the same street until Karlsplatz where there are two former subway stations by Otto Wagner facing each other.


Karlsplatz subway station in Vienna


Karlsplatz subway station in Vienna

The facade is in white marble and ornamented with stylized sunflowers.


Detail of Karlsplatz subway station in Vienna


Detail of Karlsplatz subway station

The walk stops at Karlsplatz where you can enjoy Resselpark and have a break under the trees.

For more information on Vienna Secession:
A history of Vienna Secession

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The Valley of the Temples in Sicily

Located in Agigento, Sicily, the Valley of the Temples is a timeless place. You can walk in the romantic ruins in the middle of olive and carob trees, as writers Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Alexandre Dumas did before.


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Juno

Temple of Juno (click on the pictures to enlarge them)

The temples and the city (that you have to imagine) were built at the time when Sicily was a Greek colony.


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Concordia

Temple of Concordia

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the site was progressively abandoned by its inhabitants who moved to the hill where the modern Agrigento is.


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily

One of the temples is still standing thanks to its reuse as a church. Several columns of other temples were reconstructed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Apart those, you see piles of stones cut 2500 years ago.


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Juno

Temple of Juno


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Heracles

Temple of Heracles


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Concordia

Temple of Concordia


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily


The Valley of the Temples in Sicily. Temple of Castor and Pollux

Temple of Castor and Pollux

I advise to visit the site off-season or at least off-peak to avoid breaking the spell.

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Roman mosaics in Sicily

During my recent stay in Sicily, Italy, I visited a Roman villa called Villa Romana Del Casale. It was a sumptuous villa from the roman period. The owners lived in luxury: the villa had its own private thermae, several reception halls and (common) restrooms as large as a living room. Today, only the bottom part of the walls and the floor mosaics remain.

Even service rooms were decorated, with geometric patterned mosaics. I like this geometrical mosaic that looks like a carpet.


Roman geometric patterned mosaic. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily


(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

In the reception halls and bedrooms, mosaics show mythological scenes and also daily life scenes: hunting, fishing, sport, children’s games, animals…

Here for example, like in Ben-Hur chariot race sequence, children race in chariots but those are pulled by… birds.


Roman mosaic showing children racing in chariots pulled by birds. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

In another room, this mosaic combines geometrical patterns and medallions featuring fruits.


Roman mosaic combining geometrical patterns and medallions featuring fruits. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

The mosaic artists managed to show details in a very realistic way, such as those figs that make me hungry.


Roman mosaic with geometrical patterns and a medallion featuring figs. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

By the way, what I prefered were the small details of the mosaics. Here some plants that could be part of a decoration catalogue.


Roman mosaic showing potted plants. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

There some fishes.


Roman mosaic showing two fishes. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

And finally a bird. Thanks to the enlargement, you can see more closely the assembly of small colored stone pieces.


Roman mosaic showing a bird. Villa Romana Del Casale in Sicily

For more information, see Villa Romana Del Casale website

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My review of microfiber towel

I discovered the concept of microfiber towel in a an article by Tim Ferris on travelling light

I thought it was a good idea and I bought a microfiber towel to carry with me when I travel.

drawing of a woman wrapped in a microfiber towel in her bathroom

Here is my opinion after testing it:

Pros:
+ My towel is 120 cm by 60 cm. It’s smaller than a bath sheet but it can dry the body and also the hair because it’s very absorbent.
+ It dries faster than a regular towel.
+ It’s much lighter and less bulky than a bath towel.

Cons:
– It’s less fluffy than a terry towel. That’s why I save it for travels and it’s not my everyday towel.
– It looks like my microfiber cleaning cloths. Be careful not to mix them up when you’re half-awake!
– The one I have bought fades in the wash

Eventually my feedback is quite positive. Incidentally I’m not the only one to find this towel useful as it disappeared from my hotel room on my latest trip. Fortunately the hotel paid me back and I bought another microfiber towel.

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Sandals as travel slippers

drawing of my sandals-travel slippers

I devote an article to my sandals-travel slippers because I find they are so practical. Actually, these are sandals but I mainly use them as slippers so I have renamed them sandals-slippers.

When I travel, I try to lighten my luggage because it’s always too heavy for my liking.
Therefore I have had the idea to take with me my rubber sandals
because they are light and
multi-purpose: I use them as slippers inside but also as sandals to walk on the beach or at the swimming pool. I can wash them with soap and water and they dry quickly.
The only downside is that they are not ideal in a home that is not enough heated in winter. Otherwise I always bring them in my baggage.

drawing of my sandals-travel slippers

The sandals I have drawn are crocs (the Cleo model) that have gone the distance till now. And you, do you bring your slippers on holiday?

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Vancouver eco-friendly travel tips


In this article, I have put what I would have liked to have known the first time I came to Vancouver, BC: practical information, ecological shops and useful links to visit without polluting.

Transportation


A car is not necessary to visit Vancouver. You can go everywhere by public transit (bus, skytrain and seabus). Only if you are off-center, it can take time.
Bus schedules are available in public libraries and you can plan your itineraries using Google maps or Vancouver’s public transit website, Translink.


Cycling is another means of transport in Vancouver. There are several bike and skate rentals on Denman Street and elsewhere in the city. Their addresses are in the Canadian yellow pages.
Just remember that helmets are mandatory in Vancouver.
The city of Vancouver has published a map of the bicycle routes (downloadable in pdf format).
If you are in Vancouver on the last Friday of the month, you can join the critical mass, a monthly demonstration of cyclists to reclaim the streets.

a bike carried on a bus in Vancouver

In Vancouver, you can travel by bus or by bike or by both at the same time.
photo Stephen Rees (c) Creative Commons

Buying food


You can find quite a bit of organic products, in supermarkets and in healthy food stores. I have made a list of health food stores in Vancouver on this blog. Organic products are labeled ‘certified organic’ with the name of the certification body. You need to be watchful because they are often mixed with some products that are more or less natural.


Earthsave association publishes a vegetarian directory that lists among others vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

You can find local products in Granville Market that is Vancouver’s market. In the summer, some local producers sell their products in several farmers markets.


Organic stall in Granville Market in Vancouver


Organic stall in Granville Market

Shopping


MEC (130 West Broadway) is a outdoor and sport equipment store. It’s a retail co-operative so when you buy something there for the first time, you will be asked a few dollars to become a member. MEC has a sustainable development policy and donates 1% of its annual gross sales to environmental causes.



The shops of 10 000 villages association sell fair trade handicrafts.

There’s quite a lot of thrift stores in Vancouver. Just if you buy second-hand clothes, I advise you to wash them at high temperatures to avoid to bringing bedbugs home. There are garage sales too.

Recycling


The city of Vancouver provides recycling collection service.
Electronic store like FutureShop, BestBuy or London Drugs collect batteries and electroning waste. Recycling Council of British Columbia tells where to recycle some other materials.


When you buy a bottle or a can in a shop, you pay a recycling fee and a deposit (between 5 and 20 cents). You receive a full deposit refund if you return the empty container to the shop.

A few things to do


Vancouver is a good destination if you like outdoor activities. From renting a canoe in Deep Cove to snowshoeing or hiking, there are many options. You can find descriptions of some Vancouver hiking trails on Vancouver trails.
Some hikes require the use of a car but others are accessible by public transit. It’s worth walking because there are magnificent landscapes to discover in British Columbia.



Vancouver has a number of nice parks and gardens. Walking or cycling around the seawall of Stanley Park, which is the city’s most famous park, is a must-do when you visit Vancouver. The inside of the park is also interesting and includes a Nature House that organises ecological activities and the prospect of seeing raccoons or beavers.

Queen Elizabeth Park has nice flowery gardens where recent graduates and newlyweds have their photograph taken.
Like Stanley Park, Pacific Spirit Park runs alongside the sea but in a wilder environment. This is also the location of Vancouver’s nude beach.


On the city of Vancouver website, you can see a map of Community Gardens. I went for a Community Gardens discovery walk in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood and besides admiring the gardens, we were lucky to meet gardeners who were happy to discuss their small patch of land.


Community garden in Vancouver


A community garden in Vancouver

Those are my best green tips for visiting Vancouver. Feel free to share yours in the comments section to complete this guide.


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