Category Archives: Art

That Time I Ate My Weight In Street Food: Penang, Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia was a big surprise for me, as it’s so incredibly different than all the other spots in Malaysia I experienced.

Georgetown is quaint and quirky: my kinda spot!

Georgetown is quaint and quirky: my kinda spot!

We spent a few days in the capital, Georgetown, which as you might be able to concur by the name was colonized by the British.

Georgetown is well, adorable.

Georgetown is well, adorable.

The town is full of two-story British colonial style shopfronts and homes, which, if you’re imagining this in your head, might seem pretty regular, except now add in the fact that they are covered with Chinese or Indian writing.

Exploring.

Exploring.

This is where things get interesting. As the rest of Malaysia has a very high Islamic population, Penang does not, because the majority of Penang’s population is actually Chinese, followed by Malay, followed by Indian.

British with a serious Asian vibe.

British with a serious Asian vibe.

They all peacefully coexist, and all while inhabiting these traditional British colonial structures in the intense heat and humidity.

Our hotel. Not the best pic, but a very special space.

Our hotel. Not the best pic, but a very special space.

So the scene has been set. We arrived at our hotel, the charming Nam Keng, on a peaceful street in Georgetown late at night. The hotel was once an old British mansion, now decorated with rich wood and Chinese characters, with a beautiful courtyard in the middle, shutters thrown open to let the Malay sun shine in. Or in our case, the night moon. The hotel was perfect. Jorge always makes fun of me and how much time I spend researching the perfect hotels for us but when you are on the road for six weeks, it’s amazing to come to a hotel and feel like you’ve arrived home. We immediately headed to Lebuh Chulia, which is the “backpacker” street. This to me translates to me as “incredibly cheap street food for broke travelers.” And cheap it was. I got some kind of noodle dish with pork for 3 riggit (about 50 cents) and on the pricier side at 5 riggits, Jorge got the famous Char Kway Teow….. which is a famous Chinese Malay dish of rice noodles, complete with juicy pork, peanuts and shrimp. We also got fresh juices which came in a trusty bag, I got mango and Jorge orange and carrot. These cost about 50 cents each. Having stuffed our bellies for a combined total of approximately two euros, we headed back the hotel to crash after a long day of traveling.

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We awoke the next morning and I was ready to explore the street art scene. Penang is famous for its art, and we were lucky enough to be in the city during the Georgetown Arts Festival.

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The festival is one month long and offers several temporary art and photography exhibits as well as some dance and music shows. But first, we wanted to start with that permanent street art that Georgetown is known for.

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So we braved the 100 degree plus heat and started off. The street art did not disappoint! I loved the way the artists incorporated 3D items into the art, like a real bicycle and then children painted on the walls.

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It was so much fun to take cheesy photos with the street art and just seeing all the people enjoying it.

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Street art is so cool because it doesn’t discriminate: it’s for everyone! Locals and tourists alike can enjoy the art, free of charge, anytime.

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This art really gives Georgetown its own quirky character.

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We also braved the heat to enjoy two temporary art exhibitions in town for the festival, one from French sculpture artist and another by a Malay photographer called Panic, who edits his photos to create distortion and disarray.

The jetty's didn't impress me much.

The jetty’s didn’t impress me much.

We also headed down to the Clan Jettys, which are houses on stilts where Chinese people live over the water. I was previously excited to see these, but I unfortunately wasn’t that impressed in person, as I found them super touristy and just kind of smelly and gross. Oh well. It was still a neat experience to see them.

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We were starving and considering we’d probably sweat out half our body weight in the heat, it was time for lunch. We decided to try the most famous Indian restaurant in town (I used the word restaurant lightly—it was more like street food with a roof on top), Kapitan. As I previously mentioned, Penang has a huge Indian population and Little India is a great place to chow down. Kapitan is famous for its chicken tandoori. We ordered two sets: one with clay pot biryiani rice and other with butter garlic naan.

The best meal I've ever eaten.

The best meal I’ve ever eaten.

This was the best chicken tandoori I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve been to India. The flavors were unreal: the chicken expertly crisped, the tandoori sauce spiced to perfection, the naan buttery and soft…I was in heaven! I almost hugged our server I was so happy…I feel like at least 1/3 of my life in Madrid is spent trying to find delicious Indian and ethnic food…one can only eat so many croquetas you know? Oh, if only I could have this amount of SPICE in my life on a daily basis! It was so amazing that we’d end up back there AGAIN the next day, I just couldn’t get enough. In fact, it’s only been a few days and I’m already dreaming of those flavors. Better get that out of my head, because I’m a girl who’s been ruined: I know I’ll never find Tandoori like that again, at least not in Spain! After this I decided I needed a back massage, which I quickly found and was amazing. I figured I need to start preparing to get my daily massages in Thailand.

Our spa.

Our spa.

Although this one was rather pricey: about 8 euros for 30 minutes, it was amazing and well needed after many days of planes, trains and automobiles, not to mention tons of walking around. That night, Jorge and I decided that we needed more Indian food and headed once again in the direction of Little India. We tried to get samosas but they’d run out for the day, so instead we got Roti Jala, which is a type of soft bread with a curry dipping sauce. As if I hadn’t had enough bread and spicy sauce already that day! It was insanely amazing and just 3 Riggit. This plus a couple of fresh juices and we were full. We decided that we wanted to splurge and head up to a fancy rooftop bar to get an overpriced beer and views of the city.

The view from the rooftop bar.

The view from the rooftop bar. A bit blurry, but you get the idea.

So we found one called Three Sixty, which is on the top of a hotel. It has a revolving restaurant and an outdoor Sky Bar for drinks. We ordered two beers for a total of 40 riggits (8 euros or so) which actually cost more than the total of our dinner three nights in a row! But it was fun to see views of the city at night, so it was worth it. We try to walk that fine line between splurge and save during our trips, so this was definitely a fun splurge. However, since Malaysia is Islamic, they don’t brew their own beer, which was disappointing. Instead, the offerings were mainly European, which is why I found myself drinking a Carlsberg (ew).

Unfortunately, a bit hazy at the top of Penang Hill.

Unfortunately, a bit hazy at the top of Penang Hill.

The next day, we took the local bus (an experience in itself) about an hour to the base of Penang Hill, and then prepared to take the funicular up. After waiting in line with a lot of annoying tourists, we headed up.

A lookout point on the hill.

A lookout point on the hill.

The views from the top of the hill were massive, since it was hazy, it wasn’t the best day to see for miles. It was still neat to be so high up though. I will say the hill is very much geared towards families, with tons of things for kids to do (extra $$$ of course) but we stopped into the mosque and the Hindu temple at the top and then ordered some chick pea masala for a $1 that was delicious.

My favorite part of the excursion, the street food.

My favorite part of the excursion, the street food.

We headed back down to then head to the Kok Lo Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, perched at the base of the hill and quite possibly one of the most spectacular temples I’ve seen.

The temple.

The temple.

However, it was unbelievably hot out, so this temple excursion was definitely a sweaty one. We grabbed the local bus and then of course, got off at the wrong stop, but it was fine as we wandered through a more authentic area of Penang, where locals went about their business, shopping, working, cooking up a storm of street food. We finally discovered the entrance to the temple, which sits at the base of the hill. Covered with market stalls on each site, locals try to hawk you souvenirs too you as you make the climb up uneven, dark stone stairs. Once near the top, there is a creepy pond filled to the brim of turtles that looks rather like a construction zone, and then the temple fun starts.

The famous pagoda, with its three design styles.

The famous pagoda, with its three design styles.

The structure itself is enormous, with several pagodas and twists and turns. Of course, too many Buddhas to count. As the temple is perched up high, there are so many spots that make awesome panoramic viewpoints. The first section of the temple visit is free, but if you want to climb the famous Pagoda of “Ban Po Thar” or Pagoda of the Ten Thousand Buddhas, you have to pay 2 Riggit per person, about 40 cents or so. The structure is extremely interesting because it combines three main architectural styles: Burmese, Thai and Chinese. Having visited many temples in Myanmar, the first thing I noticed was the top of the pagoda, which is gold and tapered in the typical Myanmar style. Whereas I am sure there are more accurate architectural terms to describe the differences in the three styles, I did notice the typical Thai minaret peaks in the middle section and then the base of the structure is Chinese.

Views from the pagoda.

Views from the pagoda.

The view from the pagoda was amazing and each level provided a difference angle of the city, perfect for taking an excessive number of photos, which of course, we did. It’s worth noting that during the Chinese New Year, you can finish the temple at night, when it’s lit up with Chinese lanterns. It must really be a sight to see!

After the temple, we headed back down to the city center. After exploring some street food in Chinatown, we decided all we wanted was more Indian food in Little India, so that’s exactly what we did. Two tandoori chickens, two carrot and orange smoothies and two foot massages later, we ended up back at the hotel. The next day we were finally heading to the beach, but not before exploring the morning market. Many markets in Asia are in the evening to beat the heat, so I was surprised to hear their market was open all day.

The chaos of the market.

The chaos of the market.

Of course, we headed there on the early side and the market was filled with locals, both selling and buying food, like noodles and curries for breakfast and also things like raw fish and meat for the week, fruit etc. The market also sold housewares, clothing, even lingerie!

A guy selling fish and other unidentifiable items at the market. I find it interesting,, so many locals sit like this all day long. I've been taking yoga for 20 years to be able to hold this posture for like, 11 seconds.

A guy selling fish and other unidentifiable items at the market. I find it interesting that so many locals in Southeast Asia sit like this all day long. I’ve been taking yoga for 20 years to be able to hold this posture for like, 11 seconds.

Jorge and I picked up a few things and then it was time to head to Thailand. As I plan to spend the next two weeks doing pretty much nothing besides lying on the beach, doing yoga and eating Penang curry, there won’t be much more happening on LSM until my next trip (don’t worry, got a lot of plans coming up soon). I hope you enjoyed following our adventure this summer and cheers until next time!

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Jean Paul Gaultier´s Fashion Universe

I finally had the opportunity to pop into the the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit and I was beyond impressed by what I encountered.  Last year I saw a YSL exhibit in the same space and loved it, and the Gaultier exhibit literally blew me away.

Seeing the designs up close in itself is a guilty pleasure.  His designs are not what I would consider beautiful… weird, creepy or strange are a better fit, but none the less-stunning and fabulous.

The unexpected part of the exhibit was that all the manniquins actually have FACES.  Created by a hologram, they have eyes that move, open and close, and even stare you down.  Their mouths smile and sometimes even talk.  I have never seen anything like this before and it truly added to the shock value of the showcase.

Parisian flavour is what also helps give Jean Paul Gaultier his signature look, among other inspirations.   Note the Eiffel Tower tights, heels and the Moulin Rouge inspired dress.

 

The exhibit is over on the 6th of January so I high recommend trying to stop in and see it.  It´s 100 percent worth your time and only takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour to see it all.  Best of all…it´s free! I considered this the best free gift I´ve gotten in a while.

Enjoy the pics and see my previous post on the Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibit for more details, hours, etc.

 

Best of Madrid: Corral de la Morería

Corral de la Morería combines two of my favorite things in Spain: food and flamenco.  Nobody can argue with the fact that Spain, more specifically, Madrid, has some of the best gastronomy and flamenco in the entire world.  I experienced this first hand at Corral de la Morería.

Corral de la Morería is not only the most famous flamenco tablao in the world (attracting guests such as Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas, The Rolling Stones, Natalie Portman, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Jessica Parker just to name A FEW) it´s also a gourmet restaurant that´s appeared in the Michelin Guide for six consecutive years.  Additionally, it´s been featured in the Book ¨1000 Places to See Before you Die¨.  Great, I´ve checked one off the list, 999 more to go.

The Vision:

After chatting with the two directors/brothers Juan Manuel and Armando del Rey (which I´ll share more about later in the Experience Section) they explained to me that the vision for this Tablao is simple concept, yet complicated to achieve.  The idea is to hold on the original concept of an elegant, classic, historical spanish flamenco show while providing attentive service and serving modern and innovative cuisine.  All in all, they strive to provide a premium experience for their clientele.  This is interesting because the two concepts (the historical building and show mixed with the modern cuisine) theoretically seem to juxtapose each other…but Juan Manuel and Armando have truly acheieved their vision, or rather the vision of their father.   Which leads me to the backstory.

The Backstory:

Juan Manuel and Armando also shared with me an intriguing, romantic history of the Corral.  The tablao was created in 1956 by Don Manuel del Rey, their father.   Often called ¨The Cathedral of Flamenco¨the center was the first of it´s kind to include not just a flamenco show but the concept of gourmet cuisine to accompany it.  The location of the Tablao is near the Palace and Calle Mayor but back in the day, this location was considered to be the outskirts of the city.  Apparently, the business was slow and so Don Manuel del Rey hoped to boost business by searching for the perfect flamenco dancer.  One of them, around age 14, came north from  Córdoba to dance in the Tablao.  Her name was Blanca.  As business increased, so did Don Manuel´s attraction to Blanca and 5 years later they were married.  Blanca was 19, Don Manuel was 49.  Blanca is now the artistic director of the establishement and her and Don Manuel shared many happy years running Corral de la Morería together, and now, their two sons are in charge.  How romantic!

 My experience:

As per all of my advice about Madrid, I absolutely must experience things first hand in order to recommend them to others.  So here you have my own personal experience and review of Corral de la Morería.

I decided to attend the second dinner and show, in order to have more time to hopefully chat with the owners and wander the place afterwards.  I arrived a bit early and was directed towards the bar.  As I sipped a glass of wine, I tried to focus on the details of the place and the people surrounding me.  The decoration and the building itself embody ¨old Madrid¨.  Typical classic paintings, original walls, windows and ceiling, art that could be in the Prado museum, it was exactly what I think a flamenco tablao should look like.  Flamenco is an old art form and I love seeing the attempt to preserve it as such.  It really adds charm to the experience.

The clientele was mixed-I noticed several tourist types, local couples, groups of friends.   I heard Spanish, English and Portuguese spoken-and the waiters were extremely accomdating to this.  I heard the server offer the table next to us a menu in Portuguese.    In general, the service was phenomenal, warm and not overdone, which is EXTREMELY rare in Spain, even at very nice restaurants.  We decided on the tasting menu and were offered excellent wine recommendations.  The tasting menu was the way to go and offers half plates so you can taste more items.

The menu is as follows.  I will try my best to translate into English.

Ensalada de Vieiras con Puré de Alcachofas y Dados de Tomate Aliñados

(Seafood salad with brussel sprout puree and diced tomates)

Yema de Huevo de Codorniz sobre Ropa Vieja, Crema de Zanahoria y su caldito de Cocido Madrileño.

(Hen egg yolk over roast beef with creamed carrots and Madrid style soup broth)

Lomo de Merluz de Pincho al Vapor con nuestra Salsa Pil Pil

(Steamed Hakefish with house sauce Pil Pil)

Solomillo de Ternera con Foie y Manzanas Caramelizadas

(Steak with Foie and Carmelized Apples)

Coulant de Chocolate con Helado de Vainilla Tahití

(Chocolate Coulant and Tahiti Vanilla Ice Cream)

The food and presentation were both exceptional.  I throughly enjoyed every last minute of it.  The wine parings were also phenomenal and included a Marques de Riscal Verdejo Rueda with the fish and then a Matarromera Crianza Ribera with the meat.  At the end, we also had a small sample of Pedro Ximenez dessert wine.  My favorite parts of the meal included the hakefish (I have never had hakefish so tender.  I was later told that use a new method of steaming the fish to keep the freshness and tenderness intact) and the steak with foie, which was cooked perfectly.

After the meal we were able to relax and enjoy the show.  The special guest artists, which change monthly, were Belén Lopez and Jesús Fernández, who are both known throughout Spain as being the best of the best when it comes to flamenco.  The show was beautiful and one of the most wonderful things about flamenco is that the dancers, singers, and musicans are all entirely lost in the passion of the music, which, in turn, makes you completely lost in it as well.

I enjoyed the dinner and show from a fashion standpoint as well.  I like to note the details, I think that is what really makes a place original and special.  From the different plates to the costume changes of the dancers, I felt that every last moment was created to give the clientele a true preminum experience.

I was in awe when the dancers stepped out in this particular costumes with the fans. I was curious about the outfits and I was later explained that this particular dance and song was inspired by Cuba, when flamenco dancers  briefly travelled to La Havana to learn new steps and dances to add into their routines.  This particular portion, as they stomped and whirled with the fans, literally transported me to another era, another time, ¨the old Spain¨-the one I´ve seen in movies and picture books.  It had a very magical element to it.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was after the show when Juan Manuel and Armando del Rey, the two brothers that run the Corral, sat down with me and we chatted.  They told me their vision, the backstory, and more.  The conversation flowed naturally  I was immediately able to tell why Corral de la Morería was and is so successful.  The family history, the warmth and passion these brothers put into this business is entirely evident.  They work  so hard to create the perfect balance between gourmet food and authentic flamenco, never losing sight of their father´s (and now their own) vision for the tablao.  The thoughtfully answered all my questions and did not hesitate to share with me their stories and experiences at the Corral.

All in all I had a very authetic experience at Corral de la Morería.  I highly recommened this establishment, it has officially earned the Life and Style Madrid Stamp of Approval.

Important Details:

The prices for the shows start at 38.90 euros and the dinner prices start at about 39.90 euros.  It is not neccesary to have dinner there (although I highly recommend it), you do have the option to simply see the show and have a cocktail while watching.

I believe Corral de la Morería has atleast one show daily so you are guarenteed to catch a performance no matter what day you are visiting Madrid.

Location: Calle de la Morería, 17 Madrid

Telephone:  913651137

(Note: the Iphone maps do not pick up this address, for whatever reason.  I recommened using a PC to look it up via google maps if you need to map the address. You can also see a map on their webpage.)

For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit the Corral de la Morería Webpage.

Photos by Jorge Ortega

 

La Moda es Sueño

¨La Moda es Sueño¨ is the third fashion exhibit currently on display here in Madrid. (The others being Cartier and Jean Paul Gautlier).  It´s the fall/winter 2012 of fabulous fashion exhibits!

Literally translated to  ¨Fashion is a Dream¨this exhibit features fashion creations in the last 25 years by successful spanish designers.

Details as follows:

Location:

Museo de Cerrablo

c/ Ventura Rodríguez, 17

28008 Madrid, España

Metro: Plaza España

Dates:

Until January 13

Tues-Sat 9pm-3pm

Thurs-5 pm-8pm

Sun-10-3

Closed Mondays

Price:

3 euros to enter

Free on Sundays,  Thursday evenings and Saturday after 2 pm.

 

Diamonds are a Girl´s Best Friend!

Ever dream of being Grace Kelly or Coco Chanel?  Or owning their diamonds atleast?  Now you can live vicariously through them while visiting the special Cartier exhibit at the Thyssen museum in Madrid.

Enjoy gazing at over 400 pieces ranging from 1847 to present day.  Get lost in the glittery pieces such as early 20th century tiaras, art deco pieces, exotic gems from far off lands such as India and China, ¨Tutti Frutti¨gems (these are studded with rubies, sapphires and emeralds) and of course jewels owned by Grace Kelly, Coco Chanel, Elizabeth Taylor, María Felix and Wallis Simpson.

Details as follows:

Dates: October 24, 2012 – February 17, 2013

Days and Times: Tues-Sat 10 am to 7 pm

Price: 8 euros

Metro: Banco de España

For more information, visit the Thyssen website.

Additionally, this is a great time to spend a day at the Thyssen, as there is also a special exhibit from painter Paul Gauguin that runs until Jan. 13th, 2013.  You can find information on the Gauguin exhibit on the Thyssen website.

 

 

The Sartorialist in Madrid

I was thrilled to finally be able to check out the photo exhibit from famous fashion blog ¨The Sartorialist¨.  For those of you who aren´t familiar with the blog (gasp! blasphemy! Start reading it immediately HERE!), it´s a blog that takes pictures of people with interesting fashion on the streets of various cities around the world.  I honestly think it has revoluntinized the way we see fashion. It´s not just about runway trends and expensive designers.  The Sartorialist is all about having your own personal style, quirks, and personality and just rocking it.

The exhibit was small but tastefully done and I really loved each and every photograph I saw.  I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I did and if you get a chance to visit the exhibit in person, please go, it really only takes a few minutes to stroll around.

For details about the exhibit, please visit my blog post HERE with the location, dates, etc of the exhibit.

 

Saved my favorite for last…the snow…the loubs…the coat…everything is magical!

Heather, Stevie and Me enjoying the exhibit!

Me, visibly excited to be seeing all these amazing photos!

Ferragamo Fashion Show at the Louvre

Nowadays designers are really try to push the limits to create memorable and surprising fashion shows.   I recently saw Forever 21´s holgram fashion show-talk about new and innovative!

Salvatore Ferragamo decided this year that to make the showing of their  Resort 2013 collection extra special by hosting it in Paris´s most prestigous art museum, the Louvre.  I can only imagine how fabulous this would be.  This is the very first time the Louvre has opened their doors to this type of event.  Clearly, it was a big deal, as celebs Leighton Meester, Hilary Swank and Freida Pinto were seated front row.

The Florence-based fashion house hosted the show in an impressive 120 meters of the Denon Wing arcade of the almost 900-year-old building thanks to its sponsorship of the Louvre’s current exhibition of “The Virgin and Saint Anne,” the last painting by Florentine master Leonardo da Vinci.

I do find it slightly interesting that the first fashion show in the Louvre was by an Italian and not French designer…hmmm?!

Apparently, the clothes were almost designed to match the Louvre´s light colored stone, with a light pastel colored palette.

See below for images of the iconic show!

 

 

Images from FashionStyle.com, Fashion-Court.com, Popsugar.com