Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Tel Aviv

Question: What do the following three things have in common: 1) Hummus 2) wild night life 3) Batsheva Dance Company.

Answer: Tel Aviv, Israel.

I have a strong appreciation for number one and number three (and a mild tolerance for number two), so you can imagine how excited I was to be in Tel Aviv.

My first night in town gave me a quick but clear view of Tel Aviv's infamous night life. The homebody in me intended on taking it easy, but I mustered up some energy to meet up with my friend Bret. At 12AM, the party was just getting started! Some functions that evening were rumored to wrap up at 7AM, but I lasted a solid three and a half hours and was in bed by 4AM.

Bret is a friend I grew up dancing with on Teen Dance Company and who now is a member of the world renowned Batsheva Dance Company. I haven't seen Bret since he left for Juilliard nearly 8 years ago. It was absolutely electric seeing and hanging out with him:

I slept in the next morning, and after a long run along the coastline I soaked in the sun's warmth on the beach with a glass of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice in hand: 

The beach was beautiful and the hummus was to die for, but the most memorable part about my time in Tel Aviv was taking company class with Bret and the rest of the Batsheva company members. I've admired Ohad Naharin's (the company director) work and have been inspired by his movement for years. The hour long class was centered around Gaga, an improvisational technique/style developed by Naharin: 

Gaga is an experience of freedom and pleasure. The work improves instinctive movement and connects conscious and unconscious movement, and it allows for an experience of freedom and pleasure in a simple way, in a pleasant space, in comfortable clothes, accompanied by music, each person with himself and others." 
(Batsheva Dance Co. website)

Immediately after class I took a quick stroll through Old Jaffa, the historical part of town. Old Jaffa is architecturally charming, and retail shops in the area sell everything from locally made crafts to modern urban wear: 

I wish I had had a few more days in Israel to see more of Tel Aviv or to venture out to Jerusalem (and to eat more hummus!). The trip was short and sweet, and I can't wait to be back again one day.

Now off to Istanbul, Turkey!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Dubai

Up until now, Dubai was the only place in the Middle East I had ever traveled to. It's not a destination typically frequented by American twenty-somethings, but it popped up again on my itinerary this month.

I didn't particularly like or dislike Dubai, but I left the city feeling again puzzled by its culture. Or lack thereof. Many know Dubai as a luxurious place, and symbols of its extravagance include the man made Palms Islands and the towering Burj Khalifa.

But as I mentioned two years ago, there is a very large culture gap between that well-known version of Dubai and the Dubai that is 10 minutes away. Bur Dubai (Old Dubai) is everything the modern part of Dubai is not: monochromatic, poorly developed, and impoverished. As a result Dubai felt confused, as if it was trying to disguise itself as something it was not:

But cultural criticisms aside, I had a great time there. It was too hot to do just about anything besides sitting in the pool, but I made it out to Bur Dubai once (and stayed for all of half an hour):

I even got to celebrate my friend Ian's birthday with him on the beach:

And perhaps the most wonderful discovery I made in Dubai was the existence of fresh watermelon juice. The concept is simple and quite obvious, but I have never thought to throw watermelon in a blender. It is likely to be the most refreshing and thirst quenching juice I have ever tasted:

Up next: Tel Aviv, Israel! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Brisbane & Sydney

My final two destinations in Australia were Brisbane & Sydney.

I finally got to live out one of my Australian dreams at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Not only did I see Australian wildlife like wallabies and dingos, but I also held a koala and walked amongst kangaroos:

I also checked a few things off of my list of things to do in Sydney, like visiting Bondi Beach and running across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I even spent time in some of Sydney's hip neighborhoods, including Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Paddington, and Newtown:

Bondi Beach

One of my favorite new finds in Sydney is Power Living Yoga, a wonderful yoga studio with locations throughout Australia. I was thrilled to finally find a studio with a power yoga practice:

Great quote in the yoga studio

And how could I be in Sydney without visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art? There were some familiar exhibits:

as well as a cool collection of works by Annette Messager titled, "Motion/Emotion":

I've always had great experiences in Sydney, and hope to be back again one day soon!

Next up on my journey around the world: The Middle East! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Melbourne

I have fond memories of Melbourne and was expecting nothing less than awesomeness from Australia's "second city". 

On the night that we arrived, Montana, Sloan, and I checked out Lucky Coq and Revolver Upstairs, two bars that are local favorites. Both are located on Chapel Street south of the river and seemed to be filled with Melbourne's young and well-dressed hip crowd. Bearded lads wearing earth toned beanies and chino pants were downing cold beers, and for a second I felt like I was back in Silverlake! 

A little photoshoot at Revolver Upstairs

Degraves Street in the city is packed with restaurants and cafes including my personal favorite, The Organic Food and Wine Deli (TOFWD). TOWFD's tasty selection of salads, sandwiches, and sweet treats sustained me on my last trip in Melbourne. I was quite keen (there's a bit of Aussie slang for you) on visiting again:
Kale salad and coffee from TOFWD

There is also a flourishing vegan community in Collingwood and Fitzroy, two neighborhoods within walking distance of the main city center. I popped into Las Vegan in Collingwood on my way to Gertrude Street:

T&T Wrap with avocado

I made a new local friend, Shona, at Las Vegan and she highly recommended I try Vegie Bar on Brunswick Street: 
Virtuoso Pizza

Collingwood and Fitzroy are areas in which I feel more at home. These neighborhoods are a bit more urban compared to the main the city:

But even so, taking a stroll down Flinders Street in the main city is not unlike taking a stroll down 1st Avenue in the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. What impresses me most about Melbourne is its apparent love for art and design. I happened on a design event, Local Talent Time, that supposedly had displays set up all over Melbourne, and even discovered a small gallery, Craft, that features goods made my local artists:

Craft Gallery on Flinders Lane

There is also, of course, the famed Hosier Lane:

The more I travel the more I become excited by the idea of living abroad. Melbourne is a city in which I could see myself living for a period of time. While I am currently tied to LA, who knows where the future will take me? For now I'll just have to enjoy this time in my life and take advantage of this gypsy life. 

On to Brisbane and Sydney! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#AdventureswithKaren: Episode Perth

Perth was one of the more memorable Australian cities during my visit in 2012. I loved the quaint alternative neighborhoods, the chill vibes, and the city's subtle yet overwhelming appreciation for street art.

I even made a new friend the last time I was in Perth. While browsing through Tu, a chic clothing boutique on William Street in Northbridge, I met the store's owner An Nie Chong. We quickly became friends, and I ended up going out on the town with her and her friends:
Hanging out with new friends in Perth in 2012
We stayed in touch over the last two years and were reunited a few weeks ago while I was in Perth. She and her boyfriend, Andrew, graciously took the time to show me some of their favorite spots around town. After dinner at Solomon's Cafe, a rustic restaurant with an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan fare, we visited The Mechanics Institute (a hip bar) and Luxe Bar:
Luxe Bar with Ian and Victor
They even took me to Swan Valley, Perth's mini version of Napa Valley where we spent the afternoon tasting wines and eating chocolates: 

A little day trip to Swan Valley
While An Nie and Andrew were working, I visited other Perth neighborhoods including Freemantle (Freo) and Leederville. Freo has a low key energy about it, with much less hustle and bustle than a regular town. While there were a few worthwhile vintage stores and boutiques, some parts of town looked very run down and abandoned:
Cool Freo architecture

Vintage in Wonderland in Freo

Abandoned buildings in Freo
Leederville was as fun as I remembered it to be. I visited a few beloved clothing and knick knack shops, and even saw a familiar graffiti mural:
Great smoothie/juice bar in Leederville

Leederville in 2012
Same mural in Leederville in 2014
Still my favorite due to its geographical convenience and higher volume of foot traffic is Northbridge. Northbridge is just a few steps north of the Perth Train Station and more exciting when compared to Leederville and Freo. There are cool bars, including Ezra Pound and The Bird, and quite a few urban clothing boutiques: 

An Nie's store, Tu, doubles as a coffee and tea cafe and is the perfect place to catch up with a friend or grab an afternoon drink: 

Back entrance to Tea for Tu

My dirty chai

Had a pre show pick me up at Tea for Tu
As a last hurrah, Ann Nie, Andrew, and new friend Mary went to the gay club Connections where the ratio of gay to straight men was much smaller than I thought it would be.

Hanging with the Perth gang

Me and Ann Nie
I was sad to say goodbye to Perth, and even sadder to bid adieu to my friends. But such is the reality, that there is an end to all things no matter how much we want (or not want) to hold on to them. So for the time being I find solace in knowing that this won't be my last time to Perth. I will find myself exploring these neighborhoods again in the future.

Up next: Melbourne!