Day 9: Musee du Monde Arabe (Paris)

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This is one of the few places in the Western World where I have seen a museum devoted to the Arab World. Despite there being limited English text, the museum is worth visiting due to reminders that math and science are largely attributed to Arab inventions and discoveries.

Treasured silk was traded from Asia used to convert into garments and fabrics. The beautiful draped clothing takes advantage of the light that casts iridescent hues, and the geometric patterns found in many carpets and tapestries are reflective of the mathematical mind that developed in the Arab World. Other decorative patterns come from foliage and nature and often are in symmetrical, orderly arrangements.

One of my pursuits for this trip is to connect the dots between Western and Eastern cultures. The Arab World as well as Persia played a huge part in bridging this gap through trade and education.

Photos, clockwise:

1. Detail of aperture on the facade of the museum.  Apertures are purported to adjust to the exterior light conditions but did not appear to have any consistency..

2. Intricate  woven garment

3. Chest with geometric and foliate patterns

4.  Carpet with geometric patterns

Day 8: Nous Sommes Arrives! (Paris)

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Are we in Foodie Heaven or what?!?

We are in good hands with Aziza pastry chef and daughter Melissa, who joined us in Paris after her stint in Ghent. She selected the shops and restaurants and got us to some of the best that Paris has to offer.

Photos from top down:

1. and 2. Counter shots of Patisserie near Septime
3. and 4. Two plates from Lunch at Septime–sublime!
5. and 6. First and Second Courses of Tasting Menu at Roseval, Paris

Day 6: London Town 2

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Photos, top down:

1. Bench side entertainment, St Paul’s Cathedral
2. London skyline along the Thames (from the Tower of London) featuring the “Shard” pyramid, or the Transamerica liftoff so London can be more like San Francisco.
3. St. Paul’s Cathedral, the only church in which its architect, Christopher Wren, was buried; also the only architect who was famous enough to be publicly buried?

Day 5: London Town 1

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Oh Yikes. Headed towards Covent Garden from Cartwright Gardens, where our very teeny studio “apartment” was located. You can barely fit two sardines in a can better than here, where the chairs have to be stored in the closet or you aren’t able to maneuver inside the room. This place has outclassed the Pod in New York by being meaner in proportions and square foot takeoffs. Still, all the amenities of a fully furnished “catered apartment” (as they call them on this side of the Atlantic) included dishes, pots and pans, and above all, Internet access.

I pointed out my old haunts, including the gorgeous Council flat in Gordon Mansions on Torrington Place. I subleased a bedsit there in the summer of 1975 for £9 a week from a student at the Architectural Association. Aside from the aura, living in Bloomsbury definitely had its advantages of location and walking distance to everything.

We made a stop in Soho Chinatown, where I rang the doorbell of a chartered accountant’s office. I thought the  owners might recall Antonio Kwan and Bosco Chan, the two accountants who worked there  45 years ago and hired me to be their assistant. Despite my fumbling over the crank calculator using £ and Sterling,  I mastered the abacus with their help.

Tony and Bosco did the accounts for the Chinese restaurants so we called on clients around lunchtime for obvious reasons. I saved the £1 lunch vouchers I was given to buy cheesecake for dinner!  Unfortunately, my aspiration of working in a Chinese restaurant was never fulfilled. This was the closest I was ever going to get to personally working in the food industry!

We watched rivers of tourists from our window seats at dinner. The economy is being well replenished by international tourist consumption here. However, coming from New York, I couldn’t help but feel the depressing shabbiness of London’s buildings.

Still, the people are the ones who reflect the vibrancy of the city. We were reassured in Ladbroke the following night. Not only was the Turkish food at Fez Mangal fresh and tasty, but  the ambiance consisted of a very healthy mix of all ethnic cultures, economic backgrounds, and lifestyles.

Photos, from top down:

1. Two Independent Parties at Fez Mangal enjoying the food
2. Fez Mangal Mixed Grill and Salad
3. Throngs of Tourists at Oxford Circus from the top front window of a newly minted No. 11 double decker bus–the cheapest way to see London’s sights.

Day 3: Ai-Wei Wei (Brooklyn)

imageimageimageThe Ai-Wei Wei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum was thought-provoking and raised many issues about Chinese policies towards its own people. Many photographs of the artist revealed his early years living in New York
and his father’s background as a poet and artist. AWW is still very much from the genre of crude and glaringly graphic artists who emerged after the fall of the Gang of Four–use of nudity and human existence ( did I really need to see video clips of his barfing?) leave you nowhere to avoid his messages.

At the same time the use of everyday materials is clever and resourceful and often beautiful. For example, a traditional piece of furniture is cut to create a new appreciation of the craftsmanship and design of a familiar object (photo 3).

Photos, from top:

1. Common kitchen stools
2. Backpacks sewn together representing those from student killed in schoolhouse in Szechuan. Apparently there was no accounting of construction methods or whether rebars were installed in original building.
3. Traditional Chinese furniture put in a different dimension and respective.