Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Movie Trailer: Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris
Reasons I am so excited to see this movie/already know I will love it:

  • The name. Hello ... Paris?!?!?!

  • The setting. Again ... hello ... Paris?!?!?!?

  • The actors. Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, etc.

  • The story. Looks cute.

  • The director. Oh ... Woody Allen.

  • The poster. You had me at Van Gogh.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Lac Léman

Travel Tuesday this week takes us to one of my favorite places in the word: Switzerland and the beautiful Lake Geneva area.
I have had the opportunity to travel to this part of the world and to really explore it on numerous occasions. Driving through this area, from Munich down through Switzerland and Austria, into the Dolomites of Northern Italy and over to France. It is some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see. Passing through little villages, cute little chateaus with beautiful flowers in the windowsill. Gorgeous mountain hair pin curves, passes with snow in July, glaciers, resort towns ... beautiful.

One of my favorite places in Switzerland is the Lake Geneva area. On a summer day, it is a little bit of heaven. The sun glistening off the lake, the snow covered peaks of the Alps in the background, the sailboats cruising along, the cute little towns. It is a wonderful place to explore.

I was 15 the first time I went to Switzerland - staying the summer with some of my parents friends in Bern. They took me all over the country, but one of my fondest memories was the day I took the train by myself to Laussane and from there took a "slow boat" to Geneva. It wound back and forth between the French and Swiss sides of the lake, stopping at all the little towns. We sailed the lake for 6 hours. That was one of my favorite afternoons. Just sitting laizily on the bench in the front of boat, enjoying the feeling of the sun heating my skin and the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the boat as it slowly sailed on. Life has a different pace there ... a calmer, slower pace. You can sit and just be. Read. Write. Listen. Watch the scenery pass by ... stare at a distant snow covered peak and watch the angle change as you slowly move on. You can breath ... deeply.
Take the train to Lausanne and explore the different levels of the city, walking up and down narrow stairs and streets among the old architecture and up to the top of the city for views over everything below. Then back down to the lake where you can walk along the waterfront where all the boats are docked - going in and out, off to their other destinations on the lake. Stop and have a gelato, read, write, or just listen to the sounds to the sounds of the water lapping up on shore.
Go on to Montreaux and check out the art or jazz festivals depending on the time of year. Walk along the path that leads away from town towards the Chateau de Chillion - a medieval castle located right on the waters edge ... perfect for great photos. The final destination is beautiful - but equally gorgeous is the walk to get there! View after view after view. Flowers and boats, beautiful homes, hidden little beaches. I want to go there now!

Or perhaps head over to the bigger city on the border with France - Geneva itself. Pretty little town with yet more great views.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Movie Time: Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer

Well, awards season is over, and with it go the new movie releases of dramas up for Oscar contention. We have returned to the pre-season buzz with more of the everyday movies just made to satisfy an audience. Tw0 such movies that are now out and I have had seen are Limitless and Lincoln Lawyer (say that 5 times fast ...).

Bradley Cooper cleans up good. Let's just get that out of the way. Ok ... moving on.
"You know how they say that we can only access 20% of our brain? This let's you access all of it." Cooper is an author, although he has a major case of writer's block and cannot put pen to paper (or fingers to laptop keys as the case may be). Meeting an old aquaintance on the street, he learns about NZT, a new drug that lets you access ALL of your brain, makes all your synapses fire, makes you brilliant. Like any drug though, the affects wear off, and so you need more to keep going at that pace. As Cooper continues to take NZT and act the genius, the side affects come on and entire days go missing. At the same time, he is being followed by thugs and gangsters and creepy looking men. His star grows, his bank account increases, and he catches the eye of Wall Street. How far will he go to protect his supply? To keep the secret? To protect the woman he loves (because of course there is a romantic angle)? And to stay alive? That's the question.

The movie is fairly predictable and opens with a scene close to the end, so you spend the first 3/4 of the movie knowing you will end up on that precipice again, wondering what happened to get him to that point, and what can possibly happen after it. While some may tell you they saw the end coming, I didn't. I was surprised, and the movie did a good job of keeping me intrigued.

Even if you think the story is poor, most will enjoy the great cinematography and way in which the film is shot. From the very beginning, the team uses a really unique and cool tunnel vision type of filming effect that keeps moving you forward, just forever forward, through a place. It is the coolest sensation, because when you feel like you should stop or you have reached the end of a flat image, it just keeps pushing you forward, through boundaries. Get it, making it feel limitless. Get it? I was almost holding my breath, wondering when it would stop, but it just doesn't. It is a really cool effect that is employed throughout the film. Particularly when Cooper is on NZT, the movie takes on a unique dimension and the cinematography is really something else.

Limitless begs the question, as Cooper himself states at the beginning, what would you do if you could do anything? He learns to play the piano, becomes fluent in foreign languages just by listening, and cleans his apartment (great quote: “This was a drug for people who wanted to be anal-retentive." So, what would I do if I could access 100% of my brain (minus the nasty side-affects ... like death):
  • Learn foreign languages and travel the world practicing them. Italian, French, German, Mandarin.
  • Read every Art History book, text, review out there and be an Art History genius.
  • Write a novel.
  • Write a screenplay.
  • Learn to play the guitar.
  • Make money ... lots of money. Why not!?!?!
  • Make a difference.
  • Read everything I could.
  • Learn to cook ... really really cook.
  • Go to grad school at London School of Economics without going into debt, because I will have made aforementioned lots of money.
  • Do all those little things I just don't have the energy to do right now (though they would seem really mundane if I was that brilliant): finish writing some of the travel journals I never finished, take the damn GMAT, go to grad school, do something with my photography, etc.)
What would you do?

Lincoln Lawyer
Another feast for the eyes in terms of the lead male role. Hello. He fills out those suits very well! But seriously, I give major props to McConaughey for his first decent role in awhile. He doesn't rely on his killer abs and tan to get him through this movie, but his actual ability to act and portray a character. Shocker. After such incredible roles as a treasure hunting bum in Fools Gold and a man-child in Failure to Launch, this film finally get's him away from that type of male lead he had pigeon-holed himself into.

The movie really has a powerful cast: McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, France Fisher, William H Macy, John Leguizamo, etc. And all the actors really work well together and have great chemistry, which can be elusive. The chemistry between McConaughey and on-screen ex-wife Tomei as well as McConaughey and partner Macy are both incredible!

Basic premise is that McConaughey is a criminal defense lawyer known for taking on "scum-bags" and getting them off. Hence the license plate on the Lincoln that serves as his mobile office -NTGUILTY. He gets hired to defend rich playboy Louis Roulet against charges of rape and assault. Though his client seems innocent at first, further investigation brings forward new evidence of a darker character with deep secrets and possible links to a past homicide investigation. Soon McConaughey is tangled up in something much bigger; questioning his judgement, his job, and his ability to recognize innocence and evil - something that has always haunted him. With his friends and family in danger, he navigates the lawyer/client confidentiality laws and brings us to an interesting ending. Thought you know pretty early on who-done-it, the movie is still capable of giving you a shock at the end, so don't think you can predict the next scene. This is, at heart, a cat-and-mouse game.

While the story is interesting, the dialogue well delivered, and the direction well executed, what makes this movie rise from simply being good to being great is McConaughey and the rest of the cast. Watching him rise up from his other roles, going above just being a nice set of abs to becoming a true actor in the real sense of the word, is very cool. He was able to bring emotion, depth, and a real sense of inner-conflict and confusion to a somewhat sleazy character. Well done. As for the rest of the actors - great job to whomever did the casting. They got some great names all of whom were able to deliver powerful individual performances but who also worked well together as an ensamble supporting cast. Recent movies that set the bar for me in terms of total cast chemistry and all-around-incrediblness are King's Speech and Inception. While this movie doesn't get up there, it is very good for what it is ... a cat and mouse criminal blockbuster.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A weekend full of grown-up activities

Pride and Prejudice: Chapter 41
"In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was."

I don't feel like a grown-up, like an adult. Not really. I'm 25, but I really feel no different than I did 5 years ago. The only differences are that I work instead of going to school, live in a different place, and have my first new car. But those are just things ... attributes. My personality, my passions, my interests, my habits ... they are all essentially the same. I think I probably was always a bit mature for my age, and so I acted more like an adult when I was younger. Wasn't much into going out, partying, etc. Maybe I am now catching up. Maybe 20 year old me was acting like 25 year old me. And now, I am still acting like 25 ... at the actual age of 25. Who knows. Anyway you dissect it or spin it, the bottom line is just like Jane Austen wrote: in essentials, I believe, I am very much what I ever was.

So this weekend was a step forward, a step into a more grown-up existence, if you will. I felt like a grown up, but at some moments, it felt like I was playing dress-up. Like I was trying to fill some shoes that were a bit too large. The three grown-up things I did: apartment hunting, grad school information session, bridal shower.

Apartment Hunting
I love my apartment. Let me rephrase - I LOVE my apartment. Over 1000 sq ft of heaven. Bad location itself, but great proximity to everything and 5 minutes driving distance to all my favorite places in the city. It is my haven, my own little sanctuary where I can be me, lounge around without makeup, in sweats, without a care. The building is really safe and new and I love my apartment ... I just hate the location. I want to be able to walk out the door and go for a run, or go to neighborhood restaurant where I can sit at a sidewalk table. I want all this in either the Mill District or Uptown. Oh ... and I want a gym and underground heated parking and good security.

I have been here for three years and this week my lease renewal came in the mail. I don't want to move, but it felt like I should probably do the due diligence and see what else was out there. So I looked online, made some calls, and did some visits this weekend. I was afraid that I would fall in love with a place that I would not be able to afford. I did fall in love ... further in love with my own apartment. While I looked at some great new properties with full amenities, I realized that I have it SOOO good. I could not even find anything with the room sizes, open floor plan and industrial kitchen I have ... and anything that was even close was double the rent ... and that didn't even include any utilities or even underground parking. Ridiculous. Just doing the math, I cannot believe how much I would have to make in order to afford a place like that! For crying out loud, I could buy a really great place and have a mortgage half the rent on these places! But I definitely don't want to buy. I cannot even commit to an outfit in the morning ... none-the-less buying a property.

And so we shelf the loft search for another year because it is just impossible to get the space I want in the location I want with the income I make. But I felt really grown-up while going on the tours and asking all sorts of questions and discussing financial stuff.

Grad School Info Session
I think that says it all. I am looking into grad school. Sigh. Grown-up in some ways. But the idea of going back to school also really feels like taking a few steps back into childhood - school, class, homework ... gross.

Bridal Shower
Let me start this section by saying that I love my friends! I am so happy for them and all their choices and adventures. Getting married, having kids, buying homes. It is all very exciting and I wish them all the best! And I am so happy to be a part of all their lives and that they allow me the honor of sharing in these special moments of theirs! I am so very happy for them and so very grateful for their friendship!

With that being said, when I look at these big life moments, I look at them as a spectator and as someone being allowed to share in that persons moment. They are not my moments. I am not ready for those moments. But, for the time being, I am more than happy to just share in and celebrate their moments.

If you are familiar to SATC, you know the episode "A Woman's Right to Shoes". It's one of my favorites!
Carrie : Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn't one occasion where people celebrate you. ... Hallmark doesn't make a "congratulations, you didn't marry the wrong guy" card. And where's the flatware for going on vacation alone?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two new great Fage commercials!

Two new ones ... you know I gotta post them!
(if you want to see the original long version ... check it out here in the original post)



Dear Minnesota

Dear Minnesota,

I am so tired of this bull$&!#. Why do I live here? Why do I put up with this weather, with half a year or cold, of snow, of icy roads. This is crazy. Spring has officially started - not that that means anything - but why do you taunt me with rainy and warm spring days, and then all of a sudden ... BAM ... you turn around and provide a good old fashion snow storm?

It's been a long winter ... a very long winter. We have had more snow storms and more blizzards and more snow accumulations than recent memory recalls. The potholes everywhere are beyond compare ... enormous ... there is not a single route to/from work where I can even swerve around them. So my little (brand new) compact gets jarred around like crazy. And then ... my commute takes so long on top of it! Stuck in bad weather with a slew of other annoyed drivers.

So many months of only indoor activities. Of high heat bills. Of pale skin. Why do I (why does ANYONE?) put up with this?

I normally enjoy winter ... I enjoy having all 4 seasons ... but this year I have just had ENOUGH. It has just been too much! Too cold ... too snowy ... too everything. I cannot take more!

So thank you Minnesota, for the longest 6 months ever. Thank you for making me take daily doses of Vitamin D. Thank you for making me search for airfare everyday to anywhere but here.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Venice

It's Travel Tuesday again! Yay! I have been eagerly anticipating the next entry and have gone through a number of possible candidates. In the end, today's snapshot from my travel history was inspired by the movie I watched this evening - The Tourist. I am not going to get into a discussion on the acting/plot/quality of the film, we've all read the reviews. BUT ... let's all recognize that the views of Venice are worth it! (Note: there is a really good song in the movie - I've included the video at the bottom)

I have only been to Venice once. While I enjoyed it, it did not make enough of an impression on me to yet return to it like I have other places. Florence, Rome, Northern Italy, those I have returned too. But after seeing this movie, I'd like to go back to Venice ... in the off season ... with less tourists.

Anywho, my one day adventure in Venice was great! I was traveling around Italy with my friend Erica on a Contiki tour of Italy. We met some great people on the trip, saw some incredible sites, and ate A LOT of gilato (a lot). We spent two nights in Venice and took the entire day in between to explore. All the bridges, all the canals, all the shops, all that there is to do ... crammed into one day. And I think we managed to do pretty well.

Some memories that stand out from this trip:
  • Boat ride into the city and docking near Piazza San Marco. Stepping off and being immediately overwhelmed by Venice ... from the Palazzo Ducale, to the pigeons, to the gondola waiting for passengers.
  • Watching a glass blowing demonstration.
  • Going up to the top of the Campanile di San Marco and getting a nice expansive view over the entire city (I have a thing for getting above the city, see U Price note in Praha entry). Rather interesting ... from up there, Venice does not look like Venice. The buildings are so thick and the canals so narrow that you cannot actually see water. A bit disappointing.
  • Wandering the bridges and alleys of the town. Exploring the shops, looking at all the morano glass ... and being so overwhelmed by the options that I was unable to commit to anything until the last minute.
  • Seeing the grand canal and crossing the Rialto.
  • Feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco.

  • Story: We bought a bottle of delicious, cheap, local wine - white. We asked the gentleman at the store to pop the cork for us. Which they did. Then we started walking with it, with the cork just pushed back in. Walk walk walk walk. We didn't know the wine was sparking white wine. So as we walk walk walked ... the bottle and contents shook shook shook. Soon all the little bubbles were agitated and the cork flew out and up (barely missing Erica's chin) ... in a covered colonnade ... and bounced off the ceiling ... and hit someone near the eye. Oooooops.
  • Visiting the Palazzo Ducale and crossing the Bridge of Sighs.
  • Taking a gondola ride ... with 5 other girls ... and getting to drink wine while taking said gondola ride (yes ... the same bottle mentioned above).

Also, I fell in love with the below song from the movie.
No Fear of Heights, by Katie Melua.
Could not find an official video, but this is one done up with images from the film.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lessons in financial frugality ... from Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Let me start by saying:
  • I thoroughly enjoy the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella
  • I am NOT a shopaholic à la Becky Bloomwood ... but I do like to shop
  • I have a big fictional crush on Luke Brandon

Today, while paying my monthly bills - which is quite possibly THE single most painful repetitive activity ever - I was taken back to Confessions of a Shopaholic. That part, at the beginning, when she realizes her problem and buys the book Controlling Your Cash by David E. Barton. I love that. And it's really cute in the movie too, with the guy in the video ... "did you just say no?"

Anyway ... as I was looking at my bills and adding up the my expenses, looking at charges for tickets and clothes and groceries and gas and more tickets, I realized that I need to curb the spending a bit. Not stop ... just curb. So ... starting now. Clean slate, going to be fiscally responsible. Yup ... going to try my best.

So in the words of Becky - chapter 5:
Frugality. Simplicity. Those are my new watchwords. A new, uncluttered, zen-like life, in which I spend nothing. Spend nothing.

Well ... maybe not nothing per say ... just less of the current something ...

Or ... I figure out how to make more money ... either way ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Travel Tuesday: San Francisco 2011

A few days back I asked for people's help to determine what recurring post I should do. Songs ... movies ... photos ... etc.

And the winner is ... travel photo accompanied by travel story!!! Yay! Thanks to those of you who left comments, or those of you who told me your opinion in the elevator at work!

To commence Travel Tuesday, I will begin with my most recent trip, which ended approximately 24 hours ago! Haha. I spent a long weekend in San Francisco enjoying the sights, the weather, the food, and the photo opportunities (of which there are plenty).

I don't have all the photos downloaded ... so look for more, but I included a few here for fun. The trip was really excellent. This was my first visit to San Francisco - spent 4 days exploring the city and surrounding areas and having a blast!

While the city and experience was great itself, one thing that will always stick with me when I think of San Francisco is the Japan earthquake and tsunami. On the first day, while at the beach, we actually heard the alarms go off on the West coast. Later while we watched the news we figured out what they were for - the offshore earthquake which could have caused a tsunami to hit California. Every night and every morning we would watch news, waiting for reports from Japan, while in San Francisco the city was on their own alert. Some parks near the water were closed, news crews stood waiting by the Presidio with views of the bridge and water, and surfers took to the waves hoping for some good swells (seriously). That will always stick with me from this trip. Below is a photo taken while we were on the beach shortly before the alarms began sounding for the tsunami warning.

So, a few things to add to my been there/done that list ...

  • Went all around the Golden Gate Bridge to various viewpoints for unique photos. BTW - the bridge is more orange than the red I had imagined.
  • Ate my very first In-N-Out burger.
  • Saw the Full House houses. Not Uncle Jesse spotting though.
  • Took a ride on the cable car all the way from Fisherman's Wharf to Union Square. Had the very first spot on the running board, standing up the whole way! It was such fun ... that's what it must feel like to be a dog with your head out the car window!

  • Found a seafood restaurant that I actually wanted to eat at - yummy scallops!
  • Walked up and down Lombard street ... and drove down Lombard street. Then proceeded to get motion sick.
  • Saw the sea lions at Pier 39. Saw the sea lions at Pier 39 doing unspeakable things. Ewwww. Get a room.
  • Cupcake!
  • Took my always-fun jumping photo (there are more) ... I enjoy making a fool out of myself in public.

  • Walked through China Town and felt like I was back in ... China (go figure).
  • Enjoyed a meal outside at a restaurant terrace in one of the cute little neighborhoods. The fact that the neighborhood was cute was awesome. And that there were people walking around. And that it was warm enough to eat outside was incredible!
  • Checked out an estate sale at a 5-story home overlooking the bay on Telegraph Hill - the person in charge (the son) told us that house was going to go on the market $6 or $7 million! Yikes!
  • Saw the pretty elaborate San Francisco St. Patrick's Day parade ... while enjoying a Coffee Bean no-sugar-added chocolate frappuccino.
  • Warmed up ... enjoyed 60 degree and sunny days! Thank goodness. It is good to be reminded that there are places in this world that are NOT a giant icicle six months out of the year.
  • Visited Sausalito, Muir Woods, Stinson Beach and drove along Highway 1.
  • Checked out the San Francisco Modern Art Museum and kicked myself for not bringing my Walker membership card because apparently I could have saved myself $18 and gotten in for free. Good collection none-the-less.
  • Enjoyed some really good company with my travel-mates!

Till next Tuesday ...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Walker Insights 2011 Design Lecture - Mono & Blu Dot

This evening I attended the Walker Insights 2011 Design Lecture Series with Speaker Michael Hart - co-founder of local agency Mono. Hart spoke about some of the great accounts he has had the opportunity to work on and the great projects his agency has done. All I have to say is ... do you have any openings?

While he spoke about a few of their accounts, the one I want to talk about here is their work with Blu Dot. Blu Dot is a local Minneapolis design company that started back in 1997. They have beautiful designs that are simple, modern and elegant. Exactly what I would furnish my home with ... if I could afford it.Anyway ... Mono worked with Blu Dot on something called The Real Good Experiment. They took this concept of junk day, when everyone puts old furniture and junk out at the curb and others come by and decide it is treasure and take it home, and took it to a new level. What if you left dozens of Blu Dot chairs around NYC? On street corners. In ally ways. Wherever. What would people do? Who would take them? That is the experiment. Equipped with hidden cameras (watch the video ... look for the squirrel... hilarious!) and GPS tracking on the chairs. That is what they did. You could track them online, see the video, etc. Then, after wards, they actually knocked on the doors of those who took the chairs home and talked with some of them. All of this is captured in the fabulous video posted below. Must watch!

And now, Blu Dot has once again partnered with Mono for another project: Blu Dot Swap Meet
In their own words: Turn your awesome abilities and odd collections into the furniture of your dreams. It’s not magic. It’s the Blu Dot Swap Meet. Basically, you post your odd thing/idea/service and what you want in exchange. The type of items that have been ACCEPTED as swaps:
  • One share of Enron stock for a lamp
  • Creation of a secret Blu Dot handshake for a nightstand
  • 100 d-bag cards for a chair
  • The ugliest couch (voted so) in the US for a nice couch
  • An epic college kegger for a chair
  • Fencing lessons for a table
Hilarious! Such a great idea! Go over to the site and check all the swaps ... they are hilarious! And ... of course ... I posted a swap! I am willing to swap my vintage (circa 2000) Blu Dot coffee table for a new Blu Dot couch! So go over there and vote for my Swap!

Wanna see another cool video? Check out this one describing the Swap Meet!

FAGE Total Plain Extraordinary™

I will start by saying that lately I have started to really hate commercials. I never really had an issue with them, but recently they have started to really annoy me more and more. It may be a result of the recent Tivo aquisition I made and that fact that I am getting spoiled there. Also, let's face it, they are just getting more and more annoying. If I have to see that damn Old Navy commerical one more time I'm going to ... breathe ... just breathe.

Ok. Anyway. Saw this Fage commercial for the first time last night and became obsesessed. Like post-to-facebook-and-email-to-all-friends-and-blog-about-it obsessed. Rarely can you associate the words "elegance" and "poetry" with advertisment, but this is the exception.

In case you don't know, Fage is a delicious Greek yogurt that is a bit on the expensive side, just to provide some context for the targeting of this ad. I fell in love with Greek yogurt when I was traveling there, and I think Fage really does have a great taste. That being said, it is too much "greek" for some.

Enjoy! Copy below is really beautiful!

Plain was the same as it ever was the same. Plainly plain. Samely same. But then, someone lit the flame. Plain rode away on lion's mane. Where plain met fruits with strangely names. Such wonderful things they did contain. A shot of life to a hungry vein. The captive beast who broke the chain. And there upon that fruited plane, is where plain became what plain became. So much more than more than plain. Plain will never be the same.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Post Idea?

Well, been consistently doing the blogging thing for about three months now ... yay! In the world I have been recently living in (the "i-can't-seem-to-finish/stick-with-anything" world) this is really something! Yay me!

Anyway ... have done a bit of it all ... some movies, some travel, photography, recipes, life ... whatever. Form other bloggers out there, I have seen some who do reoccurring posts, like Photo Fridays or such. Thought it might fun to try!

So ... you mission (should you choose to accept it, and I hope you do!) is to help me pick a reoccurring weekly post!

Some ideas:
  • Weekly travel photo with the story behind it
  • Monday music - random song from my playlists that you most likely have never heard of but will definitely enjoy
  • ummm ... help ... need other ideas!
So COMMENT ... let me know what you want to see!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

10 more movies that make me want to buy a plane ticket: Part 2

The list continues. 10 more movies that make me want to buy a plane ticket. Be warned, I am drinking a codeine cough syrup cocktail (shaken, not stirred) while writing. This could be bad (good). And if you haven't yet, make sure to check out Part 1 with 10 more great movies!
And yes ... some been there/done that photos at the end ...

L'Arnacoeur (Heartbreaker)
The Place: Monaco
The Story: Girl is set to be married in Monaco in a few days. Boy breaks up relationships for a living. You can guess the rest. Boy and girl fall for each other in this cute romantic comedy as they hop around beautiful Monaco. Ah, the Mediterranean.
Been There/Done That: How could I not love the French Riviera? I have a lot of photos next to Ferraris ...

Ocean's 12
The Place: Amsterdam, France, Rome, Lake Como
The Story: Clooney and his team bounce around from Amsterdam to Paris to Rome to pull off yet more heists. Although the critics didn't like it, I loved it!
Been There/Done That: Once, twice and in some cases three times. Oh yeah, I've seen it all. The canals of Amsterdam, the cafes of Rome, the villas of Como. Even have some photos from some of the movie scenes!

The Place: Paris
The Story: Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant meet up in this who-done-it madcap murder and mystery romance. Who can she trust? It changes every minute! But in the meantime, the movie takes us on a beautiful tour of Paris. The parks, the wide avenues, the Seine.
Been There/Done That: Need I even mention (again) how much I love Paris? I'd like to do the boat tour though, have not done that.

The Place: Paris
The Story: Modern remake of the Hepburn classic by the same name. She is the chauffeurs daughter who goes to Paris to "grow up". Great story that really captures the spirit of self-discovery in Paris (though the Paris scenes are short).
Favorite Quote: Along the Seine there is a 4-mile walk ... takes you past all the bridges of Paris, 23 of them. Then you find
one you love and you go there everyday with your coffee and your journal, and you listen to the river. 

Paris Je'Taime The Place: Paris
The Story: 20 five-minute short stories take you around the beautiful and unique neighborhoods of Paris.
Been There/Done That: Do I really need to say it?

The Last Emperor The Place: China - mainly the Forbidden City in Beijing
The Story: The tale of Emperor Pu Yi. His youth and short reign in the Forbidden City and his abdication and decline after. This was the first feature film given permission by the government to actually film in the City.
Been There/Done That: Oh yeah ... wandered the immense 980 building complex for hours. The halls, the gardens, the temples, the giant stone courtyards. One of the most incredible places in the world.

Under the Tuscan Sun The Place: Tuscany
The Story: Lane is newly-divorced and on vaca in Tuscany when, on a whim, she buys a run-down villa and decides to start a new life. A classic travel movie.
Been There/Done That: Have spent some time in Florence and the surrounding countryside and villages, but would like to go back really enjoy the area ... maybe do a bike tour!

Eat Pray Love The Place: Italy, India, Bali
The Story: I think we all know it. Woman goes on a tour of self discovery, eating in Italy, praying in India and finding harmony in Bali.
Been There/Done That: Check, check ... no check. Have spent plenty of time in Italy and even India, but have not yet made it to Bali. Would like to.

In Bruges The Place: Bruges, Belgium
The Story: Dark crime comedy of two hit men laying low in Bruges after a hit gone bad. Odd characters and story, but great views of the medieval city.
Been There/Done That: Although not the first place tourists go, I've been there. Really quaint little town!

The Sound of Music The Place: Salzburg, Austria
The Story: The hills are alive with the sound of music! Do I even need to do describe the story? I didn't think so ...
Been There/Done That: Oh yeah. Totally. Beautiful little town with lots to offer. Including ... the official Sound of Music tour!!! The lake behind the Von Trapp house, the gazebo, the church where they are married!

A few of those "been there/done that" moments:

I am 16 going on 17 ... not really.

Doe a deer ...

Amsterdam - Danny and Rusty consider the plan!
A little bit of "pray" in India.
In Bruges ... literally.
Ah ... Paris.
The Forbidden City ... not so Forbidden.
Feeling glamorous in Monaco.
Paris Je'Taime Favorite Quote:
Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and everyone I know, a feeling came over me. It was like remembering something I'd never known before or had always been waiting for, but I didn't know what. Maybe it was something I'd forgotten or something I've been missing all my life. All I can say is that I felt, at the same time, joy and sadness. But not too much sadness, because I felt alive. Yes, alive. That was the moment I fell in love with Paris. And I felt Paris fall in love with me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spotlight City: Praha

I have traveled to about 30 countries, and a lot of them more than once. Once I find somewhere I love, it is darn near impossible to stay away! Always something new to see, a new city or corner to explore, a different season, a different light ... always something!! Hence ... Spain 4 times, Switzerland 3, Germany 4 ... etc. Anyway ... people often ask for a brief list of places to go/things to see in cities and countries around the world. Lists I am good at. Brief ... not so good. They generally turn into PDF documents complete with marked-up maps, photos and a history lesson!

Anyway ... my aunt is heading to Prague and she asked me what she should see. So ... decided to turn it into a post! Here is the first of many to come ... Spotlight City: Prague!

Note: If you want to know the basic-basics ... go to Wiki ... these are just my personal favorites and impressions.

The View From The Top!
Whenever I go somewhere, I feel this need to go up! The highest peak, a church tower, a castle ... whatever it is, as long as it gives me a view over my surroundings, I am there! Prague has a number of great viewpoints for the city:
- Personal Favorite: U Prince rooftop terrace in the Old Town square
- Right in the heart of the Old Town square, by the historic clock tower and beautiful church, is a hotel called the U Prince. Thought it may seem nice to sit down in the square and enjoy a meal, take my advice and hop on the elevator and go UP! On the top floor they have a terrace restaurant with good food and spectacular views. Views all around the rooftops of Prague and down into the square. Great place to enjoy a meal with a view! (photo at left is said view)
U Price terrace website
Movie Post: this location is featured in the movie Chasing Liberty

Other Great Views:
  • The viewpoints from the towers of Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) - do early morning
  • The top of the steps leading up to Prague Castle
  • The top of the main street of Mala Strana (Old Town) looking back down over the beautifully colored buildings and all the way to Karluv Most and across (photo at right)

Touristy Must-Do's:
  • Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) - Walk across it, then turnaround and walk back, then do it again. There is so much to see! The bridge itself is unique and interesting and you can spend some time looking at all the unique statues and learning the history. Then there are the great street artists/performers that make themselves at home here. And of course, the great views of Prague from Charles Bridge. Oh ... and make sure to come at night as well!
  • Old Town Square - Beautiful (and large) square with Tyn Cathedral, a Baroque church, lots of shops and restaurants, and a really really old astonomical clock (the oldest parts date from 1410!). Make sure to stop by on the hour to see the little clock-show ... but be warned ... it can be a bit undershwelming. (Photo detail at right)
  • Mala Strana - Across Charles Bridge is the old city with beautiful winding/climbing streets, cute little shops and gorgeous buildings. Spend some time getting lost on the streets as you make your way up to Prague Castle.
  • Nerudova Street - Really pretty street leading up to Prague castle. Known for the nice architecture and unique signs that adorn/identify the houses. Before order was introduced with house numbers, signs on the facades were used to identify them. House of the Two Suns. Golden Keys. Three Lilies. Etc. Click here for a DK Travel article on these house signs.
  • Prague Castle - A "do" if you have time ... but if you are only in Prague for a short visit, skip it. You have nice views of it from all over the city! Best part of the castle is Golden Lane with it's cute little colorful houses and interesting history.
  • Dancing House - Designed by Frank Gehry, this cool structure in the New Town is located on the riverbank about a 15 minute walk away from Karluv Most (on the Old Town square side of the river). Worth a visit for two reasons: 1) the house itself is cool and 2) you can get a nice view of Karluv Most and Prague Castle from the river bank on the way to/from there.

There are more ... but these are some of my favorites.
Most importantly though ... this city is perfect for my travel moto ...
Just Get Lost!
The streets are winding, the architecture beautiful, and the city small. Just take off, without a map and without purpose. Just walk ... meander ... enjoy. Just BE in the city.

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