Weekend in Milan – not just the Expo

Today I will be flying to Europe from Sydney to see some good friends and family and simply to make the most of the European summer, which we all love, don’t we?!

First stop of my exciting trip will be Milan, city that I adore – unlike a lot of Italians, for some reasons – and city that gave me so much back in the 4 years I spent there. What I am sharing with you now is MY Milan’s weekend guide that I put together for first timers in the Italian fashion capital.

I can guarantee you that all the places I have listed below are still there, buzzy and active as usual! But I might add some more hidden gems after my visit, who knows… I might discover some new corners of town myself, and share them with you!

These activities will keep you so busy that you won’t have time to go to the Expo. In fact, there is so much more to Milan than the Expo these days.

THE EXPLORING BIT

Not sure what you are after, if more food, more shopping, more cultural events… but I will give you a mix of mi picks here.

Milan gives its best during spring (unfortunately it also gives you a lot of mosquitoes, but you can easily do something about it!), so walking is the best way to get around. I’d recommend you to start walking from Navigli (the famous canal district) to the city center and get pleasantly lost along the tiny streets and the nice canals. On the way to the Duomo (the main cathedral) you will pass through Corso di Porta Ticinese, which is a lovely street full of cafes, restaurants, bars and classy vintage shops.

At the end of Corso di Porta Ticinese just cross the road and you will hit the Colonne di San Lorenzo (Saint Laurence Columns), very characteristic as well, where young crowds of people hang out at night playing guitar, chatting, or drinking a beer and eating a bite on the go. Turn right after the columns and you are in Via Torino – again, more shopping, ice-cream places and cafes – which will lead you right in front of the Duomo. Getting in the Duomo is free, but what you can also do is walking to the top, where the little Saint Mary statue is, for a stunning view over the whole Milan, with the Dolomites all around. Milanese people call it ‘La Madunina’, and it’s the symbol of their city.

Once in the Duomo square you will be in the heart of Milan, and I simply suggest you to go with the flow and discover what the tiny streets around can offer. Which is a lot and very surprising, I find.

Here is some suggestions of where I’d go from the Duomo square:

Walking through the famous – and only recently restored – Vittorio Emanuele Gallery. At the end of it you will find the popular La Scala Theatre.

Take Corso Vittorio Emanuele – more shopping and celebrity spotting – and then turn left in Piazza San Babila (San Babila Square): you will be in Via Montenapoleone, the Chelsea of Milan. Not sure you will be able to afford anything there, but it is worth a visit. It is Milan fashion at his top. A classy icon.

Just behind the Gallery, hidden in a Via Santa Ranegonda, not far from The Scala, you’ll find the best ‘panzerotti’ place in the whole Milan: Luini is a bakery that has become an institution for all the locals. I warn you: queues here can be very long, but it will all be worth it for your fried or oven (my favourite!) panzerotto! Oh wait, what is a panzerotto? a mini calzone, in a nutshell.

Take via Dante – packed with elegant cafes – and you will have the Castle right in front of you. It’s called Castello Sforzesco – the Sforza family which once reigned in Milan lived in there – and it is situated in the most beautiful park of downtown Milan, Parco Sempione. Here is what you will find once inside the park:

  • you can visit the castle itself and walk through the part to the opposite side to see the Arco della Pace (Peace Arch): our own Arc de Triomphe;

  • the Modern Art Museum (called La Triennale di Milano) which never lets you down: great exhibitions, quirky cafe’, beautiful structure and outdoor space

The main museum is right in the Duomo Square, and it’s called Palazzo Reale (The Royal Palace). They always have great quality exhibitions on.

Brera_Milan_Italy_CuriousAbout

Absolutely go to Brera!!!! It’s one of the oldest – and wealthiest – parts of town and you can get there either from the end of Via Montenapoleone or from the Castle. The closest tube station is Lanza or Moscova. The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Picture Gallery) is here, and it’s famous all over the world for its art school and its art collections. The streets you will have to look up on Google Map are a few, but Brera is so small that I am sure you will walk through most of them without the help of technology:

  • Via Palermo
  • Corso Garibaldi
  • Via Brera
  • Via dei Fiori Oscuri
  • Via dei Fiori Chiari
  • Via Solferino

10 Corso Como, Milan

Another part of town you will HAVE TO go to is Corso Como, again another icon of the fashionable side of Milan. The famous shop 10 Corso Como is where stylists from all over the world come to find inspiration. They also have a cafe area (sit back and enjoy a tea/coffee/wine in their garden), an exhibition area upstairs and an hotel with 3 rooms only, each with a different style.

Have a look at the website in the hyperlink, this is how the whole space is described:
‘Hidden in the heart of 10 Corso Como quiet courtyard behind
a discreet façade of gates and gardens, the garden café is surrounded by
a conservatory of lush perennial plants and seasonal flowers.
When not shopping or visiting 10 Corso Como various showcases,
one can stop to eat in the café restaurant and bar.
Designed to flow between the inside and the seasonal garden outside,
the café offers another aesthetic altogether.’
The best ways to get to Corso Como are walking from Brera (a beautiful short walk through Corso Garibaldi) or via tube (get off at Garibaldi FS).

THE FOOD AND DRINKS BIT

Milan is packed with some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars in Italy, which means you will rarely get disappointed by its food scene. I don’t have specific recommendations for food, but if all you have is a weekend, then head to Brera and Navigli for a treat, and for a great vibe and cool atmosphere. Avoid the Duomo area which tends to attract more tourists and be more expensive.

IN NAVIGLI:

Trattoria Toscana, Navigli, Milan

  •  Trattoria Toscana in Navigli (in Corso di Porta Ticinese): a must for the cool guys in town. Head there for the aperitivo time to capture the cool essence of Milan-by-night in the back courtyard.

  • Traditional pizzeria – which is also restaurant – right in the heart of the canals: La Magolfa. I always go there with my friends, it’s cheap, nothing fancy, amazing real Italian food and super authentic atmosphere (make sure you end your dinner with one of their amaros!).

  • On the main canal, this is one of the best places for the ‘Gnocco Fritto’, the typical Italian fried dumplings (mmmhhh…. delicious!!!): Osteria dello Gnocco Fritto.

IN BRERA:

Da Claudio Fishmonger and Restaurant, Milan

  • Princi: the best slices of pizzas in Italy! It’s not a place for dinner, as in it’s not a restaurant but this is a concept that Italians love: go for some pizza bites – and a cheeky beer – before proper dinner. There are a few around town, but the first – and most iconic ones – are the one in Brera (in Largo La Foppa, right in front of Moscova tube station, on the green line) and the one next to Corso Como (Piazza XXV Aprile, 5). Princi has also opened in Soho – London – now and and it’s always packed!

  • Da Claudio Fishmonger: this place is a normal fishmonger during the day, but then turns into a fashionable and classy aperitivo bar every evening! Go there for some fresh fish and a glass of prosecco before dinner (and for some amazing people watching and celebrity spotting…. and a lot of chatting over a drink of course!!!).

  • Osteria dei Poeti in 40 Corso Garibaldi. Hidden gem for a super authentic and elegant dinner option.

  • Aperitivo in Piazzale La Foppa (next to Princi and to the Moscova tube station): go to Radetzky for more people watching, good quality aperitivo and a glass of wine or a cocktail outside in the little square.


THE PRACTICAL BIT

FROM THE AIRPORT:
  • from MALPENSA: take the Malpensa Express, which is a train within the airport that will take you to Milano Cadorna. From there you can either get a taxi to your destination or jump on the tube.

  • from LINATE the best way is to get a taxi. If you want to spend a bit less you can get the shuttle bus service from Linate to Central Station and from there either the taxi or the tube to reach your final destination.

  • from ORIO AL SERIO: there is only one way, unfortunately and it does take ages… the shuttle bus service to Central…

THE TUBE:

Milan is not like London. There are only 3 tube lines and they take you pretty much everywhere in town. Or you can walk or cycle, which is muuuch better! Milan is small and all the main attractions are concentrated in a relatively small area. It is also a flat city, which makes it perfect for cycling around.

MetroMilan_CuriousAboutBlog

Milan, tube map

WHERE TO STAY:

Stay in one of these following areas so that you can easily walk or cycle everywhere within minutes. Regardless the area you pick, Aribnb is the way to go! You will then get to explore the city like a local and you will make the most of the beautiful Milanese people’s interior design (and trust me… they do know one thing or two about design there!).

Typical Courtyard in Navigli, Milan

  • Airbnb in Navigli (closest tubes: Romolo, S. Agostino and Porta Genova) where I am staying this weekend. This charming and well designed flat is situated in a casa di corte (courtyard house) which is typical of this area of Milan. If you are an Airbnb new user get a voucher on your first booking, by using this link.

  • Isola (closest tubes: Porta Garibaldi and Zara)

  • Brera (closest tubes: Lanza, Moscova, Porta Garibaldi)

  • Porta Romana (closest tubes: Crocetta and Porta Romana)

So I did well and kept my promise: no mention of the Expo in this blog post. We will all be too busy exploring the real Milan instead… the one that you only find in its streets, cafes and squares.

Now, let Milan entertain you!

BluesFest 2015 – Byron Bay, Australia

ByronBay_BluesFest2015_curiousabout

BluesFest 2015, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia

If you are a blues and roots fan – and if you live in Australia – then you know that BluesFest in Byron Bay is the place to be at Easter. Which is exactly where I was this year.

And it was epic. And big. And diverse. And not that wet after all, if you are used to music festivals in the UK.

Director Peter Noble said: “It seems like we just had our second-biggest festival ever”. And I am so happy to have been part of such an exciting live event with the most amazing line-up. Right there, for my senses to enjoy.

Waking up in Byron Bay every day made it even more special. But I will tell you more about what a special place that is in another post, coming soon. Let’s talk music now.


THE BLUESFEST 2015 IN NUMBERS

  • this was the 26th edition
  • 5 days worth of live music
  • 89 bands
  • 908 artists + their tour party members
  • 105,000+ revellers

BUT WHAT MAKES THE BLUESFEST SO SUCCESSFUL? (aka why you should absolutely go next year)

Despite headliners Lenny Kravitz, The Black Keys and Ben Howard pulling out of this year’s Bluesfest, crowds (and myself!!) still braved the rainy conditions and got into the spirit of the festival. At anyone’s eyes, it was a successful event, and with such a diverse line-up, it’s not hard to see what brought me – as well as so many other people – through the gates this year.

There is something that BluesFest does very well, I find: it does put together in one place a varied and exciting mix of musicians that you will hardly find anywhere else in the world. And it offers up the prospect of musical discovery, so valued by curious ears like mine. The result is a real music-loving crowd and their respect for the artists, young and old ones.


MY HIGHLIGHTS

PAOLO NUTINI

Paolo Nutini’s soulful set was a real treat, his salty smooth vocals and epic range received much devotion from the crowd. His new album ‘Caustic Love’ is clearly the work of a maturing singer-songwriter. And it’s an amazing piece of work. Caustic Love has received rare reviews and has gained him a fixture in the Top 20 of the BBC ALBUM CHARTS since its release 25 weeks ago. Unmissable.


BAND OF SKULLS

The Southampton rock trio’s third album ‘Himalayan’ has a confidence that reflects a band who have honed and refined their own sound through relentless touring and playing to audiences of artists like Muse and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Deliciously evocative.


BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS

Ben Harper, a BluesFest institution (this festival launched his career, back in the late ’90s), reunited with The Innocent Criminals after seven years. They received quite negative reviews accusing them of a lack of excitement. True, Ben was not really engaging with the crowd this time. But he was there to play his amazing music, and he gave us the old songs we were all waiting for. And ‘With My Own Two Hands’ was one of those we all sang along. He played for 2.15 hours no stop – no stop – without ever drinking a glass of water – and it was hot, and it was humid. I was there in the first row and I saw a very concentrated musician, who was keen to play as many songs as possible. For the 5th time in a row, I loved him and he didn’t let me down. Respect.


GARY CLARK JR.

The festival’s standout act. If one act captured the essence of this year’s BluesFest, it was Clark Jr. His energy and stage presence saw him perform less of a musical set and more a communal ritual channeling the spirits of greats like Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix. Talent.


KEZIAH JONES

Keziah was born among the ghettos and skyscrapers of bustling Lagos, Nigeria, and ended up busking in the London tube – I can’t believe I missed his talent when I was living in London! His performance was a fusion of raw Blues and Punk Funk attitude crossed with yoruba rhythms. He also has his own YouTube channel where he has a whole series of ‘Guitar Lessons’… in case you want to learn his cords from him directly! A slice of pure Africa.


RODRIGO Y GABRIELA

One of those rare acts who left me open-mouthed in awe, as I was witnessing live two of the most talented guitarists on the planet. Playing together for over fifteen years, Rodrigo Sanches and Gabriela Quintero brought on stage their unique instrumental blend of Rumba Flamenca including elements of Rock, Metal, Jazz and World music. Timeless music.


HOZIER

Irish musician Hozier was an utter delight, with his entrance met with wild applause from the Crossroads tent. His ht single ‘Take me to Church’ was a clear favourite, but we truly loved every song. I found amazing his confidence on stage: hard to believe he is only 24. One to watch.


WHERE IS IT?

Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, Byron Bay, NSW, Australia

Very efficient shuttle buses will take you there from Byron Bay, in just 20 minutes.


2016 DATES

From Thursday 24th of March to Monday 28th of March

And you can already get your tickets! Click here.

The excitement continues…

JOHAN BÄVMAN – ‘Swedish Dads’ photography series

Just came across this Swedish photographer and absolutely fell in love with this new series about Swedish dads making the most of Sweden’s generous paternity-leave legislation.

The series showcases real-life shots of Swedish men dealing with their crying babies, playing with them around the house, taking baths with them and being responsible of the feeding time, which gets messy as expected. It also documents fathers during their parental leave, and it tells us why they wanted to be home with their children and what they hoped to learn from it.


THE CURIOSITY

For the ones of you who don’t know how the system works in Sweden, well… it is a bit of a paradise for new mums and dads. The current system allows both parents to stay at home with their child for 480 days in total (yes, 480!) whilst of course receiving an allowance from the state.
Out of these 480 days, 60 must be taken by the father. The ‘Swedish Dads’ series shows dads who actually went the extra mile and chose to take more than ‘just’ 60 days, in some cases the whole 480.


ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

The photographer is Malmö-based Johan Bävman, and he started this project because he had a hard time finding anything that was written for him as a father when his first son was born.

The complete collection is on his website, and it’s one of the sexiest things you might come across today!

Finally, my favourite quote from one of the featured dads:

“I am eternally grateful for having been able to be on leave for such a long time. Parental leave changed the way I look at life: It created a change in pace and I had time to reflect on things. During the second parental leave I had the opportunity to change my career and at the same time I got to see my kids learn how to walk, talk, and eat.”

– Juan Cardenal

©Johan Bavman / Moment / INSTITUTE

Photo credits: ©Johan Bavman / Moment / INSTITUTE

The photographer who went to Antarctica

SOUTHERN EXPOSURE: SOUTH GEORGIA ISLAND & ANTARCTICA

Southern Exposure – Exhibition from Anthony Ponzo

The Art Month is on in Sydney, like every March. And it’s transforming hidden alleyways into vibrant buzzing corners of town full of art and music… and lots of cool people enjoying their time outside of course. The vibe and the music in the air remind me a bit of the Spanish fiestas, in the barrios of Barcelona during summer… or maybe it’s just me being a bit home sick.

The Art Month was in Chippendale last week, an alternative and quirky Sydney borough next door from the already vibrant Surry Hills, where I live. As I was wondering around the streets, I came across the X88, a tiny gallery where an Australian photographer was offering glasses of wines to curious eyes and showcasing his last collection of mesmerising photos from his last trip.

The gallery was so packed that 1. he ran out of wine pretty quickly and 2. it was impossible to talk.

So I went back a couple of days later, on a lazy Saturday morning, after my brunch to what has already become my Chippendale favourite, Cafe Giulia, and asked him a few questions about his exhibition.

I am glad I asked.

The photographer is Anthony Ponzo, a wedding photographer from Australia with Irish and Italian (Sicilian precisely, very very close to the Southern Italian region where I am from. Click!) background. An interesting mix.

The exhibition – that he named ‘Southern Exposure’ – documents the 3 weeks that Anthony spent on an ice-hardened ship travelling to Antarctica from Ushuaia in South America, last November. He told me he worked from sunrise to sunset every day to capture the unique wildlife of and dramatic landscapes of remote South Georgia island. In the freezing cold.

What I loved about his exhibition was the story telling coming with each shot. The photos were amazing of course, but the small story that came with each of them is what I found truly captivating. And what made me go back.

Here is a taste of his photos – now on sales – which beautifully showcase the varied colours and surreal landscapes of Antarctica and South Georgia Island:

But you will have to head to Anthony’s website or to Chippendale if you are curious to see more. ‘Southern Exposure’ will run at the X88 gallery till March the 26th.

One of the pictures Anthony seemed most proud of is the one where he managed to see the sun setting late at night, after hours freezing outside and after the whole photographing. It was completely unexpected.

I asked him: “how many pictures did you have to take to get the perfect shot?”

“Around 200 hundreds” he said.

But only this one made it to the final editing and is now part of the exhibition:

Southern Exposure – Exhibition from Anthony Ponzo

Worth the wait in the cold, don’t you think?


LINKS:

Sydney Art Month:

X88 website

Anthony Ponzo website – info@antarctic.photos

‘Southern Exposure’ website and photo gallery


EXHIBITION DETAILS

‘Southern Exposure’ at X88 – from March 19th till March 26th 2015

James Turrell – A retrospective

“I make spaces that apprehend light for our perception, and is some ways gather it, or seem to hold it… my work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing.”

– James Turrell

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Since the 1960s James Turrell has made art from light.

He works directly with lights, colours and spaces to create artworks that engage viewers with the limits and wonder of human perception.

He came to Australia for the first time this year with his retrospective and I could not possibly miss the opportunity. So I booked my tickets (months in advance), packed my bag and went to Canberra for the weekend, where I found many other surprises, a part from an injection of art of course. Read more here if you are planning a weekend in the Australian capital.

Turrell’s retrospective explores his work over almost 50 years, and it brings together a mix of projection pieces, built spaces, holograms, drawings, videos, prints and photographs. It celebrates the artist’s life work, Roden Crater: literally an extinct volcano in the desert of Arizona, that he transformed years ago into a naked eye observatory. And from the heart of this crater, James Turrell keeps on creating and surprising us.

JamesTurrell_RodenCrater_Canberra_CuriousAbout

The Roden Crater, in the Painted Desert, Northern Arizona, United States.

The exhibition (in Canberra till June 2015) is a series of empty spaces that he filled in with light, where you will lose the perception of things and feel seriously disorientated. I bumped into walls where I thought that was nothing…

Once inside one of the spaces he created, you will be completely immersed in colour – or in total darkness – and you won’t be able to identify edges or corners, and to realise how big or small the space you are walking in is.

It is like walking on clouds. And it’s magic.

JamesTurrell_Retrospective_Canberra_CuriousAbout

JamesTurrell_Canberra_CuriousAbout

James Turrell

Some of the spaces I walked through at James Turrell’s retrospective in Canberra. Photo credits: http://www.nga.gov.au

I have never experienced anything like that in my life, and no… I had never walked on clouds before…

The highlight of the exhibition is the ‘Perceptual Cell’: an even more immersive installation that can only accommodate one viewer at a time every 15 minutes. It is sold out till June, but you can still book your tickets for the rest of the exhibition, which is absolutely stunning and will make you trip to Canberra worthwhile.

JamesTurrell_ProjectionPieces_ Canberra_CuriousAbout

Lights or holes in the wall? Your perception will be challenged.


LINKS & INFO

National Gallery of Canberra – on now , till Mon 8th June 2015

Tickets: $20.39 – $30.58

James Turrell website

Roden Crater website

Free mobile app: for Androids and iPhones

Here Comes The Sun

GeorgeHarrison_CuriousAbout

George Harrison Living In The Material World. Photo credits: imgkid.com

This short post is dedicated to George Harrison, to his music, which I grew up with – thanks mum and dad for being crazy for The Beatles!

Last week the 57th GRAMMYs were on. And Dhani Harrison accepted The GRAMMYs Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of his father in Los Angeles, California.

Last week I also went to see Wes Carr – an Australian singer songwriter on the rise – paying a tribute to the quiet Beatle. The concert – that he named ‘Here Comes The Sun’ – was held in a very small venue in Surry Hills, the 505 Venue, which has already a lot of character in itself, and Wes was very intense in his interpretation.

The night took the shape of a storytelling experience more than just a concert. It’s the second time I see Wes live and it looks like storytelling is his favourite style of playing music and entertaining always amazed listeners. Very engaging on the stage. If he is playing in your city, make sure you don’t miss him. It is an immersive experience.

That Sat night in Surry Hills Wes shared intimate tales and anecdotes from George Harrison himself, going beyond his music, also looking at his spiritual journey and the influence that Transcendental Meditation had on his post-Beatles music.

WesCarr_HereComesTheSun_GeorgeHarrison

Wes Carr performing ‘Here Comes The Sun’ at 505 Venue, Surry Hills, Sydney. Feb 2015.

He played some chart topping classics as ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘What is Life’, ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and The Beatles classic ’Something’, a song which Frank Sinatra deemed ‘the greatest love song ever written’. Magic.

A quote from his blog:

“George Harrison wasn’t just the ‘quiet Beatle’ who played lead guitar for the most celebrated and influential band the world has ever seen. George was an innovator, arguably more so than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, questioning life and reality, always searching for something deeper and in doing so, introducing the culture and traditions of the east to the west.”

That night at the 505 Venue I learned so much about an artist I already loved.

I learned that George was a spiritual leader of The Beatles; he was a guiding light for so many. As The Beatles were falling apart and breaking up, George was finding himself through his many personal voyages around the world, mainly to India. And he used his music to question life and challenge modern times.

Enough words. I’ll leave you to his beautiful music now. This is one of my favourite songs:


Some links you will want to bookmark:

WES CARR

Wes Carr’s official website

Wes Carr on Facebook

Wes Carr on Twitter

GEORGE HARRISON

George Harrison’s official website

George Harrison on Twitter

George Harrison on Facebook

George Harrison on YouTube

Sydney Festival – Inside There Falls

It’s that time of the year again: the Sydney Festival is on. I do not really wait January to go to the theatre, and I am actually hyper active when it comes to art 365 days a year.

But I also recognise that the Sydney Festival brings to town a concentration of quirky and alternative exhibitions and performances. “Inside There Falls” is one of them.

Hosted at the Carriageworks in Everleigh. One of my favourite empty spaces in Sydney.

Carriageworks Everleigh Sydney Australia

Carriageworks. Everleigh. Sydney.

My advice? worth a visit, if you are into contemporary dance, story telling and sculpture.

Three artists are involved in the creation of this world premier exhibition:

Rafael Bonachela is the reason why I went. He is a very talented Spanish choreographer I met in London, but most importantly he is the artistic director of Sydney Dance Company. I haven’t missed any of his performances, both in London and Sydney. “Inside There Falls” is not a performance though. The dancers are an intervention within the sculpture.

Mira Calix is the artist who installed the labyrinthine of crushed white, paper sheets falling from the ceiling all around you. You will feel one with the white.

Brett Clegg is the poet behind the words. He wrote this text 20 years ago. Imagine my surprise this morning when I went to work and realised that he actually also works at News Corp Australia. A coffee with him plus some questions on this work – I am too curious! – are in order now.

Sydney Festival_Inside There Walls_Carriageworks_White

Becoming one with the white. “Inside There Falls”. Sydney Festival.

But I do not want to tell you too much about the whole experience; I really think it will spoil it for you – and I hate it when people do this to me -. Just go and live it for yourself.

The exhibition ends on Sun the 18th of Jan, and it’s open every day from noon till 8pm.

It’s a free event. Groups of 23 people only will be allowed each time, which means the whole experience feels very unique and intimate.

THE END

My London – hidden art gallery in the heart of Chelsea

Just when you think you have seen it all in terms of art exhibitions in London, here you have this small private gallery tucked away in a side street of posh King’s Road, Chelsea.

Only a couple of blocks away from the big and far more popular Saatchi & Saatchi, this little gem is there to sweetly surprise you and inspire you.

Michael Hopper Gallery Chelsea London

Michael Hopper Gallery in 3 Jubilee Place, Chelsea, London, UK.

Michael Hoppen Gallery, opened in 1993, exhibits exclusively fine art photography. Go straight to the second floor through the narrow staircase to find high quality contemporary work from well known photographers such as Daido Moriyama, through rising stars such as Desiree Dolron to edgier, newly discovered talents. It feels so intimate that you’ll think you just walked into some rich Londoner’s living room, but it is actually a proper gallery and it’s open to the public – well, to the few lucky ones who know where to look!

I spent entire afternoons there reading superbly produced artists’ books, some published in house, which are also available to buy from the gallery itself. Better than a souvenir from Piccadilly Circus to bring back home, don’t you think?

Now I don’t live in London any longer, but the gallery is of course still there for you to enjoy and appreciate in its entire elegance. Just keep it quiet and don’t spread the word too much. Schhhh….. it will be our little secret in Chelsea, our little peaceful corner to go to and hide, when all we are looking for is a bit of inspiration.

Pictures credit: Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Michael Hoppen Gallery on social media – make sure you keep up to date with their new installations and rotating art collections:

Twitter @MichaelHoppen1

Instagram @michaelhoppengallery

STAY CURIOUS

My London – An alternative guide to Shoreditch

There is obviously plenty of things to do in this Eastern London borough, more than you’ll read in this post of course, but what you’ll find here is the way I experienced it in my London years.

So, this is my Shoreditch.

The one that I loved since the first Vietnamese dinner of my life in Old Street… the one that keeps a lot of drunken & super fun memories of a single Paola in its streets…  the same one that inspired me so many times with its boutique design galleries and vintage shops, and the one that made me dance till morning and made me won plenty of foosball challenges.

Not sure how much of this is still there – London evolves constantly and places that once were cool might have been invaded tons of tourists by now, so don’t be mad at me if that happens in one of the venues I have recommended you…


SHOPPING

You won’t find any big retailer or high street brands here – fortunately, I’d add.

Here in Shoreditch it’s all about indie designers, quality vintage shops, interior design and quirky art galleries, cool London style shoes and clothing. From Old Street tube, just walk towards Old Street and you will find plenty of small shops to surprise you. My favourite streets in the area are Rivington Street, Shoredtich High Street and Curtain Street.

And of course go to the newly built Box Park: they are literally a pop-up boxes where you’ll find plenty of fashion and lifestyle brands, with galleries and cafes on the terrace.

BoxPark London Shoreditch

Box Park pop-up mall in Shoredtich, East London


FOOD & DRINK

Brunch:

  • The Breakfast Club: burgers you will love – also open for lunch – and a great atmosphere. In Rufus Street, in between Hoxton Square and Old Street.

  • The Boundary is a far more luxurious experience – amazing for lunch or drinks in the evening as well -. It has some stunning interior design, great location – on your way to Columbia Road, the architecture of the whole building is fantastic, and of course the elegant food and service. You can thank me later!

Lunch & Dinner:

  • For a very good and honest Thai, Busaba – in Old Street – will never let you down.

  • Cay Tre: Shoreditch is THE area for Vietnamese food in London, and this restaurant is the best of the best! Again, right in Old Street.

  • Bottega Prelibato in Rivington Street is my pick for some authentic Italian cuisine. Nothing fancy, but the decor of the restaurant in real Italian style (you can’t miss the owner’s vespa parked just outside) and the friendly service creates a very relaxed atmosphere. Food is excellent, prepared by Italians with fresh ingredients (and being Italian myself, I am very very picky with food!). Don’t leave without trying their espresso, if you can handle a strong and short caffeine kick!

  • Pizza East: despite the pizza not being the authentic Napoli-style pizza, this place is great for some fun in style. And food is good anyway.

Bottega Prelibato Italian Restaurant Shoreditch London

Bottega Prelibato in the heart of Shoreditch, London.

Drinks & Music:

  • Cargo is the place to go for live music. Great crowd and super nice atmosphere. It’s a proper club during the weekend, but you can go there for a more relaxed evening during the week. In Rivington Street.

  • My absolute favourite! bar in East London!!!!!!! the Bar Kick in Shoreditch High Street. They have foosball tables and a great great fun atmosphere!

  • The Strongroom: very cool place with a nice big outdoor space and a basement dancing floor with great DJs. In Curtain Road.

  • The Book Club is perfect for drinks and food. They have pool tables and a very cool vibe (did I mention that already about Shoreditch??!).
  • In Hoxton Square you will find plenty of clubbing, food & drinks options all around the square. Just pick yours.

Credit Photo: Paul Winch-Furness / www.paulwf.co.uk

The Bar Kick in Shoreditch for your next foosball challenge!

Food Stalls

  • The Red Market is just one block away from Old Street tube station, and it’s the only London’s late-night food market. It’s an outdoor space with street food stalls, cocktails of course and live events, music, quirky art installations. Just hope for some good British weather!

Art:

  • One of the leading art galleries in the world for contemporary art is in Hoxton Square: The White Cube.

White Cube Art Gallery London

The White Cube Gallery, inside view. Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, London.

And once you are done with exploring all the above and more… just a few blocks away from Shoreditch there are other three beautiful and vibrant parts of town: Brick Lane – famous for its markets and old brewery -, Columbia Road – with its flower market, on Sunday mornings only – and Hackney – with its Broadway market, the animal farm and the London Fields outdoor pool.