Get your butt to church.

Some one recently brought to my attention that my love of churches (and cathedrals) is a some what unusual one considering I am NOT religious whatsoever. Not that there is anything wrong with being religious it’s just not who I am. But I do love going into churches. I think they are an amazing source of inspiration. I genuinely think that everyone should stop in at least one church when visiting a new city.

I know there will people reading this being like ugh I’m not going to spend my vacation time walking around to churches. I totally understand that, but hear me out. Churches were the hub of communities for centuries so they can reveal a great deal about the city they are in. Then there is the masterpieces of architecture that most churches are. Plus they often house the most spectacular works of art: in the form of paintings, stained glass and much more. the-original-ecce-homo-st-010Churches were often showcases of the masters and architects of their time. I love that about churches. I mean granted the art work focuses on one subject matter, but the variance in approach and skill is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I mean hey everyone remembers the botched retouch of the fresco. So why not go see the amazing craft presented in these churches before someone else’s grandmother gets a hold of some paint brushes.

Ok so somehow I’ve convinced you to go to church (haha, it is probably best if it’s not a Sunday!), but where do you start? Glad that you ask! I’ve compiled my top 5 favourite churches for you to check out for yourself. So these are in chronological order for me, not most favourite, because that would be too difficult. Also I didn’t want to spend weeks going through photo albums, hard drives and photo folders to find my photographs of these places, so I am using other people’s.

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(Photo © Whitney Curtis)

Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis, MO

This little gem of the Central West End is one that I remember from being a little kid. Like I said I’m not really religious, nor was I raised particularly religiously. This was a beautiful place for a person of any age or religious background. Once you walk through the doors the inside is a warm, glistening gold. Then once you look closer you see that the ceiling is not just gold but a collection of mosaics. These mosaics were completed in 1988 and collectively contain 41.5 million glass pieces and since is covers 83,000 sq ft it is the largest mosaic collection in the world. Which ain’t too bad for a little ol’ church in the middle of Missouri. If you ever get to St. Louis you should go and spend time looking up at all the amazing detail this ceiling has to offer.

 

img_2097Notre Dame, Paris, France

Ok so Notre Dame itself is amazing! BUT my love for this church definitely comes from a little Disney movie that I doubt anyone besides me  has actually seen.The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out when I was 6 and I was obsessed to say the least. For my 7th birthday, my dad made me not one but two Notre Dame themed cakes. One was the shape of the outside, while the second was a stained glass window made of cake and sprinkles. Now that I’m an adult I think way to go Dad that was no easy feat, also come on 2 cakes, sort of adorable overkill. When I finally did get to Paris I made sure to get to get to the Cathedral as soon as I could. Any place with gargoyles and flying buttresses is cool to me. What is a flying buttress? Well it’s the weird arches sticking out of the back of the building that essentially hold up vaulted ceilings. Plus gargoyles, did I mention gargoyles?! This Cathedral is beautiful inside and out.

2634238499_c5c4c2ccac_zGedächtniskirche, Berlin, Germany

The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche is a church in Berlin located in a  big shopping area of Berlin on the Kurfürstendamm. The church was built in the 1890s and was partially destroyed in a bombing raid. A portion of the church still remains, but there is a new church that was built alongside the former portion. The new freestanding tower is a hexagon and built with a bunch of blue glass bricks. The tower is often lit from the inside and shines through out the night. The inside envelopes you in the blue. My favourite bit is the balance between the old and the new that is so evident from the outside.

sacre-coeur-2Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France

Ok for this one you don’t necessarily need to go in side. Of course you can, it is stunning on the inside. But I think the beauty of this church lies on the outside. It sits on the top of the hill of Montmartre which is the highest point of the city. From a distance you can see this beautiful white building sitting above the city. Then once you get to the top of the hill and see all of the intricacies and details of the building it is mesmerising. Then you turn around and you get one of the best views of Paris that you will ever see.

sagrada-familia-dreamstime-1Sagrada Família, Barcelona Spain

This is probably an obvious one. Inside, outside, Gaudí’s creation is a masterpiece. Each facade is a completely different work of art and one that needs to be marveled at. Seriously words can not describe the beauty that is this church. Then you go inside and just wow. The stained glass, the columns, the vaulted ceilings, every millimeter has been painstakingly thought out and created. It is definitely worth the hefty price-tag. Make sure you spring to go up the tower. Here’s my post about Paris and Barcelona.

dsc04649aOk so after this long post I do need to say it’s not all about the churches. I just find them to be the most easily accessible to the public. While I was in Paris I had the opportunity to the Grand Mosque of Paris. It was equally as inspiring and moving as any of the churches that I listed above. The amazing tile/ mosaic work was like nothing I’d seen before.

I guess what I’m trying to say with all of this is that even if you aren’t religious whatsoever (like me) take a minute and look toward a nearby religious centre (especially the old ones). They were the center of communities and have very inspirational architecture and art. Plus it’s a chance for all of us to step away from our computers for a little bit.

 

America for the Holidays: New York

Last stop New York City! And we stayed in Brooklyn. In an Airbnb. We’ve had great experience with Airbnbs in the past. So we hoped for the best on this one. It ended up being in an area that was a little further out than I thought but it seemed good enough. The apartment was a fixer upper, but it had everything we needed. The first thing we did being that we were in Brooklyn was head to the bridge. We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and even though it was totally packed we still got to see amazing views. The first stop in Manhattan was Katz’s Deli. Is 30 minutes queuing outside, 30 minutes waiting inside and fighting for a table worth it for a sandwich? YES! It is. Honestly it was the best sandwich or two sandwiches actually (we got one corned beef and one pastrami). The pastrami sandwich is slightly better, but even now I would wait ages for another one of those sandwiches.

We headed to New York City to see my friend Abby and to celebrate New Years Eve in THE place to go. Well seeing Abby was as amazing as ever. She is one of the best most consistent friends I’ve ever had. She is and always will be the friend I can’t wait to see, and can always rely on. Abby cleared her schedule to spend a great deal of time with us. But before she came back to NYC for NYE, Col and I did some more touristing. That included a crazy Times Sq the day before NYE and geez that was crazy. I’ve been to Times Square before and it’s always busy, but that time of year it was insane. We also headed to the Whitney, which is one of my favourite museums in NYC. The exhibition is always changing but I like the focus on American art. PLUS the building… It’s got some amazing views and I just am inspired by the building itself. Once we left the Whitney we went to what may have been my and Col’s favourite exhibitions: Rolling Stone’s Exhibitionism. I am not a crazy Stones fan or anything. I mean yes I like them, but I really never expected to like the exhibition as much as I did. But with videos, music, costumes and set ups of flats, studios and backstage, you delved straight into feeling like you were getting an exclusive on the Stones. If you’re in NYC go!

Earlier I said that Times Square was busy, well it wasn’t just there it was NYC. Apparently everyone wants to be in NYC for NYE which means all tourist things were jam-packed. If you are wanting to see true NYC don’t go in between Christmas and New Years. Oh and DON’T go to the Top of the Rock. The Top of the Rock is the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center and while I think it is probably great any other time of year, when we went it was the worst experience I have had. We tried to get in the first day but the queue outside looked like it’d take an hour. So we tried again the next day where we went from one queue to the next to get to a counter where we could exchange the tickets we had bought for ones with specific times on them. We opted to go the next day rather than wait around for hours. When we went on the day and time we had on our ticket, the queues didn’t end there we had several and security to get through before we finally got to the top. Once up every inch of glass was covered with a crowd of people 5 people deep. The views were completely obstructed and there were way too many people at the top. We were so angry that the experience wasn’t enjoyable. Overall I think it was 8 queues up, 2 queues down, all over 3 days. Not nice. (OK the view was nice I guess…)

The last bit of our trip we went to the Guggenheim. Although the exhibition was a collection of white canvases, the building is and always be a remarkable piece of art on it’s own. We also had dinner with Abby at one of the best places ever. Peaches Shrimp and Crab was amazing. Lobster clubs, shrimp and grits, grilled salmon and even fried chicken what more could you ask for. The last day we were there we took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty slightly closer up. Then after a quick bite to eat we went to the Comedy Cellar. This was a request of Colin, because famous comedians like Louis CK, Aziz Ansari and more have performed there. Honestly if you love comedy, you have to go there! You have to pay entry and buy a minimum number of drinks and they choose your seats for you. BUT you will have time best time and you will be able to see and hear. Seriously it was the best time.

Well that was the end of our little Americas trip and I’m so glad that Colin came with me for Christmas. It was so much fun and we got to see and do things that not even I had done before. I really can not wait until we can go again!

America for the Holidays: St. Louis

img_5165I love St. Louis. It is my hometown and even though no one has ever heard of it, it is a city worth visiting. It was Colin’s first time in my hometown and seeing where I grew up. I’ve been to his childhood home a lot and I just wanted him to like it.

For a city with just under 3 million people it’s a small town where you see people you know where ever you go. Mostly that means avoiding eye contact and walking past people you’ve known for years. But this trip I arranged to see people I really wanted to plus some ridiculously touristy stuff and it was one of the best times I’d had.

So the touristy stuff. Well we did the Arch, Wash U, the Budweiser Tour and the Art Museum. Sort of. The Arch was closed for repairs, well you can go into the museum but not up in the Arch. And being that I’ve visited the Arch loads… what is the point of that?! So we just went to see it. Then Wash U the tour was on me and my friend Amy. She took us around the Kemper Art Museum on campus and showed us a few of her favourite things. While I just walked Colin around the main campus. I love Wash U and it felt great walking around campus again. The Budweiser Tour is a classic for people visiting St. Louis. I know what you’re thinking Budweiser, yuck. But in the Brewery it tastes better, crisper and more expensive. Plus the tour is free and you get a free beer out of it. My favourite part of it is the Clydesdales and the Dalmatians. Yes the horses and dogs are the best. I mean the one Clydesdale’s was at least a foot or two taller than I was. They are impressive and gorgeous creatures. Last tourist stop was the St. Louis Art Museum. Like lots of other stuff in St. Louis, the museum is free. Much like the Art Insitutute of Chicago SLAM recently added a modern art extension. The museum is great and getting to go with Colin and my mom is just what I needed.

Like I said previously a great deal of the trip to St. Louis was for friends and family. Plus it was Christmas. I love Christmas with my family and this was lots of family and puppy time. Ok Riley isn’t a puppy, he’s like 5-6 or so. We played board games, ate lots of food and laughed a lot! Meeting with my friends was no different. There was a Christmas pop up bar and my friend Kelly was determined to get us in there. With wrapping paper every where, fairy light all around and Christmas themed cocktails, it was definitely worth the wait.

Being that Colin had never been to America before, he wanted to go through as many American cliches as possible. Those ranged from eating at a diner late at night, going to dive and regular bars to various foods. I think we covered Corn dogs, hot wings, dinner food, breakfast food all while in St. Louis. I even made gooey butter cake from scratch. As far as going places I think my favourite was the bowling alley. We dragged my mom along with us and although she said she had never been bowling, she beat us. It was embarrassing, but so much fun. The trip to St. Louis was a great time and I think Colin really enjoyed it as well. He even said St. Louis was his favourite of the 3 cities we visited! 😀

 

America for the Holidays: Chicago

Every Christmas means the same thing for me: heading to St. Louis to go home. This year it was different, because I asked Colin if he wanted to come with me. Since he had never actually been to the States, well ever, I thought it was right for us to make this trip a bigger one then just a quick trip to St. Louis. That meant first stop was Chicago.

After a ridiculous day of traveling which consisted of 3 flights, 2 buses and a taxi (all of which were delayed), we made it. We got to the hotel really late or is it early if it’s 2 am. Either way we were exhausted and hopped right into bed. The hotel was called Freehand and it was half hostel half private room hotel. It has a cute little bar downstairs and everything fits in an eclectic style with an almost native American feel. But really it was a hipster hotel located in a great part of town and I would definitely recommend it!

The weather in Chicago this time of year is always cold, but this trip it was something different. The second day we were in Chicago the weather report said the HIGH was -18C (-0.4F) and the low was -26C (-14.8F). That meant that we planned our trip around the cold.

Our first day was meant to be the warmest day so that was the day of walking outside. Being that we were in Chicago, we ran to the Bean first thing. The Bean is one of those tourist attractions that doesn’t really get old. The high shine reflects the skyline and the people and it just photographs amazingly. Right next to the Bean is the Art Institute of Chicago and that was our first stop from the city pass that we bought. 5 tourist destinations for $98. I love the Art Institute and I haven’t really been since the modern wing was complete. I realise that was ages ago, but I don’t go to Chicago that often.  Next we went up to the Skydeck which is located in the Willis Tower (former Sears Tower). This is the view deck with the little glass boxes that hang off the side of the building. We were determined to get a photo from inside the box. The professional photo ended up being so cute that we paid $30 for those crazy 3 photo packages. But oh well it was cute.

Did I mention it was cold? Yeah it was freezing or below freezing actually, like way below. But that wasn’t going to stop us. We decided that the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum was the best place to stay warm. I’ve loved the Shedd since I was little, mostly because I have a love for Beluga Whales. The two are so close to each other that the little time we spend outside didn’t seem all that cold, which is great because Chicago is beautiful in the snow.

The last stop on our tourist tours was 360 Chicago. It’s the 94th floor of the John Hancock building. The views from here were spectacular. The views may be better because from here you can see the Willis tower.

In between the times of tourist attractions were some shopping (of course) and meeting with some friends. I love Chicago and I tried to convince Colin that it’s an amazing city as well. The time there was great and I’m glad I got to experience it with him.

You’re driving on the wrong side…

Or is is the right side? Who knows. But when my mom came to visit I knew it was time for a little road trip! I rented a car from Sixt (btw they were always super helpful and reasonably priced, so would definitely recommend them). We hopped in the car and drove up to Luss on Loch Lomond. I’d never been to Loch Lomond and I heard that it was beautiful so it was really about time. As we drove up everything was gray, dark and foggy, so I thought uh oh this wasn’t going well. But once we got close the fog had burned off and the sun came out. It was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t believe the views. We walked around Luss for a while and thought it was time to stop for lunch. I drove us down to Cameron House and we had lunch in the bar. Cameron House is really cute it massive and decorated in lots of tartan and oversized furniture. I really liked it, but of course as expected it is on the expensive side. After lunch we headed across to Stirling so that my mom could see Stirling Castle. I never been there either, but I knew it would be a treat for my mom. The drive to Stirling was quicker than expected and once we arrived the castle was still covered with just a little bit of snow. The castle is really nice and well maintained. I really enjoyed the visit there. I know that my mom did too.

Down to London Town

img_4433Some weekends you just need a get away and this one definitely could not have come at a better time. Except for the whole lack of funds due to being jobless now, but that was a problem for future Kat and I wasn’t worried about that. (I know I’ll find the next big adventure when it comes to jobs and I know I’ll be moving on to something bigger and better). Luckily before then I arranged for a little Anniversary and birthday present; I thought that I would get Col tickets to an Arsenal game. Since we decided to go down for a long weekend the rest of the trip was my present. We flew down and immediately found our cute little Airbnb. The owner was definitely an American living in London with little SNL objects and other jokes that were so American it was great. I felt right at home.

Then the touristing in London began. We went up to Sky Garden and the views were amazing. You can book tickets online for free and you just book with a time slot. There is of course a queue to get up and a bit of security to go through, but it’s maybe 10 minutes to get up to really spectacular views. Once up there are a few cafes and restaurants to choose from. And although they are quite pricey if you take the time to look there is something for every budget. You can’t complain being in an indoor botanical garden high up with amazing views of London.

It was off to the Tate Modern after that. We thought oh well it’s a quick walk over there it won’t be bad. And to be fair the walk to the Tate Modern wasn’t bad at all. What was rough was that the place is HUGE! I mean floors and floors and floors of modern art. You have to cross a bridge and go up and down floors in two different but connected buildings. I’m not complaining, it was incredible, but man were we exhausted.

Saturday was the big game day and to say we were both excited was an understatement. I had never been to a real football game. We found a cute coffee shop near where we were staying called the Shoreditch Grind. There we had a nice little pregame brunch and coffees of course before we headed for Emirates Stadium. Before the game even started I knew it was going to be a good time, because the Stadium is so well designed. There are gates all around the outside with individual letters and you were only allowed to enter into your assigned gate. Then you were ushered up to your individual section. Each section had a few bars and snack stands, as well as a good amount of bathrooms. I mention this because I’ve been in stadiums where you miss have of the show or game due to the fact that you are standing in a queue waiting for something. After a few pints at the bar we headed to our seats. The game itself was well disappointing, but it was an enjoyable time non the less.

The rest of our evening consisted of you guessed it a restaurant called Meat Liquor and well it was a great combination of the best burgers and cocktails I’ve probably ever had. Plus I mean b&w photo booth for the win! Seriously I couldn’t recommend this place enough, go now if you can! The last day of our trip we went to probably my favourite place maybe ever. No I’m not kidding it was amazing! God’s Own Junkyard is Chris Bracey’s amazing collection of neon signs, props and more. The electricity bill on this place must be insane. But you walk inside and it’s incredible. You expect that this much visual stimulation would be too much, it’s a gallery of light and colour and type. I was obsessed. Plus there is a cute little cafe in there that even does vegan sweets so what more could you want. img_4557

All in all London was a great little trip away and as you can tell I was quite the happy camper! I’m still not sure that I could live in London full time, but my next trip there will definitely be sooner rather than later!

It’s Electric!

After Primavera and Croatia Rocks, I didn’t think that any music festival could live up to my high standards. But in comes the small, intimate, Scottish music festival that is Electric Fields and you couldn’t be more wrong. I had never been camping for a festival and I honestly didn’t think I’d like it. It was amazing though. Located at Drumlanrig Castle in Thornhill.  The campsite is just the right size and the festival venue is just a short walk away. I couldn’t believe the time I had. My favourite performance with Everything Everything, but everything I saw from Teen Canteen to Primal Scream was amazing. The best part was that we had absolutely amazing weather. That made exploring the castle grounds an amazing time in addition to the great festival. Honestly I just want to do it again right now!