Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 6, 2016

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

MoMA, New YorkI once spoke to someone who visited New York in the cold of January. She complained on and on about how freezing and miserable the city was. I couldn’t help but ask her why she didn’t go to one of the ridiculous number of museums New York boasts to warm up and soak up some culture.

Turns out her only cultural interest is soaking up beach rays. New York was only a “boring” stop-over on a  journey to Caribbean sun and sand.

MoMA, New YorkFair enough. Art museums aren’t for everyone, but for those (like me) who can’t get enough of them, New York’s the place for you.

On your checklist will certainly be New York’s Museum of Modern Art, more commonly known as MoMA.

MoMA was founded in 1929, although its  location in Midtown Manhattan (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) was fully redesigned by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi between 2002 and 2004.

MoMA, New YorkBack when I was in university and taking lots of art history classes, I would often stop by here when I was in town to visit the art I was studying, although, back then – ahem – ticket prices were lighter on a  student’s wallet.

Still, it’s an important stop on your New York visit, and you’ll enjoy your time among this impressive collection. There’s also a pleasant urban garden a great place to relax during your visit.

MoMA, New York, Van Gogh, The Starry NightOne of the iconic paintings that visitors  come to see – and, more annoyingly, jostle before as they are taking selfies with their selfie sticks – is Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889). This idealized view from his asylum window in the gorgeous southern French town of Saint-Rémy de Provence just before dawn.

Van Gogh admitted himself into this asylum after a breakdown in 1888, following a  fight with the painter Gauguin that led to the famous ‘ear’ episode. His time in the asylum was a productive one for his art, and this painting is arguably one of his most loved.

MoMA, New York, Dali, The Persistence of MemorySalvado Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) is one of the most famous works of the surrealist movement. A month before our visit, my older son had to give a middle school presentation on the surrealist movement for his art history exam, so it was great to admire this tiny painting supposedly rejecting the rigidity of time in person so soon after he had explained its significance to his examiners.

MoMA, New York, PicassoPablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) is another classic of modern art you will have seen in the text books before you visit here. This painting of five nude women was an historically important painting – breaking from past traditions in composition and perspective, and ushering in his development of Cubism. The African mask-like features were said by Picasso to add a ‘savage force’ to the composition.

Avignon refers to a street and area of Barcelona known for its brothels, and this work portrays five prostitutes. In fact, the original title (later changed) Picasso gave to this canvas was the The Brothel of Avignon. When the painting was first exhibited in 1916, it was considered immoral. Now it serves as a centerpiece of the MoMA collection purchased by the museum in 1937 for $24,000.

Enjoy your visit to MoMA, and for other New York museum tips, see my earlier posts on the new Whitney  and the medieval Cloisters Museum.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | December 2, 2016

How cool is this? #Booksonthesubway

Books on the subwayI absolutely LOVE this idea. And now I find myself kicking myself, why one earth did I not discover this when I spent all of last August in New York?

Okay, definitely time to get back to scour the subway for these books.

The idea is remarkably simple. Every few days, Books on the Subway carries out ‘book drops’ on New York’s subway line. Anyone who finds them can scoop them up to read for themselves. Ideally, they are asked to shoot a photo and  a line about what they think to the Twitter site or with the hashtag #booksonthesubway. When the reader completes the book, he or she should bring it back so another commuter can enjoy it.

How’s that for civilization and culture in a city that can often seem far too distant from it – particularly in the chaos of rush hour?

And honestly, wouldn’t it be great to see more commuters enjoying the pages of a good book rather than glued mindlessly to their phones?

Good news for avid readers across the Pond,  London dwellers have their own version, Books on the Tube. So look out for it when you are in London.

Book Fairies, just a hint: When do you plan on coming to Rome? Here, subway riders are in desperate need of cheering up, and with some of the world’s most expensive books (sad to say), finding libri nella metropolitana would be a real treat.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 29, 2016

Coffee and people-watching in Prague’s Obecní dům cafe

Obecni dum, PragueI moved to Prague right after graduating from university – ions ago. I used to work as a journalist and between interviews and my shifts at the radio and television stations where I worked, I used to come to this fabulous cafe and write up my stories, slowly nursing a coffee and admiring the faded splendor all around me.

There’s nothing faded about the splendor of this cafe now. Obecní dům (Municipal House) has been renovated and looks as brand spanking new as it must have when it opened in 1912.

Obecni dum, PragueIn reality, the origins of the building stretch back much farther. This was the site of the King’s Court in the late 14th century, the general area of King Wenceslas IV’s residence. The official residence would later move back to the Castle.

But the architectural competition that took place in 1903 to design the new project brought many of the biggest names in the new art nouveau style to submit their designs.

Obecni dum, PragueMany of the leading Czech artists were commissioned to decorate the new municipal house, including the well-known Czech artist of the era, Alfons Mucha.

Even though the cafe is gorgeous and shiny bright inside, something in me still romanticizes those days when it was dusty, dark and reeking of smoke, with plush red velvet seats very worn out from thousands of clients passing through.

Obecni dum, PragueThere were the surly waiters, whom you almost had to beg to serve you. And forget about actually getting the bill from them. After ignoring your polite pleas for the check at least a dozen times, the only method that seemed to work a charm was getting on your coat and pretending you were going to skip out without paying. Only then, faster than Superman, your unsmiling waiter would arrive with the bill.

But the atmosphere was still great, and I have fond memories of time spent here. It’s one of the reasons I’m back every trip.

Today service is crisp and efficient, and the cafe is full of light and devoid of smoke. Don’t miss out on a visit here to this historic cafe on your next trip to Prague.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 25, 2016

The art of translation

TranslationEvery translation is an act of negotiation.

-Umberto Eco

I only recently saw this quote from the recently deceased Italian novelist, Umberto Eco. He would certainly have known about this first-hand, as his novels, especially his most famous, The Name of The Rose, were translated into numerous languages.

But Eco was also a linguist and semiotician, so he would have especially understood the complexities of taking a work of literature and transforming it into another language. I love his having likened this extremely difficult challenge to an act of negotiation. How true does the translator stay to the original? How may times do choices in translation change the sense of the story? How much back and forth should there be when translators have doubts?

As for me, I am always impressed when I read a beautifully translated novel. I’m glad to see there are so many translators out there skilled in the art of negotiation as they carry out their work.

What do you think, readers and writers?

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 22, 2016

Jogging in New York’s Central Park

New YorkOoh, jogging in Central Park is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in New York. It never fails to put me in a good mood.

And when I’m back home (in Rome), I always feel a tug of nostalgia for my nice jogs through green Central Park, with the view of skyscrapers in the distance.

Of course, if I’m honest, part of this idyll is that I get to jog without worrying about racing to do other tasks. After all, when I’m in New York, I am not living as a real New Yorker, but as a tourist on holiday.

Central Park, New YorkThat means, at rush hour, when New Yorkers are killing each other to get to work, I have the rare luxury of taking my time starting my day.

If you’re feeling envious as you read this, rest assured that when I’m back home in Rome I quickly take my place among the pack of disgruntled zombies making my way to work in the early morning hours.

But in New York I have time for a leisurely morning jog in central Park, jogging from home through the hills that cut through the North Woods and on to the Reservoir, where I loop around and enjoy the skyline views as the morning sun glints off the Chrysler Building. This is definitely one of the things I miss most when I’m back home. * Sigh*

Central Park, New YorkSince the rest of the family are tennis fanatics, I often stopped off at Central Park’s great tennis courts to either pick them up, drop them off, or sit down and watch them play before I continued my jog back home.

Sadly, my weekday mornings back home in Rome are nothing like this now that I’m back into work routines.

But those visits to New York always maintain a magical place in my memories. I already look forward to those fabulous mornings jogging through beautiful Central Park. If you’re passing through the Big Apple, don’t forget to pack your running shoes and enjoy a great start to your New York day – a beautiful jog in Central Park to get your day started right. I’ll see you around the Reservoir Loop.

Central Park, New YorkCentral Park, New York

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 18, 2016

500 posts!

2016_november_500My kids would be cruel and ask if this is how many candles I’ll be having on my birthday cake.

After all, when he was younger, my older son did actually ask me if I moved to Rome before or after they’d built the Coliseum. *Sigh*

But no, a big number like this does not scare me because it is neither my age, nor the number of years ago I settled in Rome, but the number of blog posts I’ve authored for my blog site since I started back in long-ago 2012.

Back then, I wanted to start a blog that combined my passions for reading and writing fiction and for travel, but I didn’t really have a real plan on how active I would be and how well it would work out.

And now, after having written over 500 posts, I can say the journey has been lots of fun. I’ve learned so much, met lots of fellow bloggers, writers, readers, and travelers…

Nice to sit back and celebrate my first 500 posts. After all, the Coliseum and I have been around for quite a while now, and we’re happy to stick around.

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 15, 2016

Art deco (Jugendstil) architecture in Bad Gastein, Austria

Bad Gastein, AustriaI used to live in Vienna and neighboring Prague, and this is an architectural style I adore. Jugenstil, art deco, art nouveau, Secessionsstil — it goes by many names.

The Alpine spa town and watering hole of Bad Gastein, in Austria’s Salzburg province has some fine examples. I’ve already written about the historic Hotel de l’Europe Gastein in an earlier post.

This style was especially popular between 1890 and 1910, and this was when many of the town’s great hotels and large villas were constructed.

Bad Gastein, AustriaThis is because, around that time, it was discovered that the local waters contained radon, believed to be effective in curing a number of ailments, including arthritis.

Thanks to this therapy, Bad Gastein became a popular spa resort in the 19th century. Empress Sisi (wife of Kaiser Franz Joseph) was a guest here, as was German Emperor Wilhelm I and Otto von Bismark. The composer Franz Schubert came to take the waters and to work from this Alpine perch. His Piano Sonata in D major was composed here.

This glamour slowly wore off after World War I, but better rail lines did revive the town with mass tourism. However, by the 1960s, many of the grand, old hotels were largely empty.

Bad Gastein, AustriaToday, it makes a nice destination for summer sports, hiking, biking and visits to the newly renovated spa. In winter, it’s a popular skiing destination.

And when you’re here, be sure to enjoy wandering around all the wonderful, old Jugendstil architecture, and wonder what a visit would have been like at the turn of the last century, to the strains of Schubert.

For more tips in the region, see my earlier posts on hiking the Stubnerkogel, hiking the Graukogel, swimming in the Badesee, and visiting nearby Hallstatt.

Bad Gastein, AustriaBad Gastein, Austria

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 11, 2016

Happy National Short Story Week 2016!

2016_november_short_storyweekIt’s that time of year again, National Short Story Week 2016 – running 14-20 November!

Short story readers and writers like me always appreciate efforts to concentrate much-needed attention on the short story. That’s one of the reasons I always look forward to this week. And I often tend to set aside short story collections I’ve been ‘meaning to read’ to tackle during this week.

What about you, readers and writers? Do you enjoy reading short stories? Writing them?

Reading any good collections you’d like to recommend during this year’s National Short Story Week?

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 8, 2016

Mountain biking & fall foliage in Abruzzo

Autumn biking, AbruzzoI often find myself missing home when the autumn months roll around. As much as I love Rome, there is no transition between the seasons in the Eternal City, no colorful fall foliage.

This is why I enjoy visiting nearby Abruzzo during these months, to enjoy the sights, smells and climate of the autumns I miss.

Although the foliage isn’t as vibrant as the New England falls I grew up with, it is very beautiful in the mountains and never fails to put me in a good mood.

Autumn biking, AbruzzoIt’s also a great time to get out and enjoy those colors on my mountain bike.

I’d been having a hard time managing a weekend out in Abruzzo this fall. Every weekend has been either a tennis tournament for my older son or a track meet for my younger.

Autumn biking, AbruzzoAfraid I’d lose the colors all together, I decided to accept I’d be seeing them with only 50% of the family. My younger son and I set out for a long, holiday weekend in Abruzzo.

Unfortunately, my son and I had the misfortune to wake up Sunday morning, 30 October with the whole house shaking. We quickly learned it was the 6.5 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter in beautiful Norcia, in nearby Umbria. For the rest of the day, there were aftershocks.

Autumn biking, AbruzzoSadly, this is a region of Italy that knows earthquakes far too well. Umbria, the Marche and Abruzzo and their beautiful, medieval mountain towns along Italy’s Apennine spine have experienced more than their fair share of earthquakes, particularly in the past two months.

I think we join everyone in hoping the current wave of tremors will stop and that these tiny mountain communities will no longer have to live with a constant sense of anxiety.

Autumn biking, AbruzzoMy son and I spent a beautiful day biking around the town’s Arano trail, then taking the bike path from our town of Ovindoli to neighboring towns along the Altopiano delle rocche – the high plain.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, blue skies and bright sunshine, but ooh, that wind! It was fine when we were protected on the mountain loop trail, but biking against the wind from one town to another wore us both out.

Autumn biking, AbruzzoWe were happy to take a little time out for lunch at a restaurant along the route: pasta with wild boar sauce for my son and pasta with wild mushrooms for me. Now that’s the perfect way to recharge.

As always, we spent a beautiful weekend recharging in this slice of mountain paradise. Mountain biking and fall foliage certainly make a perfect combination.

Soon enough, we’ll be back to admire these same landscapes covered in white, but this is a truly special time in Abruzzo. If you have the chance, don’t miss out on these autumn colors.

Autumn biking, Ovindoli, AbruzzoAutumn biking, Abruzzo

Posted by: kimberlysullivan | November 4, 2016

Women’s Fiction Reading Challenge

Women's Fiction Reading Challenge 2016Funny that I just discovered this challenge (as 2016 comes to a close) over at the excellent Book Date web site.

The Women’s Fiction Reading Challenge 2016 is a challenge to read a certain number of Women’s Fiction books in a year: you choose the level of your commitment, and it ranges anywhere from less than 5 to over 30.

You can report the books either through your blog or by creating a shelf on your Goodreads, which makes it very flexible. Book Reviews are not necessary, but appreciated, and there is a link available to include these reviews.

Sounds right up my alley! Both as someone who would take the challenge for the many women’s fiction books I am reading and reviewing anyway each year, and as an avid reader who will have  a ‘one-stop-shop’ for seeing what others are reading and recommending in this genre.

So, while I discovered it late for 2016, it gives me something to plan on in 2017. And you, readers? Any reading challenges you take part in that you’d like to share?

 

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