Thursday, July 21, 2011

Free Things to Do in Oslo

Who doesn't like free things, especially when one is in Norway, where everything costs an arm, a leg and possible whatever other appendages you have to offer up. Here's a link for some ideas on how not to blow through your life savings in no time (which is shockingly easy to do here):

Free things to do in Oslo - Norway official travel guide -

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Darker Vigeland: Tomba Emmanuelle in Oslo

Well, here I am in Oslo.  I've been here three weeks now and if you're wondering why things have been somewhat silent lately, it's because I've been diligently studying.  But I want to deliver the goods, so here's the dish on one of my favorite Oslo visits thus far:

Gustav Vigeland's work at Frogner Park
Vigelandsparken with its 212 bronze and granite statues depicting the cycle of life and humanity is a tourist staple in Oslo, Norway. Designed by Gustaf Vigeland, it lies within Frognerparken and is a favorite locale for Norwegian picnics and barbeque. Even in the winter this astonishing depiction of the cycle of life is well populated by tourists and locals alike.

But fewer people know of Gustav's younger brother, Emanuel; also a gifted artist, but slightly more...twisted in his own depiction of the life cycle. In stark contrast to his work as an esteemed stained glass and fresco artist for cathedrals and public buildings, his mausoleum, which sits in the Slemdal neighborhood of Oslo (on the way to Holmenkolen ski jump) is a dreary opus, wrought with a very dark sense of humor.

Originally intended to be a museum for his work, Vigeland bricked up the windows and switched gears, instead creating his own mausoleum. The entire interior is painted with a fresco called “Vita” of which the central theme is human sexuality, nude human bodies piled upon each other in sensuous desperation interwoven with themes of birth, femininity, spirituality and death. Vigeland wished for as little artificial lighting to be present as possible and upon entering, one is initially swallowed up in the darkness. But as one lingers, (and it is essential to do so for some time if you want to enjoy this experience) one's eyes gradually adjust to the darkness just as the artist intended. The resultant gradual unveiling of the frescoes is nothing short of breathtaking.

Outside of the Emanuel Vigeland Museum
Doorway to the mausoleum.
Fresco, engulfed in darkness.

Vigelands ashes are encased in a “ovary” shaped stone urn placed over the low doorway. It is said that he placed the doorway so low so that all who visited would have to bow to him. Painted above his urn, the ultimate, a shared theme with his brother's work, a monolith of human forms rising eerily to the heavens, a haunting specter of the Frognerpark counterpart.
The acoustics in this place are phenomenal at approximately 45 seconds of reverb. The merest whisper resonates throughout the complex with a haunting tonality. Check out this recording of a flutist in the mausoleum, paired with images from within:

So, take in Gustav Vigeland's work during the day with all of the other tourists, but don't miss out on Oslo's dark secret, the creepy and morbid side of life as presented by the other renowned Vigeland, Emanuel.  
Emanuel Vigeland Museum Website
Note: opening hours are quite limited and on Sundays only. Check the website for precise details before visiting.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Calling an airline? Get a person!

I was just informed of this website that gives information on how to bypass all the BS and get a person on the line with automated phone systems. Save yourself the hassle when you're calling your airline or hotel booking! (although I must confess, Continental still has me on hold for over 40 minutes even as I write this! Talk about a customer service fail.)

Phone Numbers, Shortcuts, Reviews & Customer Tips - Companies Worldwide -

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vegan Backpacker - Vegan Travel Around The World

Here's a good blog for the veggies out there fretting over finding good food on the road:
Vegan Backpacker - Vegan Travel Around The World

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bones with Bling in Fortean Times

Check out the latest issue of Fortean Times on the news stand for an excellent feature on the bejeweled skeletons of Europe by my friend Paul K.  Here's the website to pique your interest:
Fortean Times

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Los Angeles’ Magical History Tour - LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau -

Attention Houdini fans (or just fans of the bizarre)! This Skirball's Houdini Exhibit sounds just too good to pass up:
Los Angeles’ Magical History Tour - LA INC. The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau -

Ho hum.

So I apologize for slacking off this week.  I wasn't slacking at all actually.  It's called mid-terms.  I shall soon return to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BTTV | Music's Home For Hospitality

Here's a great link for bands who are on the road and on a tight budget. Better Than The Van hooks up touring musicians with free places to stay:
BTTV | Music's Home For Hospitality

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Twist N Crawl Through 2-Tone's Past

Ever daydream about what it would be like to take a walking tour with a favorite musician and hear the tales of the formation of a music scene? Fans of 2-Tone ska will have just that opportunity on April 30th on the Twist and Crawl through Coventry, England. Dave Wakeling of English Beat fame will help lead the tour which will explore the past of the scene which merged punk rock and Jamaican ska into a force to be reckoned with.

Dave Wakeling of English Beat  Photo: Bryan Kremkau
The tour will take participants along the “2-Tone Trail” and hit important landmarks such as Coventry University, where Jerry Dammers signed English Beat to 2-Tone. The tour begins at 2-Tone Central and ends at the 2-Tone Museum, which all funds from the walk will benefit. Suggested donation is £5 or $10.

It all sounds like a blast to me and if you happen to love the 2-Tone sound as much as I do and happen to be near Coventry, do go do.
In the mean time you can catch up on your 2 Tone Records history here with Spin Magazine's The Oral History of 2-Tone and see the 2-Tone Central website here for more information on this fun event: 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


After running into a huge amount of scammers while attempting to rent an apartment abroad, a friend recommended this site to me for short term rentals. This site offers reasonable rates and protects the renters with a rating/feedback system and you don't pay until you see the room. Then all cash changes hands via the website, so you don't have to wire anyone cash or give out your bank info. Although I have not used it personally, my friend has and could attest to its safety and overall value. Check it out!
Roomorama - Short Term Rentals, Short Term Apartments & Furnished Apartments

Friday, April 15, 2011

Banking tips for Americans abroad

Disclaimer: Yeah, I hate dealing with major banks too. Try not to get ripped off by them.  Here's some tips to reduce hassle.

One thing many people don't consider before leaving the country is money, other than perhaps exchange rates and whether or not they can use their ATM abroad.  Consideration of some other factors can save you in the long run.

First of all, if you haven't traveled in a while, travelers checks have largely fallen out of favor for the most part. I have never had much success in using them at stores and cashing them at banks proved a major rip off.  Plan to bring some hard cash along with you to change just to be on the safe side. You can ask the bank to provide you with the crispest, newest bills possible before you go.  These are preferable to currency exchange kiosks and you'll get a better rate sometimes.  It is often difficult to find anyone who will accept the older forms of American bills so leave those at home.  

Your US ATM card should work in most ATMs around the world but check with your bank to be sure in advance.  If you have and ATM/credit/check-card however, be advised that most stores in Europe will no longer accept them as credit cards and it will only be good for use at the ATM.  You should still be able to use it  as a credit card to pay for hotels, train tickets, etc. however. 

Check with your bank before you leave about foreign conversion fees when making purchases abroad.  These tend to hover around 2-3 percent of the purchase plus whatever the exchange rate happens to be.  Also check ATM withdrawal fees.  For example, one of my banks charges 5 dollars per withdrawal while abroad PLUS the fee of 3% PLUS whatever fee bank that owns that ATM might charge.  My other bank charges nothing on their end for ATM fees and only 2.2% foreign fee.  Of course I'm going with the most reasonable one there when I hit the ATM!  If you have more than one bank account, plan on using the one that has the best fees. Some banks like HSBC have tons of branches abroad and that makes it easier when you go to one of the countries that they have a presence in.  I just hate advocating for major banks so please take this with a grain of salt.  Sometimes it's hard to get around them, sadly. 

Also remember to call your bank ahead of time and inform them of where you're traveling.  I've had banks shut down my card because charges began to come in from locales other than where I live.  You don't want to deal with this while traveling abroad, trust me.  Also ask for their international assistance number in case you need it while traveling so you can avoid huge fees trying to call a US number.  

Lastly, remember to check exchange rates and avoid yourself a shock.  This is a great currency exchange page that I use regularly: 

It also helps to memorize the word for ATM in the language of the country you're going.  Then when you're looking for one someone can at least point you in the right direction.  I'll let you cheat and tell you the ones in the languages I know:
German: Geldautomat
French: GAB (guichet automat de banque)
Italian: Bancomat
Norwegian: Minibank (and I imagine in most other Scandinavian languages it's something close?)
Spanish: Cajero Automatico

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vegan Road Trip from Whole Life Times

Hey travelers,
Whole Life Times magazine has a feature on Vegan Road-tripping with tips. You can either pick up a free hard copy if you're in the area of distribution (available around the LA area) or follow the link below to subscribe and get the issue in PDF form.
Whole Life Times current issue subscription page

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paris Red Light by Night

Near Montmartre/Place Pigalle between the 18th and 9th arrondissements lies the red light district with its night clubs, sex shops, bars, prostitutes and cruisers in all their glory.  Boulevard de Clichy is the main drag. If you are female, I do not recommended that you walk alone at night here (as I did), or you will find yourself on the fast track to learning all kinds of shady French pick up lines.  It's actually a very interesting walk, just use your best judgement.

This is the place to see the famous Moulin Rouge, but shows are pricey and the long queue outside was enough to deter me. You can also check out the Museum of Eroticism for a good giggle.  I found it more fun to just wander.What was good enough for Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Van Gogh is fine by me.

You'll also find a good amount of musical instrument shops around this area. Perfectly logical, right?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Montmartre Cemetery

What would a walk around Montmartre be without a visit to the beautiful Montmatre Cemetery? This one is a real gem, with some truly gorgeous monuments and a broad range of famous permanent Parisians.
The cemetery is below street level and is visible from the bridge above. Follow signs for a staircase down to the cemetery itself. If you want to get your bearings via map or GPS, seek out this address: 20 av. Rachel  18th arrondissement. When you arrive, grab a general map in the visitor's center near the front gates. A map of famous grave sites is posted just after the entrance.

Chanteuse Dalida

Francois Truffaut

Alexandre Dumas (fils)

Alexandre Dumas (fils)

Alexandre Dumas (fils)
Edgar Degas

It's relatively easy to get turned around and lost in this cemetery and the maps don't make elevation differences such as hills and the staircases to access them very clear. Still, a visit to this cemetery isn't too terribly overwhelming and you should be able to have a decent visit with just a couple of hours time.
For lists of famous graves check out the wikipedia site:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Every single word in Icelandic blog.

Ever just decided that you wanted to learn Icelandic?  Just for the fuck of it?
I do sometimes, too!
I love this blog, I think it's adorable. It's Icelandic as taught to you by your friend Iceland itself and it's great vocab builder. I myself like to pick up as much language as possible before visiting a new locale.  Hopefully one day I'll get to visit this dream destination of mine.  And with as much amazing avant garde music that pours out of this little country, you might wanna pick up a few words?
Every Single Word in Icelandic

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Montmartre, je t'adore...

 Here are some photos of some of the beauty along the way to L'espace Dali as I was walking.  I love the smattering of street art/sculpture that I encountered on the trek.

Get your head thanks.

The lovely view from the top.